16 August, 2012

Back To Me Again

Last September I wrote a post about how nothing very interesting was likely to happen for a while in my world of writing. I didn't expect it to be so long! Over the last year I've offered you a few updates or snatches of news from my bubble, but there hasn't been much to say, so I've tried not to say it! I've left a lot of the interesting stuff to you.

We've had some fun on this blog (well, I've had fun anyway) discussing poor grammar, great characterisation, rejections, first draft blues, flash fiction, opening lines, morality and Charles Dickens, among other things. But I haven't been leaving all the work to you. Allow me to take a one-post break from the festivities, to explain what I've been doing while all this has been going on...


More writing.


Writing some more.


It's been a bit of a slog, but an enjoyable one. Having used NaNoWriMo to create the outline to a plot for my work-in-progress, Thousand-Word Things, I've been spending most of the last 9 months trying to turn it into a real novel. I had to do a lot of research into medical conditions and abstract art before I started, and that was the easy bit! The optimist in me decided it would be a great idea to change the thing from simple third-person to multiple first-person viewpoints. That turned out to be hard. At the end of the first draft I decided to give up on it. I didn't want to waste any more time. The story was there, but the writing was terrible. I felt like I could never be a good enough writer to make it work. And yet...

I began to tinker - what would happen if I cut the scene in the pizza place? How would the reader react differently if Ben told that part of the story instead of Jenny? What if I used a different tense when Rosemary's in the hospice? Before I knew it, I was planning a second draft, which I finished writing at the beginning of June. I won't say that I was proud of this second attempt, but I wasn't ashamed of it anymore, so out it went to my faithful "volunteer" readers.

I had a lot of fun in June and July doing all sorts of different things. I wrote one short story and three pieces of flash fiction from scratch, and adapted one old piece of flash fiction into a full short story. I also completed the next assignment on my non-fiction course, created a website for myself and started researching freelance work.  After a year with only a handful of bits of feedback across the whole 12 months - much of that in the form of rejections - it was a breath of fresh air to be noticeably productive.

I could now write a huge long post about how isolating it can be to write a novel. Months without feedback, no guarantee that anybody will ever read what you've written, insecurity about your own abilities... But, despite all that being true, it's a brilliant way to spend your time and I love it and I'm very blessed to be able to do it!

At the end of the second draft I truly didn't know whether I'd just written the worst attempt at literature since Bulwer-Lytton noted that it was a dark and stormy night, or something resembling a good book. Thanks to the helpful feedback from my readers, I'm hopeful that I'm at least going in the direction of the latter. (Don't tell anyone, but I'm beginning to think it's showing some promise. I might even quite like it.).

I'm now doing the final edit, in two parts. First, editing each character individually to get each voice unique and continuous throughout the novel. Second, a quick run-through of everything in the right order, to check for continuity errors and story coherence. With a bit of luck, I'll be done by the end of September. And with a little more, I'll have something I feel that is worth at least trying to get an agent for. We'll see.

Here's to the next year! May it be filled with a bit more feedback, a little less insecurity, more scintillating comments and posts by you, and lots more writing!

What have you been up to while I've been novelling? What are your highlights of the last nine months?


  1. Now that's being busy.

    Me, I've just been writing, editing, eating too much and preparing for a book launch with an unfinished book. (YIKES)

    1. Oh, I've found time to eat too much as well :)

      Enjoyed your column in CW this morning over breakfast. Good luck with getting the book finished in time! Nothing like a bit of pressure to focus the mind (or make you procrastinate more...)

  2. It takes a particular sort of personal strength to work alone for long periods of time, and thank God for a circle of readers who will tell it like it is without any of the sycophantic admiration that can be present in writing groups. Having taught for many years I'm used to reading bits of things, and perhaps, if you feel isolated for too long at a stretch, you could send blocks out to readers for comment before the whole edifice is ready to be shot down! Ceve

    1. You learnt o spot when something's not right with your work too. The reader goes quite quiet and starts umming and ahing a bit - then you tell them just to spit it out and try to look like it doesn't hurt!

  3. With typical modesty, you're underselling your endeavours with phrases like 'not much to say', 'tinkering' and 'something resembling a good book'! I rather think - and hope - that there is a bit of a sea change going on with the writers around me, in that we're on both a personal and creative journey. We're discovering what works for us and closing the blinds to whatever convention is suggesting we 'ought' to be doing. For example: http://helpineedapublisher.blogspot.co.uk/2012/08/will-real-nicola-morgan-please-stand-up.html

    Wishing you every success in your September deadline, and here's to the next stage on the path to publication.

    1. We'll see whether I'm underselling them or not in the years to come!

      I agree, publishing is changing so fast and is so competitive now, that doing what you think you must rather than what you feel is right, is a waste of time.

  4. I've been doing editing on mine too. I have one beta who's working on it. When I finish edits, I'll send it to the last. I hope to be able to query by fall.

    I just took out 2 scenes and totally rewrote them to get rid of 2 characters and bring forth another character who needed more attention. I guess I have a problem with too many characters sometimes.

    1. I'm the other way now! My children's book had huge numbers of characters but this book only has 5 important ones and a small handful of minor ones. It means it's quite intense!

      Good luck with your editing :)


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