Using the F word – a question for novelists.

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I’ve used the F word several times since I started writing my novel last year.

No, not that F word. The other one, you know (whispers) finished.

I first thought I had a complete and perfectly good manuscript earlier this year. OK, it wasn’t exactly fitting into the genre I want to write in (I changed my mind towards the end) and I didn’t have the confidence to write my preferred tense but I told myself it was a great first attempt, that my next book would be better.

It took a few weeks (I am a little slow) before I realised that I’m the writer. It didn’t have to be that way. I changed the tense, cut 35,000 words from the end and crafted it into something I was genuinely proud of. It went out to Beta Readers and I’ve edited and polished until it’s as sparkly as a Christmas fairy.

‘I’ve finished,’ I announced. ‘Really, this time.’ And I thought I had. Until today.

I’ve read through the first three chapters in lieu of starting my submission package and my fingers hovered and twitched over the keyboard until I found myself changing things, again.

So my question is this. Are you ever really finished? Is there always going to be things you wish you had phrased differently, weaved into your story?

Will I ever be able to say the F word and mean it?

I am one today!

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Ok, maybe not me personally, but my blog and if that isn’t a good excuse for a cake I don’t know what is.

365 days ago I sat, with my finger hovering over the publish button, beads of sweat pooling on my brow. I wanted to try to write fiction but really, could I do it? Could I write? Would I ever feel creative enough, brave enough?

To date I have posted 67 flash fiction stories, numerous posts and have written an 80,000 word novel but I couldn’t have done it without the support of the wordpress community. I have learned so much, not only through the constructive feedback left on my posts which has helped my technique to improve week by week, but also by reading your blogs. I am inspired on a daily basis.

A big thank you to everyone who writes, reads, comments and sets up challenges. I look forward to the next year.

A joke for writers

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I have something to make my fellow writers smile.

It’s so funny that every time I think about it, mild hysteria takes over. I laugh so much my stomach muscles are sore and my cheeks wet.

Are you ready?

Last month I thought, whispers, editing a manuscript after a first draft would be a quick process.

I told you it was good.

If I can’t get published, maybe I’ll try standup.

Tangled Timeline

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I knew that before I started thinking about editing my novel I would need to sort out my tangled timeline.

Before I started writing I had a pretty good idea of the beginning, middle and end of my story and meticulously drew out a time line. This worked well for the whole of chapter one (go me), but by chapter two it was apparent I needed to change the age of my main character, Grace, and things went downhill from there. My beautifully drawn, coloured coded (don’t judge) diagram was about as useful as a paper umbrella.

Today, I sat down with the intention of untangling my time line. As my novel jumps around a bit, veering from past to present it turned into one of those overwhelming maths problems I used to be given at school. You know, if Grace is 9 at the start of the book, but then stands one one leg and hops, during a snowstorm, during April, how old will she be by chapter five?

Luckily my husband, who has a far more analytical mind than I, came to my rescue and after taping many sheets of A4 paper together we managed to make some sort of sense of it all.

It has taken the whole day, but I am now super organised, and, whenever the urge takes me, ready to edit in earnest.

Finished my first draft and feeling flat.

When I tentatively posted in May, declaring my intention to try and write a novel, I never quite believed that I could.

But, as the weeks have flown by, my word count has risen, along with my confidence, and today I have reached the end of my first draft.

On Monday, when I realised I would finish this week, this is how I thought I would feel.

 

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Now I have put my final full stop, this is how I actually feel.

 

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Why? I’m not sure. I think, being a new writer, I am feeling quite overwhelmed at what comes next. You know, the E word.  Edit, edit, edit, screams every blog I read. How, how, how? I want to scream back.

Any tips will be gratefully received.

 

 

 

Captivating Chapters

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I was so excited to sit down and write today. I was halfway through Chapter 20 and I couldn’t wait to get to Chapter 21. It was going to be a great one, emotionally harrowing with a twist that even I hadn’t seen coming and I’m writing it.

Impatience got the better of me, I wanted to write Chapter 21 and I wanted to write it now. Abandoning Chapter 20 I started on my new idea. About five minutes in I stopped.

‘What was wrong with Chapter 20?’ I thought. ‘How had I been able to put it down so easily?’

I reread it and it was a bit, well, boring. And if I felt bored writing it, how could I realistically expect anyone to enjoy reading it? I may be a novice writer but even I could tell that something was wrong. I wanted to feel the same passion for all my chapters, to not treat any of them as something to ‘get through’ to get to the next one.

Chapter 20 I realised was a bridge to get to Chapter 21 and it wasn’t constructed out of the most stimulating material. Taking a lesson from the three little pigs I huffed, and I puffed until it blew down and I started building it again. It is now a chapter to be proud of and I have learned that if I am not loving the writing it’s more than likely the content and something I can fix.

Chapter 22 though, that’s another story……..

 

The naive novelist?

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I have always had an obsession with books, but aside from a couple of flash fiction pieces I wrote several years ago, I had never tried to write. I guess I never believed that I could. Last April I wanted to try, I set up this blog and here I am.

Throughout the last few weeks I have regularly been posting short stories and have completely fallen in love with the writing process, to be able to immerse myself in characters and plots of my own making has been a total joy.

With encouragement from the lovely Louise Walters, author of the fabulous Mrs Sinclair’s Suitcase, I decided to try to write a novel.

When I began, back in May, I found it unimaginable that I may be able to write 1000 words, ten times more than my longest story, and yet, several weeks on, I have broken the 40,000 barrier.

Eager to learn the craft, I have been reading many blogs and articles on novel writing. I have read page after page telling me that first novels are always terrible, that I need to write three books before I have one that’s readable, that I will most probably give up before I reach the end, that I…… no, actually that’s when I stopped reading.

I don’t want to dampen my enthusiasm so I choose to believe that maybe, just maybe, with handwork and passion I can write something that I can be proud of, and if I can’t, then I will have had a blast trying.

Fabricating Fiction or The Naive Novelist? Time will tell.

Off on a writing retreat

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I will be getting up at some ridiculous time in the morning tomorrow and heading for beautiful Yorkshire where I will be lucky enough to spend five days on a tutored novel writing retreat at Wentworth Castle

I am really grateful for this amazing opportunity and so excited about the thought of staying in a castle. I am secretly hoping every attendee is issued with a tiara and I can spend the week masquerading as a princess. Now where did I put my ball gown?

 

 

My experience as a mentee (aka Louise Walters killed my cat).

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When Louise met Louise

 

The email to say I had been successful in my application to the WoMentoring Project triggered an impromtu happy dance around the lounge.

‘I have a mentor!’ I joyfully told my son who was huddled on the edge of the sofa, mentally calculating his escape route.

‘What does a mentor do?’ he asked.

I stopped dancing. ‘Umm, I’m not sure, but I think it involves a sprinkling of fairy dust and then I will have written a book.’

‘Yeah. Good luck with that, Mum.’ He bolted for the door.

Euphoria was replaced by hot panic. What had I done? I had only decided to write fiction 2 weeks before. I had no education, no experience, and couldn’t distinguish a noun from an adjective.

I met my mentor, Louise Walters, clutching my ideas and passion tightly, half expecting her to point a finger and say ‘how dare you try and impersonate a writer?’ I was slightly disappointed she was neither wearing a pink sparkly dress nor brandishing a magic wand, but her oodles of knowledge, enthusiasm and desire to help more than made up for that. We had much in common and spent the day talking, sometimes even about writing.

Her first critique of my opening few chapters was sensitively honest. Well written but disjointed and not flowing together, and why had I written so much about a cat? I had a lot to learn.

I had been thrilled to have written 10,000 words, the most I had ever attempted before was a 200 word flash fiction piece, but eager to gain as much as I could from my experience I deleted most of my first draft, and I didn’t cry that much.

I sent my second draft off with a dollop of self doubt. I wanted Louise to like it but, more importantly, to see that I had taken on board everything she had said. I am so grateful she has selflessly given her time to this project I wanted her to see how seriously I had taken it.  I had made all the changes she suggested. Well almost all.  The cat still lingered.

Louise’s feedback was really positive, apart from the cat.

I have now come to the end of my three months mentoring and miraculously have written 20,000 words (none of which now contain a cat).

So what does a mentor do?

Mine gave me confidence which I had never had much of before and made me believe that maybe, just maybe I can write a book, (perhaps she did have a wand hidden away after all). For that I will be eternally grateful.

Falling in love with writing

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It’s the school summer holidays. Often a struggle with my limited mobility. I love spending time with my children but days out leave me exhausted with increased pain.  Yesterday I asked my eight year old son whether he would like to go to the park for a while, I do like him to be out in the fresh air and sunshine whenever possible. ‘Do you mind if we stay in today and write a book,’ he replied.  Ummm ok. No pressure then!

Finley had been totally gripped for weeks by the Chronicles of Avantia series by Adam Blade. So much so that when he finished Book Four he had tears in his eyes. I offered to take him to the book shop to see what we could find to read next, but no, he started to reread Book One. ‘I love the series so much I never want it to end,’ he told me. But, he decided there was a chunk Adam missed out, alluding to an event rather than describing it. Finley explained that he could see it so clearly in his mind he wanted to write it down.

So write we did. It was so refreshing to look at life through the eyes of a child. He decided he wanted to write a book so sat down to do just that. There was no could I or should I’s, no doubt that it was achievable. He sat and described the scene in his head so beautifully I could really envisage being there. He had such a joy watching his story come to life with no worries he was switching from past to present tense, using too many adjectives and creating sentences that were far too long. He wrote because he loved it. Because he wanted to. It was a privilege to be part of that and a timely reminder for me of why I started this journey.

 

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