It’s been a few weeks since my last update and that isn’t good enough. I detailed the reasons for my malaise in that post, and won’t repeat them again. In any case, it doesn’t matter. For ‘reasons’ read ‘excuses’. The time for procrastination has passed.
In terms of actual fiction writing – putting pen to paper, or type to screen – my output has been non-existent. Poor show. This will be rectified this week.
I did write another blog post, which means I at least hit one of my targets. I have also submitted TWO stories to the Writing Magazine Crime competition. They both required heavy edits to fit the word count, but I’m confident that they are both all the better for it.
So, this week I am going to ease back in to some Wordsmithery with a little free writing – just to get the juices flowing again and to limber up for some more strenuous activity. No hard word count goal this week – the aim is to JUST WRITE SOMETHING! If I don’t pull myself out of this creative lethargy in double-quick time, I’m in danger of losing all of my momentum.
Finally, I want to give a big thank you to my literary sparring partner, Maria Smith for giving me weekly jabs (via email) to make sure I’m not laid out for the count. She too is feeling the rigours of everyday life jostling for your writing time and always makes time to check-in on her writing friends.
I’m lucky to have a good network of writers and creatives around me to keep pushing me to run that extra mile. I’ve been down, but I’m not out. (What a delightful collection of mixed metaphors this post has been!)
How have you all been faring in my absence? How do you deal with creative dips in your life?
“Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.” – Winston Churchill, 1942.
Let’s skip forward a few decades. Wednesday May 29th, 2015. The day I finally typed ‘The End’ on the manuscript of the first draft of my first novel.
Picture the scene: On typing the final letter of that final word, I printed out the last page, placing it carefully on top of the perfect stack of paper beside me. The early morning light shone through my window, illuminating the hallowed manuscript. I looked at the items on the desk – a cigarette, a single match with which to light it and a bottle of the finest champagne . . . wait a minute, I’m confusing my life with Paul Sheldon from ‘Misery’.
Here’s what really went down . . .
You may remember from an earlier post, I have been wading through the quagmire that was the climax of my novel, Let Sleeping Gods Lie. Months and then years slipped by as I fought to satisfactorily tie up all the loose ends I had created for myself, without losing faith in the entire story. Let’s just skip to the after-dinner coffee and say I failed to do that. I had a stark choice – ditch the whole thing mid sentence and put the 80,000 plus words on ice, plough on indefinitely or fudge a solution that’s somewhere between the two.
I always did have a sweet tooth . . . The Fudge
So . . . after taking counsel from a couple of writing buddies, I did ‘end’ the novel. Satisfactorily? No. The story has more holes than a mole-infested lawn. However, I did give a brief summary of what needs to happen and to whom so that the story reaches the original denouement I had in mind. It was nothing more than a few paragraphs, written synopsis-style, but it means my story is more or less complete. More importantly it means I can put that all important first novel behind me and move on to Book Two (more on that in a future post).
In a recent interview we did for Joined Up Writing Podcast, I asked author Daniel Ribot for his best advice to aspiring novelists. His words of wisdom were simple: Come up with 3 ideas for a book . . . . and write the worst one! His reasoning was based on bitter experience. The first novel you actually complete has a good chance of being terrible – or mediocre at best. I now realise that the best way to learn is to fail.
So what went wrong?
In essence, my outlining process was thinner than Victoria Beckham. I had a basic and incomplete chapter plan married to a dysfunctional seven-point plot outline, which gave birth to a wayward, unmanageable novel-child. I’ll quit this metaphor while I’m ahead.
Anyway. Despite that, I still love the premise of my story, along with the protagonist and villain(s) of the piece. There are loads of scenes and even whole chapters that I’m still really proud of and I’ve been writing long enough to know that nothing is wasted.
The End of The Beginning
So, my beginning has come to an end and it’s time to move on to the next phase of my novel writing journey – Book Two. I hope you will join me and follow the inevitable ups and downs, and I’ll be sure to keep you posted on the blog.
What have been your experiences with that difficult First Draft? What have you learned? I hope this post has given faith to those of you who have struggled and I wish you the best with your novels – be it the first, the second, the third . . . oh you get the idea.
If anyone has been paying attention, you will notice I am more than a week late with this post. Life and, unfortunately, Death pushed my writing to the sidelines for a while.
Sadly, my Grandad passed away on May 1st. It was sudden, unexpected and in a foreign country, which complicated things even further. He will be sorely missed.
There has been lots to deal with – both emotionally and practically – and I am only now coming up for air. It will be a while before things return to normal, but my desire to write again is resurfacing and I will be pushing myself to reboot and start again this week.
A quick review of the targets I set two weeks ago:
1. Summarise end of Novel Number One and type THE END – COMPLETED (more on this in a future post)
2. Write 1500 on the crime story – 300 WORDS
3. I WILL sub at least one piece this week – NO SUBS
4. Complete Phoenix Writer’s Challenge before Saturday – COMPLETED.
5. Sub one piece of work to a competition or for publication – NO SUBMISSIONS.
Pretty bad week. No excuses, but a mixture of work and life obstacles sprang up to slow me down. The main factor for the failure to get near my word target for the novel, was the work itself. Try as I might I can’t escape the fact that I’m so far away from where the story needs to be, ploughing on regardless is only causing me more difficulty. The story is broken and can only be fixed with a MASSIVE rewrite. With this in mind, I will be bringing the novel to a close THIS WEEK – simply by writing a few closing paragraphs that bring the story to an end. I gave it a try, but I need to type ‘THE END’ and put away the manuscript – both literally and metaphorically – so that I can clear the decks for Novel Number Two and my other writing projects.
I didn’t quite reach the target for my crime short story either, but that was only because I wasted time on the novel. I’m really enjoying writing this and I’m getting good feedback from my critique group. I’m currently planning a heist (fictional, of course) so it may be a little slower going this week as I will need some thinking time.
BUT we recorded another two episodes of Joined Up Writing and I released the scheduled episode.
A flash of inspiration meant that I completed the writing challenge for Phoenix Writers. It had to be based around eating and discovering something unpleasant in your food. Here was my take:
Sing a song of sixpence, a mouthful of blood / Four and twenty blackbirds wedged in good. / And when his mouth was opened, the King began to scream / Oh what a witch, that evil bitch, the nasty, wicked Queen.
So . . . Let’s shake off the disappointment and plot some targets for this week:-
1. Summarise end of Novel Number One and type THE END.
2. Write 1500 on the crime story.
3. I WILL sub at least one piece this week.
4. Edit and release this week’s Joined Up Writing episode.
5. Complete Phoenix Writer’s challenge.
Ok . . . I’ve stated my Writing intentions – what are yours? What are your thoughts on my proposed solution for dealing with Novel Number One? Let me know below and have a great week.
Ok – 4 out of 5 ain’t bad? If I’m honest, I’m a bit annoyed about not hitting the target on my crime story. It was a relatively low target to begin with and all I managed was 600 words.
However, let’s be positive. I made a big stride towards completing the first draft of my novel and it was fun to write.The podcast recording was squeezed in and released on schedule. I subbed another two stories and, thanks to the support of the members of the Phoenix Writers Subs Group, I have more ideas and leads to follow-up. I completed the challenge for the main critique group and also read the first section of my crime story, receiving some helpful feedback.
It has been a busy week with lots of band commitments – including two gigs and a rehearsal – and I still managed to push on with two different WIPs, record a podcast, sub my work and complete my Phoenix Writers homework. It’s a positive start to the new regime and I think both myself and fellow writer Maria Smith over at First Draft Cafe, are glad to be making plans and moving forward with our writing goals.
Speaking of goals . . . here are this week’s:
1. Write minimum of 1500 words on novel – I want to increase last week’s word count and maintain the momentum.
2. Write minimum of 1500 words on crime story – same again, but no excuses will be allowed for failure two weeks in a row!
4. Complete Phoenix Writer’s Challenge before Saturday.
5. Sub one piece of work to a competition or for publication.
What are your writing goals – long and short term? Have you tried teaming up with another writer to motivate you to achieve? Let me know what works for you? Leave your comment below or tweet me @MrKelly2u.
See you next Sunday for the next update. Happy writing and have a great week.
This is the first of my ‘Write up to date’ posts. These will be weekly updates and in addition to my regular blog posts. The idea is for me to better plan my writing activities, become more accountable and to bring you ‘Write up to date’ with my progress. That accountability is key – your comments and interactions will keep me honest and give me a better chance of success. So, no pressure.
Long-term Goal – Finish first draft
In last week’s post I laid out my current dilemma around the completion of my WIP, “Let Sleeping Gods Lie”. Thank you for the comments, help and advice you all gave me. Throughout the week my resolve has wavered and I have changed my mind several times. However, the time for dithering is gone – positive action is needed.I have made the decision to push on from where I am at the moment, ignore my doubts and write the last part of my novel. Only when I have reached the end of this ugly brute of a first draft can I psychologically move on to outline Novel Number Two.
We are stronger when we work together so I have teamed up with fellow writer Maria Smith from First Draft Cafe and we have made Sundays our check-in day of the week.
My goal is to have finished the first draft by the end of June – including the missing chapters from the early section of the book.
Writing Plans this week
1. Write minimum of 1000 words of novel – I know, this seems like I’m going easy on myself and maybe I am, but it has been some time since I wrote anything on my WIP and I want week 1 to be achievable. It’s also not the only writing I’ll be doing.
2. Write minimum of 1000 words on my short story (working title ‘Cops and Robbers’) – This ‘short’ story seems to have a life of its own and I am writing the first draft without limiting myself to a specific word count.
3. Submit 2 short stories for competition or publication – I am part of a submissions group and our monthly meeting is on Saturday April 18th. I have already subbed 2 other stories and want to have 2 more subbed before the meeting.
4. Record new episode of our writing podcast, Joined Up Writing with Leah Osbourne – this week’s episode is all about collaborating with other writers on large scale projects. I need to have the episode edited and uploaded by Thursday.
5. Complete Phoenix Writers challenge – our critique group challenge for this week is to re-write a cliche. Not as easy as it sounds!
See you next Sunday?
Ok, that’s it for Write Up To Date Number 1. I have a busy week ahead – including 2 gigs with my band and a rehearsal, not to mention my day job. Next week I’ll report back on my progress and outline my plans for the following week.
In the meantime, let me know about your writing plans and feel free to share any tips you have for setting and achieving your creative goals. Happy Writing!
I have a dilemma and I need your advice. I have a 79,000 word WIP and I think I’m on the verge of abandoning it for the foreseeable future. Here’s why:
In November 2012, as part of Nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month), I wrote almost 56,000 words of my novel, Let Sleeping Gods Lie. In the two and a half years since I took part in Nanowrimo, I have only added a measly 24,000 new words and the book sits unfinished on my hard drive. 24,000 painful words. Words that I dragged out in fits and starts, between bouts of confusion and self-doubt.
The first 60,000 words were a breeze. High on the adrenalin and story-buzz that comes with Nanowrimo and the ’50k-in-a-month’ target, I pumped out prose like a man possessed. With hindsight I now realise it wasn’t only the thrill of the competition that drove my productivity. You see, before I started my Nanowrimo challenge I managed to put together a very rough outline of the novel I planned to write. It was a little vague in places (particularly the climax of the story) but I did have a chapter plan. Unfortunately, that chapter plan only took me so far – to Chapter 43, to be precise – and take a guess how many words I had written at that point? That’s right – about 60,000.
Initially I barely gave it a thought. My train was about to leave the track and head off in to the wilderness. So what? I always thought of myself as a ‘pantser’ anyway. More fun that way. More creative. Unpredictable. EXCITING! So I ploughed on blindly, in to the undergrowth. With each new chapter I moved further away from where I knew I should be heading. I discovered new plot holes. No matter, I thought, I’ll just go around them. Just keep going – the mantra of the first draft. So I did, until the story got so convoluted, so full of new characters and sub-plots that I would have to stop for months at a time, just to ponder how I could get out of each narrative straightjacket I had written myself in to.
When the going gets tough . . .
I spent more time away from the book, dashing off short stories, pondering a new idea for a novel, and all the time my WIP was taunting – You’ll never finish! So, just shy of 80,000 words, I’ve ground to a halt. My faith in the story lies in tatters, my resolve scattered in the wind of self-doubt. It’s inaccurate to even call the novel my WIP – it hasn’t really been ‘a work in progress‘ for some time.
I have discovered the hard way that I’m not a hardened ‘pantser’. Sure, I can fly by the seat of my pants during a scene – inventing dialogue and being surprised by the actions of a character – but I need to have a plan and some kind of final destination to keep me on track.
Decisions, decisions . . .
Now, I feel I have a three choices. Firstly, I can press on, write through the pain and get to the end of the draft, even if that means the story makes no sense. Or I could go back to the now infamous Chapter 43, finish my chapter plan, outline the novel to a satisfying conclusion and put aside the last 25,000 words to begin writing again. Or . . . and here’s the crunch question . . . shall I just draw a line under the whole project, quit and move on to the new idea that I have been considering for several months?
Having read K.M Weiland’s excellent ‘Outlining Your Novel’, I feel better prepared to start something new, but before I can move on I think I need closure on Let Sleeping Gods Lie – ironically, I need to let it lie. For a long time I thought the only way I could get that closure was to finish the first draft. Now, I’m not so sure. Time is at a premium. Shall I just cut my losses and admit defeat? See those 80,000 words as a learning experience?
I am taking a few days to make my final decision, but would love to hear your thoughts and advice. Have you had a similar experience? Are you battling with a WIP? Is there ever an excuse to quit? Comment below or tweet me @Mrkelly2u.