Tag Archives: novel

Novel Number Two

You’d think that, having just worked ridiculously hard to finish the first draft of a novel, I’d want to do anything but work on another novel.

Except I do. I want to do it all over again.

I know I still have to wrestle the first one into shape, but I can’t do anything with it until 3/27 at the earliest, when my critique group will have returned it to me with their comments, suggestions, notes and corrections. In the meantime I feel like i want to take everything I learned in the past few months, about writing a long long story, and put to work again.

So I dragged out the draft of the novel I started in 2012 (two years after I started the Novel Number 1 as a NaNoWriMo project too). It’s set in the same universe and I’m itching to get back there again. I remember why I gave up on this one. I lost the voice. I lost the lightness I had intended it to have. I hadn’t yet finished a novel and it felt pointless to be working on another one, without knowing (believing) I could finish it.

So now I’ve imported the existing 35K words into Scrivener, broken it up all into scenes, started capturing character notes and plot points, and read through it. Instead of being discouraged by its imperfection, I am now tickled by the bits that do work: The things that I know I can use to power the plot of the story.

I have an existing story that I can refer back to. I have a really strong sense of this world, this city, that I have created. I know the people. I want to hang out with them some more. (A different cast, mostly, but the same city).

Next steps: Identify the through-story, the big action scenes that’ll make the story fun, and then think really, really hard about all the pieces that have to be put in place to make it all hang together.

I’m excited.

Novel Draft 1.0

This morning the phone rang at 5:30. It was the school, to say that the boys would be staying at home today. Noooooooo!

Not that I don’t love my boys and enjoy their company, but today was the last day I had to work on my novel before my critique group expected to see it in their inboxes.

Knowing that the kids would sleep in unless roused, I stumbled out of bed (at 5:30. Yes, I did) and fired up my laptop. I’d been working fairly intensely for the past two or three weeks: printing out what I had of the manuscript, cutting up the papers in to scenes, paperclipping them together and writing notes on index cards clipped to each scene. I had been writing linking scenes, rewriting scenes and making notes on what I still had to do. I knew I was close. I just needed to push on and get it done.

K appeared, at some point, to say his work was closed too, because of the approaching storm. Something in the back of my brain said “whoopee”, but I don’t think I even stopped to acknowledge him. I just kept working. The sun came up. The boys started moving around. I smelled eggs and bacon cooking. I worked on.

By noon I had been though the whole manuscript and typed up the ending I had written a couple of months ago. I was just about to pat myself on the back for being done, when I discovered a whole slew of scenes that I thought I had already written, that I had in fact only written “[this is what happens here]” notes for. Eek!

Two hours later, I stumbled, crazy-haired and unwashed, out of the office and declared my novel (first draft) DONE.

Four years, four months and four days after the first line was written.

I could/should have proof read the whole thing again before I sent it off, but I was so drained that I just compiled the text, gave it a quick once-over and sent it off.

I wrote a novel. And people are going to read it. It was a Herculean task and I feel pretty amazing for having wrangled the darned thing into some kind of shape I’m happy with. It’s a first draft. It’s not ready for prime time, but the pieces are in place and I’m happy to let people look at it in all its imperfect glory.

And I’m taking the rest of the day off.

Little By Little, I’ll Get There

So, I have this deadline. It hits in exactly two weeks. I have to finish a readable draft of the novel I’ve been tinkering with since Nov 2010, and send it off to my critique group.

Finishing a novel seems like such a huge, unmanageable task that I keep putting it off. Every time I started on it, without the deadline and the critique group, I got overwhelmed at the idea of all the things I had to fix and finish.

With the deadline, I’ve been able to force myself to solve problems and make notes and plan scenes and push myself to figure out how to get them written even when I don’t feel inspired (or as if I know what I’m doing). There are lots of resources that have helped me, but the most important thing I’ve discovered:Writing Log YTD

Doing any writing, even a little bit at a time, helps me get closer to the end.

Fancy that.

This is a lesson I’ve learned from knitting. Even if I only knit one row a day, I”ll eventually get to the end of the project. The biggest thing I’ve ever knitted turned into a manageable project when I sat down and figured out that I had to knit four rows a day every day between then and October to get the thing done. And then it wasn’t scary any more.


I’ve been planning out the scenes I need to write. I’m still far from being done, and I feel like i’m not getting anywhere, but when I look at that chart up there I realize that yeah, I’m getting stuff done. 29,955 words so far this year.

Wish me luck with getting that first draft ready in two weeks!

Writing Process

I’m trying to figure out my own writing process at the moment: trying to find a practice that I can use to get my writing going every day, not just when I feel inspired.

This novel I’m working on has been dragging on for too long and I’m determined to get a draft finished. To that end I’ve promised to hand a draft to my critique group in early March. So I have to write it, now. 1

So, given that I am, by nature, a sprinter, not a marathoner, I am struggling a bit.

Currently what seems to be working is to sit down and write a summary of the next scene: what is going to happen and why, what the reader should be feeling during the scene, and what it leads into. I jot it all down in the present tense and then I can start writing the scene. Having figured out where it’s going before I try to write any prose frees me up to get there by any route I fancy.

I’m also coming and working at the co-working space because it makes me feel more professional and less of a hobbyist.

Tools I am using:

  • The Snowflake Method
  • The Scene Checklist from Story Engineering
  • Scrivener for writing
  • Google Docs Spreadsheet for capturing a list of scenes
  • Google Docs Spreadsheet for capturing my word count every day (which isn’t really important but helps me to see my progress)
  • Google Docs Slacker Tracker Spreadsheet set up by Carol to help me manage different projects. Which reminds me, I have to work on another thing today too!
  1. to be clear, I have lots of words written. it’s just that they don’t entirely hang together as a coherent story with a middle and an end and any obvious reason for all the stuff that happens.

I began to think of how the chants of “more, more, more” I’d heard in my writing workshops were often the single least helpful bit of feedback, impinging upon the vaporous whorls of suspense and necessary reserve that are integral to good storytelling, no matter the form.

Grant Faulkner

The Light At The End Of The Tunnel

…may well still be the light of an oncoming train, BUT at least there is some light now.

I’ve been wrestling with a novel on and off for three years (mostly off, if I’m honest, because I have a lot on my plate and short stories are so much easier to wrangle), but I keep coming back to it. It’s messy and ugly but every time I look at it, I have several moments where I go “Oh, I LIKE that!” and it makes me want to finish the damned thing.

The remarkable thing I’ve learned in the past three years is that the mess and ugliness is kind of essential. I actually sort of love it, mess and all. I can see potential in the ugliness. And I every time I come back to it, I get closer to solving the puzzle of how to get to the end.

There is a hugely messy part round about what will probably be the climax, that has, until now, tripped me up every time I come back to the book. I keep thinking “I’ve lost my way with this character.” But today — banging away at the problem — I had another couple of ‘aha’ moments that have got me excited about moving on past the point that has had me stuck. In fact, I’m prepared to throw away tens of thousands of words, too do that very thing. And the closer I get to the end, the more clearly I can see what I need to revise/add/change at the start. Instead of being depressing, the thought of throwing out old words is now exciting, because I can see what needs to go in their place. Maybe.

But anyway, it’s good.

I’m experimenting with writing out of order. I feel the need to write a scene that features two minor characters doing something important, even though I know other scenes will have to go in earlier in the book to make this scene make sense, but I don’t feel the need to write them first. Is this shocking, readers? Does it seem like cheating? Well, guess what? I’m betting every writer does it!

OK, so that’s my morning’s work. What have you done today, so far?