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Posts Tagged ‘Writing’

NaNoWriMo 2016 was different this year. The background to this began about eighteen months ago when I started writing the first draft of a novel called The Clockmaker Conspiracy. I continued with subsequent drafts until the beginning of 2016 and then paused, unsure of what to do next. I hoped I could write a series of books based around the characters and the world I created so set to work on book two. By June a couple of drafts were complete and book one had been passed to an editor. The plan was to bring book one to a finished state that could then be passed to agents.

I paused again. I recalled a piece of advice from a published author, which stated I shouldn’t think about securing an agent until I had three novels edited and completed. The thinking behind this is many writers are unprepared for being signed and for the subsequent pressure of deadlines to produce a second and third book. Having a cushion behind you and the knowledge you survived the editorial process three times will stand you in good stead. The publisher may not be initially enthusiastic over material you have, but you have something to work with rather than start from scratch.

It’s probably true that the reality of a publishing deal is never what you imagine it to be and after the initial excitement and euphoria, the fact you have to sit down and do it all again can be daunting. That is obvious, but it’s worth taking time to think about. You will more than likely have to write to a deadline set by someone else. You manage to submit, but there is a chance your writing may be considered unsuitable. It’s unlikely you have made enough money to give up the day job so the rewrites will have to be fitted around your life as it is. One of the joys of being unpublished is you set the deadlines and write in relation to getting on with your life. Once you are signed it will be different. The trend appears to be producing a book a year. If you’re work rate is falling short of that I would question yourself why and start preparing for it now. Writing for publication is not a part-time activity.

As book one was completed to a state I would be happy to self-publish, book two was reaching the point of being passed over for editing. By this time I was keen to expand my series to seven books (why seven is another story). I knew from my notes I had a third book in me to resolve the plot and complete a trilogy. By the end of October I had ten thousand words to rewrite of book two and was outlining ideas for a book, which would follow on, but expand the plot further without padding the story for the sake of it. What started to nag me was, could I push through and produce a third novel, which didn’t rely on the material I had? The idea of finding out took over and come the first of November I started drafting book three. Good news is I only used part of the outline I prepared and went into free-fall for the bulk of it. This has left me with further material to work into book four. The draft took twenty-two days and I confirmed I could go beyond a trilogy. I was advised to ensure each book resolves itself and not leave it on a cliffhanger so I stuck with this and finished the draft with a satisfactory conclusion.

The plan is to have book two finished for January 2017 and pass over for editing and then write up book three. By then I will be in the frame of mind for approaching agents and understanding the process involved. My goal for now is to write and to finish what I’ve started. In my mind I can now see seven books in this series and maintaining my work rate is key here, not only for my personal goals for the series, but also in preparation for approaching the business professionally. I want to be as prepared as I can for submitting to agencies or taking the Amazon route during 2017.

I noted at the start of this post that NaNoWriMo was different this year. I’ve participated a couple of times (I don’t sign up and register, it’s not for me), so I was confident of finishing. What was different was the ease I slipped into it with a brief outline and the deliberate goal of seeing whether the result would mean an end to this project or a new beginning for it. The process also made me realise that if I didn’t work full-time or gave up my job to write full-time, I couldn’t have written any more than I did. It’s often remarked that writers don’t find time to write, they make time to write and I believe this is true.

To conclude, you will read the advice that you should put the initial draft away and come back to it months later with a fresh pair of eyes. That may work for you and if so that’s great, but it’s the last thing I do. I forget what I write and I want to see what’s happening so I get stuck in and start to plan and tinker with it in preparation for the proper rewrite when I’m ready. Remember, if you are signed up, are you going to be allowed the luxury of drafting a novel and then putting it away for months? I doubt it.

All the best with whatever you are up to and if you are writing don’t take Hemingway’s quote about the first draft of anything is shit to heart. I like my first draft and I’m pleased with having finished it. It reads like shit, but I can fix that.

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This is the third trailer for Book One of the series The Clockmaker Conspiracy. I wrote and recorded the soundtrack and took the photographs. I intend to produce a trailer for each of the main characters and this is for my Steampunk heroine Morgan Giaimo. She is a computer hacker from the world John Hunter is transported to and works for the Government securing their systems.

I often see playlists from Authors who draft them while writing their books so I decided to write my own soundtrack. It’s more challenging, but fun and I own the copyright which is always a good thing. I wanted something to reflect the Steampunk world I created – as I see and hear it – and chose to write and record this on a Concert Ukulele (a Fender). Trailers one and two feature many instruments; for this character I heard just one in my head.

I’ve since written more around this theme and hope to be able to use it in a later trailer.

 

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This is the second trailer for Book One of the series The Clockmaker Conspiracy. I wrote and recorded the soundtrack and took the photographs.

 

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This is the first take of a trailer for Book One of the series The Clockmaker Conspiracy. I wrote and recorded the soundtrack and took the photographs.

 

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The last couple of weeks I have had the feeling my novel is not progressing as quickly as I would like. To make my December deadline I have put my next collection of short stories on hold. I can’t see me being able to finish both in the next month. I have a draft for Small Print Vol 4, but I’m in danger of rushing the stories. I have decided to finish them up in the New Year and put them out then.

It’s interesting to see why this has come about. I am midway through the novel and the effort on the rewrite is considerable. This is due to the previous drafts suffering from fatigue brought on by reaching the midpoint in the first place. I had skipped over some challenging sections in order to keep writing and reach the end. This was in part due to being tired and because these chapters are a turning point and were difficult to get right. Of course, now I have to face them and I’m tired if not more so and the result is an impression of slowing down and grinding to a halt. I am still managing to put in the hours I have up till now; it’s simply taking longer to rewrite until I’m happy it’s as good as I can make it.

I can appreciate why writers give up at this stage. A couple of hours go by and all you have is a hundred words to show for it – it’s demoralizing. Trying to remain positive that those hundred words are the best you can do and it’s a hundred words further on is not easy. I take comfort in the fact I am still making progress and I can’t expect to make the word count as I did in the early drafts. It’s all about quality now, not quantity. All this is easy to say – believing it is difficult.

The only way to deal with this is hard work. It’s obvious, but needs stating. It is simply a matter of continuing to do what I have done up to this point and to keep at it. There is no magic solution, or easy way out. It is simply a matter of one word after another until my instinct tells me it’s right.

It’s an odd place to be in the process. I read ahead this morning and scanned over the closing chapters and liked what I saw. I’m excited for the twists and turns and the cliffhanger of an ending leading on to book two. In the early hours of this morning I doubted it was me who had written it. This is a good thing; it shows by that stage in the book I was well removed with little evidence of author intrusion. If I’m not gripped by it I can’t expect anyone else to be. I’m confident it hangs together and I’m glad the technical work of ensuring the plot makes sense and is explainable has been done. Right now though I’m tens of thousands of words away from that point and have to find the energy to keep moving through each chapter in turn until I reach the end.

The good news is since writing these notes I am through the midpoint and the draft is looking a whole lot clearer again. The writing has picked up and there are fewer rewrites to do. That difficult midpoint which can lose readers in a book has been met head on and I’m happy with the result. I’m the sort of reader, who will stick with a book to the end regardless, but I do know others who feel their time is being wasted if the midpoint isn’t keeping their attention; they will ditch the book in favour of starting something else. This makes the midpoint as critical as any other stage in the novel and writers cannot lose sight of this.

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I am drafting a novel and thought I would jot down some thoughts on the process I am using. At the time of writing I have finished draft three.

Draft one consisted of writing the story, one chapter to the next as quickly as I was able. I ended up with approximately 50K words in three weeks at which point the story naturally came to a conclusion. I was writing from a plan and had the chapters outlined in advance. This allowed me to produce around 2400 words per day. This draft skipped over detail, had various notes as reminders to flesh this part out later and didn’t pay much attention to the words I used. My aim was to see whether I had a story.

Draft two was completed in around four weeks. Here I remove all the words that clutter the page. I’m aware I write them as I work through draft one, but I use them to get my characters from A to B to C. In draft one I’m not concerned about repetition, passive voice, how many times my characters laugh or smile, nod their heads and sigh, sit down, stand up and turn. Draft two sees me delete all ‘had, ‘that’, ‘just’, ‘seem’ and various other words I use in draft one.

I do keep an eye on point of view, I don’t know why. All I know is it helps with subsequent drafts. I also avoid dialogue tags. I find that fairly easy to do, but I suspect some slip by. I like to think I avoid adverbs – we will see.

Draft one is all about getting the story out and down on the page. Draft two tidies up the known bad habits and rewriting of sentences that contain them. Spelling and punctuation are also tidied up at this stage. I transfer any paragraphs or scenes that appeared a good idea at the time, but don’t look so good reading them back. If my gut feels they are cluttering the flow, I remove them to my notes document. Anything that can go without affecting the story or anything that looks possible, but can still be removed for now is taken out. There will be time later to review and put in the necessary effort should it be needed. At this stage I don’t need roadblocks to slow progress. There are other things to fix. I concentrate on the quick wins, as these boost confidence and take me one step closer to finishing. I would expect draft two to be cut by around 10% without losing any of the story.

Draft three I treat each chapter as I do my short stories. Each one is taken in order and finished to a point I would be okay with others reading it. This doesn’t mean it’s ready for publication; it means it doesn’t read so bad I’d rather burn it and start again. With this current novel it took a little over two weeks.

If I had to sum up the key lesson (which is personal) to date, it is this – do not be afraid to delete and rewrite every page. I doubt it would ever be as drastic as that, but you need to keep it in mind and be prepared to do it.

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Ernest Hemingway said “The first draft of anything is shit.” I’ve been drafting short stories this week and this quote is always in the back of my mind. It’s disheartening to read back a draft and see how poor it is. I often feel panic coming on at the thought of the hours that stretch before me to work through subsequent drafts. At that moment doing anything other than writing appears an attractive alternative. I know from experience that at some point I will read a future draft and it will look like its taking shape. At that point I breathe a sigh of relief, knowing that the bulk of the work has been done and all that remains is to refine it. The satisfaction that comes with knowing how bad the initial draft was and recognising the improvement in the final copy makes the process worthwhile.

I drafted a story called The Bridge. Coming up with ideas I find easy; a good title is something I struggle with. The draft was written out quickly and remembering Hemingway I sat back to read through the story. I was pleasantly surprised. Yes, it was shit, but the initial draft was better than expected. It has taken a number of rewrites since, but I still recognise a lot of the initial inspiration. This could be a fluke; it could be I’m becoming more skilled at writing. I certainly believe the practice I put in has helped. I know I will always treat first drafts as shit; it would be naïve of me to assume otherwise. Writing takes effort and good writing doesn’t simply happen without hard work. On the days when, for whatever reason, the words flow easily, those days should be thanked.

Small Print Vol 3 has now moved from first draft status to one that is approaching final copy. I’m hoping to put this out by end of August. I’m flitting back and forth from story to story as that seems to work best for me. The stories are complete and at this stage I happily jump into the middle and start editing. If I stall, or struggle with a sentence or phrase, I move on to another story and continue with that. This will continue for some time until I realise I have to take each story in turn and sign off each paragraph as complete. That may seem an odd way of working, but it works for me. I don’t like sweating over words for more than a minute or two. If I can’t resolve a phrase I know has to go, then I move on and return to it later. I find this an efficient use of time. I find naming characters a problem. Rather than stress about it, I use the first name that comes to mind and write using that. Once the story is complete, I usually have a clearer idea of what the name should be. I can see from this current draft I have used the same name in two different stories. Again this doesn’t cause me a problem. I will have made the changes by the time my deadline comes round.

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