My Writing Life

Starting Again

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Its been some time since I updated this blog.  There’s not much I want to say about my absence except I’m back and I’m writing.

In fact, I’m starting once again – yes, its draft number four!

I’ve been spending the past few months reading, doodling, taking long baths, getting some sleep and generally trying to look after myself a little better.

Now I’m ready to edit again and so a couple of days ago I started once again on the next draft of my novel.

I’ve read through the whole of draft three and wrote notes as I went along.  I’ve thought about which parts to cut out to make it flow better and how I’m going to restructure it. There are also parts I need to write (and rewrite) to make it more of a page turner.

I’m optimistic that I’ll have this draft in the bag by September.type-786900_1920

 

 

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An act of sabotage. Well, almost.

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Today my husband saved me from deleting 30,000 words of a half written novel.

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So you’ve finished a draft – now how do you feel?

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I finally finished editing the third draft of my novel last Tuesday.

Everyone, assumes that when you finish something like that that you should be rejoicing in the streets and whilst the initial feeling is like that, once that fades what replaces it is something else.  For every one of my three drafts so far, I’ve felt differently about each one.

The End Of Draft One

I started writing my first draft in November 2013 as part of NANOWRIMO, knowing full well that I wouldn’t make the 50,000 word limit at the end of the month (I’m a full time teacher for goodness sake!) but I was fully committed to the idea that I would write a little bit every day until I finished, no matter how long it took.  It actually only took me four months of writing an average of 500 words a day.

Before then, I had *tried* (obviously not hard enough) to write novels but had always abandoned them halfway through, usually because I realised I had written myself into a corner and might have to *shock horror* delete 2000 words. ( I find that laughable now, when I think of what I have had to do in later drafts, but I digress)

Initially, I felt euphoric.  I had actually completed something! *Pulls party poppers*

But once the euphoria had died down, I was really surprised to find that I felt really sad.  What was I going to do now to unwind from a stressful day?  What would I *think* about when I no longer needed to think about what was going to happen in the next chapter?  How would I fill my free time?

The answer is of course, well, lots of things.  Read other people’s books.  Play a video game.  Watch films. Go out for dinner. Write something else.

One of the great, unexpected feelings was that having finished something, I now felt more confident that I *could* write another novel if I wanted to.  I had already proven to myself that writing a novel with limited time was possible.

My top tip for draft one is: make sure you have another project in mind to start once your first draft is completed. This will help to stop that ‘post-draft slump.’

The End Of Draft Two

Draft two was the most difficult of all of them.  This is because when you reread your draft, you will realise that that great metaphor you used is actually awful.  Your character said what?  They would never do that.  And why did you write something on page 10 that you then directly contradicted on page 125?  You will realise that some parts of your story require a huge suspension of disbelief by the reader for it to be believable.

Working through draft two was laborious but necessary.  This was where I realised that writing the story was the easy part and it is the edit that feels like hard work. Where I had been reluctant to cut out a few hundred words in draft one, here I was deleting entire chapters.

Warning: There are times during this draft when you will think you are a bad writer but this is not true. It *doesn’t* mean you are a bad writer.  It means you have written a first draft and it will need hard work to make it a better second draft.

As you begin to shape your novel you will also read parts that you think sound great or that you don’t even remember writing. These moments are what keep you going.  And because this was the hardest draft for me, it meant that when I finally finished editing it, it was also the draft that was most rewarding and with which I felt the most satisfaction.

My top tip for draft two is:  JUST KEEP GOING no matter how much you want to give up.  (I’ll refer you to my other post The Ryan Gosling Technique for extra motivation!!)

The End Of Draft Three

Last Summer, I visited the locations of the book: Whitby, Staithes and Saltburn by the Sea in North Yorkshire.  This was because when I originally visited this area I had no idea that a few years later I would be writing a novel set there and my memory of it had grown quite hazy.

There is also very little written about Victorian life outside of London (though I am currently reading How To Be A Victorian which should fill some of these gaps) so when I visited this time I bought as many local history books and visited as many places as I could in the hope that in the third draft I would be able to add details to make the novel more historically accurate.

I have added these and I quite enjoyed editing this draft although having now finished, I know there still needs to be a fourth one. But to be honest, I need a break from this book.

My overwhelming feeling this time has been relief!  I just want to think about something else for a while.

So I’m going to ask some friends to read it and see what they think.  While they do that I will write some short stories and start on another book.  Back to draft number one!

My top tip for draft three is: give yourself a deadline to head for.  Perhaps, find some readers who will read your draft once it is completed to give you added motivation to finish on time.

How to keep motivated (or the Ryan Gosling Editing Technique)

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I’m working my way through the third edit of my novel.  I’m just over 50% through and I’m SO BORED OF EDITING!  I know  that I need to keep on going AND JUST FINISH THE DAMN THING but it is very difficult to find the motivation.  This is how I’m trying to keep going:

1) Reminding myself that I have spent almost 3 years working on this novel.  Only 4 months of that time involved actually writing the initial story.  If I give up now that is 3 years wasted.

2) Remembering why I want to finish in the first place.  If I stop now, I’m just someone who likes writing rather than someone with a completed novel.

3) Giving myself a deadline.  I want to be finished with it by the end of the Summer so I can move on and write something else for a while.

4) Rereading ‘On Writing’ by Stephen King, my favourite no nonsense book about writing:  ‘Stopping a piece of work just because its hard emotionally or imaginatively is a bad idea.  Sometimes you have to go on when you don’t feel like it, and sometimes you’re doing good work when it feels like all you’re managing is to shovel shit from a sitting position.’

5) When all else fails, think of Ryan Gosling!

If anyone has any other suggestions that have worked for them, hey, pass them on.

Researching Staithes: A Secret Staithes Diary

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I’ve come to a bit of a standstill whilst editing my novel.  Parts of it feel a bit bare, so I’ve decided to reread a book that was an important text during the initial research phase almost three years ago to see if it will inspire me when trying to flesh it out a bit.

Part of my book is set in the picturesque village of Staithes, in North Yorkshire, and whilst there is plenty written about the filthy city of Victorian London, it seems that rural England has been largely forgotten, despite the impact that the railways and factories had on rural towns.

However, after much searching and a second visit to Staithes I found this book which is a reprint of an *actual diary* of a young lady called Enid, who spent her Summers visiting Staithes and mixing with the artists who would go there to paint the landscape.

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It makes fascinating reading and whilst reading it again this morning I realised how many of my own characters and events are inspired by some of the events described: the waves outside the Cod and Lobster threatening to sweep children away; Enid’s fascination with the more bohemian residents such as Charlie and Sidney; the constant worry of how your behaviour will affect your reputation within certain social circles.

And the details about Yorkshire itself are wonderful.  This is an extract of her writing about a particularly violent thunder storm:

…I could watch, to my full satisfaction how the great ribbons of pink and blue lightening shot across the cliffs, and how the pelting rain came down almost in bucketfuls, ploughing up the sea and covering it with a steaming white and grey mist, and washing the Staith as clean as if it had been mopped with soap and water.  Then a strong wind sprang up, all of a sudden, and blew as if it would blow the whole of Staithes into the sea…I stood in the porch and watched it, in spite of mother’s repeated warnings, as I felt absolutely stifled inside.

The diary includes some of Enid’s own sketches as well as handwritten pages from the original text.  It gives a great insight into what Staithes was like in 1901.

For those interested, Enid’s diary is available to buy here.