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Facing my fear of writing

egg-timer-154763_150I am now well into the process of rewriting my first draft. I have written a synopsis I am happy with and last week, I started rewriting, following the synopsis as closely as I could. On Monday and Tuesday, which are my days off from my day job, I got so much rewriting done, it was scary but then I reached the point where I could go no further without a massive rewrite and reorder of several chapters. Since Tuesday, I have done no work on my novel at all, even though I have had plenty of opportunity to do so. I wanted to write but I was struggling to put the new scenes together in my mind and I realised they might affect the timeline of my story quite dramatically as well. I felt like it was going to be too difficult, if not impossible to do this writing and so I simply stopped.

By yesterday, I had decided that this could not carry on, I had to do something about it, but what? First of all, I made sure to get all my jobs done so that I would have a clear day for writing today. Unusually, I have to work tomorrow but I didn’t want to miss out on one of my writing days so I checked off that goal by the end of the day. My plan was to make a start on writing this morning at nine o’clock and to write as much as possible throughout the day. Well, nine o’clock came and went as I wasted time on Twitter and put off having a shower. I was getting very annoyed with myself but seemed incapable of doing anything about it. Then help came from an unexpected source, although it was another writer so I shouldn’t have been surprised since I have found many generous writers on this journey so far 🙂 Helena Fairfax is another romance novelist and member of the RNA and she told me about a technique she uses to help herself get down to writing. It’s called the Pomodoro Technique and you can read about it on her blog here.

The basic idea is that you write or edit or do whatever other task for twenty-five minutes and then take a five minute break. When you have done four stints, you can take a longer break. This is said to improve your mental agility and I should really have heard about it before but haven’t, although I have come across similar things. Somehow though, this has allowed me to face my fear and to conquer it and I have now done six, yes, six, separate stints today and may well fit another one in before cooking dinner. By working in bite-sized chunks like this, I have kept focussed, putting my ‘phone and my computer on silent, and I have felt such a great sense of achievement at writing that difficult chapter and coming out the other side.

The trouble is that there are so many distractions and it’s easy to get side-tracked and I’ve often felt very disappointed when I come to the end of the day and find that I have done so little. Now I must admit to feeling a bit smug today but do you know, I think I deserve it 🙂

With grateful thanks to Helena. I hope this helps you too as you face the fear but if you have another tried and tested technique, do let me know in the comments. As always, thanks for reading.

How I used story structure to help me write my synopsis

writinghardworkLast week’s post was all about doing the research for writing my first synopsis. I had been meaning to do it for some time but once I’d finished my first round of editing, there was no longer an excuse not to get on with it. After reading loads of articles and getting lots of different advice (as always), I went back to an article I had read about story structure because it was proving really hard to write a synopsis when the story still didn’t seem quite clear in my head. Unsurprisingly 😉

The article I read was about Dan Wells’ 7 Point Story Structure. You can read about it in a number of places on the internet but this link was especially useful because it includes videos and some worksheets too.
http://theselfpublishingtoolkit.com/seven-point-story-structure/

I took the worksheet and filled in all the stages of my story and suddenly, once I’d done that, I had the makings of a synopsis. I suppose you could argue that what I’ve written is really the outline of the story which I could/should have written from the outset but hey, this was my first novel and I have learnt so much since then. I was a pantser then but would definitely outline every time in the future. Having written the outline though, it’s not a huge step to create a one page synopsis. Of course, if a longer synopsis is required, this approach wouldn’t really work but it would help you to get started.

I would really like you to take a look at my synopsis and tell me what you think. Remember it’s my first go at it so it will need some more work and as I work through my revisions, I will adapt it but some feedback now would be much appreciated. I hope it helps you if you are trying to write a synopsis and if so, please leave me a comment below. Thanks for reading.
Nashville synopsis

Trying to Write a Synopsis for the first time

forest-175221_1920The New Year started very well for me when I found out that I had been accepted on to the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s New Writers’ Scheme. This means that I have until the end of August to submit my manuscript for assessment, which will follow by the end of the year. So I have plenty of time to get my first draft ready, right? Well, not if writing the synopsis is anything to go by 🙁

I have written before about whether there is such a thing as too much advice. You can read that blog post here.

There is no doubt that the internet is a wonderful research tool but sometimes, it is really difficult to see the wood for the trees. As you know, I finished reading my first draft aloud at the end of last year. Since then, I have been inputting those edits to my manuscript and now that I have finished, I have turned my attention to trying to write a synopsis in an effort to see where my plot-holes are. You may remember that I wrote my first draft as a ‘pantser’, which is why I now have plot-holes!
I have got into the habit of bookmarking all the useful articles I read about writing so I can come back to them later and today, I decided that it was time for me to pick out all the articles I had found about how to write a good synopsis. There were at least a dozen articles in total when I started re-reading them, although I am sure there are many more out there. There may even be a whole wood 😉 I have read them all and distilled them down to the ones which I found to be the most helpful for me (the trees). I really would encourage you to read these three articles at least.

Don’t Shrink from Synopses!
http://janefriedman.com/2011/10/25/novel-synopsis/
http://www.caroclarke.com/synopsis.html

So now all I have to do is go and write it! I am starting with my scenes and trying to précis these down first. This was already a great shock to me because I have 157 scenes in total, whereas the received wisdom is that 60 – 80 is normal for a novel :o) And so the learning continues…

Tune in next week to see how I got on 🙂 I hope you find these articles helpful but if you have a tried and tested method for writing a synopsis, please do let me know in the comments below. Thanks for reading.

The Dragon’s Loyalty Award

dragons-loyalty-award-logo-31-12-13Hardly had the New Year started than I found out that I had been given an award by Sandra Danby for loyally reading her blog over the last few months. You can find her blog here.

It is such a lovely blog about Sandra’s life in Spain and it has been my absolute pleasure to check it every week to find out what has been happening in her part of the world. Sandra is also an experienced writer so she has often had words of wisdom for me in my new writing life which have been much appreciated. So I’d like to say a big thank you to her for giving this award to me.
Now, a brief mention of The Rules for this award, which are:-

  1. Thank the person who offered it to you and link to their site.
  2. Display the award on your site and write a post about it.
  3. Present 15 or so other bloggers with the award and let them know about it.
  4. Write 7 things about yourself.
  5. List the Rules.

So I would like to take a moment to link to some other great people who have started following me since I began my own blog.
1.  John writes thought-provoking poems on his site.
http://theworldoutsidethewindow.wordpress.com

2. Alana supports and inspires other writers here.
http://alanamunroauthor.com

3. Jenny is a book-blogger.
http://jennyinneverland.wordpress.com

4. Kimberley is a writer and blogs about it.
http://writerkimberlyhill.wordpress.com

5. Lisen is also a writer and blogs about her writing journey.
http://lisenminetti.wordpress.com

6. Diana is also a writer and blogger.
http://pelicanfiction.wordpress.com

7. Another writer trying to establish a daily ritual of writing.
http://damyantiwrites.wordpress.com

8. Taylor is a writer of fiction and micro-fiction and is also heavily involved in NaNoWriMo.
http://littlewritelies.com

9. This site is described as a library of literary interestingness!
http://interestingliterature.com

10. Crissi is an author, writer and blogger.
http://crissilangwell.com

Now for some things about me.
* I love Marmite 😉
* I have two cats, Charlie and Miley (named pre-twerking era)
* I speak French fluently and a number of other European languages less so.
* I love to sing.
* Three of my heroes are Billy Joel, Barbra Streisand and Dustin Hoffman and I have seen them all perform live.
* My maternal grandfather was Czechoslovakian.
* I have studied about wine to diploma level.

So I would encourage you to go and look at these sites and thank you to them all and to you for continuing to read my blog.

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A review of the first year of My Writing Life

As the end of 2013 approaches, it seems like a good time to review what I have achieved this year and to set some writing goals for the coming year.

I started writing my first draft of my first novel in April 2013. I finally finished it in October and by this time, I had learnt that first drafts are usually not that good so I would have to spend the next several months editing what I had written. At first, I felt only despair at the mammoth task this would be but then, after a lot of research, I knuckled down and got on with it. Unfortunately, I had thought that I would be able to do this at the same time as taking part in NaNoWriMo 2013! Mad fool, I hear you cry. Well, I came to my senses pretty quickly and decided that I would just use November to read my WIP aloud and make editing notes as I went along. This became my first round of edits and I will have completed this by the end of the year. Yep, by tomorrow. I feel very proud of that, as well as the fact that I was a NaNoWriMo winner, writing just over 50,000 words of my second novel. I have also managed to find two critique partners to accompany me on my editing journey and I know their help is going to be invaluable next year.

In June 2013, I started to blog about my writing life. I wanted to write about my experience on this journey, sharing what I learnt along the way and I am amazed to see that I have managed to blog every week since then. Not only that, I have found new things to say and have made a few good friends along the way. I really enjoy writing the blog as well and I enjoy reading other people’s.

I also joined Twitter and started to build a following by following other writers and people dedicated to helping writers. I have found this much more fun than I expected, although it has also become a bit of an obsession!
It has been a year in which I have learnt so much and most of it from other writers, for which I am very grateful. I am looking forward to the new writing year immensely.
So my goals for 2014:

  • To finish editing my first draft of ‘From Here to Nashville’, hopefully by April which would be a year since I started writing it. I would like to have it professionally edited ultimately and I have a couple of ideas about how to manage this.
  • I plan to work hard with my critique partners to make my work as good as it can possibly be.
  • I would like to finish the first draft of my second novel too. I don’t have a deadline on this but it would be good to have finished it by the time NaNoWriMo 2014 comes round!
  • I would like to attend a writing course or two this year to help me progress my learning.
  • I am thinking of taking a proofreading course as a way of supplementing my income now that I work part-time. It would be great if longer term, the proofreading could pay for some of my other goals 😉 I am realistic about this though (honest!)

A good year then, all in all. I hope your writing year has been good and that you have set yourself some sensible goals for next year. Best wishes to you all for 2014 and thank you for reading 🙂

First Person Point of View – good or bad?

I haven’t had so much time for editing this past week, what with it being the end of a busy term AND nearly Christmas, but I have been plodding on with it bit by bit and reading as much as I can around the subject. Then the other day, I came across an article about point of view in novel writing. Its main point was that new writers often make the mistake of writing in the first person and this reveals their lack of experience. Cue much soul-searching as, of course, you have probably guessed that I have written my debut novel in the first person. All the self-doubt came pouring in as I read through to the end of the article, which assured me that only truly experienced, brilliant writers can pull off writing in the first person. On top of this, a new critique partner I found this week told me that they had only read one novel written in the first person and so felt a bit unsure about commenting on mine because of this aspect. So, I decided to do some more research and came across this article, which was a bit more reassuring but still gives me cause for concern.

My concern stems from the fact that I have encountered some of these very problems, for example, the stream of consciousness and the limiting single perspective. It wasn’t ever a conscious decision for me to write in this point of view but now I can see that I might have made my writing life much harder by doing so. However, many books have been written this way, as the article suggests, which is why my new cp’s comment surprised me. I would have thought they would have read many more books written from this perspective than just the one they’re thinking of.

I am left wondering therefore, whether I ought to rewrite the whole thing now and if this would improve the novel immeasurably because it would give me much more freedom as a writer to be writing in the third person. I would be interested to hear other people’s thoughts on this matter and look forward to hearing from you. In the meantime, I will let my brain process it and consider how to deal with this latest turn in my learning curve.
Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and thank you, as always, for reading 🙂

Editing procrastination for the unpublished writer

Like most people, I expect, this past week has been absolute madness and for me, it won’t stop until I reach the end of term on Friday. This week, we have our KS2 Music and Drama production at school and today, we had our dress rehearsal. It didn’t go well 🙁 but everyone kept telling me not to worry because it would all come together on the night (tomorrow! eek!) I should know this by now because I  have a fair few productions under my belt but I still feel very nervous at this point every year. This is simply because after all these months of rehearsals, I want everything to go right for the children, as well as for me and the other people involved in bringing this together. The two performances this week are the culmination of a lot of hard work and I would like everyone to go out on a high.

This got me thinking that this must be how it will feel when I finally finish editing my first novel. I am still soldiering on with it, hoping that what I have done so far will be worthwhile. However, I know that I haven’t even begun to deal with the really nitty gritty editing yet. I am really just proofreading because I know I am skilled at this and I find it very easy. I have been bookmarking all the other editing advice I have seen over the past couple of months, to use later when I do the REAL editing. This is procrastination at its best. I have nearly 100 such articles bookmarked so far! I have posted on this before but I really think that there is just so much advice out there about editing, amongst other things and yet, no definitive guide to the whole process. As a new writer, this is what I feel I really need in the absence of an agent, let alone a publishing contract. There are many people blogging about the poor quality of some self-published novels but even if you are fairly literate, if you’ve never written a novel before, you really won’t know the first thing about how to edit it on anything other than a superficial basis.

I will start to work my way through these articles over the holidays and because I’m a methodical sort of person, I know the job will get done but whether it will be to my satisfaction when I finish working my way through, is another matter. Still, all part of the learning curve, I suppose.

Has anyone else got any experience of editing for the first time that they would be willing to share, including any book recommendations? I really would love to hear from you 🙂

Fancy a Christmas short story?

Last week, I decided that I would have a go at writing a short story as a post-NaNoWriMo activity to try and ease myself gently back into novel writing mode. I’ve not actually written a short story before and at first, I wasn’t sure how long to make it but in the end, the story dictated its own length and it finished up around 2,500 words. It’s only a first draft but I felt quite pleased with what I had written and as it is a Christmas story, I thought I would share it with you today. I would welcome any comments on my story, as well as any constructive feedback. Hope you enjoy it!
and-the-band-played-one280a6short-story1
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

I’m a NaNoWriMo 2013 winner and it feels great!

I finally finished NaNoWriMo 2013 last Friday, having written a grand total of 50,007 words of the first draft of my second novel, provisionally titled ‘Seeking Approval’. It felt so good to meet the goal I had set myself of writing a minimum of 1,667 words every day during November. I think there was only one day when I didn’t write and so I was able to catch up again quite quickly. I worked really hard to follow the advice and keep my ‘inner editor’ at bay, only changing what I absolutely had to in order to keep writing. Some mornings I would wake up, knowing there was a massive plot-hole and that I wouldn’t be able to write any more until I had fixed it so I did that but nothing else in terms of editing. The final story is pretty solid so far and I think that’s partly because I wrote an outline, this time. I haven’t stuck rigidly to it but it certainly helped me when I found I was getting stuck and gave me the push I needed to keep going on several occasions. I suppose that I had a certain clarity of vision when I wrote the outline and that helped me when things got a bit ‘blurry’ further down the line.

I took the weekend off from writing to recover a bit, and to put up Christmas trees, you know, essential stuff like that. 😉 We have a family tradition of putting the tree up on the first Sunday in December (lucky for my kids this year!) and so I had an obligation. It was fun though and allowed my brain time to think about what I needed to do next in my writing life.

So, today, I have gone back to editing my first novel, ‘From Here to Nashville’. I am still in the first phase of self-editing, which I have designated the ‘reading aloud’ phase, following all the advice I’ve read. This has flagged up lots of little things that I will tidy up afterwards. I’m still only about halfway through though – it really takes a long time to read aloud, which I’d forgotten. I reckon it will take me to the end of the year to finish this phase and then I’m going to have a go at all the editing levels suggested by the other writers I follow on Twitter. I will post links to these as I go through, in case it’s of help to anyone else.In the meantime, I thought I might try my hand at a Christmas short story, taking inspiration from many other writers out there who seem to be doing the same. I’ve never written a short story so I think it would be a good discipline. It will also take my mind off the two things I’m waiting to hear back about: a first chapter critique for ‘Nashville’ and also, whether it has been accepted for a free manuscript assessment. Busy, busy, busy.

What’s your writing life like post-NaNo? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below. Bye for now.

The End of NaNoWriMo is in sight

Just under a week to go now till the end of my first NaNoWriMo and I am on target to finish my 50,000 words by the end of November. I am so pleased that I have managed to achieve this but there have been a few ups and downs for me during the month, as I’m sure there have been for other NaNoWriMos.

At the beginning, the idea of writing 1,667 words every day seemed hard. Where would I find the time, especially on work days? However, it was the excitement of starting a new project that kept me going in the first week and despite having one day when I didn’t write at all, I still caught up and kept at it.

Then as I moved into the second week, I got into a routine and I was surprised to find that I was adding ‘Writing’ to my list of things to do each day, making time for it alongside all the other things I MUST do every day. Once it took on that importance, I suddenly found that I was getting faster at typing as well. I haven’t participated in any actual word sprints via Twitter but I have been completing some sprints of my own and the sense of achievement I feel every day as I update my word count on the NaNoWriMo site and I study my stats is so gratifying, it’s almost ridiculous 🙂

My story has flagged a little at times and I know I am going to have to do some serious work on it when November is over but I have kept writing and that is what’s important. So by this time next week, I will be back to editing my first novel with a  vengeance. I have been reading it out loud during November, as my first stage of editing and there are many, many chapters to go! I have also applied for a manuscript assessment to help me with the structural edit I know it needs so I’m really keeping my fingers crossed about that one.

The final thing I want to achieve by the end of the year is to sign up for and complete The Society for Editors and Proofreaders ‘Introduction to Proofreading’ course. This is step two in my plan for my new writing life and will start me on the road towards step three next year. If anyone else has done this course, I’d love to hear how you got on with it.

Good luck to all NaNoWriMos out there for this final week. Feel free to let me know how you’re getting on.