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Tag: outline

Rewriting, Time Travel and Van Gogh

DSC_2216I am about a third of the way through the rewrite of my debut novel. Since I wrote my synopsis after the first draft and realised where the plot-holes were, it has been a long slog rewriting the story to be what I want it to be. Had I written an outline before writing that first draft, I know that things would have been a lot easier but it’s simply too late to worry about that now. However, I have learned that lesson for next time (I hope!)

So now, I am trying to move on to the next part of the rewrite and I was hoping that things would be a bit easier from here on in, that there wouldn’t be so much to change in the story but sadly, I was wrong. It’s becoming a bit like time travel, as in the lovely Richard Curtis film, ‘About Time,’ which I watched with my family recently. The main character finds out he can travel backwards in time but when he tries to put past wrongs right, he affects the future in other ways and then has to rearrange all his changes. Well, my story is feeling a bit like that because if I change when the characters make love for the first time for example, it will affect many chapters before and after in many different ways. Suddenly, what seemed like a small change becomes a nightmare!

My current problem is that in my first draft, my main character, Rachel, made a demo CD with Jackson, her love interest, in London before he went back to Nashville. He then took it back with him to play to his colleagues at his record label before she comes out to join him there. In this draft though, she goes out to Nashville to make the demo CD. So, I have to condense many chapters down and get her to Nashville much more quickly so she can make the demo CD and the rest can follow. Since I know this is going to be hard, I am putting off getting started but I am under some pressure to get this all rewritten now, having set myself a deadline of finishing by the end of March if possible.

I’ve been wondering what can I do to push myself to make a start? Well, yesterday, I had a lovely day out with my friend, as we always do when our birthdays are coming up (they are a day apart, later this month). We visited the National Gallery in London to see Van Gogh’s Sunflowers. I have always loved Van Gogh’s art and always feel so saddened by the tragic life he led, despite being such a talented artist. The two paintings we saw yesterday were painted only months apart and for some of the time, he was in an asylum, yet the beauty he managed to create during such a terrible time in his life is remarkable. With Van Gogh’s example as my inspiration, maybe it’s time to tackle this next phase of rewriting head-on and who knows, I might end up with something good at the end, not in Van Gogh’s league but something I am pleased with when I finish.

What or who is your inspiration when you get stuck in your writing? Do let me know in the comments below and thank you, as always for continuing to read my blog 🙂

How to stay sane while rewriting

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Image credit – Flickr – Becca Peterson

Fear seems to be the theme for a lot of my posts so far this year 🙁
I have been steadily rewriting my first draft for a while now, in fact for the first part of my story, this is more like rewrite number four and every time I think I’ve got it in the bag, I realise that there are still far too many aspects of the story that aren’t quite right yet. Admittedly, I have sought external feedback and now I’m having to take that feedback on the chin, which is proving to be very hard. It feels like I will never be done with the rewrites and that fills me with gloom and fear. I am normally a very optimistic person, a great feat considering I have been married for nearly twenty-five years to someone whose favourite band of all time is The Smiths and favourite singer, Morrissey, by extension 😉 I have spent my life being a glass half-full kind of person but since I started my first novel, I have found myself feeling daunted by the uphill struggle that writing involves. Naturally, I have spent some time wondering why this is and here is my conclusion.

Although there is a wealth of advice out there, there is no single tried and tested method for writing a novel and you wouldn’t want there to be. It’s just that there are so many choices. Should you outline or fly by the seat of your pants? Should you just write until you finish then edit or should you edit as you go? Should you aim for a beginning, middle and end or should you have five plot points, maybe even seven? I could go on but I can see you nodding and don’t even get me started on punctuation! I’m just reading Stephen King’s ‘On Writing’ at the moment and whilst I’m enjoying this book by one of my writing heroes, even he would agree that he doesn’t practise what he preaches (see what he has to say about the use of adverbs, for example). As a result, the whole writing process is very confusing for a new writer. It will all be such a relief when we’re writing book number two and we know what to expect!

I read an interesting article by an author called Ryan Casey about five steps you can take to make rewriting less painful. You can read it here. Three of his points really stood out to me, as follows:

  • I found his suggestion about creating a rewriting outline very helpful. He talks of the ‘beat sheet’ idea put forward by Roz Morris in her book ‘Nail Your Novel – Why Writers Abandon Books and How You Can Draft, Fix and Finish with Confidence’. Interestingly, I had been trying to do this very thing in an Excel spreadsheet myself, having seen a synopsis tackled this way by a writing friend. I say trying because I was copying and pasting my scene descriptions from my Scrivener document and it was taking so long, I had become bored and given up! I have decided that I will try and finish this to help me get my head round what I have put into each scene so that when, I said, WHEN, I need to go back and change things, it might be a bit easier.
  • Interestingly, he suggests setting a target of rewriting two scenes a day, in an effort to be realistic about your targets and goals. I have been doing much more than this, steaming ahead on my days off from work which is my precious writing time. The result of this approach for me has been that I now have so much more to put right following the feedback I’ve received. I am under some pressure in that I have joined the RNA’s (Romantic Novelists’ Association) New Writers’ Scheme and this means I have to submit my manuscript for assessment by the end of August at the latest, although I would prefer to do it sooner. However, I think I have to slow down and be patient if I want the end result to be as good as possible.
  • Finally, he suggests that we should work on a new project to boost our creative energy. I have left my Nano 2013 novel untouched, pretty much since the end of last November and this point made me realise that I miss it 🙂

I now have some new goals to help me and hope that I will be able to get back to it with renewed enthusiasm. I know this is new advice and we’re all feeling overwhelmed with it but the trouble is, when you don’t know the answers, what else are you going to do? Of course, we will all do what feels right for us individually and only in doing so, will we know whether it was right or not. Writing this first book to completion will be trial and error and we will either make it to book two or we will give up between now and then. I sincerely hope that what I have learned so far will help me get there and if I have helped you too, then so much the better.

If you’re stuck in the middle of rewriting, let me know how you’re getting on in the comments below. 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

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.

To outline or not to outline, that is the question (with apologies to you know who!)

I have been learning a lot of new vocabulary since I started writing this first novel of mine. One of these words has been ‘pantser’, meaning a writer who just sits down and writes without necessarily having every aspect of their story planned out in their minds. I was definitely a ‘pantser’ when I started writing my novel but when I got to 70,000 words and realised I didn’t know how to end the story, with the help of Scrivener, I became someone who outlines the story first. Except that I had to do it in reverse and I am still going!

I have got to the point in the story that I wanted to change. I’ve changed it and then worried that was the wrong decision (aargh!) but I am trying to plough on and it really is a nightmare job 🙁 This is because I am outlining, writing and editing all at the same time and I feel like I might be going slightly mad in the process.
So no more flying by the seat-of-my-pants next time. I am definitely going to outline the next one before I start. That’s assuming that I finish writing, editing, rewriting, proofreading this one….

Here’s a link to just one interesting article I read on this very subject.

Finishing my debut novel :(

So, I have just finished Camp NaNoWriMo and successfully written 10,000+ words – yay! But I have been plagued this week by the doubt that these were the wrong 10,000 words.

I have never written a novel before so I had an idea and then just wrote it as I went along. I got to 70,000 words feeling confident that this was the story I wanted to write. Then all of a sudden, I didn’t know where to go with the ending and I felt confused and frightened about where to take the story. I have read so much about writing an outline before you start but I really didn’t have one, just the germ of an idea. So I thought, well, I’ll just write and see what happens. And now I am worried that I might have to rewrite large sections of my novel all over again because the ending isn’t what I want it to be and along with that thought, will come a sense of inertia. You know, I can’t possibly rewrite all that, it’s too hard, it’ll be a mess. So, I am not writing at all, I am procrastinating.
I go on holiday next Thursday and I don’t know whether to take my laptop with me ( I have never done that in my life!) so that I can write if I want to. Maybe all those people I have scoffed at on previous holidays, sitting with their laptops in the sunshine, were actually would-be writers like me, struggling to finish their first draft of their first novel and therefore not to be mocked at all. I need help, guys, and would appreciate any advice you could offer. Thanks 🙂