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Tag: rewriting

Why I Write

DSC_0176I have two children and I was very lucky not to have to work when they were small. Of course, there were days when I thought I might go mad with only two young children for company but mostly, I just enjoyed that time whilst I could. Once my youngest was at school though, I started thinking about what I wanted to do with the rest of my life, finally deciding that I should retrain as a teacher. I had thought about it many times in the past but it was only through volunteering in my children’s school that I came to realise that this was a job I could do and perhaps enjoy.

A year ago, I had been teaching for about four years when a personal crisis came in the family. This only confirmed for me what I had been thinking for some time, which was that my own family and my own life, were coming second to my job. As anyone who is a teacher knows, it can be all-consuming. You never get to the end of your to-do list and the paperwork is overwhelming at the best of times. Add to this the constant scrutiny and it can feel like a very miserable job indeed. I made a decision then that I would ask to go part-time. Whilst I waited to hear the school’s decision and I struggled to deal with the personal crisis, I started to write my novel.
Writing became an escape for me. I found it calming and therapeutic to write and in no time at all, I had a complete first draft on my hands. Suddenly, a new world had opened up before me and I wanted to know more about it. In September last year, I switched to part-time working and now, on my two days off from work, I try and write as much as possible and I try to write/edit on every other day as well. My life feels more balanced and I have more time and energy for my own family.

My ultimate goal is to publish my novel now and to finish the other one I’m in the middle of writing. A lot of hard work lies between now and then but whilst writing continues to help me make sense of my life and what I want from it, I will keep on doing it. I’m not afraid of the hard work at all, although it is daunting to be learning something new (as I’ve documented on my blog here 😉 ) but with each achievement comes satisfaction and that makes it all worth it. This week, I finished my one page synopsis for example and sent it with the first two chapters of my novel to the Bath Novel Award competition. It was a long hard slog writing that synopsis but now I’ve done it, it feels great and I feel ready to go back to my rewriting.

So, in summary, I started writing to help me through a difficult time in my life and now that I have passed through that crisis and come out the other side, I am glad to say, I find myself doing something so enjoyable that my only question is why didn’t I do it earlier? Who knows? But I truly believe that now is my time to spread my wings through writing and I plan to make the most of it.

Thank you for taking the time to read my story. If you’d like to share your story about why you started writing below in the comments, I’d love to hear it.

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.

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.

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.

Part One – will the revising and editing ever end?

As I explained in my last post, I have been editing the first part of my novel and rewriting large chunks of the story too. I have been reading a lot about the three act structure and trying to make my novel conform to this which, if you are a writer, you will know is easier said than done. I do feel happier about the first part of the story now because I have slowed down the romance a bit and made the falling in love more realistic in the process (I hope!)

I have also been editing as I’ve gone along, using the notes I made on my hard copy, as well as the comments I have received from Authonomy users and a few select friends and loved ones but as I have also been reading a lot of tips for new writers about editing, this seems to be a never ending task!

For example, I find The Creative Penn to be a fantastic website and have used the school holidays to start reading all the emails I subscribed to receive from Joanna, as well as trying to keep up with all the new posts. This one from yesterday, was really useful for pointing out what editors will look for but it also frightened the life out of me! I like to think that I am very literate, with a background in foreign languages and some years of teaching English in schools now under my belt but there are still a fair number of things in the post that I feel less than confident about.

Then there was this list of an editor’s top ten tips from BubbleCow.

Again, it will be really helpful as I work my way through it but it is also quite daunting. So, what to do? Well, I know that I will ask a professional editor to work on my finished novel, when that day finally comes so for now, I can only do what I feel confident doing and accept that when I have done all I can, that is the time to hand over to the experts.

For now, it’s on to part two for more of the same. To quote another writer, ‘Nobody said it would be easy, they just promised it would be worth it.’ 🙂 Good luck with your writing, editing, rewriting in the coming week and please do post any comments on how you’re getting on with the process.

At last, I am editing and rewriting!

Wow, I have finally broken the back of this in the past couple of days after a lot of procrastination. I started by importing my manuscript into Scrivener and then I split it up into parts, chapters and scenes. This took a bit of time but it also allowed me to move bits around much more easily and I knew I wanted to do this. I have also written a synopsis for each scene I have edited and/or rewritten and I have kept all the bits I have moved in a separate ‘scene’ to fit back in later.

Perhaps I should explain that I had received a comment from an Authonomy friend that my two main characters fall in love a bit too quickly and after some thought, I agreed that this was probably true. I also felt that this might be part of the reason why I didn’t know how to finish the story.

So once I had everything set, the editing part seemed much easier. I have also been rereading my first draft, making notes on a hard copy about the edits I needed to make, as well as looking at comments I have received from Authonomy reviews. It has therefore been hard but nevertheless, rewarding work and I feel like I have made tons of progress today. This wasn’t what I had planned to do today actually but on a rainy day, it seemed like a good plan and now that I have almost finished the first five chapters, the sun has come out 😉

If you are putting off editing, using a software package like Scrivener can really take away that daunting feeling. I would recommend it and it’s such good value. The lesson I have learned from this though, is that I need to write my next book (!), including an outline, in Scrivener first to save myself an awful lot of time.