Last week, I finally managed to send off ‘From Here to Nashville’ for its manuscript assessment by the RNA (Romantic Novelists’ Association). It felt like a great weight had been lifted from my shoulders as I left the Post Office and even though I know there will be lots of work to do on it when it comes back, it feels good to have reached this point with my debut novel. I have taken a few days off and had a good rest in the hope that this would leave me feeling refreshed and ready to go today.
The task I have set myself during the eight weeks that I expect my manuscript assessment to be taking place, is to go back to my second novel and straighten it out before I carry on with it and finish the first draft. This novel, called ‘Seeking Approval’, you may remember, is the one I began in NaNoWriMo last November, writing 50,000 words of the story that month. I carried on with it in April at Camp NaNoWriMo and as a result, I now have just over 75,000 words. However, despite writing an outline before I started this second novel, the story veered off quite considerably and I know I have lots of plot-holes already. I stuck to the NaNoWriMo idea of just writing and not editing though and carried on regardless. I have realised though that I can’t continue like that. It’s driving me insane! I have therefore made up my mind not to do the July Camp this year, unless by some miracle, I have sorted the outline and the story so that they are one and the same and I am absolutely confident of where I want the rest of the story to go.
And so begins the long task of writing scene synopses for every chapter so I can see what I’ve actually written and then comparing that to the outline. When I’ve done that, I think I will write a synopsis again, as I did for From Here to Nashville so that I can see where the plot is going wrong. Then I will have to correct what’s wrong before continuing. I am so fed up with myself for having done this again and it’s making me wonder whether NaNoWriMo works for me. I love doing it but unless I can write a decent outline before November, I don’t want to approach my third novel in this ramshackle way. At the moment, I am left feeling like I haven’t really made any progress on the planning front and I now have another novel to try and sort out. Naturally, I have saved lots of articles about it into my Evernote notebook on Outlining and I have already read a few of these, as well as downloading K. M. Weiland’s ‘Outlining Your Novel:Map Your Way to Success’ which comes highly recommended. The only trouble is that I was supposed to read all of these before I started! I have plenty of time though and perhaps I just need to take it one step at a time and not get too hung up about the mess I’m in. I’m still learning, I guess, and I just have to accept that and get started. Wish me luck!
Thanks for reading and any tips you could offer will be gratefully received, as always 🙂 Have a good week y’all.
My husband has been telling me how good the app Evernote is for a while now and how he thinks it could help me. This week, I finally started to pay attention to what he was saying when I read this article on Lifehacker, called ‘How to use Evernote for writing fiction.’
I had a quick read through the article and immediately picked up three ways that I thought Evernote could help me as a writer which I want to share with you today.
1. Evernote’s Web Clipper Even in the short space of time in which I’ve been writing, I have started to gather lots of bits and pieces of information to help me in my writing process. I have been bookmarking interesting websites, following other WordPress sites which then pop up in my reader and subscribing to some via email. This gives me a lot of reading material and I try and keep up with it all as best I can but never quite manage to finish reading.
As a result, I have a whole reading list of ‘How To’ articles to re-read later and when I have something specific I need to do, like writing a synopsis, for example, I find all the articles I bookmarked about that, sift out the least helpful ones and then find myself left with about half a dozen really useful articles to help me do the task in question. Now, I know that I will have to write a synopsis again at some point (unfortunately!) so what I’d like to be able to do is to keep all these articles together somewhere, other than just holding them on my reading list on Safari for ever or printing them out and storing them in a file to gather dust. This is where Evernote comes in 🙂 This facility allows you to ‘clip’ an article you want to keep and to store it for good without it cluttering up your desktop or your house. You simply clip the article from the internet using Evernote and it saves as a note. I can then create a notebook called ‘How to write a synopsis’ for example and then clip all the relevant articles into that notebook for future reference. This took very little time and now I have them all stored in one place.
2. Synching to all devices Evernote syncs on all your devices so you can access everything you’ve stored in it wherever you are, allowing you to read, write, take notes, look at images, listen to sound files and so on. I downloaded Evernote on to my Mac and on to my ‘phone and have already made good use of the synching facility. It’s a free application too which is even better for the impoverished author 😉
3. Capturing Images and storing them for research When you’re out and about, you can use Evernote to snap photos of anything you see that inspires you for your writing project. When you get home, you can then sync your devices and these images will be on your computer for you to use as you will. I will then copy images into Scrivener which is where I do my writing and may use these for characters or setting to give me ideas.
There are other ways of doing these things of course but what I like about Evernote is that it allows you to keep related things in one place and from an organisational point of view, I think that is very helpful indeed.
Do you use Evernote already? If so, what’s your favourite aspect? I’m looking to pick up tips! Or maybe you use another app which you think is just as good. Please share your thoughts in the comments below. Thanks for reading 🙂
I 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.
I 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.
A way to write more productively – and it works!
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.
Last 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.
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.
The 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:
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. I have kept some of the other links on my ‘Website Links I find Useful’ page (see tab above).
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.