This week, I have achieved what I set out to do: I finished the first draft of my short story! Those last few pages went by so quickly but that might have just been the sheer enjoyment of using my typewriter over actually writing fast, who knows? That little stack of typed pages with the tiny punctures from the viscous full stop sat proudly on my desk for the whole of one evening until I had it in my hands and jammed it through the scanner onto my laptop. I had to settle for a free, somewhat temperamental OCR program which didn’t scan quite as accurately as would have hoped but saved me time in the long run instead of copying out the manuscript word by word.
It was then out with the red pen and metaphorical scissors for the long awaited editing. Those pages are now covered with scribbles, spelling corrections, rephrased sentences, suggestions for alternative words and phrases to check for repetition. I was surprised to find very little adverbs as it happened but I did remove a lot of “that”s (which I suggest you do too: you’ll be surprised at how unnecessary they often are and how much they disturb the flow of your prose) which found there way in.
Once I had finished with the corrections and ticked said corrections off (admittedly, very satisfying), I slung it into Grammarly for one final check and read through. It’s now been given to my first trusted guinea pig for a test read so hopefully they’ll come back with some improvements for me to make before I send it off to my second guinea pig.
I’ve also settled for a pen name!
I think we can all agree that with writing comes some very pleasurable and satisfying moments. Some of the most simple ones for me are; when typing on a typewriter and all you can hear is the neat wrap of typeslugs against the platen or the small pile of paper you have at the end. I don’t write long-hand, though it is something I would like to try, but for anyone who does, is it more rewarding than writing on a computer?
In the last few weeks, there have been a few moments for me that stood out. As I said in my last post, I have been writing at least one line of prose every day and I can honestly say that it has worked a treat. Just last weekend I made it to 12,000 words! This for me is was a huge milestone – 10,000 would have been bigger but I didn’t realize I had made it that far because all my chapters are on separate word documents. This 12,000 words also meant the end of Chapter 3 which I have been stuck on for quite some time. I was finding it hard to write and keep it varied because the start of the novel is purposely repetitive. The character whose chapter this belonged to was one I hadn’t really looked into as deeply as the others so finding their voice was a lot harder. However, when I finally found their voice, as with the other characters, it became easier and I was able to get on with the story.
Talking about Chapter 3 – and no, I’m not going to give anything away – something happened that has never happened before. So there I was tapping away at my laptop; I’d worked my way through the checklist (because that’s how I write. I make a checklist for the chapter so I don’t forget anything and anything extra I add in is a bonus) and I was on the last stretch; coming up to the ending that had been going around my head for age and in that moment I put it down in words…I shivered. A shiver shot up my spine; the same shiver I get every time Bolt saves Penny from the burning film studio. I don’t know why. I think it had something to do with the fact that, in terms of the novel, it marked the moment when everything changes and something huge is about to happen. Or maybe because it meant that the beginning was finished and now the bulk of the novel gets to follow. Anyhow, regardless of why, that moment was very special.
So next is Chapter 4 which marks the introduction of the fourth and final main character, possibly the most titular of them all. I’m looking forward to figuring out how best to bring out their character in words. I’ll let you know how I get on.
Have you had a moment when writing that was was special to you? I’d love to hear what pleasures writing gives you guys.
Writing something every day is hard and I can tell you now that I have failed at it. Some days I feel so uninspired to write that I know whatever I write will probably be deleted moments after I write it. For a while, I was able to write every day. Remember that short story I was thundering through? Yeah, that’s still unfinished, sitting on top of my printer just waiting. The reason I had to stop was to write my History and English coursework. Both were mammoth tasks. I actually enjoyed them, researching sources not only made my coursework better, it expanded my knowledge. Reading various essays by historians on the causes of the First World War or by critics on Daphne du Maurier’s presentation of ‘The Supernatural’ in Rebecca only pushes me to try more in my own writing.
Anyway, back to writing something every day. A few weeks ago, I watched a TEDx Talks video on creativity and productivity (I would link it but I can no longer find it). Talking, was a graphic artist who had set out to get 10k plus followers on social media within a set time. He needed to produce something every day or near enough every day to achieve his goal but found that some days, after hours of working, he would often feel like the last thing he wanted to do was draw. As soon as he said that I knew that whatever he had to say next would surely help me. I had been experiencing the exact same thing: the last thing I want to do after getting home from college was to punish myself further by sitting myself down at another desk.
What he said next was he made himself draw one line, just one line every day. By the time he had set himself up to draw that one line, and once he had completed that one line, he felt he could draw another, and another. I have applied this to my own work, both writing AND revision. I tell myself that I will write one line every day; one line of my novel and one line of revision for English and History. Sometimes that is all I do but other times I end up writing a page or even two!
Something else he talked about was in response to the saying ‘practise makes perfect’. He found that drawing every day didn’t make his drawing improve, it remained the same. He could draw faster, but not better. He mentioned “Active Learning” which was (to put it briefly) seeking to improve by referring to others work and advice. Transposing this to writing, I think we can say that just writing every day won’t make your writing better. We need to actively seek to make our writing better by reading and researching what other writers do. Most days, as well as writing that one line, I will read something about writing prompts, dos and do nots; or watch a video by an agent talking about what they look for in a book.
Now having said this, I think it’s important to not get bogged down by this. At the end of the day, reading and watching ‘how tos’ doesn’t make you a writer; reading this post doesn’t make you a writer (but don’t go just yet). Writing makes you a writer. I know from experience that once you reach it to the bottom of a WordPress blog post, you’re greeted by a lovely list of ‘recommended posts’. You must resist. Save it for tomorrow. Now is the time for you to write that one line.
Today has been quite draining, draining but productive nonetheless. Sadly I haven’t gotten around to writing any more of my book but that’s okay though because I tend to write better in the evenings anyway. Hopefully, I’ll make some headway with Chapter Two tonight but if not then there is tomorrow. I’ll count this post as today’s writing, a bit cheeky I know but hey, you won’t believe how time-consuming planning an Art History Essay is!
Yup, that’s what I’ve been up to today. I started the morning with my favourite – fried tomatoes and grilled avocado on toast with a poached egg *drools ever so slightly* – and then sat down in the dining room with the above textbooks and got stuck in. My aim was to find a selection of artist from different movements and take notes on how social features influenced them. It was harder than I thought and what made matters worse was the book I believed would be the best resource turned out to be very unhelpful and unlogical which coincides with my opinions of The V&A Museum (another resource I tried to use for another Art assignment). I had hoped that I would have been able to make a start on the draft of the essay but as it happens I only managed to cover Pre-Raphaelite to Constructivism with Dada and Pop Art still to go. Yet another task for tomorrow I guess.
So as you can see quite a bit to go. Oh and by the way, that page isn’t all I produced. Those textbooks are packed with post-it-notes just waiting for me to refer back to and I’ve left open a tonne of tabs on my laptop referring to other useful sources.
So now you know that as well as writing, I do a little art on the side or vice versa perhaps. Are there other hobbies/topics that interest you apart from writing? I’d love to know.
Now, I’ve gotta go and help my friend try and find a ticket for Reading Festival because all the weekend tickets are gone…
I managed to get the first chapter of my book down onto virtual paper yesterday which is a huge step forward after six months of plotting/procrastinating. So far I’m happy with it but I know that will have changed by the end of the week but I will resist the urge to revise it until the first draft is complete.
Anyway, I thought I might show you what I produced whilst plotting as well as the tools I use. Another blogger – nicholeqw1023 gave us a glimpse of her notepad and I thought I might do the same. Now of course, I use a computer to write the actual thing but for plotting it’s a notepad all the way. Writing by hand stops me from deleting ideas I think are rubbish. The likely hood the at some point in the future I’ll stumble across a problem, look back at the idea from a different perspective and realize it’s the solution, is quite high. It saves me from agonizing; plus it’s more satisfying.
So this is my notepad. Having it around just makes me want to write. It’s just the right size that it fits in my bag but has plenty of paper which is great! The pen is my Great Grandad’s fountain pen which had had lots of use – it’s over fifty years old. Sometimes, when an idea pops into my head and I don’t have my notepad with me, I grab whatever is around me and use that: scrap paper, waiter dockets, you can even see an old receipt I used in the background of the photo above, Costa of course.
When I plot things, I need to know more than I will put in and I’m sure a lot of you feel the same. I sketch out maps to track character movements and write down events prior to the actual start of the story. Below is a purposely fuzzy photo (I don’t want to give anything away just yet) of a map and the history of one character in particular. One character in particular because it helps me get a sense of the sort of person they are.
Apart from the usual character profiles and story timeline I also do a page on how characters develop in the eyes of the reader from beginning to end. Are there any other interesting exercises you do when plotting? What do you use to plot? I’d love to know.
I now love plotting. I don’t know why exactly: perhaps it’s the moments when I finally solve those aggravating questions of “how do I overcome this plot hole?” and “how do I express this integral part of the plot?” That is likely it, the sense of fulfilment I get when it appears that everything is coming together.
The first idea for a story I ever had: I dived straight in, floated for a bit and then sank – the idea was terrible. The second idea I had: again, I got stuck in and managed to cough up a five hundred page manuscript of utter crap. This one had strong characters at least but the plot was tensionless. It was after these successive failures that I came to realise that I need to plot my ideas. I am no pantser.
Now, I do the very opposite. I plot to the Nth degree: character profiles, timelines and storyboards, maps, the lot. But is this just as productive? A few days ago, I was sat with my notebook and pen (as well as an overly large coffee), and it hit me; I did more writing when I hadn’t plotted than I do now. Yes, what I produced was no feat of literature but at least I was writing. I looked at six months of plotting and decided that if I wanted to take this seriously, I’d need to start the damn thing or it would never get done.
I suppose there is only so much planning you can do before it becomes unconstructive. It can go on forever. Stories in the real world are not structured, they are spontaneous so it makes sense that a novel should, to some extent, be the same. The truth was, I put off writing because of how important the start is and how hard it is to get it right. After a long walk and a heck of a lot of talking out loud, I finally came up with the first line that would do the job I wanted it to do. So far, I’ve managed to write the first page and I think I’ve got the tone right or thereabouts, that is important to me. It’ll probably get demolished in a few days but at least I’ve made a start. I have missed this.
How do you guys plot your ideas? Do you plot? I would love to hear from you.