Tag Archives: Manuscript

Oooh look something shiny

Just stop it – focus for crying out loud! I know I hate to plan, everyone knows it. But it’s November on Sunday, today is Wednesday, this story wont get written unless there’s some sort of plan.

I am brilliant at procrastination, how good is Adele’s new song? listening to it now, awesome. See what I did there? That was actually what was happening in my brain as I typed – I am far too easily distracted when faced with a task I don’t really want to do. Last night I spent far too long looking up name generators…

But I do want to write the story, I really do. And I know deep down if I do this planning before I write it the process will be easier. I know I can ignore some of the details of the plan, I won’t feel bound by the outline. But what I will have already embedded in the draft will be a kind of three act structure, characters with internal and external conflict, character development arcs, basically all the stuff I am trying to include in my rewrites of other manuscripts.

So quit it Bel, quit procrastinating. No this post does NOT need a picture, you don’t need to spend 20 minutes searching for creative commons pics. Spend 20 mins on the Snowflake method and get that plan going – you don’t have many days left! Okay, finding and getting the widget working only took 6 minutes – I’m going now, really I am….

 

Give me back my adverbs!

Apparently one (of the many) signs that a manuscript is the work of a debut novelist in the liberal use of adverbs. Those fabulous words that end in ‘ly’ – angrily, lazily, happily, quickly, easily, wistfully, loudly – you get the picture.

By rights we need to pare their use way way back. Use the action in the scene to replace the adverb, if someone strides across the room to slap someone’s face, you don’t need the word quickly, it’s kinda obvious by what is going on.

And while there are no hard and fast rules, in our Refine Your Novel course we’ve been told that it is not uncommon to be advised to restrict yourself to four adverbs per manuscript – 4 per 80,000 words! Now the point is to get us thinking about our word choices of course, not to play policeman on our manuscripts.

So I am 9000 words into the redraft and periodically find myself coming to a screaming halt as I’ve thrown in yet another adverb. I’m writing a small piece of a larger scene where one character hands another a rare comic. It’s a small gesture in the larger scene but of course I want it to convey the respect and reverence for the precious object. He handed it gingerly, reverently arrrrrrr! I WILL not say He gave! And then I look back at the 21 words in the short para I’ve written leading up to this adverb dilemma and realise I’ve alread used two adverbs in those 21 words! This is obviously something I need to look at more closely!

Angrily, lamentably, brazenly, laughingly signing off 🙂

Getting closer, I think

This redrafting process is throwing up unexpected challenges that are taking me time to work my way toward a solution.

Challenge 1 – While others in the Refine Your Novel class seem able to fix portions, add scenes, ramp up tension in existing scenes and shuffle stuff around, my redrafting means starting from scratch. Writing the entire manuscript over. This didn’t take me too long to figure out, a couple of hours tops. Trying to fix an existing opening chapter is tough, writing a new one the way it should be written – hard but in a different way, slaughtered darlings and all that.

Challenge 2 – Rewriting is massive. The task befor me seems so huge, I keep finding other things to do than to get the job done. This is a biggie and something I’m still figuring out. I think I took decent step today towards dealing with this one. I have been listening to the Writing Excuses podcast on my way to work (as well as The Moth and Dear Sugar Radio – get into those,  they are awesome!) and a couple of phrases really rang true for me today.

Remember the fun – it’s not a chore, remember how fun it was to write the first time, it can be that fun again. Sounds obvious, but I’d been approaching the rewrite (because that is my means of redraft) as something I have to do, rather than something I want to do.

And quit looking at the end product, the task look huge from up here, but get up close and start telling the story. Start with chapter 1. I’ve been a little overwhelmed by the enormity of writing this novel all over again, it’s a huge thing to write a manuscript. But I need to stop looking at the end point. Like eating an elephant – one bite at a time.

I emailed my tutor and said that the chapter and a half I’d rewritten felt like filler until the story starts, that maybe I needed to start with chapter 2. I figured that the act of asking this question also answered it, go with your instincts, start with chapter 2. So I started another rewrite, wrote 120 words and stalled (this was yesterday). Tonight I went back and reread the first rewrite, 3700 words. And you know what? It’s good. I really like it. I think the doubts were another manifestation of procrastination, of not doing the work.

So, I’m renewed, refocussed. 3,700 words down, about 70,000 to go. One bite at a time.

What’s in a name? Quite a lot actually

Titles – I struggle with titles, for short stories, blog posts, manuscripts. There’s an art to it. I was a journo for a whole bunch of years, on small newspapers with correspondingly small staff. This meant that I was journo, editor, subby, proofreader, chief cook and bottle washer. The most difficult task I had (other than trying to take down classified ads when that fab staff member was at lunch) was headline writing and photo captions!

I have found that unless I come up with a title in the early days of the manuscript, I will struggle to find one and be ultimately unhappy with the one I have. My 2009 nanowrimo project (which I have decided to workshop at the writing course starting soon) I am happy with ‘This is no holiday’ works really well for the story that unfolds and also the initial predicament of the protagonist. My project from this year – not so much. I have a working title ‘Under the carpet’ which I really don’t like, it only reflects the very first hook of the story, it doesn’t mirror the ensuing story in any way shape or form.

My other manuscript that needs a major rewrite is called ‘Chapters’ – this works beautifully and I love it, I just need to finish the flippin story!

I just read a blog post by Joanne Harris (Author of ‘Chocolat‘ and many more) and she lists the 10 book title cliches that wax and wane in popularity – check it out and let me know what you think.

The two titles of mine that I like fall into two of these cliches – is that a good or a bad thing? I don’t really know. Chapters is cliche #1 The One-Word, Multi-Syllable Punch although she suggests its more common in your action and horror genres (not really what my story is about.

This is no holiday falls into cliche #4 The Whimsical, Rather Over-Long Title That Tells Most of the Plot. The best example of this that I have recently read was The 100 year old man who climbed out the window by Jonas Jonasson – now there’s a lot of characters to fit on a spine!

The secret to your most productive writing year ever…

secretQuick post as I start my first draft reread and initial edit – read a fantastic post over at The Write Practice today – The Secret to Having the Most Productive Writing Year Ever.

This blog is the master of enticing headlines – a fantastic skill in its own write. Today’s post has a number of writing tips about getting your but in the chair and doing the work. There’s nothing earth shatteringly new in there but its so well written it is motivating.

So pop on over and have a read – I have to do some editing!!

 

Ahh, routine, welcome back!

School returned late last week after the long Christmas break and Little Man was squeezed into last year’s uniform some lunchbox fodder hastily arranged and off he went, happy as a clam.

And that means my work hours return to a more stable pattern and my free time for writing returns – huzzah!

draft 2With only a few weeks until my Writers Victoria course Refine Your Novel starts I need to do some serious work on my first draft. It has some pretty big issues that I know about, some flat secondary characters, a sister that disappears for half the novel, some additional tension that needs a ramp up, a backstory that kind of exists but needs more integrating.

So last night I popped online and uploaded my nanowrimo draft to Officeworks. Their little worker bees toiled away and this morning I went into the store and collected a printed out copy of my draft – it’s a hefty tome and soon to be covered in scribble marks methinks! Yes, these draftpics are of the actual manuscript – felt a bit guilty printing single sided, but those blank pages will get messy.

Thanks sabrakay for the kick in the pants that was your WIP Progress post, it may have seemed simple to you, but motivated me! .

And now the real work begins

Winner-2014-Web-BannerWell I am quite chuffed that I managed to complete the 50,000 words in November. I gotta say I remember it being easier in 2009, although that may just the be rosy coloured glasses I’m wearing five years down the track.

And you know what, I’m pretty happy with what I produced. I haven’t read it yet so who knows if it’s really any good, there’s bits I know I need to develop, but overall, it’s a pretty good yarn.

I doubt I could have completed it on schedule without my weekend writing retreat at Cimarron – I knocked out more than 10,000 words in that weekend alone. At one point I had written half the word count in 20 days, leaving me just 10 days for the remaining half, it was looking dire.

I know I lost the sister at one point, she was important early on and then disappeared for like a third of the book, I hate when that happens in books I read. I also introduced a mother type figure, and I think my MC (main character) needs one in there, but I really didn’t flesh her out or give her very much to do. I can also ramp up the tension with another encounter with a grieving French mother.

But you know what, I’ve let it sit for almost a week now, and you know what keeps happening. The characters, they keep asking me to work it out, to finish creating them. I keep thinking about it.

The fabulousness that is Chuck Wendig who pours forth no holes barred writerly advice on his terrible minds blog had this to say (most of his excerpts would normally need the NSFW warning, but this is surprisingly expletive free):

Take some time away from the story. Just walk away. Cool and calm like an action hero strolling out of an exploding building. Hide it. Forget it. It’s not a thing that happened. It was a fever dream, poorly-remembered. And here’s where your brain will do insidious things because the brain is an insidious organ –

If you keep thinking about it even though you know you’re not supposed to? Then maybe you have something there. If you put it away and the memory of the thing slides through your fingers like so much dream-sand, hey, that’s okay, too. Maybe this one isn’t the one.

But if it is? Then it’s time to get to work. And the work always begins up here –

*taps center of forehead, which squeaks open on a rusty hinge so a squirrel can poke out, chitter at you, steal your bagel and coffee, then return to its nest inside the skull*

And so here I am, opening the file up again, and reading it, my first aim I think is to do a general typo fix and good god that sentence is ridiculous edit. Once I’ve actually read the whole thing I’m hoping I’ll have a better idea of what actually needs proper wrangling.

Yippee!

Final word count for the book, all written in November: 50,324. Phew!