A Three Month Kick in the Pants

Many of us writers often complain about having to fit our writing around other mundane things, such as work, kids and spouses. Many often dream about how we could write forever if only we had the time to do it.

Well, sometimes you shouldn’t wish for something, just incase you get it.

Me? Well, I’ve just recently been informed that I’m about to be made redundant. So, I suspect I’m going to be just falling around with time on my hands in the next few months.

It didn’t come as a surprise and, being a complete control freak, I do happen to have something else lined up. However, that isn’t until September and I suspect my services are about to be unrequired by the end of June.

So, my maths suggest that I have around three months; July, August and September to make something happen other than keeping my wife happy (washing on the line, kitchen floor mopped, stairs vacuumed etc.). As it happens, that’s just the right amount of time that a certain Stephen King suggest it should take to write the first draft of a novel!

I’m looking at this as an opportunity to turn a frown upside-down and get my novel up to first draft standard.

However, I still do have some more-than-mundane plates that I need to keep spinning;

  •  A spring-clean of the amuteforamuse blog
  •  Keeping the amuteforamuse blog updated
  •  Working on getting my website up and running
  •  Completing my Creative Writing MA
  •  Researching / studying for my new venture (more about that nearer the time)

The good news is that I’m already 85000 words into my first draft, the bad news is that I’ve not touched it in a long time. I’m feeling a mixture of panic, fear and excitement all at once, I know it will be the end of September in no time (and the time is going to pass anyway, isn’t it?) but I’m hoping to use this experience as a stepping-stone to something positive.

Should you massage your plot?

My writing has been doing ok for the moment, I’m happy with the work I’ve done so far (although it is to first draft levels). Still, my novel is slowly beginning to take shape.

However, I’ve reached a fundamental point in my novel and I’m struggling to move on due to the implications of what needs to happen. The problem here is that one of the protagonists needs to let the group know that she is carrying something important. It’s fundamental to the story but each time I write it I have the nagging feeling that she wouldn’t just say it as I imagine it; part of me thinks she would never tell anyone, and part of me thinks now is not the time for her to give up her secret.

To make things even worse, my go-to notes for this part of the book simply read “characters explain their sitation to each other and move on”. Clearly, I either didn’t think ahead much when I wrote this or, possibly nearer the truth, I’d drank too much cider, realised how hard it would be, and the drunk me skipped past it thinking the sober me wouldn’t notice.

A great example of why this is nagging me so much is the TV series, 24. So many things happen in these series simply because people don’t do what they are told, often to the point of being unbelievable.

* Don’t move, I’ll be back in a bit –  Come back, the person’s moved.
* Don’t shoot, we need this guy alive – Someone shoots him.

* Don’t repeat what I’m about to tell you – Next scene, someone betraying that trust..

However, the series is still highly regarded and is good at keeping people on the edge of their seats. I admit that I still enjoyed it even though I think Jack Bauer has to be the unluckiest person in the world.

I think this overlaps slightly with a previous post I wrote about being true to your characters, although here I’m looking towards being true to the plot. It’s an attempt to further the story but somehow feels forced and unnatural.

So, I seem to have two options;

* Remain true to my character and rework the plotline better to fit in her stubbornness / fear about exposing her secret.
* Massage the plotline slightly and squeeze the situation in to ensure that everything else planned remains unchanged.

One of them is less work, but makes me feel somewhat of a charlatan. The other is probably the right thing to do, but may hold me back from my new first draft mentality of “just…get…it…written…”

Un-writing

I’ve spent the best part of a week on a single chapter and, according to my word count, I’m going backwards. It’s not altogether self-editing so I can’t call it re-writing, instead I call this un-writing.

To be fair, a lot of the un-writing was exposition that probably had little part to play in the novel itself. Some of it is certainly going to appear in the novel in other ways, some of it will appear on my website under the world-building project for the world in which my novels will be set, and some of it will exist only as long as I don’t clear my recycle bin.

The main point I want to make is that this isn’t having a detrimental effect on the novel; I am still moving the story on. Rather than looking at it as one step forward, two steps back, I consider it to be two steps sideways. To put it a different way, if I were to visualize writing my novel as a journey, I see myself just taking a bit more time to look at the scenery instead of just trying to rush to the end.

The only question I have on this is that whilst I understand the processes that allow this to happen, I’m still in doubt as to whether this is considered part of the first draft, or an element of writing I should be putting off until later?

Returning to your book…

I returned to my book today, it was exactly where I left it. More importantly, it was exactly how I left it; unfinished chapters, annotated sections, broken timelines. I’ve neglected it to the point that it doesn’t need ‘more’ work, just work.

Remember the saying “Can’t see the wood for the trees?” It means you spend too much time focusing on individual parts that you begin to lose view on the one big thing you were trying to accomplish.

This is where I am, and am sure others are, at the moment….

The reason for this blog was to keep me driven in my goal to finish the draft within a year. That was in 2013, and it didn’t happen. I’ve done similar for 2014, yet already I have made a start, and completed, a few short stories, gotten involved in world-building for my novel, and am looking to get a website up and running. Furthermore, I’ve continued with my Fantasy/Sci-fi book lists, as well as my non-fiction writing book list.

You may have something different, but they are all trees; the wood that is your novel is fading away amidst the flurry of you doing other things.

We don’t want that to happen. We can’t allow that to happen. We have to put in the effort.

The first draft of my novel is currently around 83000 words and I’ve estimated that it is around 45% complete. I have a baseline plan for around 300 words a day and an average of 2000 words a week. At that rate, I will complete my first draft this year at the latest.

I don’t know how far along your novel is, nor what plan you need to get it back on-track, but you should do it now. Step back from some of those trees and, hopefully, this time next year I won’t be writing a similar post.

My updates will be tracked on this page.