Just Faffing About

So here we are on the first day of June. I can tell it’s June by the grey skies and the fact that I am having to battle with myself not to turn on the central heating. June is the month I was born in, and I rarely celebrate my birthday in sunshine. In fact, given that my birthday always falls during Wimbledon fortnight, it’s a pretty good guess that I’ll usually celebrate it in pouring rain. But I digress…

The merry old month of May has been and gone and, as any of you who read my blog regularly will realise, I didn’t write a single post during that month. I hang my head in shame. I fully intended to, but time just gets away from me. I am not the most organised of people. I know lots of people who write blog posts weeks or months in advance and then schedule them to be released regularly at weekly or even – how the hell they manage it I’ll never understand –  daily intervals. I’m not one of those people. Between work, driving lessons, family responsibilities, reading and writing my novel, (oh, okay, I admit it, and Facebooking and tweeting) I have somehow let my blog go to pot. I apologise.

To give you some idea of how disorganised I am, it has been a whole year since I sent my last  assignment in to my tutor. In my defence, I have moved house twice, separated from my husband, taken on an extra job at work and gone through a whole host of things in that time that have kind of shifted my priorities. I have also – and this is the main problem – suffered a major crisis of confidence that rendered me unable to show anyone my writing, so convinced was I that every word I had written was complete and utter garbage.

So a week or so ago I decided that enough was enough and I scoured through all my opening scenes to decide which one was going to be the one that would start my novel. All my opening scenes? Oh yes, there have been many. In different styles, with different viewpoints, at different starting points…frankly, I must have written a hundred thousand words over the last year just trying to perfect the first chapter.

Having chosen one that I thought would be the one I would finally go with, I emailed it to my tutor before I could change my mind and then tried to forget about it. Then I emailed her to let her know that I’d emailed it to her. Then I emailed her again because I realised I’d left the name of something out and had typed “insert here” and hadn’t inserted it. She is the most patient tutor in the world and assured me that it was all going to be fine and not to worry.

Having sent it off I tried to concentrate on other, more mundane matters, but then I realised that it was the wrong beginning that I’d sent her after all, and I was going to go with another one. So I rewrote the first chapter again, cursing the fact that I’d sent the other one to her and wondering what she’d say when she discovered the horrible truth. Then last night, as I lay in bed, trying to think about what car I’d like to buy, or what I should get my daughter for her birthday, or how beautiful Benedict Cumberbatch’s eyes are, or anything at all other than my novel, the perfect first scene unfolded in my mind just as I was finally drifting off to sleep. So this morning I got up, switched on the laptop and wrote Chapter One straight through, no stopping. And it works. And I feel much happier with it. With that sorted the end is now in sight – at least of the second draft. Not a bad way to start a new month. But how the heck do I tell my tutor that the chapter she is currently assessing is now redundant, and even I think it’s rubbish?

Is it just me? Does anyone else chop and change this much? I can’t believe Charlotte Bronte faffed about so much with Jane Eyre, somehow. I always imagine her pouring the words out like runny honey onto the page with not so much as a wobble about narrative viewpoint.  Can some kind soul out there please reassure me that it’s all normal? Or, if it’s not, can you just give me the brutal truth please so that I can put it all out of my head and take up stamp collecting instead? On second thoughts, don’t bother. I think I’d rather not know.

Have a great week x

8 thoughts on “Just Faffing About

  1. I’ve always thought that to be faffy was nature’s way of telling you you were a writer*. I sometimes start a book seven or eight times (and then go back to the first one..), so, no, I don’t really think you’ve got anything to worry about!

    *of course, you aren’t truly a writer until you’ve cleaned the oven, bath and shed rather than start actually writing anything.


  2. Oh thank you, Jane! That’s a relief. It’s good to hear from a fellow faffer. I have mastered the fine art of procrastination and have no worries on that score. However, I have seen how quickly you finish those fantastic books of yours and I am in awe so I don’t think you faff as much as me. I don’t think anyone does. I am hoping against hope that the amount of faffing declines in direct correlation with the amount of experience gained. We shall see. Thank you so much for your input!

    P.S. I can think of better ways of procrastinating than cleaning – ovens, baths, sheds or anything else for that matter. Though that may be because I am currently living in a spare bedroom and don’t, strictly speaking, possess such luxuries. I do spend a lot of time “researching” and browsing Amazon, not to mention Googling images of hunky men as inspiration for my hero. Does that count? 🙂


  3. Hello to Sharon (and Jane) Before I published Tall, Dark and Kilted I didn’t so much faff about as listen to everyones’ opinion and reacted to it. . As you know Sharon, the hero Ruairi doesn’t appear on page three (as I was told he had to, otherwise no agent would touch it) and so I wrote and re-wrote those first three chapters so many times. I got my typewriter ribbon in a right knot, until in the end I decided to write the book I would like to read (as a reader of rom coms) and to self publish. Best thing I ever did. Book Two has subsequently been much easier (and quicker) to write and if the readers don’t like it, then I’ll only have myself to blame. Trust your instincts as they are generally correct. Good luck with it.


  4. Hello, Lizzie. Thank you for dropping by! You’ve hit the nail on the head there, when you talk about listening and reacting to everyone else’s opinions. I think it all boils down to a lack of confidence, because I always think that everyone else must know better than I do, and if they’re telling me I should write the book in a certain way I always believe they must be right. Trouble is, they often don’t agree even with each other! I’m sure experience will give me more confidence and with that will come the ability to trust my instincts without panicking that I’m doing it all wrong. I read that advice, too, Lizzie, about introducing the hero to the heroine within the first chapter and even the first scene. That may work for some but not for all. I mean, look at Jane Eyre! Anyway, I have had a major boost this week with my writing just seeming to flow and a very different feel emerging because I’ve stopped trying to tick all the boxes in the “how to write” checklist. Obviously, there are “tropes” (thank you, Sally Quilford for that word! Just read Love Craft, excellent!) that most romantic novels should have, but there is room for manouvre. Ultimately, it’s my novel, and I can only tell it my way…and I think that’s what I’m finally doing. 🙂


    • I think that the ‘hero and heroine must meet as soon as possible’ thing might come more from the American market, ie, people who are either from the US or who mostly read American romance. I’ve written for a US publisher and there the advice is, most definitely, if the H and h aren’t together on the first page then they must both be mentioned and described by the first page. There are fascinating differences between the US market and the UK one; tropes like ‘starting with action’ and ‘massive descriptions of H and h’ which have come over from the States. The ‘slow boil’ start (which, btw, a lot of Americans love, and bemoan the lack of in American fiction) is a very British thing!


  5. Well, all I can say, Jane, is Rule Britannia! If I forced my hero and heroine together on page one the entire story would feel different and it just wouldn’t work. As for massive descriptions…I’ve been told to avoid these and let the reader make up their own picture from a few scant details. Hey ho. Horses for courses, I guess. Thanks for the explanation. I’m off to do some faffing now before work. 🙂


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