For the past two weeks I’ve felt like a proper writer. As some of you will know, I have had a fortnight away from work and, apart from a weekend away at the beginning of that fortnight to celebrate my 21st birthday (ahem!) I have used that entire time very productively.
Usually, my writing week consists of a snatched half hour to an hour in the morning, depending on what time I start work and whether or not I have a driving lesson. By the time I get home at around half six, have something to eat, get changed etc, the thought of starting to write is beyond me. Yes, I know, they say that you have to push back the tiredness if you want to be a real writer and just work through it, but honestly by the time it gets to seven o clock I’m fit for nothing. Half the time I don’t even have the energy to read, never mind write.
Weekends are my best time for writing. The house is usually empty apart from the two dogs and a cat, but they are very undemanding. I get out my laptop first thing in the morning and I write, mostly for the whole day until DD2 and her partner arrive home from work and chaos erupts.
These last two weeks have been bliss. With the house to myself for at least three days a week and no job to rush off to, I have worked solidly on my WIP and, at last, I can see an end in sight.
This is no mean achievement. Anyone who follows this blog regularly (thank you, thank you! You are a star!) will know that I have struggled quite a lot with this novel. I have written so many beginnings I had quite forgotten what the rest of it was going to be. I have changed setting (four times now!) and viewpoint. I have cut and added secondary characters, created new plot twists, abandoned one story strand entirely and given it about eight different titles. Confusion reigned supreme. I was floundering and I was tired and I was lost. I couldn’t see where it was going and I was so busy listening to other people I didn’t know what to think any more.
Then two things happened within a short space of time.
Firstly, I had a meeting with two fellow RNA NWS members. I have spoken to many members on Facebook and Twitter, and have found them all to be delightful, but meeting Alex and Julie was something new because they were the first two that I had actually met in person. We arranged to meet in a pub (no alcohol was consumed, I can assure you) and we had a fabulous chat about books and writing and blogging. It was wonderful. I had been very anxious because I am not the most outgoing person, but I needn’t have worried. We “clicked” straight away and had so much to talk about.
It was quite a relief to pour out all my troubles about the novel to them. I told them that I had lost heart with the book because I didn’t feel it was really the one I wanted to write any more. The first draft, which I had completed eighteen months ago, had been told in third person with multiple viewpoints and was the story of several characters in a village. It had come in at over 120,000 words and was by no means complete as I knew I needed to put additional information in there, and I was worried how long the book would eventually be. I had posted my concerns on this blog in an item called “Word Count Worries” and had received lots of advice about focusing on my main protagonists, cutting minor characters and subplots and making sure the novel came in at a much shorter length, preferably under 100,000 words.
So I had taken the advice and begun to write the story from the viewpoint of my main couple, but something was gnawing away at me and I couldn’t figure out what it was. All I knew was, I was writing and rewriting the beginning over and over again, never happy with it, never ready to move on and deal with the rest of the story. I frittered away over a year doing that!
Alex and Julie were very sympathetic and very understanding. It was a relief to admit how bad things had got and to finally say out loud that I was no longer enjoying writing the book and didn’t know what to do next. They told me to forget all about word count and just write the story I had wanted to write. They told me to get out the first draft and go back to it and work on that and to put all the advice and counter advice that I had been given to the back of my mind for now until I had written the book that I was happy with.
It was a real revelation. I went home, buoyed up from our conversation, and the very next day I took out the manuscript that had been shoved in a box file all those months ago and began to read. Then I began to write. And write. And write. And you know what? Something quite amazing happened.
I realised that all those months spent trying to get inside the heads of my main heroine and her hero had been more productive than I had thought. When I tried to write from the viewpoint of other characters I wasn’t so interested. When I read the first few chapters back I realised that those precious scenes that I had been so resentful of giving up for all that time were, in fact, just getting in the way of the story I really wanted to tell. I didn’t need them. The book didn’t need them. I wanted to know what was going on with my two main protagonists and didn’t see the point of drifting off to see what the other characters were up to.
It’s funny. Once I stopped resenting it all and allowed myself the freedom to write what I wanted, it turned out that what I wanted wasn’t what I’d been clinging on to after all. Does that even make sense? Don’t get me wrong, I still have other characters in there (it would be a pretty dreary book without them) and they have their own lives and personalities, but they are no longer battling for my attention. I know whose story this is and I have put my minor characters firmly in their place. They will get their turn in future books! 🙂
So it’s a massive thank you to Alex and Julie for their invaluable advice! They gave me the confidence and encouragement to go ahead and work things out for myself. Without them I may still be sitting here, moaning that it would be easier to knit fog than make sense of my dratted novel!
The second thing was the fortnight’s holiday that I had booked at exactly the right time! With my fellow writers’ advice still fresh in my mind I had two whole weeks to put it all into practice and the progress has been astounding. The NWS deadline is looming, and I had honestly given up on the idea of sending anything in as I just couldn’t see that I would have anything worth sending, but with the way things have come together at last I can see that it would be a big mistake not to send my work in. After all, it’s a constructive critique that I have been wanting all this time and now I actually have a piece of writing that I care about and want to make it the best it can be, it would be madness to waste such a fantastic opportunity.
The clock is ticking and I am back at work this week, but I am determined to meet the deadline. Julie has already had her critique back (and she did brilliantly!) and I think Alex is sending her work in this month some time, if she hasn’t already done so. I’d like to wish her the best of luck with it. And to all you NWS members who are sending out your babies, to be critiqued or to an agent or publisher, lots of luck and love to you all! It’s a tough job (much, much tougher than I could ever have imagined!) but someone’s got to do it 🙂 Deep in our hearts, aren’t we glad it’s us?
Have a great week x