It's time for a post about 'The Novel'... the children's fantasy book that I began to write around five years ago and still isn't even close to seeing the light of day. I'm working on chapter one at the moment. Yes, all these years later and I am still at the beginning. I'm trying to understand why I am struggling with it so much whilst deciding whether to keep going. Here's what has happened so far...
It all began in October 2011. I had never written a creative word in my life but I had spent many hours writing up legal reports and the occasional technical article. Then one evening I was standing at a bus stop after work, fed up with my job, wondering what I could do next. And it just popped into my head - I could write.
I borrowed some 'how to write a novel' books from the library and bought a few copies of Writers' Forum and Writing Magazine then jumped straight in. 92,000 words later and I'd finished. Easy peasy. I even had a few poor souls read my book from start to finish. I'd like to take this opportunity to apologise to them. I had no idea how amateurish a piece of work it was until several years and lots more words later. I did, however, know quite early on that it was unpublishable as it was. I just didn't realise that the whole thing would need to be binned and rewritten almost from scratch. In an effort to learn more, I headed off to write short stories and dabbled in some fiction for younger children.
I did ok with the shorts. Had fun entering competitions, got some wins and shortlistings and then self-published a collection of which I am proud. It certainly helped me to become a more accomplished writer and it also helped me to understand the standard I needed to reach with my novel.
So I set about rewriting my book around a year ago. This is after the three or four rewrites back at the beginning and another rewrite three years ago.
And I am still on chapter one, although I have a prologue with which I am happy.
"Just give up!" I hear some of you say. "Start something new with all the knowledge you have accumulated in the intervening years." - and it is probably the right advice.
But there is still something nagging at me.
First, I have had two children in that time and the baby is still only 6 months old, so opportunity to plan and write is limited to a couple of hours a week. It is hard to get into any rhythm or to progress the book in any meaningful way.
Second, I have learnt so much. I've attended courses, read articles, read a tonne of fiction aimed at my target audience and I have just discovered the Brandon Sanderson lectures on You Tube which I feel have brought my understanding on by a mile. I feel that I at last know what I need to do and what I am trying to achieve with the book. (Having the skill to do it is another issue...)
Third, I love the plot. It is a fantasy adventure and I can't let go of the world I have built. I do need stronger characters to inhabit it though.
There are many people who warn against getting caught in an endless cycle of tinkering and redrafting and never progressing. And I get that, I really do. BUT I have resolved not to progress until I am completely satisfied with the new direction in which the story is going. I can't afford to spend many more years on this project and so I will keep going until either I am happy with the way the new beginning sets up the (significantly) revised story or I will reluctantly abandon the project. Forever.
In the meantime, 'Into Dust And Other Strange Tales' remains 99p on Kindle and £4.99 in paperback. Perfect if you enjoy a taste of darker fiction.
17/8/2016 05:10:34 pm
I understand very well what you are saying, I have been there most of my life, always struggling with the same project, trying to Hoover up time, just wanting to 'get on with it'. All I can offer is to say, 'keep going', you can do it, you are a good writer and you are eager to keep on learning.
18/8/2016 05:18:21 am
Thanks Joyce. Another year or two on chapter one and I'll be ready to move on!
17/8/2016 06:20:52 pm
Please don't give up on it.
18/8/2016 05:19:39 am
I'll probably persist. I'm stubborn like that. No idea where I get it from...
17/8/2016 07:34:07 pm
Definitely pursue, Bernie. If your prologue is anything to go by tou have the makings of an intriguing novel. I like Joyce's idea of photos to work on characters, even if you never describe them, they need to live in your imagination. You've a great talent for giving a sense of place but 'Into Dust' proves you can do characters too. Plough on!
18/8/2016 05:22:05 am
Thanks as ever for taking the time to read and comment and encourage, Diana. It does help to keep me going. Fancy doing a guest post about your wip??
7/9/2016 01:37:14 pm
A brave piece, Bernie. Well done on acknowledging what a lot of people are feeling (including me). But the only time to give up is when you don't want to do it anymore. It doesn't sound like you're anywhere near that point yet. Keep going, you can do it!
8/9/2016 11:51:50 am
Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment Russell. I've just been to a writers' conference in Warwick and met quite a few people who also empathised. Unfortunately the conference also gave me a load more ideas so I'm now writing a radio comedy which isn't going to help the novel get written - also I know nothing about radio or, er, comedy so loads of work to do. What I lack in focus I make up with enthusiasm...
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I love most types of fiction - crime, mystery, fantasy. Oh, and historical fiction of course and middle-grade books and, well, you get the picture.
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