August seems as good a time as any to take stock of the year so far and to think about what is ahead. It has been a year of writing, editing, procrastinating, and life getting in the way.
But I have been learning many things through the process.
THE TRAP OF SOCIAL MEDIA
I love social media. It feeds my extroverted heart in a stage of life where I am at home most of the day. It connects me to many precious friends, and it is my main avenue for conversing with other writers.
But it is a great time drain. What I noticed this year is the way I rely on it when I am struggling. If I am feeling discouraged about my writing, or getting bored with editing, then I fall to social media for comfort and a break. But it doesn’t help the problems, and so I go back to it over and over again. I have taken to putting my phone on it’s charger and turning off the wifi on my computer. It doesn’t mean I don’t still check SM regularly, but the act of having to get up, or turn wifi back on, makes me more conscious of how I am using it.
THE RIGHT QUESTIONS TO ASK WHILE RESTRUCTURING
Restructuring is a new skill that has not come easily to me. I made lots of mistakes as I edited my novels first Act, because I was too focused on fixing individual scenes and not enough on the big picture of what needed to happen when and why. But working out the right questions to ask has made a big difference.
I will be writing a blog post about specific questions I ask when I edit, but the general questions of “What things would the reader care about at this point?” and “Which scene’s would the reader skim over or find dull?” helped me to work out what things needed to go and what scene’s could be added or re-tweaked to make it hum.
THE NEED FOR (ARTIFICIAL) DEADLINES
One of the hardest things about writing a novel when unpublished is there are no immediate dead-lines. Unless there is a competition you are entering or an assignment you need to hand-in, you are the only person who cares when you get your novel done. This means it is very easy to go slow, or to be side-tracked by other writing projects.
So I create artificial deadlines.
I have a on-line writing group where we have the option of submitting a scene for feedback once a month. But even though it is optional, I make myself submit every month. Not only do I find the feedback invaluable, but the deadline acts as wonderful motivation. And once I have submitted my scene, I am in the habit of working hard, which sets the tone for the rest of the month.
Also, this year I watched lots of writing friends enter pitching competitions and attend Editor/Agent meet-ups with their completed manuscripts. So, if that is my aim, then I work backwards to think about what I would need to do to get my novel complete by the same time next year.
These deadlines need to be short enough to motivate. “Get my novel edited this year” didn’t motivate me in Feb to edit. Deciding in April to get Act I edited by the end of May worked much better as a dead-line.
So, where am I up to with my writing?
This is my baby, my first novel, everything that I love to read in other books condensed into a book of my own. A friend said to me yesterday “You’ve finished your first novel, does that mean you are editing?” The answer was yes and no. I had no idea how to write a novel when I wrote the first draft of The Librex, and so it is not so much editing as a complete restructure/re-write. I have finished the restructure of Act I and have just finished plotting out Act II. My goals are to have Act II finished by the end of September, Act III finished by the End of December, and to clean it up and make it sparkle over January, ready to give to some beta readers for feedback.
Savey & Mason
Savey & Mason is my Fantasy/Romance. It is based on a dream I had many years ago, a vivid scene filled with intense emotion and interesting magic. The next day I had to sit down and work out a world and story in which that dream ‘scene’ could fit. I put it away while I finished The Librex first draft, but began to turn it into a novel during the Fantasy writing course I did last year. I am getting closer to finishing the first draft, and am giving scenes to my writing group for their feedback. Hoping to get the first draft done by the end of December, so I can edit it up while The Librex is off in feedback-land.
One of my biggest challenges in editing is sticking to task and not getting side-tracked by new, shiny stories. AJ is my new, shiny story that I am doing my best not to write. I am consoling myself by knowing I will devote November’s Nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month) to working on it. I am hoping this will be the year where I finally succeed in writing 50,000 words in a month.
So that is my year so far. Fellow writers out there, how has your year been tracking? What new things have you learnt?