First Draft Madness

Last week I finished the second draft of The Boy With The Thorn In His Side – Part 5. I originally scribbled this book into a notepad about six months ago. Finishing the second draft was exciting, because I managed to untangle the ending I had got in a mess with, and this lead to such excitement about the planned and plotted Part 6, I just couldn’t resist launching right into it.

So, in the evenings I am currently editing a chapter or two a night of Part 5, (making this the third draft). While in the day, any chance I can get, I am writing brand new, first draft Part 6 into a notebook. I am so excited!!!!

I have realised over the years that writing the first draft of a novel has a really strange affect on me. I love it but fear it. I can’t get enough of it. It is something I get addicted to, but also can’t wait to be over. I thought I’d list the things that happen to me when writing a first draft. Perhaps if you are a writer, you can relate? Feel free to comment if you do!

  • I feel nervous. This is a very, very weird thing. Now, I don’t think of myself as an especially anxious person, but like everyone, I have my moments. However, there is nothing that can make me quite as anxious and tense as writing a first draft. It’s really really hard to pinpoint why. All I know is that I will wake up with a nervous tight feeling in my belly, go about my day with that same heavy, almost painful sensation, start to panic about what it means, only to find it goes away completely once I start writing. This does not happen with the subsequent drafts of novels. Just the first! I guess it makes me nervous, though I’m not sure why. Maybe its nervous excitement? The longing to be writing is so strong that knowing I can’t do it until later makes my body tense? I have no idea.
  • I am addicted. This is the worst thing and also the best thing. Obviously, feeling addicted to what you are writing is a good thing because there is no danger of writers block or any kind of procrastination. I am utterly in love with the act of writing and shaping this novel and it feels like that too, like butterflies in my tummy. But it’s not the easiest thing to live with. When you’ve got two day-jobs, multiple pets and four children, it’s hard to find the time to squeeze writing in and when in the midst of the pure addiction that only happens with the first draft, it’s a bit like torture not being able to write.
  • I am distracted. Beyond belief! When I was a kid I was constantly being told by people that I was in my own little world. They were right I really was. And I still am. I’m still that kid. In a constant daydream I struggle to break free of. I am constantly thinking about my book and my characters. Plot twists and story-lines weave through my head all the time, which is exciting and brilliant, but I’m meant to be reading to my child? Or making dinner? Sometimes I wish the voices in my head would be quiet. Or at least wait until later. But they have other ideas and I just have to deal with it the best I can.
  • Creativity is at its peak. I usually have a plot before I start writing. In particular, with these books as they are part of a series, the plots are somewhat already in action, and at the end of the last book I would have written an outline for what happens in the next. But something exciting happens with the first draft of a book. Yes, I’ll have my basic plot, but every time I write a chapter, I get new ideas for the next ones. The next chapter will write itself in my head before I have finished the one I am on. The next chapters will line up in my mind while I am walking dogs and cooking dinner…it’s like a constant bubbling? I truly believe the more you write, the more your mind wants to write. The ideas flow once you let them, once your provide that release. It’s like they know it’s coming and they are finally getting their turn! It’s really quite amazing. So although my basic plot probably won’t change, in the process of writing the first draft, creativity will hit the roof. I also find I have way more ideas for blog posts, poems and short stories during this time!

There are loads more things I could say about writing a first draft. I think it’s important to let go of how clumsy and new it is, and just embrace the ideas as they flow. Subsequent drafts are for tidying up, tightening up and cutting down…and I enjoy that process just as much for different reasons. But the first draft is a crazy time…a crazy thing. I will be a bit sad when it is over for this book!

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I Confess…I Write My Books For Me

I think it’s time to admit the truth. Who am I aiming to please when I write and publish a book? Well, mostly it’s me. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. 2018 was an endless round of editing and revising for me, as I prepared Elliot Pie’s Guide To Human Nature for release in October, and revamped and released The Boy With The Thorn In His Side Parts One and Two, and edited Parts Three and Four. Because of this amount of editing, and the fact I was taking part in a reading challenge, I didn’t get a hell of a lot of reading for pleasure done last year.

Which made me think about a few things. One, I really, really enjoy reading my own books, no matter how many times I’ve edited or read through them… Eek, I know, sounds big-headed, doesn’t it? But it’s true. I love my characters and my storylines have me hooked so much they keep me awake at night. Every single book I’ve ever published has a sequel bubbling away inside my head. I just can’t fully let any of them go. I’d miss them too much.

So, when I edit, revise, read through, proofread again and again and again, I enjoy it. I genuinely do. I become immersed in these characters lives. I enjoy the drama and the twists and the turns, even though I know how it ends! Weird, right?

Well, maybe not. After all, why do writers start writing in the first place? I’ve been thinking about this. Now, I’m sure for some it’s the dream of money and fame, of making it ‘big’, becoming an international, award-winning bestseller, who has all their books made into films. JK Rowling or Stephen King, in other words. I mean, it sounds amazing, so who wouldn’t want that?

And I’m sure for some, it’s the urge to entertain, to spin tales, to amuse, to awaken, to entice, to deliver a message.

But for others, I think it’s something different, something they’re not entirely in control of. And I think reading sparks it off. Reading a good book at a young age, then reading more. Becoming utterly drawn into a made-up world that holds your attention, keeps you amused, enthralled, or terrified. The kind of book you don’t want to end. The kind you want everyone else to read just so you can talk about it with them. The kind where you want the characters to be real, and almost believe that they are.

And then, because this is just so exciting, you start to wonder. I could do this myself. I could entertain myself. Then I’d be in control, and it need never end! I can create worlds and lives and people just how I want them, and I can make it funnier, or scarier, or sadder, whenever I want to. Forever!

'If there is a book that you want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, you must be the one to write it.'-Toni Morrison.jpg

And thus, a writer is born. A writer who originally set out to please only themselves.

That’s definitely how it was for me. Throughout my childhood and my teenage years, I was totally addicted to writing. I wrote early versions of some of the books I have since published or are working on. I wrote short stories, poems and endless, endless diaries and outpourings of words, thoughts, feelings, and dreams. My writing kept me sane, and it kept me entertained. I was never lonely or bored. I absolutely adored this game of make-believe, and I still do.

I write what I want to read, and I don’t think there is anything wrong with that. Maybe this is true of a lot of writers, I don’t know. It’s no coincidence that the kind of books I write are the kind of books I am always searching to read. I long to read books with amazing, complex characters, the type you never forget, the type you love and loathe in equal measures, the type you can empathise with and root for. I love realistic dialogue and prefer that to too much exposition. I like to read about characters I can relate to, which is difficult as so many books contain middle-class characters. I like to read gritty, hard-hitting storylines. I like realism.

So, there you have it. When I write a book I am mostly writing for myself. I want to write something for me to read. That’s not to say I don’t then spend years trimming it, honing it, revising it, proofreading and editing it until it becomes something I am proud to put out into the world. That goes without saying. I do want people to read my books. Desperately. I do want those reviews and those messages. Without a doubt, I would like better sales! And of course, my ultimate dream is to have all my books made into films or TV series! You got to have your dreams, right?

But in the beginning, it’s me I’m trying to please.

And I think that’s okay. At the very least, it means I will never stop writing!

 

 

Why I Love Writing #4; Nothing Is Ever Wasted

I suppose actors must feel like this too. I’m too introverted to have ever given acting a thought, but I can empathise with the urge to play around with emotions and reactions. To consider them, analyse them, practice them even. For this reason, writing offers up another reason to love it. Nothing is ever wasted. Nothing is ever meaningless. Everything I experience or observe in life can be used in writing.

This happened to me today, and then I started thinking about it, which led to me choosing it as the next reason on this series of posts.

I was out dog-walking when some recent worries suddenly caught up on me and I dissolved into unexpected tears. There was no one else around, so I guess my brain just seized upon the opportunity to let rip for a moment or two. My youngest child had a routine operation last week which all went well, but the recovery at home has been a lot tougher than we expected. To check all was okay, I’d called my surgery to request a phone call from the GP who had wanted to see my son as soon as possible. I knew in my gut and my heart that my son was going to be okay, but I guess a number of days holding it in and generally being exhausted had caught me up. I had a little cry about it, but then my mind did what it always does when I get emotional about something.

I started imagining I was one of my characters. I slotted instantly into a book I have not yet written, but have planned and plotted. A potential scene, a very upsetting one, started coming together very quickly in my head. My tears quickly dried up, but in my imagination, as my character, they carried on flowing. Before I knew it, I had walked further than I had intended, and my mind had shifted my worries from my real life into the fictional worlds I so often visit.

It’s fair to say, I used my genuine emotions to imagine how my character was feeling. As the anguish turned to anger for my character, I started to feel pissed off too. I snapped out of it at the appropriate time and felt a swell of excitement for the book I’m not yet ready to write.

I’m not sure if other writers will get this, or know what I mean, but I tend to feel that in my life, uncomfortable thoughts, emotions and experiences are quite welcome, because I can use them to improve my writing. The same goes for boredom, frustration, elation and excitement. Anything. Everything. Nothing is ever wasted or forgotten. The tiniest things, the most mundane of moments, the passing of time in a doctors surgery, the wind in my hair as I wander down a narrow country lane, the people in the distance, the cars passing on the road, the buzzard in the sky, the rain pelting down, the clutch of fear in my gut, the exhaustion pounding at my head, the hilarious thing a friend just said or did, the minor characters who all play their part in the story of my life, everything, anything, all of it is useful. All of it is observed, considered, anaylsed and absorbed. All of it is fuel. All of it is material. alone-2666433_1920.jpg

Why I Love Writing #2; It’s Free Therapy

Not that I would ever discourage anyone from seeking help for any mental health issue, or suggest that writing can replace professional therapy or counselling. However, there is no doubt in my mind that writing regularly is good for your mental health, for a whole host of reasons.

As this series of posts about why I love writing so much is personal, I’ll just talk about why it works for me. When I was a kid, I was painfully shy and awkward. I preferred books to real people and once I was old enough to write my own stories, I preferred that too. As I mentioned in last week’s post, I was forever being told that I lived in my own little world.

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Now, being shy is not so bad when you’re a little kid. People often expect little kids to be shy. You can’t get away with it so much when you’re a teenager, and even less so when you’re an adult. Shyness is often then mistaken for rudeness or arrogance. You’re expected, quite rightly, to get on with things, sort your own problems out and be able to deal with life and the world.

I don’t think I could have done this if it wasn’t for writing. It was there for me when I was small; enticing me to create my own little worlds full of friends I wished were real. And it was even more vital when I became a teenager. I wrote diaries from a young age and often poured my heart and soul into them as I went through my adolescence. At the end of every day, there was my diary, waiting for me to expel the bad feelings, the anger, the hurt, the confusion onto the page. And how much better I would always feel afterward. Writing was not only for my diary though. I was seriously addicted to writing in my teens. It was what I rushed home for. I never wanted to be torn away from it. It was pretty much all I cared about. I don’t think I would have coped very well with adolescence if I hadn’t had writing. It helped me so much. I was able to express my thoughts and feelings, reflect, observe, question and have time to absorb what was going on around me. I got so much genuine joy from writing that it helped me hold my head above water and just get through it.

The same thing applies now. I turn to writing when I feel fragile. I turn to writing when I feel afraid. I turn to writing when I feel angry, dismayed, lost or frustrated. Writing is there when I need someone to talk to, when I want to organise and reorganise my words until I’ve finally figured out what I want to say. Writing allows me head space, time to breathe, time to think and work out how I feel. I’d be in chaos if not for writing. It calms me down. Cheers me up. It excites me. I’d be lost without it.