Why I Love Writing # 5; Sometimes It’s Pure Magic

Actually, it’s pretty magical most of the time. Of course, there are days when it feels like anything but. When you’re revising the hundredth draft of something, when you feel like it’s a complete waste of time that no one will ever want to read. There are days when you don’t want to do it, days when you feel rejected and uninspired and full of self-doubt.

But the magical days for me, outweigh the negative ones. They can happen at any time during the creation of a finished novel. I often find the writing of a first draft a magical thing. That first line, first paragraph, first chapter is so daunting, so impossible, yet suddenly you’ve done it. It’s there. And then strange things start to happen. Magical things.

Characters you had a loose idea of start to come alive. They flesh out and invade your mind. They start talking to you and you talk back. That’s magic. The magic of make-believe. And then there’s the plot itself. I often have a good idea of what’s going to happen in a book before I start writing, and I would have made lots of notes before starting the first draft, but at some point, something else seems to take over. Unexpected things happen. The plot takes another direction, or parts of the story start to weave together in ways that are genius, but like something out of my control. Sometimes it feels like there is something else at play, controlling the whole thing.

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Often I know where I am going, but not how I will get there. I never worry too much about the finer points because I have learned to sit back and let the magic happen. And it always does. Out of the blue, never when I expect it to, it will all just come together. This happened to me recently with the six book series I am working on. Books 1-4 are written, and book 5 has had one very rough draft. I knew roughly what I wanted to happen in book 6, what storylines would be continued, but I didn’t know how I would end the book, or indeed, the whole series. I didn’t stress about it because I still had work to do editing books 3 and 4, and book 5 to write a second draft of.

But one day, out walking, it just suddenly came to me. My mind pieced it all together without me even trying, without me even consciously deciding to think about it. I suddenly just had it. How to end the book and the entire series, and it was perfect.

How does that work? How does that even happen? I have no idea, but like I’ve already said, sometimes I really feel like it’s not me in my head, working things out. Moments like that are so satisfying, and magical, they make all the blood, sweat and tears worthwhile.

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First Draft Relief as The Voices Fall Silent!

I’ve blogged before about the delirious happiness involved in getting to the finish line and completing the first draft of a novel in The Gloriously Ugly First Draft .

Last night, I was thinking about that blog post and about how wonderful it is to finish the first draft, because I was in that position again. Actually, I’ve written two as of yet unreleased books since that blog post, but they are still waiting beta reader feedback and further edits!

As I mentioned in the other blog post, I have a constant problem with characters interrupting me when I am already working on something. It’s really no good me having plans because they get ripped up at every turn. So, while still working on Elliot Pie, I wrote A Song For Bill Robinson and it’s sequel, Emily’s Baby. Enough to be dealing with, right? But as usual, my characters thought I could handle more.

For a long time, I’d had these alternative endings in my head for The Boy With The Thorn In His Side. I wrote one of them into my short story collection, Bird People and Other Stories and the other one I started working into a screenplay. I’ve always loved the idea of this book becoming a TV series, so for fun and for a challenge, I started writing new material for these characters. Once I started I could not stop, but it didn’t really get in the way of the novels I was working on, as I used a notebook and pen and just wrote in spare moments, moving the book around the house with me. I got so addicted to this new material, that the characters got louder and louder all over again, keeping me awake, telling me their story was not over and finally enticing me into writing a whole new book.

I will explain all this in more detail in a later blog post, but what I finished last night was the first and gloriously ugly first draft to what will be called The Boy With The Thorn In His Side Part 3. This is a whole new book, new material, new problems for these characters, and with the original ending moved to the end of part 3. As I said, I will talk about this in another post.

This is about the relief of a first draft being finished and last night felt incredible. As it always does when a first draft is completed because although I know the hard work is yet to come, and that potentially years more work will be needed, I get the relief in my head of these people falling silent. That’s what happens as soon as the first draft is done. They shut up and go to sleep. Okay in later drafts, they occasionally pop up and steer me in a different direction, but generally, it’s over and I can sleep again. The story has been told. I’ve spewed it out! I’m free of it! And that is a huge relief. Especially with this story, as let me tell you, it’s been keeping me awake at night since I was 12 years old! I am really, really hoping that this does it for them. I am really hoping they will now be at peace and leave me alone! As much as I love them…I have so many other books to work on!

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And of course, now that those characters are silenced, the ones waiting to be heard have suddenly got louder.  I’ve planned and plotted a four book YA series, which keeps getting pushed back due to these other projects, but today on a dog walk, wow did they pipe up! Streams of dialogue were coming out of nowhere…my every thought whilst walking was about these books and characters. So I guess now it’s their turn to keep me awake!

 

My 2017 Writing Goals Vs The Reality

This is becoming a bit of an end of the year tradition for me now. Having outlined my goals for the year ahead, as that year draws to end, how did I do? How much did I achieve? Time to have a look at the goals I set myself at the start of 2017 and examine the reality!

  1. Finish the first draft of my current work-in-progress A Song For Bill Robinson (literally days away from this now!) – Yes! I achieved this and a lot more. A year ago this gritty YA novel was days away from the completion of the very first draft. Right now, at the end of 2017, I have completed four drafts of this book, penned a sequel and started a third! This novel has become a trilogy! I’m still really enjoying it and I plan to get the whole trilogy written before I think about releasing the first book.
  2. Leave that aside, and go back to Elliot Pie’s Guide To Human Nature for a final draft read-through on the laptop, followed by a final read through on my Kindle – A year later, this particular book is still not done. A final draft became another draft, and then another and another. It went back to beta readers and I made several changes. A few weeks ago I thought I was finished but decided I really needed to cut the word count down. A decision was made to cut out an entire character and just days ago I finished this edit! I have now sent it back to my Kindle for another read on there, to pick up typos and make another list of things to cut out. One more draft should do it!
  3. Find a cover for Elliot Pie! Which is going to involve a lot of thinking and research and approaching various people as I really, really need to get this right- Not achieved, obviously, as the book is not ready, and I will be sending this one off to potential publishers just in case. In the meantime, I have been thinking about covers and will need to start doing some research soon.
  4. Devise a promotional plan for releasing Elliot Pie, which will involve online and real life launches, promotional material and so on – Also not achieved as the book still not ready!
  5. Release Elliot Pie!! – Another one sadly not achieved, BUT I did release The Tree Of Rebels instead!
  6. Go back to The Tree Of Rebels and rewrite it until I am happy – Achieved! Weirdly, The Tree Of Rebels and Elliot Pie swapped places, with The Tree Of Rebels being ready for release first.
  7. During this time, I suspect I will delve into a second and possibly third draft of A Song For Bill Robinson. I don’t think it will be ignored for an entire year!- Achieved! I actually managed four drafts, plus a sequel and a third started!
  8. Early in the new year, follow up on the initial contact I have made with two schools through my Chasing Driftwood Writing Group business, and arrange to go in and speak to them about my project proposal- Achieved! I have one school on board and have had several meetings with them. I also decided to turn my business into a Community Interest Company. Once I get this through I can apply for the funding for the school project and many others!
  9. If they are on board, I then need to secure funding for the project!- sort of achieved! I have a school on board, but just waiting for my CIC to come through so we can get onto funding applications. (Though I have already secured a small amount of funding for another project!)
  10. In March I will run my first adult workshop under Chasing Driftwood Writing Group. Having done various workshops now for Dorset Writers Network I am ready to take the plunge on my own and run a workshop on building your author platform- Achieved! This went really well and I put on another workshop myself in the summer.
  11. At this workshop I will be introducing my ideas and plans for a Dorset Pop-Up Book Shop, where indie authors can come along and sell their paperbacks in a pop-up shop, hopefully, to be welcomed into libraries, literary events and so on- Achieved! The Pop-Up Book Shop is in progress and will be one of the projects I hope to get funding for once my CIC is in place.
  12. At some point in 2017, I hope The Tree Of Rebels will finally be fit for purpose and I will then be planning another detailed promotional event and releasing it! Fingers crossed!- Achieved! I released The Tree Of Rebels in August 2017 and to date it was my most successful release, with a three-month launch plan and a Facebook release day event, among other things.

I achieved 8 out of the 12 things on my list, and I actually achieved a hell of a lot more than I had set out to! Although a year in indie publishing is always a bumpy ride, with things going wrong (Pronoun shutting down!) and things going right (lots of writing done!) it’s actually really helpful to sit down like this to examine the reality. It just shows that the best-laid plans can change dramatically. It does me good to list my achievements and anything not achieved on this list will be top of the 2018 Writing Goals list which will be my blog post next week!

What about you? Did you set any particular goals for 2017 and if you did, how well did you do?

 

A Letter To The People In My Head…

Dear Characters,

First of all, thank you. Thank you for being here. Thank you for showing up, as you do, without fail, time and time again. Thanks for that! Because none of this would be able to happen if you didn’t.

Thank you for many things in fact, like keeping me entertained and ensuring I am never, ever bored. There’s no such thing as a quiet moment to myself because if I should find one, you like to join me too, don’t you? Same thing at night time. Hello characters, there you all are. Old ones, current ones, future ones. So thanks for that. It would be nice if the rush of ideas and revelations could wait until morning, but it seems you can never wait. Between 2am and 3 am seems to be the golden hour for you guys to suddenly need to share things with me. I’ll let you off, because it’s always riveting stuff, but you don’t seem to realise it keeps me awake for hours after you’ve told me. I appreciate the insight, of course, but I also need my sleep!

I wouldn’t want you to ever stop though. I’m grateful, really I am. You know more than I do, that’s the thing. Because you started all this. You came to me. Your voices, your stories, your lives. You interrupted mine when I was a kid and you’ve been doing it ever since. I never decide to write a story about a 16-year-old alcoholic singing sensation, or a 30-something woman who can’t leave the house anymore because she hates people so much, you guys just show up! I don’t know how you find me. I guess somehow you know that I want to listen.

You surprise me again and again. When you first show up, out of nowhere. When you start getting chatty, warming up, revealing yourselves. I respect the honesty, because let’s face it, none of us are perfect. You lot are a pretty flawed bunch. But I think that keeps things interesting. You go on surprising me after that. Usually mid-plot. Throwing unexpected twists into the storylines. I suppose you must surprise yourselves too? A sequel? Didn’t see that coming but yes, I can see how you would want to talk about what happened next…A trilogy now, is it? Okay, if you’re sure, if you think you’ve got enough drama, I will keep it coming if you do. And don’t worry, I have already plotted most of the third book, and yes, I will end this one by writing the first chapter of the next. Your incessant babbling has seen to that.

Thank you for keeping me excited. It’s not enough to say you keep me from being bored because it is so much more than that. I have to thank you for the fizzy lurch in my belly every time I think about writing, that excitement, like Christmas, as the time draws nearer. I wake up in the morning and think about writing. I travel through my day and perform my duties, still thinking about writing. You people, you are there, all the time, paving the story, laying it out piece by piece, showing me the way. I race to the laptop in the evening, still excited, and then I bang away at the keyboard, and the excitement never seems to fade.

Thank you for teaching me about people, about human nature and society. I’ve always been fascinated by them, a people watcher from an early age. People pass you by on the street and you watch them go and wonder who they are, what secrets they hold, where they are going, and what they dream of. Being a writer allows me to explore these thoughts and answer all the ‘what if’s…’ You guys, my characters, you keep me curious. You show up with these messy, complex lives. You’re all tangled up, the lot of you. It’s my job to unwind you. To figure you out. Some of you are pretty vile. Some of you have done some very bad things. But all of you are teaching me something about how this life is full of human cruelty, courage, heroes, and villains. I thank you all for that.

You get pretty noisy. You certainly wear me out. I’m always relieved when a first draft is over because you tend to get quieter after that. Sure, some of you still show up years after your story has been told. Maybe you miss me. Maybe you still have something to say. But generally, once the story has been blurted out into an ugly yet victorious first draft, you tend to give me a break, and believe you me, I’m looking forward to it this time! I’m just days away, just chapters away from finishing a first draft. I know there is more work to be done, and yes, somehow you current characters have talked me into a third book in this series, and honestly, I’m grateful and I can’t wait, but I am looking forward to a brief reprieve. I know you’ll start up again pretty soon, but if I get to the finish line on this story in the next few days, maybe you could let me have a few night’s sleep as a reward? What do you say?

Then again, second thoughts, scrap that. If you have something to tell me, don’t hold back. I would never ever want you to fall quiet.

Cheers, guys xx

 

Photo by John Jennings on Unsplash