First Draft Frenzy!

I am currently in the throes of writing the first draft of a novel. I shouldn’t really be doing this. I have a book ready and waiting to be published, and another one awaiting its 5th draft. But sometimes, ideas get too loud. Sometimes characters get too noisy inside my head. And sometimes it feels like you have been editing and revising and rewriting for so long, you just desperately need a break from it. I needed to write something fresh and it has done me the world of good. (It is actually a sequel to the book awaiting 5th draft, so not entirely fresh, but you get the idea.)

Anyway, writing the first draft is a lot of fun but also totally insane. I know it is very different for everyone. There are ‘pantsers’ and ‘plotters’ and many who fall somewhere in between. I have never been much of a plotter. What tends to happen is I get the characters first, their personality, flaws, dreams, background, and dilemmas. I get to know them pretty well inside my head,  where they basically treat me like a therapist and start telling me all of their problems. Things inevitably evolve and progress and before long I have a plot of sorts, a loose start middle, and end and I start jotting notes down so I don’t forget anything. As I’ve said before, by the time I start a book I know the characters so well, but it’s the storyline and sequence of events I’ve got to get to grips with.

I kind of envy plotters. They outline and plan every detail, do all their research before writing and probably come out with a far more polished and advanced first draft than I do. I do try to plot, it’s just that it also sort of works itself out as I go along. Generally, I will have the basics, the bones, but as I write, things change and grow and then I will know what is happening about 3 chapters ahead.

My first draft, I am happy to admit, is a scruffy, ugly, clumsy, diabolical piece of writing. Okay, maybe I’m being a bit harsh on myself, but it does tend to be cluttered with question marks (because I am too lazy in the moment of writing to go off and research something, I will just leave a question mark, in other words, get back to it later) I do the same thing when I can’t think of the best or right word or phrase…ahh hell just move along and do it later. The hard work begins in draft 2 and 3 and so on. So perhaps I should take note of the plotters style and try to calm things down a bit. It would help me in the long run, there’s no doubt.

So, why do I do it like this? This crazy, messy, hectic outpouring of events and ideas? It’s because I’m in a hurry. I want to get it done.I will worry about perfection and fine honing later when I am calmer. When I am writing it for the first time I am literally high on the energy and the creativity of it and I want to get it out, get it written, not stop for anything, I want to write without hesitation or worry, knowing that no one is ever going to see this, so it doesn’t matter how shoddy it is, I am just telling the story.

The other reason is, the first draft, telling the story for the first time and finally getting it out of my head where it has been for months even years, is all consuming for me. Like an addiction, I am totally distracted by it and endlessly guilty of thinking about it non stop and not wanting to do anything else until it is done – so sorry family! I don’t want to blog, or promote, or write articles or anything, I turn the laptop on and just want to write and how dare anything else get in the way until it is done!

I am nearing the end now of this current work-in-progress. I had one of those wonderful moments today while out running when all the loose ends tied up and I suddenly worked out exactly how to get to the end. An amazingly dramatic climax also reared its magnificent head, providing a way into book three. (Yes, this has now turned into a trilogy…) This was the moment I had been waiting for. I had total faith that it would come. I believe the whole story is all there in my head the entire time. I just need to pluck it out from all the other stuff going on up there!

Once I have finished this frenzied madness I am currently existing in, I will feel better. Calmer.I will be quite happy to push it to one side and get back to the orderly and professional business of editing and perfecting my two (almost) finished novels. I will be less distracted. I will be able to concentrate on normal life again. I will probably finish up early more often and watch some TV with the kids.

But for all its insanity, I really needed this ugly first draft fiasco. For me, that passion, the addiction, the mind bursting with creativity, characters coming to life in ways you never expected, revelations, inspiration, eureka moments, the weaving together of lives ands tories, the utter, mad excitement and adrenalin of it all, is what writing is all about!

Please feel free to comment and share! Do you plot or just get going and see what happens? Is your first draft a frenzied affair like mine, or something far more organised and sedate?

Welcome To My Mind!! (Via my notebooks…)

I have a strange addiction to notebooks. I just can’t have enough of them. I have far too many floating around my writing space, but they all serve a purpose, and if any of them were to go missing, I think the wheels would fall off this operation. My notebooks are the physical version of what goes on in my mind. So, I thought I might share them with you. I would be really interested to know if anyone else writes and lives like this!

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My To-Do List Notebook!

Introducing the backbone of notebooks. The one that holds everything else together! My to-do book. I always have one of these on the go and when it’s used up, I buy another A4 sized notebook to replace it. Every Sunday night I write my to-do list for the week ahead. It usually starts off pretty short and gets added to as the week goes by. It will include things like posting my author interview or guest post blogs, my usual Wednesday blog post, making sure my newsletter is drafted, finishing a short story or article, printing stuff out for workshops and so on. It also reminds me to order dog food on Thursdays, and pay for school trips online and so on! I don’t think I could function without a to-do list book. There is something so satisfying about ticking things off as the week goes on! I feel like I am keeping on top of things in all areas of my life, and I’m sure a lot of stuff just wouldn’t get done if I didn’t write them down!

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My Non-Fiction Notebook!

This A5 notebook keeps me on track with all things non-fiction in my life. I list possible blog post ideas in here and tick them off when I have written and published them. I also write down ideas for articles. I use this book to note down ideas, research, and plans for any workshops I might be running for Dorset Writers Network, or for my own venture Chasing Driftwood Writing Group Anything I read that inspires me, any plans I have for the future, I note down in here!

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Current Work-In-Progress Notebook!

All my books have a notebook. The notebook comes into action once the voices get too loud in my head. This notebook is for my current WIP A Song For Bill Robinson. As Elliot Pie is having another round with beta readers, and I am just not ready to revisit the tricky Tree Of Rebels yet, I am having a stab at a YA novel I first attempted when I was sixteen. There are two stories related to this in Bird People and Other Stories. The book is basically written, I am just having to make it better than it is! (Oh the cringe of reading your own teenage writing..!)

PTDC0094.JPGThe Tree Of Rebels Notebook!

Self-explanatory. This is the long and complex story of a novel still not finished, all wrapped up in one now very tatty A5 notebook! We will get there one day with this one!PTDC0096.JPG

Elliot Pie’s Notebook!

Here it is, Elliot Pie’s notebook. As with all my books, this notebook contains character bios, themes, ideas, plotting, and the many, many lists I make when rewriting, which I then go through and tick off. 

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Plans For Unwritten Novel!

Recently a short story I wrote to include in the newsletter, morphed into something far, far bigger. Something quite epic. Something four books long epic. Something I would love to see on TV as a drama series for kids epic. So far I have written mini bios for lots of characters, several short stories which basically serve as sample chapters, and have loosely plotted the book, or books. It is definitely going to be a four book series, and I need to have Elliot Pie, Tree of Rebels and Song For Bill Robinson all done and dusted before I can bury myself in this little beauty for a very, very long time…

There are actually two more notebooks I couldn’t be bothered to photograph. One I take with me to my writing group and workshops so I can note down thoughts on people’s readings, or make plans, or tick people off etc. And the other is my very secret and special Christmas planning notebook! But obviously, I don’t want anyone to see that one!

So how about you? Are you a list person? Do you need to write things down in order to remember them? Maybe you use your phone, or a calendar? Am I the only one who makes use of copious amounts of notebooks at the same time?? Please comment! I love hearing from you!

Untold Stories

I’ve blogged recently about the amount of stories and characters I have in my head. I have also blogged about my struggles with the final draft of my YA novel The Tree Of Rebels, and how I have been constantly distracted by voices from untold stories. In order to keep some of these voices at bay, so that I can finish each project I am on, I have been writing the odd short story for these characters. Has this worked? Well, yes and no! On the one hand, it does feel good to get something out, to relieve a little of the pressure. But on the other hand, it seems that if I allow these people an inch, they will take a mile, and start shouting even louder.

Anyway, I am making great progress with the final draft of The Tree Of Rebels. I am probably only days away from finishing it. I might have mentioned before that I decided to try changing the tense, to see if that worked, and although I can’t be sure until I read through it all, I think it has! So, the plan is, I finish the draft then re-read the whole thing, checking a final time for errors, typos and so on. Then it will be done! What comes next? Well, I do feel I ought to finish my rough plot for the sequel, as it might be a good idea to not let there be too big a gap between the two books, but this won’t take me long. I will then jump into the second draft of my novel Elliot Pie’s Guide To Human Nature. As you might recall, Elliot Pie was a queue jumper! Jumping neatly ahead of the planned sequels to The Tree Of Rebels and The Mess Of Me! He was too insistent to ignore, so he finally got his story told. Once I have done the second draft I will send it to my wonderful beta readers, as I will need feedback on the structure of the novel, as it is a little bit different. What will I do whilst they are reading this?

Ooh, I’m glad you asked! Well, I recently wrote two short stories for a character that was getting impatient. Bill Robinson is one of the characters in a gritty teen drama I first wrote when I was sixteen years old. I never finished the book, and it had always been one I knew I would go back to at some point! Much in the same way I finally finished The Boy With The Thorn In His Side in 2013, after first writing it when I was twelve! Nightprowler and Bird People are both available to read on Wattpad if you are interested. Nightprowler is really a prequel to the novel, an event that happens before it all begins, and Bird People is really a snapshot into the mind and character of Bill.

Anyway, the point of this blog post is untold stories, and how exciting it is once you finally get the chance to tell them. Maya Angelou was quoted as saying that ‘there is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you,’ and I think most writers would agree that this is very true. It does become an agony. The desire to write and share, and the noise created by the characters and their lives, can reach unbearable levels if something is not at last released.

With this in mind I went hunting yesterday, and dragged the old suitcase out from under my bed. This suitcase is very important to me because it contains all my old stories, school work, essays and ideas. Luckily for me, I have never thrown anything away. And thank goodness too, because I found what I was looking for, and what a joyous moment that was. This great big hulking binder full of Bill’s story. It didn’t have a title back then, but the working title will now be A Song For Bill Robinson. Everything was right there. A plot (and how exciting to see that I used to plot at age sixteen, the same way I do no! ie a scruffy notepad filled with ideas with ticks on top of them!) character bios, and a whole load of notes and extra bits paper clipped together. More excitingly there is also a map! I used to draw maps of the fictional worlds I created to help me when moving the characters about. There is even a play list of songs, as one of the main plot lines involves Bill entering talent contests in his local community centre as a singer. He hooks up with some other people who play instruments, and the play list was a rough idea of some of the music they might play together.

How exciting! What a find…I knew I still had the unfinished handwritten manuscript, but I had completely forgotten about all the extra bits! I wanted to go back in time and pat my sixteen year old self on the back! Job well done! I can use all this! This is going to be brilliant! I was also impressed to find scraps of paper where I had written things like ‘by chapter 7 we know that Charlie is hiding something, and we know about some of it. We have suspicions of Laura’s private life, some from what she tells us and some from Bill’s own suspicions.’ Ha ha! Nice to know I had a good handle on the whole show not tell thing back then!

I can’t tell you how happy this discovery made me yesterday. This story still has to wait for me to get around to it, but in the meantime it is going to continue to grow and swell and evolve inside my head. I already know lots more about the characters than I did back then. There have been lots of nice, little details striking me lately.

So exciting!!