I’ve finally finished editing the first draft of 1:58 and if there is anything I have learnt from this experience of using a red pen on my own work it is this – I can be brutal. Many writers say that they don’t like to ‘kill their darlings’ but I found it quite easy to use my inner-editor to cross out sections that didn’t work, be brutally honest about my use of clichés and accept that there were parts of my novel that just didn’t work.
I had a dream a few nights ago about my novel, when I woke up I realised all of the mistakes I was making with my story and I quickly jotted them down. I’m going to make some major changes, from the name of the novel to the events that take place in the narrative. It’s still the same story in many ways and I am keeping the characters that I have grown to love but the novel didn’t excite me when I read it back. If it doesn’t excite me, then it’s definitely not going to excite a reader.
This is the first time I have completed a novel and edited my own work, so it’s an entirely new process for me. I am excited to get started on the second draft, it may take three or four drafts before this novel is ready but I’m willing to put the hard work in to really create the best story I possibly can. No one said it would be easy. Ernest Hemmingway once said “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” A little dramatic but he definitely has the right idea.
In 2014, when I was studying Creative Writing at university, I decided to take part in something called NaNoWriMo. A writing task to write 50,000 words during the month of November. Despite my lack of belief in myself, I managed to do it. I spent a few weeks beforehand writing a plan, I had detailed questionnaires on all of my characters, I was ready to go. I celebrated when I reached the word count. I actually completed a novel! Yay me!
Then, I left the story alone. It sat on my USB for two years, yes you heard right, TWO YEARS! I guess I didn’t have much faith in my story, I thought it was rubbish and didn’t want to read it ever again. Until one day. I don’t know what pushed me to do it but I decided to read my story to myself. As I scrolled through the pages, I realised it wasn’t as bad as I thought it was. Although my inner editor had already started to rewrite the story in my head, I saw a few moments in the story that had true potential.
I printed off my manuscript and took out a red pen. I highlighted sentences that worked, crossed out sections that didn’t and scanned the manuscript for inconsistencies and spelling mistakes. I’m still in the process of editing the novel but once I’m done, I’m going to start my second draft of 1:58. I’m breathing new life into an old story and I couldn’t be happier about it 🙂
For a while now I have been leaving my novel alone, not intentionally of course. I’ve been avoiding writing all together. I don’t know why I do it. I love to write. I feel better when I write. I ignore my compulsion to write. Why do I depriving myself of it? I’ve figured something out about my writing process though in the last few days. I can’t focus on just the one writing project. I blame university for that. I got so used to juggling several projects at once, short stories, poems, scripts and novels that I can’t help but do the same thing now I have finished my degree (I got a 2.1 by the way, go me!!). So now I’ve started a new poetry collection from scratch, a new short story collection and I’m carrying on with my novel. I don’t understand the impulse I have to do this but it’s worked, my muse has returned.
Today I have written two poems, I have three new story ideas for my short story collection and I have started writing chapter nine of my novel I Choose Life and it’s only 1pm! Hopefully this will be the end of my writers dry spell and I can finally get something done. I love the feeling of finishing a piece of writing but I have yet to complete an entire first draft of a novel. That will change by the end of the year. If I work hard, I can get my first draft done by the end of December. Most writers claim that the editing stage is the hardest but I think I might find that easier than getting the story written. The problem is, I question myself. I think about all of the things that I am going to change once I get to the second draft stage and I really need to focus on just writing the story from beginning to end.
I need to believe in myself like I do when I write short stories or poetry. Anyone who claims that writing a book is easy, obviously isn’t putting their heart and soul into it. Anyone can write words but it takes a truly disciplined person to be a writer. Although I sometimes lack motivation and give in to the negativity that tells me that my writing isn’t good enough I know that I have the strength to eventually start writing again. There is no way that I am giving up. I will finish the first draft of my novel. I might decide in the second stage of editing that I hate my story and I no longer want to pursue it, if that happens then I will still be pleased that I reached the milestone of writing a 50,000 word draft of a novel.
I’m going to leave it there because I have to get back to my novel. Then I have to write another article for Women Make Waves. Then I might start another short story this afternoon. My mind never stops. I might need another two coffees to help me but today is definitely going to be a great writing day!
So it’s almost August and I wanted a lot more of my novel written than just 3,000 words. I’m a bit disappointed in myself for not sticking to my goal of at least 6,000 words by the end of July. However, I have been busy working at Female First and the days that I don’t go to the office I am starting my third year preparations for university. I have managed to list the ideas I have for each of my classes this year. For the first time we are studying Screen writing and our biggest assignment is to write a short film or TV pilot episode script. I have an idea already set up but I am yet to begin writing it because I don’t have the knowledge of how a script for screen is presented. I am sure this is what I will be learning in my final year but at least I have a solid idea written out in my journal. I have titled it ‘One Step Closer’, it will be a TV pilot episode of a drama about children living in a care home. I have some character profiles and I know some of scenes that will take place in the first episode.
I am making good progress with my third year preparations, I just wish I had made more progress with my novel for my dissertation. I know where I am going with my novel it’s just finding the time and the motivation to write it. As for fiction next year, I have a few story ideas drafted in my journal. One of them is a story about a little girl that goes missing and the story is told in three points of view, the mother’s, the child and the kidnapper. I have a title because I usually start with a title when I am writing and it will be called The Girl In Red.
Although I have only written 3,000 words I am already deciding to make alterations to my novel. At the moment it is in first person, present tense. I want to keep it in first person because I believe it to be the best way to tell the story but I am going to re-write it in past tense to see which I prefer. Better doing it now with 3,000 words than 30,000 words. I have far too many distractions to do it. It’s frustrating. It’s Sunday tomorrow. I have nothing to do. I might go to the gym for an hour but that’s it. So I am going to write. I am going to re-write the 3,000 words I have and change it to past tense. Then I will decide which is better. Saying I am going to write and actually writing are two very different things. I need to stop this laziness and get something written. If not, I’m sure I will regret the heavy dissertation workload that I will be bombarded with in September.