A Novel Idea

Archive for the ‘Milestones’ Category

When I started this blog, I set myself the challenge of becoming a published author by midnight 13 April, 2011. At the time of writing, that’s just over 24 hours away.

Today is an important day for me. Not only because I’m about to draw the curtains on a year of (almost) full time writing. These last twelve months have witnessed me progress through my postgraduate degree, write my first first (and second) novel drafts, and make a handful of writing friends along the way.

I know so much more about publishing than I did a year ago. I realize now that the goal I set was unachievable given that I didn’t have a manuscript or a network of contacts. It can take a year just to edit a book once the contract’s signed!

While I haven’t published my novel yet, I have been published. To date I have had short prose and poetry and a handful of reviews in publications.

To have a book published, you must send it to a publisher. I have taken the soft approach and flung my manuscript (back when it was an incomplete first draft) into two unpublished author competitions with no outcome other than a lighter purse. I was mildly horrified to discover the winners had multiple books published (in another genre).  Either way it was beginner’s enthusiasm to thrust an unripe work upon an audience. We live and learn…

I do feel my manuscript needs 2-3 more drafts before it is ready for a publisher. I also have time pressure though. I quit my job to write my novel and finish my degree. If I don’t generate some money (through an advance or other windfall) soon, well, let’s just say I’ve already cut back on everything I could.

Eternally the optimist, I have created an opportunity for myself. Today is important because this morning I have coffee with a respected author in the field who has read the first few chapters of my novel. For free. I think I must remind them of their younger self in some way. Why else would they be so kind?

I’ve just got back from a walk in the crisp Autumn air. I needed to clear my mind. Be receptive to their jewels of wisdom. That’s when I walked into a giant spider web.

It was at knee height: I wasn’t completely daydreaming.

So I may not have a novel in the bookstores yet, but I’m about to receive honest professional feedback that will help make my book stronger.

That’s worth celebrating.

How do you measure success?

Write well. Write often.

© the author. 2011.

It’s been a long time between posts.

When I first started this blog I was bubbling over with enthusiasm. It felt like such a luxury to have entire days to myself just to write.

I could measure my progress as the word count stacked up like poker chips. I felt like a professional.

That was before I decided to increase my subject load at university. I’ve gone from four full days of writing time to one. I feel like someone’s stolen all my chips in a move I should have seen coming.

There are just a few weeks (and multiple essays) between me and five glorious days of writing a week. I’m starting to feel excited again.

Not that I haven’t made any progress with my day a week this semester. But it’s been progress of a different kind – not measurable in word count or chapters or drafts.

I’ve attended courses, conferences and networked with real live authors – more on this in subsequent blogs.

I’ve been avoiding blogging because I’ve felt unless I’m making steady (measurable) progress towards that final draft, I’ve nothing to share.

How do you measure your progress?


Image courtesy of http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:TapeMeasure.jpg

With my self imposed deadline just around the corner of the next year, and with all I’ve learnt about the publishing game in the last few months, I’m starting to reconsider measurement.

I want to carve out a career as an author more than ever. I have faith in the value of my stories. I just need to stay focused on my creative health and trust that all else will fall into place. 

Write well. Write often.


(C) Copyright of the author. 2010.

In one week’s time I intend to be finished with the second draft (I’m giving myself a month per draft now). Yet today I’m working on chapter six of what is currently a sixteen chapter novel. I only have two more full days between now and my deadline (due to other commitments), so I need to pick up the pace.

Strangely the writing itself is very pacy – almost too pacy. I am currently obsessed with dialogue as a vehicle for expressing character and action. I actually need to go back and stick in the slow atmospheric stuff.

Do you find your writing process morphing with each draft?

Do you have a natural tendency for description over dialogue or vice versa?

Onwards writing chariot…

Picture courtesy of http://www.astor-theatre.com/images/images-ben-hur.html

Write well. Write often.


(C) Copyright of the author. 2010.

Last week I felt both relieved and elated to complete the first draft of my debut novel.

The week was made doubly sweet by Connor suprising me with a special dinner out to celebrate this accomplishment. We are living on one income while I finish my novel, so we both really appreciated a whiff of the good life. And the best red I’ve swilled this year.

I’ve been advised to let the novel ‘rest’, but due to our situation (and my desire to get this story polished and into real readers hands), I have every motivation to move into my second draft now.

Where are you at in your current writing project? Are there any tricks you use to keep yourself moving ahead?

Here’s my approach:

1. Rewrite the Synopsis

Writers seem to grumble about composing a synopsis. Call me sadistic, but I enjoy them. They force me to commit to a version of the story.

Today I reworked the amusingly ambitious synopsis I wrote about two months ago.

I aligned it with the actual plot of the first draft.

2. Prioritise Problem Fixes

One reason why resting a draft is a good idea (other than preventing the gag-reflex when you encounter putrid rubbish having mostly imagined writing perfectly ripe fruitful phrases) is to gain some objectivity.

Maybe I’m just naturally hard on myself, but I could tell you exactly what was wrong with my first draft as I wrote it.

Unfortunately that brilliance did not extend to fixing said mistakes at the time.

I keep a file called ‘Questions to Resolve’ containing all the difficulties I am struggling with. For example:

  1. Character A sounds like an English gent yet he’s a savage – fix it.
  2. You said object X was left behind, whereas it’s in the fight scene so you had better fix it!
  3. Writing group member quibbles over the scientific basis of occurrence Y – check your sources.

As you can see, they are more commands to self than courteous questions.

I find this a great way of freeing myself to move the text forward.

After a three day break from the novel I found more areas for improvement and can now edit with the cold precision of a surgeon’s knife.

This week I’ll prioritise the long list of 50+ grumbles and attack the worst offenders first (or the easiest depending on my mood).

3. Set a deadline

I intend to have a completed novel by early December (so I can enjoy the silly season wholeheartedly and give myself five months to find a publishing home). Five drafts seems like a reasonable figure. So I have just over a month per draft.

Am I crazy? Only one way to find out…

Write well. Write often.


(C) Copyright of the author. 2010.

Today started at 2am for me. I had one of those rare mornings when you’re awake in an instant.

A hot cup of cammomile and spearmint tea later, I was at my desk.

Pitch black outside. Still.

Furiously bright inside as I tapped away at my noisy keyboard.

By 8am, when most people are just starting work, I had achieved a lifelong goal: MY VERY FIRST NOVEL DRAFT.

After almost three months working on it I am finally finished!

Not really.

I suspect this story has another three or four (or maybe more?) drafts to go before I’m ready to unleash it on the world.

This is going to be a two-coffee day, but in the best possible way!

What would you wake up at 2am for?

Write well. Write often.


(C) Copyright of the author. 2010.

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  • Violet: Thanks Alannah :) Apologies for not replying sooner: I'm finally catching my breath and the year is almost over!
  • Alannah Murphy: I remember your first post, way back when I had my old Here Be Dragons blog, and I am glad you are still writing. We all find out, sooner or later, ho
  • Violet: Good to hear that Aaron. Good Luck with your work.