Planning and preparation for novel number three underway

As some of you know, in October 2012 I embarked upon a new adventure when I left the world of Monday to Friday, nine-to-five, in favour of becoming a full-time mother, and writing at every available opportunity (usually when my daughter slept, which gave me a good two and a half hours each day).

In November 2012, I wrote my first novel, during National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). What then followed was months of many, many revisions until I felt the story was finished and ready. The problem was, what started out being a contemporary romance novel, turned into what some might call a time-travel romance, which was never my intention. This, of course, complicated matters as there began lots of shifting back and forth to make sure dates and times and scenes corresponded with each other. Then, finally, at the beginning of the year, I decided to put it out there via a contest, and had some wonderful feedback, albeit along with a polite rejection. I’ve since had further feedback, suggesting that the pacing needs some work. So, I decided to sit on it for a while, and begin revisions on my second novel, Labour of Love, which I also wrote during NaNoWriMo 2013.

Novel number two was a fully planned and executed contemporary romance, and I have to admit, I absolutely loved writing it. I had my moments when I wondered if the dynamics would work, but two very wise women both told me, write what you want to write. In honesty, my hero and heroine are more true-life than glitz and glamour. I’ve been informed several times over that the rich alpha male is what sells – the happy ever after that romance readers aspire to. Except, I live in the real world, and people have real problems and have to find ways to overcome them. I’ve read plenty of romance/women’s fiction novels in my time and always love the books I can identify with – the ones where I’ve been there, lived that, had that type of relationship. I’ve never aspired to fall in love with a rich man and live happily ever after. Just a good, honest, loving man, who would take care of me (and he certainly does). So I’m going to stick with it, but will let it rest for a while before I return to it and read it objectively. After that, I might – just might – think about sending it ‘out there’.

In the meantime, novel number three is the sequel to my first novel, Time for Love, which is set in two different time zones and has the customary antagonist. The thing is, the antagonist became so much fun to write and literally jumped off the page, that I felt it necessary to give him a story of his own, along with his very own heroine. So, the planning has begun. Since I finished the second draft of Labour of Love, I’ve been drafting a synopsis and character profiles, and am about to delve into research into the 1930s (the time of The Great Depression). Incidentally, this one won’t be an easy task, much like its preceding story, but I’m going to have a lot of fun writing it.

While I’m busy squirreling away, I’d like to say a little thanks for your continued support. I know there are plenty of you desperate to read Time for Love, and your patience is gratefully noted. I look forward to being able to deliver it in time and equally hope it’s worth the wait. 🙂

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Another NaNo win, another novel

ImageLast Friday, 29th November, I was delighted to cross the National Novel Writing Month finish-line at 10:50pm – on a Friday – when most other people my age were down the pub, or spending time with their families and partners.

Our kitchen was being decorated over the weekend, and I needed to keep little Miss Chapman out of the way in order for the painting to be completed, so I took the mischievous little munchkin away for a couple of days. As such, Saturday was not available to me for NaNo-ing, and I set myself the target of finishing my next novel by Friday 29th instead.

Thanks to some super-duper supportive friends on Twitter, we all got together every day last week and smashed those word-count targets, and as a result, I passed the 50,000 mark required to ‘win’ NaNoWriMo. The only problem was, the story wasn’t finished, and I hate to leave something incomplete. So I didn’t validate. I couldn’t. I’d written 50k, but I wasn’t done.

Bring on the beans!!
Bring on the beans!!

So, after a day of cleaning the kitchen in prep for decorating, I sat down with a very large cup of black coffee, and I wrote. For three hours solid. I don’t know how I managed to write another 3.5k in that time, on a Friday night, while I needed matchsticks for my eyes. But I did it. I could see the finish line and I began to get really excited about the ending.

As my last blog-post portrayed, I wasn’t overly enthusiastic about this story during week two. Which was strange, as I’d got really excited while planning the outline and story-arc. But, I told myself it was only because it was a first draft. And that first draft is now finished, which means I have the skeleton of another story.

I have my second novel – and I think I’m in love with the hero.

There are plenty of authors who have written more than one novel, and I’m just a little fish in a very big sea (as yet to be published). But, who cares? There are also plenty of people who haven’t even made it through their first novel.

That’s why NaNoWriMo is so fantastic, it gives you the drive, the support, the belief in yourself to get that book written, not to mention the amazing amount of support.

Here's to you, self-doubt!
Here’s to you, self-doubt!

It might only be a first draft, and I might still be working on my first book, but the important thing, for me, is that I am one step closer to publication, and still on the path to believing that I can do this. I stuck two fingers up in the face of self-doubt – and it felt very bloody good (although this cat only managed one).

How about you? Did you participate in NaNo this year? Did you win?

Any other wannabe ‘winners’ taking part next ?

It’s only a first draft

For those that don’t know, I’m participating in NaNoWriMo again this year. Write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. 

It’s day eleven, and I’m currently at just over 18,000 words. Totally on target, and I haven’t even written anything today. 

So why am I not feeling the enthusiasm and excitement that I felt last year? Is it because it’s my second project, or because I’m still hung up on the story I wrote last year? 

After chatting with a Twitter friend this morning, I’ve decided I need to remind myself that It’s Just A First Draft. I feel that I should be bounding around with enthusiasm for my characters, that they should be calling me to write them every day. Except, it’s just not happening. Then I have to remember last year, when I found myself wondering what on earth I was doing, when I hadn’t even planned ANY of the story, just the basic outline. That was even harder. The trouble is, this new project has been planned with not just a backbone, but a rib cage and limbs as well, and although I’ve created plenty of conflict, it just doesn’t seem to be reaching the page. Then I have to remind myself that It’s Just A First Draft. And I have my character profiles sketched out too. 

I remember reading my first draft after last year’s book and cringing at how terrible it was, and now that it’s in it’s fourth draft and (almost) ready for submission, I’m still hung up on it. It’s a bit like trying to start a new love affair when you haven’t finished with the old one yet. Except, I needed to take a step back from it, to start something new and then come back to Time for Love with a fresh eye, having completed my second project. 

The point is, Time for Love (formerly The Gateway) has been re-written twice already and I need to keep reminding myself of that as I write my second book (as yet untitled). 

I’ve written this blog post with the intention of giving myself a pep-talk and to snap out of that “self-doubt” darkness looming over me (hey, it’s November, and it’s dark and wet), and hope that anyone else reading this will find some encouragement in it too. 

I might have written 18k so far and been a very good girl with keeping to target, but I can’t guarantee that it’s any good. But, hey. 

IT’S ONLY A FIRST DRAFT. 

Keep that in mind, and good luck all you other Wrimos. Keep rooting for each other. 😉

 

Time for… an update

Well, I didn’t make the top 50 in the contest for So You Think You Can Write. These past few weeks have been both exciting and stressful as I’ve pushed myself to finish the third draft of newly titled Time for Love – formerly The Gateway, and then plummeted down from an intense high when I realised I wasn’t one of the chosen ones.

I think deep down I knew it was unlikely, but there was still that little part of me which hoped I’d at least final after the effort that went into the submission. Everyone who entered knows the struggle we all went through in those first few weeks, but I don’t regret entering the competition at all. The mantra was always “what do I have to lose?”. Of course the answer was nothing, as I’ve now connected with even more amazing people, a network of writers – both published and unpublished – always there to lend a sympathetic ear or bounce about with pom-poms, cheering each other on.

Since the top 50 finalists were contacted, I’ve taken a well-deserved break for a few days, while planning my next project, which I intend to write for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month for you non-Wrimos, during which I wrote Time for Love last year).

Once the stress and toll of NaNoWriMo and the first (planned) draft is written, I’ll be revisiting Time for Love, polishing up any loose ends and making it as seamless as possible, then start submitting.

Because I believe there’s a home for this story somewhere, and because I’ll never give up.

Has it really been a year?

A year has passed since I gave notice to leave my safe, full-time, permanent position as a customer service executive, to concentrate on bringing up my young daughter and focus on building my writing career.

This morning, I’ve been looking back on what’s passed in this last year as I head towards the end of the rewrite of my NaNoWriMo novel, the first draft of which I completed in November 2012.

So, what have I achieved?

I wrote a novel.

I really did, from start to finish, just over 50,000 words. It doesn’t seem like much of an achievement now – as I’ve been spending the last year editing it – but it was back then. There’s not many (apart from those who have enough passion and dedication to finish one) who can say they’ve written a novel. Plenty of people are really impressed when I tell them I’ve written a book. Then I get embarrassed because I know that it’s nowhere near ready to be unleashed on the world.

I wrote and self-published a mini e-book. 

After I left the security of working in the corporate world, I threw myself into researching self-publishing – the revolution of the publishing industry – and spent the first month working on writing a little e-book about living on a budget, inspired by my decision to relinquish an income of my own. I surprised myself with the tips I came up with, and found myself wondering why we didn’t use our own advice more often. An article I’d read in Writing Magazine gave me the confidence I needed to go ahead and publish the book. It’s easy enough to self-publish, but what many probably don’t realise is the formatting involved – this took up a massive amount of my time as I played around with Word, Adobe and another e-publishing program. The book is now live on Amazon and I’ve sold quite a few copies, which I’m rather proud of. Not as many as I would have liked, admittedly, but I’ve since discovered that marketing isn’t my strong point. I’d much rather be writing and chatting with the wonderful group of writing friends I’ve met on social media.

I joined the group of The Rejected

After pouring my blood, sweat and tears into a proposal and partially written manuscript, I received a very encouraging rejection from a major publisher. Of course I was deflated, but I was also over the moon – a publisher had taken the time to read my submission and respond, even giving me some feedback. They told me it was quite clear that I’d spent a lot of time and effort on the submission however they didn’t feel the story was developed enough to be able to proceed with it. This gave me the excuse I needed to press on and make my work even better. I put that story away and decided to focus on my completed manuscript, to make it as good as it could possibly be.

I had an article published in Cat World

It might only be one article, and I didn’t get paid for it, but it was a huge achievement for me. I’ve had fillers published and am due to have another article printed in Evergreen –  sister publication to This England – this autumn.

I joined a Writers Circle

A lovely little critique group in Northampton. We all get together and read aloud our work and listen to each other, offer advice, then have a nice cuppa and a biscuit. If you haven’t joined a writers group, do it. It’s the best advice you could ever have. Writing is a lonely profession in the real world, and although I have made some wonderful friends online, sometimes we crave human contact and adult conversation. Especially us full-time mothers who spend the majority of their day with little people.

~

It’s clear a lot can happen in a year, and it’s been educational. So, what have I learned?

My first draft sucked

I wrote The Gateway (temporary title of my work in progress) in the first-person viewpoint. I sat on it for a few weeks. I read it. I cringed. So the whole thing is being re-drafted in third-person viewpoint.

The first draft is easy

It really is. You just have to get the words down on the paper. The hard part is the second draft. Bringing your writing to life. Getting rid of the cliches. Wondering if your work is ever going to be good enough. I have days where I bounce with enthusiasm over my writing. Then the self-doubt descends like a black cloud and I wonder how my work is ever going to get published.

Editors are very busy people

And sadly rarely reply to queries. I’ve lost count of the amount of emails I’ve sent with a proposed article, only to still be waiting weeks later for a response. It’s so disheartening. Imagine sending out several job applications and not having one reply? It’s hard, it really is. And definitely up there with rejection. Which leads me on to my next lesson.

I’m an eternal optimist

I’ve spent a year trying to break into the market, in both article writing and fiction writing. I’ve faced lots of rejection, I’m still writing my novel, yet I’m still going a year later. Rome wasn’t built in a day, you know.

The world of writers is a fabulously supportive place

I’ve discovered some great networks, made some wonderful friends and had enormous support from some really special people. Earlier this year I shared the news that I was expecting. Fate dealt a cruel hand, and our little baby girl couldn’t survive in this world. If it wasn’t for the wonderful support some of my writer friends have bestowed upon me, I’m honestly not sure when I would have picked up my laptop again, and I’m so grateful to them.

I’m not superwoman

I can’t do everything. Just like I couldn’t do everything when I was working full-time. Being a mother is a full-time occupation. It’s not easy to fit your own work in around looking after an inquisitive, demanding, hugely energetic toddler. Especially when you’ve spent most of the day (literally) running around after them as well as trying to keep the house clean, and cook a nutritious meal every night (on a budget at that). It’s a wonder I have any energy left. Actually, forget that. I don’t have any energy. I’m exhausted. 😛

~

So, what now? I still firmly believe this was the best decision I ever made. Writing is my dream and it might not be providing me with an income at the moment, but I love it and it makes me happy. A few months ago I was torn between choosing to self-publish, or try to get [The Gateway] traditionally published. I’ve read many articles and viewpoints on the debate and for now, I’m going to try the traditional route. I’m not saying I’d never self-publish, but I want to be sure my writing is good enough for a publisher to want to buy it. Several people have told me they love the first three chapters of this story and the concept, and that’s really encouraging. That’s what’s given me the confidence to proceed with this project and put the article writing on hold, so thanks to all those who have supported me so far, cheered from the sidelines and waved their pom-poms.

I have set myself a deadline to finish the second draft/rewrite of The Gateway by the end of this month (six days left!), after which I’ll be taking down the first three chapters, which are currently on the blog. I then have until the end of September to polish it, after which I’ll be submitting, with everything crossed, and my breath held in anticipation.

Wish me luck! 🙂

Excerpt from The Gateway – Page 77, first 7 lines

A fellow author friend tagged me in a post today for us to help share our work. The idea is that you share the first 7 lines of either page 7 or page 77 of your manuscript, then tag 7 other authors to do the same. I can’t follow suit via my Facebook page so I won’t be tagging anyone, but thought I’d join in the fun and share a little excerpt with you anyway.
Below is the first 7 lines of page 77 of The Gateway (the NaNoWriMo 2012 novel):

I simply glared at her; feelings of fury and resentment building up until I felt as though I might explode. Then it came. I clenched my fists together and breathed quickly, trying to contain it. But the words spilled forth before I had a chance to stop them.

‘Yes, well maybe it’s time you grew a bloody backbone of your own,’ I growled at her, the tears threatening to spill down my cheeks. I gave her one last glare as she looked like I had just slapped her, and turned on my heel and ran down the corridor. I ran and ran and ran, not seeing where I was going at any point, my tears blurring my vision, then collided headlong into Joe.

Just for fun!

The best decision I made

For each day that goes by, I don’t regret my decision to leave my 9-5 office job to look after my daughter full-time and focus on writing in my spare time. I don’t even know where I found the time to do anything else after being at work all day and still had a family to look after and a house to run. It’s a non-stop day even now, from 7:30 in the morning until around 10pm at night (on the nights I write – I make a point of stopping at 10pm at the latest otherwise I’m just permanently knackered). Things aren’t so bad now that the little one is getting older, she sleeps through the night most of the time – unless she has a very bad case of teething (molars, I hate you). Many of you will know that I’m a fan of cooking from scratch and creating meals with thrift and care. They’re always tasty (so I am told, and even if I do say so myself) and always nutritious, but they do take some time. Especially my home-made pasties where the pastry is made in advance and then a roux has to be made for the sauce (I recently made some “highly recommended” chicken, bacon and mushroom pasties from the New Year leftovers, which was generously donated to one of my husband’s work colleagues). Then there’s the soups, the breads, the soaking and boiling of beans, the quiches; the list goes on. In between that I adopt several roles including Playmate, Teacher and all-round activity creator, as well as trips out to a few toddler groups throughout the week. Then there’s the running through the house pretending to be a monster before turning around and being chased by a little monster in a bit of role reversal. Occasionally I’ll sit down for five minutes with a cup of tea and catch up on Twitter, Facebook, Emails etc, read a few posts before looking at the clock and getting up again because the schedule around a small person needs to be tight. When she sleeps, I write. I write blog posts or I write articles or I research markets for article submissions.

So I’m getting there slowly but surely. First there was the launch of my mini-ebook: 7 Simple Ways to Survive on a Budget in October. Then of course in November there was NaNoWriMo where I wrote a 50,000 word novel in less than 30 days. It was hard graft, and it needs lots and lots of editing, but it was such an achievement and a buzz to know that I have a full manuscript to work on. I started another novel for NaNoWriMo 2010 which I didn’t complete so I’m throwing myself into that at the moment.

I now also have a Facebook page and have just uploaded a short story on to Wattpad, which you can read here for free.

I’m delighted to announce that I’ve sold a few copies of 7 Simple Ways to Survive on a Budget, which is fantastic news and really encouraging. A lovely review has been put up on Amazon for it, too.

So there you have it, my achievements so far in the three months of 2012 since I left my office job.

In 2013 I intend to complete my second novel, finish my course with the Writers Bureau and finish editing both novels for publication. It’s ambitious, but I believe I can do it.

As Henry Ford said: ‘The whole secret of a successful life is to find out what is one’s destiny to do, and then do it.’

What are your plans for 2013?

Another pep talk and some headway

NaNoWriMo’s done something to me. After all the hype and productivity and cameraderie, I feel as though I’m floating around not really sure what to do with myself. My focus this month was going to be on sending out articles and queries (which I have been doing) while sitting on my completed novel until the new year, when I can look at it with a fresh mind. Except something’s been niggling at me and I’ve not felt any kind of satisfaction with my output. Not least because I feel like it’s a slow process, but because I miss the pressure of NaNoWriMo and the buzz that comes with it.  I was chatting to someone today who is actively still using Word Sprints, which I think is a wonderful idea. For something which I found so productive in November, I’m surprised I didn’t think of this before. Well, I was aiming for finishing my second novel by the end of this year (providing the world doesn’t end on Friday, of course), but I didn’t put any challenges in place for myself. I had targets; realistic targets, for the non-fiction side of my work. Yet the targets weren’t stretching me enough. So last night, I sat for two hours (yes, really) and drew up a spreadsheet with a chart to measure my word count, so I have something I can use to monitor my progress and push myself. I’ve only got basic knowledge of formulas in spreadsheets, so it’s nowhere near as great as the NaNo word counter, but it will do. Additionally, after speaking about word sprints, I decided to go with my method of getting those words out, which involves sprinting for 5 mins, then having a break, then 10 mins, then break, then 15 mins, then break, and so on. I think the longest I managed in November was 30 minutes when an acquaintance bullied me into getting another 1k out in those 30 minutes as I was so close to the finish line. It was epic.

So, the end result is that I have a word counter, and a new focus. I feel great now, I don’t feel like I’m floating around like a ghost trying lots of different types of food, only to realise that I can’t taste anything because I’m a ghost. Sorry, that was a terrible metaphor, but I am pretty tired. I managed 2k of my novel today in the space of an hour, which is more than I’ve achieved all month.  

Time is of the essence, and studying markets and sending out query letters is something which requires a lot of attention, which I don’t have the opportunity for during the day due to the narrow time slots I get between my daughter needing my attention. Perhaps I’ll be better off concentrating on getting those words on paper while she sleeps, and leaving the tasks which require greater concentration for the evening.

This is what it’s all about, juggling your life, juggling your time. If you can take control of the tools you have and use them to the best of your ability, if you can push yourself and realise that your only limit is where YOU draw the line, then it is entirely possible to get where you need to be.

Be organised, be focused, and persevere.

I have joined the NaNoWriMo winner’s circle!

It’s official, I have actually crossed the finish line and completed my 50,000 word NaNoWriMo novel within 30 days.Winner - NaNoWriMo 2012

For those of you who want to know how I did it; not only have I been writing furiously alongside #NaNoWordSprints on Twitter, snatching sessions when I can, I’ve even taken to writing on my smart phone in the car (while my husband is driving of course, not me). There are some wonderful apps you can download on Android (I was using Polaris Office) and there’s even wordcount software you can utilise in the absence of MS Word. Oh, and there has been a distinct lack of television watching (with the exception of my favourite TV show The Vampire Diaries – what can I say, I’m devoted).

Most of the work has been completed in the evenings, when the house is (relatively) quiet and I can focus. Cue me emerging three hours later from my make-shift office of the cramped corner of the bedroom – with just a candle for company – with tired, pink and bloodshot eyes.

With the word target being 1667 words daily, there have been days where I’ve written nothing at all (family commitments and a teething toddler), and days where I’ve written over 4,000 words (thank you @NaNoWordSprints). It’s not an easy task; anyone who says otherwise is either an eternal optimist (and deluded), or lying.

With words pouring onto the page, the inner editor barred for the month and the clock ticking, it’s amazing how much rubbish you can churn out. I’m dreading next month, after leaving it for a few days, when I will unearth the story and read it in preparation for the second draft. It’s terrible; it’s got holes all over it, the writing sucks and I have been visibly cringing as I’ve been racing against the clock.

I realise I’m putting myself down here and need to stress the point that It Doesn’t Matter if it’s not OK. Because as I said before – I have a wonderfully flawed, completed, first draft which I can work with; I have the bare bones, the skeleton, the foundations on which to build. And actually, some of it’s not bad. In fact, I have surprised myself with some of the paragraphs. Especially some of the intimate scenes. 😉

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a prior novel which I started in NaNoWriMo 2010 which needs my attention.

As for the rest of the participants: Keep going, Wrimos! You can do it!!