Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Novel introspection

Although I haven't updated my wordcounter, I did write a little more of my novel last weekend. The problem was that I also chopped out some of what I'd previously written, so there was probably no net gain.

I was thinking about my lack of progress. Part of it has been not having time this year and also not being mentally in a very good place, a situation which hopefully should start to improve as of next week. I have no choice but to write during the day, when son 2 is at school, but of course I also have other things to do in those few short hours.

But I think my way of writing is also impeding me. I started this novel soon after completing a creative writing course where I was working on short pieces. The sort of writing where every word matters. I have found it difficult to change my way of working to just plough ahead with a 'shitty first draft' and keep going back and editing my first three chapters. Its not as if I don't know where the story is going...the plot outline is very clear in my mind, although there will be many dots to join on the way.

Does anyone have tips as to how I can get myself to look at the bigger picture and actually make faster progress?

Three notable things:

1. I managed to escape into town this morning to buy the new speakers for son 2's computer and some more paper for the printer. Yet another new coffee shop has just opened!

2. Son 1 has been invited out for a sleepover on Friday. I hope he won't get too anxious or forget to take his meds.

3. Work went surprisingly well again today...just two more days work to do on these accounts ( and possibly part of the weekend if needed.)


Anne Brooke said...

Tip Number One: there is no point changing the first three chapters until you have finished the whole novel. The moment you've got to the end, you will change them all anyway.

Start Chapter Four - and enjoy!



Anonymous said...

I am so glad I am not on my own when it comes to writing a novel. I too, have the plot, the characters, scene all mapped out and I could quite easily go straight to the middle of the novel, missing out the first part! Good luck.

Crystal xx

Lane Mathias said...

I think the trick is 'Don't Look Back'. Just keep ploughing on adding each chapter...
at least that's what I'm trying to do:))

Jenny Beattie said...

This subject appears all over various NR blogs since the early days, and I think it's a really personal thing.

For me it's about silencing my demon about it all being crap. Liz says if you've written crap you can edit, if you've not written anything... I give myself permission to write crap, so when my demon comes out and shouts 'JJ, this is shit' I can tell him to bugger off, that's the whole point, duh.

Have a look through the older posts, see if key words thrown up suggest this subject. I seem to have got a hold at the moment, but I dare say the little creep'll be back soon.

All the best

Cathy said...

Anne - yes you are right. I know I am just being a perfectionist control freak. I first went back over them because I entered the work in the Daily Telegraph novel in a year comp and also because I have another blog where tiny excerpts are posted. are not alone. there are 35 of us and growing...!

Lane...yes. Very true. :)

JJ...I will go back over the NR older posts. I must have read them all as I was a lurker from the start, but as my brain has been in a stress-induced fog this year I probably haven't retained much! Watch out for those police coming for me...

Thanks all,

Helen said...

I kept going round and round on my first three chapters for months. It was only when I joined the racers that I started chapter 4. My advice is to stop worrying about which words you are using. It doesn't matter if the grammer is terrible. Just get the story down.

As JJ once said to me "I felt lots better when I gave myself permission to write rubbish" The first draft is meant to be all over the place. That's why God invented editing. Just go for it. Write the story down and worry about the rest later. That's what I did and now I'm just about to start my editing - and sort all the rubbish out!

NB I've just previewed my comment and seen that JJ has said the same as me. I should read everyone's comments before I make my own. But there you go - we're both saying the same - it must be right!!!

Jackie Luben said...

You are so lucky to have the plot in your head. The fact that I don't know what's going to happen in my current novel is impeding me. In an earlier novel, I used to look back at the last couple of pages and progress from there. Once the whole thing is 'captured' in print, you can do any amount of revising. I have 9 drafts of my last novel, but I didn't start until I'd finished.

CL Taylor said...

Don't don't don't re-edit your first three chapters until you've finished the whole draft. I did that and it made me doubt my story and my writing ability. Why don't you try saving each chapter into a different folder that way, when you're working on chapter 4 for example, you can't scroll back up the page and look at chapters 1-3 again.

I found writing a novel a HUGE challenge because, like you, I was used to writing short stories. You must repeat the mantra "I am allowed to write crap" and "this is just for me. This is just practice. I am never going to let anyone else read this". If you say it enough you'll start to believe it and the words will start to flow again.

It's tough but you CAN do it. Take inspiration from the other novel racers - look at what their word count is and say to yourself "I'm going to write more words than them this week". It's just a silly game but it really can help.

Another thing is to say "I'm going to write 1,000 words today. Not one words more or less." If you go over that's great but don't stop until you've written 1,000 words. I did this a LOT and in some chapters it was really, really hard and I struggled but I forced myself to do it.

Remember - you can't edit a blank page. Just get it written. There's plenty of time to hate what you've written when you start editing. I speak from personal experience ;o)

Jen said...

I think the OU course makes the brain a bit more snappy - studying a different genre for each TMA is a totally different game to writing a novel.

As others before me have said, just keep on writing. Let your characters have more freedom than they'd be able to do in a short piece.

Once you get to a certain point, it becomes impossible to keep reading it all back anyway! You can do it.

Fiona Mackenzie. Writer said...

I know exactly what you mean about the effects of a writing course. For me it was having my WIP professionally assessed. Lots of good comments but for some reason it cramped my style. I have left it for 2 weeks and am trying to clear my mind and do lots of walking. Will let you know if that helps. For what it's worth, a friend of mine is a cartoonist for a comic. He won't take on other work because it makes him lose his it's not just us!

Graeme K Talboys said...

I can only reiterate - don't look back. Each chapter of my WIP is done in a separate file and only added to the whole when it is finished. I will go back and correct any typos that others spot, or to drop in a phrase that needs to prefigure an event, but I don't edit until I have a complete draft.

It's one reason why I don't much like the idea of writer's groups discussing work a chapter at a time.

Of course, it's all easier said than done. But echoing jj, give yourself permission to write crap. You'll find that most of it isn't; and the bits that are can be improved.

Good luck.