Wednesday 23 September 2015

1K a Day - My First Draft Journey

This is the first writing post I've done in quite a while and for once, one of the main reasons for my lack of blog posts isn't to do with stress or workload, or any of the other slightly depressing reasons I usually give, but because I've actually been doing some actual writing! Of a book! It's all very exciting. Well, for me it is.

I very much conform to the rule that writing shouldn't have rules, because everybody is different, everybody works in a different way. However, in the past I've found it very useful to read about how writers write, because in order for me to discover what way works best for me, I need to give different methods a go. In fact, I've gone through several years of trying a number of different ways to get that first draft written.

And most of the time I have failed.

But this is all part of the process, something I have to remind myself of on a daily basis.

This isn't the first draft I've ever started by the way. The first one I completed nearly five years ago and mainly came about through the process of spewing out a ridiculous amount of words with only a half-formed idea in my head. I'm not saying this might not work for some, but on that occasion it left me with something completely unreadable that I couldn't even begin to start editing. A year or two later I managed to get halfway through another draft based on the same idea. This was a bit more successful, but then a problem arose that I wasn't really sure how to approach - I fell out of love with my story. I suppose I had a choice, whether to battle on through or to abandon it and I chose the latter. I'm still not really sure whether this was the correct decision, but that WIP is still there, waiting for the day when I shall hopefully develop warm feelings towards it again.


After that I left a new idea to stew in my head. Some might call this procrastination (probably because it is procrastination), but I still maintain that letting it stew was the best possible thing I could have done. Every time I started to jot down notes on a piece of paper, I instinctively knew I wasn't ready and that with every word I wrote, I lost just a little bit more faith in the whole thing. So in order to feel like I was actually working towards something, I put my research hat on.

And this brings me up to the almost-present. I'm attempting to write historical YA and I was recently faced with yet another decision - when to stop researching and start writing. After consulting with my writing partner Jo, whose advice was something along the lines of 'just get on with it' (said in a much nicer way because she's a very nice person), I realised the time had come to begin another first draft.

In the past I've tried not planning, planning a bit, spending one day a week writing, getting up at 5 in the morning to write and writing in the evening, all with varying degrees of success. I used to be able to do plenty after I'd put the kids to bed, but these days my brain shuts down at 7.30 pm on the dot. I spent a while wondering why this was the case until I realised it was probably just came down to the fact that I'm now OLD and I for the time being I would just have to accept that evenings weren't my most productive period of the day.

Unless being productive means binge-watching Parks and Recreation, in which I case I'm the Queen of Productivity.

My brain now works best in short, sharp bursts, and it's peak performance time is when I've come home from dropping the kids off at school and I've had a least two black coffees. So this is when I write my 1000 words every morning, before I do any other work. I very rarely go over 1k because it then starts to feel like a chore.

And you know what? It's actually working for once. Not only am I getting words down, but I'm enjoying writing again. This book may not be 'The One', but right at this moment, writing it is making me very happy indeed and that's all I can really ask for.


But be sure to return at a later date when I write a post entitled 'THE SECOND DRAFT FROM HELL'.


Saturday 5 September 2015

Recent Review Round Up - Holiday Reading

Its'a amazing how many books you can go through when you give you brain a week off from everything else. Ok, so three and a bit books in two weeks might not sound like very many, but this is pretty impressive for my easily distracted brain right now. I'll start doing the odd full review again soon, but in the mean time here are three reads that got me thinking this summer...

The Paying Guests - Sarah Waters

The Paying GuestsThis is the first Sarah Waters book I've read and it certainly won't be the last. Is that enough of a review do you think? If I don't end here then I'm in danger of offering you up an essay about it, but I shall continue and try to keep it brief. I've made a resolution to start reading a bit more adult fiction, and this book has set the bar, quite frankly - a masterclass in how to write a well-drawn, living breathing character. I was slightly daunted by the length (as I said, I get easily distracted), but there wasn't a single wasted word. The story of how the arrival of Lilian and Leonard impact on the formerly well-to-do Frances Wray and her mother is tense and romantic in equal measure.

Am staring to think I should have written a full review of this because now, as I'm typing, I have ALL THE THOUGHTS. Oh well.

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl - Jesse Andrews

Me and Earl and the Dying GirlI'm conflicted about this one. I enjoyed it. It was smart and funny (very funny) and refreshing, and I wish there was some way to bottle that feeling you get when you read something truly unique in YA fiction (sorry, but it just doesn't happen that often). I just wasn't entirely convinced by Andrews's attempts to subvert a the common dying teenager YA trope. It just felt like he should have pushed the button a bit more - tricky, I know - because I was just left with the feeling that the book hadn't quite managed to detach itself completely with that particular trope and that it had shied away from a few issues it touched upon. But whatever drawbacks I had with it, the voice is one of the most convincing I've read in recent months.

Since You've Been Gone - Morgan Matson

Since You've Been GoneI enjoyed Roger and Amy's Epic Detour and I was looking for a good contemporary YA to get my teeth into. This had been sitting on my kindle for a while and seemed to fit the bill. However, I was THIS (imagine me holding up my fingers to indicate a short distance) close to giving up on it about half way through - shy Emily may have felt realistic, but my patience with her as a main character was starting to wane, I still hadn't gotten any sense of who her missing best friend Sloane really was and the flashbacks felt cumbersome. BUT, exactly slap bang int he middle, it drew me in and I started to care, really care, about all of them. I adore YA books about complicated friendships and I'm happy to say this one ended up being incredibly moving. Plus, there were also some excellent playlists hidden in these pages (although I much preferred Frank's taste in music to Emily's - sorry country fans).