The writing hasn’t begun again because the ideas I’ve got for this ‘near future society’ needs to be hammered out.  I’m trying to keep things simple but this one difference has knock-on effects which need to make sense for the whole point of the book to be understood.

I’ve changed how I’m going to start about 5 times, however this latest version seems like it’ll stick around.

I’m not completely starting from scratch like my previous, panicked post may have alluded too but I have had to give myself and the first draft a severe kick up the arse.

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It may seem like a tough decision to pull the plug on a novel 7 chapters (14,600 words) long but since I first thought about scrapping it and having slept on it, it seems like the best thing to do.

The problem wasn’t the themes or ideas, it was the approach I took with the characters I chose.  My main problem was the number of protagonists.  I chose triplets, so you got three people plus their significant others and friends, their work mates and quickly the number grows.  Then you’ve got to have an antagonist or two plus other bit players, and the number got so unwieldy that I couldn’t keep track and characters were being writing about so infrequently that the whole novel had no pace or manageable structure.  The ideas were spread so thin that no-one had any solid motivation and it all ended up in a contrived mess.

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I thought I’d put some of the chapter planning notes I make online.  There’s no tips or advice because who the hell am I to do that, this is just to put it out there as I haven’t seen anyone else do this so thought it could be interesting.

Reading blogs and magazine articles featuring the writing process from many different authors, you get a wide range of advice about planning from ‘I totally wing it‘ to ‘I mercilessly plan and research every detail before I even crack open the laptop‘.

I’m kind of in the middle.  I can’t start without a basic theme or a general direction I want to head into.  After I got that, I research the theme and tentatively create characters and situations to convey some sort of central theme and direction.  Once that’s done then I usually only plan a few chapters in advance.  This is so I a) know the chapter I’m currently writing, b) know how the current chapter will lead into the next and c) leaving more advanced chapters unchallenged means the novel has the flexibility to go where the story dictates.

I’ve only completed one novel and about a fifth of the way through the second (5 chapters/11,500 words), but so far I find that their story arcs arrive in about 5 or 6 chapters chunks.  I’m currently at the end of the first chunk of ‘Broken Branches’.  I suppose this is the introductory chunk; introducing the main themes, the characters and their dilemma’s.

So what do the notes look like?

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I’ve finished the first chapter of my second novel and I’ve also got a title for it.

All this has happened in a couple of weeks and the first three chapter plan I had before starting has totally been thrown out of the window.

One of Elmore Leonard’s writing tips was ‘Do give the work a name as quickly as possible‘ and not having a title did feel a little weird.

I had a bunch of tentative titles which never really grabbed me and  ‘Broken Branches’ may not stand up all the way to the finish but it’s doing the job of ticking off something on the novel writing to do list.

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Four months late but I finally cracked open the laptop and fired up Word, created a new file and wrote ‘Chapter 1’.

I don’t have a title which is annoying as the file is saved as ‘Novel 2 – 1st Draft’ but it’s better than no file at all.

I have a basic idea, plenty of notes to back me up incase I find myself down a dead-end, so now I just need to keep freestylin’ and moving forward, never pausing to rewrite, rethink or be repulsed.

The second draft is for rewriting, the first draft just has to be forced out in some kind of vaguely intelligible diatribe. Memories and thoughts of a painful, drug-free birthing process is not an attractive or inviting image to escort me down this road but hopefully it’ll all be worth it.

My aim at the beginning of the year was to start and finish the first draft this year, that’s still my goal even though I’m starting four months behind.  We’ll see how that turns out in 8 months time.

I’ll keep posting updates and key events/dilemma’s as I go. A title sooner rather than later would be nice.