This is a tale of pain and despair but it should be enjoyable…for you, because it didn’t happen…to you.
In a nutshell, I lost 5,000 words (3 chapters) of my latest novel, ‘Blindsided‘, after getting up some good momentum.
I’m a switched-on technology user, well versed in the various methods of backing up your stuff but I have been defeated. I’ve been using a MacBook Air for about 3 years now and I only really use it for writing so I’m not a bona fide 100% Apple Genius, but I’m no mug.
That’s what I thought, anyway.
Little did I know that Lion OSX has a ‘unique’ feature where it ‘locks’ documents that haven’t been used for 2 weeks. I’m not sure how my novel got sucked into this helpful fucking ‘fix’ but it did. It hardly goes 2 days without being amended, let alone 2 frigging weeks.
The other helpful feature is that you can still USE a fucking locked document so it behaves like an ‘editable’ document.
This novel is a game of two halves with a little bit of an epilogue of extra time at the end.
That’s where the football metaphors end.
(I suppose submitting it to agents is a penalty shoot-out, but nevermind…)
Each half is written in the first person of a couple. The first half as the guy after they split. The second half is through the woman as they get together.
Just spent some time today getting into the mindset of the woman and what she’s going to do throughout this second half which actually comes before the first half, chronologically. So, there’s that to get my head round too.
How’d the first half go, Ben? Thanks for asking, not bad. Some bits I really like, others I was thinking I’m going to have to rewrite this whole bit as I’m writing it. This is a different novel to the previous two and it’s been a different experience writing it but as with the previous two, the second half feels as though it’s going to get easier as the momentum builds and you gain confidence from seeing the word and page counts rise.
The first half is always a bit of a slog with doubt and second thoughts creeping in but funnily enough, as soon as that first half was completed it immediately felt better than it had all the way leading up to it. It’s completeness adds something positive to it that you can only see once it’s complete.
I love rewriting. I think it’s probably what I love most about the whole process because you’ve done the hard creative stuff and slogged through the first draft. Rewriting is tarting it up, correcting errors and making it flow – and I’m looking forward to doing that with the first half. I think that’s a good sign, right?
I’m getting close with ‘Railroaded‘. I’ve been sending it out to be ignored and rejected for nearly 5 years! (Christ! I didn’t know that until I just referred to my submission spreadsheet. That sounds even worse now). I got a couple of requests for the full MS, a few positive words but mainly I got a form rejection.
Here’s the cold hard facts; I submitted to a total of 44 places – 26 agents and 18 publishers. 6 of those agents never replied and 8 publishers didn’t reply.
When do I stop torturing myself?
It’s been a struggle at times as you can see in previous posts but with a little help and new momentum I’ve been moving on quite well, writing most days.
So what stopped me?
Well, I had other things going on which were taking up my mind and creativity, also this novel has been the one I’ve done the least amount of research and note taking before starting – it’s a more of a fly by the seat of your pants approach – and I also realised I was reading a lot less too.
There’s this quote by Stephen King that seems to pop up in my Twitter timeline once a week;
If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.
This is the first post in a while. I hit a wall with the novel and when that happens everything else writing related takes a hit too.
I’m about a third of the way through my third novel, ‘Blindsided’, and had no idea where else to go even though I had the general structure done and was happy with it. The problem I was having consisting of building a compelling story and not just filling in the gaps with crap. I still went to the coal face and chipped away at a few sentences on a regular basis but, generally, it was pretty poor progress. I always had my fingers crossed, hoping inspiration would strike and away I’d go again, rejuvenated.
It never happened.
Then a close friend asked how it was going. I gave the usual shrug of the shoulders and hoped that was the end of it. You write by yourself, right? How can someone else help?
(Ironic since my last post was about improving my productivity).
Why? Real life getting in the way. Nothing drastic going on but I found my creative energies and focus were being directed elsewhere plus I had written myself into a place which wasn’t obvious how I could get out of it.
So how did I get back on track? What I wanted to do elsewhere had been achieved so it was just a question of knuckling down and getting back down to business. I still don’t really know where I’m going with this novel and there’s a huge gaping hole in the second half of the paper thin structure I’ve got in my mind but once you sit down and start typing it’s amazing how easily the words and the images in your head can flow together.
That is the most enjoyable part for me.
So now all I have to do is keep this momentum going until I finish. I’ve done about 11,000 words so probably about 65,000-75,000 more before I call it a day.
I’ve also found that not caring what anyone else might think about what I’m writing down helps. This is a first draft so I can always rewrite anything I don’t actually like later but caring about what others might see during a first draft is a stupid way to think. Leaving that baggage behind is liberating.
You don’t really even have to care if the whole thing makes sense or is ‘exciting’, just write down what the characters are doing. If they’re interesting and compelling enough, they’ll do interesting and compelling things all on their own.
This novel has been the one I’ve done the less amount of research and note-taking on but thinking about it, maybe I should be doing even less and simply focus on doing more writing.
* and on a side note, I’ve finally committed to the title ‘Blindsided’ and have updated the side menu link. I’m finally getting shit done.
It’s a new year and with it comes all these crappy feelings of ‘I must do more than last year‘…’I must be better‘.
Coincidently, I read a tweet (can’t remember from who) that linked to this YouTube video – ‘Don’t break the chain‘ by Charlie – showing how he uses this idea to keep up a decent level of productivity.
There are more details of ‘Jerry Seinfeld’s Productivity Secret‘ on Lifehacker.
Basically, you keep a visual calendar of the days you work/exercise/kiss your wife, ticking everyday you do something and the idea is you don’t break the chain, e.g. don’t miss a day.
I got a calendar for Christmas and thought I’d use this with a couple of marker pens…then, Holy Christ! I found an app! The ‘Wonderful Day‘ app is great and a snip at 69p. Easy to use and allows you to track multiple goals. Currently I’m measuring Writing, Reading and Exercise.
I’ve used it for a week now and it gives you a great idea of how you’re doing. I was never terrible at doing stuff before but I like the recording and visualisation aspect of the app. I’m not going to put pressure on myself to not break the chain either. I figure that achieving 80% per month is good enough, e.g. exercising/writing/reading 80% of the days per month.
So what actually counts?
- Exercise – gym, running outside, swimming, playing sport. Walking down the shops doesn’t.
- Writing – novel, blog post (I can tick today off!), poem, short story, thinking in front of my notebook and actually making notes. Thinking during the day at work doesn’t, neither does writing a shopping list.
- Reading – I’ve already noticed a big improvement with the amount I’m reading recently. I used to just let it slide and go to sleep but now I’m actually making time so I can add a tick onto my app!
All these little daily achievements will hopefully go towards my overall goals of; finishing the first draft of my 3rd novel this year, read more books than last year and complete at least two sprint triathlons and one 10km.
If I don’t achieve these than it cements my belief that I’m a horrendous, abomination of a human being.
Yeah, that’s pressure!
It’s been a while as I’ve moved into home-ownership, waited for the internet to be set-up and started decorating…well, paying pro’s to decorate. This sudden break out of the void is sparked by a rejection but also a confirmation that I can research adequately enough for a dodgy old writer.
I came across this article in the i paper today – Scientists warn of sperm count crisis – which confirms a widely held belief that sperm counts are shrinking but no-one thought it was by this much, almost a third!
My novelette, ‘Branching Out’, the prequel to my second novel ‘Broken Branches’ is based on the number of fertile men falling so sharply that these men can carve out a living purely by selling their sperm…and not in test tubes but via a direct-to-client relationship, like thoroughbred horses.
That’s it really.
A novelists mental state is a delicate thing, especially after a rejection. So please congratulate me on using factually correct scientific data…if not compelling enough prose or characters.
In another act of chasing the twitter numbers and boosting the Google Analytics chart of this website, I wrote another article for ‘The Creative Penn‘.
It was published a few days ago but I’ve been so
busy lazy that I’ve just got around to sticking up here – ‘10 Productivity Tips for Writers‘.
If you’ve come here from there, hello!
Previously I’ve chosen a title pretty quick. I think ‘Railroaded‘ was thought of before I even started and ‘Broken Branches‘ was pretty soon after. So this is one itch I want to scratch soon, give this thing a name and get on with the rest of it.
A couple of posts ago, I mentioned I had two potential titles; ‘Blindsided‘ and ‘The Rejected‘. I like both of them. Blindsided is a simple one word title with many connotations. The Rejected sounds like a band but also makes for a title I like. Both have something to do with the novel itself…which I think is somewhat important!
Anyway, it got me thinking…well, fantasising. What if this thing goes to print, what does the competition look like?
A search in Amazon UK in the Books category returns 70 results for Blindsided, with quite a few books having that exact same title. A search for The Rejected returns 862 results but none of them matching the title exactly – there’s 863 titles with the word ‘rejected’ in them.
So what does this mean? How should it influence my decision?