Here’s the first thing I wrote in my notebook for ‘Blindsided‘. The initial idea I had swilling around in my brain parts for a few months as I was finishing off my previous novel, ‘Broken Branches‘.

I’ve only just finished the first draft of Blindsided so there’s a couple of drafts to go before any beta readers are going to see it, but I’m not afraid of revealing my initial concept this early. It’s just to show that from a fairly simple idea a whole novel can sprout forth; give someone a problem and then find out how they deal with it, how it affects them, affects others, drives them, limits them, etc.

It’s funny because this blog post from December 2011, ‘Novel 3: Before the absolute beginning‘, containing a few thoughts I was having for the 3rd novel, bares absolutely no resemblance to the completed first draft. I think that’s because those thoughts are based around events which of themselves don’t tell an interesting fictional story; that first paragraph introduces a character you can build a story around.

That paragraph from my notebook is dated May 2012 so after 6 months of thinking and finishing the 2nd novel, I’d come up with a completely different concept for the 3rd. I then finished writing (procrastinating) in my notebook and started the actual first draft in September 2012, ‘Novel 3 is Go, Go Go!‘.

If you use this as the starting point for your novel, it would probably end up in a whole different place. So go for it if you want…you can’t copyright ideas. Writers are much more guarded than this but I’m no-one at the bottom with nothing to lose and thought it might be interesting to release a brief glimpse into the wild.

If you’re interesting in illegible, gobbledegook notes then check out this post featuring notes from my previous 2 novels, ‘Illegible Chapter by Chapter Planning Notes‘.

That’s it really.

No, I have absolutely no idea what my 4th novel might be about. I’m not panicking…yet.

to-do-listThe 1st draft of Blindsided is now finished and I need a break from it before going back in and tackling the 2nd draft, but I’m not going to sit around and download mountains of specialist porn, I’m going to enter the big bad world of self-publishing.

My first novel, ‘Railroaded‘, has been submitted to 44 agents and publishers without much success. I still like Railroaded and recently read a similar traditionally published novel which I didn’t think was as good, so that’s all the motivation I need to release it into the wild and back up my wildly biased opinion.

I’ve started researching into what I need to do to get a respectable, semi-professional ebook online. In my mind I’m budgeting £1,000 but I’d like to get it done for less although I’m not sure it’s going to be possible with editing and copy editing.

My first ports of call have been two free PDF downloads and a paid for app;

  1. Joanna Penn’s – Author 2.0 Blueprint
  2. The Book Designer – 10 things you need to know about self-publishing
  3. Writing Magazine – How to Publish Your Ebook – £5
  4. (Added 29th Jan 2014) – ‘Let’s Get Digital‘ by David Gaughan – £2 on Amazon or a free PDF

All 3 offer comprehensive information for absolute beginners in all aspects of ebook creation and marketing. I’m not a beginner but the book publishing specifics such as formatting, ISBN’s, pricing, etc is all new to me.

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thought-bubbleThe last thing you want when you finish a race is someone coming up to you describing how they ran a crap race, got a cold only a few days ago, got tripped up, had to stop for a dump, lost a shoe and then tell you how disappointed they are with their time…which is waaay better than yours.

The first draft of Blindsided is finished and before I can pat myself on the back for finishing a manuscript, no matter how shite it maybe, two doubts hit me; am I good enough and am I prolific enough?

The first one hit me reading a book review supplement from a Sunday paper, specifically a review of a novel featuring the break down of a family set against the backdrop of the Russian revolution.

Yeah, pretty heavy shit.

My novel is nowhere near that heavy. It’s not set against the backdrop of anything. When you read it you’re not going to learn any history or much at all, and you’re probably not going to be stroking your chin either.

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bwainOMG! I finally finished the first draft of Blindsided!

This is my third novel and seems to have been the hardest one to finish. The other two had their moments but this one was like giving birth to a rhino with 9 legs.

I started on 14th September 2012, had my usual late winter freeze with two months of plotting and no writing, I then hit another wall and also had the nightmare of losing 5,000 words. I finished the first half of the first draft at the end of August but then rushed on with a mountain of momentum and finished the second half only 3 months later.

Here might be the answer to this conundrum.

With my first two novels I did quite a bit of research, substantially more plotting and they were more dystopic/speculative novels. Literary sounds too heavy but Blindsided is definitely not sci-fi, I guess you could classify it as ‘Contemporary fiction’.  I did zero research and very minimal plotting, I just dived head first into it. It felt good at first but I soon became lost in the lack of plotting, and without a big dystopic idea to hold on to, I found it harder to make so-called ordinary, everyday lives readable and interesting.

My big fear in going back in for the second draft is; I haven’t.

Finishing this novel’s first draft was also a bit of an anti-climax for some reason. I think it’s because I’ve got a few nagging doubts but the more time goes by, the happier I am with it. I arrived at the finish in a slightly different route to the previous two novels, so maybe I’m having to adjust to that.

Maybe I’ve become more of a gristled, cynical, disillusioned writer and that brief sweet taste of victory at the end is now meaningless. I hope not!

I’m looking forward to the second draft. It’s probably my favourite draft. The first draft is a daily battle against blank pages, the third draft and onwards are basically touching up. The second draft is serious editing, rewriting, fixing, assessing, understanding and the first reading where you know how it all ends.

It’s currently 57,000 words long which isn’t long enough to be traditionally published but I always skimp on description and musing in the first draft, so I’ll be looking to finish the second draft at around 65,000 words.

I’m going to have a break between now and the second draft though. A break from Blindsided but not from writing, I plan on self-publishing my first novel Railroaded. A whole new sphere of headaches, no doubt!

make-up I’m on the home straight of my novel, ‘Blindsided‘, just 4 chapters to go and I’ve now gone and got Manflu which usually renders men useless and depressive oafs.

Now I’m thinking this novel is probably crap; the story is boring, characters are one dimensional, there’s no flare or finesse, along with the fact my first two novels are going nowhere fast.

So why bother?

I read a traditionally published novel this year similar to one of mine and I thought it was pretty poor. Others on Goodreads thought it was pretty poor too. Mine is of a similar genre , and I think better, yet I get rejections coming out my ears and this other one gets the full professional treatment.

Maybe I’m biased and bitter.

So the following tweet I saw struck a chord…

If I allow the paracetamol hit to wear off and finish my hot lemon drink, I might be able to grab some positives.

Finishing the first draft of a novel is something to be proud of. No-one’s going to see it. The subsequent drafts is where I can add finesse and depth.

In the break between first and second drafts, I’m planning on self-publishing my first novel which is something I’m very much looking forward to. If I could get 2,000 people to actually buy it, that would be amazing.

Writing is a waste of time if you look at it financially or logically. It’s a crazy waste of time but, to paraphrase Churchill, ‘What are we fighting for‘ if we don’t indulge our creative sides.

I could better spend my time painting fences, learning to cook, learning Spanish, working more overtime, etc but I wouldn’t be as happy. I should remember that sometimes; the act of writing and making shit up does make me happy even if it doesn’t always make itself immediately apparent.

fuckedThis 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.

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toshJust finished the first draft of the first half of ‘Blindsided’! You have to celebrate these little milestones otherwise life is just a series of smashing blank pages without reward.

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?

DEAD-HORSEI’m trying to stay positive after another rejection but sometimes it’s like saying no to a tasty dessert or a beautiful ex that dumped you, you know you should walk away but it’s soooo hard.

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?

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readerI’m getting back on it and I have evidence. I’ve just finished about 3 chapters over the past month or so which is good going for this novel. 26,000 words in total.

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.

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June 30, 2013

stuckThis 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?

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