Julie's Quest

Hello, and welcome to my blog. My blog is about the trials and tribulations of writing, where we celebrate successes and commiserate our near misses. We tell it like it is here and will do our very best to help you on the road to being published and pick you up after the rejections (they will come!) Whether you are a professional or amateur writer you will find something useful here.

I hope you enjoy reading my posts and will visit again soon.

Happy Writing

Julie Phillips - freelance writer - member of the Association of Freelance Writers - member of the Society of Authors

Saturday, 1 May 2010

It's Time

Gulp. It's time to get the first draft of my NaNo novel out from its hiding place and start reading through it for the first edit. Its been resting for a fair few weeks now and so I feel (almost) ready to have a look at it. I'm both excited and nervous about this and there are so many questions spinning around in my head: will there be anything there that I can edit into something that is a halfway decent story? Can I sort out the time line and characters and unravel the inconsistences that come from writing without a safety net? Where do I even start?

I decided to make a list of all the main characters followed by the minor characters and write some notes on each of them as I go through the manuscript. If I notice any inconsistencies or niggly thoughts while I'm reading through it I'll note it in the manuscript itself and on the character sheet. I'm also going to have a separate sheet of paper where I write the time line down and what happens in each chapter. Arguably, if I had been writing a novel that wasn't under the umbrella of NaNo I would have done all of this before I started writing the novel and saved mysel a lot of work now. But I know if I'd have had to sit down and plan it I doubt I would have finished the first draft by Christmas 2020 - maybe never. So writing by the seat of your pants has its advantages and cons: it allows you to write unfettered and actually finish that first draft, but you potentially have a lot more work to do afterwards. I'll let you know how I feel about not planning it when I've waded through the manuscript  -  it may take some time! Promise me if you don't hear from me after a month someone will send a search party out in case I've got lost in the story or I'm lying trapped under all the paper!

It all feels a little overwhelming at the moment so I'm breaking myself in gently by writing a couple of articles in between the editing of the NaNo novel to give my brain a break and stop myself getting fed up and frustrated with it.  I know I have a lot of support from my writing group who have a clinic for novelists and a spin off novelist group I can access if need be. Also I know my fellow bloggers will be able to offer advice. A little later on I'll be needing some readers to have a look at some of the novel, so if there are any willing victims, I mean volunteers, who would like to read it let me know.

On the short story front, a couple of weeks ago I sent two to a reader who came back with some fantastic advice which I implemented and those two stories went off to different magazines where they are waiting for a verdict. I have three others in second draft stage that I will send of to the reader soon and depending on his advice, edit them and send them off too. I have several other ideas for stories in the pipeline that I haven't started to write yet but will get round to as soon as possible. I'm more determined than ever to get at least one short story published this year and in January this year I wrote a list of writing goals I wanted to achieve by the end of the year so it will be interesting to see how far I get! As usual it's a case of so many ideas running wild inside my head and little time to write. I'm having to fight my usual urges to try and fit too much writing in my schedule and feeling frustrated and annoyed with myself when I don't manage to get it all done - or worse I manage to write absolutely nothing because I've worked myself up into a tizzy! It's a downward spiral then.

I was asked to draft a letter to the parents at my daughter's school re road safety  - we are campaigning (or should I say I'm campaigning as there doesn't seem to be anyone else in communication with the police, council, councillors, school, about this, apart from the residents of the road in question who want the opposite to what I want and that will continue to put pedestrians at risk!) So it's hoped this letter will gain more support from the school and parents. I doubt it, but it was worth a shot. My husband noticed a mistake in it - a sentence was removed but they left a word in and so the next sentence is nonsensical, but I don't want to know! It's gone out and that's that. I was so nervous doing it and asked the head to read it before it went out as I wanted to make sure it was worded/pitched correctly. It was strange seeing the children clutching my letter in their hands on the way out of school yesterday and my husband noticed, while we were stuck at traffic lights, that the back seat passenger in the car in front was reading it! We'll see what happens  -  my writing doesn't limit itself to fiction and non-fiction  -  it's extended to writing a letter for the school too! Plus it's got my name on. That's me lynched at the school gate on Tuesday then by the parents who are making the traffic/parking situation worse!

Have a great long weekend whatever you're doing. Some of my writing group are off to Attingham Park tomorrow and Monday for the second-hand book fair and several members with their own books to sell alongside other Shropshire authors will be there too. It went well last year and I'm sad that I can't go this year.  I hope the weather hold out for them as it was nice on the Sunday last year but bucketted it down with rain and blew a gale on the Monday!  Good luck to them!



Joanne Fox said...

I can really identify with your feelings about your Nanowrimo novel, as I feel much the same about mine. I loved the experience of Nanowrimo, but you're right that it does leave you an awful lot of work to do afterwards. It's hard to tackle that mountain sometimes isn't it. But I am sure that we'll meet at the top eventually!

Julie P said...

Oh yes, Joanne! I think the important thing to remember when faced with a huge task as with finishing writing a novel that you at least start it, and then break it down into smaller manageable tasks so it doesn't feel so daunting.

It may take time but I know we will get there in the end!

Julie xx

Milton said...

Hi Julie

Thanks so much for all the advice you gave Muttie is your last article! She really appreciated it. The bit about analysing mag stories. I know you're right but I get so caught up in the story sometimes! Then I just want to go on and read the next one. But yes, that's what I'm going to do - start dissecting stories paragraph by paragraph.
Bit like you too re your novel. I can't be bothered to plan and just want to jump right in. And as a result, it all seems so overwhelming! Have started doing short stories for competitions though and enjoying the challenge.

Have a lovely weekend.

Milt x

David said...

It sounds like you have a good plan in your mind about how to go about the first edit of your novel. Hopefully now after the break you have taken you will be able to come at it with fresh eyes. I am sure there will be lots of brilliant parts that you have forgotten about in the meantime.

Just keep in mind the HUGE step you have taken in starting (and more importantly finishing) a novel. I am in awe. Congratulations! Am intrigued to hear your verdict after the first read.


Bethany Mason said...

Good luck with going through your novel for the first time. I know I'm strange but I'm one of those (apparantly very few) who actually prefers the editing process to the writing.

You say that you have too many ideas to choose from, I have the opposite problem of not knowing if I have an idea or how to make any bones into an actual story so was wondering if you have any advice on this?

Carole Anne Carr said...

Hi Julie, you're very brave, tackling the problem of the dangerous road, but it needed someone to do it. The fear we have, of something going wrong, or the delight when something goes well - if we can remember that it is just our ego reacting to both, which is not us, and detach ourselves from it, deliberately watching our own actions, we can let those feelings go and just calmly recognise what our ego does from moment to moment.
Re the jumble of a novel, I use WriteItNow Novel Writing Software, one of the best of an average lot. It is extremely useful at the beginning of a long novel. Download the trial version and see how it works. Hugs...xx

HelenMHunt said...

Good luck with the novel. I think everyone feels overwhelmed when they get to the editing stage as it is such a huge task.

Martin H. said...

Keep going with it Julie. Some might say that you've done the hardest part in writing 70,000 words.

I know what it's like to have a head full of ideas and, seemingly, no time to develop them. Something will come out of your hard work and application. You can be sure of that!

Julie P said...

Hi, Milton

Yes it's so easy to get so entranced by reading the short stories that you almost don't want to read them with your critical writerly eye! I know exactly what you mean. I love reading short stories and find them so inspiring - but I also get frustrated because my short stories haven't made it into thise mags yet! But at least we are working on them - thats the key. Keep writing and improving your writing skills - it's the only way.

Good luck with your stories and comps - it's really exciting to hear about what other writers are doing - especially when they have successes. But I also find that I learn from my own and other writer's near misses to (I refuse to call them rejections - such a negative world filled with doom don't you think! Whereas near misses implies some hope!!)

Hope you have a great weekend too - despite the rain!

Julie xx

Julie P said...

Thanks, David, I still can't believe that I actually managed to finish the first draft - to me, as someone who had never attempted to write a novel before, it was such a great moment for me. I know it's going to be hard, but I'm hoping, as you say, that I will find some gems in there somewhere!

I will certainly post something here about what I find as I'm reading through it - it's going to be an interesting continuation of my writing journey.

Hope all goes well with your writing projects too.

Julie xx

Julie P said...

Hi, Bethany!

I'm not sure where I get my ideas from in particular as they just seem to come from nowhere - it's really quite strange! I do however, keep a notebook everywhere in the house and by my bed and also in my handbag or coat pocket as I do find that inspiration comes calling at the most inopportune moments.

I'm a great people watcher and love to tune in to what's going on around me. I watch what's going on when I go to town or at work and I listen to my family and friends a lot and sometimes something I overhear or is said directly to me will strike a chord and an idea for a poem, article, short story is born.

As for padding the idea out I just keep adding notes to my original idea in whichever notebook I wrote the idea down in. Sometimes a line or two of dialogue might occur to me, or a character description/trait/habit/behaviour. Sometimes, when I think I'm on to something that might have potential I'll sit down and write a whole sheet of A4 paper on it - anything thta comes into my head associated with my idea until I have enough to sift through and make into a plan: characters, problem/conflict - why are these characters together and what are they involved in? What do they want? How are they going to get from A to B and what do they need to happen to get them there?

I think that if it's a story idea you are interested in then it's likely other people will be too. If it bores you it might not be enough of a story to be a winner.

It's difficult as what appeals to one editor might not do to another. Keep reading what you want to write and keep writing and one day a story will just fly out of your pen/keyboard!

Good luck

Julie xx

Julie P said...

Hi Carole and thank you.

Yes I have to remember to stop and take a deep breath sometimes to centre myself and see the real and important issues - not react to hearsay and what people who don't know me are saying about me - even if I know I'm acting in the best intentions - I can't please everyone and if people choose not to see that I am not the enemy there's not a lot I can do - if one outs ones head above the parapet one is going to get shot at!!

I got a book at a second hand stall at the Wenlock Scouts and Guides Summer fete today - How Not to Write a Novel by David Armstrong. I'd seen it on Amazon and in the writing mags and had had wanted to get it for ages - so now I have. I'm sure it will help! I'm just going to do a read through first and then get down to the skeleton of it - I might have a look at that computer thing you mentioned too.

Take care

Julie xx

Julie P said...

Thanks, Helen.

It is a huge undertaking isn't it! But when I look back to where I started my writing journey and see where I am now - I've come such a long way and have achieved far more with my writing than I ever thought I would so I know I can do this to - it's just going to take a lot of time and work - even if I never have a novel published at least I'm enjoying the process (I think!)

Julie xx

Julie P said...

Thanks Martin!

I knew I'd have a lot of supportive comments on this blog and I wasn't wrong!

I think it's great that we can all support each other and it certainly helps to inspire and motivate me to carry on and see how far I can go with my writing.

Best of luck with your writing too.

Julie xx

Bethany Mason said...

Thanks for the advice - am definitely going to take in account 'if it bores you it might not be enough of a story to be a winner' as I'd never really thought about that. I have a notebook that I carry around with me everywhere but think that half the time I miss things I could write down, am going to try to notice things more (I'm already a people watcher but am thinking I might need to change the way I watch people).

Julie P said...

It's fun watching people isn't it, Bethany, and you learn so much from it: how different people move, their characteristics and how they talk and interact with each other. I think you just need to be super observant (nosey!) and note down what occurs to you about them and ask yourself the five magic questions: Who are they?What are the doing/saying or what do they want? Why are they doing/saying it, or why are they there with that person at that particular time? How are they getting what they want or how are they behaving? And when are they doing or when are they going to get what they want!

Asking Who, why, how, when and what when you are watching/listening to people can throw up some really good story ideas and when you get home you can have fun thinking about what you've seen and heard and weave it into a story or change the characters and circumstances to create any number of different senarios and story ideas.

Have fun! And let us know how you get on.

Julie xx

Jarmara Falconer said...

Good luck with your novel and your stories.

Sound like you'll be having a busy weekend

Julie P said...

Thanks, Jarmara.

Had a bit of a rest this morning to go and visit my dad but will be writing later on this afternoon and evening!

Julie xx

Suzanne Jones said...

Good luck, Julie - but it sounds like you've got it all under control.


Julie P said...

Hi, Suzanne!

I wish! I'm taking a breather tonight as every good writer should do (a rest recharges those creative batteries!) But I shall be back up to somewhere near full power tomorrow (I hope).

How are you feeling? I've been worried about you.
Julie xx

Julie xx