Novel 1st Draft Completed

Today, I am so pleased with myself. I have finally completed the first draft of a novel. It’s taken a while, well years in fact. On and off but more off than on. 97,000 words and a start, middle and an end. Yes, the end was the hardest part.

It was a totally unplanned piece which started out as a germ of an idea, propagated by a news event. Excited in the beginning, I wrote day and night the ideas flowing and characters taking on a life of their own. Midway it began to slow a bit and so I put it down for days, weeks even whilst I busied myself with other things. Anything but not that. One day I read what I had written thus far and a few ideas let me go back and add some new scenes which, I felt, would hook the reader into the story more. By the time I had 60,000 words plus I was beginning to run out of steam. Emails, social media and news pages became more important than writing my way out of the middle towards the end.

That was my problem, I didn’t know how to end it. I have read so many novels which are suddenly ended and felt cheated because I, the reader, had been manipulated. That was not going to happen to my masterpiece. Never. So I needed to get to the end in logical steps and, hopefully, leave the reader surprised but happy. How could I get from here to there without cutting corners? So I tried a new tactic, I wrote the end or what I thought the end should be. All I needed then was a believable way to get from the middle to that end.

Then one morning, early (I get up early usually) it came to me whilst I was in the shower and it all became so much easier. So that’s it, the first draft done. So now I have set a note on my calendar to begin the editing process. 1st October it is then.

I don’t know what will happen to it. It may well be so bad that it remains stored in Dropbox forever, never to see the light of day. Or I might send it to some agents or publishers or I might try my hand at self-publishing.

All that doesn’t really matter, what matters to me at the moment is that I’ve completed it. I know there is still lots of work to be done but I have the frame, the structure to add to or take things out. It feels good today.

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Novel Planning

I’ve never really been a story planner and that was one of the reasons why I failed to get past 17,000 words or so in my first attempt at NaNoWriMo. There are several trains of thought on this.

Planning your novel ahead of time increases its likelihood of being dead on arrival.

Says The NY Book Editors.

But now I’m not so sure that this is sound advice for me. I completely understand that what works for some doesn’t for others. Pantster writing, (writing by the seat of your pants, or the process of letting your characters dictate what happens next) has worked for me for many years when writing short stories, but less so when the work gets over about 5,000 words and over 50,000 words forget it. A change is needed.

So lately, I’ve been looking at different planning aids that can help me with this. Obviously, every story requires a beginning, middle and an end for it to work, so a simple triangle can show this. The Greek philosopher Aristotle wrote about the triangle as the left side rising as the Introduction, the top point as the Crisis and falling left slope as the Resolution where the conflict of the story is resolved. This can be seen in any scene of any play or novel. It’s commonly known as Aristotle’s Unified Plot Structure.

Is this an oversimplification of what we use?  What about all those other parts that make it complete?

I recently came across Freytag’s Pyramid which is built on Aristotle’s triangle but adds two more levels to become five stages. Introduction where we meet the characters, setting, time and establishes the atmosphere of the story and something of the conflicts. The story arc moves onto Rising Action where the reader begins to sense the escalating tension. Usually, this is where obstacles are introduced and secondary characters are introduced into the mix. Then, the story reaches its Climax where we find if a change is for the better or worse, depending on the type of storyline. After this, the story begins to fall away and enters the Falling Action stage where the characters either win or lose and the suspense is further ramped up by unexpected events all building towards the Conclusion or the end of the story. Sometimes the reader learns what has happened to the characters after the end, sometimes we are left to guess.

If I do enter NaNoWriMo again this November I’m going to try Freytag’s Pyramid and see if that works for me.

 

How I Found Scrivener.

Like most people who write anything, I started by using a pencil and paper. It’s untrue that I began with a chalk board or chiselling letters on a stone tablet! Then, at school, I used pen and ink. Those pens made terrific darts and still managed to write okay afterwards.

Later came the portable typewriter with gallons of correction fluid and waste paper baskets filled with spoiled sheets of type. I can still feel the heavy clatter of keys and hear the dull thud of metal levers hitting the drum, padded with blue Xerox paper so I could have a second copy of my efforts.

Technology advanced and I purchased a stand alone word processor, a marvellous innovation which allowed me to change words right there on the single line of green text. It also allowed me to save my work on to floppy discs which could be annotated with the name of the project for future reference.  This was a great innovation and once I had completed the work I could print it as many times as I required. Fantastic,

Suddenly computers were all the rage and writing software was developed that could be used with the new technology. Initially, it was supplied on floppy disc, as downloads were slow and rare.  The different software could be added or removed from the computer as required. The further advances of computer and internet use meant a rapid acceleration of affordability. In the early 1990’s I bought a Gateway computer with a 36mb hard drive (Yes, mb). This was my first foray into Microsoft Windows and Word. I thought it was marvellous and in many ways, it still is, though not for writing long texts. Using Word with a word count in the thousands is no fun, and soon becomes problematic and unmanageable. Although I’m certain there are thousands of books written using Word and, by the same token, millions of books written using pen and paper, it’s not my preferred medium.

The advent of CD-ROM and DVD meant that software development increased and improved. Suddenly there was almost anything you needed for your computer and companies were producing excellent writing software, easily obtained by mail order.

The increase in download speeds via broadband replaced the old dial-up speeds. Almost overnight it was possible to buy a software package, download it, and have installed on your home computer in minutes. Gone was the mail order, waiting for the package to drop through the letterbox. Life had become instant.

During that time I tried many writing packages; they were still not yet called apps. Too many to name here, but they all had something but not everything I required. In late 2012, I read an online article which extolled the virtues of a piece of incredible software called Scrivener. Developed, in the UK for the Mac, it had recently become available on the Windows platform. So I downloaded the trial offer and tried it out. Wow, it blew me away with its simplicity and power. It was exactly what I needed. Some of the features of the Mac version were unavailable on Windows and there was always the question, in the forums, ‘When will it catch up?’ Well, I never found out the answer as I bought a MacBook and purchased the version for that. They even kindly discounted it as I’d already, previously, bought the Windows version.

Then came the iOS version, and although it was a long time coming it was well worth the wait. I was involved in the Beta testing and as soon as I downloaded it I was hooked. Like many, I had a few problems with synchronising with Dropbox but that was soon sorted and was more down to my inexperience than the program itself.

Scrivener 3 is due to be released later this year and although that promises to be a paid-for update, I’m happy to do it. I’ve had five years of use of this superb piece of kit so I can’t complain about making a contribution to help fund the great work that goes on behind the scenes.

Oh, and just to add, I’ve even used the free Linux version of Scrivener successfully.

Ulysses v Scrivener

Anyone who’s read any of my blog posts will know that I use writing software to keep my work on track, organised and to generally make life a bit easier. I primarily use Scrivener for lengthy work but, some time ago, an author I follow recommended Ulysses. Unlike Scrivener, it had no try-before-you-buy period, at that time. So on the author’s recommendation, last August, I purchased it and I’ve used it extensively for the past year but mainly just for short stories and I have to admit that it’s cross platform functionality is second to none, thanks to iCloud link. (It’s only available on Apple products.)

For me, however, I just don’t like it as much as I love Scrivener. It’s a simple choice. I have two paid-for writing apps but one, Ulysses, I only use for writing short stories and Scrivener, which I use for my much longer pieces. So no problems there, you would think.

Then, I now discover that the product I bought and paid for a year ago is moving to subscription only. Which means I will have to pay $40 a year to use the software I’ve already purchased? I’m sure that there are many positives for the development and for improving the app but as I don’t really use it to its full potential, why would I bother to subscribe? Particularly as I love using Scrivener anyway. I know that Scrivener 3 is on the way and that I’ll have to pay to upgrade to that. I’ll do that happily, as I’ve already purchased Scrivener for Windows, Mac and iOS.

You can download Scrivener and use it free for thirty days from

https://www.literatureandlatte.com/

Give it a try, you have nothing to lose.

 

Let’s talk about Anxiety

More openness and honesty from my brave and beautiful daughter

dreambigfordixie

Yesterday was World Mental Health day and it got me thinking. There is still part of my story I have yet to share.

My anxiety.

When I started this blog I hadn’t addressed it. I hadn’t realised I had it, and it hadn’t peaked. Over a year later I can see things a little clearer.

I think in light of yesterday, it’s time for me to talk openly about this aspect of me. So I will try.

I guess as I got older I became a bit of a worrier. Not in a debilitating type of way, but would get extremely nervous about things that many seemed to just take in their stride.

Then I had Maisy and suddenly I worried about everything. If she was poorly, I was worried about missing something. I worried she would choke on her food so cut things up really small or didn’t allow…

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NaNoWriMo Approaches

It’s that time of year again. The time when I decide whether or not to take up the November writing challenge. I did it last year, won and have spent ever since trying to make my effort into something readable. I’m still working on it and its grown to over 90,000 words as I try to get it to a suitable ending.

In the past, I’ve always struggled to start or got bogged down in the middle somewhere. Lost focus or lost interest or just found that time had overtaken me and then it was difficult to get started again. I’ve been lucky to be able to use Scrivener to break it up into manageable chunks and lately I’ve started using Ulysses, which does the same but in a different way. In fact, I’m writing this in Ulysses as it allows me to post straight into WordPress and onto my blog. Easy.

I need to make up my mind shortly though as that will give me time to research and plan during October. Although I’m pretty sure that things will be busy for me in that month so as you can see. I’m a long way from deciding as we head towards the end of September. Have to wait and see I suppose.

If I abandon my 90,000+ word project for a couple of months whilst I indulge myself on NaNoWriMo will I ever start it again? On the other hand, if I do that and then come back to it will reading it again guide me to a suitable ending? Dilemma – I’ll let you know.

Waiting…

Another post from my lovely daughter and her lovely daughter x

dreambigfordixie

Always waiting.

Waiting for an appointment with one of her specialists.

Waiting for a therapy to begin.

Waiting for a returned call.

Waiting for a test.

Waiting for test results.

Waiting for equipment to come.

Always waiting for something. Always counting down the days.

And now we are on our biggest wait of all. Her open heart surgery. And it’s becoming really tough.

We found out at the end of May that the board of surgeons had agreed with Dixie’s cardiologist, that the best way forward was surgery.

We waited until the end of July to meet with the heart team. We were ushered first into a little room with one of the heart nurses. And even though he was a great resource of information my mind was blank.

I listened to him talk about how she needed to be given the ok from a dentist before they would operate…

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