So… How’s the Novel Going?

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As the name of my blog indicates I’m supposed to be blogging (at least every now and then) about developments in the writing of my novel. So it stands to reason that it’s high time I update you all on my progress.

You may remember that last year I entered Nanowrimo and although I didn’t win I did manage to crank out several thousand words towards a novel. The idea had been one that had been rattling around in my head for several years. It was complex, overly so and I didn’t put nearly enough effort (or any really) into the plotting of the story before I started. Since last November I spent around five months on the story trying desperately to work it into shape. But it became so messy that I could no longer see the wood for the trees and decided to abandon the whole sorry pudding and start again.

This, I realise, is something of a habit with me. I start writing. I get to about the 30,000 – 40,000 word point and get so frustrated trying to find my way around the labyrinth that I throw my hands up in defeat and go and hide under the covers for a few months. During the summer of 2015, I found myself doing this again and decided that I needed to figure out why I get so stuck in this cycle and then made great efforts to do something different.

After much reflection I saw that I had not been planning nearly enough and not setting myself realistic targets each week. My earlier attempts at writing a first draft have typically gone like this:

1) Get a great idea that I’m really excited about.
2) Do a little bit of plan that feels like a lot more planning than it actually is.
3) Get bored with all the planning and start writing the first few chapters
4) Feel super excited after writing two chapters and internally convince myself that this is the one.
5) By chapter 4 the story starts to unhinge. The characters feel flat, the story is flabby and the writing is grammatically all over the place.
6) Go back over the first few chapters and try to batter them into shape. Replace characters, storylines, timelines and locations in an effort to pull something back from the brink.
7) Cry in the bathroom for several hours.
8) Declare that life is too short to waste it on this muck and drop the whole sorry thing.

So this time, I am trying something new. First, in May I spent more time planning than I ever thought was necessary. I wrote a over a notebook’s worth of character outlines, plot lines and time lines and tried to batter some semblance of a story together before I ever wrote a word of the first draft. I have even written maps of locations and houses to try and visualise the landscape in detail.

Then, in August, I tentatively started to write a few thousand words, just to feel it out a bit and then went back to a bit more plotting.

Since October, I have upped the momentum and am now in full throttle first draft mode. I have set myself a goal of 4000 words per week which should mean that I will have the draft complete sometime in March if all goes to plan (Paddy’s Day FTW). I have tried to drop any expectations that this draft will be anything other than a vomit draft and have banned myself from thinking beyond this to edits, publishing etc.

For now the only thing that matters getting the damn draft finished.

6 Comment

  1. Laura says: Reply

    Good luck with your new novel! I have the exact same problem with never finishing stories, and I think it does all come down to lack of planning. It sounds like you have done plenty this time though, so I hope you manage to complete your draft!

    1. thenovelprojectchronicle says: Reply

      Thanks. Fingers crossed this time eh?

  2. Gemma says: Reply

    I wish you the best of luck with your first draft! I’ve found myself abandoning stories because I got confused or feel the characters are flat…I think I need to take a leaf out of your book and do some more planning!

    1. thenovelprojectchronicle says: Reply

      Thanks so much.

      This is so true for me. In the absence of planning it feels like I’m drowning in notes. Hoping that some advanced structuring will do the trick.

  3. I recently discovered your blog, and I’ve really been enjoying it. Your story sounds remarkably similar to my own. I have started several projects over the years and have been unable to finish much of anything. In my pre-children days I finished some short stories, but then never did anything with them. The couple times I started a novel, my experience was similar to what you described above. Now that my kids are old enough that I start taking writing seriously again, I’ve recently decided it’s time to try again and do things differently this time. I decided that my previous stories were much too complicated and I had too little pre-writing (plotting and character development) beforehand. I also needed to stop being overly critical halfway through and just get out that first draft and finish it. I’m beginning to write again by dabbling in a few short stories first–practicing the whole writing process on a smaller scale. I have monthly goals of what I’ll be studying and working on until March when I plan to start plotting my novel and then writing. It sounds like I’m about a year behind you.

    Anyway, I just wanted to encourage you to keep writing and let you know I’m enjoying reading about your progress.

    1. thenovelprojectchronicle says: Reply

      Thanks for stopping by. Glad to hear I’m not alone in this. I know that some people manage fine with just bashing out the first draft but I think my brain refuses to work that way so I’m hoping excessively outlining will help. It does seem to be working so far as I’m at around 25000 and don’t want to throw my laptop out the window.

      Good luck with your own project.

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