I’ve sent out my first chapters to a couple of agents. Wish them luck!
Just started another novel. I would like to have it planned out beautifully, but I don’t. I’m just going with the flow again and seeing where it takes me. It’s more fun that way. It’s set by the sea, so that’s a good excuse for a few days out anyway.
I’ve had some great news. I won first prize in novel category of the Yeovil Prize. I can’t believe it! First prize! It was such a brilliant surprise and the fact that it is for the novel means such a lot. I had some fabulous comments on it from Sophie Hannah too. She said this about it:
‘I loved this because its emotionally and psychologically ambitious, has a strong compelling authorial voice, and is a psychological crime novel that gets right to the heart of why people do harm to one another. I liked the fact that the killer/baddie is not demonised, but rather shown to the reader in all her flawed complexity, so that we can’t help identifying with her. A brilliant brave idea, very well executed.’
That anyone would say this about something I’ve written is wonderful enough, but to get this from an actual crime writer? Amazing! I couldn’t be more pleased.
I’ve had some nice news. I’ve been shortlisted for the Yeovil Literary Prize. This means that someone likes the beginning of the novel – hurrah!
I’ve nearly finished editing the novel now. I gave it to a friend, who has pointed out a couple of issues with it. I knew that they were there, but batted them aside. It’s good to get something to focus on it with it and know which areas need work.
After I’ve cleared up these issues (there aren’t too many) I’m going to send it off into the big wide world. I’ve just started something new too. It’s nice to have the freedom to do whatever I feel like again instead of editing. The new project involves murder (again) - there’s a pattern emerging…
I was shortlisted for the Fish Short Story Prize and even though I didn’t win I’m pleased. I got down to one of the last 145 out of 1900 so that’s positive. I’m going to tidy my story out and send it off somewhere else now and try not to feel any animosity towards David Mitchel the judge. I liked Black Swan Green too much to hold a grudge anyway. Things are moving in the right direction so that’s good.
I’m trying to enter a few competitions again. I’ve entered Myslexia and I might send my short listed story off to the Nottingham Short Story Competition next and see what they make of it – after an edit or two.
I need some more short stories though. Must do some new ones…
I’m still at the river. Still working on my draft. It now reads consecutively, but I’ve got a way to go yet. Today I’ve printed out the latest draft onto hard-copy and I’m retyping it from scratch. The idea is that I won’t keep anything that is dreadful and I’ll be able to see it with fresh eyes – (that’s the idea anyway). I’m at 60,000 words so I’m happy with that. There are a lot of tweaks to go yet, but I’m getting there. I won’t give up!
Last week I went to a literature event with Rupert Thomson and Patrick McGuinness in Manchester. It was an inspiring reading. I loved Rupert Thomson’s writing and he’s on my list now as a ‘need to read’. Afterwards I was told that nine drafts is a normal amount for a novel, so I’m happy that I’m on the right track. Each one is a step closer. Just got to keep walking.
Did I tell you I finished my first draft? My head full of river sludge. Who am I? Where am I here? What’s my name again?
Well I have and I’ve gone back to the beginning to edit. The protagonist has changed slightly – just in age and personality – still the same sex though (small mercies). Some characters have been murdered with the delete button and all of them have morphed (one of them from a middle aged man into a teenage boy). At the moment I’m back at the start trying to make a coherant sounding story out of my jumbled mess of words and it’s really interesting (the process that is).
Reading back the beginning chapters now it feels like an exploration of characterisation. I’ve got a better idea of where I’m heading now so I can start to flesh it out better, but I’m reluctant to get rid of earlier scenes. I might be in danger of holding onto words that aren’t doing what they should just because they’re there. We’ll see – but then Mr. Amis said that you should just make it work and not to give up on it – time will tell.
What I’ve done as an exercise is write a few shorter pieces using the characters when they are younger just to see how they react and to get a better understanding of them. It’s been helpful. I think I know my protagonist pretty well now, but this week has been about how she’s viewed by the others. I’ve realised that you can’t leave anyone incomplete, because the reader can spot it a mile off… arse.
I’ve been workshopping it again too and that’s been great, especially when you’re blinded by what’s in your head and need to know what’s actually on the page. I’ve got a long way to go, but it’s going in the right direction. Who knew writing a books took so long? You have to think…and write…and then delete…and write it all again… and think….and delete……..and…….on and on…..
In other news I’ve painted my nails black and it’s nearly Halloween.
I won something! I got a highly commended in the 2011 Common Wealth Short Story Competition for my story ‘Turnip Gratin’. Click here to read it. It’s really nice to win something and even better is that they have put it onto a CD that is being sent out to radio stations. My story is being read out by Adjoa Andoh, who does a great job. It’s quite surreal hearing your words being read out by someone else. They gave me some money too, which was nice. If you click on the link then don’t laugh at the picture, it’s pretty dire.
I have spent the week being in a bad mood and waiting for words to appear on this computer screen. The last few days I haven’t done much, perhaps you can call it ‘thinking time’. My lap top has been on my lap. There hasn’t been much typing action.
Last night something great happened - I stumbled on an ending. My protagonist went for a walk to clear her head and an ending came to mind. I have been trying to work out how to tie a few things up and now I have. It felt good. I love an organic writing epiphany. Now I just need to write it. Things are getting clearer. Maybe I’ll even start being nicer to people now…
I’ve done it! I’ve handed in my dissertation. Edited until I almost went blind and it’s probably still full of mistakes. I don’t care though it’s gone now which means that officially I do not have to write another word for this course ever again. Yey! It’s a good feeling. It’s also a strange feeling. I’m on my own now. My novel is a bit like a half built castle. I’ve got a lot of building to do, but the foundations are there. I just need to put in the hard work now.
The good thing about finishing the course is that I don’t have to write for anybody else apart from me now. I can just solider on with it and fix the mistakes when it’s all completed. The bad thing is that I haven’t got that support and advice anymore - well, apart from the poor unfortunate souls from my course who I force my writing on.
Last night I thought I’d celebrate by having a well deserved rest and watching the television. There was nothing on – it was rubbish. So I suppose that after a few days to get my thoughts in order I’ll be back writing again. I will be finishing this book if it kills me!
Am I allowed to be proud of myself? It’s a bit self satisfied, but I am. I think I’ve got everything I wanted to out of this year and hopefully I’m a better writer because of it. So, some of my essays could have been better, but who cares? For me it was all about self improvement and getting the confidence to finish a novel. Completing a novel doesn’t seem impossible anymore.
Every time you write you get better so that’s all I’ve got to do – keep writing. Tap tap tap – one sentence at a time. One scene at a time…. Oh yes, and I will be getting drunk to celebrate this weekend, because it would be rude not to. Wouldn’t it?
I’m doing my dissertation. I’m culling characters and words…. the only problem is that now I haven’t got any words or characters left. Hmmmm.
After a break from writing I can now see some rather large errors. This would be fine if I didn’t have two weeks to fix them and it was school holiday time. I’m not one to complain though – beer will save me. Glug, glug, glug…
In other news, we don’t like looters in Manchester. Be nice. Look after each other. It takes strength to be gentle and kind. Oh dear, now I’m quoting The Smiths so I’d better go…