Tuesday, 21 October 2014

First Drafts

I was following Elizabeth Little’s #AuthorChat on twitter tonight and it got me thinking about the way that I write my novels.  Elizabeth, like any sane person, types her first drafts and then edits in hardcopy.  Totally logical.  I’m therefore slightly concerned that I have completely the opposite approach, which bizarrely, until I read her posts, had never even struck me as being slightly crazy. 

I tend to handwrite my first drafts, more or less in full, in a notepad.  Well I say a notepad, however even with my tiniest writing, I can’t actually cram a full length novel into a single notepad.  Because I also have a habit of thinking of extra dialogue or inserting new chapters into sections that I have already written, I end up inserting pages with lots of asterisks and highlighting to help me decipher it all later.  This means that my notepad is usually full of loose pages, inserted in seemingly random places, all held together by a large elastic band.

Despite its rather dishevelled appearance, my notepad however is actually amazingly well organised.  To everyone else it may look completely illegible and worn, but to me it makes complete sense.  Well, apart from the odd word here or there that I can’t read when I come to type it up, I guess that’s the price I pay for scribbling in my notepad at 2am in torch light.

I have a rough chapter guide at the front of the book, in pencil so it can be amended.  Frequently.  Each new chapter is tagged and numbered with a sticky tab, which can be renumbered later when I change the order of the novel again.  I have a list of character names, ages and relationships at the back of the book.  To be honest that one’s a necessity, given I struggle to even remember the names of real people.

When I get chance, I periodically have a session at my computer and start typing it up, expanding it with new ideas or leaving out the parts that seemed to make sense at the time but are actually just bad.  Then when the whole thing has been typed, I go back to the beginning and start reading, editing as I go.

As Elizabeth pointed out, surely this must make my hand ache.  She’s right, it does, if I stick at it too long, although the length of time I can write for has increased since I started.  The other thing to bear in mind is that I write whenever I have the opportunity, be it at my desk before work, sitting in the cafĂ©, on the bus, in a waiting room, or even sitting on a bench outside a shopping centre before it opens.  Some of these places aren’t so great for pulling out my heavy old laptop and typing, by the time it’s started up it would be time to pack up, so a little notebook and pen is just easier and quicker.  So I guess my hand will simply have to muddle through, for now at least. 

Monday, 20 October 2014


When I leave the house each morning, I check that the taps are turned off, the radio and kettle are unplugged and the oven, which hasn’t even been used since the night before, is still turned off.  And then I check it all again.  My colleagues roll their eyes each evening when I double back as I am leaving the office, to check that I really did lock my desk drawer.  My friends smile as I check my car really did lock, when I press the remote control.  And my family… well they don’t pass judgement.  They can’t really, given that they are just as bad as me.

Writing is another of my obsessions.  However, unlike double or triple checking a door, this is one that few people know about.  It’s actually quite easy to hide it from people, because so few people even know about my passion for writing to begin with.  They have no idea that I carry around a little notepad in my bag, ready for the moment that the perfect line of dialogue or song lyric should just happen to pop into my head.   They are blissfully unaware of how I scramble for my torch in the middle of the night, so I can scribble down a new idea for a story. 

Despite my frantic scribbling though, I thought that my obsession was actually not that bad.  I had it completely under control.  I was just jotting down ideas so that I could put them out of my head and forget them, without them constantly nagging at me, determined not to be ignored.  But then, with one single decision, everything changed.

I decided to write a book.  To be fair, it seemed like a completely harmless, albeit potentially insane idea, at the time.  Who knew that that one decision would open the flood gates that had held back the ideas from taking over my life?  Definitely not me. 

The notebook I carry in my bag has doubled in size, and is usually not alone.  The accountant in me is determined to ensure that even my creativity is neatly organised.  Or perhaps that counts as another obsession?  This means that each new novel I start has its own notepad.  Each notepad is filled with sticky tabs, and highlighting, to ensure that I know exactly where in the story my latest scribbles will fall.   Then periodically, I type these notes into my laptop and watch in fascination as my book grows.

When I started writing my first novel, my work was focused solely on one notepad.  Then another idea struck me and a second book sprang to life.  I tried not to let myself get waylaid with working on this new story, allowing myself to only jot down key ideas, so I didn’t lose focus on my first.  But then the first novel was complete.  While I waited on the edge of my seat for feedback from those who I had chosen to share it with (not that they knew at that point that it was mine), I needed a distraction.  The second novel became my focus.  Yet once again, other stories vied for my attention.  In fact, the more I wrote, the more stories called to me.   Like small children in need of attention, they impatiently demanded my time.

I dread to think what my friends and colleagues would say if they knew just how obsessed with writing I have become.  I imagine there would be lots of raised eyebrows and shaking heads.  The thing is, even that wouldn’t stop me.  Or more accurately, it couldn’t stop me.  The only thing that will stop me from writing now is if my ideas suddenly dry up.  Given how much I love what I’m doing though, I really hope that doesn’t happen.

I never imagined that writing a book would have had such an impact on me and my life.  If I’d known in advance though, would that knowledge have stopped me from pursuing my dream?  Heck no.  If anything, it only makes me wish that I had done it year’s ago.  Just think of all the novels I could have written by now if I’d only embraced my creativity a little earlier.  But then, perhaps I wasn’t ready to do so before.  Perhaps, this was just the right time.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Creative Writing Class

I started a creative writing course this week.  Admittedly, I did't  participate a huge amount.  My writing has been a well kept secret for so long, I think it's going to take a while for me to get used to sharing my work.  But, it's a great group, excellent tutor and interesting class.

In fact, I was so full of new ideas the following day, that I've already written a new short story and that's just as a result of the first day of the course!

I'm looking forward to next week...

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Creativity restored...

My writing has been on hold recently, while real life intervened.  Much to my frustration.  While I battled work pressures and kitchen renovations, my creativity seemingly went on strike, as I literally fell into bed each night, completely exhausted and unable to find the energy to switch on my computer. 

Thankfully, balance has just about been restored though and I'm back at my keyboard, with renewed enthusiasm following my unscheduled absence.  I read through my partially written manuscript eagerly, feeling as though I was catching up with old friends.  My mind is already filled with adventures for them to embark on, to make up for my recent neglect.  My fingers will have to type fast in order to keep up with all the ideas in my head.  In fact, is that steam coming from my keyboard…