Countdown to deadline – two weeks to go!

The blog’s a bit late this week because I only got back from my latest writing retreat (more below) yesterday evening. If you’re new to this blog, I’m sharing the experience of writing my third novel. It’s been a challenge! I submitted a crappy first draft in January – I’m calling that a ‘zero draft’, or draft 1.A so I’m referring to this one as draft 1.B. It’s now two weeks to my deadline…

Anyway, it’s been a brilliantly productive week. This is what I said at the end of last week’s post:

So, my goal for next week: edit seven chapters, draft final two (or three) chapters. 

How did I do? Mission accomplished! I ended up doing more editing than planned, because I ticked off those seven chapters, and then went back and did more tweaking and twiddling on a few others. Writing the final two chapters led to some changes I needed to make earlier in the novel, and there are still things I need to add in. I wasn’t sure if it would be two or three chapters, but now I think it’ll just be two, although I’ve also started drafting a short epilogue. Nothing detailed, just a brief sort of ‘this is where they all are six months later‘.

The other thing I’ve done this week is to move from working in Scrivener to working on a Word document. I compiled the draft in Scrivener, saved it in Word, and from now on, will be working entirely on that document. Spent ages this week checking the indentations, making sure the chapters are numbered and spaced correctly etc etc – boring stuff, but it has to be done.

One of the reasons I’ve managed to achieve and exceed my goal this week is that I spent a few days on a writing retreat. I’ve been here several times before and can highly recommend it.

The wonderful host, Annie, who is also a writer so understands writers’ needs perfectly, brings delicious, home-cooked meals to your room at agreed times so you don’t have to think about anything but your writing. You get your own room with shower and loo and your own back door so you can come and go as you please (though I didn’t even leave the room this time!) There’s also a lovely balcony overlooking the Forest of Dean, so in fine weather, you can even sit outside and work.

So, I got loads of work done, even though I lost half a day’s work due to some ongoing stomach problems. Actually, I should warn you, next week’s post may contain a bit of moaning and shameless requests for sympathy, because on Monday, which is my usual blog-writing day, I’m having a gastroscopy (camera down the throat and into the stomach). Had these twice before, and it’s NOT my idea of a fun day out!

Anyway, let’s not think about that (oh shit, now I’m thinking about that…)

Time to set a goal for next week: Edit my final two chapters, finish drafting the epilogue, and add in two little incidents I’ve come up with for earlier in the book. That’s probably enough, given that I only have five days before I’ll be posting again. Then I’ll have a full week to read the manuscript and make any final alterations and corrections before submitting this draft.

Finally, I came back from the retreat to find my author copies of the Polish version of The Things We Never Said. The title is Przemilczenia, which Google translates as Silence, though there might be more nuance than that. I have three copies to give away if you read Polish, or have Polish friends who might fancy it. There are also three German copies going spare. The German version is called Ich Habe Dich Immer Geliebt, which translates as, I Have Always Loved You.

If you’re in the UK and you’d like one of these, get in touch through the contact page of my website (the ‘comments’ facility on blogger isn’t always reliable) with your name and address, and I’ll post you a copy. First-come, first-served, obviously.

See you next week, when it’s one week to deadline!

If you’d like to know more about me and my work, visit my website, like my Facebook page or follow me on Twitter


Countdown to deadline – three weeks to go!

Very quick post this week. If you’re not familiar with this blog, I’m sharing the experience of writing my third novel. It’s been a challenge! I submitted a dreadful first draft in January, so bad it barely counted as a first draft – more a zero draft. I’m much happier with what I’m doing now, although with just three weeks to go, I’m too close to it to really be objective, so we’ll see!

I’m setting myself targets each week, so looking back at last week’s post, this is the goal I set myself:

My goal for next week is to have sorted out the order of the chapters and to have a draft, even if it’s rough, of the penultimate chapter. 

So how did I do? Well, I did sort out the chapter order so that we now dip into the past a little sooner. Also, I’ve split some of the longer chapters into two and done a great deal of cutting and trimming, which is gradually tightening things up. I’ve started drafting that penultimate chapter, but haven’t completed the draft yet.

I’ve done most of the bigger changes now and am well under way with the line by line editing – the tweaking and twiddling. I use Scrivener, and the corkboard has a wonderful feature which allows you to label each little ‘card’ to show what stage it’s at. As of this morning, 33 of my 42 cards are labelled ‘revised draft’, seven are still ‘first draft’, and two are still labelled ‘to do’ (as in, they’ve not yet been drafted).

So, all in all, progress is good. I do still have those last two (maybe even three) chapters to write, though. The ending is important to get right (obviously!) So I want to give it a bit more thought. I’m going to carry on with editing the remaining seven chapters now, and I’m hoping I can get that done in the next couple of days, because on Thursday, I’m off on a writing retreat details here  and I really want to spend that time working on the ending. I’ll have four clear days to focus entirely on the novel, so although the blog post will be a day late next week – I intend to publish on Tuesday – by that time I should be almost there.

So, my goal for next week: edit seven chapters, draft final two (or three) chapters.

After that, when I have two weeks ago, I’ll need to read through the whole thing again, and then revise those last few chapters.

See you next week!

If you’d like to know more about me and my writing, or if you’re interested in attending my workshops, please visit my website, like my Facebook page or follow me on twitter


For no other reason than I love this picture and don’t want to publish this blog without including something pretty to look at, here’s a snap I took in November while on an Arvon writing retreat at Lumb Bank

By ‘eck, I’ve been working hard these last two weeks. Not that I don’t always work hard, you understand, but now I’m talking back-aching, neck and shoulder-aching, brain-hurting sort of hard. It’s structure, you see. I keep thinking I’ve got it nailed, then as I start to write, I realise, Oh, that can’t go there, because that hasn’t happened yet and it’ll give away that other thing … Or something along those lines. This has happened several times over the last couple of weeks, and I really feel as though I’m taking two steps forward and one and a half back; maybe one, if I’m being optimistic.

The main problem is, I think, that I have two viewpoint characters, one whose head we’re in both in the present and in the past, and the other who we only see from the first character’s viewpoint in the present, but into whose head we go in the past. So I’m basically juggling Character A present, Character A past (both from her viewpoint), Character B present (from character A’s viewpoint) and Character B past, from her own viewpoint. With me so far?  Thought not. If anyone knows any novels where something similar happens, pleeeeeease let me know!

Anyway, in my last post, I mentioned having cut more than half my original draft. It was scary, but necessary. I had lots of lovely supportive comments both on Twitter, and on the post itself. My thanks particularly to Rachael Dunlop who said that she’d had a similar experience, but rather than cutting, she put the original MS aside and started again from the beginning, because, she says, “at least this means the word count goes up and not down.” This is good psychology! I’ve now done the same thing, starting with 15,000 words (all completely new or significantly rewritten). I still have all the original scenes on my desktop for when I need to refer to them, but so much has changed that there’s very little, if anything, that I can simply paste into the new draft.

Because of the structural issues, there is a great deal of thinking to do, and while I’m normally in favour of taking a break now and again to let my subconscious do some of the work, I spent one day away from it last week and found that it set me back considerably because I lost the train of thought I’d been following with a particular problem. Having said that, it’s not good to have no breaks at all, so the best solution I can think of for now is to make sure I look at the work every day, just so that I stay familiar with it, and also to keep a large notepad beside me so I can write down every idea/possible solution as it comes to me. Then I just need to cross it out if I decide not to use it.

The current new word count is 23,760, so I’m not quite making my target of 5000 words a week, but then I know it’ll be much higher some weeks because it’ll simply be a question of rewriting, rather than completely rethinking. So, I’m plodding on, slowly but surely.

I’m trying to stay positive and optimistic, and it really helps that spring is on the way – here’s another lovely picture to prove it:

And just to round off, I’d like to share a couple of nice things that have happened since my last post: I’ve been invited to speak at the Yorkshire Post Literary Lunch on 26th March, which I’m looking forward to immensely, and also, I’ve had another one of those rather special reader emails. It’s always lovely to hear from readers (and I always reply), and I particularly like the emails where they include something about themselves, or why the book had particular resonance for them. Just after my last blogpost, I received an email from a reader who said that, due to family/work circumstances, she’d got out of the habit of reading and hadn’t read much at all for the last twelve years. My books, she said, had ‘reignited’ her love of reading. How lovely is that?

This is the second time a reader has told me that one or both of my books have started them reading again after a long break. I can’t think of many things you could say to an author that would be more pleasing than this. And as always, I’m immensely touched when a reader takes the time to write and let me know that they’ve enjoyed my books. In fact, even as I’m typing this, I’m smiling!

And on that note, I’ll sign off and see you in two weeks time with another update!

To find out more about me and my work, please visit my website, follow me on Twitter @sewelliot, or like my Facebook page