THE WRITING LIFE – book 3 cover, book 4 progress

A quick-ish one today, because I’m under pressure from my self-imposed deadline of the end of this month to finish the ‘zero draft’ of book 4, working title When the Bough Breaks. More of this in a moment, but I’ve just realised I haven’t yet shared with you the cover of my new book, What She Lost, which is out on 9th March, so here it is:

Gorgeous, isn’t it? Well done Simon & Schuster – I absolutely love it! Here’s the blurb:

Eleanor and her mother Marjorie have always had a difficult relationship and although they’ve tried, they have somehow just failed to connect. 
    Now Marjorie has Alzheimer’s, and as her memory fades, her grip on what she has kept hidden begins to loosen. When she calls her daughter to say, ‘There’s something I have to tell you’, Eleanor hopes this will be the moment she learns the truth about the terrible secret that has cast a shadow over both their lives. 
    But Marjorie’s memory is failing fast and she can’t recall what she wanted to say. Eleanor knows time is running out, and as she tries to gently uncover the truth before it becomes lost inside her mother’s mind forever, she begins to discover what really happened when she was a child – and why… 

Very excited about this now, especially as it was such an absolute bugger to write. Those of you who follow this blog may remember the agonies I went through with this book. After a dreadful first draft, I completely rewrote around 80% of it. It was a mammoth task, but definitely worth the effort because it resulted in a much better book, and one I now feel proud of. 

So, moving on to book 4. I’m now at 69,000 words, thanks to my two visual incentives. First, there’s the calendar. I gave myself around four months to write this draft, with a target of 1000 words a day and an absolute minimum of 200 words. Every cross on the calendar means I wrote at the very least 200 words on that day, and where there is a dot as well as a cross, it means I hit my 1000 word target.  

As you can see, I now have just 20 days (including today) to finish the draft. I’m guessing I have about another 10 to 15,000 words to write, so it’s just about doable. Somehow, I’ve GOT to do it! My second incentive Works on a visual level, but also promises a tangible reward. I took two glasses and put 90 five pence pieces in one of them. Each coin represents 1000 words of this draft. (It’ll probably be slightly less than that, but who knows.) For each thousand words I write, I take a 5p out of the glass, but I put a one pound coin in the other glass. The idea is that when I finish this draft, there will be enough quids in the pot for myself and himself to celebrate with a nice meal out and a bottle of bubbly. 

Of course, once I’ve got to the end of a zero draft, I need to go back to the beginning and write what I hope will be decent ‘first’ draft, something which, once I’ve spent some time editing and tidying it, will be in a good enough shape to send to my agent.

Right, I’ll leave it there for now – must crack on!

PS A quick plug for the workshops – there’s one coming up on 22nd of October called Bringing Your Characters to Life. Details of that, and the other Writing a Novel workshops can be found on my website


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


Countdown to deadline: 4 weeks to go!

Regular readers will know that I’m blogging weekly now until my deadline on 31st of August. This is the deadline for submitting the current draft of my third novel (which I’m calling Draft 1.B because although i’s technically a second draft, so much has changed it’s more like a first draft) to my editor at Simon & Schuster, and my agent.

This book has been something of a challenge – it still is – but I think it’s coming together now, and although I know there will be a lot more redrafting when I have their feedback, I’m feeling a little more confident about it, in that it’s beginning to feel ‘do-able’ in a way it didn’t for a very long time.

So, I’ve just looked back at the goal I set for myself last week which was this:

My goal for this time next week is to made the tense changes and to have at least begun reading through from the start and making notes. I’ve started what I think will be the penultimate chapter, but I’m a bit stuck at the moment. l’ll keep going back to it over the next few days, but I’m not going to make that my focus just yet.

I’m still stuck on those last two chapters, but I’m not going to worry about that just now. I’ve finished making the tense changes, and I’ve read through the whole draft as it stands (minus the last two chapters and an epilogue) and made lots of notes on the manuscript, as well as a list of ‘jobs’ that need doing. I’ve also listed the chapters and put a little symbol beside each to show whether it’s in the present or the past, and I’ve noted the chapter length.

Here’s my editing table today. As you can see, I’m still, even at this late stage, unsure about one of the character’s names. I have a couple more ideas, so I’m going to do a ‘find and replace’ and see how the new choices feel as I’m working with them.

Looking at my list with the chapter length and symbol showing whether its past or present, I noticed that there’s a rather big clump of ‘present’ at the beginning of the book. It may be that it’s appropriate, or it may be that breaking that up would cause other structural problems, but at the moment, I’m looking for a way of bringing one or two earlier episodes up to the front, so that we start to dip back into the past a little sooner.

Although I’m working on Scrivener, which makes it relatively easy to move things around, I still prefer to separate the printed manuscript into chapters, which I’ve spent a good chunk of the morning doing. This makes it easier to see how the story will flow if I change the position of a chapter.

Another thing I’ve noticed is that some of my chapters are, in my opinion, anyway, overly long, so I’ve been reading through those to find appropriate points at which to split them.

All in all, I’m making progress.  I’m having to resist the temptation to start making the tiny, line-editing changes at this stage, because there are bigger things that I want to change first. Some of my chapters need quite a bit of trimming, so I want to do that before I start tweaking and twiddling with the sentences that remain.

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. See you next week, when I’ll have just three weeks to go!

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