Writing a third novel and still doubting

Imagine that you’re writing your third novel and still doubt that you can be a writer.

Last September I completed a novel. Not just a first draft, or a second structural draft, or a third draft tightening everything up, but the final, read it all aloud, every single word, draft and I have three chapters and a synopsis all polished and looking good. And a Beta reader (three to date) read it and gave feedback and when I got the courage a month or so later, I began to send it out to the few agents that deal with science fiction, in the UK and Ireland. I’d send out about three submissions, tailored to each agent’s requirements and when the rejections came in, I’d prepare the next three and so on. The rejections were lovely, kindly written and I knew that I wasn’t their fit. I’m waiting for another two responses at the moment.

That novel ‘The alien woman’ was the second novel I’d written. I began it in November 2012 and completed it after two re-writes to get the plots, subplots, and structure the way I wanted. As I’ve written about in previous posts, the creation of a ‘Fact Sheet’ was a turning point because there were so many subplots I needed to make sure all played out correctly and back stories fixed and set before the revisions would work.

I wrote a first draft of my first novel ‘The 13th vision’ in 2011 and did a second draft in 2012 but it wasn’t working and in November 2012 I took part in Nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month) and started the second novel. I did it to prove to myself that I could write and wasn’t a one novel writer. I didn’t want to get bogged down working on one novel for years and not know how to progress it. Also, I figured that a first novel is like a first child, it’s your practice novel. So what better way to learn than starting a second novel and, with new skills on editing and re-reading every book I could lay my hands on about writing, I proved to myself that I could write another first draft.

That’s where the ‘Fact Sheet’ and my own version of a Beat sheet (see Nail your novel by Roz Morris) which I called my Scene and Chapter Intentions sheet were used (see also Scene Intentions) and I moved the second novel ‘The alien woman’ from first to second draft and sorted out structural issues until I was happy with it. The Fact sheet came out of feedback I got from a mentor through Artlinks and the Waterford County Council Arts Office. We were reviewing a draft of the Synopsis. She asked me many questions about aspects of the plot and back story and it made me realise that I kept changing things and needed to fix the facts of the novel (character facts, location facts, plots/subplot facts, back story facts, timeline etc…) before I could do a real structural edit. Once that was done, a full structural draft and then writing the Synopsis became much easier.

In November 2013, I started my third novel called ‘Things to fear’. This novel has been emerging out of me almost fully formed. I’d done a Character Journal and it helped me know my main character in advance before I entered her world. (A first draft does that as well, gives time with a character, a chance to see how they get on, react, live in the world we’ve placed them.) I’ve been a little slower finishing the first draft of this novel. I’m on Camp Nanowrimo since start of April and hoping to make a dent on the end of the novel.

But back to the statement above. I still don’t believe I’m a real writer. Perhaps it’s because I’m not published yet. I’d love to be published the traditional route but I realise that since I’m only starting out and the kind of science fiction/stories I write about may not be what the traditional route is looking for at the moment.

I know I haven’t written much in the last week because I’ve been doubting myself, about whether I’m any good at all, about my novels, my stories and whether anyone will even be interested in them. And whether I should give it up with the odds stacked against me making a living from being a novelist. And I keep thinking that if I complete another two more novels then I’ll have something to show for it and perhaps then I’ll be a real writer.

Heck, I already know what my fourth novel is going to be about. I’ll let you know when I’ve figured it out how to stop doubting myself.

Music and sleepiness make me write faster

This is the weirdest thing I discovered while trying (I have to use that word) to write a first draft for a second and third novel idea (I started the second novel got bored and started the third idea – me like this one).

I would turn up at the pc in the morning and, flipping heck, would I do everything except write.

Let’s see: Yahoo, Yahoo world news, read a few of those articles to keep up with what happened last night in the world, email, Facebook (could be a while – have 78 postings by friends to read and there might be something important there), check the Irish Writers Centre (no, the weekend course offerings have not changed in the last few days), RTE Breaking news stories, Oooo RTE Player, watch something on that for a while, 4OD, watch something on that, make lunch, back to the PC, check email again, more emails from Writers Digest (I am going to be a real writer someday so I need to keep abreast of important writer issues), breakthrough inspiration, write down a scene that just came to me as quickly as I can on a notepad strategically set next to the laptop for moments such as this, check Yahoo World news again something could have happened during the day in the world, now I’m ready to write, open Word, load up the last document, save it with today’s date, minimise Word document, go to Start, Programs, Games, Majong Titans (really I can’t write, my brain is wired to the hilt thinking about what I could possibly write next, I can’t think, I can’t think…), play Majong Titans until I have calmed down which is not happening because I am not winning any of my games…

So while doing my writing for Nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month), I discovered that when the evening comes and I’m really tired around 7pm (it’s been a long hard day, writing really tires you out, emotionally, physically, mentally) and I play my writing music list (all set up on Media Player), I get into the flow and the words and story pour out of me onto the page. It is truly a thing of beauty when this happens.

In conclusion, I have found that playing music while being reasonably tired (that sort of tired you have when you’ve been busy all day) can make you write fast and the story really flows. It does.

The alternative conclusion, of course, is that I have found that I work better with deadlines. Like the deadline of bedtime.


Procrastination is a fickle thing!

So obviously I should have been writing posts for this blog but when you have a procrastinator writing a blog about procrastination, well, really what did you expect?

I thought I didn’t have anything to write so the first week went by and I thought I don’t want to bog down anyone with too many posts anyway.

Second week and I was busy on something else, let’s say I was having writers block on my novel but writers block on my novel takes precedence over writing the blog because as you know inspiration can strike at any time and if I was writing the blog posts I may loose valuable time during my writers block, precious time that could have been spent worrying about not writing the novel.

Third week. Ahh, Nanowrimo. Now I have a genuine reason not to be writing a blog. Sure, aren’t I writing anyway and even when I’m not writing, I could be thinking about the novel for Nano and I don’t want to think of a blog post, that takes too much time.


Fourth week…ah well…

Ah, yes, the ability of the procrastinator to come up with numerous excuses has to be applauded for the sheer tenacity to stand up for one’s beliefs.

‘There’s a good reason why it didn’t get done!’ we say.

In its own time

Writer’s block struck when I least expected. Just when I thought I was on a roll with the second draft I got flu and while nursing a sore head, throat etc… the muse left me for about two weeks. I eventually put myself back into the chair and opened the last draft I’d saved. Still I couldn’t write .

One day, I picked up a copy of ‘bird by bird’ by Anne Lamott and read the title of one chapter; ‘Short Assignments’ and that is what it has been since. I started with half a page of revision. Then another bit. Little by little, I pulled myself back into the swing of writing again. (Why didn’t I pick that book up sooner?)

It comes back to something that I noticed about writing.

It’s going to move as fast or slow as it wants to.

What I mean is during the times when it is slow there is usually a reason. In my case, the chapter I was revising needed to be completely changed.  I had to delete about 2500 words and rewrite whole new scenes. The delay? I was fighting the changes inside me. So I got stuck. When I eventually allowed myself to delete what wasn’t working, it began to flow and my writing became unstuck. Now I know that the time it took to get the chapter going in the right direction was worth it. It works much better now. But I still, deep inside me, hate that it took so long.

On a positive note, I’m going to use National Novel Writing Month (November) aka NaNoWriMo as my deadline to wrap up the second draft of this novel and start the next one. But even then, for all my planning, I need to keep remembering that this writing will sometimes happen in its own time.