A milestone reached!

I have at last finished the first draft of my latest novel. The first 50,000 words were finished under the stimulus of NaNoWriMo – thank you to everyone who supports that endeavour, and to Gabi who was my writing buddy. It’s taken me since then to write the next 60,000 words, giving me a completed manuscript of 112,000 words. The working title is “The Owl on the Pergola”

Now the hard work starts – the editing!

The dove on the pergola - Holi 180731

The Owl on the Pergola

The novel is a work of literary fiction that tells the story of a young Indian woman who grows up in a very poor rural community, and moves to Kolkata when she is 16 years old. She is luckier than most, having an aptitude for study and a wealthy aunt who is prepared to sponsor her through higher education. However, she has to contend with an obsessive stalker who eventually turns violent, and with the ubiquitous prejudice that a woman’s place is in the home, serving her husband and his family. Will she have to choose between the man she loves and the academic career that she desires?

NaNoWriMo – The Dove on the Pergola

NaNoWriMo

The dove on the pergola - Holi 180731

For those of you who haven’t come across this before, “NaNoWriMo” is the (rather ugly) contraction of National Novel Writing Month, which is the (slightly misleading) title of an international writing event. The idea of the event is that you write a novel during the month of November. To qualify as a winner, you have to complete 50,000 words in 30 days. And that’s tough.

Now, in my writing CV I can claim to have completed 2 novels and half-completed a third. Additionally, at the end of October I had the plot and some reasonable research for a fourth. I was struggling, though, getting bogged down in the detail. I was also spending much writing time and creative effort on writing flash fiction, which is fun, but if that’s all you do it’s like trying to survive solely on candy.

So I thought I’d give NaNoWriMo my best shot.

The first thing I realised was that I had to write the novel. The words had to go into the text. If I didn’t average 1670 words each and every day, I wasn’t going to succeed.

What did this mean in practice?

It meant:

  • Stop plotting – you’ve got word count to meet.
  • Stop researching – you’ve got word count to meet. (Hack for this – put in a provisional word/phrase in red, so that it’s easy to check in a subsequent edit of the draft)
  • Strictly limited time for editing.

Forcing myself to stick to this was really difficult, especially restraining my urge to edit!

What do I have at the end? 16 chapters – 53,000 words – of a rather badly written novel, “The Dove on the Pergola”.

Would I have this without NaNoWriMo? Definitely not. Would I have even one well-written chapter? Almost certainly not.

So, what would I have?

A lot of detailed notes and a maze of plotting getting in the way of writing…

And, to my surprise, the simple act of writing has clarified the plot and grown the characters. So, as well as 16 chapters written, I have a pretty clear idea of what I need to write to complete the novel.

I’m going to continue with similar intensity until the first draft of the novel is complete (going to allow myself Sundays off, though). Then I’m going to leave the manuscript for a short time while I work out a plan to edit it, a plan which will set targets for achievement that will limit the time I spend editing. (NaNoWriMo have an editing programme in the New Year, I believe, and I’m going to check it out).

Then I’m going to edit the manuscript, sticking to those targets, until I have a completely edited text. At that point, and not before, I shall print out the novel, and invite my trusted reader to give me her honest and unvarnished opinion… (Judgement Day!)

Was I a winner? Yes, I was – but the big win is having completed those precious 16 chapters that are going to be the basis of my novel. And maybe an even bigger win is that I now have a better understanding of how I need to work in future.

So thank you to the genius who came up with NaNoWriMo!

And a special thank you to Gabi, for being my writing buddy during the month. Those emails gave a precious extra boost to morale when it could have flagged!

It was a great and productive experience!

 

 

The Dove on the Pergola – 16th July 2018

The dove on the pergola 180618

Last week, my daughter very kindly offered to buy me Scrivener software for my birthday. According to the Literature and Latte website this is a software package that helps the writer organise all the many different elements that you use when writing a novel. This sounded like something useful, as I’ve found it quite difficult dealing with revision status of both the full text and the notes supporting it (storyboard, scene index, character development etc).

I’ve downloaded the software for a thirty day free trial. This, L&L hope, will convince me that I can’t live without their product and I, or rather, my kind daughter, will stump up the asking price.

I have to say that first impressions are not beguiling. The look of the tutorial is very old-fashioned – at least 20 years out-of-date, with a low resolution font that is not easy to work with. If that carries over to the software itself it will be a major disadvantage. I sit here peering at my computer screen most of the day, and if the text is hard to read I will become tired more quickly. Still, I’ll press on and see what the product can do for me.

In the meantime, dear readers, do any of you have experience with this software? I’d love to hear from you if you do! And if any of you want to look at the software for yourselves, you can find it here.