WRITING A NOVEL? pt. 2 – looking at the first draft

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FEBRUARY 2017

From where we left off last time…

In February, I picked up my manuscript after not looking at it for six months, and decided to start working on it again. I didn’t know what I was doing or what I was going to do different this time, but I was excited to see what direction it was going to lead to.

Printing out my manuscript really helped me with the editing. I know it’s not for everyone, but I much prefer to have a physical copy in front of me so I can see it and mark on it. Besides, at this point I didn’t want to actually start writing my second draft, I just wanted to make notes on my first draft so that I could fix it on my laptop later when I do get to writing the second draft. After reading lots of blog and advice posts on how to edit your first draft, this was my plan.

  1. read through the manuscript without doing anything
  2. read through and just make notes about random things that I could pick up on
  3. read through and mark plot holes and add plot lines
  4. read through and make note on pacing
  5. fix up where chapter start and end, add extra chapters, remove unnecessary chapters

 

I could have focused on more than one of these aspects at a time, but because my draft was so short, it didn’t take me long at all to read it. So I thought it would be best to focus all of my attentions just on one aspect that needed fixing.

To start editing, or pretty much rewriting the whole book, I decided to first just reread what I wrote last year without making any notes or touching anything that I had written. Considering it was only 40000 words (125 A4 pages), I read it quickly in a day. It was a somewhat cringey read, but I knew it had the potential to be a great story. There was still that missing something but I knew that once I figured out what that was, I would be able to continue working on it.

During the second read through, I used a purple pen to make notes of small things that I could pick up on. This included dialogue, description, setting the scene, any awkward phrases that I wanted to change or things that I thought I could write better, and anything along these lines. Although this was a very small step in the editing process, I definitely think that it was a good first step in fixing minor things that were wrong.

Thirdly, I focused on the plot of my book, and this was probably the biggest problem with my novel and the main reason why I stopped writing it after the first draft in 2016. There was something missing, and I was hoping that this would come clear during this read through. And guess what? It did! I can’t remember the exact moment that it clicked, but somewhere along the way I was adding a plot line that the story needed, and I’m really happy with how it’s turning out so far. This extra plot line is close to my heart and definitely makes the story a bit more personal – but most of all it has helped me develop my main character a lot more. During this reread I used a pink pen to mark sections where I could talk about this extra plot line, as well as remove specific plot lines that I thought weren’t needed. I also fixed any plot holes, major or minor, so that the story made sense in specific sections.

My fourth read through was to fix the pacing of my novel, and considering that my whole first draft only ended up being 40000 words, this was probably the most difficult and time consuming parts during my read throughs. I used a blue pen this time just to make note on extra dialogue that I could add, extra scenes within chapters and extra chapters all together, when scenes needed expanding on, a different place or chapter to start my novel (including a prologue), and much much much more! After making note on all of this, I felt a lot better about my story and I can’t wait to actually write in all this extra stuff because it will for sure add to the depth of my novel. When I was reading through, I noticed that a lot of my chapters started off with, “over the next few weeks”  or “a couple weeks later” which just meant that everything was moving way too fast. So instead I decided to add extra chapters or scenes that could happen during those few weeks to add to the story and develop the characters.

And lastly, I fixed up my chapters which were all over the place by this point. Because I had added so many extra chapters, moved things around and put some chapters together as one, everything was a big mess and I needed to neaten it up. So with a black texta I marked where new chapters would start and end, and renumbered the old chapters. Originally after the first draft I had twenty nine chapters, but after fixing all this up I now have thirty six chapters plus an epilogue and prologue. And just for a bit of fun and to help me when I begin to work on fixing these chapters, I worked out songs from my play list that would fit with each chapter.

And that is how I STARTED editing my first draft, but I am a long long way from finishing my second draft. I have actually started fixing up the first few chapters, but I will talk about that in the next post (I think I might do them monthly if I write a decent amount during that month).

 

And now to reveal some secrets from my WIP;

 

My second character is…

really pretty, soft, versatile, layered and long:

Melissa is the main characters best friends mum. She is another minor character and only appears a few times (I’ll probably only be giving away minor characters until I run out of them) but she helps out the two main characters a couple of times. She is wealthy and lives in a massive mansion, but has a caring and kind touch to her.

 

My second playlist song is…

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Not Today by Imagine Dragons. I heard this song originally when I watched Me Before You and it had me in tears at the end and I haven’t stopped listening to it since. You think it’s a somewhat upbeat song, but when you listen to the words its puts off a whole different vibe.

 

Be sure to comment down below if you like these blog posts and want to see more. Also add my twitter @RBRgabby for more updates on my WIP.

 

WRITING A NOVEL? pt. 1 – the beginning

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So if you didn’t already know, I am currently working on a manuscript that came to me last year when watching an episode of Neighbours. It was June 2016, and I really wanted to participate in Camp Nanowrimo during July, and although I had plenty of ideas to start working on my first official WIP, I nothing was set in stone yet.

Let me set the Neighbours scene for you in case you don’t watch it; Paige and John Doe (his temporary name since he has lost his memory and no one knows who he is) are at a back packers hotel in Geelong trying to find out who John Doe is. They’re flirting, and the probably shouldn’t be, but it’s the first time since they met that things are getting a little bit too close for comfort. They’re talking about Paige’s past boyfriends and then…

J: I wonder what my girlfriend would be like… assuming I had one
P: Probably a careless airhead who didn’t know how good she had it
J: What makes you think that?
P: Because if you were my boyfriend, I wouldn’t stop looking until  found you

That line made my heart melt. Then Paige goes on a rampage about love and a missing puzzle piece. And then she walks off to go to her room, and wait for it…

J: Paige?
P: Yeah?
J: If you went missing I’d come looking for you

And that was it. That was when I knew I NEEDED to develop this scene and I NEEDED to write it now!

Here’s the video in case I’m crap at explaining things;

 

This was when I reached my first problem: I wanted to write this story now, but I really wanted to save it for Camp Nanowrimo the following month. So at night before falling asleep (this always seems to be when inspiration sparks) I would spend a couple hours planning what I was going to write.

I wrote character analysis’ and worked out the overall summary of my novel, but a majority of my time was spent planning each chapter and including as much detail as I could into what was going to happen in each chapter. Although this isn’t something that everyone does, it definitely helped me when I actually went to writing each chapter. Because everything was so clear in my head, I wanted to write out as much detail as I could in case I lost it – this definitely happened to me a lot when writing.

About half way through June, I finished my chapter summaries which was my aim of the month, but I couldn’t wait another couple of weeks to start writing. So I caved. I decided that I would write the scene that inspired this novel (the one I described above) which at the time was chapter thirteen (I’m working on the second draft now and it’s been pushed back to chapter nineteen). Personally, I prefer to write my chapters in chronological order, but with this scene still so vivid in my head, I needed to write it out. I definitely changed the chapter a lot when I did reach it during July as my characters developed a lot differently than I originally anticipated, but it was the basis of the plot.

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So I wrote that chapter in one night… whoops. And guess what? I couldn’t stop there! So I decided to forget about the Nanowrimo “rules” and to just start the book from chapter one. And I did. I ended up writing about 10000 words before Camp started in July, and it gave me a good start.

So finally, July rolled around and it was time to get writing seriously. I had never participated in any Nanowrimo before, and the different thing about Camp Nanowrimo is that you can choose your goal word count. So since I didn’t know how much I could write, since I had never done anything like this before, I set a goal for 30000. My mid year uni break began a week into July which was really helpful and meant I had plenty of time to write. And I did!

To be honest, I did struggle a bit, and that was maybe my second challenge. 1000 words a day is easy for me to do now, but at the time I had never put myself in the position to write this much, so I had no idea what I was doing to myself. The plan was to write and expand on the chapter summaries that I set out for myself in June, but this is when I reached my third challenge. I wasn’t including too much detail, description or dialogue in my scenes. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing because it’s something that I could go back to and fix later; it just meant that my chapters ended up only being a couple pages long and around 1000-1500 words. I had everything in my head and I just wanted to reach the end of my book; whether or not that was a reasonable word count.

So the end of the month arrived and I reached my goal. With the 10000ish words I wrote during June and the 30000ish words I wrote during July, I reached the final scene of my manuscript at 40085 words. A YA contemporary novel is usually a minimum of 60000 words, and I definitely knew that I had rushed a lot of scenes and that my pacing was way too quick.

But overall, I was happy with my efforts. I had technically finished the first draft of my novel, and this is something that I had never been able to achieve before (I always gave up around 10000 words in). And even though I was happy with my efforts and so glad that I reached my goal, there was something about the story that was missing – my fourth challenge. It was confusing even to me, I couldn’t get a grasp on my characters and what their stories were, and it lacked something important and I couldn’t pin point exactly what it was.

It was doing my head in, so instead of continuing to work on a novel that I had no idea what to do with, I printed it out with my leftover printing balance at uni, stuck it in a folder, and shoved it in my desk drawer where I didn’t touch it for six months.

And this is the best thing that I could have done.

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During the official Nanowrimo in November, I started another WIP and ended up finishing the first draft at over 60000 words. I then reached the same obsiticle; it was lacking something plot wise and I couldn’t figure out what to do with it. So I did the same thing, (I didn’t print it because I used all my printing balance at uni), but it’s in a folder on my laptop and one day I might come back to it, or I might not.

December and January passed. I started working on another novel that I wrote a couple chapters of in high school. The story is important to me and I definitely want to go back to writing it one day, but I felt like now wasn’t the time. I also wrote a couple of short stories just for something different.

And then February came, and I had this sudden feeling to dig into that desk drawer, pull out that folder with my crappy first draft, and start working on it again.

I’m going to leave my writing story here for today. But if you want to know how I went about working on my second draft, then comment down below. It’s been a lot of fun writing this crazy story, and even though I’m a LONG way from the finish line, I’m happy with how far I’ve come and I’m excited about the possibilities of where this novel might lead to.

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Before I go, I want to share with you a couple of things that have helped me with my writing process and give you a peek at a couple of things.

 

I started a Pinterest Board with my main characters and my smaller characters. I’ll share a character with you after each writing post I do!

My first one is…

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Brody is the MC’s ex boyfriend. He’s a very minor character and only shows up a couple times (for now) but he definitely has an impact in the MC’s story. He’s working to become a police officer. I think his hair is maybe a bit curlier than this picture!

 

I also created a Spotify playlist to write to. I started off just listening to all the songs, but then I worked out songs that fit with each scene, and I listen to it on repeat while writing specific chapters.

My first one is…

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James Bay; IF YOU EVER WANT TO BE IN LOVE. I love this song, and set it to go with the prologue. I actually have a lot of James Bay songs in my playlist!

 

Thanks for reading guys! Comment down below any questions you have, and also let me know what writing project you’re working on right now. I’ll be back real soon with a pt 2!