Greetings homies. Long time no blog about that novel I’ve been writing (about a year and a half actually. Sorry about that!)
So a while ago I wrote a blog post about the 20 Things I’ve Learnt Whilst Writing My Novel and it was super great to hear from people who were also thinking about writing a novel/any project at all really 🙂
So it seems like time to do an update. Hopefully this is helpful to you if you’ve recently finished that National Novel Writing Month (nanowrimo) book.
Another year older, another year wiser as the saying goes…
- Beta Readers are your best friends
If you’ve been keeping up to date with the riveting saga that is Nikki Writing Her Novel, you might remember that at the beginning of summer 2016 I recruited beta readers from across facebook and also my blog.
This was such a great experience for me. If you’ve finished a book I would definitely recommend sending them out to some readers and seeing what they think. Any reader worth their salt will tell you what they love and what they hate. (Which just makes it better when they really do love something; you know you’ve done well!) My betas were really helpful with their honest opinions and their comments have gone on to shape the novel into what it is today.
Shoutout to all my amazing beta readers. Y’all the best!
- Consider how you’re going to send out the book/how much
I made a rookie error in sending out the book chapter by chapter. This was an error FOR ME because
a) It’s a long book and
b) Personally it would have helped me more had I sent out the book as a whole.
Here’s why. Getting feedback chapter by chapter gave me new ideas, and these new ideas would have a knock on effect on the resulting chapters. Eventually, it became a little too confusing to edit in these changes, whilst also keeping up with the weekly feedback. Still, this isn’t a hard rule. Others may prefer weekly feedback, whilst others would prefer to have a long chat about it after their readers have finished the book in its entirety. It was interesting for me to learn more about how I work 🙂
So, in essence, be organised, find out how you work and go from there.
- You’ll eventually get to the part where you are SICK of reading your book.
I’ve reached it now. Seriously.
- Rewrites could probably go on forever
Stephen King says he writes twice. One draft to get everything down. Another for revisions. To which I down a shot of vodka and say, pshhhh, yeah ok, try another one.
This is – dare I admit it – the fourth draft now?! By the time I finish reading the book all the way to the end and tweaked things here and there, I have grown as a better writer. (Yay!) But that also means when I skim through the book again, I notice all these sentences and descriptions I DESPISE and think ‘why did I ever write it like that?!’
- There is no limit to the harshness of my notes to myself
People talk about ‘fragile artistic egos’ but really we’re only fragile/vulnerable with other people. Critics, for example. But with ourselves? Not so much. Please enjoy some screenshots of the times I’ve been tired/frustrated. I do leave myself positive comments too, I promise!
As I said, there really is no limit.
- The writer questions just keep getting weirder and weirder
It’s for a novel, I promise.
These are genuinely the type of questions I message my best friend with at 2 in the morning. Fortunately, my girl got my back:
- Different formats really help
If you’re editing on a laptop, try downloading the story onto a kindle or a phone screen. Or try printing it out. You’ll spot typos you never did before. (Another route to try is getting an automated programme like Google Translates or Siri, to read out your story to you).
- DO BIG PICTURE EDITS BEFORE YOU DO SMALL PICTURE EDITS
I REPEAT: DO BIG PICTURE EDITS FIRST. I was told this time and time again. The logic being, ‘Don’t spend time polishing something (a chapter, a paragraph, whatever) that is later going to have to be cut out your novel anyway.’
Ahhh but I was a cocky one. *I* liked everything in the novel and therefore I was 100% sure that *everything* was staying.
Really? Really? That chapter that you wrote at 2am needs to stay? Does it really?!
The first time you edit, please please please only do big picture edits, such as ‘this character needs to die’ or ‘these five chapters needs to be moved elsewhere in the novel.’ Please take a lesson from somebody who did it the wrong way round. I changed paragraphs and nitpicked at sentences until they were beautiful, and for what? Absolutely nothing. Because after a few more read-throughs I realised that all of it had to GO. This will waste so much of your time.
Structure first, beauty later. You can put on all the makeup in the world but if you don’t even have a face to put it onto…we’re going to have a problem.
In other words, skeleton before flesh. Don’t waste time. Trust me.
- You will never read a book the same way again
I remember back in 2013 (wow, that long ago huh?!) when I completed my Media Studies A-Level. My friends and I kept on complaining we could never watch a film or a television show the same way again. We’d be sitting with a bowl of popcorn about to enjoy the new Avengers and all we’d be thinking was: ‘Great mis-en-scene there’ or ‘I see what you’re trying to do with that crane shot’. I presume it’s the same for anybody with any sort of speciality. I can no longer watch theatre without at least a small part of me critiquing it. I know photographers who are constantly irked by the amateurish vibes of their friends’ instagram. (awkward).
It’s not a terrible thing and it doesn’t diminish my enjoyment of the book (much). It does however mean that when I read a book I’m either impressed or disappointed (more so than before) but also that I APPRECIATE just how much editing the writer had to do to get the novel into that shape (or not, if you’re Stephen King). I’m also learning much more about the rules of grammar and how certain authors break them. So yes, studying something makes you a critic. Who knew?!
- Finding my voice
It always confused me when people said ‘write in your voice’ or ‘the more you write, the more you will find and develop your voice.’
What voice?! What are you talking about? I genuinely went through three years of my BA (Drama and Creative Writing) not having a clue what that meant. How does one ‘find’ their voice anyway? Do writers simply wake up on a beautiful spring morning, rummage under their pillow and think, ‘Aha! Found my voice. This is it.’
Uh, no. Not in my experience anyway. I’ve decided that ‘my voice’ is whatever is true to me. I’m a little obsessed with the truth in art, whether that’s theatre, film, poetry, prose, you name it. So I’ve decided that as long as I am truthful and honest, as long as I am writing about things I care about, as long as the writing contains the essence of myself (otherwise what’s the point? Someone else may as well have written it. J.K. Rowling’s doing a great job and if you’re not going to be yourself, why join the profession?) then that is my voice.
No idea if that’s what the phrase actually means but that’s what it means for me. Boom. Voice found.
10. Keep exercisin’ yo
Keep your brain engaged. Yes it’s tempting to stay inside and work on that laptop but seriously, get out, smell the coffee, watch some birds, get some endorphins.
11. Themes are probably subconscious
Re-read the book today. Discovered that many of the characters have a lot of family issues. I also realised that if somebody analysed this book, they would say it has an ‘overarching theme of filial strife’. They might even wonder whether ‘the author’s intention was to explore the breakdown of the family system’? as shown through ‘clear semantic fields of discontent.’
In reality, the home issues were unintentional. Which doesn’t mean the book doesn’t have all these themes, just that…well, I didn’t know the themes were there until I found them.
And because y’all know I love me some C.S. Lewis, let me just throw in a quote he said regarding this subject:
“The only moral that is of any value is that which arises inevitably from the whole cast of the author’s mind.”