Progress on Horizon Skies (and things I’ve learnt)

Back in May, I was really pleased to have reached a milestone in my writing which you can read about here.

Five months later and yet another milestone has been reached!

Using the luxury of a well needed week away from the day job, I have been able to fit in some pretty decent writing time. My aim was to complete two chapters and possibly a short story.

As I am quite lazy by nature, the short story went out the window and the second chapter I wanted to write hasn’t yet made it to the notebook but I have completed chapter 24, which means I am now six chapters from the end.

I scheduled myself to write 500 words a day, a quantity which is more than achievable and considering I spent the first few days slobbing around, playing Red Dead Redemption on my PS3 and not much else, I was beginning to wonder if I would ever get anything written.

Wise words from my boyfriend, advising me not to “moan about wasting time off”, as I have done in the past, spurred me into action and by this morning I had finished chapter 24 with a total word count of 3,362 which equates to almost 700 words per day (based on a working week). I more than beat my target and it gave me a huge sense of satisfaction to know that I am now three-quarters of the way through; a point I never dreamed of reaching.

If I wasn’t doing the #SoberOctober challenge, I would be looking forward to a glass of wine or three tonight by way of celebration!

However, this now brings me to what I have learnt during this process and I share this with you now.

Read, a lot.

I know a lot of writers say this but it’s so, so true and should be a Golden Rule for any aspiring writer. Reading helps you develop as a writer; by learning how other writers create their work you learn what works for you. Don’t limit your genre either. I’m a huge Fantasy fan but I do have Sci-Fi, Horror, Chick Lit and General Fiction in my collection.

Write, whenever you can.

Another obvious one but if you’ve never written before, how do you start? There are simple ways to hone and develop your skills, before diving into writing your masterpiece. Write a blog, short stories, flash fiction, anything that will help you find your voice and build your audience. The more you write, the less daunting it will seem to get started on your opus.

Plan.

Planning a book involves not just the book itself but the time you can spend on it. For many of us, this means fitting in our writing with full-time jobs, studying, families and social lives. My writing time tends to be in the evenings after dinner when TV is generally quite poor and I have nothing social on that night or at the weekends, as I’m an early riser and it’s nice and quiet. Even ten minutes writing is better than none at all. If it helps, draw up a timetable and stick to it. If you can block book time off, do it.

My Process

I play the chapter I want to write as a movie in my head. Sometimes it plays out very fluid and natural, other times it’s a bit slower. I let this part of the idea germinate for a few days, making sure I jot down any pieces I feel are worth remembering such as pithy dialogue or the environment in which the chapter is set.

Chapters are split into scenes which I have planned out in a spreadsheet. Writing in scenes is a great way to place the action into blocks as I am able to focus on a specific scene within that chapter before moving on to the next.

I write, longhand in a notebook. Even if I’m not happy with what I’ve written, I keep at it, reminding myself that this is simply the first draft and not the finished version. Edits and rewrites can be done later.

Once the chapter is finished, I transcribe into my writing programme. For this, I use New Novelist but there are others out there (check out these Reviews for other programmes). It’s important to find one that works for you. I usually find during the transcribing process that I make little edits along the way or add/remove sections, dialogue etc. that don’t seem to work.

From New Novelist, I copy and paste into a Word document which is formatted to the recommended style of Times New Roman size 12 font.

I keep a spreadsheet of my progress.

I back up my work to a USB flash drive – this is  VERY important!

I am, by no means, a professional writer and I’m sure anyone reading this will have their own methods and opinions. I don’t believe there is a right or wrong way of writing but I do believe that unless you find a method that works, you won’t progress beyond those first few pages before frustration sets in and you give up.

Writing is an incredibly rewarding process but it can be lonely and frustrating especially at those times when the words simply won’t come. My notebooks are full of crossings out and half-finished passages and there have been times when I’ve been so stuck on a chapter that I’ve almost given up but I keep my end goal in mind and it keeps me going.

My Writing Conundrums

The last couple of weeks have been rather taken up with work and preparing for my Amdram stint in Sherlock Holmes next week. Sadly, this has impacted on my writing time and I’ve not had many opportunities to get stuck in as it were. Plus, I’ve been rather politically vocal this week as anyone who follows me on Twitter is aware!

So, here I am at the start of a very well earned, long anticipated week off work; so I have decided to get back to doing some writing as well as updating my blog. Which I promised myself would be updated every week.

I am currently twelve chapters in with a word count of 27,244 which averages to 2,095 per chapter. By my reckoning, if I manage to complete the intended 30 chapters I want the book to be this should be around a 60,000 word novel. From what I’ve read in blogs etc., that doesn’t seem to be a bad length for a first effort. Ideally, I would like to finish around the 80,000 word mark.

My biggest conundrum has always been; what length should a chapter be? When I write a chapter that has manifested as a “movie” in my head I find the words flow very smoothly and the chapter literally writes itself to a natural end.

That’s all well and good but then, there are the chapters that don’t start life that way. Typically, these are the chapters centred around one particular character. When I read them back to myself, they seem a little dull and lacklustre but to do away with them would lose a lot of work.

Should I not worry about these chapters right now and come back to them later when perhaps I may be feeling more inspired? Or should I persevere and doggedly write them to completion, even if I’m not entirely satisfied with their outcome?

Sitting down this morning to write, I decided to revisit chapter eleven. It’s dull, there’s nothing exciting in it and it flounders at the 1,700 word count. I’ve written school essays longer than that!

I’ve added another 400 words to it and decided to give the focal character in this chapter a back story that reveals a struggle with sexuality resulting from a past event.

Then I berate myself, have I written in a gay back story purely to show that I am in some way, trying to represent the LGBT community with one of my characters? (Let’s face it, there isn’t much representation for the community in mainstream publishing.) Is it relevant to the overall plot or is it purely there to give a little insight into this character’s current dilemma and situation? I think time will tell on this one, as I have an overall plot to follow but the subplots have a tendency to spring themselves on me when I least expect it.