How I Wrote a Book In 20 Days: A Diary – PART ONE

Please note: I only wrote diary entries on days where I actually completed some writing. There are only 20 entries in this diary but the twenty writing days were spread over the space of a month and a bit. This diary does not include my notes on editing (I don’t want to give away all my secrets!)

***

Day #1

So. A bit of back story first.

I’ve had this idea for a standalone novel for some time (months and months, in fact). I know the main character like the back of my hand. I just need the story to go with her. A story to do her justice. But do I make it a love story, or a story of transformation…? These things allude me still on the first day I put fingers to keys to write. I’ve got notebooks full and ideas galore, but sometimes what works in the lab doesn’t work in practise.

So, I start simple. I begin the story with a clear image of a day when the heroine discovers everything she thought she had sorted out – really isn’t sorted out. And somehow, I know in the back of my mind, I’m going to have to take this character to rock bottom to bring her back to life again.

Side characters have been looming in my head for a while but like with all my other books, I don’t always want to have the hero figured out before I write. I want to fall in love with him at the same time as the heroine does and I think that’s what will make the audience believe in their love.

But whether this story is a true love story or something much different… remains to be typed.

Anyway, I am pretty happy to have gotten down the first 1,000 words of this book because they are always the hardest. It means you’re making something that’s previously only been in your head real, and taking that leap of faith is one thing, but writing down their story is also the beginning of the end. And nobody likes to say goodbye to those who’ve kept them company for so long.

Having already written 16 novels, I find it harder all the time to produce new material, to make a story unique. Regardless of everything else, I think story is absolutely key.

I almost always re-read my daytime writing later the same evening, maybe adding a few more details. It’s the weekend now so I’ll leave the story a few days, giving myself time to cogitate the next move.

Word count so far: 1337

Day #2

Writing the second half of chapter one has meant getting down some important points about the problems we need to solve in the heroine’s life. I’ve tackled a bit of backstory to her, too. Not too many details or you bog the reader down in too much information. Drip feed the reader details they need to know, gradually building a picture of the characters as you go. Keep some things back about your hero or heroine. An astute reader will pick up on them anyway.

I found it relatively easy to get this first chapter out and I could write more today but I’m not going to. I feel as though I’ve made a good start and slow and steady is the way. I know I need to save reserves for when I get to the meatier sections – when I’ll not be able to stop myself splurging this story onto the page.

Word count so far: 3715

Day #3

It’s morning.

Last night I took a sketchpad to bed, to write out some salient points of this work in progress. I came up with three ways this story could go. And three genres. And I matched each plot route with a genre.

[Editor’s note: at the time I thought I was writing a piece of contemporary fiction, but as I progressed, I realised the book felt more and more like new adult fiction in tone and in subject matter.]

I hate the idea of being confined by genre in any book, the same way I often avoid notebooks with lined paper inside. The lines make me want to conform to some sort of standard and I don’t want to conform. I prefer to make notes with spider diagrams and/or pictures, maybe I’ll compose bullet points (yes), but on plain, blank paper you can add subsections of notes and subsections of those subsections. (It should be noted that a lot of books I write are in my head already, filed away in a manner of speaking, but writing notes out helps me to put my mind into at least some sort of order.) The thing is, I’d love to live in a world where genre doesn’t matter, but evidently in the sale of books it does. And it’s something which has to be factored in at some point along the way.

[Editor’s note: The thing about NA is that it’s not quite erotica but it does allow some open-door scenes and readers have come to expect sex in my books.]

So… here we go… let’s see what last night’s notes produce on the page today…

***

I got Chapter Two down today. I’m starting to see how the heroine functions, what her shortcomings and her attributes are; how she acts around others and what bits she shows of herself are real or fabricated. We’re getting to the crux of the matter at hand and a certain love interest has appeared in the background. But what happened? He’s from her past so we don’t know much about him yet.

I could write more but I won’t. Later tonight I will probably re-read what I wrote today and sculpt it a tiny bit more. And overnight more ideas will have brewed.

Word count so far: 6618

Day #4

Today’s Thursday, so yesterday wasn’t a writing day because I had an editing project to finish. Sometimes I’ll write a bit in the morning and spend the rest of the day editing, mixing it up. Yesterday I didn’t feel the urge to write, as though the plot needed to brew a bit more, but today I’ve had the urge to splurge a lot. And I have. I’ve now written three full chapters and a bit of Chapter Four. We now have a love interest who’s surfaced and he feels like a big character in this story. Tendrils of ideas are knitting together to create this pattern I’m weaving. The book will be structured in short-ish chapters around 3-4,000 words long so I’m looking between 20-30 chapters but we shall see.

The trouble I often find when I’m writing is that I’m a pattern weaver so I tend to lurch for complicated plots but I know with this story, I don’t need that. I just want to write something simple, because the story itself is very relatable and I don’t want to complicate it. I have a memory for details so another problem is that as I’m writing, a new idea might pop up that corrupts a previous chapter and I know I’ll have to go back and fix that or delete what I’ve just written. It often gives me a headache knowing I’ll have to make these major changes at the end, but it’s necessary to keep on writing otherwise you might lose the pace and editing should be saved for the end (for sure!). I have to give myself a talking to and remind myself that at this stage, nothing is set in stone and it’s just a draft; the most important thing is to get structure down and details can be changed later.

I feel like I could write more today. I don’t allow myself to write late into the night these days but if the urge is there later, I may well write. We’ll see…

Word count so far: 11785

ADDENDUM:-

I did a little bit more tonight (just had to get a little scene out of my head).

(amended) Word count so far: 12629

TUNE IN FOR PART TWO THIS TIME NEXT WEEK!

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