How I Wrote a Book in 20 Days: A Diary – Part Four (Final Part)

Please make sure you read parts one to three before reading this concluding part! You can find them by visiting sarahmichellelynch.com/blog and scrolling through.

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 #14

Another chapter down. Would have liked to have written more today but I’ve had admin to do. Social media to catch up on. An event to prepare for. Fridays are always difficult days because you’re preparing for the weekend. Still, I’m gonna try get some bits and pieces of writing done tomorrow and Sunday. We’ll see anyway!!

Two major emotional breakthroughs were made in this chapter. Now I’m halfway, I can take this story down a deeper, much more direct route. I’m excited to get to the WOW moment in this book, where everything I set out to achieve becomes much more achievable.

Exciting times ahead…

Word count so far: 49,686 (I’m classing this as half done).

Day #15

I snatched moments of time today to write. I had this one idea I just had to get out in case I forgot it later. So I ignored the Saturday TV for an hour or so, and just did it. Half a chapter down. Not bad, considering it’s been a manic day.

Word count so far: 52,043

Day #16

It’s been Monday. Monday, bloody, Monday. Gah. The clocks have changed and it’s a bloody nightmare!

However, I am starting to taste the end of this book. I want to know what happens next as much as you, the reader will want to. I fear a race is on now. A race to the finish line, to explore all this book has to offer again, with the next stage of development – editing.

Some days you truly have used up your word count, that you have very little else to say at the end of it.

Word count so far: 56,856

Day #17

A really good writing day. I’ve turned some corners and extracted some secrets.

When I look back to the beginning of the story, it feels like a hundred years ago now. I’ve just got to make sure it continues to appear that way, reflecting the manner in which the heroine changes dramatically within this story.

I feel like I’m ever-drawing closer to the denouement.

Word count so far: 64,512

Day #18

It’s 11am and I’m not done for the day by a long shot, but I need to write this entry right now. This morning, this book made me cry for the first time, and that’s huge. Because I don’t always cry when I’m writing a book. But the pain and the poignancy of a particular scene had me flowing today. And I’m not the sort of person to cry easily. Only like really, really bad shit makes me cry, or people with sob stories singing on Britain’s Got Talent, but I think that’s because I love music as much as I love any art form that provokes an emotional response.

Up to now I’ve been writing with a sense of tension and it feels as though that’s broken finally, now I’ve written this difficult scene today. It’s finally broken and the heroine is free to move onto the next chapter. (I’m hoping so anyway, I’ve still got a few thousand words left to write.)

***

I wrote 5,000 words today and it wasn’t an effort; it was one of those rare instances of forgetting time exists and just going with the flow. Words just came and I’m stepping ever-closer to the end. This might even turn into one of those rare novels where less is so much more because I’ve said most of what I wanted to already, so whatever else comes next will be a big adieu.

Word count so far: 69,500

Day #19

I haven’t written yet today. It’s the morning. I’m just trying to muster up some energy right now to write some more. I’m feeling a bit puffed out.

I finished yesterday’s writing session with absolutely no idea or inclination as to how I would continue this story. Overnight some ideas have come to me and I’m fairly certain how I’m going to end the tale now. Sometimes you can feel as though nothing’s coming and when you go about your other business and take a few moments out, suddenly an idea will strike and you realise there is still more, even if the day before, ideas felt all used up. In the past I may have mistakenly forced ideas but this isn’t how I like to write anymore. Each day, I strive for new ideas and those make a story. The devil is in the detail. Having written so many books now, I’ve played with various forms of writing but sometimes simple is best. It just depends upon the character you’re conveying. I find it so difficult sometimes to not repeat myself, using a saying I’ve maybe used in a previous novel. The two main characters in this book, actually – resemble very closely two minor characters of a previous series I wrote a long time ago. But they were minor then, they’re major now, and function in a much different way in this book. I know some authors have strange family trees where all the characters they’ve ever written are somehow connected, even if that’s not evident to the reader. To the writer, they see those characters as part of a wider family, maybe because they are. They’re the author’s family in some respects. So even though it’s very difficult for me to keep my material fresh and new, it all is, and the more difficult it is for me to explore new avenues, I think the better my work is overall. I write for my own pleasure first and foremost which is how it should be. Don’t get me wrong it’s lovely when someone else likes what you’ve done, too. But the only person I’m ever competing against is myself and the past me has an awfully big back catalogue now. And that spurs me on greatly. I feel like these days, the engines are fully operational and ready to burn. It’s all those previous books that got me where I am now. It’s the books I’m writing now that will get me where I want to be. And I’ll have enjoyed every moment of getting to wherever it is I end up. Because I love writing and that’s what I was born to do. Write. It’s easy for me now, where it used to be hard. Because each book has broken me in and taught me something. And writing’s as easy as breathing now. It’s just the thought of it which is sometimes hard.

So now I’ve given myself this little pep talk (I am slightly deranged, comes with the territory), I will bloody well put the kettle on and settle down to some fictional writing once more. Until later…

(peaks and troughs, peaks and troughs…)

***

Wow, just look at that word count below. I can taste the end now.

Word count so far: 76120

Day #20

Wow, I wrote THE END today. I didn’t think I’d be writing that so soon. But I’m reminded that I decided to make this a new adult romance (or it shaped itself into a NA romance), which means readers in this genre generally prefer shorter reads anyway.

But, wait…

Editing has yet to take place. And editing will involve me going over the book six, seven, maybe even eight times. The way I edit is where the magic really happens.

Writing a book (as I’ve proven), is relatively easy when you know how. It’s what comes next that’s hard.

I know that throughout the editing process, I may add another 5 to 10,000 words or so. With one book (A Fine Pursuit), editing added 10 to 20,000 words in fact, because the story shot out of me so fast, I had to go over it plenty after the first draft, so it wasn’t a bony carcass anymore!

Still, I might comb it back again after the second draft.

Or add more?

But, dear reader, I won’t be telling you the secrets of my editing process. I don’t want to put myself out of business.

It’s been real.

Word count of my first (skeleton draft): 77,659

Afterword

The novel this WRITING DIARY relates to is called Hetty: An Angel Avenue Spin-Off. I am writing this afterword on the day of its release.

Hetty is a character I knew inside and out before I even put fingers to keys which is why this book was so easy in terms of development.

Sometimes, as a reader, I read books and I can tell when an author has taken a large timeout in the middle of writing their book because the style or the feel of the prose changes dramatically between one chapter and the next. Maybe that’s sometimes intentional. Maybe it’s because during time off from writing, the author has developed a different viewpoint of the story and it shows.

Writing a book in the space of a month is not something I recommend for everyone. It’s exhausting, it takes incredible discipline and an iron will. I do not manage to complete every story I write within 20 days, trust me! I know my limits. I stop when I need to. I take self care very seriously. I’m lucky that I can pick and choose my projects and my family are very supportive of what I do, both in giving me time and knowing what I need when I come away from writing a book.

What I hoped to show with this writing diary was the highs and lows a writer goes through, and the behind-the-scenes effort that no reader ever usually hears about. (The gory details so to speak.)

Hetty is my 17th novel and when someone recently asked me, “Doesn’t your heart just squeeze when you look at all you’ve achieved?” – I had to tell them, no! I am the long-distance writer with a 1,000 stories to tell and I cannot allow myself to wallow too long in saying goodbye to characters I have so lovingly created. I cannot allow myself to wrap myself up in the myriad emotions I go through while writing a story. To a certain extent, I do look back at my library of work and feel proud – feel blessed I’m doing this – but the books I put out into the world are but a physical representation of the stories I tell. I cannot always explain how a story I’ve written has made me feel (personally) because the feeling is like no other on earth and it’s obviously why I find storytelling so addictive. I know that each reader will bring their own set of life experiences with them when they’re reading a book, and I accept that’s why books engage (often) such different reactions from different readers. For instance, whenever I think back to writing my first novel, I think of changing nappies and my daughter’s big firsts. My first novel is wrapped up in everything that was going on in my own life at the time I was writing it – and the book on the shelf will never explain to readers about the night I was up late typing and the unfortunate effect of my footsteps squeaking on the stairs as I crept up, thus waking my daughter and setting up a chain of events that gave me a terrible, sleepless night. Real life goes on all around us and books are just… books. And yet… they have such potential to change people’s lives. I love, love, love what I do with every fibre of my being and anyone else who loves my books is an absolute and complete bonus.

I write, because, simply – I am a writer. I’m pretty happy with that label, even if I never achieve any other label.

The editing process brought Hetty up to a more rounded 90,000 words, one of the shortest novels I have ever written. After a bit of time away from the book (a bit of distance), I saw what needed embellishing. I didn’t want to over-write this tale, I only wanted to make sure that readers walked away from this book in no doubt of the person Hetty is and what she is capable of achieving. Getting her character right in this work was all that mattered to me. I didn’t water her down, edit out her quirks or her flaws, I kept them all in there. I wanted this woman to be real and from the sounds of it, that’s how my readers see her.

She’s real.

And that’s the most you can hope to achieve from writing – making tiny black letters on a page seem real. And the more real the story, the more satisfied you feel – and another job well done can be ticked off.

***PLEASE READ ON FOR AN EXCERPT OF HETTY AND HOW YOU CAN DOWNLOAD HER STORY***

I LEAVE THE car and him to get a good look at the place from a distance. He’s slept more or less the whole way here. I haven’t minded. Driving helps me switch off and vacate. This is just a stop in the road before reaching Robin Hood’s Bay but I always stop first, breathe in the air, taking in the place from a distance. One of the first places Liza and my foster parents brought me was here after they took me on. John and Carol have been really good to me, too good, considering I was once their daughter’s bully. But that’s Liza – always helping wounded birds, even ones that have tried to peck her in defence. John and Carol are in their sixties now and tried to conceive for years before finally having Liza in their early forties. She was an only child and had always wanted a sister. She persuaded them. And I was added to her broken-winged club.

The car door shuts and I watch him stretch, his midriff revealed as his shirt rides up. He’s got a solid rack of muscles under there – just gorgeous.

He swings his arms around me, clutching me tight, so tight I’m enveloped in his warmth against the cold of this high-topped cliff upon which we’re standing. I love the heather-topped moors around here, I love the views, the cleanness, the clarity – the mangled city jungle seeming far away.

He nuzzles my throat and kisses me, purring, seeking. A rush of love washes over me and I turn in his arms, throw my arms around his neck and kiss him. I find no resistance, his mouth opening, his tongue tangling with mine.

“I missed you,” he says, his eyes glistening against the strong wind.

“I was right next to you.”

“But I was in my dreams.”

“Do you like it?” I ask him, pointing to the sleepy fishing village below. There are not many visitors this time of year.

“What’s not to like?” he says.

I lead him back to the car and we head for The Grange, a place I usually stay, just a little way up from the village.

After parking up, we scope it out.

“Will they have any rooms?” he asks, and from the look of his face I can tell he’s never done this before. I expect any hotels he usually stays in have been booked by Warrick!

“Let’s hope so.”

We enter the reception and I spot Derek, the owner, who recognises me. “Henrietta, long time no see!”

Smiling, I return, “Been so busy, you know how it is. We’ve been gallivanting and wondered… maybe you might have a room for the night…?”

He holds his finger up. “Let me check.”

While Derek checks his computer, I grip Joe’s hand and smile. He smiles back, still a little sleepy.

“Ah, Marge had a cancellation last night. You’re in luck. The Grange Suite is available.”

“We’ll take it,” I snap, almost snapping his hand off too!

“Okay, it’s not ready…” He’s sucking his thumb, thinking as he peruses the screen. “But I’ve put you in, come back at four and it’s yours.”

“Do you need a deposit?”

He winks. “Not from a good customer.”

“Thank you, Derek. Thanks so much.”

He guffaws, a little shy. “No problem.”

I catch him giving Joe a little side glance but he doesn’t say anything, or question us. Leaving the property, Joe says, “He seems a little fond of you.”

“I stay here often, in the summer months.”

“What do you do when you’re here?”

We get back into my Citroen and I turn towards him. “I drive up to Whitby, fill my boots and then sleep it off here. A Sunday morning stroll on the beach is heaven, too.”

“I never would’ve pictured it,” he says, pulling me towards him, reaching across the handbrake to put his arms around me. “You seem so badass, and here you are, a lovely Yorkshire rose spending her weekends by a beach nobody’s even really heard of.”

I tug his hair gently in my hands, murmuring, “All the best people have heard of it, Joseph.”

It takes a few moments for me to realise my breaths are laboured and heavy. This is what he does to me.

“But it’s so quiet and quaint…” He looks bemused.

“In therapy I was taught to like my own company. I’ve got used to it.”

“Not too used to it, I hope?” He’s grinning devilishly.

“Scenery’s not too shabby from where I’m sitting,” I remark, trying to seize my own grin before it breaks my face, I feel so happy.

He cups my bottom lip with his and kisses me torturously slowly. The perpetual molten vat of lava in my lower stomach churns and I could curse that hotel for not having any rooms available right now. Joe moves his kisses to my cheeks and my neck.

“Save it for later…” I mumble.

“You smell divine, like honeysuckle or something.” He pulls back, searching my eyes, endlessly trying to figure me out.

“Come on, I’m hungry, you sexy beast.”

AMAZON UK

AMAZON US

 

 

How I Wrote a Book in 20 Days: A Diary – Part Three

Read parts one and two before reading part three…

PART ONE: CLICK HERE

PART TWO: CLICK HERE

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 #10

Today’s Monday. So that means my last writing day was Wednesday, last week. Thursday last week was a day of finishing editing on someone’s book, Friday was a shopping and seeing my daughter collect a certificate in school day. That didn’t allow much time for writing and/or editing, and we were away all weekend so I didn’t write then either. So now I feel like I have a bit of catch-up to play. I also feel like I’ve got all these ideas in my head that I’ve generated over the past few days and now I’m scrambling to get them down before I forget them! Being creatively energised is a good thing but it’s so easy to burn out, too. At the end of each writing day, I always try to make sure there’s a thread to follow the next day.

While walking to and from my daughter’s school today, I had a thought. I remembered something I read a long time ago. It was a quote from somewhere or other that said (more or less) that it’s much harder to write a tender book than a book of drama, angst, erotica or mystery. I do love writing various genres but I have felt that of late, I’m writing to please others and not to please myself and so I’m aware that with this book, I’m deviating and also pleasing myself. I am also aware that it’s much easier while writing to throw a spanner in the works and make my characters deal with it instead of following a train of thought where the characters slowly and lovingly develop. So, at the moment I’m shutting down a lot of my “plot twist” moments, steering clear of them in favour of writing a tender book which is not designed to shock or thrill, but more make the reader become at one with the main character and view her journey as if it’s real – as if it’s happening out there in the world, right now. I want this book to make people cry, don’t get me wrong, but I also want it to do that without the shock factor. I want this book to gently take the reader on a journey they may not have anticipated, but still a journey that’s very believable, relatable and all at the same time, touching beyond what they anticipated.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about writers and their notebooks. (I mentioned at the start of this journey that it was the thought of starting writing that was worse than actually starting writing. I am well aware that, at the moment, I’m loving the creation of this book but soon enough the process will all be over and I’ll be in mourning for yet more characters I’ve lived alongside and now have to let go of…) Anyway, yes, I have a lot of notebooks filled with notes and some Word documents filled with notes, too. Notebooks are like that mental hurdle you have to get over in order to start writing a book. Notebooks are where you stuff your thoughts when you’re not quite ready (or equipped yet) to start writing the actual book. Notebooks receive the splurge and don’t contain all the detail surrounding each bit of dialogue that enhances feeling, tension of a scene, location setting, resolution or problem. As I progress with this project (much like I’ve progressed in the same way on projects before), I realise notebooks can be helpful for pointers, reminders, bullet points, section ideas etc… but the only real way to actually achieve anything when you’re writing a book, is to do as Hemingway said, and “sit and bleed at the typewriter…” or something to that effect anyway. Because this book has directed itself, and continues to do so, it is seemingly much better off for organic development – and I am very much inclined to agree with Hemingway, one of my all-time favourite authors and an inspiration. Anyway, I am loving the direction this story is going in, but I maintain constant awareness of not pushing myself too hard, while also preparing myself for the range of emotions to come. As a writer, and no less as a person, self care is utmost. Utmost.

Word count so far: 33913

Day #11

I’m getting deeper into the story now, the meatier stuff evolving. We’re in the second third of the book where I always try to start bringing all the characters’ innards out on display, as we reach an understanding of what the matter at hand is here, i.e. what is the dealio.

So, we’re getting to the crux of the matter and I’m delivering more details slowly, in pipette-fuls. I’m gradually building more context, giving my heroine more of a dynamic with herself, but also with all the other characters. She’s now discovered a potentially calamitous truth about her boss which could end very badly.

I’m beginning to see the overall potential of this story and my faith is going to pay off, I know it is. I just have to keep going! And it’s so exciting to think about where this might go. My vision of how I’ll feel at the finish line is still unclear so for now, I’ve just got to keep riding this wave and see where it takes me.

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I added one chapter today which was just enough. I wrote this morning but then spent the afternoon setting up social media posts as I have a sale on at the moment. Let’s see how I’m feeling tomorrow, eh?

Word count so far: 37223

Day #12

After today’s efforts, I can officially count this as another novel added to the pile, as I passed the rudimentary 40K word count mark which takes the book to novel-length.

It feels good. But with all my books, I never write small. I have written some novellas in my time actually, even some short stories, but most of my novels are 90,000 words plus, some have even reached almost 160K. At the moment I’m aiming for around 90-100,000 with this book. In the back of my mind I know I’ve got enough room to stretch my legs out and let this take its course, on the other hand I also have a vague idea what I need to pack into each section so the reader doesn’t get bored. I also want to achieve everything I need to without dulling down the narrative too much – all while leaving a few bits up to the imagination while detailing the most important moments of character development in considerable depth. As someone who’s written over fifteen full-length novels, I am well aware that all this crafting and sewing together of the plot mostly goes on in the back of my mind now, leaving the conscious me to really just enjoy the story.

Today as with most days, I never put my fingers to the keys before ten a.m. After the rush of getting my daughter to school, I need to allow time for my brain to settle and calm. I need the lake in front of my mind’s eye to be absolutely still. So, when I get back from dropping off my daughter, I make a cup of tea. Set the washing machine running. Make all the beds, open the curtains, the windows, wash the dishes. Pick stuff up off the floor. Basically, I’ve got to mentally and physically clear the decks before I can fully relax and sit down to write. I also use this time to check all my social media accounts, answer emails, set up automated media posts… hopefully before the strike of ten when I start tapping on the keys or at least start reading through some bits. The same goes on days when I’m editing – I never edit when my brain’s scatty because it’s easy to miss things that way.

Lunch is usually around one, though earlier if I’m particularly hungry, sometimes later if the writing’s got me so fixated that I feel like I can merely survive on fresh air.

Sometimes I’ll work all day, with only that short break for lunch. A lot of days I use my evenings to key in notes or do research, maybe some more social media… In fact, there was a time I used to be up until one a.m. finishing stuff off. That does not happen anymore (leftover bad habit of when I had no time during the day to write). My health comes first these days. And my writing during the day is so much better off for me getting a good night sleep every night. Speaking of which I’m writing this diary entry at half eleven at night because this was the only moment today I could write it! Sweet dreams…

Word count so far: 42910 ← so achievable when you know how

Day #13

Whoa, I am so close to the halfway stage now, I can almost taste it. Half a novel. Is it true? Can it be? At some points during my days, I’m envisioning scenes and getting chills. I’m trying to fragment pieces of information my mind grabs at and make tendrils of thought into full, detailed scenes. My mind’s still chasing ahead, trying to enjoy the good bits before I’ve tackled the difficult stuff. I have to slow myself down. I know this from experience. I have to let this story tell itself. I have to succumb to creativity.

There are always moments of doubts, too. Such as, who will read this? Will they get it? Will they like the heroine? Is she going to lure readers to live her journey alongside her? Those moments pass eventually. For me they do anyway. I think they pass because I just love writing so bloody much!! I always remind myself, I am doing this because I love it. I love this. I love the way I can live somewhere else in my mind while I’m writing. I love imagining the finished product. I write for the finished product, and I love to see how surprised readers are sometimes, when they read my stories and get a totally different angle they weren’t expecting.

For now, sleep. Tomorrow’s Friday so I’ll be trying to knuckle down to writing another nice chunk before the weekend swallows me whole again. Time really does fly when you’re living the dream.

Word count so far: 46,467

TUNE IN FOR PART FOUR THIS TIME NEXT WEEK!

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

READ PART ONE BEFORE READING THIS: CLICK HERE

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 #5

I was at the cinema today and I don’t know whether the film wasn’t consuming enough or whether this book I’m writing is consuming me beyond everything else, but when I got home I was still full of ideas for this WIP. So, I had to write a bit this evening and I have done. Every little helps.

Word count so far: 14,441

Day #6

Today was a Sunday but I wanted to write today, so I did. My husband took our daughter swimming so it gave me a couple of lazy hours on the sofa with my laptop. It’s rare I write at the weekends, only if a book really has me in its grip, which this one does at the moment.

The story’s shaping itself in a way I didn’t expect. My mind’s trying to jump ahead to figure out the next steps but I’m just having to go with the flow of this one. The heroine’s telling me her tale in her own way and things aren’t working out the way I planned when I first started out. But that’s okay because a lot of the heroine’s actions are still working out in a way that mean she’s staying true to herself, it’s just that an unforeseen antagonist has been brought into the equation.

I’m really starting to fall in love with this story now and in the back of my mind, I have a card to play I think will glue readers, making them want to discover more and more. It feels really good to have a lovely chunk of this story already written.

Word count so far: 17914

Day #7

I got down a couple of scenes today that I’ve had in my head for a while. It’s good to get them down finally but discipline also requires that I get down everything in detail, instead of me racing along, merely to experience the scene for myself finally, without giving the reader all the details they need to see it for themselves.

It’s Monday so I am continuing on this writing roll. I’m just feeling it at the moment and as any writer knows, when you feel it you have to go with it.

So this morning I worked on a chap’s book I’m editing as part of my publishing services business. And then in the afternoon I wrote more on my own book.

It feels in my heart that this book is turning out to be one of true love, but somehow I sense strife is right up ahead. But I’m not sure. Maybe this couple have had enough strife already.

I am experiencing the war within me to stay with the characters and not put my own spin on their story. It’s a hard-fought war from the characters’ perspectives.

I’m trying to zone everything else out to listen to them, which means less time on social media. I really despise scrolling through Facebook and seeing posts about procrastination, i.e. “I should be writing but I’m watching wrestling.” If you should be doing something… well, you should. But you’re not. I personally value my writing time so dearly and I cherish it. I love this thing I do so much, I treasure it. I treasure all my moments at the keys. I can’t stand negativity because if I listened to that, I wouldn’t get this book written. All the time my mind is focused on foreseeing the finished product and realising that vision. Always.

I feel that if my day consists of time to write and time doing other stuff, then when it comes to finally getting down to writing, I always appreciate the opportunity to do that much more, having had other things to occupy me beforehand. Time and space away from the keys is as equally important, because you’re writing even then, just in draft form. The best ideas come when you’re in the shower, out for dinner, during a car journey or any other task where the mind is working but there’s no way to get a pen in your hand!

Word count so far: 21976

Day #8

I wrote today. I edited. That’s a successful day. I’m tired now, though. I might watch some TV before falling into a stupor, where I’ll be dreaming up more stuff for my characters to do tomorrow.

(Still avoiding the non-believers on Facebook.)

Word count so far: 24785

Day #9

My word output isn’t what I’d like it to be right now because I’m spending time editing someone else’s work but needs must and as I’ve mentioned before, variety does make me write better when I do get back to writing!

Me and hubby were playing around with book cover designs at the weekend. I have a unique image for the cover and a unique character to try and give personality to with just a bit of text added. We came up with some ideas and I added some text. By Monday I didn’t like the text. Yesterday I fiddled with it a bit and hubby pouted when he saw I’d got rid of all our original ideas, but actually he liked what I’d done and I think the way it is now better suits the personality of the heroine of this book. I will still probably go back and make more amends.

This novel is a spin-off novel from an existing series and so I’m feeling a great deal of nostalgia and trying not to give other familiar characters too much airtime. I don’t want to detract from the story at hand.

I’m also having to (still) constantly remind myself that when I fuck up, it doesn’t matter. It’s just that I sometimes wish readers knew the amount writers put into their work, the research and the heartache and the numerous edits we make before you see the finished product. The writer knows that book inside and out; they’ve conceived it, nurtured it, cried in the night for it, screamed in the night for it to shut up… everything. And we present a pristine book to readers who have no knowledge of the rough-hewn slab of a book we started out with, before it became something shiny and seemingly new. This is a process of extreme demand and at the end of it all, some will love it, some will hate it, some will criticise it because it’s much easier to criticise than to sit here lovingly fashioning something from scratch.

Throughout the writing of a book I don’t really have the energy to read other books but I really try to read magazines or articles because they only require little moments of concentration and still keep you plugged into the real world. With editing being a large part of my day job (reading in itself), I do tend to start feeling bad that I’m not doing the thing I love most (reading for pleasure), but that’s another sacrifice writers make during the process, and one that’s sometimes necessary to get the task in hand done.

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Some days I don’t have time to reflect like this, sometimes I purely don’t want to think at the end of the day, but reflection is so important.

This is my 17th novel I’m carving out of rough-hewn-something-or-other.

(I may be getting a little scared because I don’t know where the story will take me next.)

Word count so far: 27803 (8 full chapters)

TUNE IN FOR PART THREE THIS TIME NEXT WEEK!

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!

Life As Art

How do you teach an old dog new tricks?

One thing I’ve been more proactive about this year is reading. I’ve read at least a hundred times more this year than I’ve written and it’s changed the way I write, for sure. In the past it has been the other way round… I mean I did write a trilogy while I was nursing and teaching my daughter to walk!

It’s true that we never stop learning and mostly, through other people. It’s like this quote I saw from Neil Gaiman today which was half the reason I thought to write this blog:

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When you start out as a writer you are writing mostly for the love of writing but as you progress, you begin to realise how your work can be sharpened. As you write and write, and read and read, you eventually start to do a lot of things without even thinking about it anymore. You evolve into the writer you’re meant to be and you know which of the rules your writing can break. It gets so that the writing is both second nature and craft.

So, how do we go back to basics after writing so many novels where we’ve explored all the tricks and now need to narrow them down to get across that one, simple story that embodies “Life As Art”. I’m talking about an effortless narrative that tells you what is happening while drawing out all the nuances of two people, their two worlds and everything that makes those worlds unique and singular. It’s not a bad thing, but sometimes we forget there is beauty in simplicity and containment, in the ordinary. It’s a craft because you’re telling a story that gives a reader the tools to imagine the rest. This is where being a prolific reader yourself comes into it.

That Audience

A good book doesn’t betray the effort that has gone into one sentence, one paragraph, one whole chapter even. That’s because you did your research and you wrote that story with faith. It’s a squarely constructed piece that has a theme and you ran with it. You believe in what you’re putting out there because you know you have an audience. At the end of the day, it’s great to write a story and have it out there, but are you writing for an audience? Are you giving people what they want? Yes, there are stories that break all the rules and do that well, for one reason or another. Maybe because at the heart, there is some kind of truth that so many people can still relate to.

Life As Art

Surf beneath the mundane surface and so much more unveils itself. If you’ve studied your characters in depth before you’ve written them, you can put them in any situation and know what they’re going to do—how they may react. Fictional characters are great though… you can stretch them that little bit further. You can also fit twenty years’ worth of history into just one year, maybe even one month. Squeeze time down, and maybe, you can make that book feel much longer and lengthier than just that one lifetime even. The truth is, writing is a unique “occupation” and there is no exact science. Sometimes there is no rhyme or reason to why we write this, or why we write that.

My point is, you have to keep writing. Writing is learning and expressing and discovering. I’m learning that all the time. I’m still learning and I think I am finally getting close to the holy trinity of a writer’s aspirations… to be my own, individual self and be pretty bloody pleased with that.

Unbind is now available for pre-order, RELEASED OCTOBER 20TH

http://mybook.to/Unbind

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