Tuesday, 10 June 2014

the word terminator...

Since reaching the giddy heights of almost 75,000 words, I've had to come to terms with some big realisations.  Many of them have come about as I've read my latest writing how-to: Roy Peter Clark's 'Help for Writers: 210 Solutions to the problems every writer faces'.  As a result, I've come face to face with the word terminator and had my work cut back to just over 67,000 words.  Before you dwell on the fact I'm nearly 8,000 words down on my total count from last week, I'll fill you in on how I reached this point without dissolving into tears and becoming a nervous wreck….

There's a difference between achieving your overall word count and finishing your first draft.
If you're an established author, you will already know this and be one step ahead of me!  Yes, I was only minutes away from my total word count of 80,000 - but it didn't add up to a finished first draft - there's still too much work to do!

Sometimes you have too much information
It doesn't matter how well it's written - or how long it took to write - if it doesn't fit the story, it just doesn't fit.  I've had to delete a wedding scene because it was too obviously tacked on.  I'm really happy with the wording of the wedding itself, so I've popped it into another file and it might be something I can use in a future project - if not, it was all part of writing process and I just have to accept that.

Become a notetaker and keep writing materials nearby
If you're anything like me, your brain hasn't retained a memory since the birth of your first child - maybe a slight exaggeration, but I can be very forgetful - between the shopping list and the thought I just had about what my character should do next, I need paper near me all the time.  Failing that, I send myself an email and follow it up the next day when I'm writing again.

Find every book ever written about the art of writing - and read them!
Okay, it might be a stretch to read every book, but I'm going to read as many as I can.  I'm nearly half way through Roy Peter Clark's 'Help for Writers' and it's a fantastic resource.  Another recent find has been 'Bird by Bird' - Anne Lamott's outstanding work on writing and life.  These books have helped me so much, especially with questions of what my characters are doing, what scenes should stay or go and how I'm feeling as a fledgling writer.  All fantastic stuff!

What does this all mean for me?
I've had to come to terms with the fact that the end of my first draft is still some way off.  I'm not setting a deadline as I have three children and work from home and only have two mornings per week without all of them in the house...  However much I'd like to say that I'll be finished my first draft by the end of whenever, it's too hard to tether myself to a date just yet - be assured, though, that when it happens, you'll be the first to know!

Where to from here?
Back to the basics - mapping out each chapter on system cards and moving the material around to fit.  This is something I've already done, but things have changed.  I've got to know my characters better and can see the scenes they need to support them and the development of the storyline.  Then it's going to be a matter of building up those chapters and making sure they're just right - and one day, bird by bird* my first draft will be finished…

Still wondering what I'm up to?
Put it this way - when I get to the stage I'm ready to send my work off to an agent or publisher, I want it to be the best piece of writing possible - anything that doesn't make the grade doesn't belong.  It's getting to the pointy end of the project and everything has to be just right.

And now - over to you…
Are you a writer?  What books would you recommend?  How many of your wonderfully crafted words have you farewelled?  And if you have to imagine a word terminator, don't you think Sophie's giant lego girl (above) would be just perfect for the role?!


* The genesis of Anne Lamott's title for her work on writing and life is from a conversation between her father and brother many years ago.  Her brother had an assignment due the next day - something he'd had weeks to do.  He hadn't started yet and had a huge task ahead of him.  When he asked how he was manage to do it, his father told him, 'Bird by bird, son, just take it bird by bird.'

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