So, how did the writing go in April, Queenie?
Not quite as planned, but not too bad. I did write two short stories and resubmit three. I also submitted one new one, two short of my target of three, but I’m not beating myself up about that. And I only got halfway through planning the plot of my novel, but I’m not beating myself up about that, either. Progress is progress, right?
Towards the middle of last week, I was feeling somewhat stuck with the novel plotting, and verging on despair. After five drafts, I know my story and characters really well, but I was finding it really hard to design a novel that will tell that story in the most effective way for readers. I know no novel will please everyone, but I want to provide the best reading experience I can devise.
Plotting and planning is a peculiar part of this strange business we call novel writing. Some writers plan in great detail before they write a single descriptive phrase or line of dialogue. I don’t think I’ll ever be one of those writers. I seem to need to write to be able to plan, if that makes any kind of sense. Having not worked on the novel for a year, I’d almost forgotten that, and I’d got stuck with the idea that I had to make a proper plan this time round.
I thought of all sorts of reasons for being stuck, such as: it’s too hard, I can’t do it, I’m not clever enough. It took me ages to think of a more useful reason, such as: now I’m halfway through planning the plot, I need to write some new scenes to find out how the plan is working. Towards the end of last week, this thought began nudging at the back of my mind. I ignored it for a while, but luckily it didn’t go away.
So this morning I wrote a new opening scene for the novel. That’s been a feature of every draft, incidentally – they’ve all finished in the same place, but started in different places. It was a huge relief to be back working with my characters in their updated structure. I feel very positive about the new opening; I think I might have got it right this time. It foreshadows all the central themes in 500 words flat.
I think I have about 20 new scenes to write, and about 10 to rewrite from someone else’s POV. I’m not 100% sure of the numbers yet, as I’m only halfway through the plotting. But I am sure of my writing targets for May. Here goes:
1. Write two short stories
2. Submit three short stories
3. Resubmit three short stories
4. Finish plotting the novel, write all new scenes and rewrite all scenes that need to be in someone else’s POV.
It’s a tall order, but I need to get it done so I can spend June editing and then send it out to readers in July, edit again in August and resubmit to agents in September. I'm quite optimistic because I can feel myself moving up through my writing gears, and again I remember this from previous drafts: slow starts with lots of uncertainty, then acceleration as the process takes hold.