New Territory / Milestones

When I started this blog, the idea was to talk about all the ins and outs of my personal writing journey. So I’m pleased to announce that I am currently in brand new writing territory.

I am half way through a second draft.

I feel a) a bit silly and b) like a bit of a phony saying that. Silly because it doesn’t sound like much of a milestone and a phony because my first draft was only 16,000 words and I only wrote the dialogue (i.e. the first chapter consisted of two words: “ Pearl hunts”, and the ending didn’t even exist).

But it’s still a milestone because I’ve never not given up at this stage. I’ve never let myself get this far. And now I have it’s exciting and rewarding and also scary.

And baffling. Why is it working this time?

Here are what I believe to be the important factors:

1. People. I’ve started putting my work out there and commenting on other people’s blogs and getting support and encouragement and feedback. Which I always knew I needed, I just had no idea how much.

2. Flash Fiction. Linking on from the above point, I've recently got some very positive feedback from my flash fiction. Having other people express that they like my writing has been a real confidence boost.

3. Time / Practise. I’ve been doing this for a while now. When I started writing, I didn’t know I wanted to write sci-fi YA. I thought I wanted to write fantasy for kids. Only through trial and error and reading new books did I find out where I wanted to be and start practising the right stuff. Which leads me to…

4. Reading the right stuff. For ages, this project stalled because I couldn’t get Pearl ’s voice right. She’s meant to be feral and uneducated. I just didn’t know how to make it work. That was until I read the Chaos Walking Trilogy by Patrick Ness and saw how someone else had done it and done it well. No, I haven’t copied Todd’s voice and I don’t use phonetic spelling, but seeing where someone else had got it right helped me work out how to give Pearl a strong and recognisable voice. I can hear her in my head when I’m writing, now. Until I got her voice right, I couldn’t do anything. So thanks Mr Ness.

5. This blog. In creating my blog, whether I realised it at the time or not, I shifted my perception of myself from someone who’s trying to write a book to someone who’s telling people they’re trying to write a book. I’m not doing this in secret anymore! I’m using my real name and my real face alongside my real words. Anyone who knows me could find this blog. And that makes me vulnerable because I might fail in this endeavour and I wouldn’t be able to hide it from anyone. But I’m doing it anyway because this matters to me and I don’t care who knows it.

6. Goals. I know goals are important but I always set my too high. 2,000 is what I can write on a good day when I'm feeling well and I'm not stressed out. 1,000, however, I can write on any day. Halving my goal has upped my productivity. It's also meant that I've been able to sit down and say "Well, this novel will be done by the 13th August". Not knowing when I would be contributing to the novel made it impossible to set that kind of goal before. But now I'm confident in my ability to get 1,000 words out a day and can therefore set a deadline.
So, there you have it. These factors (and probably a load more I haven’t thought about yet) mean that over the last two months I’ve become more focused, more driven and more enthusiastic. I don’t just think about writing sometimes, I think about it constantly. I don’t just write about characters, I care about them ( Pearl actually made me cry the other day). I go to bed thinking about my book. I read (aka “research”) on the bus to work and on my lunch break. I follow author blogs and writing blogs. I tweet.

And all that’s impacted upon my writing. I’m in a new and exciting place. And it’s a little bit scary.

Can I actually do this?