Thursday 23 March 2017

Writing My Novel: The First Draft

I mentioned in the last Writing My Novel post that I wrote the first draft of this novel for NaNoWriMo in 2015. I had attempted NaNoWriMo before and had actually won for the first time earlier that year in one of the Camp NaNoWriMo sessions with a totally different novel idea. So I knew it could be done. In theory.

I knew this time round would be more difficult for a few reasons. 1) My birthday is on the 4th of November and I'm basically a child so I'm usually distracted in that first week. 2) I hate being cold and generally prefer to spend the entire of autumn and winter in bed reading or re-watching my favourite TV shows. 3) I had no plan for this novel at all. I knew the ending, the basic premise, and the names of the main characters. That was it. 4) This was my first time ever writing fantasy. I wasn't optimistic about my chances of finishing.

I did it though! I started a day late, finished a day early, and my final word count was exactly 50,133 words, but I did it!

The official NaNoWriMo graph for draft 1.

As you can see by the graph I managed to write at least a few words almost every day. I think there were only about four days where I wrote absolutely nothing and I did manage to hit the magic 50,000 words a day early. The most important thing of all though was that I had a first draft. I had been thinking about this novel for months and now I had an actual draft of it. I wasn't staring at a blank page anymore!

I waited a few months before looking at it again, just as everyone always says to. I knew there were a lot of issues with it but I was not prepared for just how bad it truly was. It felt like there was nothing salvageable in it at all. I had been thinking about this novel for so long and what I had written was not even close to what had been in my head. It was barely better than a blank page. 

I left it alone for another few months then and when I read it through the second time things didn't seem so bleak. It still needed to be completely re-written, there was just too much that needed to be changed, but writing that terrible first draft had helped me to figure out some of the plot. It helped me get to know my characters. Most importantly of all it meant that I had actually started. I wasn't just thinking about this novel anymore. No matter how awful the writing was, (and it was awful) I was actually writing it. I had somewhere to start from and it should never be underestimated how important it is to just start.

I'll be surprised if more than 10% of that first draft ends up in the final draft but it did help. It was better than a blank page. And, as so many authors will tell you, that's all a first draft has to be.


Wednesday 15 March 2017

The Eden Project On Film

A friend of mine was asked to be a judge at the World Pasty Championships at The Eden Project this year so a few of us went along for the day as well. We explored the biomes, saw Fisherman's Friends perform, made it into the background of some Blue Peter shots, and didn't actually eat any pasties. And, of course, I took my camera, which, sorry to disappoint, is what this post is really about.

When my parents were looking for a digital SLR for me I particularly asked for one with a manual focus ring because I had gotten so used to it on my dad's old 35mm. Of course I've never really used the manual focus on my digital SLR. Why would I when I have autofocus right there? I'm feeling the pain of getting out of the habit now that I'm using the 35mm again though, as you can tell by this very out of focus bird. It's one thing to spend ages getting everything in focus when your subject is still, it is something else entirely when it is a tiny bird who keeps flying away.

I get my films developed by the photography shop in town. Colour developing, a set of 6x4 glossy prints, and scans on a CD for £8.98. It's not a bad price but let's just say I won't be switching to film exclusively any time soon. The problem I'm really having though is that the prints I get are professionally colour corrected beauty. They look great in my photo album. Then I come to the scans. The unedited scans. They're lighter than the prints, the colours are different, and I struggle to create something in photoshop that I think looks as good as those 6x4 prints. I'm still not 100% happy with how I've edited all of these.

It's all practice though, right? If I use this camera enough I'll start to remember how it works again. I'll get faster at focusing and I'll remember which switch to flip so I can wind the film back (another small problem I had.) And the more pictures I edit from this camera, with this film, the more I'll learn how to deal with the colours and brightness I'm given. Right???

I mean, out of 26 shots I've ended up with 14 that I really like. On my last roll there were only 9. That's a pretty good improvement, I think. By this time next year I might even, dare I say it, get a roll with as many as 20 passable shots on it.

I think a full roll is maybe too much to ask for. I can remain realistic.


Thursday 9 March 2017

Writing My Novel: Useful Procrastination

Welcome to a new feature! You may recall that the last time I did a feature it was The Gossip Girl Review Project. This is definitely not that. But it still might end up causing me as much of a headache.

I'm writing a novel and I want to share that process here. The whole thing. I want to go right back to the beginning and hopefully eventually we'll reach the mythical end too. If you're looking for a 'how to write a novel' guide then this isn't it (although maybe I'll do a post about those because I do have... a lot of them). This is about how I'm writing my novel and I'm definitely making a lot of mistakes. And you'll definitely hear about them.

I am going to start from the very beginning and since this is my process, that unfortunately means procrastination. I'm really good at procrastinating. So good in fact that when I started the first draft of this novel for NaNoWriMo 2015, I decided to really lean into it and I found a way to make my procrastination actually kind of productive. Behold, the Pinterest board:

That title kind of gives away a hint of what this novel is about, huh?

A lot of writers seem to use Pinterest boards for inspiration for their projects and I can safely say that I am now one of them forever. This board contains mostly pictures of people who look like my characters and things that remind me of important locations in the story, with a few images thrown in that just evoke the feeling I want the story to have. I'm a very visual person and this is great for when I'm stuck with the actual writing and need to spend a little bit of time thinking about the story in terms of images instead of words.

And it lead me onto the next thing that I have found incredibly useful.

I call these 'character aesthetic collages'. These are the three for my main characters, Jenny, Landon, and Andrew, but I have a lot more. Currently I have them for ten of my characters. Like I said, I'm really good at procrastinating.

All of the pictures for these are taken from Pinterest too. I think of these as a visual version of those character profile sheets that some people do. I've never actually used one of those but I have found these aesthetic collages incredibly helpful in getting a grip on the personalities of my characters. They're also really fun to put together and yes, they too give me that sweet feeling that I am still being productive even though I am not technically writing. I highly recommend them.

Other forms of procrastination that are probably less useful but which I have certainly been enjoying include regularly daydreaming about scenes and plot problems, reading books that are kind of sort of similar to what I'm hoping to do, and now, I'm sure, writing these posts.


Tuesday 7 March 2017

February Reading Wrap Up

Typically, it felt to me as though January lasted forever this year and then February passed in the blink of an eye. I did read some good books though so it wasn't all bad.

Avalon High: The Merlin Prophecy by Meg Cabot

A friend with a mutual love of Avalon High bought the first part of the manga style sequel for me at the start of the month and I read it the same day. This first instalment is very short and mostly just the set up for the rest of the story but Avalon High is one of my favourite books and I've been thinking about buying these sequels for years. So now I have to buy the next two, obviously.


Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

I knew I would love this when I eventually got around to reading it. I would have read it sooner if I hadn't been reading all the Jane Austen books last year but it was well worth the wait. My one complaint, and the only reason this is five stars instead of four, is that there was a lot of exposition regarding the backstories of the many characters and, although it was interesting and necessary, I felt it distracted me from the main plot at times. But you know, not enough that I didn't immediately jump straight into the next book...


Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

I liked this one even better than the first. Now I knew all the characters and their backstories, I could just concentrate on enjoying the story, which I loved. Also, this book focused on Jesper more and he is my absolute favourite, so that might have been a contributing factor. Either way, I raced through both of these novels and seriously did not want to put them down. I highly recommend them if you want some good old fashioned adventure stories!


Traitor to the Throne by Alwyn Hamilton

After reading Rebel of the Sands last month I couldn't wait to get my hands on the next book in the series. Although I loved Rebel of the Sands I felt a little bit as though it started off as one book and unexpectedly became something else half way through. Traitor to the Throne on the other hand, is firmly in the vein of the second half of Rebel of the Sands and I actually loved it even more than the first book. Now I'm just annoyed I can't have the next one straight away.


Beginnings, Middles, & Ends by Nancy Kress

I have a lot of books about writing. Probably more than most people would deem advisable. I'm sure you'll be seeing a lot more of them this year while I work on re-drafting my novel. Currently the plot is bringing me down big time. I found this book useful for thinking about conflict and how events in the plot should influence character arcs but it didn't really tell me anything I didn't already know, just reminded me of some things I tend to forget.


Plot & Structure by James Scott Bell

Another book about plot. I'm really struggling, guys. I did find this book more useful than the last one though. Whereas Beginnings, Middles, & Ends reminded me of things I really already knew, Plot & Structure made me think about my story in ways I hadn't before. Which is great! But it means I have a lot of work to do now...