Monday 9 October 2017

Writing My Novel: Not Writing My Novel

My last post was all about my Abandoned Second Draft but today, as hinted at last time, I'm going to talk about what I've been doing since then. Namely, not writing my novel.

NaNoWriMo finished last year and December disappeared in a glittering puff of gingerbread scented smoke. When January came around I decided to spend the first two months of the year writing, editing, and submitting short stories to competitions, websites, and literary magazines. I worked solidly, sent off my submissions, and thought I would get straight back to the real second draft of my novel. But it turns out I'm not great at waiting for responses, and submitting so many stories so close together? That just meant I was stressing out about the responses to all of them all at once. Then the rejections started to come and the shortlists I wasn't on started to be announced. 

I tried to work on my novel outline but I was too distracted. I tried to start a new draft but got barely 2,000 words in before the last of the stories I had sent out in those first two months was officially turned down. I briefly decided to quit writing forever. It didn't stick but it did cause me to take a break from writing for a few weeks.

Eventually I got up the courage to submit more stories. Finally, it paid off.

I won't say much, mostly because I'm not sure how much I'm allowed to say but also because I don't want to jinx it, but one of my short stories was accepted. One of my short stories is going to be published.

The thing I probably shouldn't admit but will anyway is that I spent less time on this story than any of the others I wrote this year. Oh, I spent about two months thinking about it, making a start and then deleting everything, over and over, but I wrote and edited the actual thing in less than a week. I wrote the way I used to write my university assignments: in a flurry of stress and excitement and 'why did I do this to myself??'

Maybe it's not the best way of working but the result is a story that feels more 'me' than anything I've written in a long time. Unlike the stories I wrote at the beginning of the year, I still like this one when I read it back. That was a stressful week but it made me realise that I had been trying too hard before, to write the kind of stories I thought editors wanted, to make the stories more like the ones I'd seen from other writers, to make my writing sound more "literary". This story, unlike the others, sounds like me, because I didn't have time for anything else, and that's the story someone wanted.

Knowing that, now I'm ready to get back to writing my novel.



  1. Well done, and good luck! I'm so pleased to read that I'm not the only one halfway through a novel and expert at procrastinating. You've inspired me to knuckle down and pick my pen up again. My problem is, I get bogged down editing the stuff I've already written and then never actually move forward when what I should obviously do is get it finished and THEN do the twiddly bits *sighs* Wish me luck.

    1. Thank you! Good luck to you too! If you've got the time next month I highly recommend NaNoWriMo. It's a great way of getting yourself out of the habit of editing as you write, and it's a lot of fun!

    2. That's a great idea! I'll definitely look into it. Thanks for your advice.