It Took You How Long?

A while, my friends, a goodly while.

There have been a lot of these.

There have been a lot of these.

This is the second in my regular series following progress as I gear up to sending a novel off to agents for the first time, and I thought I’d take the opportunity to give a bit of background on the journey so far. The long long journey.

I’ve been a long-time advocate of National Novel Writing Month, so those who know me might be forgiven for thinking this novel was dashed off in a month but, as NaNoWriMo themselves say, it’s not quite that simple. NaNoWriMo helped me write the beginning, middle and end of something for the first time. It gave me the confidence and some of the tools necessary to turn an idea into something vaguely novel-shaped. Vaguely is the important word here.

This novel started life in 2007 when I was just beginning to explore writing for fun. I wrote 20,000 meandering words with only a very loose sense of what was going on and no sense of where it was heading. As with a couple of other projects I’d started, it then languished on a hard drive for a while, unloved but not forgotten. In the interim I discovered NaNoWriMo and in 2009 and 2010 wrote a pair of pretty short novels in a month each. I was excited with having got to the end of things finally and was starting to think more seriously about actually doing something with my writing. That in turn raised the dread spectre of redrafting, so to distract myself I returned to the idea that kept popping back into my head, the one that had budded and sprouted and grown in my imagination in the intervening years. Yeah, the one languishing on 20,000 directionless words on a semi-corrupted hard drive. In 2011 I used NaNoWriMo to finish it and ended up with a 70,000 word first draft. It even had a name finally: A Calling-on Song.

All this time I was learning more about the writing process, about breaking things down into scenes, about goals and stakes and obstacles and all that good stuff. And so, after another hiatus and plenty more research, I finally felt ready to tackle a redraft. I’ve no idea how long it actually took, but somewhere in the region of six months later it had ballooned out to a 110,000 word second draft. A quick note for the uninitiated – the general consensus is that debut novels should be around 90,000 words if a publisher is going to consider them. That’s somewhere around 350 pages. Rules do, of course, exist to be broken.

I let it sit for a while, distracting myself with yet more projects (an important part of the process which I may discuss in a future post), then in 2013 tackled the third draft to tighten it all up and kill a few of those lovely lovely darlings. I finished in October, ready to plough straight into a nice shiny new novel for NaNoWriMo, but by now I felt like I was getting somewhere. My wife, also an aspiring writer, had provided some invaluable feedback on the second draft (no-one saw the first draft but me) and now I felt like it was time to gather a few outside views. After all, it’s hard to look at something completely objectively when it’s been floating around in your head for six years.

So that’s where I am now. I’m in the process of collecting that feedback and next week will begin the fourth draft. From the opinions so far this should be a much quicker redraft, so hopefully by the end of March I’ll be ready to submit. To whom? How? I shall be covering all this and more in future posts.

How about you? How long have your novels or other creative projects been going on? Do you like having multiple things on the boil at once, or do you need something to be drafted, redrafted and redrafted again before you can contemplate moving on?


The Manifestation of a Manifesto


As you may well note from the long silence, I’ve been struggling for a while with the purpose of this blog. But time has rolled on, projects have been polished and realisation has dawned. I’m about to embark on a terrifying new journey and you, my imaginative and imaginary chums get to sit up front in First Class.

What am I babbling about? Simply this: in a couple of months I will submit my novel to literary agents for the first time. And so this is the forum where I will keep track of my progress, be able to sob over my failures or share my successes. It’s completely new territory, so may prove either a cautionary tale or inspirational chivvying depending on how things go. For those with similar goals it might be a useful resource and for those without it could perhaps be an interesting insight.

So that’s the manifesto. What will the next few posts hold? Some background on the novel and how long it’s taken to get to this stage. A look at some of the work that needs to be done outside the novel itself in order to submit. And I would have thought there’ll be plenty of procrastinating about quite where ideas come from, things I’m finding inspirational and ludicrous facial hair.

Are there any parts of the process you’re particularly interested in? If so, stick a comment below and I’ll see what I can do.