Rachel, writing

All things novelling-related as I embark on my self-publishing adventure

Archive for the month “September, 2012”

How to write a novel: 2 The Plan

Plans for The Syndrome Diaries

To plan or not to plan? Some writers like to have a detailed road-map while others prefer to wing it. As you can see from the picture on the left, which has various tables and notes I used in the early stages of The Syndrome Diaries, I’m a planner.

I usually plan on several levels before I start writing:

Overview: roughly a third of the way through the book, something significant will happen that really sets the story moving forwards. Roughly two thirds of the way through the book, there’ll be a second major incident that drives the story towards its conclusion. I need to know what these events are so that I can set them up.

Wordage: all my first drafts that I’ve completed have been done with NaNoWriMo, so the next level of planning divides up my 50,000 word target, adding some more detail in terms of scenes and events that need to take place. (NB: this is the first draft: the final version of The Syndrome Diaries is around 95,000 words. Forthcoming blogs on the rewriting process will help to explain why!)

Details that I need to remember: characters’ surnames, timelines to make sure events make chronological sense (that’s the long, wiggly line on the top piece of paper in the picture) and anything that I’m likely to forget. Sometimes I fill in character sheets; I’ve got a full set for the novel I’m about to start work on (drafted 2009), but didn’t use them for The Syndrome Diaries.

Once I start writing, plans will be ignored, rehashed and turned upside-down. My characters will begin to take on a life of their own at between 20,000 and 30,000 words and refuse to do what I’d had in mind for them. But at the outset, I find I can write better if I have some idea of where I might be heading. In the next blog, I’ll tell you more about how I write first drafts.

Do you plan or do you dive in and see where the writing takes you? 

Advertisements

How to write a novel: 1 The Idea

Perhaps that should be ‘How I write a novel.’ The Syndrome Diaries has been two years in the making, from the first germ of the idea to the edited, polished, proofed and re-proofed manuscript that will soon be going onto Amazon. I thought I’d blog about the process I’ve been through to get it from the ‘aha!’ moment to the finished novel.

The central plot for the novel came to me very quickly while I was out for a run in summer 2010. It started with a question: were there circumstances in which adulterous behaviour might be OK?

You probably have an answer to that in your head right now, and I found myself in a very heated discussion on morals and motivations after reading out an extract at my writers’ group. But the question on its own isn’t  much of a plot. I had to create the circumstances around the temptation to stray, and that led me to introduce a third main character. As my ideas grew shoots and leaves, this third character decided she wanted a starring role, and she pretty much got it – or rather, her diaries did.

So where did all this come from? I have never committed adultery and neither, to my knowledge, has my husband or anyone else I’ve been in a long-term relationship with. It might have been from the many newspaper articles giving statistics on staying faithful. Perhaps it’s simply an age-old human dilemma that most of us hope we’ll never have to deal with.

If you asked me how I got my ideas, I wouldn’t be able to tell you. What I do know is that they come suddenly and they grow rapidly, branching out in sub-plots and detail that I have to start taming into a plan before I can start to write – and that’s the subject of my next blog.

Do you have a method for generating ideas? Or do you have to wait for the muse to strike?

The bit of marketing that people forget

Do you monitor your blog/twitter/Facebook stats?

It’s vital you know what’s working and what isn’t if you’re going to use your  time on social media productively. I know that this blog is the bit of my platform that sees the most action. That’s why this overdue posting is what I should have been doing instead of hanging out quite so much on Twitter.

This blog has been checked out 72 times this week, and it has 4 new followers, despite me not doing very much. This might be because I visited other blogs (I love visiting blogs!) and commented on them.

I’ve been reading tweets (I love reading tweets!) but failing to contribute. Still, I picked up 3 new followers and tweeted 23 times. I’ve tried to diversify my tweets, although they still have a bit of an academic bias. I suspect academics are  my main category of followers, so maybe that’s not so bad – if you want to know why, here’s my day job.

I posted a few times to my Facebook author page, and got a couple of likes for my 1990 youtube indie disco, but there is tumbleweed rolling across the dancefloor. Now that the page is there, it’s not high maintenance, but it’s rather pointless at the moment as a website can provide all the information and more. I’m hoping it will be home to discussions about the book once it’s published (assuming some people buy it!).

I made no effort at all with LinkedIn, and I still don’t ‘get’ it. In return, it made no effort with me.

Ultimately, none of this matters if there is no book. This week (please imagine a small trumpet fanfare) I finished my final ‘does it all hang together?’ read-through of The Syndrome Diaries, so I can now progress to the next stage: formatting it for Amazon.

Last week I mentioned putting together a sheet I could record stats on. Did I do it? Yes I did! That’s where the numbers above are pulled from. They are (ahem) modest, but useful as a picture of what happens if I slack off. That’s a good reason to turn up the activity this week and see how the figures compare.

Do you monitor your author platform? Is there anything you’ve found that surprised you? And do you ‘get’ LinkedIn?

Not long to go now

I’d love to have an exact launch date for The Syndrome Diaries, but even if I knew the day it will upload to Amazon, the time it takes Amazon to process new e-books varies. So I’ll just have to say I’m aiming for mid-October.

The final edits are going quicker than I expected. I’m adding a little more colour into one of my main characters and also sowing a few more seeds for a twist at the end of the book. I thought I had put enough pointers in for it to make sense, but my beta readers tell me not. The predictability of a plot’s twists and turns are impossible to gauge as the author, so this feedback has been particularly useful.

As far as marketing goes, you might notice the appearance of a Facebook ‘like’ widget over to the right. Yes, I got my author page set up! Now I have to work out what to do with it, and it’s one more thing to keep tabs on and update. I have to admit I have reminders on my organiser/project management app to tweet and to go and read blogs. It’s easy to think of them as luxury activities for spare time, and ticking them off a to-do list gets me out of that mindset. I’d better add a recurring Facebook task.

There seems to have been slightly more activity on my blog, and because I’m now using WordPress for two other projects, I’m getting better at finding my way round. Now I need to start paying attention to the statistics on here: there’s so much interesting and useful information. I think I need to structure it with a weekly report where I collect specific figures, rather than just having a look when I feel like it. That’ll be another app task…

How do you manage your platform and stats without it taking over your life? All tips gratefully received.

Post Navigation