First Drafts – Getting The Story On The Page

2016 has been a great summer for writing activities, and it’s far from over.

Following the Dublin Writers’ Conference in June, I spent a blissful week at Swanwick in August and, in October, I shall be jetting off to the South of France for a retreat with the lovely Bridget Holding and her Wild Words, which I’m really looking forward to.

All in all, it promises to be a wholly creative period for me, especially as I am working on completing the next in the Lost Souls series, The Plain Truth.

But, here’s the thing. It’s sooooooo hard!

You see, in the short space of time that I have been writing (about four years), I have discovered something really important about the way I write books:

I’m really good at starting things, but I’m really rubbish at finishing them.

In fact, this applies to all sorts of things in my life, not just writing. So, my one single goal for 2016 has been to concentrate on finding ways of being able to finish my books, in the hopes that I can transfer these skills to other areas of my life too.

I was thrilled, therefore to meet Sheila Bugler in Dublin and attend her course on Getting Your First Draft Done.

I learned an enormous amount from this course. Two things in particular stood out for me:

Firstly, I don’t usually set myself a daily word count. This is probably because I don’t want the feeling of failure if I don’t hit it every day. To rectify this, Sheila gave us some simple exercises to help hit the count. I am now regularly hitting at least 500 words a day, and around 1500 at the weekends. Yay!

The second piece of advice I took away was to try not to listen to my inner editor. This is really difficult for me (especially as I am now a trained editor and proofreader!) so I decided to choose a different place in the house to do my writing, completely separate from my editing. Anywhere, in fact, other than my desk. Sometimes I’m sitting up in bed, sometimes I’m on the sofa. Last night, I scribbled a few sentences while perched on the kitchen table.

Fantastic, I thought. Armed with this new advice, I trotted off to Swanwick to see if I could learn more. One of the courses I had in mind was delivered by Michael Jecks and entitled Plotting and Stratagems.

From Michael’s course, I learned that my usual reason for getting stuck halfway into a novel is that I don’t plan well enough, so I took away some guidance for planning chapters. Hopefully, this will help with the problem as I make my way through book two in the Lost Souls series.

Speaking of which, I am eagerly anticipating my trip to South West France and being on retreat. I shall only be there for 3 full days, but I often surprise myself how much I can get through in a short space of time when I really get my head down and write with no distractions.

More news soon! Au revoir…

7 thoughts on “First Drafts – Getting The Story On The Page

  1. Thanks for a very interesting post, Liz. I think the difficulty of finishing a long piece of fiction is a far more common problem than writers’ block. We need to keep setting ourselves achievable targets. We need strategies – sounds as if you’ve found two good ones. Most of all, we need will power. I’d written 90% of a novel by last December. The book’s still not finished: life gets in the way! I wish you a happy and productive stay in France. Geoff Parkes.

    1. Thank you too Geoff! Agree with the achievable targets, definitely. It’s 11am on a Saturday morning and I’m currently enjoying one of those rare days when I seem to be ‘In The Zone’. 1100 words so far and I’ve just taken a short break. I need to capitalise on days ike this, I know, because it could be some time before other’s another one like it! Happy writing… x

    1. Hi Andy,
      Welcome to my site!
      A daily word count is always difficult when you’re working full time as well. I find some days I just can’t face it when I come home, and others it just flows out of the pen.
      I guess if I could work out the formula and bottle it, I’d make a enormous fortune and I could retire on an island in the Bahamas… Haha!

  2. Hello Liz – I have just “met” you on twitter. I reckon finishing the first draft is difficult for most writers who are not meticulous planners – and I am not. I hate the middle muddle but once finished I do enjoy improving the next draft and the next until I’m satisfied. One hint I can pass on is to try and write something everyday – even one sentence to keep the story fresh in your mind so you can think about the next phase – maybe before you fall asleep – for when you do have good writing time. Also it helps to jot down a few words before you stop as a reminder of where you’re going next, especially when things are flowing well but life says you have to stop.

    1. Hi Gwen,
      Thanks for stopping by, and thank you too for your interesting comments.
      I like your hint about writing a few notes before putting down the pen for the day. Perhaps I’ll try that!
      Best wishes with your endeavours 🙂

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