The Learning Curve(s) of a Virgin Novelist​

It will be three years at the end of June since I started writing my first novel.  At various intervals during that time, I erroneously celebrated The End.  Yet, every time I went back to it, it was clear that it wasn’t and I spent months rewriting it, which was when I realised that writing a novel is more than just telling a story.

The word undisciplined springs to mind.  For the first year, I was writing all day and most of the night.   I would wake up around 3.00a.m.; going back to sleep was an impossibility because all I could think about was getting this story out of my head and on to my hard drive. I’m not sure if I had applied a more methodical approach that it would have helped.  I might have looked less like a spaced-out zombie, but as I had allowed the concept to whir around my head for twenty years, there was no time to be disciplined, it needed to be unleashed.

It’s been a learning curve and I expect, next time around, I will organise myself better.

  • I wasted at least six months trying to write the story dipping in and out of the backstory until I confused myself with the timeline… no hope for any potential reader.  So I rewrote it in chronological order and, for the most part, it has stayed that way.
  • I spent an alarming amount of time zapping the clichés and idioms which should have never been in there in the first place 
  • My saggy middle was a real concern for quite some time.  The idea of revealing it to anyone other than my writing partner was out of the question
  • Looking back, I cannot believe I started sending parts of the manuscript out and asking for feedback when I did.  It wasn’t ready to be scrutinised and it makes me shudder now to think that I had the nerve do it, as I’ve edited it so many times since
My writing partner, Cassie, the only one that knows my novel-in-progress from beginning to end, as I have read it to her dozens of times.

Very recently, I had to step away from it, again, for a number of weeks.   I had more than just a wobble, it was a total confidence meltdown.  But… over the last ten days, I have been re-attacking it with a vengeance, as well as with fresh eyes and new found confidence.

Whilst writing this book, I have sucked up words of writing wisdom like a sponge from my writing gurus Barbara Large and Adrienne Dines, without their unfailing enthusiasm, I would have never written the first chapter… hundreds of times.  Bolstered by Lorna Fergusson’s encouraging input at the beginning of last year and having read inspiring posts by Alison May and K. M. Allan, I am now tantalisingly close to The End.

K. M. Allan – 4 Amateur Writing Mistakes to Stop Making Right Now.  Authorsplaining, Info-dumping,  Stage Directing and Extreme Scene Setting and yes, yes… I plead guilty to them all.

Alison May – JWSTB – The Saggy Middle,  part of her very sensibly named advice to writers series‘Just Write the Sodding Book’.  What I took away with me from that post is to go deeper, not wider, don’t spend time on subplots to beef things up and to focus more on my MC’s emotional dilemmas.  As I have I bawled my eyes out re-writing my MC hauling herself over her most difficult hurdle, umpteen times, does that mean I’m getting there?

So much to learn, so little time… so just finish the sodding book!

The End


Published by Tessa Barrie

Blogger from Jersey, Channel Islands UK who believes life's too short to be niche. View more posts

4 thoughts on “The Learning Curve(s) of a Virgin Novelist​

  1. This is a post I, and I’m sure many other writers, could have written. We’ve all been there, writing for years, thinking we’re at “The End”, only to realise we’re very far from it. I’ve also sent parts of my book out for others to see (including publishers and agents ) only to realise later that it still needed lots of work. Thank you for putting that realisation into words. Good luck with reaching your “End”, and thank you for letting me know that some of my blog posts have helped you. It makes me happy to hear that.

Thank you very much for visiting my niche-less blog! If you have time before you leave, would love you to tell us what you think. All the best, Tessa Barrie

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