Wednesday, 26 September 2018

Backtracking - Rewriting Fiction

My second novel was written with no plan, no plot in mind. Just a setting, a character and a question. I let the character travel through her world to find an answer to the question. After the first draft was done, the question had been answered but it wasn't so important to the story anymore. Other questions, problems appeared, new characters became a focus as well.

My second draft has been trying to explore some of the ideas that developed later in my writing and to work in these new threads from the beginning. I've submitted my rewritten chapters to my writing group over the past year and we've reached Chapter Eight recently. Again, my readers asked new questions, showed interest in minor characters, struggled with aspects of the story. So I've been going back over the first seven chapters to makes sure it flowed and there weren't repeats or continuity errors or just problems.

I've also asked another writer to reread all seven chapters together. The problem with submitting 1,500 words at a time to the group that there is often long gaps between sections, as in the summer when I went on holiday, and not everyone can attend every weeks, so readers miss out on parts. Having a reader go over everything up to a certain point can give you good feedback on flow, pacing and development. 

I'm doing the same for another writer as he has also submitted about four chapters of his novel and we've both had the same sort of feedback about slow development. Our group mostly contains fantasy, science fiction genre pieces, so our two novels which are literary fiction, mostly relying on character development for their action rather than fighting or physical activities often feel slow. It's been helpful to get feedback on how things are working so far. 

And now that I have his comments I'm going over the chapters again. I'm also pushing forward with the next section for group this week. Until I get a firmer handle on the story, I'll continue to go back and rework as I move forward. It would have been easier to have a strong plot sorted before I started, but I can't always work that way. For me fiction develops from a grain of an idea and grows, expands as you learn more about the characters and the place you've set them in. It's one of my favourite things about the genre. I'm willing to take the time to move slowly back and forth over my story until I feel it's ready to face the world. 

Wednesday, 19 September 2018


The weather has definitely switched to autumn here, lots and lots of rain, temps cool enough to put on the heating, a desire to light a fire and wrap up in blankets. So it feels like time to start making plans and preparing. Harvest time.

Halloween is the end of the old year in the pagan calendar. I'm not a pagan, but I've always like this idea. My birthday is near Halloween so it's always been my new year point as well. For me autumn is a time to take stock, to prepare for the new year, to gather in resources and provisions for the winter. To finish old jobs and start new ones.

Life has given me a jolt and I've needed some time to curl up and reevaluate things from a distance. The same applies to my writing. The last week was quiet, but now I want to really begin to move forward.

I'm hoping the new course will give me lots of new poems to work with in October, but I also want to look at my Finnish poetry collection at terms of how I can start shaping it. I have enough poems as the moment for a full collection, but I need to reassess it in terms of theme and direction. See if I need to fill in any gaps or start from a new direction.

I'd like to read through the first 8 chapters of my second novel, the point where I've reached with my writing group, and see if it flows coherently. There's a worry from my writing group about pacing and development, so I need to look into that.

With my first novel, I need to brave looking at it again. I set it aside after rewriting the beginning as it needed time to set in my head. Now I need to read through it and see if it works and go forward with the rewriting if I'm happy with it.

So I'm taking small steps forward and it feels right for where I'm at just now. 

Thursday, 13 September 2018

Slow Week

I'm still here. 

I haven't written in days, things have been chaotic, my brain hasn't been able to stay focussed on anything. 

I've signed up for Wendy Pratt's new poetry course which should get me back on track in October. Autumn is my favourite season, so hopefully I will find some inspiration in her prompts again this time. 

In the meantime, I'm taking it slow. Working on my fiction for the writing group, submitting work to magazines.

Hopefully I can turn this down time around soon. 

In the meantime, here's a magazine that's included my work in their first issue, Nitrogen House.

Tuesday, 4 September 2018

Face the Darkness

It's starting to creep in, that darkness, sliding into my poems. It wants to be heard and as much as I don't want to allow it in, I'm opening myself up to it. It hurts, it's hurtful. I'm not sure if it's helping yet, but maybe it will in the long run. 

I know if I hold it in, try to resist it will build up and hurt more. It's a fine line to tread. I'm not sharing my work with those it affects, just the anonymous people on my online course. It feels a bit like letting go of a held breath, just a moment's release of tension.

My poetry course has finished and while I've found it hard to keep up with all that's going on, it has been good for me and for my writing. An external focus, a way to keep moving forward. I still have a few prompts I haven't written anything for, so I'll try and catch up with those over the next week or so. Or let them simmer in the background to see if anything comes of them in the future. Wendy Pratt is offering another course in October on autumn and aging, so I will probably sign up for that as well.

I do need to get back into my fiction. But to be honest I have no enthusiasm for it right now. I took the next section to my writing group and got decent feedback that gives me some direction with which to edit it, but I have set it aside. Usually I come back from the group and start working on it right away. I'll look at it again during the week when the house is quiet.

There's no rush and no need to beat myself up if I just want to leave it, do the bare minimum to keep taking chapters to my group, but to focus on poetry for the most part. Sometimes it's useful to have several projects on the go, if you go off the boil with one you can pick up another.

So I'm treading soft, allowing the writing to take me where I want to go. It's scary, but also feels very grown-up, trusting myself and my art.