My journey to completing my first novel
I've wanted to write for as long as I can remember. Penning my first story complete story when I was 10, a point horror and fear street fan I wrote about 4 girls at a boarding school getting haunted, stalked and killed. Then I grew up, sporadically wrote ideas and short stories, always letting life get in the way and not having time.|
Now, two kids later (now 4 & 2), I find I want and need something that is mine. I tried making jewellery, zentangle and even my cleaning and beauty stuff (the deodorant is something we don't talk about lol). I stopped writing because I thought I had no ideas, wasn't good enough (for what? who knows) and that everything has already been done (black panther shape shifter tick).
A few meltdowns later I started writing for me, then I started getting ideas and wanted to pen them down and suddenly I had a grip on my sanity and was feeling a little bit happier and a lot less crabby.
Now I have to work out what to do with my ideas, I start writing, procrastinate, worry and then move on without finishing anything.
I tried snowflake method, the whole method is not for me but I really found writing the one sentence about the deep theme helped me to focus on what the story was about and not dwindle off in directions that have no point to the story.
|I have been reading Terry Brooks, Sometimes the Magic Works. What a fantastic read.
I am a huge fan of Apocalyptic and Epic stories and series' and love Shannara and The Word and the Void.
The main things I have taken away from this so far (apart from all the interesting info on Terry's life) is it's ok to daydream and live in your own made up world sometimes, that this is the first part of creating and then writing a story. Don't panic and rush to write it all down, if it's good and workable it will stick. I am still on the fence about outlining, however I had an idea (prob more of a short story or a part to a longer story, time will tell) whilst driving (that happens a lot) when I got in I rushed and made one sentence notes for what I thought would happen in this. I've now started writing it (by throwing it all out there on the page and not second guessing or editing myself as I go) and am using these notes (more a timeline, plot line) to keep me going. So far it's working. Especially since have been ill over the weekend and not written anything on it since Friday. I was able to pick up where I left off, just by reading the last sentence and looking at my wee plotline and going for it.
My notebook is getting full, keep penning small ideas that come to me. Am letting them grow and live in my head till I see what happens. Terry is right, you don't forget you initial idea, but once you expand and 'live' it in your head you quite often drop it and forget because it wasn't whole, complete, had potential?. I don't know am letting things build and see where they go whilst I write this short story.
I've really noticed that what kills my writing and any ideas is thinking beyond the actual writing of them and wondering. Easily nipped in the bud as I am writing for myself, to keep my head and have some space carved out that's mine. Still when you daydream your story you can get a little carried away.
|I was reading at other 'planning' methods yesterday after realising that the whole snowflake method was stifling me and making writing hard and not enjoyable (after all that is what it is about for me). I discovered vision boards. I don't have a board, just a lined notebook, I can't draw either (I tried, my log cabin looked like a poo). Along comes google images to save the day, I found pictures of scenes I was thinking about, visual aids for characters (a few pictures each that helped me to build them a little better in my head, actually see the wrinkles, pointed nose, wonky smile) and stuck them all in my notebook with taglines for what/how/when so that when I start writing they will help me remember the excitement of the story and relive it. Usually once it has all played out in my head I can't right it, I'm not in it anymore.
I also seem to have most of my ideas whilst I am driving. My notebook is full of random sentences, character descriptions, scenes, vague musings, plot ideas and story themes. Now I want to get it together and start building on it. I had a short story idea on the way home from work last night, with two kids to look after when I get home I could only write down a few short sentences to describe the storyline I was seeing in my head.
|I did a few more characters, my story felt like a little fake. The more I delved into it, the more not into it I was. I felt like I was trying to push it into a box that it didn't fit in. So I took a step back and really thought about the original idea. Am going back to the drawing board today, starting from the beginning. The world I see is ours, but dark and barren, sparsely populated. There was a war between witches and humans 100 years ago and lots of places are uninhabitable due to the effects of magic.
|Am enjoying the Snowflake Method process, it's helping to point out flaws as I try to break down my story. It's really making me think, when I got to writing about my main character and was asked about her 'epiphany' what I thought was her epiphany seemed very fake, if I was a reader I would be disappointed and think that had just been thrown in there. It really made me think about my character, why she was doing what she was doing and what in her situation would she find out that would change her. I realised what that something was, although I will need to tell it very well and see how it fits into the whole story to pull it off.
Step Two was writing a full paragraph outlining the story, specifically the 3 disasters that they will encounter and an end. I re-wrote this a few times, mistaken some things that happen along the way as 'disasters' as I seemed to have loads. I realised that the 3 disasters are the pivotal moments in my story that move the deep theme along. This whole thing is one huge learning curve and even if I never do it again, it's great way to breakdown and learn how a story is built and evolves.
One Paragraph Summary
An outcast witch goes on a quest to find a portal shown to her in a vision to escape the implosion of her world. Her journey takes her across a barren land to a forest where she is attacked by flying beings. Reaching the cave she causes it to collapse to hide the portal from the coven. Finding a second portal she escapes.
Really bare bones of the 3 acts and the ending, I get to flesh this out and make it a page long later on. BTW, I don't recommend reading forwards when you first start this method, I looked on at the steps and found myself feeling a bit overwhelmed, I had to pull back and tell myself just to concentrate on one step at a time.
Next I got to write a bit about my character, coming up with a name was really hard. I like the one I chose and it really fits her in my head. The thing I really struggled as I said above was her 'epiphany', nothing is set in stone though and as I go through all the steps I am sure I will come back and change things.
Aura has a vision of the end of the world and searches for the portal shown to her to escape.
Lonely, Aura would like to have friends/family.
To escape the world before it ends.
The coven her determined to stop her.
Epiphany – the man who raised her turns out to be her real Dad and she becomes half shape shifter.
After a vision of the destruction of her world Aura sets out to find a portal to escape. The hard journey brings her to a forest where she is attacked by Terra’s and mortally wounded, a shifter finds her and helps her to heal, he recognises that she is a shifter. Healed Aura finds the cave in her vision, the coven have followed her, she causes the cave to collapse to hide the location of the portal. Pulled free by the coven they search her mind to get the location of the portal and take her there. Using her blood to open the portal she is left dying on the floor and helpless to stop them escaping. Dragging herself up to the tower she watches the fire in the sky and finally pulls out the letter her Dad left her. With directions to a second portal close by she manages to escape before the world is destroyed.
I now get to write the same about the rest of the characters, I think this will be harder as they are not all as 'real' in my head as Aura just yet.
|Day two of the Novel.
So yesterday I had a great idea (well I think it is for me). I spent the day writing random scenes, plot ideas and characters as they came to me and when I looked back at it last night felt a little overwhelmed. I realised I had far too much going on, there were 3 characters that were fighting to be the protagonist which was confusing me, each potential protagonist had their own overarching story and I had no idea where to start and who to pick.
I was googling 'how to write a scene', thinking that I would just write the scenes I outlined in a random order and see what happened. Turned out I couldn't get started, it was hard to pick a scene, without knowing who my protagonist was I couldn't write the scene ideas.
Then I re-discovered the snowflake method. I had tried this before, always failing at step one. I think I gave up on outlining because I have never really had a complete creative idea. So I decided to try. I knuckled down and started Step 1 this morning. I thought this is easy, one sentence describing the deep theme of the story. I can do this. Err, what's my deep theme? So I had to think, what was the big thing in my story, the thing that kicks the story off and needs to be resolved. After a lot of brain storming I realised what it was, once I knew what it was I knew exactly who my MC was. I started writing. He tells you take an hour, pfffft, I don't need an hour to write one sentence. So I started, my first sentence was a paragraph, crap this is harder than I thought. Then I read keep under 15 words. WTF, I looked at my 50 words. Then I spent the next hour narrowing down my word count, this meant narrowing down my deep theme, I realised that I had sub plots in my deep theme, they are great to keep the story going but what is the whole point of the story.
Well, after just over an hour, yep I needed the whole hour, I finally nailed it. I am as happy as a pig in shit.
One Sentence Summary
An outcast witch opens a portal to escape the pending implosion of her world.
I am now on my way to writing a whole paragraph about my story .
|So was busy today, woke up with an idea about magic as currency - which turned into something different. Ended up writing just over 4000 words on the idea at work (I said I was busy lol), started with just writing the ideas for scenes, which then turned into a plot and had a few characters and sub plots I have never plotted before, always just write and see where it goes. Now I am terrified and excited (which makes me feel a little sick), about actually writing it. I have a beginning, middle and end and no matter what am going to write it. I have some scenes outlined so instead of getting cold feet am going to start by picking any scene, in no particular order, just whatever one I can really see and hear in my head. I know it probably won't go according to plan and will (hopefully) take on a life of it's own, having a compete idea is dead exciting though.
|One of my creative writing exercises was to write a story (or use one already written), cut it in half and then cut more, paragraphs,sentences and words. I decided to use This is Hell as I wanted to read and edit anyway. I wasn't brave enough to delete the original so it's still in my portfolio, here's a link to the new version "Have a Little Faith" . I butchered it and it felt good lol. Learnt a lot in the process too.
|I seem to have a recurring theme to my dreams the past few years, they are apocalyptic, end of the world scenarios where I am a survivor. I have them every few months, most recently last night.
Like all of them they start normal (ish, as far as dreams go), everything in them at the time is familiar to me (people may look different but I know who they are, same with houses and places).
Then the dream switches and the apocalyptic scenario is in full force. Last night it was zombies, I was in a ware house style shopping/common centre. I was in a very small shop and most of the stock was gone, there was a cloak rack in there where people could leave coats and bags whilst they shopped. I knew this and was there to search the coats and bags for food and anything useful. Another guy had the same idea as me, he looked at me, I think I knew him, had seen him around before. Then I have a memory of zombies being blocked up in a room as neighbours and relatives didn't want to kill them, they had thought the initial threat over and whilst blocking up the room a woman started to turn, they ended up shoving her in the room as well, her son was also in there so everyone thought it seemed right. A couple of months have passed since then, I look over at the room, the barricade they built has started to fall and I realise there is a gap at the top and I can see inside, the sun is up now and you can see into the darkness, I can see the woman that they shoved in last minute. She is sitting with her back to the wall, rotting away, eyes wide, not moving. I go back to raking, wondering why no-one has noticed and fixed the barricade, I want to get out of there and I know I won't be coming back. There are some toys in the shop, a plastic jar with figures and trees in it, the minion on the front. I almost reach for it, thinking at least there are toys left for the kids, then I remember that I don't need toys anymore.
I leave the small shop, the man starts rummaging through the coats and back packs I have already checked. As I walk past the zombie room the woman moves, just an arm. She is not dead, just waiting. She turns her head and looks right at me. I run, shouting at folk I pass by to run too. It's only seconds and already behind me I can hear screams starting, the sounds of flesh being ripped and I turn round and I see the zombie woman, she is fast, faster than they were before. I run out of the warehouse, past people standing in shock crying, I push them, urge them to run, thinking fools. Some run past me, covered in blood ignoring everything else.
I had another dream last night too, don't know if it is connected, came before or after this one. Has the same apocalyptic theme though.
I am running through a store, looking for my sister who is teaching a class at the back, the store is a supermarket and has lots of rooms that branch off that the community use. I find her, breathing heavily and panicked I tell her I need to fly over the water. That you can't use the roads, it's here and people are infected. Panic ensues and they start locking everyone in the store. She pulls an old rug from under a table, worn and a gold and yellow colour, she asks if it can hold us both, I look over at my companion, she is younger and smaller than me. I nod, yes it's magic, just magic it stronger as well as to fly I say. My sister nods.
Then she is giving me a kite, a small child's one that seems really flimsy. I ask if it will fly and if it will hold us. It will fly my sister says and should hold one of you. I tell my companion to stay, she doesn't want to. She runs with me to the last unlocked door, the only exit that will be locked behind me. She doesn't think it will hold me, I say it has to. Then I am out, the kite in my hands, I say the word my sister told me (I think it began with an L) to make it fly and it starts bucking in my hands on an invisible wind. I test it with my weight, the plastic frame bends. I look out over the water and over a bridge teeming with people, it has to hold. I say the magic word my sister gave me to make it stronger, it flies up, pulling me off the ground, I see a dog round the corner, slathering and dive at me, I yell up and just make it high enough that the infected dog misses me. I am away over the water, the kite snaps, shit I scream as I fall down and land on the bridge. I am surrounded by people, I see a boy and he is trying to get back to his parents through a throng of people trying to leave the island. I see his parents and realise they are infected, they reach there arms out to him, mouths wide, eyes blood shot, their veins black beneath their skin. I grab him, yelling into his hear over the crashing sound of the screaming people, telling him it's too late, he lets me pull him away and I start pushing our way through the people, I can see the marsh land over the other side of the bridge, I think it's our only hope now, to get back to the island. I pull him with me as I round a corner, I look back his mouth is wide, his parents are right behind him and then I see black course beneath his skin, his eyes start to bleed and he turns back to me with a snarl. I pull my arm back, knocking him over, I jump over the side of the bridge and land in swamp like water, I can see the black goo in the water, slowly working it's way inland, I have to out run it, I take off and see more black goo coming towards me from the other side, I make it through the small gap and jump onto dry land. I look back and see the water turning black, I can no longer see the grass and weeds or how deep it is.
An interesting night lol. Not remembered my dreams this vividly for a while.
|Another exercise, really struggled with this. It's only part one, I just can't seem to write about the date. Will keep plugging away and maybe come back to it later.
Tom decided to take the bus to the shop, rain pelted him sideways as he huddled under the bus stops awning.
He wandered round the shops, eventually picking out a new pair of jeans and headphones. He had save Penny’s shop till last, although he barely knew her his hands got sweaty whenever he thought of her.
He walked up and down the aisles looking at cd’s waiting for the queue to go down and the shop to empty. Eventually the last person left, Tom grabbed a cd and headed to the counter.
“Hey, how’s your day?”
Penny looked down at the CD, smiling as she rang it up.
“You like the Spice Girls?”
“What?” Tom glanced at his purchase “It’s for my little sister”.
Penny took Tom’s money and slipped the CD into a bag. The brown bag crackled in Tom’s hands, he shifted from side to side. Penny waited patiently, finally he was going to ask her out, she had waited months.
“Would you like to go out some time?”
“Sure, how about tomorrow? There’s a good local band on in the pub next door.”
Not believing his luck Tom tripped up on his way out the door, he heard Penny laugh and when he turned round she was smiling at him.
“I finish at 7, meet you out front”.
He nodded and walked off down the street, clutching his brown bag to his chest, he didn’t even notice the rain.
After much hair pulling and obscenities, I decide to dive right in at the middle for part two of the exercise 'The Date', otherwise it just seemed boring. Am at work the now, but if I was to write on I think I would have Tom come out and see the taxi pull away, absolutely gutted. Then a few days later see Penny's picture in the paper under the header 'Missing', the police will turn up as he was the last one to see her alive. Maybe Tom will become an amateur sleuth and discover that girls go missing when this local band plays all the time, no matter the pub. Building their own groupie Hareem? Maybe they are selling them to fund their rocker life style. Maybe it's nothing to do with the band but their manager is a secret serial killer. Anyway I really should get back to work now.
|Practicing third person and dialogue, exercise from The Creative Writing Students Handbook.
“Hey, mister. You a school teacher?”
“No, I am not.”
“What are ya then?”
David ducks his head and walks faster, the car is just round the next bend now and he sighs as he catches sight of her.
“Whoah” David stumbles as a bike skitters across the road.
“No! What did you do?”
David rushes to his car, kicks the bike out the way and checks the damage.
“It’s just a car, pizza man.”
George laughs and runs over to grab his bike before pizza man can stamp on it.
“He’s a delivery guy for Domino’s” he yells back at Fred.
I always seem to write in first person, Mary-Sue anyone.... Going to practice some third person writing and jumping from different view points and lots of dialogue!
Continuing on with the writing practice exercises, action scenes - with and without dialogue, from different perspectives.
A car sped by, blowing road dust into David’s eyes. Blinking he wiped the dirty tears away, huddling into his coat against the wind. Rain started to fall, smacking the pavement and dirtying his pants. He could see the mud splatters up the back of his legs in his head and slowed down, placing his feet carefully and avoiding the growing puddles.
A horn blasted, another horn sounded and then a curse thrown out a car window. David heard the screeching and the tinkle of smashed glass before the lorry cart-wheeled round the bend. The driver was hunched over the wheel, the windscreen already shattered. It ploughed into the pizza shop, taking out the counter and the girl standing behind it, Jean was quick and dived to the side. Finally it came to a stop, hitting the wall and bouncing backwards into a circle of abandoned cars.
The driver was now halfway out the lorry, his body hanging through the windscreen and over the smoking bonnet. The abandoned cars owners rushed over, some on their mobiles dialling 999 and some talking to friends, hysterical. David didn’t move, the rain and mud splatters forgotten as he looked at the collapsing pizza shop. A wet sound escaped his lips as Jean dragged herself across the floor, her legs at an awkward angle behind her. Nobodies legs should bend like that, David thought.
“See you soon honey”
“Love you, too”
Jean hung up and hid her phone under the till. Straightening her apron she flipped the shop sign over to ‘Open’ and retreated back behind the counter.
“Jean, what are you doing here?”
Mr Bailey squeezed himself through the back door and behind the counter, a wad of bills clenched in his fist.
“Shouldn’t Sofia be here?”
“She, she didn’t feel well”
“Is that right. Well, I’m sure the extra hours will be helpful eh?”
Mr Bailey winked at her, smirking he hurried out the front door, the bell dinging, celebrating his exit. As always Jean wondered where he was off to with all that cash, she told herself it was none of her business, that curiosity killed the cat, besides he always paid her on time and sometimes a little extra if she had helped open or close up for him.
Jean stared out the window, David would be here soon, she liked when they were on shift together. It really wasn’t about the extra money, it was nice but not as nice as spending some extra time on her own with David. The late shift was always the best one too, no dinner with his Mum tonight either. Jean glanced at the clock, she would be on her way to Bingo right about now.
Jean heard the screech of tyres and blasting horns and started to walk around the counter to the front window, wanting to see what was going on. The lorry appeared outside the shop and smashed through the front window, Jean registered the cracking of glass and the blaring of a horn as it grew closer. The mythical survivor instinct kicked in and Jean flung herself sideways as the lorry smashed through the counter and into the back wall.
Everything was noise and then everything was quiet, the last tinkle of glass slid away and the horn stopped blaring. Jean watched as the lorry slowly rolled back out the shop front, glass crunching beneath its tyres. People started moving outside, running towards the lorry and the shop front, the world seemed to move in slow motion. Jean couldn’t get her legs to work, panicked she used her arms to drag herself forward, only thinking of David.
“The normal please, love.”
Ben printed the ticket off and watched old Molly skilfully rip it from the machine, slender hand reaching easily through the small gap in the screen.
“Good luck tonight, Moll’s. You must be due a big win by now.”
“It’s a long time coming, love.”
Ben watched Molly hobble down the aisle, her walking stick banging into each seat she passed, the passengers jumped every time. Ben chuckled, he was sure she did it on purpose, to wake up the youth of today.
He pulled away, onto the main street, the other stop was only a couple of minutes away, he wished they would do away with it. He could already see a crowd of people there, waiting, arms outstretched and waving up and down like monkeys.
A car shot out in front of him, horn blaring, the driver hung out the window screaming obscenities. Ben slammed on the breaks but the bus was too big, he hit the back of the car. Screams came from behind him as passengers were flung out their seats, he could hear the thud of bodies as they hit the floor. The bus pushed the car into a lamp post, the metal crunching and glass flying everywhere. Finally the bus stopped, the car sandwiched in the middle, the driver hanging lifelessly out the window.
Ben could see people starting to lift themselves up off the floor, whispering turned into shouting as they clambered over one another to look out the window. Ben was relieved when he spotted Molly, sitting on the floor and pulling herself up, she looked up and gave him a nod. That old gal was a tough. Screeching tyres brought Ben’s attention back to the road, he tried to work out where it was coming from, the road ahead of them was empty.
Ben turned towards the voice and watched as the lorry fishtailed round the corner, catching the back of the bus and sending it spinning. Ben whacked his foot on the brake and closed his eyes, he held the wheel firmly. He heard the bang and crunch of metal before he felt it vibrating up his arms, the bus tipped sideways. He watched as Molly fell back down and the rest of the passengers fell on top of her.