Project Update

So it’s been a while since I posted on here, and I thought I’d just write a quick one (which will probably turn into a long one) before I go and catch a train home.

The flavour of my latest problems have been issues with unfocused chapters, and pacing.

After I finished my fourth chapter, about three weeks ago, I realized that I was going to finish this first draft with WAY more words than 80,000. I’d taken a whole 6,500 words in that chapter to only barely touch on what I’d said I was going to resolve. The chapter was supposed to be the first big reveal, where my protagonist is told exactly what is going on and why everything which has happened so far, has happened.

Instead though, it ended up being a whole chapter of a back and forth between the character and his father, with whom he has some serious issues. While I’m happy that I managed to write a decent amount of interaction between the two of them, and it definitely helped me to be clearer in my mind about how the two of them would react to each other, it was a very slow chapter, much too slow for the rest of the plot, and spilled over into the next two chapters. Obviously, this then slows the pacing of the rest of the story, and doesn’t create any tension in the story either.

I’ve just finished my 28,000 word count for last week (Couldn’t focus over the weekend, but that’s a different story), but I think that at this point I should be further in the story than I am.

When I start a new chapter, I write a few paragraphs on what I think should happen in it, so I don’t have to keep thinking about where I am in the story and what needs to happen. The problem I’ve had over the past three weeks is that I haven’t stuck to those paragraphs. I even ended up copying several points over from one chapter into the next because I hadn’t focused my writing tightly enough.

Part of that problem is that I’m not confident in my dialogue at all, so when I need to write a chapter which is essentially just one character being given information, it drags out much more than it should. The other part of that problem is my inexperience. When I started the novel and planned it out, I was fairly confident. I’m in my final year (third year) of a writing course, and I know my writing is much stronger than it was when I started the course. And yet here I am, only 6 chapters in after 28,000 words and behind in the story than I feel I should be.

Inexperience in this instance isn’t so much not knowing what to say, but rather having the confidence in my own writing to use fewer words saying something, or even not having to spell it out and allowing the reader to work it out for themselves. Yes, this is my first novel and my first draft, so I know I’m entitled to mistakes, but these are mistakes which sap at your confidence.

Having to edit part of the story for a different piece of coursework hasn’t helped either, because I’ve convinced myself it’s a terrible idea to go back and touch previous chapters in any way at all, or even think about editing, at least until I’ve finished the whole first draft.

However, after discussing this with my tutor, I know it isn’t nearly as bad as I’ve told myself it is, because I can simply edit the piece from the point of view of writing style rather than for the story consistency. Treating it like a separate story will help as well.

Anyway, off to catch a train home. And on the subject of trains, does anyone else find them to be the most productive place to write? I know people on my course say it all the time, that trains are the best place to write because you’ve no internet and nowhere to go, but I honestly find that my writing goes much faster when I’m on a train as well.

All the best to everyone for their writing endevours until next time,

NK

I hate people who read over my shoulder.

It’s one of the most distracting and irritating things to happen if you’re trying to work and you can see in your periphery that someone is watching you type. I don’t mind so much when I’m reading a newspaper or a magazine, though I’m always tempted to ask them if they want to buy their own copy. But reading whilst I’m trying to write it is just plain rude.

Maybe I should start from the beginning.

Because I sent my laptop off for repairs on Monday just gone, and I then realised just how difficult it was for me to work on a tablet without a physical keyboard, I decided that the best place to work would be the university library computers. So there I was, minding my own business and writing a two page synopsis (which has now turned into a four page synopsis, but that’s not the point). Random student comes and sits down next to me and begins work on his own essay.

About 10 minutes later, he looks over at my screen. I can see from the corner of my eye that he’s reading my work, so I open internet explorer and google for “Irritating work distractions” to get him to concentrate on his own work.
Five minutes pass, and he does it again. This time, I don’t bother with the passive aggressive, I just tilt the screen away. This doesn’t deter him either.
The next time he starts reading my work, I look over at him. He looks at me. We both know that he’s reading my work, and he knows I’ve caught him doing it. What does he do? Goes straight back to reading it.

Seriously. I’m trying to work on a fantasy novel, and someone I’ve never met is looking over my ideas. I feel apprehensive enough as it is just discussing my work with other people on my course, let alone with total strangers. I hate the feeling of being judged, which is exactly how I felt when he was reading my take on Lucifer and Michael.

This continued for about three hours before I got fed up and left.

I’m not usually precious about my work – I’m perfectly happy letting my housemates, coursemates and friends from home read and critique it. I’ve sent work in to perfect strangers for editing even when I know it’s absolutely terrible. And I’ve never been averse to drastic editing and cutting of my work either. But something about being there when it happens, and while I’m in the midst of writing it, is just so off-putting that I find I can’t continue working on it.

So this morning, when my laptop returned after only 4 days away for repairs, I’m sure you can all imagine just how happy I was that I wouldn’t be having to try and hide my screen again in the library.

What do people think. Am I being too fussy or does this irritate you as well?