Thoughts on Writing My First Novel

It’s been well over a year since I’ve posted anything on my blog. Every time I felt the urge to write something, it seemed like the wrong time. I was too busy, or I’d stared at a computer all day and my eyes were tired, or I just didn’t have anything meaningful to say.

So my blog went dark.

But there’s another reason why I’ve been silent here. Whenever I actually managed to get into a writing mood, I made a deliberate decision to channel that creative energy into writing my first novel.

In my high school years, I played around with novel ideas and started a few chapters, but I don’t think I ever got past Chapter 5. Then life happened, and I left the dream behind.

This year, I decided I wasn’t going to let anything stop me from picking it up again. I didn’t care that I had a demanding day job and family obligations. I’d been carrying around an idea for an urban fantasy that was lighting up all the corners of my brain, and I needed to get it down before life happened again. The only question was whether I would have the staying power to achieve it. After all, I didn’t have a good track record.

It helped that I forced myself to set aside a weekly writing time. If I wasn’t going to be able to write during the week because my eyes were tired from all the computer work, then I was going to get my butt in the chair every Saturday morning and try to write one scene. One scene over the weekend, and I was off the hook.

So I wrote. And plotted. And bought Scrivener. And crossed my fingers that my idea wasn’t going to fizzle out. Was this a real book? Or was I just fooling myself? Had I lost any storytelling capability I’d ever had? Could I really fill a bunch of blank pages with 70,000 readable words?

When I reached 16,000 words, it hit me: This was turning into a real book. I started to get excited. But there was so much to still figure out. It helped that I’d come up with some plot milestones to write towards, based on Save the Cat. Without going from Point A to Point B and then to Point C, I don’t think I would have been able to make it. Even if things changed later, those story beats were beacons that helped illuminate my path forward. (Honestly, I have no idea how you pantsers do it.)

I kept writing. And reached 25,000. Then 35,000. I was at the midpoint! I had written half a novel!

Of course, then I had to figure out how to write the second half. Ha ha. The characters had changed the plot I had originally planned, and now I needed to adjust everything. My original ending wasn’t going to make sense. Now what? I started to be afraid again. Was this it? Was this all going to end up being a colossal waste of time?

Then the best thing happened. I went on vacation.

Suddenly my mind was freed up for two whole weeks. I had time to write, and think, and plan, and then came a wonderful moment. I thought of one idea, and then another, and then it all popcorned into a bunch of related ideas. Kernels of ideas everywhere! I scribbled everything down, and by the time I was done, I’d figured out the path for all the remaining chapters in my book. Hurrah!

Now I’m at 46,000 words, and I can say with confidence, enough to finally post this on my blog: I believe in this story. I LOVE this story. And I’m going to finish it. It’s happening.

And then I’m going to let it sit for a little bit. And then review and edit it. And get it beta read. And professionally edited. (Yes, I am an editor, but it’s a true fact that no one can edit their own work.)

I have a personal goal now to self-publish my first novel by May 2020. I can’t believe I just said that!

What I was realizing today is that I never would have made it this far without being part of this blogging community. Writing my creative communication posts was a labour of love that sparked the creativity in me, something that I had worried was dead. And reading all your comments gave me the courage to take this leap.

So thank you, everybody. I might be going dark again for a while, but I wanted you to know I’m still thinking of you. And I would like you to be the first to read the draft logline for my book, even though it won’t be out for a while:

On the verge of losing her day job, a grieving singer who desperately wants success makes a wish that magically turns her life around; but when the path to her dream gig goes horribly wrong, causing chaos in her hometown and hurting the ones she loves the most, she must face the truth of her family’s past before everything she cares about is destroyed – including herself.

Thanks again for being there for me. I wish you success in your writing, and I really hope to see you again sooner rather than later. (But not until I’ve finished this draft. Otherwise it will never get done!)

All the best,

Sue

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Ode to a Typo

Typo by Roberto Blake

I red four you

The hole way though

Write form page on

Two the end of page too

I should of scene

You hidding their

I do now how to spell

I swear!

 

Got typo troubles? Here are three tips that can help:

  1. Leave some time between writing and reviewing, even if it’s only a few minutes.
  2. If you’re writing online, review it on paper.
  3. Read it out loud.

Or, if all else fails, just say “I meant to do that.” 🙂

***

Amazing image by Roberto Blake

I’m experimenting with posting quick tips — let me know what you think! (And yes, that is my attempt at a poem.)

Do you have your own typo tales or tips to share?

 

© Sue Archer and Doorway Between Worlds, 2015

My Writing Process (Blog Hop)

Talented writer and fellow blogger Andrew Knighton recently tagged me for a writing process blog hop. So of course I said yes! My hop post will probably be a bit different from the norm, since my personal writing is focused on blogging (for now) rather than traditional stories or novels. My day job involves a lot of business/technical writing and editing for a corporation. My blog gives me a chance to show off my creative side.

1. What am I currently working on?

I started Doorway Between Worlds four months ago. I write weekly tips about communication through the lens of sci-fi/fantasy. I also proofread for Editors’ Weekly, the official blog of the Editors’ Association of Canada.

At my day job, one of my current focus areas is writing online help that is useful, clear, and easily accessible. So I have been learning a lot about information architecture, user experience, and plain language. The plain language aspect is filtering into my blog, because I try to write posts that are readable for a wide audience. As someone who has spent years explaining technical concepts to the business side, I strongly support plain language and clear communication.

In the back of my mind are many story ideas. When I have more time to devote to writing, I’d like to explore them. These include ideas for a traditional epic fantasy story, a post-infrastructure collapse apocalypse story, and an adventure story about a family that saves the world.

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I am a big fan of Grammar Girl because she writes about grammar in an accessible and entertaining way. I wanted to take things one step further by writing communication tips in the form of stories. I have seen other people do this, but usually the story is limited to a few sample sentences with a lot of exposition in between. I am working towards fully integrating the information into the stories. I’d like the story metaphor to seamlessly reinforce the learning. I’m not there yet, but that’s my goal. Can I write fun stories about grammar that are just as entertaining as a traditional story? We’ll see…

3. Why do I write what I write?

I started my blog for a couple of different reasons. I wanted to share what I’ve learned about communication in a fun way, so that I could help others who are interested in this topic. I also wanted to start writing creatively again, because ever since high school, all my writing has been analytical. My dream as a child was to write a fantasy novel, and that hasn’t changed. But I’m out of practice. Writing this blog is helping me use those parts of my brain that have been sadly neglected.

4. How does my writing process work?

I use a form of writing prompt to come up with post ideas. I have two lists: a list of communication problems I would like to help people with, and a list of sci-fi/fantasy settings and concepts that I enjoy. Then I try to connect the two of them together.

Statue holding a stylus in front of a beautiful sunset at Piazza di Spagna in Rome, Italy

Do you feel this serene while writing? I wish I did!
(Image sourced from gnuckx at Wikimedia Commons, CC-BY-2.0)

Sometimes I start with a problem, like the time I was trying to figure out how to write a story about apostrophes. This seemed impossible, until I thought about how nice it would be if someone could just take them away. And so Night of the Apostrophe Ninja was born. Other times there’s a concept I really want to write about, like vampires. What do vampires do? Suck the life from people. So then I ended up writing about how passive voice sucks the life from sentences in Tale of a Sentence Vampire Hunter.

Once I have a basic idea, I let it kick around in my head for a couple of days. (My best thinking times happen while I am commuting, out walking, or, unfortunately, trying to get to sleep.) I typically write the first draft in one shot. I let it sit for a day and come back to edit it before posting. I used to spend a lot more time editing. I’m starting to get used to the blogosphere, where speed is more important than perfection.

5. Tag three other writers for the blog hop

A lot of writers I follow have already been through this blog hop, so this is a tough one. There are three writers I admire who have a knack for humour in their posts. I’d love to find out more about how they write:

Celine Jeanjean

Brenna Layne

Shelley Sackier

Ladies, if you would rather not blog hop, I understand. Feel free to post a link in the comments below to one of your favourite posts so I can share your greatness!

And finally…N J Magas has already done this blog hop, but I wanted to share her fantastically funny post: In the Back Abyss Without a Light or My Writing Process.

Thanks for reading!