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Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Catching Up!

Well, first of all, my apologies for promising to post more often this year and then not doing so at all throughout January. At least I'm fitting this in before we move into the second month.

My reason is that I have been fierce with myself about finishing the novel and haven't left any space in my head for thinking about much else, apart from as many short stories as I can squeeze in. Today I completed a very, very rough first draft of almost 80,000 words. I have tried to print it out for a read-through, but our new kitten jumped on the paper-tray and triggered a jam. So it's stuck in there until Husband's return later. Is Fate trying to tell me something ?

I can't say I feel pleased with the novel at this stage and I'm not sure whether that's a good thing, in that I'm aware I have tons more work to do and shouldn't assume it's anywhere near finished, or a bad thing - ie, it's awful.
I won't mind if it's awful. Well, I will, of course, but I'll try not to. I've enjoyed the experience and will have gained a lot from it. I haven't completely neglected the short stories and can't wait to devote some extra time to them now. I could use this novel as a springboard for the next one, for which I have an idea already, taking with me all that I have learnt.

So, what have I learnt? I think the most important thing is that I needed a bit more of a plot than I actually had. What I had was an idea. I expanded as I went along, but floundered at times, which made me feel a touch insecure about the whole thing, like a gymnast's major wobble on the balance beam. Next time, I would write down a few more notes first to check that I really did have a clear plot that would engage me throughout and therefore engage the reader too. I know I can iron out some of the kinks to steady things, but I don't know whether that will be enough to save it.
I have also learnt that if I put my mind to it, I can write more words than I thought I could. If I take an hour at a time and determine to write for that whole hour without being distracted, I really concentrate, lose myself in it and the writing flows as a result. I can always lose myself in short story writing, but I've had to try harder to focus for three months on this one piece of work. I'm too used to leaving characters behind after a few days, so it's strange living with them all the time. And I worry that if I'm tiring of them, the reader will feel the same. I hope that when I read through it, they will seem fresher. I think I should leave the read-through for a couple of weeks and come back to them when I've had a chance to distance myself. And to retrieve the scrunched paper from the printer.

At the moment I can't help mulling over the bits I think are good and wondering if I should turn them into short stories!

I am reading Della Galton's Moving On From Short Story To Novel, but should have done so before I began! However, I'm sure it will be very helpful as I continue to revise what I have written.

I have recently become addicted to Dorothy Whipple's books, both short stories and novels. I loved Someone At A Distance. I think her writing is beautiful. I know some readers might consider it a little old-fashioned, but I can't help loving that.
And I enjoyed Aimee Bender's The Particular Sadness Of Lemon Cake. Unusual and moving.
As always, the more I read, the more inspired to write I feel. I have had some good competition results and more sales recently. I put that down to all the extra reading I have been fitting in, often at 4am. I keep waking up at that time, so I've put it to good use!


  1. Joanna, you need a break from that novel! Put it bed for a couple of weeks and try to forget about it, then come back and read it with fresh eyes. You will probably feel qutie different about it then. Good luck!

  2. Fantastic progress Joanna! You carried on to the end, when it would have been really easy to lose the momentum during the bits you were struggling with. Yes, take a break and when you re-read you'll be able to see where more work is needed.

    I adored 'Someone at a Distance'. Wonderful, understated writing. It is rather of its time, and so it does have an old fashioned feel. But I loved it so much. There is a paragraph towards the end about waves. I don't know if you would remember it. But I kept reading that little bit over and over as it was kind of comforting. I must find some of her short stories.

    Can't ramble on any longer as I have to go to work. Bleurgh!

  3. Thank you, Frances. You are absolutely right and it feels good to hear those words! It will be a relief to stop thinking about it.

    Thank you, Joanne. You are so right. I should recall how easy it would have been to stop and give myself credit for finishing!
    I'm glad you loved 'Someone At A Distance'. It is so sparely written, yet says so much. I could picture the characters so clearly and they have stayed with me ever since.
    I did just the same as you and re-read that paragraph several times:

    'She had learnt to wait for the changes and the help that life brings. Life is like the sea, sometimes you are in the trough of the wave, sometimes on the crest. When you are in the trough, you wait for the crest, and always, trough or crest, a mysterious tide bears you forward to an unseen, but certain shore.'

  4. Well done on getting to the end, Joanna - that's a huge achievement. I have to agree with leaving it aside now for a while before looking at it with fresh eyes. I think you're right about devoting a good section of time to writing a novel - I'm not getting on nearly fast enough because I'm not doing that.

    I'm enjoying reading 'The Particular Sadness...' at the moment! My daughter bought me it at Christmas, along with the new P.D. James which is not as good as I hoped.

  5. I too think it is wonderful that you got to the end and should now give yourself a short break x

  6. I too, have just read Someone At A Distance, and loved it. Co-incidently my friend has just read The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake - and read a little aloud at our Writers' group recently.

  7. Oh thank you for posting that quote Joanna. I thought I was going to have to get the book back out of the library to look at it again!

  8. Thank you, Rosemary. I feel very happy today that I can concentrate on a new short story and let the novel take along sleep. I'm also unbelievably tired. I don't think I've realised until now how exhausting it's been!

    Thank you, Teresa. I'm enjoying the break very much. I've even been shopping this afternoon with the middle daughter. But I do find shops tiring too. I have come to loathe them since discovering the joys of Internet ordering!

    Hello Lindsay. I'm glad you loved 'Someone At A Distance' too. There is something about that book that made me unable to out it down. I would love to write like that. Dorothy Whipple's short stories are lovely too.

  9. You're really welcome Joanne. It's a beautiful piece of writing, isn't it? She makes words flow in such a discreet and elegant way, like a clear river.

  10. Well done on getting to the end! I've just read Della's book, thinking I might actually make the move from short story to novel. Now if I could just find the will power to sit down and write it...

  11. Thank you, Gail. I hope you find the will power to start. Once it was underway, I found it became addictive! As long as I put in a few hundred words a day, I kept on enjoying it. If I took a break for a few days, I lost the thread and the impetus to keep going. With the next one, I'm going to be extra disciplined with myself!

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    2. Congratulations on finishing the first draft, that's an achievment in itself!
      You definately deserve a break!

  12. Thank you, penandpaints. The break is definitely doing me good. Writing more short stories again feels like quite a holiday!