A year to the day (almost)

Sunday, August 05, 2007, 11:43 AM

A couple of days ago I checked the creation date on the first piece of writing I did when I started this current phase. Its date was July 31st 2006. So, it's almost exactly a year since I started writing seriously. And what have I achieved in that time? Quite a lot, I think.

In the last twelve months I have written two complete novels and several short stories, as well as the early pages of four more books which I may pick up again in the future (two of them I definitely will). I've sold a story, so I have a legitimate pub cred to my name, and I've made a few new online friends whose encouragement and guidance have been key to getting this far (you know who you are).

There have been ups and downs. The ups were those bitter-sweet moments when you type the last few words of a novel (just proving to myself I could do it is pretty major), and the aforementioned short story sale, plus those wonderful ego boosts when a piece of writing has gone down well with readers. The downs? There was the awful realisation that my first completed novel (the eponymous Conduit) just didn't cut it even after all the work that went into it. There's the personal sacrifice it takes to write at the same time as running a business (a diminished social life and a less than spotless house!). Those downs, however, are far outweighed by the ups.

Now, the rewrite of the WIP. It's nearly done. I'm down to the final sequence, which doesn't need that much tweaking, so I hope to be finished today. That means I can spend a couple of days with SS@S's book before giving it another once over, and then we'll see where we are with it.

After that comes the daunting part. Sending it out there...

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Blogger sex scenes at starbucks said...

That is a lot! I'm hoping to have a year like that, starting in a week or two when the kids go back to work.

5:44 PM  
Blogger McKoala said...


4:42 AM  
Blogger sex scenes at starbucks said...

back to school, I apparently meant to say...

3:32 PM  
Blogger Stephen Parrish said...

That's an impressive output for one year. Most people spend their first "serious" year getting over the intimidation. (Not that I know anything about that . . .)

Thanks, Betsy, for the introduction.

7:47 PM  
Blogger Ello said...

Aha! Found your blog! SS@S said you were a great and prolific writer. It's amazing to me that you have written 2 complete novels as well as short stories in a year. Did you ever sleep? Having written 2 novels now, how do you feel about them? Do you compare them to each other? Do you think one is better than the other? By the way good luck with them! I'm also in final edits(or what I believe are final edits - since that is not necessarily the same thing!) and I'm getting more nervous about getting ready to start querying. Scary stuff.

Glad to have found your blog! Hope you don't mind me popping by!

3:23 AM  
Blogger Conduit said...

Ello - Thanks for dropping by, it's always good to see an new face. SS@S is very kind, and has been a huge help to my writing. That's a friendship well worth cultivating if you can.

How do the novels compare? Well, yes, one is far better than the other. I had come close to finishing another novel about three or four years ago as well, so I consider the latest to be my third. The mistake I made with the first two was to lose sight of what they were about, and particularly with the second (the first novel I ever completed) it was heartbreaking to realise that it just wasn't very good.

The latest is a different kettle of fish, though. It really has a solid spine joining the first word to the last, with a definite journey for the protagonist. With the other two, I got so wrapped up in subplots and character development the story lost its way.

During the early stages of writing the latest one, I read a book called 'Story' by Robert McKee. This helped enormously in focusing the novel's flow, and I recommend you check it out.

And feel free to drop by any time! :)

7:13 PM  
Blogger Ello said...

Thanks for coming by my blog! You cracked me up so hard with your comment! I'm still laughing!

I have Story by McKee also! I totally agree with you it is awesome. I hear he gives this great workshops that cost you an arm and a leg but people rave about them. Well, I think the book is good enough for me.

I'm grateful to you for answering my questions. It sounds like you are really happy with your latest WIP which is great, but I wonder about your previous books. When you say your second is not so good, is that you being critical or is that from feedback you have received? I wonder because I find myself teetering on that line of thinking my novel is quite good to thinking it is a mediocre waste of time. I don't tend to trust positive feedback as much as the critical stuff which all feeds into my thinking I might have written something that was a waste of time.

Oh well, you know. I just need to be satisfied with having accomplished something and keep moving forward. I admire you for doing just that.

4:10 AM  
Blogger Conduit said...

Ello - My problems with the earlier novel first became apparent when I tried to come up with a query hook for it. Nathan Bransford once said on his blog that if you're having trouble putting your novel across in a paragraph or two, then you need to consider that your novel in itself may be flawed. I figured that out before he said it, but he summed it up pretty well. That was back around Christmas time. Nobody has read that novel as a whole, but the query and first chapter were dissected over at the Crapomter. I was completely besotted with my first chapter, I thought it was the best peice of writing in the history of books, but when the critquers started asking what the point of the chapter was (it was really an extended prologue that had little to do with the rest of the novel) I had to step back and take a good long look at it.

At that point I realised the novel, while probably well enough written, just had a weak story. The premise had been, and still is, a good one, but the story itself was meandering and lacking in spine. I use McKee's definition of 'story' here, rather than plot.

Of course, I was despondent. However, one Sunday shortly after that I woke up and had a new story in my head. It was a short story, based on true events. I knocked it out over the course of the afternoon, tweaked it that evening, and sent it off to the Crapometer. It got a great response, and SS@S/Betsy asked me to submit it to her magazine, www.electricspec.com.

That one jolt of encouragement was enough to perk me up again. The next Sunday I woke up with a scene in my head, and that day I expanded that into another short story, called Followers. Again, I sent that to the Crapometer, and it got an even better response. That story then became the first chapter of the novel I'm about to start submitting.

I don't plan, I just write and write until it's done. No road map. I also write fast when the blood's up, and because my style is unfussy, it tends to be pretty clean. But, as I've said in other posts, everyone is different. There's no correct method to this.

One thing I would advise: submit some of your novel to the Crapometer. It's scary, but you'll get honest and friendly critique. Some critters give more useful advice than others (SS@S and McKoala are two I rely on most), but it's a really useful exercise.

It's funny, I'm typing this like I know what I'm talking about - I don't! Betsy is one of the wisest and best minds you can tap among blogging writers. I wouldn't still be writing if it wasn't for her.

10:45 PM  
Blogger Ello said...

Wow! Thanks for being so honest. I had submitted my query to Miss Snark and then to Evil Editor. Both of them helped me hone my query letter to something that I think works now and the one I will be using to query on when I'm done.

I hadn't thought to submit my work to the crapometer. The few times I would check by the site, it didn't look like a lot of people were commenting. Perhaps I wasn't in at the right time. Right now I've got the last draft of my WIP with 3 different readers and I think I'm going to wait and see what comes back before I either send it out or keep working on it. But I'll definitely think about the crapometer. We may find ourselves querying around the same time. I'm gonna wish us the best of luck because no matter how good our work is, we will still need to have good timing and luck.

5:08 AM  

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