Today’s graphic is the view north from the beach at a small place called Dirleton on the east coast of Scotland. When I was caravanning there with my wife a couple of years ago I would take a walk to the beach early in the morning when there was nobody else around. Peace and tranquility are the two things I found there on each visit. It’s a feeling I’m able to appreciate again, now that I’ve completed my latest competition entry. Of course I’ve experienced those things since that holiday, but they’ve been missing whilst I’ve worked on ‘HAWK, A HUMAN HUNTER’, the novel.
It’s taken me a few days to come down from whatever place I’ve been for the last two months. When I took part in the NaNoWriMo I felt under pressure and applied myself daily, safe in the knowledge that what I produced wasn’t intended for the eyes of an agent, publisher or anybody else for that matter. It was an exercise in writing a serious number of words on a daily basis to achieve two goals; write in excess of 50,000 words in a month, but make a working novel of the writing.
Back then I used my character ‘Hawk‘, developed for a series of poetry. It was fun to do and it taught me a little about character building – and I don’t just mean my own. I put in twists and turns, ups and downs, highs and lows, peaks and troughs or however you would want to classify them. In my own private world I thought the idea worked so I kept all my writing to refer to at a later date.
It was with some trepidation I set out to rewrite my character, in a different city, with a familiar feel to the plot in order to take part in the Good Housekeeping / Orion Books novel writing competition, including a guide to getting published by Luigi Bonomi. The requirements sounded simple enough when I read them; entry form, full synopsis of up to two pages, a 100 word bio and up to 5000 words of the unpublished novel.
My first task as I saw it was to rewrite my first two chapters and I re-sited the action in my home town of Glasgow, rather than where I originally based the story, in Edinburgh. I started out by keeping my main characters and set about the re-write happy in the knowledge I would enjoy the challenge. I continued with my usual routine of write it, leave it aside, print it, edit it. By the time I reached the third draft I knew I was going to be applying a bit more effort than I first imagined. It started to occur to me that these wonderful people who churn out novels have to work at it.
I’d never attempted a synopsis, but how hard can it be to write the skeleton of your novel, especially with up to two pages? Answer – quite hard actually ….
At last count before I was happy with it I worked on the synopsis for two weeks! A couple of interesting things happened during that process, apart from the repetitive headaches, oh yes, and my inabiltiy to concentrate on anything else. I realised with a little research that although there is a lot of advice out there on the subject of writing a synopsis, it isn’t necessarily the same advice. Sure, it might help catch the eye of a publisher or agent, but I ended up with three completely different versions of the same document before I was satisfied which way to go. The final choice as it happens still took four drafts before I was then happy with it.
As I read it and promised myself, ‘one more time’ I made some notes and went back and amended the opening of Chapter 1. It didn’t take long before I realised I was working backwards! It had taken me two months to end up editing Chapter 1. In the end to preserve my sanity I told myself that what I had was good enough (whether or not I believed it), so I then trusted my hard work to two people I felt I could trust, my good friends Carmen from distant tropical shores and Chloe from these green and pleasant isles.
Between these two lovely ladies they all but destroyed what little confidence I had left in myself. No they didn’t actually … I’m kidding. What they did do was agree (without consultation) on a couple of areas where I could improve and they also said some nice things about my writing. I’ve always been one for taking the rough with the smooth so I accepted the nice things like the gentleman I am … and made a list of the things to be revisited. It appeared that me and my characters would not be parting company for at least another week.
It’s gone now, the manuscript that is, posted off with high hopes and a background of unseen blood, sweat and tears … mainly sweat, but I don’t intend to hold my breath whilst I wait for the results of the competition. To Carmen and Chloe, I owe both you ladies a debt of gratitude. If I win I’ll send you both a small monetary gift … do they still mint the ‘farthing’ coin I wonder ….
So now I’m working on the remaining chapters but at a more leisurely pace, mainly to save my sanity.