Monday, December 10, 2007


This blog has not included as much of this year's writing process as I had initially intended it to.

And that is partly because the very book I wrote is about the book-writing process. So, a lot of what I would have written here actually appears in the book, from the perspective of my main character.

Also, beginner that I am, I found it difficult to write a book and also put my energies into this blog. (The other blog benefitted a good deal, though, as it became an extension to the main character's world.)

Anyway, that's my excuse for this blog to have a piddly few entries in the last few months.

Third Draft Finished

Finished the latest draft of my book, complete with some efforts at typesetting etc. on Nov 23rd.
Since then I've been reading Rachael Stock's excellent and informative The Insider's Guide to Getting Your Book Published. And, I've just bought The Writer's and Artist's Yearbook (2008).

So, I have absolutely no excuses to not:

  1. Finding a publisher, or agent
  2. Finding more - creating a shortlist
  3. Writing a proposal
  4. Sending that proposal to my favoured publisher or agent
  5. Repeating step 4. until someone says, metaphorically of course, "Mr Delmonte - He say yes!"

It's essentially a research and writing exercise. An an exercise in patience. As well as a test of self-belief.

Still, it doesn't matter (really!) if the book I've started doesn't get published, as the main benefit of writing has given me the impetus (and confidence) to start another one in July 2008.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Second Draft Finished...

Or is that the third draft? I have lost count.

(It is the third draft. It's official. This is the second draft being finished.)

And I certainly have not been updating this blog - how I wrote my first novel - at all. I think I've found it too difficult to put energy into my writing, and into this blog. But I have been writing daily thoughts throughout the ebb and flow of the revision process.

I actually finished the second/third draft two weeks ago, and now I'm on a break from the words so that I am more able to revise them (again) with a fresh perspective. I could be doing research into finding a book publisher, or writing my query letters or doing whatever else I'm supposed to be doing to get my finished book published, but I don't want to just yet. As it's my first ever book I'm going to indulge myself a little - I shall concern myself with publishing once I'm "one more draft"-happy with the book.

Anyway, it felt great to finish the hardest rewrite so far - absolutely great. I really can't imagine how good it will feel to actually "finish" the book, let alone have the book published. My! My oh my - the thought of it.

Anyway, the one thing I do appreciate more now is just how much work goes into writing a book, even a crappy one by [author's name removed] :-)

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Revision process

Or, how many words can you rewrite per day?

First, an apology. The last month I have been busy finishing my second draft of my first book. (Is it a novel? Maybe.) And, once the second draft was finished the last thing I wanted to do was write about my writing here on this blog, hence the month absence. (I am keeping a diary of my writing 'progress' on paper, actually. It may well even make it into my book. We shall see.)

Anyway, I now have time to add some thoughts about writing, specifically the process of revising, rewriting, reworking.

Initially, I read the whole book after a few weeks away and took some notes. I noted what I liked, what I didn't like, and what needed to be added and what needed to be moved. There were highs and lows in this process, but I'm still here so ultimately I believe in what I'm trying to write.

Sotoday I have started to re-work, revise, polish, hone. (At least I hope I have started to do that.) Surprisingly, or maybe it's no surprise, I'm taking much longer to revise my words than I thought I would. I thought I could easily rework 5 to 10 pages per day, but today I have just managed 2 pages. The thing is, I'm not trying to do a Martin Amis here, and be oh-so-precious with my words. My language is simple and there are absolutely no darlings to be murdered! But still, it's hard going. 2 Pages is a bit pathetic.

I can see that I will need a different mental attitude to the one I had whilst writing down my words in the first place. Much, much more concentration is required. This is interesting, to me, and I guess part of the learning-to-write process. I will adjust my mental attitude accordingly, and quickly.

So, anyway, it got me thinking about word-count; i.e. how many words per day was good, in terms of revising. I like setting myself targets but I have no idea, right now, that's for sure.

My estimate of my book being finished by end of October has now been revised, however, to end of December (if I'm lucky!)

Monday, May 21, 2007

Second Draft Finished

Finished the second draft last week and now I'm taking a break from the words for a few days.

Funnily, the first place I turn to in this break period is the punctuation book Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss. And already I am aware that I have been making several grammar and punctuation 'errors' in my manuscript. Some 'errors are to do with consistency, some to do with style whilst others are plain punctuation errors.

This awareness is comforting; whilst correcting these mistakes will improve my confidence in the words a good deal.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Still Writing!...

Hence nothing much to say here.

My full first draft will soon be finished, and then I can put my feet up and count the money! Erm, then the real work begins. (Oh dear!)

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Kurt Vonnegut Dies...

I've just heard that Kurt Vonnegut, author of Timequake, Slaughterhouse 5 and others, has died aged 84 in New York. This is very sad news to me, not because I'm a huge Vonnegut fan (I've only read Slaughterhouse 5 (twice) and Timequake (this year), but because it was he that finally inspired me to at least begin my own book.

Rest in peace, mate. (George W. will have no juristiction whatsoever where you're going, you can be sure of that.)

As for Kilgore Trout -- what shall become of him?

(More news of Vonnegut's death can be found at this BBC web page and a much better tribute can be found here!.)

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The Last Line

"I've written it!

"The last line.

"Let's ignore the fact that it's also the first line, and the fact that this line makes several other appearances in 'the book'.

"I didn't have the heart to murder my darlings; instead I thought I should just make (some of) them work a bit harder!

"Anyway, it feels good to have written it -- the last line -- or rather fitted it in. Now? Revise, revise, revise and hope that I can read my hand-writing."

(Note: the above has been voiced by an actor, currently practicing his lines for a new book all about the world of Boring John.)

Monday, March 19, 2007

More Budding Writers...

Just wanted to list a few notable blogs on a subject close to my heart

- Trials and Tribulations of a First Time Author
- Writing My First Novel

Good luck with it, guys!

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Write a first novel

And when writers don't write, following on from my previous post, they find all sorts of interesting websites to visit or they suddenly decide to reorganise their utility bills or they think that now is the time to remove that seemingly indelible stain.

Indelible is a good word.


Anyway, I'm not the only one who is interested in inspiring others to write a first novel. Take a look at this motley crew*:

[* Again, even though I am not writing my novel this instant I am definitely writing in the style of my main character. This blog may have to wait a while, methinks

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Writer's write?

My writing space circa 01 March where, hopefully, writer's write...

Wednesday, February 28, 2007


Have you read Kurt Vonnegut's Timequake? It's less a novel and more a discourse on things that matter to the author, like his family, war and Kilgore Trout (a fictional sci-fi writer). It's about... well, to me, it's about writing.

If ever a book could encourage me to write, it is this one!

So I do not doubt that Vonnegut is an accomplished writer, a true wordsmith if you like. But I know that many readers and critics would not consider his books (especially Timequake) to be novels. (Vonnegut even writes about the lack of depth to his characters, according to some critics, in Timequake.)

So an atypical novel encourages me to write a novel.

This is interesting because, for the last few years, and particularly this last year, I have been trying to learn how to write a novel. What makes a novel? What are the mechanics of a novel? What are the requirements? Etc. I have read excellent books about novel writing that explained much to me - explained the rules.

I then went to a creative writing course at Arvon to learn more about rules and then to learn that there are, in fact, no rules: "there are no rules to writing". But it's only after reading Timequake that I truly understand what this means.

Here's a quote from the book (and the reason why Vonnegut writes):

"Still and all, why bother? Here's my answer: Many people need desperately to receive this message: "I feel and think as much as you do, care about many of the things you care about, although most people don't care about them. You are not alone."

This is not my motivation for writing, but that's not the point. Vonnegut wants to engage directly with the reader, as I do.

So will my book be a Timequake?

Yes, and no.

I am not Kurt Vonnegut and I have not lived his life so I could never have written Timequake. (I sincerely doubt I can write as well as Vonnegut too, but that's not important.) I can write my book (working title: Boring John) knowing that some of the daft things I want to write about, and some of the strange ways I want to engage my reader have been thought of before, by no less an esteemed writer than Kurt Vonnegut.

So there will be no Kilgore Trout, no reliving the last ten years, no thoughts about the Vietnam war. But there may well be sexual magic numbers, my thoughts about conflict (internal and external) and, of course, my very own answer to Kilgore Trout will definitely be making an appearance: one Boring John.

James N Frey (in How To Write A Damned Good Novel) believes in rules and I don't disagree with the rules he espouses. People like to read what they like to read. Damned good novels have a certain structure and contain certain types of characters and events happen in a certain way. Etc. You only have to look at the movie output of Hollywood to see that formulas work. However, I've always preferred more audacious, more experimental, more intelligent (if you like) film-making, found in independent films like, say, Vonnegut's favourite film of all time: My Life As A Dog.

So I welcome the sound advice found in How To Write A Damned Good Novel; I just know that the first book I write will be more in keeping with Mr Vonnegut than with Mr Frey.

A warning, though: this will be my first book! Timequake is Vonnegut's last (purportedly). So writing Boring John will definitely be running before I can walk. Somehow, though, it's easier this way. "Sometimes it's easier to run up the hill hard, than to run up the hill steady" - Boring John.

So will I be able to pull it off?


PS This means that I don't need to listen that closely to what Nick Daws says in his improbably titled: Write any book in 28 days or less, though I will do the research afterwards as he suggests.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

No Buts...

I am definitely procrastinating. Three days into another week and no attempt at writing (save a few blog entries). Admittedly, I have more or less got my writing space organised and, as a consequence, my office is much, much more organised too. But, still...

I must do better in March. I must do better in March. I must do better in March. Etc.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

"I'm O.K., You're O.K."

... But why am I not writing?

Instead, I am reading Scripts People Live - Transactional Analysis of Life Scripts by Claude Steiner. I think I am doing research (researching into life scripts) but maybe I'm still just putting it off.

Well, to counter any such putting off temptations (and they are clearly tempting) I've now set myself a deadline of March 1st to be the day that I begin writing my thousand words a day.

We shall see.


(Note: this is the first post tagged as procrastination rather than fear. Fear encourages procrastination, for sure, but procrastination can live a full and vigorous life in the absence of its more powerful brother. In my opinion, anyway. I shall review previous posts to change fear into procrastination (and hark, I shall be thenceforth known as The Alchemist! Apologies, my alter ego appears to be getting the better of me today).

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Is this procrastination?

I know I should be writing, but it really does feel important that I
  • Create my writing environment, first (I'm putting a table in my main bedroom and away from the office in my second).
  • Go to Ikea again* to get suitable furniture for above writing space
  • Tidy my office moving any writing-related books from there to my my new writing space
And, finally, I have to
  • Go through all my notes, in search of writing ideas that might just be useful
Is this the equivalent of doing a spring clean in the house, or of reorganising my clothes by colour rather than by type of item, or of reading one more book for inspiration?

Or, is it a necessary process of preparing for change, of preparing to write a first novel?

After all, I still don't know exactly what my book is going to be about, except that it is, without doubt, going to be something different. (I have several normal writing ideas lined up for next year and the year after that. I do hope, though, that writing something different doesn't put me off writing something conventional the next time because a) I have a taste for the odd, now or b) that my experiment failed so badly that I never want to try and write a novel again.)

I am going to be running before I can walk, with my first writing project, for sure. And that is most unlike me. I guess that's what's good about change - doing things differently.

And I keep telling myself that I am not writing a novel right now, but a book; it is simply necessary for me to learn to write by writing, and this is how I choose to write.

(*) Going to Ikea twice in the same year is almost unheard of, let alone twice in the same week!

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Books I Didn't Finish

(I was going through my notes just now and I came across a review of a book I didn't enjoy. And it made me think about the other books I've read that I didn't manage to finish. It made me want to write the following, in the voice of the character I'm writing about, called...)

Books I Didn't Finish

(Written in the voice of a character I'm writing about at the moment.)

I'm a man that does what his Mum tells him. If I should eat my greens then I eat my greens. If I should exercise three times a week then I exercise three times a week. If it's bad to drink too much beer, then I don't. So when I start to read a book I finish it. I don't skip the boring chapters; I don't read the first page and then the last page; I don't turn over page after descriptive prose page - I read word after succulent word.

There was a time, though, when I didn't finish my book. (Shhh.)

I started reading Umberto Eco's Foucault's Pendulum. Now I'm interested in maths and astronomy so I was bound to enjoy this book, especially as everyone raved about The Name of the Rose (much better than the film, as ever). Well I found it to be filled with turgid text, that my little mind could simply not penetrate. I could only manage 100 pages, which is much worse than Paula Radcliffe did in Athens Olympic marathon for women, that's for sure.

The trouble with quitting, as Paula can no doubt tell you, is that it sets a precedent, though.

And it wasn't long before I had not read another book then another. The books listed below are just the books I couldn't finish in the last few years. I have nothing against the writers of these books, except I couldn't finish what you'd started. These books failed me as a reader; or did I fail them as a reader, I'm really not sure? In no particular order:
  • White Teeth - Zadie Smith
    Clever. Inventive. About London. But after half-way through the novel I found that I really didn't care about the characters; I was bored. There must be something less boring instead that I can do, or read, I thought to myself. So I put the book down.
  • The History of Love - Nicole Krauss
    Even cleverer and more inventive than White Teeth. Still, half-way through, I was getting puzzled by the change in points of view, and I really didn't care about the world that was being painted for me.
  • Where Did It All Go Right? - Andrew Collins
    A happy autobiography type of book. And what's wrong with that? Nothing, except I found this book to be both smug and dull. (Good job I'm writing this in character, isn't it.) It's a shame, really, because I do believe that happy stories can make interesting stories, but this is not the book to read to prove it. (Interestingly, if you read Andrew's blog, you'll see that his Wimbledon-green lawn looks to have come over all Blue Velvet perhaps. I'm talking about the fact that he's even considering the truth (or otherwise) of the 9/11 conspiracy theories.)
The following books were recommended to me by people who thought it would help my writing. In some cases I read most of the book, but others I couldn't even face opening it in the first place. Blimey!
  • London Fields - Martin Amis
    Far too clever, and far too well-written to provide any semblance of inspiration to me.
  • Books by Nick Hornby and Tony Parsons.
    Not me. Aggravatingly so. I didn't even make 20 pages of Man and Boy.
  • A Multitude of Sins - Richard Forde
    I don't like short stories, and I didn't like how the author treated the subject matter. Good stuff like fidelity, feelings, betrayal, relationships - it just didn't sit well with me. I read most of the short stories then gave it to a person who likes reading short stories. Is that okay, Richard?
I forget what other clever stuff I was going to write here about books I haven't finished as this is my second version of this piece. Of course the first version was much better than the above, frustratingly so. I lost the first to the foibles of writing a blog at Blogger online. (Yes, I swore for several moments. And I'm still angry about it. As it says at the end of those classic Buffy episodes: "Grrr. Aaargh!". Exactly.


Okay. Time to do some work. I will let my character swear at one more time,"F***** B****x!" and get on with doing it, then.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

I'm Writing!

You'll never believe it but I'm writing.

It doesn't make sense what I'm writing, not in terms of writing a proper novel anyway, but maybe that's why I went to Arvon last year: to learn that there are no rules to writing.

Thank goodness for that.

I'm writing by hand, too, which is not pretty.

What I'm writing is as disorganised as anything, and I have no outline and no plot but I do have a means of generating words. And that will do for now.


Thursday, February 01, 2007

I've written my first line!

I've written the first line of my novel and the last line too!

The fact that the lines are both the same is neither here nor there!

It's a start.

Whether it's the start I was looking for, time will tell.

The first line?

(Not here. Not now. Sorry.)

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Free Writing Exercise (Part 2)

Nick Daws' writing course shows you how to free write, or write without thinking. I've done a little bit of this in the past, and I quite like the results. It's the only way I'm going to be able to write quickly, that's for sure.

Anyway, what follows is the exact (unedited) results of my free writing exercise. It took five minutes exactly, plus the time taken to type it out (Nick recommends that you hand write for best 'right-brain' success).

Exercise: Write whatever comes into to your head for the following (more or less) random words:

Black hat
Business card

(Here goes.)

The Black Hat Cactus. What a strange name for a pub. And the people that went into it were also strange, for sure. No business cards. Needed in this place. Absolutely not. No suits. No mini skirts. No power dressing of any kind. Just relaxed folk getting on with 'getting on'.

Yes, there were the odd fights - strange folk can rub up to other strange folk in most peculiar ways. But these fights always ended in the same way. The two men (or women), were forced to agree to disagree. They supped a pint of the other person's favourite tipple (not wine, obviously - that'd be a glass) and then they signed the Guest Book: a guest book of fights. There was no glory in being in the guest book, though. This was because all those that witnessed the fight got to write about it - and, a bit like drunks - no-one looks good when they're scrapping like a puppy.

That book didn't come out very often but it did come out. Tonight was a guest book night. And even though I'd remembered no business cards and got the name of the pub right, I was one of those involved in the punch up.


Procrastincation and fear

I know I'm procrastinating at the moment, almost fearful that I will get my 'bid idea' and then I'll have to begin. Some of my procrastination is actually just getting ready (I've started re-reading Nick Daws' How to write a book quickly course - see quotation below) whilst the rest of it is... er, doing something else.

Still, I'd rather procrastinate now and get it out of my system than be blighted half-way through writing the first draft. (Spoken like a true procrastinator! :-) )

I know I'm fearful too.

What if it's rubbish?

What if I've nothing to say?

What if what I say is unimportant, of little value?

Why did it take you so long to write?


Hmm. Fear can cast a powerful spell, indeed. I can already imagine the people who will be first to scoff at my efforts.

Facing these fears is part of the battle. A battle that continues however many novels one starts to write, I'm sure. Yes.

So let's finish this 'doing something else' blog entry with these comforting words, taken from Nick Daws' course. You're never too old, Nick says, to write your first novel...

"Indeed, older people have a big advantage when it comes to writing. Even if they have led relatively uneventful lives*, they still have a huge reservoir of experiences and memories they can draw on to add color and depth to their writing."

* The life inside my mind has been far from uneventful.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007


Today I went to Hebden Bridge, looking for inspiration I once experienced (when I took my creative writing course at Arvon).

As with most things you look for, I didn't find it, but Heptonstall (above Hebden) is still a lovely place to visit, despite the horrible commuter traffic I had to endure getting there at 10am.

I know where inspiration lies, and today's visit was a minor act of procrastination that I allowed myself.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Today's The Day

Today is the day that I start to write my novel.

Well, okay, today is the day that I start to make space to write my novel. Space means time, energy, ideas and commitment. I would like to write my first thousand words today, I would, but I am still unsure about what to write about. Vague ideas include writing about a writer writing his first novel (introspective, moi?) and beginning to live again as he does so. Then there's writing about angels. Then there's writing about one particular angel - the healer, somewhat cursed by her ability to heal those in emotional (or psychological) pain. Hmmm.

So today I'm going to:
  • write this blog entry;
  • I'm going to read much more of Kurt Vonnegut's Timequake;
  • I'm going to look over the notes I took during the Arvon writing course (I might even drive to Hebden Bridge to rekindle the inspiration I felt at the time);
  • and I might start going through the Write Quickly ebook again - if I follow the advice in this ebook then I should have something written in the next twenty eight days.
Writer's write. Right?

Well, this is a start.

I don't feel ready at all, but I've committed to beginning in January and beginning in January is what I will do. A novel does not begin with the opening line; it begins with an idea and with a commitment to fully develop that idea. Clearly, I still need to promote one of my many ideas to 'best idea' and then flesh it out. (There will be little time for flesh, I feel.)

It's better to start somewhere than to wait until starting feels right. It's not as if I haven't been waiting for over twenty years as it is.

So, I've started. Today. (Hip hip hooray!)

One good thing, though. I think I've found my muse: Kurt Vonnegut, no less. I very much like Vonnegut's style and ideas - they feel much more in line with my own than, say, Martin Amis or Richard Forde. Vonnegut does metafiction and omniscient point of view, but it's all done in an understated way. Martin Amis (in London Fields), on the other hand, feels to me like the virtuoso violinist instructing the beginner. "Too good, Martin, too good."

More importantly, however, for this writer, "Not me, Martin, not me.'

I will never be Kurt Vonnegut. But that's fine by me. And I'm sure Kurt (and Kilgore) are pleased by that too.

I'm just a little bird getting ready to sing his own unique little song.

Two quotations to finish with. Maestro, please:
  1. "Use what talents you possess: the woods would be very silent if no birds sang there except those that sang best." - Henry Van Dyke
  2. "A bird does not sing because it has an answer. It sings because it has a song." - Chinese Proverb