Book 2 Diaries: #3 — Outline is complete

Dear readers,

Good news: I recently finished my outline for Rhymes with Wisteria (working title of novel-in-progress). I’m not sure how it happened, because I’ve been a terrible writer for the past few weeks and have been neglecting my outline almost entirely. But a few nights ago, as I was trying to fall asleep, the ending came to me. I fought to open my tired eyes, I told myself that whatever you do, don’t fall asleep. Get up and write your outline. I don’t care that it’s 2:00am. Don’t fall asleep.

I fell asleep. But magically, I didn’t forget! I woke up with the story still fresh in my mind, and managed to write it all into my chapter by chapter outline. With the material I have, I’m estimating that this novel should get to around 80 000 words.

This feels really strange for me, as a past pantser. I’ve never managed to complete an outline before. I’m sure it’ll change along the way, probably quite drastically, but I have a very clear image of the ending. This outline has given my brain the freedom to think of scenes, dialogue, setting descriptions, and all sorts of snippets from different parts of the story. They come to me at random times throughout the day, and I tend to write them  in/on whatever I have at the time: receipts, notebooks, backs of hands. It’s strange to know so much about a story I have yet to write. It’s also extremely calming.

Now all there is left to do is write (and write, and write, and write).

Thank you so much for reading. I should be back to regular blogging once my university semester ends in June.
All the best with your writing,

Tamara

 

Header image [Used under creative commons license.]

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Book 2 Diaries: #2 – Outlining

Outline word count: 5038 words

Working title: Rhymes with Wisteria

 

Dear readers,

University and a new job have taken over my life over the past few weeks, so I’ve had to put my project to the side for a while. In saying that, I haven’t shelved it completely; I’ve been slowly working away at a chapter by chapter outline, so that once I do get the time, I’ll be able to write the first draft with minimal road blocks.

Plotting vs Pantsing

For my whole writing life, I have thought of myself as a pantser. I’d always written without any sort of road map, simply uncovering the story as I wrote it. I’d never successfully created an outline from start to finish, and I didn’t believe it was something I could do. For this project, however, I decided that I wanted to try my hand at outlining. The prospect of having a road map to refer to whenever I get lost was just too tempting.

My New Outlining Process

Outlining has always been extremely difficult for me, which is the reason I’ve never done it before. I realise now that I just hadn’t discovered my process yet. A fellow blogger (Bryan Fagan from acrackinthepavement.com) suggested I try outlining chapter by chapter, simply writing brief summaries for each. This method seemed like the perfect balance between creative freedom and structure. I got to work straight away.

Part 1 – Chapter Outline

I started by going through some of my favourite books and writing chapter summaries for each of their first chapters. Once I’d gotten the hang of summarising, I created a document called Chapter Outline.

Chapter 1 (0 – 2000 words)

Under each heading, I write a summary of all the events of that chapter, as well as goals and notes to myself. I use 2000 words as a guide for chapter length, but that’s not something I’ll force myself to stick to when it comes to writing the draft.

Part 2 – Notes and Scenes

I also use a second document called Notes and Scenes. This document is a complete mess where I allow myself to be a pantser and just write all the scenes that come into my mind, all the random bits of dialogue, descriptions, etc. In this document, I don’t restrain myself with structure. It’s basically a more readable version of the notes I scribble into my journal in complete darkness at 3 in the morning.

These are the scenes and notes that make the story click in my mind. The  Notes and Scenes document lets me uncover the story without having to write the whole thing.

I’ve found that these two methods together allow me all the creative freedom of pantsing, while also giving me the ability to see my story as a whole, and therefore improve its plot and structure before writing the first draft. There have been so many little plot holes that I’ve been able to identify and fix in minutes, saving me what would be a complete rewrite if I hadn’t caught them in the outline.

Where am I up to?

I’ve now outlined around half of Rhymes with Wisteria! It’s strange to know the story beats before having the manuscript in front of me, but it’s also been extremely liberating. I think that, for me, writer’s block comes from knowing there is a problem in my work and subconsciously being afraid of what it will take to fix this problem. Outlining has removed any plot-related writer’s block because with an outline, I can catch the problems before doing all the work. Fixing the problem is as easy as deleting the bad chapter summary and reworking the direction.

I fully believe that some people can write brilliant novels without some kind of outline; I am just not one of those people, and it’s taken me a long time to realise that.

Are you a plotter or a pantser? Did it take you a long time to figure out your process?

I look forward to hearing from you in the comments below!

Yours,

Tamara Drazic

 

 

[Header image: Wisteria flowers. Owned by Meneerke bloem. Used with permission under the creative commons license.]

Book 2 Diaries: #1 – A New Beginning

Word count: 1322

Working title: Rhymes with Wisteria

 

Dear readers,

Yesterday, I wrote the first 1000 words of book number 2. Juice of Half a Lemon (I’ll call it JOHAL from now on) is resting on the side while I wait for the last few beta critiques to peter in.

I was hesitant to move on from my JOHAL characters, but with the help of your comments and the excitement of a new idea, I think I’m slowly getting past that hesitation.

I’ve decided to post little updates on Book 2 as I write it, to both document my writing process and help keep me motivated!

Inspiration and Ideas

I’m always interested to hear how other writers get their ideas, so I thought I would share the moment Rhymes with Wisteria happened. It was on a long cold bus ride a few weeks ago. On the bus radio, which was exorbitantly loud, there was a news story about the Wisteria flowers coming back. I misheard it as hysteria coming back, and that was when the story and characters became clear.

For me, the difference between an interesting idea and an idea that I could actually stick with is being able to hear the characters’ voices early on. When I started writing JOHAL, Adele, Edward, and Louise came naturally, as if I had met them all in person. Although I’ve had other story ideas, I haven’t had that same experience with characters until now, with Elsie, Maud, and Ólafur.

This story is taking me back to Iceland, and part of it is set in the town where I stayed during my writing residency. I think that’s part of the reason why I feel so connected to this project.

What am I doing differently this time around?

Outlining. If you’ve been here a while, you’ll know that I wrote JOHAL without an outline until around the 55 000-word mark. After eight rounds of structural editing, I realised that I didn’t want to do that again. I also discovered that the 20 000 words I wrote after I knew how the book would end were probably the best and least-messy 20 000 words in the whole messy draft.

I’m not going to write an in-depth outline—I don’t think I am capable of that—but I do want a rough road map and an idea of the ending.

I am so looking forward to writing this story and taking you along with me. Outlining is extremely difficult for me—I would appreciate any helpful hints! What are you all working on at the moment? I’d love to hear from you.

Thank you so much for reading.

Warm regards,

Tamara

Creative Writing Playlist: Juice of Half a Lemon

Dear readers,

Music is a huge part of my writing process. I’ve done a couple of creative writing playlist posts in the past (see here and here). But for today’s post, I thought I’d put together a playlist of songs that helped me write and edit Juice of Half a Lemon specifically. For each song, I’ll include the most relevant lyrics, as well as an embedded YouTube link, so get a cup of coffee and some earphones! I hope you enjoy.

1. Fire Escape by Half Moon Run

Relevant lyrics:

Hey Dark Eyes/Rest with me a while as I drift closer to sleep/Still cannot/Still cannot find no peace

You let go of glass at our feet/It rained through the night/And you take the fire escape/Run down the street to the church

Hey Murderer/killing keeps us close enough/Hey Murderer/every breath you steal is a breath that I breathe for

 

2. Quiet Crowd by Patrick Watson

Relevant lyrics:

Dear Mr Quiet who’s got so much to say/So much more than all of the sleeping parade

While everybody’s walking their own way through the quiet crowd/All thinking the same old things/If they only knew

 

3. Sense by Tom Odell

Relevant lyrics:

Hard to know/Maybe if I skim the stone/Walk a different way back home/It would all make sense.

‘Cause I/I’ve been feeling pretty small/Sometimes/Feel like I’m slipping down walls/And every line/I ever get a hold/It seems to break.

 

4. Today Has Been O.K. by Sleeping at Last

This one is reserved for sad scenes and very sad days. Skip if you have important things to focus on today.

Relevant lyrics:

Without you here the seasons pass me by

I know you were not new/That looked like May and June/All the same I miss you//And I thought, today has been ok

 

5. Futile Devices by Sufjan Stevens

Relevant lyrics:

It’s been a long, long time/Since I’ve memorised your face/It’s been four hours now/Since I’ve wandered through your place/And when I sleep on your couch/I feel very safe

I think of you as my brother/Although that sounds dumb//And words are futile devices

 

6. You Wouldn’t Like Me by Sleeping at Last

Relevant lyrics:

I feel like/I wouldn’t like me/If I met me//I feel like/You wouldn’t like me/If you met me

 

7. The Pugilist by Keaton Henson

Relevant lyrics:

Oh I’m sorry I broke it/Never forgive me

 

8. Should Have Known Better by Sufjan Stevens

Relevant lyrics:

I should have wrote a letter/And grieve what I happen to grieve/My black shroud/I never trust my feelings/I waited for the remedy

I should have known better/Nothing can be changed/The past is still the past/The bridge to nowhere//I should’ve wrote a letter/Explaining what I feel, that empty feeling

 

Thank you for reading and listening along with me. I hope you found some new music to add to your own creative writing playlists!

All the best,

Tamara Drazic

A Writing Update in 3 Parts

Dear readers,

I structured this writing update in three parts, using questions that I (and I’m sure all of you) get from some well-meaning friends and family. I hope you enjoy!

What is it that you actually do?

I’ve been revising  Juice of Half a Lemon for over a year now, longer than the time it took to write the damn thing. I can recite the first five chapters by heart. I wake up every morning thinking about what else I need to fix. But I think I’m almost there. I’ve made a couple of big changes in the past week and I’m a lot happier with the manuscript now, at draft 8, than I have ever been.

In saying that, its flaws and shortcomings hit me in waves. At this point, I’m holding on to that quote by Anne Enright: “Only bad writers think that their work is really good.”

Oh great, you’ve finished your book. Are you getting it published?

I remember around draft 4 when I thought, yep, after this draft I’ll be ready to query. I wrote up a query letter, a synopsis, the whole package. Then I did four more drafts.

How do I know when it really is finished?

I don’t want to rush myself to submit, but at the same time, I don’t want to keep rewriting and rewriting, making the manuscript different but not necessarily better. I don’t want to use the editing process as an excuse not to send it away.

My next steps are to:

  • wait to hear back from a few more beta readers
  • finish this draft
  • let it sit for a while, and then do a thorough line edit
  • fix up my query letter and synopsis from draft 4, ask for feedback
  • submit Juice of Half a Lemon to an unpublished manuscript competition to get this whole submitting thing started.

If that doesn’t lead anywhere, I’m going to start querying agents. To the query trenches I go!

Thanks for that super long-winded answer that I did not understand/need to hear. So what are you working on next?

I’ve started brainstorming my second manuscript and am looking forward to drafting it! It’ll be a magical realism novel set in a world where people don’t have reflections.

I have been itching to go on another writing residency, so I think I’ll make that a goal for either the second half of 2018, or the first half of 2019. I work best in short bursts, as I saw with Juice of Half a Lemon, so a residency would be perfect to cover some ground on project number 2.

 

Please feel free to comment down below! I love hearing about other writers’ works-in-progress.

 

All the best,

Tamara Drazic

Icelandic Landscapes: Visual Creative Writing Prompts

Dear readers,

Today I thought I’d share a few photos from my trip to Iceland that could spark some ideas for new stories. These places are all incredibly special to me, and I go back to them in my mind whenever I need some clarity. I hope these photos can inspire some great scenes, settings, or even worlds in your stories.

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Laugarvatn. A rusty gate at the foot of a mountain. Lake up ahead. Cemetery on one side, and woods on the other.

 

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Swans fly over lake Tjörnin. Crisp air. Hands in warm pockets.

 

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Laugarvatn morning. Sunrise reflecting on a thawed patch of lake. Winter ending.

 

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Blurry Reykjavik after a snow storm. 10 o’clock in the morning. Empty streets. Overworked streetlamps. Days and nights roll into one another.

 

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Log cabin morning. Windows heated by the sun. Coffee and porridge.

 

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Herd of Icelandic horses. Smell of hay. Round bellies, well-fed. Soft fur, soft clouds, soft snow. Hard ice, numb nose.

 

As always, thank you for being here. I wish you all the best in your writing endeavours.

Yours,

Tamara Drazic

City Muse

Dear readers,

Once again, I’m sitting in my parents’ spare room, suitcase packed, Melbourne-bound. For some reason I feel nervous, as if I’ve never done this before. For today’s post, I thought I’d share a little something I wrote the first time I moved to Melbourne.

*

Is there beauty in a skyline, a city’s fractured spine?

Trampled, photographed, built and destroyed, all by little people with hard heads, or hats.

You can’t own a city, but you still want a piece.

It’s my city. Our city. Not your city.

You’re never alone. You’re always alone. Too small, but filling too much space.

It’s hard to stay but harder to leave. It’s got you now, the city.

Maybe it owns you.

*

Thank you so much for reading.

Yours,

Tamara Drazic

4 Things You Will Learn From Writing Your First Novel

Hello everyone,

I am back from my hiatus and ready to share regular posts on this blog again. Thank you for sticking around–I hope you enjoy this post, and the many posts to come!

If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you’ll know that I recently finished writing my first novel. Today I’m sharing some of the things I learned along the way.

1 – Writing the first draft of a novel doesn’t actually take that long

There were times when I thought I would never finish writing my first novel. I thought the task was too big, the word count out of reach. That was until I got to my residency, and wrote the second half of the book in two weeks.

The actual writing isn’t what takes years, it’s the life that you have to live in between. Once you realise this, the task of writing a novel seems far less intimidating.

2 – Self-doubt is a killer (but it doesn’t have to win)

You probably already know about this thing called self-doubt. Most people do. But the self-doubt that a writer meets while writing their first novel deserves a warning label of its own. People rarely write and finish books unless writing means everything to them, which means that the stakes are high.

While writing my first novel, I often felt like I just wasn’t good enough, and that there was no point in trying to finish it because everything I’d written was terrible.

But you can’t edit a blank page. That’s one of my favourite sayings, and one that I repeated to myself until I stopped using my self-doubt as an excuse to stop writing.

3 – It won’t be as good as it is in your head

Nothing you write will ever be as good as the version in your head. Your first novel will drill this into your head, mercilessly. The only way to move forward is to let go of the need for perfection, and accept imperfection.

Thoughts and words are two different forms. Try not to compare them.

4 – It won’t be the best thing you’ll ever write, and that’s a good thing

I know it can feel like this book is everything. It can feel like these characters are the only characters you’ll ever be able to write, and any others won’t feel as real. But the more you write, the more you will learn about writing.

Although your first novel may not be up to standard, it was not a waste of time. Take everything you’ve learned, and then start another.

 

All the best,

Tamara Drazic

Back Home – Adjusting to Life After a Residency – Printing the Book

Hi everyone,

I’m so sorry that I haven’t posted an update in a little while–I spent my last days at the residency taking everything in, and immersing myself in my work. It was really hard to leave Iceland, and particularly the Gullkistan residency. The cabin became my home, and although I was only there for one month, it felt like it had been my home for years. I’ll miss waking up to light snowfall, and finding new little trails to explore. I’ll miss the big windows, and view of Hekla, the snow-covered volcano. Now, after three days of travelling, I have made it back home to tropical Cairns.

Let me tell you–it feels bizarre. Nice, but really strange. It’s strange that my whole life doesn’t revolve around my writing anymore. This morning, while having breakfast, I was talking to my family, rather than scribbling down ideas, notes, and pieces of dialogue. After breakfast, rather than sitting down to edit, I took my clothes out of my suitcase to wash, and then sent an email to my university about enrolment (post about this coming soon). I’m scared that my focus is shifting too much, but at the same time, it feels really nice to breathe, and take a little step back. I just need to find a good balance.

During my last days in Iceland, I finished my second draft, and decided to get my manuscript printed so that I could do my next round of edits on paper. I used Createspace to get it printed in book form, to help me get a better feel for the pacing of the story, and to help to keep me motivated while editing. It’s not available online, as I’m going to try the traditional publishing route (after many more rounds of editing, of course). I’ll still write a post about my experience with getting the book printed, and the quality of it, for those of you interested in self-publishing.

I’ll also be writing a post to call for beta readers in the near future. I’m a little terrified, but excited to get some helpful feedback. Everything is happening so quickly.

I promise I won’t disappear again any time soon!

Thanks for reading,

– Tamara

Reaching the Halfway Point

Hi Everyone,

I’ve finally reached the halfway point in my manuscript. It’s so hard to describe how I feel about it. On one hand, when I scroll through the pages I feel like I’ll never be able to do it all again. On the other hand, I feel like I can’t possibly already be halfway there. I think  I’m kind of afraid of reaching the end, having to cut everything that doesn’t need to be there, and then finding myself all the way back at square one. I know that the real challenge is going to come after the first draft is finished.

First drafts are free to do whatever they want. Finished manuscripts are rational, and cut-throat. First drafts know that they’re not good enough, and they’re fine with that because they know they can improve. Finished manuscripts are anxious that they’re still not good enough at their best.

Although I’m a little terrified, I’m still so extremely excited at the prospect of actually finishing the first draft of this story, and I’m trying not to overthink the whole process. In four days I will be flying off to my residency in Iceland, to finish this thing once and for all. Wish me luck!

I hope you’re all having an amazing 2017 so far.

Yours sincerely,

Tamara Drazic