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.]

Advertisements

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

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.

20170312_092724.jpg

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

 

20170228_173345.jpg

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

 

20170307_084444.jpg

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

 

DSC04102.JPG

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

 

DSC04246.JPG

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

 

DSC04258

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

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

Introducing My Novel: “Juice of Half a Lemon”

The plan involves turmeric, lemons, and letters slipped under doors; a murderer’s sister and a victim’s brother; midnight phone calls, and a stagnant small town. Juice of Half a Lemon is a quirky contemporary adult novel about two people whose loneliness is intertwined.

 

Hi everyone,

Over the past year and a half of posting on this blog, I’ve gone into a lot of detail about my thoughts, my experiences, and my life as writer, but I’ve been quite tight-lipped about my actual writing. I’ve never really told you anything specific about this novel that I’ve been working on for almost exactly a year now, and I’m not completely sure why that is. I think it might be because, until I wrote the end scene only a couple of days ago, I didn’t entirely believe that I would be able to finish it. I didn’t want to introduce something to you only to scrap it a couple of weeks later. I’m finally at a place now where I can confidently say that this one’s sticking, and I’ve got no more excuses! I am currently working on the second draft, and will start looking for beta readers in the near future.

I have to start out small to avoid becoming a nervous wreck, so here are a few very vague details about the story:

Title:

Juice of Half a Lemon

A little introduction:

Adele Zimmerman hasn’t seen her brother since the night he told her he shot someone in the head. When she discovers that the victim was an identical twin, she sets out to find the leftover sibling and anonymously improve his life, as a way of settling her conscience and ridding herself of her second-hand guilt.

Juice of Half a Lemon is about identity after loss, and the suffocating nature of belonging. It’s about things that can’t be fixed, mistakes that can’t be unmade, and connections that can’t be broken.

***

The tone of the story is slightly whimsical, with a bit of dark humour. I plan on talking more about the protagonists, tone, P.O.V, inspiration, and editing process in the posts to come.

Let me know what you’re working on in the comments below; I’d love to hear about it! If you’d rather just talk to me privately, please feel free to send me an email at tamara.j.drazic@gmail.com.

I hope you found this post interesting, and I wish you the best of luck with whatever you are working on.

As always, thank you so much for reading.

Yours sincerely,

Tamara

 

 

Residency Day 13: Finishing the First Draft of my Novel

Hi everyone,

Today is a pretty special day for me, because it is the day I finished the first draft of my novel, “Juice of Half a Lemon”.  I have written the entire second half, 37 000 words, in the last two weeks, all thanks to this incredible residency, and the time, space, and mental clarity that it gave me to work.

This afternoon, as I began to write the very last scene, it started snowing outside. Everything was completely, utterly silent, the kind of silence that only comes about when it is snowing. That moment has become one of my fondest memories, and it’s just one of the countless fond memories that I’ve made while being here in Iceland. I’m so grateful for this little haven that my mind will always be able to wander to.

The first draft is complete, but I know there is a lot of work ahead of me! I am incredibly excited to move on to the editing phase of this novel, as I’ve always loved editing–moving things around, cutting words, and making things fit together. I know I probably will lose a bit of my love for it after round number three, but we will see what happens.

On an unrelated note, I recently found out that I will be reading some of my poetry at a multilingual poetry event in Selfoss, Iceland on the 21st of March. I am so looking forward to meeting some members of the Icelandic literary community.

I feel like my word supply is in need of a recharge, so this post is going to stay short and sweet. Here are some pictures of the lovely Gullkistan Residency, the place that has grown so close to my heart over the past two weeks:

20170301_133924.jpg

20170301_134247

Let me know how your writing projects are coming along. I’d love to get to know more of you!

All the best,

Tamara

Residency Day 10: Ups and Downs

Hi everyone,

Day 10 of my writing residency in Iceland is officially over, which means I’m a third of the way through! Time goes by so incredibly quickly while I’m working. I never have any idea which day of the week it is, because every day is pretty much the same. I wake up around 7:30, have breakfast with the incredible sunrise, check my emails, write, have lunch, go for a long walk, write, have dinner, chat with the other writer-in-residence, write, check my emails, catch up with friends and family back in Aus, and sleep.

Although I occasionally feel like I’ve fallen off the face of the planet and into some alternate dream-like universe, I have loved every minute of this residency. It has been the best thing I have ever done for my writing, full stop. I can see myself improving with almost every chapter. The rewriting process is going to be a lot of work, especially those earlier chapters, but for now, I’m purely focusing on getting this first draft down. It’s crazy to think that I am so close to finishing it now, this thing that used to seem like such a huge, impossible task.

Of course, I still have plenty of ups and downs with regards to this story. On a bad day, even the parts that I like the most can seem like the worst things ever written by anyone. But the good days make me forget all about that.

Reading through my journal always makes me laugh, and reminds me that my bad times never last very long. Let me welcome you into my mind:

***

4. March.

I think it’s really starting to dawn on me that I can actually finish this thing while I’m here. It was always the goal, but until now, I had my doubts. I have written three thousand words in the last three hours! Feeling good.

5. March.

HOW IS THIS THING GOING TO END? I HAVE NO IDEA. I hate everything I’ve written today. Why does it all just sound so clunky and flat? There is no actual ending in sight, because I just keep writing around and around in circles.

6. March.

I just outlined the rest of my novel. It’s so nice to know how the story is going to end, and so reassuring to have a little guide to which scenes I need to write on which days. Excited for tomorrow!

9 March.

This is really hard. It’s like spending all day every day focusing on the one thing you doubt about yourself the most. My mood is directly affected by how the story is progressing. I pretty much haven’t left my room in two days.

10 March.

I just came back from the most beautiful walk. It’s crazy that I’ve already hit my writing target for the day, and it’s just past lunch time! I am so excited to finish this thing! Not long now.

***

I don’t know if you are quite as extreme (or as melodramatic) as I am, but either way, I hope this post can serve as a little reminder that the bad times don’t last. If you manage to write through them, instead of giving up, you will eventually finish your novel. There’s nothing stopping you.

I hope you enjoyed reading. Let me know how you get through your bad writing days in the comments below!

All the best,

Tamara

 

 

Residency Day 1: Exploring Reykjavik, and Arriving at Gullkistan

Hi everyone,

Wow. It’s hard to describe how I’m feeling right now. I am coming to you all the way from Laugarvatn, Iceland. I’ve thought about this experience so many times, for so many months, and I still can’t believe that I’m actually here. I spent last week in Reykjavik, and absolutely fell in love with the city. When I tell people that I stayed there for a whole week I always get a similar reaction. A week? What did you do for so long? 

Reykjavik may be a small city, but it feels so alive, even when it’s -6 degrees! I decided to stay for a week because I didn’t want to only see and experience things once. I went to the same spots countless times, in some cases every day, and I didn’t get bored at all. Especially because, in Iceland, the weather can change so drastically in such a short time. The lake Tjörnin is ever changing, as you can see in these pictures which were taken only one day apart:

dsc04096 dsc04117

I wanted to be able to see things I loved over and over again, browse bookshops, and sit and read in the sun, without feeling like I was wasting time, and I am so glad that I allowed myself the time that I did. During my Reykjavik week, I also spent a day on a southern Iceland tour, and saw things that photos just can’t do justice. The contrasts in this country make it feel so otherworldly. I so wish I had the time, money, and driving capability to see all of the sights a million times.

dsc04167

dsc04159DSC04147.JPG

The day before yesterday, I saw the northern lights! It’s been a dream of mine since I was ten years old, when I realised that they were actually real, not just in books and movies. As I watched them, I just sat on a snowy bench and thought about how truly lucky I am (and also a little about how cold the bench was).

Today I arrived at Gullkistan, the residency where I will be living and writing for the next month. Putting my bags down in this quaint cottage, with views out to mountains, snowy pine trees, and a beautiful lake, gave me a sense of calm that I haven’t felt since being at home. The actual journey from Australia to Iceland was, let’s just say, not exactly smooth, and I realised that I haven’t had time until now to truly wind down in my own space. I feel like this is exactly where I need to be right now to have a clear mind, and to finish writing this first draft!

Today I sat down and wrote double my word target. Let’s hope things keep flowing. Thank you so much to everyone who has been here with me along the way. Now I’m going to put on all of the clothes I own and try to find the elusive northern lights once again.

Stay safe, healthy, and happy!

Yours,

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