Charlotte's Web

Blogging my world since 2006


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First Draft Emotions

Writing novels is not as hard as coal-mining or refuse collection or washing the windows of skyscrapers, but it does cause a roller coaster of emotions.

As I sit down to write my 1,000 words every morning, here’s a collection of things I feel and think:

  • Get off Facebook, right here, right now
  • Just do it
  • That scene is crap
  • Why the hell is she doing that?
  • Is it a problem that I still don’t know who the murderer is?
  • Just do it
  • Everyone is going to hate this because it’s a piss-poor pile of crap
  • Nooooo! No to Facebook
  • Fighting again, Maggie? Please act like a grown-up
  • I hate that character and I still can’t explain why the story needs him
  • Abject terror! I have no idea what the next scene is
  • Just do it

Which is why when I read this quote from Jane Smiley: “Every first draft is perfect, because all a first draft has to do is exist” I felt calm again. I am going to write it in CAPITALS and stick it up in my writing corner.

All it needs is to exist. It will be the perfect first draft.

 


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Moving On

So my little book is out in the world, and is doing a good job of gathering some reviews. The best reviews, however, are the emails and Facebook messages I get from readers, telling me they love the book and that they love Maggie. Maggie is a difficult character as she is obstreperous and bull-headed. However, she has a much-hidden and well-covered soft centre, and this becomes evident during the course of the story.

I am not moving on from Maggie.

I am moving on from marketing Balthasar’s Gift as my main literary activity. My new literary activity is writing book two – the next in the Maggie series. It is called Karkloof Blue, after a rare and threatened butterfly, and it is an eco-conspiracy. What has changed since I wrote the (many) early drafts of BG is that I now work full-time and squeezing writing into the cracks between my job, my family and the friends I can’t resist seeing is hard.

However, hard doesn’t get books written.

So, since July 1, I’ve been getting up at dawn to write for two hours. Actually it’s pre-dawn. 4.30 am. The skies are still dark and only the bravest bird has started mentioning breakfast. By the time I finish, and head downstairs to wake my family at 6.30am, the skies have lightened and a cacophony of birds are discussing their first meal.

I try to write 1,000 words every morning. It doesn’t always work, but we’re getting there, Maggie and I.


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My Writing Process Is Not Like Skiing (anymore)

One of my first blog posts ever was about skiing. Another post compared my fear of skiing with my fear of writing. I come to you, fresh off the slopes, where I did not ski, but where I let my family members throw themselves up and down mountains while I ensconced myself safely in coffee shops to write. Wordage! I achieved it. I am happy. But not complacent … never that.

ski

Non-writers doing stuff on mountains

On my return, I find that my friend Kate Kelly author of Red Rock (a cli-fi thriller for age 10+) has tagged me for a post on my writing process. I am very happy to oblige, and indeed, very relieved that she asks no questions about skiing.

So, onward!

1. What am I working on?

I am working on my second novel. It is crime fiction, and part two in a series starring Maggie Cloete, crime reporter at The Gazette, Pietermaritzburg’s only daily newspaper.

2. How does my work differ from others?

I think it’s the only crime fiction about a crime reporter working on a newspaper in Pietermaritzburg.

3. Why do I write what I do?

It’s what I know. I used to be a crime reporter on a newspaper in Pietermaritzburg.

4. How does my writing process work?

I write in clumps – big bursts in short periods of time. It is not ideal and I believe that writers need a daily writing practice but that does not work for me since I work full time and I have a houseful of humans who need me. I wrote my first novel, Balthasar’s Gift (published in Germany in  2013 and due out in South Africa this year) over a period of five years. Since I had no idea what the book was going to be about, I had to write my way into the story. Plus I also had to learn how to write a novel, and this took time and many, many  drafts.

This time, now that I know the book and I know that it is crime fiction about crime reporter on a daily in Pietermaritzburg and I have a two-page plot plan, the process is quicker and more efficient.

Having said that, it still requires a similar amount of day-dreaming, of percolating and composting, of going for walks and wrestling with plot angles in my head, or sitting in coffee shops and staring out the window. That will never change. The process is as it will be.

Writers, please tag yourselves!