Goddammit. It had all been going so well on the novel draft. The beta feedback came back. Better than I expected. Three readers. Three thumbs up. A few tweaks here and there, but overall, the results were positive. Good storyline, good characters, good book. Or so I thought.
That was before I sought the professional advice. Before I got the audit done on my synopsis and first chapters. Before I sat down and really discussed my book with someone who does this for a living. In the publishing world like. A professional.
So the good news first. Well I can write. I have a voice. I have story line. I have plot. All essential components if you want to piece together a good book. This is positive. I’d be worried if the news came back now that I was lacking in the gifted word department. It’d be a bit like one of those crows on X-Factor, face falling as Simon Cowell and the rest of them snigger.
So I don’t have to let go of my publishing dream. Not yet anyway. What I do need to work on is structure.
I thought I had things pretty planned out. I even have a page stuck on my notice board that looks like the FTSE 100, up and down, in a graph line, showing the ebb and flow of my story. I planned that man. I sat down and thought about it.
But, as with all things the first time you try them, you’re going to make mistakes. This is the first time I’ve ever written a whole proper book. Do you know how many elements go in to making a good, proper, readable book? And not just readable, we’re searching for unputtdownable. Some of my writing was lovely. But it’ll probably have to go.
Structure isn’t just the scaffolding of the story. It’s the whole flow of your book, how things are told, how characters are introduced, what we learn about them, when.
As I’m writing historical fiction, I’ve spanned the story out across my main character’s lifetime. This pace can be difficult to get right, because you’re trying to capture memorable dramatic moments, while moving things along. You have to choose what to put in – how fast to do this. I’ve broken the novel into parts where I move things forward a lot, most notably towards the end. And in my gut, as I was writing the first draft, I knew that I was rushing things. That I was finishing to get to the end, to say, I’m done. Not because it was in the best interests of the story, or the book.
I might have too much plot. I certainly have parts where not a lot happens and then too much happens towards the end. It was the number one question I had for my beta readers and this is a sure sign that I myself was not happy with it.
I am disappointed. Not necessarily deflated, because I think it’s all fixable. The question is, do I want to keep going? Is it too much work to go back and restructure the whole book, to move things around, chop chunks out, write more, finesse? I thought I had achieved that already. Should I start my second book, learn from my mistakes, plan the next one out much better?
It seems a shame to throw away a year and a half’s work and an edited manuscript, because it’s too much work to get it right.
But can I face what needs to be done?
I could take a break, leave it sit there, think about it and when I can look at it again, sit down and write out each chapter structure and then look at what’s working or what isn’t.
I feel near, yet so very far away.
I feel like I’m learning a lesson, that books are not written in mere weeks, but in months of drafting and redrafting of thinking and sifting and seeking advice.
Do I want to tell this story that bad? Are the characters eating away at me enough to keep going?
I don’t know. They certainly are real to me, I can see them in front of me if I close my eyes tight enough. I know their inner thoughts, I can hear the inflections when they speak.
Does the audience, my audience need to meet them too?
I’ll let you know. Right now, I’m going off to read, to drink tea and think.
Nobody said it was going to be easy, right?
You read my previous post here about how I was feeling after sending my book out to beta readers. I used The Inkwell Group to have an agent submission assessment done. They also offer a reader’s report, which takes a look at the whole structure of your book. Guess I should have gone with that first! More Goddammits!