Behind the Pages - Day One

I’ve always been intrigued by ‘behind the scenes’ featurettes. Those glimpses into how films, TV shows, musicals / etc. are made are fascinating to someone wanting to break into the industry. Anything which gives you a glimpse ‘behind the curtain’, into the realm where fiction enters a degree of reality seems magical to me; but I realised you don’t often get to see that about novels. Perhaps because writing is such a personal, solitary pursuit, or because people feel that watching something being written, created from nothing by pen on paper / pixels on screens, would take too much of the magic away, I’m not sure. Either way, it’s something I wish we could see more of. As a young, aspiring writer the process of becoming published always seemed to be shrouded in mystery, a great secret that I never thought I’d be able to fathom out.

So, as I’m fairly near the beginning of my adventure in novel writing, and partly to try and spur me on towards my goal of being published, I thought I’d document the journey in a ‘behind the pages’ type documentary.

Realistically, this is yet another product of my procrastination. I should be writing right now, but at least my procrastination is productive…that has to count for something (right?).

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I began my novel back in November of 2008, as part of the ‘National Novel Writing Month’ (NaNoWriMo) scheme, which encourages foolish participants to write a 50,000 word novel during the month of November. Somehow, thanks to an abundance of caffeine, little to no sleep, and shunning all forms of social interaction, I managed to finish not only the 50,000 word goal, but the first draft of my first real novel.

I emerged from my desk, blinking in the harsh daylight, hands aching from typing, with an enormous sense of achievement. I’d written a novel! I was on my way to becoming a bestselling author. This time next year I would be living in a penthouse in New York, or busy on a book tour.

Yeah. I was a little naïve.

My novel was also terrible.

I left in on my hard drive for a couple of months, eager to get reacquainted with my friends and hope that the world hadn’t changed too much in my absence. When I sat down to read it, excited to delve back into the world I’d created, I was a little disappointed. I knew it wasn’t going to be brilliant, but it was a little disheartening to realise how bad it actually was. The plot was flimsy, the ‘twists’ utterly obvious, there were entire sections missing – points skimmed over with helpful notes like: ‘somehow they board the ship’ – the characters were a little two dimensional and stereotypical, and the world felt flat (and not in the flat-as-a-pancake sense that I had been considering as a setting).

I have spent the intervening six years (has it really been six years?!) editing it in snatches, redrafting sections until I can’t stand to read it anymore, recrafting characters, and steadily building up the world in which the action is set. Finally, I feel like I might be in a position to give another draft ago.

I haven’t attempted a rewrite in the past twelve months, focusing more on writing fan fictions and trying to hone my writing, to understand what I’m good at writing and what I still need to work on, not to mention procrastinating. Whilst I still don’t pretend to be a great writer, or even a good one, I know I’m much better than I was six years ago. 

So although this will technically be the seventh rewrite, it feels more like it will be my Novel 2.0; seen from fresh eyes and a fresh perspective. I’m hopeful that for the first time it might actually be good.

At least, I’m hoping it won’t be terrible.