I’ve finished writing my novel! Blimey, feels, quite weird typing that, but there you go, it’s true. This week, well, yesterday to be precise, I finally completed my second novel and the one thing above anything else that is on my mind as I type the last of the 90,000 words is, not ‘well done, me’, but: sweet God, my shoulders feel like breeze blocks. ‘Why do you sit like that?’ says my hubbie one morning walking past the study. I pause mid- typing and frown. ‘What d’you mean?’ He nods to my posture. ‘You are all Hunchback of Notre Dame there, honey. Sit up a little.’ He pops his toast back into his mouth and leaves. I check out my arms. Bent. I try to look at my back but this means craning my head and this hurts. Giving up, I shuffle in my seat and sit up straight, and for a couple of minutes all is well – and then I slide back down to my Quasimodo position. But, being on the final straight of writing the book, I do nothing about it, and so keep on typing.
When it gets to the following day, I get up at 5 a.m, write for an hour, get the kids ready and to school, then resume writing until 12 noon. I type that fast that I think you can see smoke coming from my laptop (I say this figuratively, but actually, that’s only because I’m using my newer netbook – the old laptop actually did give off smoke, so…). When I finally type the last word, I slump back into my seat and stare at the screen. I cannot believe it. I am done! Six months of research, character development, long, hard outline planning (not my favourite part, but, unfortunately vital to do), learning criminal law ins and out, and then actually writing it. Nope, cannot believe it. It’s a bit like travelling around the world and then getting to your final destination and realising that this is it, you have to go home now. I blink at the screen and, shutting it down, wonder how I can celebrate this little achievement. Shall I go for a run? Have some chocolate? Watch a film? Oh no. I do none of these things. I finish my 90,000 word novel – and then go and hang the washing out on the line. It is a sunny day, and, give it’s been tipping it down the past week, it’s a chance to get the clothes dry and it really is a lovely day for the washing to dry. Who said writing books wasn’t life on the edge, hey?
As I hang out the washing, I think about the novel and what I have to do next, namely The Edit. A lot of writers aren’t so keen on editing, but me, I love it. What’s not to like? You have a page that is full of words and that has to be better than a blank page staring back at you, the computer curser winking at you reminding you that you still. Haven’t . Written. Anything. The great thing this time round is that I have had two people reading my book as I write it – namely my mum and her friend. And I have to say it has been the best move ever. It’s meant that they have kept an eye on things such as pace and consistency for me, which, when you are writing chapter after chapter is vital because things tend to blur and you are so close to the plotline that the words begin to merge together (this did actually happen one day, the words merging together. I had to stop typing and stand back, blinking. I was concerned I’d wrecked my eyes until it turned out there was a bit of sleep on my contact lense…).
The other handy thing about editing this time around is that my outline has been solid. I loathe writing outlines. I really do. But without it, it is way harder to actually write the book – rather like a house without foundations or running a marathon without doing the training first, without the outline in place first, the novel will all fall down. For this book, I put together a 50-page outline. I split the plot into four acts and did an eight-point arc for each Act. Then I broke it down into chapters, developing the plot into an eight-point arc per chapter, meaning each chapter had its own structured development and climax. It is a bit daunting to start with, but I did find that using the 8-point arc to map out each chapter helped enormously and reassured me that I was constructing each chapter properly so the reader felt it was good and the pace kept up. While an outline is my most pants things to do, the plus side is that, if you write a thorough outline, then by the time you begin to actually write the novel, you can do just that – write. The plot is already worked out, so you can just let things flow. I did change the plot along the way as the writing developed, but that worked fine. If anything needed changing, I simply stopped writing, re-wrote the 8-point arc for that particular chapter, checked it against the other chapters for consistency, and then started writing again. See? Easy! Yeah, right. It’s frustrating at times, to be honest, but, as is becoming my favourite phrase these days, ‘it’s well worth it.’
That evening, washing back in and dry (living on the edge right there!), I call my friend and we meet for a cycle and walk as it’s a lovely sunny evening – plus she wants to feed me a glass of wine for finishing the book, so, you know, I couldn’t say no. We say ‘cheers’ and taking big gulps (we had walked 4 miles…) She asks me what sort of book it is. I pause. ‘Do you know what, I think I may have written a thriller.’ She swigs her wine. ‘Really?’ I nod. I know it’s daft, but even though that’s the sort of book it must be – a thriller, drama type thing (it’s set in a prison with a Spanish doctor as the new convict) I’ve never actually acknowledged it. But d’you know, I’ve loved writing it. Turns out, I quite like this plot twist and turn thing. My friend holds up her glass. ‘Here’s to your thriller then,’ she says. ‘Well done, mate.’ ‘Cheers,’ I say, and we drink (down) our wine.
That night, I get ready for bed and chat to my hubbie. ‘So are you pleased it’s all finished?’ he asks. I nod and brush my hair. ‘Yup. Just the edit now and I can get it sent off.’ He smiles. ‘Cool.’ I nod and reach up to scratch my back. ‘Aaargh!’ My face scrunches to a grimace. ‘What is it?’ asks my hubbie. I edge to the bed and sit. ‘My shoulder. It’s locked.’ He comes over and tuts. ‘I told you you were sitting at that laptop funny.’ I sigh. ‘Like the Hunchback of Notre Dame, you said.’ He rolls his eyes and rubs my shoulder. I wince. I have turned into Quasimodo. A Quasimodo with a second novel.
Are you in the middle of writing your novel? Do you use the 8-point arc or want to know more about it? Let me know.
Out on Thursday “Thursday Thoughts” where I post my latest newspaper column to my blog. This week it’s all about Dementia…**