Tag Archives: writing

Three things you need to STOP DOING RIGHT NOW if you’re writing your first draft

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I should preface this post with the fact that no, I’m not yet a published author but I have learned some stuff along the way and as I rocket through the first draft of my new book, I realise what a completely different experience it is to the first. So, here we go. Here’s the things you need to stop doing right now on your first novel:

1. Panicking about whether it’s any good

Yes, easier said than done but press that release valve, breath out all that stress and tension you’ve been holding in between your shoulder blades. Truth is, it doesn’t matter if its rubbish. It’s your rubbish, your search for the truth and even if its not clear or apparent in the first draft, you will find it later. You have to write the unsophisticated words before you find the elegant ones  (and often they’re the best anyway). So breathe deep and just get on with the business of the words. You’ll get to the end a lot quicker than you thought.

2. Researching

It’s endless. How will your brain remember it all? Not sure of court procedure for your legal thriller or just how many tablets would trigger an overdose for your troubled heroine? Save the Google search for draft number two. When I started my first draft, well before I even wrote a word, I read copiously for weeks. How was I going to write about life during the famine in 19th century Ireland without it? I drilled it into myself that even though it was fiction (and supernatural at that), it had to be authentic  – on the first draft. I hadn’t the writing confidence to just dive headlong into the murky waters. I attached myself to the research, clung to it like a lifebuoy.

What I didn’t realise was that it was actually drowning me. When I started to write, my mind became bogged down in historical accuracy and I lost the soul initially of what I was trying to say. Research feels like a very writerly thing to do and was fun to begin with, a look into the past, but it has a way of making you second guess yourself that holds you back. As a result, when it proves difficult to produce the work you want to, when fact and fiction become a tug of war, you start doubting if you should be writing a period piece at all. You ask yourself if this is just too big an undertaking and you lose confidence. Your research and your intense grip on it, starts to gnaw away at you.

Write the facts as you think they are, they can be checked later. Or leave them out altogether to be carefully inserted in the second draft when you can look at your whole story and see what it needs to be brought to life. Your first draft should be a complete fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants experience. Fact check later. You’ll get to the essence of what you want to say an awful lot quicker.

3. Worrying about Character

Before I started my first book, I not only researched my subject matter but I also researched how to write a novel in the first place. What were the secrets? How to develop your plot and of tantamount importance, create good characters. Again advice is all well and good and while some of it was useful, (such as a thinly sketched plot outline which of course did change but got me started), I also clung to the idea of writing character profiles before I put pen to paper. I felt I had to know who they were. Everything. Right then. But that’s not how we discover people in real life. You don’t get handed a character resume for each new person that enters your life. Time discovers them and you will as you go along. The notes did help to open the doors to my imagination but in the finished first draft almost three years later (yes it took that long) those people were barely recognisable from the traits I’d bestowed on them when I barely knew them.

What you realise only after you get to the end of your first draft is that you need to trust yourself more and let them off the leash. Discover them as you write. I think I was so scared of them, intimidated by the pressure of making them – good – believable – relatable, that they were stuck rigid for the first draft. When I got to the end I realised that my heroine, was a passive spectator in her own story and immediately needed to get back in there and let her loose. Let her to the surface. So let them fly. They will surprise you and that’s half the fun.

So whether you’re stuck at the 30,000 word mark or were psyched out about what you didn’t know or how long the journey is to the end, learning to care less and just write whatever comes into your head will get you there quicker. Be impulsive. You don’t need all the answers, not yet. And most of all enjoy it. It can be a hard slog but its worth it, every bit, every draft.

Good luck! Now, go write!

Can a writer’s anxiety suffocate their chance of success? How learning to back yourself is crucial…

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So you’ve written a book. When do you decide to tell not just agents and publishers but stand up and shout proudly from the nearest mountain top that you have written a book in all its glory for anyone and everyone to hear?

Whether we recognise it or not, the moment we decide to send it out on submission, its begun a journey, albeit a very long, lonely one but one filled with surprises along the way and soon that book begins to eclipse your worries of failure and your need for re-assurance and become something separate to you, away from the anxiety – for you and your book are not one and the same. The book is fine, its the unpublished writer that’s the mess.

We talk to people in quiet voices, half in embarrassment as they ask how the book’s going and I answer truthfully that I’m still knocking on doors but perhaps its not until you can get over yourself that your book can set sail under its own steam.

‘What’s it about?’ they ask politely and you die inside, judging them judging you before you’ve even finished. You stumble out the word fantasy, then say horror too, then regret that cause it’s not really and then you say, “Well it would be similar to Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles.” While this has lots of meaning to me, I imagine them stumped – not fans, not interested. Isn’t the whole vampire thing done already? Always knew she was odd, I can almost hear them say.

And so, you keep your book to yourself, tell people on a need-to-know basis to save yourself those conversations. And then something happens. Perhaps tired of feeling this way, tired of waiting for answers that could quite frankly change your life, you decide that you will put your head above the parapet, take a little peak around. You breathe the air in at an agent workshop and think, hey, there’s enough oxygen up here for all of us . You take the feedback. You realise that maybe you’ve learnt a few things from the rejections in the rear view mirror and that what you have might just be okay.

I sit in the front row at a ‘how to get published’ panel during the Dublin Book Festival and take notes – brazen as you like! I even wave hello to the agent I met the day before. Jeez, hold yourself back there girl – you’re in danger of behaving like any other normal person in the room. And though I skulk off afterwards instead of chatting to the publishing folk hanging around (my gumption only lasts so long), I can feel something different in myself. Gone is that helpless feeling of sitting around, being shy both for myself and most dangerously for my book.

I even attend a seminar the following weekend on self-publishing. Something which at the beginning of my journey seemed like a last resort, an oh-well-if-all-else-fails-I-can-shove-it-out-there, ashamed that I couldn’t get any real publishers to take it. I’m not proud of my small town view of e-publishing but the dream was a traditional one. And then in the course of one day, my perception changed totally. A complete 180. Control. Self-publishing means you have control and that notion swims even now in my mind a few weeks later. I now know that this journey is actually a hell of a lot more exciting than I’d anticipated and while I continue to chase traditional submissions, I know that there is no way that my book will ever be a throw-it-out-there thing. The skies of the year ahead suddenly went from grey to blue, even just at the thought of taking its fate into my own hands.

And so I stand proudly over my book. I’m not the sort to rant about its merits, quite the opposite but I know that the feedback I’ve had from my chosen readers has been abundantly positive and so I’m ready now to stand up and own it. So here’s what it is and here’s to not choking on my words when someone is kind enough to ask, ‘What’s it about?’

OUR DESTINY IS BLOOD

New York. 1847.

An Irish girl with a murderous secret. A vampire out for revenge.

Brought together by a powerful force…their destiny is blood.

Seventeen-year-old EVEYLN MOONEY has just burned a man to death with her bare hands. Now she has to run, keeping it a secret from her protective brother MICHAEL, until she can figure it out. Together they flee their famine stricken homeland, crossing the Atlantic to New York and into the household of Russian aristocrat VLADIMIR DERMATOV. But their new master has a secret of his own and when his dead brother makes a miraculous return, the stage is set for a reunion unlike any other. For SASHA is now a vampire, seeking retribution on the brother that left him in the hands of a monster. Their fates will be decided in the mansions of Fifth Avenue and far below them, for a dark force lurks beneath the city who would bring them all together.

©Clare B. Daly 2016

Follow Your Giddy Gut…

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Sometimes in my darker moments I wonder what the hell I was thinking putting my professional career on hold, while I pursue writing. What a silly move, giving up my income, such as it was as a freelance film publicist. Did I have some sort of breakdown or mid-life crisis that people were too polite to tell me about? Was it the hair, its style grown out and now hiding my face or the same cardigan that looked like I’d slept in it for days, in a prickly bush beside the canal? But my gut niggled away at me as it tends to do when things aren’t right and so like Julia Roberts in that perfume ad, I broke those diamond chains of the business of show and walked out of the room. The room with all the sane beautiful people, who get paid for a living.

Most writers fit their passion around their paying day jobs and I did too for the first three years. That was me on the Maynooth train every morning and evening with my tiny laptop and headphones, furiously tapping away and I loved it. But the end of my book seemed a century away and as much as I was making progress, it wasn’t quick enough and my mind was far more at home listening to the conversations happening in my head than they were swerving around office politics.

Perhaps writing my book had finally driven me crazy, but somewhere along the line, the joy of writing morphed into an idea that took hold of me, one of having a book in the world and how special and amazing that would be – and not just any book. My book – full of the characters I’d grown to love, full of stories I’d exacavated and explored. What if someone else actually wanted to read them? Even enjoyed them! And so began the dream of making it a career and with it a restless insanity. A journalist friend remarked when I joined the film reviewing ranks (a obvious and comfortable choice to hone my skills), that I seemed different, there was a spark there when I spoke about writing. I knew it myself. It made my legs wobble and my cheeks redden with giddy delight.

Even though I’ve doubted myself since in those dark moments, I made a decision and I followed my giddy gut. It does however make the prospect of the book, now that its complete, all the more terrifying. This week was a particularly low one. The radio silence as you wait for an agent to get back to you is perhaps as crushing as you think their answer will inevitably be. Let me just check my email again! Oh God, nothing. I’ll just check my phone. Put it down. Pick it back up again and so it continues every day. It’s all part of the process I know but my giddy gut tumbles and twists in anticipation. Maybe it’s an ulcer and that’s to be the only result at the end of this project but I hope it’s not. So  for now, I’ll persevere with my amateur daydreaming job until I get a glimmer of turning professional.

 

 

 

A writer’s affliction

When I started The Dark Blue Light I thought I’d have lots to say about writing. Surely it must be easy to write about something that consumes you to such a degree, especially when its actually writing. Easy-peasy! But the more the site filled up with my film posts, the more diminished and random the writing ones became and it’s not for the want of trying.

I’ve written countless entries about my book only to decide not to share them. I guess I won’t be winning any social media awards anytime soon but 90% of writing a book is confidence and it’s a very infrequent visitor as I sit at my computer. As a first time writer, it’s crippling and there are days where you think ‘who am I kidding, this is just a hobby isn’t it? Do you think you’re going to actually get this book out there? It’s not good enough’. And you beat yourself with that thorny stick most days so that when it comes to writing about writing, there’s not a shred of confidence left for that and so I shelved post after post, keeping them just for me. Well no more.

I read a wonderful post on Terrible Minds this week from Emmie Mears about writers and confidence and I saw myself in every word. It cripples writers at every level and ultimately we are our own worst enemies for we allow that voice in. http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2016/02/04/emmie-mears-hi-hello-were-here-to-revoke-your-artist-card/

It’s worth mentioning that Terrible Minds has been the inspiration and frequent kick up the arse I needed to keep writing so if you’re a new writer check it out and subscribe. I’m convinced Mr. Wendig has a portal to my psyche as most of his posts are just what I needed at that exact time. You’re welcome in my brain any time Chuck – keep kicking!

I guess the biggest news I have to share is that I finished my book (I know, at last!). On New Year’s Eve I typed the last words and I allowed myself the celebration of that moment before the terror came creeping back in. So in spending nearly four years writing it, conceiving it and being so hard on myself, I’m now laying it out in open court for the good people of booksville to either embrace or point their bony fingers at and laugh. So begins another chapter of confidence shredding. So I’m actively bullet proofing myself. Some days it’s impenetrable, other days it finds the cracks.

I’m forcing myself to remember that this book has just begun its life cycle. There’s a step forward in every submission I put together and rejection is part of that cycle and it’s a big world out there. Maybe an agent or publisher will like it and take a chance. Maybe they won’t and I’m as prepared as I can be for that.

What I wasn’t prepared for though since I finished it, was how much I’d miss it this past month. It’s done now and I’ve kind of had to let it go but I’ve spent every day with these characters and I miss them. I miss their voices in my head. I miss their company. I have comfort in that I will visit them again. This book is an origin story, the beginning of great adventures for my characters and I will dive in again but I’m nervous about them, for them. I’m nervous about booksville’s reaction to them and this holds me back just now from walking with them again. Other books too swim around in my mind so perhaps I’ll kick one of those around and invite some new characters in. One things for sure – I’m not stopping and I’m not giving up. So let the chips fall where they may. I’m ready.

7 things I’ve learned re-writing my novel

So while I’m writing my proper second draft (tidying up the first one doesn’t count, this is the sweat inducing one) here’s what I’ve learned:

  1. My thesaurus is my best friend, confidant, champion, partisan, right-hand, sectary…and it’s a book not an internet tool. The flicking of the pages is key, you might stumble on something else.
  2. Sometimes the simplest word is the best.
  3. If I have to look a word up in the dictionary don’t use it.
  4. With dialogue less is more. Don’t mince your words, or theirs.
  5. If you need a PowerPoint doc to keep track of a plotline (or to make sense of it) so be it.
  6. Keep your goal in sight at all times. The finish line may seem far away but didn’t we think that too on the first draft and we got there didn’t we?
  7. Accept the frustratingly bad writing days. There’s another good one coming soon and it will be glorious.

 

 

Hiding under the duvet..

So to a new writing post. This has been difficult over the last few weeks as I haven’t really felt like posting. It’s more personal and I’ve been hiding I suppose in my book, which is, touch wood, going well at the minute. That may be something to do with the fact that there’s been and still is, a lot of illness in the family and writing my book has been the duvet that I’ve been pulling over my head and escaping under. Continue reading