So here I am once more, back on the final chapter of the Ferret Files, nineteen months after the last time I was here. Things have moved on – in a good direction, the whole novel feels much better and my characters are much happier with their lot. How do I know? They’ve stopped bitching to me about unfulfilled desires and hanging plot lines.
So what have I learned during the second revision?
1) If you have a novel inside you that’s demanding to see the light of day, write it. Perseverance is key. Set to and don’t stop writing until you’ve finished. No excuses. Really want it. Focus on how great it will feel once you’ve reached that final chapter. Make pictures of the day you write ‘The End’. Chances are you’ll have to reorganize your life and miss out on things you’d otherwise do. Sacrifice is no bad thing. It hardens your resolve.
2) There will be days when you want to tear your hair out, days when you think you’re a dillweed for ever imagining you can write and days when you don’t get started until 8 hours after you planned. On the flip side, there will be days when you feel amazing inside. You’ll have a smile for everyone, especially yourself, over some delicious one-liner, a clever plot twist or a paragraph of narrative that’s good enough for Jehovah. Those are the days that make it all worthwhile. People will think you’re on drugs. Let them.
3) Listen to your characters. They know what they want better than you do. If you push them about, they will fight back. Take heed of what they say, take a deep breath and go with it. You’ll learn things about your characters that you didn’t know and that’ll make you feel on top of the world. See (2). Any good story is the story of characters and how they change over time when faced with issues they didn’t expect to encounter. If you’re ever in doubt about who your characters are, imagine them all at a dinner party. Who forgets to wear a bow tie? Who takes two, just in case? Now lob a grenade in the room and watch them react. This is a metaphor for something unexpected BTW, it doesn’t have to be a real grenade. The point is to take your characters out of the novel, put them in a situation that doesn’t exist in the novel, add some chaos, watch and learn.
4) Not every brilliant idea you have has to be used immediately. If it doesn’t fit, don’t try and cram it in. Some ideas are so good, they’re novels on their own, they need space to develop and breathe. So keep a notebook, jot them down and then leave well alone. Rabbit holes will derail you. and once you’re down one, it’s easy to forget how you got there. Think Alice in Wonderland.
5) If you’re stuck, blog it. Social media is your window to the world. If you have something that’s bothering you in the way of the plot, characters or even technique, write about it, put it down for a day and then think about pressing the publish button before you re-read it. That should get the juices flowing. Now you can re-read. Saying something out aloud is very different to saying it in your head. Often the shock will provide the answer. If not, bash the problem around. I tend to use other writers rather than my friends, just because they’ve not been up to their elbows in words and don’t fully understand what’s going through your head.
6) Write about stuff that interests you. You don’t have to be the world’s foremost expert on brain surgery to have an interest in it. Research is all part of the writing experience, whether you do it before you start, or while you’re going along. If you find brain surgery to be as dull as ditch water, then leave it well alone. Ultimately, you’re no different to anybody else out there. If you choose to write about something that you have no interest in whatsoever, it will show. Excuses will abound and you’ll find it difficult to finish. Overall, you won’t enjoy the writing experience and readers will enjoy the reading experience even less. Being happy is the key to being productive. Writing about things that interest me while listening to music I love – there’s no better feeling. See (2).
7) Read often. The more you read good fiction, the more you learn unconsciously about the writing process and the art of story telling. If you have difficulty with a particular plot point, see how your favorite author deals with it. Ultimately, every story has already been told, but not every combination of words has ever been used to reach the conclusion. Writing and music have a lot in common. There’s only so may notes, yet new songs come out all the time and they still manage to be original. Musicians have their influences, authors too. Read. Digest. Be inspired. Dare to reach for Heaven.
That’s it for today. Now I’m back in the flow, I can’t seem to shut up…