Novel Writing Retreat
There were about 14 delegates – all women – and we were all on very different rungs of the writing ladder.
Some had agents, publishers, editors, websites and two or more published novels under their belts. The rest (most!) of us, were still ‘wannabees’ (agh, I hate that word), there for encouragement, guidance and, well, a bit of fun too, let’s be honest.
There was plenty of chat, of course, over the weekend and also – because we writers are a sensitive lot – a fair bit of self-doubt and metaphorical beating-oneself-over-the-head, too. (But there was wine and chocolate, so we were OK).
Ooh, and there were dogs! Not, as my mum thought when I told her on the phone, actually on the writing course but staying in the hotel with their owners. They were competing at Crufts which was being held at the NEC, not a million miles away.
During my one-to-one session with Alison, over the weekend, we managed to clarify something that I’d been wrestling with for a while. ie: whether to keep ploughing on with novel #1, which is still not at a suitable point to start submitting to agents (it’s finished but the last third is still too rough. You only get one chance to impress an agent and I don’t want to send out work that I’m not completely happy with) OR whether to put it away for now and focus on the ‘shiny new idea’, which is novel #2.
I don’t want to be one of these people who never finishes things! But as Alison pointed out, I have finished it. I have a draft of a novel. But, she thinks my idea and ‘voice’ for the new one are stronger. And it’s an idea that I’ve had for a while. It keeps coming back to me and that, so they say, is the sign of a good idea, or at least, something that you’re really interested in.
So, that’s it, then. Decision made. Onwards with the first draft of the new novel (with the intention of coming back to #1 in time).
Do You Always Know Your Ending?
And this leads me to the question that I wanted to ask: do you always know the ending of a novel or short story, before you start to write?
With short stories, I always know the ending I’m working towards (even if that ending gets tweaked or changed, to improve it, later). In fact, I can’t start writing until I know the ending. It would be like setting out on a hike without a map! (And someone who can read it).
In advance of the writing weekend, we were asked to send a synopsis and the first 1500 words of our WIP (work-in-progress) to the tutors.
As my novel was really just an idea at that point, I submitted the synopsis without the ending. Because I didn’t know what the ending was. And I still don’t.
I have a vague idea of how I want the main character to have changed (and maybe that’s enough?) but I don’t have a definite ending in terms of action/plot, so it all feels a bit airy fairy and that’s making me nervous.
Remember that tip of William Boyd’s, which I mentioned in the last post, to ‘plan your ending’? He says, “If you start writing (however striking your original idea) with no sense of how your story will end, then life becomes progressively harder. Flailing around. Writer’s block. Draft after draft. This is how novels get abandoned; film scripts bottom-drawered.”
Actually, one thing I have learned from novel #1, is that I need to PLAN more before launching into the writing. I find I need to do some writing, otherwise the characters don’t start to come to life but that has to be balanced with lots of planning and thinking about the book (oh, and research because it’s a historical novel this time).
Lots to think about and lots to do. And I definitely want to nail that ending sooner rather than later.
EFoW Short Story Competition Judging
In other news, I’m frantically (because the trickle has now turned into a flood!) trying to catch up with my reading of the submissions for the Evesham Festival of Words short story competition. It doesn’t close until 22nd March (next Friday), so there’s still time, if you want to enter (all entries are judged anonymously).
The other reader and I are meeting up on Monday morning, for the first time, to discuss our findings so far. A week after the competitions closes, we’ll be expected to submit our longlist of 15 stories to the adjudicator, for her to forward to the main judge, Vanessa Gebbie.
‘Inspiration Behind The Story’
One of my People’s Friend stories is being published next month and they’ve asked me to send them a photo (nooo!) and a short piece on ‘the inspiration behind the story’. I’ve never been asked to do one of those before and it’s rather exciting.
Retreats For You – Win a 4-Night Stay in Devon
And finally, you may have seen this competition already, if you take Writing magazine, but Retreats For You in Devon (where a couple of my friends have been and given it the thumbs up!), is offering a 4-night stay (worth around £400) as first prize in a writing competition that closes on 4th April.
It costs £5 to enter and you need to submit up to 500 words (fiction or non-fiction), with at least one mention of a Devon landmark, via the Writing magazine website here.
Photos below are from their website. I like the look of the wine at dinner….!
Good luck if you decide to have a go!