6 Lessons Learnt From Writing My Second Novel

Writing Above Ground took four drafts, five different outlines, and several years.

But when I published it I thought: that’s it.

I’ve done it once, so I can do it again — and now that I’ve learnt 6 lessons from my first novel, the second time will be easier. Faster.

I was wrong.

For the last year, I’ve spent hours toiling away at Darksight. It’s the reason why I’ve been rubbish at blogging (and tweeting, and facebooking…). I wanted to finish the novel by August 2015. Then August came around, and I pushed the deadline to December. And now, mid-January, I’m still not done.

Sure, what I found difficult the first time is easier today.

But I’ve stumbled across a whole new can of worms…

So here is a revised list of lessons learnt from writing novels:

Lessons Learnt From Writing My Second Novel

  1. The first time’s the hardest — or is it?
    When writing my first novel, I didn’t know whether I could finish a novel. But I also didn’t have the pressure to outperform my previous work. In some respects, it’s more frustrating now that I know I can do it, yet am struggling regardless.

  2. Perseverance is key — and it’s harder alone
    The webfiction community helped me push on through the first draft of Above Ground, with no time to agonise over each chapter. With Darksight, I’ve opted to write it all offline — and realised how much harder it is without the community support (and pressure to post).

  3. It’ll never be perfect — but when should you stop?
    I rewrote Above Ground countless times, watching my writing style develop, thinking it would be perfect the next time. I have rewritten and edited Darksight much less, mostly because I’ve taken a lot more time to get it right the first time. I’m not sure which method is worse: in either case, I need to remember to let go.

  4. Outline, outline, outline — in moderation
    I pantsed Above Ground. The first draft was a mess, and I swore never to put myself through that again. With Darksight, after the initial splurge I sat down and outlined the entire novel. I tried different outlining techniques and layouts, used index cards and excel sheets, tables in Word and bullet point lists. I have barely had to rewrite or edit, but have I outlined the life out of the story?

  5. You get better at it — kind of
    Plot construction, pacing, character development? I get it. Being able to write a novel quickly without running into writer’s block, whilst juggling work and social commitments? On this front, I still have much to learn.

  6. You never stop learning
    And you’ll always want to be a better writer than you are today. Just don’t forget to look back now and then, and recognise how far you’ve come.

I’ll keep you updated on my progress…

How To Keep A Writer’s Notebook

I’ve previously written about the 7 benefits of keeping a writer’s notebook.

But how do you keep one? Should it be organised or a collection of scribbles? Should you separate prose from outlines, free writes from drafts?

The easiest answer is: do whatever feels right.

But I would argue that you should do whatever will best serve you later on — and that means pinpointing your needs to decide what kind of notebook you need.

A writer’s notebook is a tool; its aim is to help you with your writing. What kind of help do you need?

THE IDEAS NET
Perhaps you simply need a place to collect ideas. A place for quick lines of observation, description, snippets of scenes, character names and inspirational quotes.

There’s no structure to this kind of notebook–and no restrictions. You’ll browse through its contents at a later stage when you’re hungry for inspiration.

THE BRAIN DUMP
Julia Cameron promotes keeping morning pages — writing three stream of consciousness pages every morning to get the juices flowing. You may never use this content anywhere else; the aim is to get into the habit of writing and unblock your creativity.

If you want to increase productivity, this is the kind of notebook for you.

THE ONE-TRACK-MINDED
For Darksight, I’m keeping a project-specific notebook.

The beauty of a project-specific notebook is that is that it keeps me focused. I flip open to a page, and know that I can only write about ONE story. No procrastination allowed.

To keep myself organised, I’ve split the notebook into two halves.

The front half of the notebook contains outlines, character bios and family trees. (I’ve also seen other authors number the pages and leave space for an index, in order to easily find content as it builds up.)

The back half of my notebook is for snippets and scenes: pieces of prose as and when inspiration strikes.

Eventually the two halves will meet, but I love having all of my notes and reference points in the same notebook as my ideas, yet in some way organised too.

NONE OF THE ABOVE?
There are many more types of notebooks, from dream journals to diaries.

What kind of notebook do you keep? There is no right or wrong way – only what works for you and helps your writing.

The Day Is Here

SOLID MOMENTS is out now!

Woop woop woop!

Solid MomentsThe collection has also had its first ever (5 star!) review – check it out:

A collection of short stories that define fragments of life. A blind girl, a brother meeting a sister he never knew, a boy hooked on video games, a women in a loveless marriage, a soldier’s story, just to name a few. Each story was unique and touching in its own special way. I liked every story.

What I also like (and found unique and a very great concept) was at the end of the book, the author tells us what inspired her to write each story. I found that to be interesting. I often wonder how an author comes up with the ideas behind each book. Those who love short stories should read Solid Moments.
Goodreads reviewer

Order the ebook now!
Smashwords $2.80
Kindle US $3
Kindle UK £1.99
Kindle IT €2.68
Kindle DE €2.68

…did someone mention PRINT?
Amazon US $6.30
Amazon UK £4.50

Need some convincing?
Read an excerpt now or add on Goodreads for later.

Cover Reveal: Solid Moments

Solid MomentsIntroducing SOLID MOMENTS, a short story collection which will be released on January 9 2015.

I am thrilled to be revealing the cover to you today – once again designed by the inimitable MCM – and very much hope you’ll enjoy these stories.

What’s this all about?

As you may recall, in October I set myself a two months, one book challenge. While I’m running a little behind schedule, Solid Moments is the result of those two months’ work.

Collating 23 short stories of varying lengths, Solid Moments captures the precious minutes when we are most ourselves.

Add it on Goodreads – and stay tuned for updates!