Stuck between Drafts

Who would have thought that I would be stuck in the middle of spreadsheets while trying to finish my novel?

I certainly didn’t see this coming.

I have finally finished my reread of Pecan Hill and I can say that it is heinous. Maybe I should view it as a feather in my cap that I can recognise how bad the writing is, but it’s incredibly cringeworthy. You could say it was one of those situations where you’re trying to find what’s wrong with your project and the list of what is right is shorter.

The positive to take out of the situation is that I know what I have to do to fix the manuscript. I only have to work my way down the list, fixing everything as I go down and it should be presentable at the end of the day. Of course, when I’ve finished going down the list, it’ll be time to read through the manuscript again and find out what’s wrong with the new draft and then fix that. I wouldn’t say it’s a thankless task, because this is what I enjoy. Writing. Besides it’s supposed to be easier to fix a page than it is to fill a blank page.

My problem is that Pecan Hill was my discovery written manuscript. Now, after the dust has settled and I’ve pulled myself through the finished draft I can see that I’m going to have to sit down and make sure everything is there. I call it ‘planning on the backend’. And it’s at this point where I’m now “stuck” (I’m not really stuck I’m making progress but I’m not writing). I am going through the manuscript and making a detailed scene-by-scene outline of what’s already there. When I’m done with this little task I’m going to have to see what I’m missing in the manuscript and where it should go and then insert new scenes to make sure I cover all my bases.

Once I’ve finished with these spreadsheets I can finally go back and do some writing. Although the writing won’t be too much (hopefully). Then it’ll be the editing phase.

I can’t help but think it might have been easier if I had sat down before I had written the project and done a scene-by-scene outline. It would shorten my current phase by half. Not to mention, it would have cut out those times when I was wondering what should come next.

My next project (maybe all of them in my future) will have a HEAVY planning element in the beginning.

Manning up and moving on from disaster

As you would no doubt remember from a recent post, I suffered from my own idiocy and managed to lose my memory stick which contained my planning for the project Spoil the Child. It might’ve been the perfect time to simply abandon the project and move on. It was a lot of work that had to be recovered and to be honest, I still haven’t caught up in my planning to where I was before the loss. I am working on it and will eventually catch up to where I was. I know the story is one that needs to be written and that I need to write it.

Man up and stop whining!!

But there is also the previous project which I was working on, Pecan Hill, which is still rooting around in my brain and calling out for my attention. I know that I have said in the past that I was putting it to one side, but it has come back to haunt me, as it always does. It’s the second novel that I finished writing, but the first one that I have poured so much of my energy and time in. The current draft is about draft twenty, or somewhere close. I think maybe the reason why I wanted to drop the novel in the trunk is that I was bored. I wasn’t as excited about the project anymore and I thought that if I was bored, then the reader would also be bored. The question though is whether I was bored because I had covered the work so many times or because it was really just boring content. Either way, I needed a break.

I found myself in the car, the other day, with my radio switched off and my iPod in the cubbyhole. I wanted to brainstorm for Spoil and I didn’t want to have any distractions. But the more I tried to think about Spoil, the more my mind turned back to Pecan Hill. One of the armed forces (and I want pretend to know exactly who it is) has the motto ‘No man gets left behind’ and I realised I was leaving Pecan Hill behind. The more I thought about it, the more I thought of everything that still had to happen in the story for the novel to be finished.

The answer came back as not a lot and the best was that my projected word count was only 20,000 words off and I still had so much left to get into the story. I realised I had been complaining about how bored I was with the story but hadn’t been thinking about what needed to happen to get to the end of the story. Pecan Hill is still my discovery writing baby, even though I plotted the first half for the latest draft rather intensely, while Spoil is the start of my outlined stories.

So that’s it for me. Time to man up, sit down with my hands on my keyboard and get it done. I’ve sacrificed so much to get Pecan Hill into the condition it is in today and it would be nothing short of criminal if I were to abandon it simply because I’d gone through it too much. There is only another twenty thousand words of the first draft of its latest incarnation left and then about four to five revised drafts, but this first draft is the doozy.

Let’s knuckle down and get it done.

Filling the “Trunk”

Every writer has something they refer to as their trunk. It’s the place where all of their old stories are sent once they have finished with writing them and they have decided they’re not worthy of being sent out or they’ve been sent out and summarily rejected by everyone who has a chance to look at it. Or maybe just look at the query letter without seeing any of the actual novel.

I suppose you could say that I’ve been struggling with the tipping point of where to draw the line and send a novel to the trunk. There is, of course, one novel to which I am definitely thinking and referring of and if you’ve been following this blog then you should know what I’m talking about – Pecan Hill. I’ve been busy with the novel since 2008 and probably for several years before since the idea first struck me and I started to seriously think about writing it all down. I know there are hundreds, if not thousands, of people who have been working on one novel for their whole lives. Pecan Hill is a grim story about a man who has basically lost everything and I have to admit that there are times when his thoughts of depression have affected me. This is probably because the whole novel is written in first person, so I’m a lot closer to the story than if I’d chosen to use limited third person.

Hell, maybe I’ll even come back to it one day when I have broken through and fix it up to the point where it can be published and send it off. There is no chance of it being able to survive if I sent it off by itself without major overhauls.

The question is, of course, what to move onto. There are my fantasy stories but I’m starting to wonder if maybe it’s the wrong genre for me. I want to be unique and so I’m trying to write these stories which are different to what is already in the market. Hell, having the Four Horsemen as the rulers seems to be pretty original to me. But maybe I’m overthinking the whole thing and should settle into the “normal” genre concepts like elves and dwarves (can you hear the sneer?). I’m not a fan of using elves and dwarves in a fantasy setting. Tolkien brought them to life in his life’s work and it seems as though everyone after him has gone for the norm and used them. Of course, that’s generalisation – not everyone uses elves and dwarves but I hope you have got my point.

I was thinking that maybe I should sink my teeth back into Spoil the Child. I know that I can finish a story in that vein which makes relative sense and besides this has been percolating in my mind for a while. I know where the story must go. Added to that is the fact that I know that it will come in under that magical 100K breakthrough word count limit.

There is so much to think about…

It’s Funny How the Mind Works

It’s funny how the mind works.

It’s been three years since I came back from New York, but every so often my mind goes back there.  Actually, every time I get stuck into the billtionth draft of Pecan Hill, my mind has to go back.

The problem is that I thought Pecan Hill was finished.  I can tick that story idea off as done and move on to my next idea.  I needed to move on; the constant changes were driving me mad.  It wasn’t that anyone was sitting on my back and complaining about changes.  That was all me.  I went through half a dozen times, looking if it was flowing correctly, the language right; the spelling perfect.  I’d put it to one side and climbed into Spoil the Child while I sent out queries for Hill.  I was loving writing Spoil but when I started an online writing course, I realised Pecan Hill wasn’t done.  It was a long way from done – a very long way.  I realised the opening was too slow and that the book only heats up halfway through.  Once people hit that mark, they can’t put it down.  But they need to hit that mark.

I needed to put more hooks into the beginning, create the urge, the desire, for the reader to carry on reading and get to the point where the impetus of the story drives them on.  Of course, when I started to fix the beginning, I realised the writing wasn’t where it needed to be.  I have to start over with the billion and first draft.

And once that’s done, I’ll have to go back for another draft to correct line edits.  I hate line edits.

But I’ll do it because I’m committed.

Where to from here…

Well, I’ve still heard nothing from anyone about Pecan Hill from any of the agents which I queried, so I guess that I’ll have to take it as a hell no from them.  It feels as though I have to revise my query letter again to try and hook them.  Sometimes it feels stupid to try and explain what happens in the story.  Is it possible that my logical mind is screaming that what I’m writing about is stupid and that the agents and anyone who reads the query letter will think it’s pathetic.  I suppose I’m still trying to grow that thick skin which all authors need to have.

But it’s when I get to trying to write Spoil the Child that I’m finding myself hitting the wall.  I know where I want to go but it’s getting over that wall or smashing through the wall which is proving to be a problem.  I’m starting to wonder if I should start from the beginning again – like J.R.R. Tolkien with the Lord of the Rings and the slow progress of waves crashing up the beach, a little further each time.  I guess you could say that I’m a little insecure with the whole setting.  New York was the right location for Pecan Hill I knew it as soon as I started.

But I’m starting to wonder if Florida is the right location for Spoil the Child.  I’ve only spent a week in Florida compared to living for four months in New York.  I thought it would be fine in I created a small town which I could then terrorize, a little like Stephen King.

I’m starting to think if I should go back to Where Angels Fall which is a fantasy story for which I have finalised the first draft.  I know at least in that world I will be in charge and have created the entire world already

Rugby player movements and my other interests

Monty Dumond
Monty Dumond


Well, the end of the domestic season has arrived and there is only the final international games left before the southern hemisphere rugby season closes and the time has started for player movements between unions and to clubs overseas.  I suppose the important ones are the transfers which affect my team, The Sharks.  Skipper Badenhorst and Monty Dumond are both making the move to the Free State Cheetahs.  Dumond will be making the move temporarily and will only be used during the Super 14 before he comes back to the Sharks for the Currie Cup.

Skipper Badenhorst
Skipper Badenhorst

To be honest, Skipper Badenhorst in my opinion is welcome to move along.  He has been a servant for the Sharks but is a true journeyman having played at so many other unions before coming to the Sharks and to be honest he is our third choice hooker behind Springbok incumbent Bismark Du Plessis and converted wing, Craig Burden.  He will be better used by the Cheetahs as their second choice hooker.  Good luck to him.

The Springboks, or should I say South Africa, played a game against the Leicester Tigers and it was very embarrassing.  Admittedly, these guys were our second string team with our first choice resting after a very long and successful season and hadn’t played together at all before the game.  But to be so destroyed is humiliating for the players.  Chilliboy Ralapelle was the captain for the evening and only played twenty minutes before being subbed out.  It’s a pity because I rate Chilliboy and he really isn’t getting enough game time.

I heard during the week he was linked to a move from the Bulls to the Lions where he would be both first choice and captain and I actually hoped that it was true because it would finally allow him to get the game time and experience needed.  But both sides have denied that he will be moving, which is a real pity.  But I can hope it’s all smoke and mirrors, like the Heinrich Brussouw incident – he isn’t coming to the Sharks by the way.

Books and writing

As always I have been doing quite a bit of reading and the book that I have finished last was Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol.   I did enjoy it for a while but when I reached the final hundred pages my interest waned and I really had to push myself to get through it.  My favorite book of his was Angels and Demons and it seems as though he has followed the same formula in the books he has written since (Da Vinci Code and The Lost Symbol).

Robert Jordan’s The Gathering Storm has been released lately.  One of the books I’m reading at the moment is Robert Jordan’s Lord of Chaos.  It’s the sixth book in his Wheel of Time series and it’s become a drag, a chore, to get through it.  I loved the first book in the series, The Eye of the World, but it feels as though the publishing house wanted more and more and he had to drag it out more and more for revenue purposes.  I really wondering if I should even try to get to the end of the series.  Robert Jordan has passed on, unfortunately, before he could finish his work but had stated that book 12 would be the last book in the series and would be called A Memory of Light.  Brandon Sanderson was tipped to complete it and I’m sure he did his best to ensure it was up to the same standard as the rest of the standard.  But the problem is that the final book has been stretched to three books.  Is it something which Brandon Sanderson could have avoided?  I doubt it.  He has said that he tried to finish all of the story threads which had been left hanging at the end of the last book.  But I can’t help but wonder if maybe some of those threads weren’t meant to be tied off?  Just a thought.

Pecan Hill and Spoil the Child

Still no movement on Pecan Hill, but I have to honest and say that I haven’t sent through any more queries for it.  I’m trying to perfect my query before I send it on to other agents.

My work is still going on with Spoil the Child.  I reached a point where I was stuck as to where I wanted to go with the story but it was while I was driving home the other day and listening to the beginning of Stephen King’s Just After Sunset when he was reading from Arthur Mocken’s The Great God Pan (I’m not sure if I got the spelling right) that I had a flash of inspiration.  I know which direction I want to head, but now I just have to get there.

There never seems to be enough…

There never seems to be enough time in the day to be able to get through everything.  Apart from my normal responsibilities as a financial manager, I also want to spend as much time as possible with my wife and my growing son, because they are only this young once.  And then above all of that, there is still my dream to consider or my desire to achieve my dream.

I want to get PECAN HILL published but I’m also excited about being able to get into my next story – SPOIL THE CHILD.  I’m at the point where I’m more excited about SPOIL THE CHILD than PECAN HILL. Possibly more excited than I ever was about PECAN HILL.  But maybe that’s only how it feels now when I have reached the end with PECAN HILL.  I’m busy sending out queries to agents to try and get it published.  I’ve received several form rejection letters and those are only from the agents who were courteous enough to reply.

I don’t know how many times I have revised my query letter to try and hook agents, but I know I will have to revise it again.  It can be so frustrating because the agents haven’t even read the actual novel yet just a single page.  I can understand that their time is precious and that they cannot read every single submission.  I’ve read about how many times most authors have been rejected before they were able to be published and know that I’ll have to push through.

I’ve basically rejected the idea of publishing an ebook by myself.  I would prefer it if I could get published in the traditional sense and have a hard copy product.  I think that the cost of publishing an ebook can be a little bit too steep and ebooks are still viewed in a negative light.

Oh well, back to the grindstone…