Anatomy of a Novel Part 5: #amwriting

Am Writing

There are few things more frustrating as a writer than seeing all your writer friends using #amwriting on social media when you’ve hit a slow patch. Thankfully though, despite a few false starts, I can now once again claim to be part of that select, productive group (hooray!).

I recently left the full-time workforce to start my own communications consultancy, which means I’m working from home and am able to allocate a bit more time to writing than I could previously (and at civilised hours!), so I’ve actually had a run of productive days and I’ve just finished Chapter 1 of my new novel, which I’ve tentatively titled The Iron Line. Here’s a short synopsis:

Jane Adams is only nineteen, but she’s already a widow. A daughter of the railway, she takes a job as a level-crossing operator in the little town of Tungold, out at the end of the line. But all is not right in Tungold. The townspeople are frosty and unwelcoming, and Jane’s only ally is the new young police constable, Alec Ward, an outsider just like her.

When Jane is woken in the night by a mysterious ghost train, she becomes determined to get to the bottom of the town’s secrets. But Jane is also hiding a secret of her own…

In some ways I’m following a similar process to that of writing Greythorne (doing a bit every day) but I’ve refined it to take into account things I’ve learned along the way and to make it more efficient. For example, after I’d finished the first draft of Greythorne, I realised that if I didn’t have a good grasp of my characters, and particularly their motivations, they tended to come out looking two-dimensional and a bit clunky, which can be hard to fix later on. So this time around I’ve done preemptive character studies for Jane and Alec, and I’ll probably do some more on important figures in the town as I go along (I’m not really sure who the ringleaders are at the moment out of my cluster of minor characters,  but I daresay they’ll reveal themselves in time).

I’ve also started using Scrivener, which I’m finding really useful so far – I love having all my outlines, research and drafts in one place, rather than in five million files that I have to keep switching between. I also love its target word count feature – previously I used an Excel spreadsheet to calculate my daily and overall targets and how close I was to reaching them, but Scrivener does all that for you (you just put in the estimated word count of the manuscript and how many you aim to write per day and it calculates it for you. It even goes from red to yellow to green as you near your target).

Scrivener word count
Scrivener word count target

I’m trying to get the first draft done in time for an artists’ retreat I’m going on in late April, which would be the perfect place to do the first-round edits…but there’s a few other things on the boil as well so we’ll see how it goes. I generally like deadlines, and not just in the Douglas Adams sense (“I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by”) because I like having something to aim for, but I’m having to learn not to beat myself up so much if I don’t meet them. It’s the same with the daily word count – I’m aiming for 1500 words a day, but I need to stop myself saying ‘I only wrote 800 today’ and instead think ‘Well, I have 800 more words  today than I did yesterday’.’  I’m not always great at being nice to myself, so this is a challenge! It feels fantastic though to be back in the saddle again with a story that so far seems to be working. If you’d like to get exclusive updates and excerpts please subscribe to my newsletter. I’ve also just started a new monthly giveaway, so every month new subscribers will go into the draw to win a signed copy of Greythorne.

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