When people (mostly my wife) ask me how the new novel is going, I say ‘well, it’s going.’ I’m not sure where but it’s going. The first 5k words or so got critiqued by my lecturer (Paula Morris) and fellow students in the MCW. They confirmed my suspicions. Basically, I was trying a bit too hard to be ‘clever’ or ‘complicated’ or something. I don’t know really. I was just trying to do something different, to stretch myself, to be better. My agent tells me that I have the skills now to challenge myself and I like to think that’s what I’ve been doing but, I have to admit, I’ve felt a little bit at sea with my current W.I.P.
It’s young adult of course. Historical. Of course. This will be my third YA historical novel. My eighth novel overall, actually. Without giving too much away, I have three main characters. All teenagers. My plan was to use first person POV and present tense. Alternate each character from chapter to chapter. I soon realised this was too complicated and confusing and changed it to only two of the characters. I wrote the prologue and the first two chapters. Wasn’t entirely happy with it.
I sent it to my agent. She really liked it.
Then it got critiqued by the other students. The pointed out that I use too many adverbs which I didn’t realise. I also say ‘suddenly’ quite a lot. I changed it.
Suddenly (see what I did there?), it’s now 3rd person, past tense. Mostly one person’s perspective but quite a bit of a second with occasional other characters thrown in for good measure. I think it’s better. I hope it’s better. It better bloody well be better.
I sent this second draft to my agent. She liked the POV better but I’d lost something in the pacing by trying to weave too much bloody plot in too early. Back to the drawing board.
It’s my third draft and I’m getting sick of reading the same sentences. Have done almost 30k now. Almost half way. My agent has it.
Now, I know I promised to give regular updates on the course but I lied. There’s no other way of saying it. The bottom line is that I am learning, I am taking on board other’s criticisms and advice and adapting my writing accordingly. I’m reading more widely which is great. I’m much more analytical when I read. I feel like this has taken a little enjoyment out of reading but I guess that’s life.
This course will make me a better writer. That or it will kill me. Pick one.
Phillip W. Simpson
Phillip W. Simpson is an author of YA and children's books.