Updated: Oct 12, 2019
Before you say anything, no I will still mention my works in progress from time to time. Just, not in as much detail. I’ve mentioned one of my novels, The Dormant Queen, a few times by name in some of my previous blog posts. This will be the last. I had also revealed other more telling details about the novel that I probably shouldn’t have. Not because there are any major spoilers, but because those details don’t reflect what The Dormant Queen is becoming.
The novel is a completely different beast now, and I want people to know that. The Dormant Queen started off as something I conceived when I was just sixteen years old and wrote a zero draft of when I was eighteen. Authors grow and change over time, and I wouldn’t want to write in the same way or from the same angle I did as a teenager. I like to think that I’ve grown up a bit since then, and I hope that if I decide to send it to publishers or self-publish it that it comes across.
My favourite “author-tube” Youtuber, Kate Cavanagh uses the term ‘zero-draft’, meaning the draft you scribble out to get an idea of what you want your novel to turn out like. This is pretty much what I did when I wrote The Dormant Queen in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) in 2017. I scribbled out a 35,000 word ‘first draft’ to have the damn thing written. It was significant progress, but it turned out to be a monstrosity I didn’t know where to start editing, so I left it on the shelf for a few years. Because I’d changed so much during those years, the novel seemed even worse. I was far from finished with it, but I knew that a complete rework was necessary.
Now I’m almost 22 years old. I’ve spent my summer this year planning this bad-boy meticulously. I won’t divulge too much, but it’s very trippy and existential so far. I think it’s quite a bit deeper than before, but only time will tell. I sent it back and forth between proof-readers (i.e my mum and my boyfriend), until I was getting very good feedback. It took me about two months. I’d be lying if I said I wished I’d done it a bit faster, but then this is the first novel plan of this kind I’ve done. That document is almost 7,000 words. I mean that’s almost a tenth of the possible word count. The average novel, as far as I’ve heard, is between 70,000 and 100,000 words. How far I get to that goal, I’ll know better when I start writing out the thing. The more of these plans I’ll do, the quicker and easier it’ll be. I know for some of my other projects, I will need to plan them out just as meticulously.
I think I’ve become an extreme plotter. I think I’ve adopted this from my time at university. I had to give my essays a sound structure to create a framework for my essays or they would be incoherent messes. By spending an ungodly amount of time planning my most recent essay, I managed to get a half decent mark for the essay and barely scraped into my Joint Honours. I was having a pretty crap year so the fact I passed in the end was something I was proud of. Also, I think the essay was quite good and is one of my better ones. I was immensely proud of my work and I may upload it in the future.
I have a bad habit of taking on too many projects, setting too many goals and deadlines and feeling like I’ve fallen flat on my face when I either don’t achieve them or, more likely, burn out completely. My mental health has been unpredictable, to say the least, but that’s a story for another time. I keep trying to pace myself, but this is something I find difficult. A lot of my ego and self-worth is based on how productive I can be, which I know is unhealthy mindset.
As I ploughed on with the novel plan, through most of May and the entirety of June and July. I put a lot of work into that plan. Just like last year, by August, I was burned out again. There were a whole bunch of other factors that contributed to the burn-out of course, but I won’t bore you with that. Mostly, it was setting myself far too many goals.
My mindset was that because I wasn’t working this summer and had so much free time, I could get so much done. I wanted to send my flash fictions and poems to a bunch of online magazines and journals with little success. It felt like a wasted effort, as I’d received so many rejections, but one of my poems is to be published by Bonnie’s Crew in their December issue. Considering how frequently authors' works are rejected, it wasn't bad going.
I had also hoped switch between two different novel plans, my main one being The Dormant Queen, with a side project around the same size. There are writers who do this to keep things fresh or have something to do while waiting for editors to get back to them and I thought I could do the same. I have learned that I am not that writer, or at least I won’t be any time soon. I’ve shelved that side project for the time being. I had attempted to write zero drafts of it before during term-time which I ended up not finishing as I felt the structure of it just didn’t work. I didn’t know my story well enough to write it well, and I didn’t want to waste my time. I do enjoy the project, don’t get me wrong, but I also realised that ‘pantsing’ or going without a plan is just not how I write.
There were a whole bunch of other things I wanted to do, like perform and network at Edinburgh Fringe, learn guitar and cello again just to play at my event Words and Music and type up a stockpile of blog posts for later in the year and things like that which also didn’t pan out. I’m of course still doing the sponsored swim I wanted to do this year, but I’ve extended the deadline for more than a few months. The swimmer’s knees I got from last year’s sponsored swim came back with a vengeance because I tried to swim 30 lengths for 4 days out of the week. Not as much as what I did last year, but if that’s not a metaphor for my situation right now I don’t know what is.
For the next few months at least, I’ll be letting The Dormant Queen brew. In other words, it'll be settling in my computer until I'm strong enough to pursue following it. I’m going to allow myself some time to recover in time for university starting again. I’ll probably write some small pieces, or some silly wee things just for me, and I’ll still be performing at Words and Music and the odd gig somewhere else.
This is the last time I’ll be saying too much about my works in progress though. I don’t want there to be potential spoilers, or aspects of a draft I’ve abandoned that might either give people false hope or put people off my work entirely depending on their personal tastes. I regret doing that in some of my previous blog posts. They have ended up becoming dated as a result of my blabbing. You can probably tell that I enjoy talking about my writing and my writing process, and giving people updates on how I’m getting along. However, I know there’s times I need to keep my mouth shut.
A big thank you to Kate at Bonnie’s Crew for accepting my poem for publication on her magazine. The magazine was created to raise funds for babies and children with rare congenic heart problems. I’d be recommending them regardless if I was being published or not, as it’s a great magazine that serves to raise money for a worthy cause. Check them out here
If you liked what I’ve been writing, you can keep up to date through my social media and look through some posts from this website. Alternatively, I have a back catalogue of articles that I’ve written for Outlet Publishing’s Diary of a Young Writer blog, most of which I’m very proud of.
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