Having a panic

(15 Posts)
joshandjamie Wed 31-Jul-13 19:03:47

I decided to write a novel in April this year. I had an idea. I sat down and I wrote. I took time off for Easter hols and May half term and just before summer holidays, I was up to about 70 000 words. I was mostly done but I needed an ending, which I am still no closer to figuring out.

Anyway, in my rush of excitement at getting to the end so fast, I signed up to do a course in September that is for people who have finished their book and are now looking for an agent.

In preparation for the course, I've just been asked to send in a draft letter to an agent plus the opening page of my book (got three weeks to do this).

But here's the thing, I have reread the book and think it's rubbish. I still don't know how it will end. I don't like my opening. I tell instead of show what the characters are like way too much. I need to massively edit it. But I am worried that it is actually all just shite. And now I have to actually go to this course and show it to people.

Please can other writers tell me that they felt their work was appalling too. Please. I might need a beta reader to help me. Because I think they will agree with me.

Sorry - not sure why I am posting but just feel panicky and sick about doing this course all of a sudden. Not sure I can get a refund.

Thunks head into desk

ninah Wed 31-Jul-13 19:08:37

The course sounds a bit rum to me, how long is it and what is it supposed to achieve? Not everyone on it is going to be William Golding, so I wouldn't worry there.
I've been writing for years and the early stuff is really shit. I've got a lot better but no agent yet!

GrendelsMum Wed 31-Jul-13 22:01:33

So are you saying that you've got most of a first draft of a first novel, and that you'd now like to spend time finishing and revising it?

Why don't you see if you can postpone this course until next year, so you've got time to work on it properly before then? You can join our 'revising' thread for ideas and support.

If you can't do that, then why not go on the course with a view to learning everything you can in order to finish and revise the novel, even if that's not exactly what it's about?

joshandjamie Thu 01-Aug-13 05:44:27

I'm going to see if I can postpone the course. Not sure they'll let me. I'll pop onto the revising thread but I have a feeling that an entire rewrite might be in order!

TunipTheVegedude Thu 01-Aug-13 08:23:24

Postpone if you can, but if not:

Do as much rewriting as you can in the time, but I can't believe you'll be the only one in that position. A lot of people think a submittable novel = first draft with a bit of polishing (I used to blush)

And don't think of your novel as shite, just think of it as unfinished. First drafts aren't meant to be good.

I'm very curious about the course as well. How long is it? Who is running it? Is it expensive?

joshandjamie Thu 01-Aug-13 08:56:49

Turnip I'll message you the details of the course

TunipTheVegedude Thu 01-Aug-13 09:26:24

Thanks JoshandJamie. I've replied to your PM. I think it will be fine.

GrendelsMum Thu 01-Aug-13 12:09:16

If it cheers you up, both Tunip and I have also re-read our first drafts and been overwhelmed by their utter crapness. (And Tunip is rather modest on here about her writing ability and credentials.)

Editing is the point when the work really starts. You probably will need to re-write the entire novel - that's what writing is.

I was speaking to a retired editor last week, who had a very helpful piece of advice for me re endings. She said that a lot of beginner novelists struggle with an ending as though they had been given a fixed beginning, and had to use it as it was to create an ending. She pointed out that you need to work backwards, and ensure that your starting point allows your desired ending to happen. You can actually change your plot, you know!

TunipTheVegedude Sat 03-Aug-13 14:20:12

Thanks, GrendelsMum!

I agree about endings. Lots of people rewrite the whole thing once they've figured out what the ending needs to be.
I was lucky with my ending - it made sense first time round - but I did cut most of the first half of the book.

I'm sure GrendelsMum won't mind if I quote something else the editor she was talking to said, that some people do three major rewrites, one for plot, one for characterisation and one for style.

I'm about to embark on my third rewrite. I didn't do it as tidily as one for plot, one for characterisation, one for style, but my first was basically plot, my second was a mixture of characterisation and style, and the third will (I think) be to do with further improvements to style and strengthening themes. And I do mean major rewrites - the 2nd rewrite involved four or five complete passes through the manuscript for different things.

ninah Sat 03-Aug-13 17:58:31

absolutely - I cut 50,000 words and changed a lot, as well. Am now rewriting the 50,000. Of the entire ms only a 6000 word extract was OK, and that had been through several drafts first. The more I write, the more I edit!

DrinkFeckArseGirls Mon 05-Aug-13 23:50:03

Writing is re-writing. You need to do several drafts before you achieve what you want.

DrinkFeckArseGirls Mon 05-Aug-13 23:52:15

Check out Chalk the Sun. They run creative writing courses and are completely kosher. They will also read your draft.

Shrugged Fri 09-Aug-13 16:31:25

Don't panic. I am an academic who has spent a lot of time looking at writers' papers in archives, and sometimes I am astonished by how poor early drafts by even the most towering figures are. I know the first draft I am working on at the moment has serious problems, but it will be a basis for revision, which is all it needs to be.

TunipTheUnconquerable Fri 09-Aug-13 17:00:12

That's very interesting, Shrugged. Would love to hear more about the crap early drafts.

fackinell Mon 12-Aug-13 11:13:22

Josh, I can totally relate to what you're saying. I was exactly the same with mine, it actually made me cringe. Do you have a few trusted friends that will give you an honest opinion?

I'd plan out the ending by brainstorming: where do you want your lead character to be? What about the surrounding characters? Are there any loose ends you need to tie up?

Well done on your commitment and writing so far. The fact that you are panicking shows you care about your work. I'd go to the course anyway and get support from others there.

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