I’m not sure what process other writers use, but I start with the title of the novel and then I type The End beneath it.
This can be a problem when the title just won’t emerge, and it might take a while. But once there’s a title, half the battle is won. Then it’s just a matter of filling the space between the title and the end with about 90k words. See how easy writing a book can be?
When the title of my latest completed manuscript was settled (We, Cathleen), I knew I couldn’t just type The End beneath the title. It didn’t want to be there, and the story didn’t want it there either.
So I asked one of the main characters (and he’ll argue that he is definitely the main character) how it should end. He didn’t even think about it; it was obvious to him all along, as it should have been to me. So I will use it to end this post, and you can let me know what you think.
The Agony and the Ecstasy
Writing is not agony. It’s pleasurable, measurable and doable. I’ve never struggled to write. But taking the next step is difficult: do I submit it to agents for their scrutiny and rejection? Or do I shelve the manuscript and move onto the next story?
When I began writing We, Cathleen, I planned to submit it for publication, and I dreaded the day when I’d type those closing words: the end.
Since the 4th of January 2023, I’ve been submitting relentlessly to agents around the world, and the rejections have been coming in just as relentlessly. So far, I have notched up 38 ‘No Thanks ‘ responses. The first 20 or so were agonising. The next 18 were ‘meh, so what?’
Then I received a request for a full read. Ecstasy is the flip side of the agony coin, and I was over the moon, especially as it was from a Very Big Publisher. They asked for 8 weeks to read the full manuscript to determine if it was suitable for the market. A week later, when my excitement levels had returned to acceptable levels (judging by my ability to sell properties without telling everyone about my book), I received a second request for a full read. This time from an agent on another continent.
The high is not so extreme this time, and I should be ready to behave like a normal person by tomorrow morning. But I’ll go to sleep tonight with a smile still on my face.
And I’ll return to writing tomorrow morning again, because every writer knows you are only as good as your last book, and my last book might not even make it to the printing press, despite the current interest.
At least the muse is waiting for me on the other side of midnight. As she always is.
Recognition is nice…
I’ve been very busy with the first draft of a novel so I try to stay away from the vast rabbit hole that blogging is. But I got a small affirmation in the mail yesterday and we all love affirmations.
I wrote a screenplay, Dream Reaper, which won three US awards in 2021. So I wondered what would happen if I rewrote it as a short story. Because it’s a dystopian tale, I figured it might qualify as sci-fi, and I entered in the L Ron Hubbard Future Writers contest.
I’m so pleased it at least received an honorable mention, but I’m thrilled beyond words that a certificate arrived from the US, and we now know that South Africa is not yet a fully dystopian country because our mail service appears to be functioning.
I may yet have what it takes to publish a book, and South Africa is still further away from being Dystopia than I thought.
TransMen… do they matter?
I know some trans men. I’ll name some of them: Jerra, Andrew, Curt, Brian, Junior, Andrè. You cannot say I’ve never encountered a trans man.
But I’m wondering why trans men don’t storm the gender castles, so to speak. Trans men are not a threat to anyone, male or female. Yet trans women are always in the news. They rape and impregnate and threaten women and young girls, and they invade women’s sport.
Is this a concerted knee-jerk reaction to the feminist movement? Is this neo toxic masculinity dressed up as gender identity rights?
The men I name at the beginning of this post are not quasi-lesbian trans men. They are the alters of a young woman with Dissociative Identity Disorder. They truly are male in every sense except in biology.
I see them struggle to get guy work because they have a woman’s identification document. They face ridicule and name-calling. Now they follow the news to see how society might finally accept them. But they see trans women use gender politics to invade women’s safe spaces. These guys are especially protective of their host personality, a woman who was horrifically abused by her father as a young child. They, more than most, know how important it is for women and girls to have safe spaces.
Love you guys! I’m your biggest fan and will always be cheering you on. Thank you for allowing me to write your story♥️
Just before sunset, some local girls started doing an impromptu dance opposite my house. The right way to start the weekend. 😁
Village Life in South Africa
Bedford is an Eastern Cape village in South Africa. There are about 10 000 residents, including the farmers in the broader district. Only 600 of those residents are White. The rest are isiXhosa and Coloured. And most Coloureds are from the Khoi and San Tribes, the original inhabitants of the southern tip of Africa.
We have running water twice or three times a week. The people who can afford it install rain-harvesting tanks.
Currently, we have power blackouts for about 7 hours out of 24. But that’s the same in the rest of the country.
As small as our village is, we have our own hospital. It’s very quiet here, except on Mondays when the dentist is open for extractions. Otherwise, the hospital is mainly for babies being born and old people dying. I live around the corner from the hospital so I see the patients pass by, on foot or in the one ambulance that services the district.
There are snobs and shop owners and addicts and poor people and farmers and farm workers. But the races live together in relative harmony.
Best of all, no one in our village is a blogger. So I can tell you the delicious tales without getting into trouble.
The Importance of Pointless Activities
I wished I could be a full-time writer. Imagine the novels and screenplays that would spew forth from my conveyor belt of creativity.
I could write for 8 hours a day, just like a regular job and take lunches with my family so they wouldn’t miss me too much while I’m in Etherland.
Except I can only write for three hours a day. Then my brain switches off. Granted, I’m actively writing for three hours, not thinking or planning or editing.
And because I write from 3am to 6am, the rest of the day is for the rest of life. I’ll take an hour to edit a chapter, but my brain craves mundane activity. Like polishing the wooden floors of my tiny period home.
All my planning and dreaming and talking to characters and getting to know them takes place while I’m polishing my floors. And then when I sit down to write at 3am the next morning, I’m already in the flow.
I started We, Cathleen on 1 September and am at 76k words. That’s my best pace ever and I should be done with the first draft by end October.
If you’ve read this far, I do appreciate it. If you are a fiction writer, link me to one of your posts in the comments. I’d love to visit you too. 🙏
How to write a book
I’ve been writing stories since I learned the alphabet, but I’m still no nearer to knowing the recipe for writing a book.
We are told to make elaborate outlines or basic outlines. Or we can just make it up as we go along. That’s what pantsers do, and they scorn the outliners, claiming that outlining kills creativity.
I’ve found that the only muse killer (and I believe in the existence and assistance of the muse) is NOT writing. The muse never wrote a single word without my active input. Ideas mean nothing if they aren’t transformed into alphabet soldiers.
So, the secret to writing a book begins with writing.
Follow me for more insightful insights.😁
Joan Didion on writing
Watch “How to Write Literary Fiction” on YouTube
This is the best video I’ve seen on writing literary fiction.