From Genesis to Tribulation (and Beyond!)

Making Friends with the Crocodile was born early one morning – around 4 a.m. – in a Stream of Consciousness that demanded I get up out of bed and write page after page of notes on scenes and characters and the plot development.


The whole novel was written in much the same way. Generally, I write as a pantser rather than a plotter – I’m terrible at planning out my writing, preferring instead to dive in and see where it takes me. But Making Friends with the Crocodile was written linearly, and other than the grammar and general tidying up, very little was changed in edit.

The book I’m working on now, though, had a far more troubled genesis. Maybe everyone has this problem with the second novel, unless it’s the second one of a planned series. I knew I wanted to write another novel that ‘said’ something, and that I wanted to set this one in India, too, but after that I went blank. I had decided to write about the English in India, or at least one of them, but had no plot.

We went on holiday, and for much of the week we were away I took a few hours out each day to work on the plot, filling my notebook with ideas and characters and working up a central theme, and once we were home again I started work on the novel.

But as I wrote, I found I was dissatisfied with the central plot. It seemed rather unlikely and, frankly, not that interesting. I didn’t even like my working title (I wonder how important that can be, psychologically?) I changed a few bits around, and turned the sub-plot into the main theme, and carried on. Eventually, I realised that I had lost interest in the whole project, despite the thirty thousand-odd words I’d written, and returned to an earlier, shelved project.

I worked on that for a while, but every now and again had ideas for the one I’d just abandoned, duly noted them down, and carried on. About three months later, I spent an afternoon going through notes and suddenly had an idea for two new sub-plots and a couple of new characters. These I liked Very Much Indeed.

I returned to the Abandoned Novel With the Uninteresting Working Title and got stuck in. I even had a new working title: A Good Place. It now stands at around seventy five thousand words, and the first draft is almost complete. There are a few gaps to fill in, but otherwise it is almost ready to put aside for a few months ready to edit.

So exciting!

32 thoughts on “From Genesis to Tribulation (and Beyond!)

  1. it’d have been a waste of 30k words if you hadn’t thought about those two extras and subplots. i have so many unfinished projects saved, if i get enough motivation to finish them all, i’d have writing material for another ten years. i’m a pantser too, by the way, though i do plan a few things ahead, like the general theme, how i want the story to start and a vague ending – like, and they lived happily ever after!

    Liked by 2 people

            1. This was a little different. I wrote a book, virtually as far as a completed first draft, then realised that a) I wasn’t happy with a lot of the plot and it needed altering, b) it needed a sequel, and c) it needed a whole new book before. *sigh* And I felt it was nearing completion…

              Liked by 1 person

              1. hey, that’s my debut! it went as far as 150k, i mean, without the prequel and the sequel. But i managed to cut and cut and i got 20k out of there at the end.sigh, at times it felt like a hopeless project.
                but it’s doable, so hang in there.

                Liked by 1 person

  2. Fascinating to read your process for writing. I guess every writer does it slightly differently but it’s obviously a fairly slow operation. I’m not sure I’d have the patience, would want to just finish it,

    Liked by 1 person

  3. It’s great to see a writer’s handwritten notes, and a glimpse into the thought-process. On this page, I see an element of terror that might emerge – – sloe gin, a full moon, and an incident at the lambing weekend, I assume there’s a werewolf involved? πŸ™‚ Just kidding – just that one page looks very intriguing, and completion of 75k words, almost ready for editing, it must be very exciting indeed!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m so glad you got over your hump! I’m looking forward to the final product. I must also confess to being very curious about the Persian Empire novel I’m sure you mentioned a while back.

    Almost everything I write is done first on backburner. I’m far too lazy to try and figure it out as I go. However, I’m also a compulsive planner, so once the “product” is running in my head like a B grade movie I write out an outline of what happens and what happens next before I pitch into the proper writing.

    However, it’s a very slow process. Scenes that work in my head don’t always do so well on the page. I also tend to edit as I go – something a lot of writers say is a no-no. Different strokes, etc.

    Your comments on working titles intrigued me. I always give my novels flippant working titles: ‘Southern Comfort’, ‘The Bodice Ripper’, etc.

    The reason? Superstition, pure and simple.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ah, the Persian Empire novel is the alternate project I return to now and again. I’m hoping that when I actually finish the current novel that one (three!) will not be far behind.

      I edit as I go, too. I can’t help it. Often it’s because I change my mind about how I want the writing to go and need to change what’s written first. Other times, it’s because I feel a bit stuck and, strangely, I find editing helps. Perhaps it’s because it makes me focus on the story.

      I do like the flippant titles idea. I should probably do that, except I’d probably become too attached to them and not change them…


      1. I found that editing what I wrote yesterday really helped me get back into the flow of the story for writing today. This was particularly important when I had a day job that required masses of completely different types of writing.

        Hack work, and I don’t use that term in a derogatory sense. It was extraordinarily good training, but at the same time a chore and a bore for a wannabe novelist.

        As for your Persian project: I’ve been meaning to tell you about this blog for a while. “Letters” from late 17th century Isfahan, based on translations from the original French and illustrated with the translator’s own, more modern photos. Not quite your period, I know, but some things wouldn’t have changed much over the centuries. I think you’d enjoy them.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I think all those who have done ‘hack work’ have a love / hate relationship with it. Having never done any, I feel that it would have taught me much I learned the hard way, or never learned at all. And I’ve had a number of drudge jobs, it’s just they were not writing related.

          That blog is fantastic! Just what I want! Thanks so much, Denise! I’ve read a couple of the posts, and will return to go through more of them at leisure.

          Liked by 1 person

  5. Good luck with it!

    Many, many years ago I wrote… I think it was three novels. They were dreadful. Truly awful. I’m good at characterisation but awful at plot. My brain does some sort of flip and refuses to work logically. And I tried using sub-plots as the main plot, tried using incidental characters that were threatening to take over… all sorts of things. Eventually I decided to leave it to people who are good at doing characters AND plot, and I’ve been quite happy since then! πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    1. And many, many years ago I wrote two novels – the first was unbelievably awful, the second bad but less so. It taught me quite a lot about how (not) to write.

      When I returned to the fray after a very large gap, I think I returned much better prepared because of the experience.

      Thanks, Val.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Congrats on getting the second novel going! I think that the problem you ran into is common: sometimes we press on even when we don’t really know why. But eventually, we do find our way forward, and the book that was supposed to be written is actually created!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Aint inspiration grand? Just when you think you’ve got nothing but dregs, something comes along to give it flavor.

    Of course, for me the idea of writing a novel, coming up with a plot and characters, and giving the characters life seems like it would take more imagination than I’ve got, so I don’t even attempt it.

    At least that’s my excuse.

    Liked by 1 person

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