Looking back at my Writer’s Notebook – Part One

I filled my first writer’s notebook.

My friend, Brett, gave it to me as a present for my birthday over ten years ago. It also came with a lovely pen on which he engraved ‘The pen is mightier than the sword’.

Inside the notebook, he wrote an inscription of which some of the lines are:

Take up your sword. The battle for immortality awaits!
Gallantly fight against the enemies of self doubt…
Stake thy claim on the battleground of original creativity.

So, in honour of my first notebook, I’m thumbing through its well-worn pages rediscovering my notes for various books, and sharing these with you in several blogs. In a way, it’s a trip down memory lane, or an insight into how my chaotic mind works.

My first notebook, thanks to my friend, Brett.

The first ten or so pages are dedicated to a rewrite of my first novel, Drama Queens with Love Scenes.

In light blue ink, the words “Visualise the book as if it’s a film you’re making” is written at the top of the first page. From there, many earlier chapters are earmarked for rewrites, with story changes and new lines to add including Maudi’s views on sex from a late nineteenth century perspective, which she shares with Allan, a character from recent years:

“The difference between good sex and bad sex is the level of guilt you feel afterwards. In your day good sex was a shared level of bliss. In my day it was measured by how important is was to keep it discreet!”

Further on are even more notes for rewrites of Chapter One. I know my thinking was probably to get this first part of the book perfect. After all, many publishers ask for the first few chapters of a book, and as I was still unpublished, it had to make a good impression.

Then there are ideas to extend the story.

After three assessments, my assessor wanted me to make this novella length manuscript, novel length. Several ideas are written including giving my main character an emotional breakdown.  That one I didn’t do, but I did develop a subplot that was already playing out behind the scenes, giving my villain a bigger role.

Needless to say, more pages are then devoted to further rewrites of my first book. In my electronic folder for that novel are eight drafts, various text files containing one liners for this story, and a number of draft emails to publishing houses and literary agents.

Opening these electronic files is also an eye-opener.

While this book’s original title was Staging Life, I’ve just found that for the second draft I was considering the title A Diva, A Bald-Man and an Angel. And reading several paragraphs of this draft shows me how cringe-worthy my writing was in this development stage.

But hey, a first book takes a lot of work. A good deal of love, sleepless nights and random inspiration goes into it. Moving on in this notebook I see there are notes from seminars on first time publishing, editing and on writing villains. I’ll share these in my next blog.

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