Saturday, May 11, 2013


Here’s where you might be at by now.
You have a first draft and a lot of questions.
You have a lot of scenarios and a lot of unresolved conflict. You have a lot of ‘rough edges’.
At least I hope you do.
I’m going to describe this in music terms. To me, words are a bit like music. The best music is a lot of notes sequenced in a certain way that makes sense to the composer. They are played by the musician.
You are the writer of your novel.
Until your draft heads to the editors and copy editors (if you've worked hard and you're lucky) you are both composer and musician.
You decide what to play and how to play it.
Sentences are like a lot of notes strung together. They might sound terrible, or, after a lot of practice, they might sound beautiful.
To you, they might be something different altogether to music but this is my take on it all.
Rough Draft Exhibit A:
One of the first pages of what became “Pride & Princesses” (I say ‘one’ because there is an earlier draft) but you get the idea…
Chapter 1
    The day Mark Knightly transferred to Sunrise High from some snooty boarding school in England was the day Mouche and I began the Boy-Rating Diaries. They weren’t written in the traditional manner although they started that way. We wrote our thoughts on pink notepaper and used a feathered pen popular with countless teenage girls from previous generations. Suddenly, the secret diary became a blog that ended up as a how-to-guide to dating within the hallowed halls of our Performing Arts School. We went from social wallflowers to social winners in under a month all because our fantasy men walked the halls one surprising day in September and stopped to ask my best friend Mouche directions to  home room. ‘And not a minute too soon,’ Mouche noted, ‘I was beginning to think high school could only be fun in movies.’
    It was our junior year and from the instant we took Mark’s photo, blogged and tagged him, the meanest girls in school, Teegan, Freya, Brooke and Tory (the Princesses), sat up and started to take notice of all the great advice we shared about boys in our weekly column, The Sunrise High Newsfest. Of course, Mouche (pronounced in the French way – Moosh) never really planned to let love into the picture but that was before Mark Knightly entered our world and we hit on the idea of dating twelve different boys, one for each month.
    Mark was the first month, his friend Jet the next. Thoughts of them filled our every waking moment but that’s not what I’m meant to say and certainly not how it seemed to others at the time. Neither Mouche nor I realized that the start of the new school year would result in us both scribbling ‘I heart Mark’ and ‘I heart Jet’ in the spaces of our play scripts. But I digress…
If you are reading this, you’ll notice I made many changes between this and the page I eventually published:
Chapter 1
    The first time I saw Mark Knightly, my world changed forever.
    That morning began almost like any other. Eyes closed, under a cloud of dark hair, I tried to avoid waking up. I had trained myself to sleep through almost any noise, including the sound of the builders constructing a new house, across the road from my own.  But when the jackhammer rang out for the third time, my best friend, Mouche (pronounced Moosh), screamed. She was curled up in a cashmere blanket on the faux chaise lounge in the corner of my bedroom catching up on her beauty sleep.
     ‘Enough already...’ she said theatrically, throwing her pillow at me as a sliver of light streamed through the open curtains. ‘Another bright and shiny Los Angeles day,’ Mouche added as she flipped off the couch and flicked her blonde highlights off her face. Mouche rubbed her eyes and glanced at the framed photograph of the Statue of Liberty. She gave it to me for luck, for my birthday and because Mouche and I have wanted to live in New York City for as long as I could remember.
      ‘Never give up on the dream, Phoebe,’ Mouche said when she presented the picture to me, ‘New York is a great place to be a triple threat whereas Los Angeles is all about the movies, darling.’
      I glanced at the shifting sky and wondered how Mouche managed to look like a movie star at 8am. I threw the pillow right back at her…
    ‘You have glitter face, Mouche.’ I said as I stretched my legs, ‘and I’m running late. My mom’s plane arrives at the airport in...exactly eight minutes...I promised we’d pick her up. C’mon, we’ve got to be need to get dressed.’

Practise those sentences of your draft as you would the piano.
All those words need some cohesion.
There is no easy way to do this.
You need to spend a lot of time and effort, refining your novel – word by word, sentence by sentence.
Let me repeat - there is no easy way to write your own novel, from scratch.
I wish there was, but there isn’t.
You are either born brilliant or you have to practise. I definitely have to practise…