A Novel's Progress: My Guest Blog Post about
being chosen as a TLC Free Reads Winner
Tracy Ann Baines blogs about writers' fears, novel-writing & the benefits of a TLC Free Read:
Every writer’s different. We all have our own way of working. There’s no right or wrong way - no right place to start. But my novel started with NaNoWriMo. I sat at my computer, stared at the blank virtual paper, and realised - I had no idea what to write. But write I did. I had to. I’d taken up the challenge - write at least 50,000 words in a month.
A character came to me - he had a name, a little brother, but he didn’t have a story. I made it up as I went along. No plan, no synopsis, nothing. I let the story lead me into all kinds of places. Things I’d read or seen; newspaper reports, advertisements, a TV documentary all wove themselves into the narrative. And then I stopped. Something wasn’t right. I started all over again.
The story stayed the same but the POV changed. The story needed to be told from different perspectives, each character as important as the next. Five different characters = five different voices; two teenage boys, a teenage girl, a ten-year-old boy and a grandfather. Each voice needed to be distinctive and believable. Occasionally I’d write something which moved me to tears and I’d wonder- Is this real or am I deluding myself? Would others care about the characters I’d grown to love. And so it began….
The voice of self-doubt, growing ever louder… It’s too complicated. I don’t know what I’m doing. It’s rubbish. I can’t write. The voices don’t work. The story doesn’t work. Just give up now!
The self-doubt remained but I kept on going until finally I’d typed ‘The End.’ I’d done it. I’d finished my novel in a month. Hurrah! But now what?
I left it to gather dust. But then I heard about Writers’ Centre Norwich offering six writers the chance of a free manuscript report from TLC. This was an opportunity I’d be foolish to miss. Anyway, I knew I wouldn’t win. So with the deadline looming, and with no time to talk myself out of it, I posted my submission.
I won! I was awarded a TLC FreeRead. Thrilled to be chosen, I edited my manuscript and sent it away. Nothing to lose. Everything to gain.
I opened the report with nervous anticipation…
‘an awful lot of potential… I enjoyed reading it.’
‘Your main characters are believable and likeable… your writing style is, for the most part, eloquent and commanding.’
‘Overall I think you demonstrate an excellent command of dialogue.’
‘I found your plot entertaining and well conceived.’
‘Overall your manuscript shows a keen attention to narrative, both in terms of style and substance… it’s an engaging and, in parts, genuinely moving story.’
Fantastic! Vindication that perhaps my writing wasn’t as bad as I’d feared. That’s not to say there wasn’t work to be done. The reader thought I could do a little more to make the voices as distinctive as possible. I could perhaps streamline the plot and make it less hurried in the final third.
‘teenage first person narratives are hard to write at the best of times… multiple narrators is even more of a complicated task…’
To have your self-doubts dismissed or confirmed by a professional provides an important stepping stone. When we sit at our computers, staring at the words we’ve written, sometimes it’s hard to see things clearly. Sometimes, the only way to find the courage to move forward is to have a professional read your work and suggest ways to proceed.
So be brave. Grasp the opportunity. Because who knows where a TLC Free Read may lead…