I Need Help! Writing a Novel

So writing this book has been a real struggle. It’s probably about the seventh book I’ve written (all unpublished, by the way) in my lifetime, but this is the first since starting the blog. Writing a blog has helped me tremendously. It’s got me used to writing regularly (ahem, yes since working on this book it’s been a while since I’ve posted – awkward emoji face) and I think it has helped me to improve.

By Christmas I was 85,000 words in and going great guns. I got so carried away with myself I thought this is it! The best seller! The one that will get published! So I foolishly thought I’d send off the first three chapters. There is a literary agent to whom I have been sending stuff for about ten years. The reason I send it to her is because she is the only one, out of the hundreds I have contacted, who always writes a few lines in response.

To begin with she said ‘you write with some fluency but the plot is pedestrian and your characters unconvincing.’ I just saw ‘you write with some fluency’ – woo hoo! So I scrapped that novel and started a new one. And then another. The feedback remained pretty much the same until the year before last I sent her my latest inspiration, a murder/detective story which I wrote in a ‘chick lit’ style. Looking back I can see the ‘comic caper’ approach to a series of gruesome murders was ill advised.

Her response this time was…

‘Your novel is an amusing read but I think you are mistaken in trying to mix genres.  It has too much of a crime plot for chick lit and is too chirpy for the crime market.  It has to be one or the other!

I’m afraid I found the heroine just too silly to be credible as a private eye investigator.’

Ha!! I love the last line –  the heroine was too much of an idiot. Hmm, she was completely based on me.

So what about my latest endeavour. I was stupid to send her the first three chapters of my latest piece when I hadn’t quite finished. Also, I knew – deep down – that there was a real flaw in it. The novel comprises of two narrators, and although I felt I knew the first narrator inside and out and absolutely had a sense of her voice, the second one was more difficult.

So the latest response for the agent was useful – though depressing. This time she said ‘your writing is better’. HOORAY! That’s good. BUT. Then she said, ‘but I wasn’t moved by the plot’ and that she ‘didn’t warm to the characters.’ Damn. BUT. THEN she said ‘try another agent’ and gave me a name to write to.

Now that has never happened before. Either 1. She’s sick of hearing from me every year and is passing the buck or 2. She thinks I am publishable and though it’s not to her taste, others may like it.

I am going to go with option 2. because option 1. is too depressing.

The good thing is her comment has made me really look hard at the novel. I have re-written it three or four times and I keep struggling to write the ending. I think it’s because I have gone down the wrong fork at some point. After many hours thinking it though, the problem lies with the second narrator.

I worry that in the first version she is too miserable, too much of a victim. too dramatic. So I’ve started all over again and written an alternative first (second narator) chapter.

The reason I am writing this post is to see if any lovely person can tell me which of the following two versions of the starting chapter is better? In my head I have the end of each of them but I need to know which fork to choose. Yes I know, I know, I should go to writing class, or pay someone maybe, but I haven’t the confidence just yet. (I am hoping it kicks in at some point before I hit 60)

So if you have the time and the inclination I would really appreciate it, dear reader, if you could read the following chapters and tell me whether you prefer Version A or Version B. Please ignore typos/spelling mistakes etc as they are very much drafts.

Thank you!! And a Happy New Year to all of you.

Update – If you are interested I have added the very first chapter below. That introduces the first narrator. But I love my witch and I won’t change her even if you don’t think its any good!

Chapter 2: Version A


Chapter 2: Version B


Chapter 1: Frieda, a beginning


21 thoughts on “I Need Help! Writing a Novel

  1. Victoria Ray NB

    I like version B better, but…I don’t know I feel like your hero is a bit “no fish no meat”, lacks character. I don’t understand where all u describe is going*: the purpose
    U use too many descriptions too for quite long time. And a very important thing: there’s no mix of feeling, not really…but I believe it’s necessary to keep attention .
    About version A or 1. I think I’d start with a phrase: . I remembered the time when my head was full of him. When we first met I used to dream about him all the time. Now, my dreams are frustrating, filled with half-understood, mysterious conversations.

    To read about morning for soooo long. I wouldn’t survive that. But I understand what u want achieve with that tho…

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Victoria Ray NB

        I never went. To tell you honestly, I never will too 🙂 Maybe bcz I have worked as a teacher of literature (in gymnasium) – I don’t feel the need to go on a writing course. I know I’d always disagree (in my mind) with the teacher, but I’d still write as they’d ask me to write & it would make me unhappy. At least I see it so.
        But in case if you never worked with the text (analyzing) or creative writing before – u should check.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. middleagedwarrior

      Absolutely no rush at all, Claudette, just want to get it right! I’d really appreciate your feedback as I know you are a writer. I suppose the main thing I want to know is whether it is worth keeping on plugging away?


  2. Jina Bazzar

    First, even if al your queries come back with a rejection, and you realize that’s enough, instead of giving up – hm, just self-publish.
    Second, it seems like the drafts you posted here are images and screen readers can’t read them, so sorry, can’t give you my opinion. BUT, if you really want to think what readers think about or which to choose, there’s a group in goodreads called beta readers folder. go there if you’d like, join the group and post a request for a reader'[s opinion. I got my first 4 betas there and their critique did wonders to my wip at the time.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. middleagedwarrior

      Oh that’s so good to hear thank you so much! I will definitely go and have a look. I don’t know why the drafts should be different there are just links to a normal post? It should be the same. I’ll have a look. Thanks for the advice

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Jina Bazzar

        when you’re in there, for the future, and your manuscript is ready to go, keep an eye o on the special offer folder – also within that beta group – sometimes start up editors offer their service for free in exchange for testimonials.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. The Lockwood Echo

    I’m very late to this reading club, even though I’ve had the tab open for ages as I promised myself I would read both versions, so apologies! I’m going to buck the trend and say I prefer the first version, following that statement up with the fact that I’ve never critiqued or reviewed anyone’s writing before! So you can take anything I say and throw it in the bin with no further ado 😉 All I can tell you is why I prefer the first version and maybe that will resonate with you and lean you for or against it depending on how you see it proceeding. It felt more real, I liked being in her head. She’s full of shame and loss and it was much more personal. I warmed to her. The second version was a more straightforward narrative, but obviously did include much more in the way of characters and detail that I assume will play through the story. Either way, hope you’re having fun with the process. Keep sending stuff out there. The classic rejection story being how many times JK Rowling was turned down 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Pingback: Why Do We Despise Older Woman? – Middle-Aged Warrior

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