Bjørn again

Today marks six months since I sent what I thought was the final draft of the book to the editor I asked to just look at my grammar and spelling (Crystal Clear Resources).

I haven’t started looking for a publisher yet.

I’ve learned a LOT in those six months. One of those things was that blogging for many years hasn’t prepared me to write a novel. But also that my hunger for knowledge was larger than my fear of rejection or feedback that was something else than ‘OMG you’re the most impressive human being I ever met’. I’ve also learned what an editor can actually do, and why it is a good idea to listen when I am told ‘this starts rather slowly’ by two people, one of whom happens to be a professional.

The entire novel consists of 21 chapters. I started on chapter 7 a few weeks ago, and we did not alter the story much. The last six months taught me that the amount of ways you can write the same story is infinite. That when in February I think ‘this is the most hilarious phrase in the world ever’, there is a good chance in March I will suddenly be struck by the thought ‘this must go‘. That just because some characters only appear on five pages doesn’t mean they can be completely interchangeable. But also that sixteen years after my last university exam I can still learn so much I will be impressed with myself. Not in the ‘OMG I’m the most impressive human being I ever met’ way. Just due to the discovery that I can still be open-minded, and there is some space left in my brain among the lyrics of 80s songs, and Pet Shop Boys related trivia.

The bad, horrible, no good thing is that I fell head over heels in love with Iceland. This is problematic, because I don’t like cold weather. While Iceland is not completely made of ice, it is not an oasis of sunshine and warmth either. When they say ‘land of ice and fire’ they generally mean ‘land of ice, strong winds, low temperatures, oh – we also have volcanoes but you’d better pray they don’t erupt, and if you insist on fire don’t forget we can’t afford to actually burn wood the way you like, which is constantly. But here’s a lighter’.

I don’t know why I couldn’t have fallen in love with, I don’t know, Australia? (This might be because I haven’t visited Australia. Please stop me from visiting Australia.)

There will be Iceland-related stuff appearing here, and on my YouTube, Twitter, Facebook in the coming weeks.

Takk og bless!

Resource for today: Janet Reid, Literary Agent (blog).

Currently reading: “Barbara The Slut and Other People”, Lauren Holmes.

Second draft finished…

As the title suggests, I finished the second draft.

I sent it to some people for a review. My first beta readers! I expected to sit for weeks and bite my nails, worrying about how much they will hate my writing. But actually – following another writer’s advice – I started working on a completely different project instead. “I never stop writing,” she told me, and it seems to work.

Learning to write

I decided that before starting on the second draft I am going to read ten very good books by other authors to take a look at their methods, rather than content. You know, I love tinkering with the apps on my phone to get myself warmed up before a writing session, mostly to play casino games like those on casinospil.net but I guess this time I should busy myself with something more related to what I’m about to do.
Most of those books are new to me and recommended by the readers of my Polish blog (thanks to all of you!) I just finished a brick of a book, my description of which you will find at the end, and at the same time I am slowly getting through “Independent People” by Halldor Laxness, an Icelandic Noble Prize winner.

“Independent People” isn’t – to me – an extremely exciting piece of reading (also it has approx. 1500 pages, too) but definitely can’t be called boring, and the ice cold (hoho) humour which shows every now and then makes it easier to get through depressive, detailed discussion of semi-frozen, hungry, hard-working, half-poisoned by brushwood and peat smoke people. Who are, indeed, independent. Sort of.

Here are the first five books I’ve read:

1) “Big Little Lies” by Liane Moriarty

I would never guess that a book about families of kids who attend the same school (I am not a major fan of kids) could be so enticing. Similarly as “The Secret History” (read on) first you are presented with a perfect picture, but slowly scratches and cracks start to appear.

What I have learned: make things more complicated than they secretly appear.

What I am planning to rip off: the way to build conflicts slowly, bit by bit, detailed characters, that bullying doesn’t only apply to children.

10/10

2) “Gone Girl” (also “Sharp Objects” and “Dark Places”) by Gillian Flynn

What I have learned: the book I got is a “complete Gillian Flynn omnibus” e-book, which meant I had no idea how long “Gone Girl” is actually going to be. I was reading, shrugging every now and then, convinced it’s an okay book and that I know everything that’s going to happen. Then it got to its (obvious) ending. I thought. Because the book didn’t end and since that moment I had absolutely no clue what is going to happen next. No more spoilers.

What I am planning to rip off: I love the fact that the book doesn’t end when you expect it to, although I don’t know how to do it with a book that isn’t an omnibus. Perhaps I’ll switch to 8pt type on the last 50 pages or so.

10/10

“Sharp Objects”, “Dark Places”

The readers of my blog told me not to expect those two to be as good as “Gone Girl”, and they weren’t. Again, I guessed how “Sharp Objects” would end, it’s an interesting study, but not so much a story. “Dark Places” is more interesting and built in very unusual surroundings; it’s hard to guess and sometimes hard to read. But I’d recommend this one.

What I am planning to rip off: I have to build more relationships between secondary characters, because the first draft basically goes “the inn owner was called Gu∂run”.

7/10 and 8/10, and if not for having just been spoilt by “Gone Girl” I might have scored them better.

3) “The Year of Our War” by Steph Swainson

Unfortunately I can’t read this, although the beginning sounds interesting. There are Insects in it. With capital I. Described in lots of detail. I don’t do insects. The lead seems a character that I’d like to write about; “The Game of Thrones” got me used to avoiding cliches of “The Bad Ones” and “The Good Ones”. Unfortunately “The Year of Our War” is not going to teach me anything more, because there are too many Insects, and the writer proceeds to describe in great detail “thick yellow fluids” and “still convulsively moving appendages” (I am not checking if those quotes are correct, soz). That’s where I have to stop. Dead human bodies, rivers of blood, brutal rapes, massacred bodies, torture, eating brains with a spoon – no problems there. Insects – too much.

4) “The Hours” by Michael Cunningham

It went fast, the book is short and I almost memorised it… almost…

What I have learned: there is very little actual story in this book. Reading it to research the way it is written, rather than what it is about, made me understand why the movie was successful; there’s no need to cut (almost) anything to fit in allotted time. But how much detail is in there? Where I would write “he looked at the clock”, Cunningham will write “she looked at the clock, with its plain green face, locked in a black bakelite sarcophagus”. Everything is described like that. Plus the bonus, where Clarissa (who is played by Meryl Streep in the movie) is wondering if she just saw Meryl Streep. Delicious. This isn’t in the movie, so you need to 1) watch, 2) read and 3) giggle a bit.

What I am planning to rip off: not too much, since my first draft already has 186 single-spaced Word pages and if I describe everything in detail I will end up with a trilogy of three 800-page books, but I intend to create all the buildings in The Sims, not to accidentally repaint the walls or add additional floors 100 pages later.

11/10 – this is my favourite book ever. And it makes me want to give a fifth try to “Mrs. Dalloway” by Virginia Woolf; somehow I never managed to advance past page five, but maybe this time…

5) “The Secret History” by Donna Tartt

I don’t spoil anything by saying it’s a book about murder of a kid called Bunny, because it’s mentioned, like, on the second page. (Out of 15000. It’s a BIG BOOK.) The fact that someone dies isn’t what the writer is most concerned with, though. What she is interested in is psychology, relations between her characters, motivations etc. And there’s the fact that she created a small, claustrophobic group of students who both are and aren’t a part of large university.

What I have learned: there is a tiny continuity error. I’d never notice that had I been reading the story instead of the ‘shop. (I’m not going to tell you what it is, because this is something you don’t forget once you found out.) Which is why I intend to write everything about my characters down. If I mention that doctor’s wife’s curtains were adorned with little roses, which she wasn’t really fond of, but the fabric was on sale and the colour almost matched with the peach-coloured walls, I am going to write all that down. There are also a few of those bits that Hitchcock would call “a gun hanging on the wall”. The gun does not appear anywhere further. This is perhaps intended to throw the reader off a bit, but it resulted in me waiting for something to happen with this arc until the last page. Nothing happened.

What I intend to rip off: not much really. My book is already set in a claustrophobic environment, Tartt shows me how she has managed to pull it off, which is interesting, but not necessarily useful. It is, though, the sort of atmosphere I want to build, and “The Secret History” does it well.

8.5/10. If you like crime stories full of unexpected twists and turns, this is not for you. If, on the other hand, you are heavily introverted – like me, like watching rare birds and find pleasure in discovering psychology of intelligent people who don’t reveal everything, this book is for you.

Thank you to everyone who recommended those to me!

First draft

(Photo: research materials)

It transpires that it is possible to write 175 pages of text in two weeks if you do almost nothing else at the same time. (And also if you get food poisoning which requires you to stay very close to the bathroom and makes it impossible to leave the house.)

Scroll to Top