This blog is supposed to be about writing my first novel, so I think it’s time I get back to that…at least when life allows.

A couple weeks ago I decided to sign up for a novel writing class through UCLA Extension. I’ve taken classes through them before. For the most part, I’ve liked the classes, although last spring I took one that was supposed to get me working on my novel, but seemed to do nothing but get in the way. While I’d sworn off another class until I got this novel done, I decided I could use the structure of a class to get my butt in gear & writing. I do well with deadlines. Without them, life gets in the way & runs away with all my freetime. This class is focused on writing & revising the 1st 50-pages of your novel. There are no other exercises to get in the way. It’s exactly what I needed.

So, last week I submitted my first 10-pages, my 1st chapter, for review by the instructor & class. They had some good feedback–good & constructive. On the good side, I was told that I was writing from the “center” of my main character. I’ve always felt that I was hanging out somewhere on the periphery with her; standing outside watching, instead of in her head. So, to hear that I have a handle on her was great. I was also told that I write sensory detail well & that my descriptions were great, not cliche. Another surprise. I admit, I am my own worst critic. But really, I’ve always felt that my weaknesses were character & description/detail; so, getting compliments on either of these things is great.

The biggest issue with the pages I submitted was technical. I’m having some verb tense & transition issues. I knew these were a problem before I submitted these pages, so I wasn’t surprised. Part of it had to do with me writing these pages pretty much the day before they were due. I have been working on my 1st chapter for the last couple weeks, but I’ve never been happy with it. So, for this submission I decided to start from scratch. Unfortunately, life got in the way the week I’d planned to spend working on those pages. So, that left me with about 36 hours to get it done; and little time to fix the problems I knew were there.

My 1st draft of this novel was written with a linear timeline. With this draft, I’ve decided to enter into the story a little further in. This requires that I use flashbacks to catch the reader up to the moment I enter the story. So, I’m switching between present, past, and past past. Complicated! My transitions were too abrupt & I wasn’t giving the reader enough time to get orientated in a certain moment before I moved on to an earlier moment. It’s fixable, but it’s just going to require some work & some finessing.

So, my project for the next 2 weeks is to revise these 10-pages and then get another 15-pages on top of those. I’ll then submit those 25-pages again for review. At the end of this class, I will have 50 revised pages. That would be nice.

I’m feeling good about where it’s going. So, forward momentum. Pages & pages of writing ahead…life be damned!