The sequel of Vampire Emily is on hold as I want to publish by the end of the year, key self-care insight that I’ve gained during my time off. With the Vampire Emily trilogy, thanks to my developmental editor I had outlined the story so that I know the arcs of each chapter and book. With Becoming Whole, my non-fiction, I got stuck halfway through. I kept reading over what I had done and I wasn’t happy. I even cheated by taking whole posts from this blog and inserting it into the book. Writing a blog is different to writing a book.
Of course, all writers will tell you that the point of the first draft is to just finish it, get what you need to on paper and clean it up later. This was what I was attempting to do, but I was still frustrated. I couldn’t see the woods from the tree.
So what did I do, I sent out my very shitty first few unedited chapters out to get the critique from fresh eyes. I asked them to be brutally honest and they were which I’m grateful for. As I’ve said many times, I appreciate feedback as it’s an opportunity to evaluate my approach and make changes if and when needed! I had to be more concise and consistent. As I read over their notes, it dawned on me that these were similar to my editor when we had first begun to work together. I was making the same mistakes, writing what I thought without a clear indication to my potential reader. I was spewing my thoughts onto the page. I am already published and so this standard of writing was unacceptable to me.
Compelling reading still needs structure, especially if it’s longer than a blog. As a panster, it’s easy just to let the words flow out of you it’s one of the greatest joys about making it up as you go along! However, this was a non-fiction book. The reason I’m writing it is that there is so much information about the self that I’d love everyone to have. I’m fortunate to have a great therapist which a lot of people can’t, and so I aim to be able to help others with 24 simple ways of taking care of yourself that everyone should actively understand for better mental health, especially in the light of trauma. I want to put more positivity into the world.
- Structure: I had forgotten an initial rule of writing. Each chapter has a mini-plot as well as the book as a whole, and they should follow similar patterns unless the change is for pacing. I am now starting from scratch and will work on an outline.
- Consistency: In some chapters, I spoke more generally whilst in others I provided details. The whole point of this work is to show my credentials to people so that they trust the advice I’m giving them. It’s about providing them with a unique perspective, and so speaking broadly doesn’t match the readers’ needs.
- Show don’t tell: In some of the much weaker chapters, I didn’t provide actionable insight, which is the whole point. If you have gone through X, doing Y will help you overcome the problem.
- Make it compelling: Just because I’ve had an unusual life, doesn’t mean anything to the reader. I want the book to provide comfort and ideas they can use to get to a better mental state. Readers want to have an experience, one that preferably uses all of their senses and inspire. What I found I’d done, and this was the main problem of the initial draft, was that I’d come up with the points but nothing more.
- Repetition: To become a master you have to repeat actions until they become automatic. This is the key to learning. I want the reader when they have finished, to have taken in the points and be able to develop them afterwards in a non-patronising way.
Change is hard because you have to be active with it, and so it’s easy to fall back into old habits! You have to be aware of what habit you want and keep at it until it becomes second nature. Having had a mini-break from writing books, I’m going back to the basics. I didn’t work hard to ignore my previous learnings because I’m writing in a different genre!