The Long and the Short of It

Angeline Trevena
Angeline Trevena

Today I’ve got Angeline Trevena over to talk about her struggles with writing longer works such as novels. Like myself and about half the writing community, Angeline discovers her stories as she writes them. This can be problematic for a whole bunch of reasons, as she’ll explain:

I have written loads of novels. Hundreds of them. Although, you can’t actually buy any of them. Because, well, I never finished them.

My hard drive is a monument to my career as an unsuccessful novelist.

Ever since I realised I wanted to write, I assumed novels would be the result.

That’s what writers do, isn’t it? It’s the obvious, the default. As we’ve already established, that didn’t exactly pan out.

You see, I don’t plot.

I walk straight into a story with little or no idea where I’m going. Which is fine, and fun, and there are many successful novelists that write this way.

But I have an incredibly poor sense of direction. And my characters are unruly, and far braver than me.

And I have tried.

One year as NaNoWriMo approached I decided I would be a plotter.

I watched videos, read books and blog posts, got first-hand advice. I was fully prepared.

I spent a month on my outline, and as October turned to November, I was ready to go. I had my map.

About 15k words in my characters took over again.

By 30k I was following them around like a puppy on a rope.

I concluded that I simply  wasn’t designed for plotting, and duly shelved the book. Another plaque for my monument.

But I still wanted to write. I couldn’t stop.

So I tried a different kind of writing. A kind that embraced the discovery writer, the spontaneous writer, the no-clue-where-this-is-headed writer.

Guest PostI wrote  short stories.

When my first one was published in 2011 I decided that this, clearly, was the kind of writer I was meant to be, and I’ve been a very happy short story writer ever since.

But those novels still nagged at me.

Cutting the Bloodline is my stepping stone.

Coming in at around 21k, it is the longest piece I’ve seen through to completion.

And this one had an outline.

I’d written it back in 2010 as a stage play, so my outline was a little unconventional, consisting of just dialogue and a few stage directions.

The story has changed notably, but this was an outline I could follow, and stick with, and a method I wouldn’t be against using again in the future. Because we all have to find our own way of doing things.

As writers, we’re bombarded with advice.

I spent years in a state of crippling guilt because I didn’t write for several hours every single day.

Because I wrote when I felt like it.

I was led to believe that I would never, ever make it as a writer, that no one would ever take me seriously.

I felt like a failure because I couldn’t turn in detailed chapter-by-chapter outlines. Because I didn’t spend a year doing research, or create detailed character crib-sheets.

It held me back, and stopped me from doing the one thing I loved.

If only I’d known then that every writer’s path is different.

You can take advice, you can try out different things, but if it doesn’t work for you, it’s not right.

And I don’t care who said it, how many awards they’ve won, or if they’re your favourite author.

Their writing journey is not yours.

The Cover Image for Cutting the BloodlineSo beyond being my first solo project, Cutting the Bloodline has been a huge learning curve.

I’ve learnt to code an ebook, to promote it, to utilise my network.

Most importantly though, I’ve learnt that a short story writer with some kind of aversion to plotting can learn to write a novel.

And I’ve got no doubt that if I can do it, you can find your own path too.

Angeline Trevena was born and bred in a rural corner of Devon, but now lives among the breweries and canals of central England. She is a horror and fantasy writer, poet and journalist. Cutting the Bloodline is her debut novella, and she has several short stories published in various anthologies and magazines.
Amazon buy link for Cutting the Bloodline: http://authl.it/B00W3AP0VY
Angeline’s website: http://www.angelinetrevena.co.uk

10 thoughts on “The Long and the Short of It

  1. Congrats Angeline! You’re right, every writer’s journey is their own. I am a serious plotter. My character folder is fatter than my manuscript. However, I am still led by events that my characters get up to that I don’t plan – for me that is the joy of writing. I love those twists and turns, those ‘plot thickeners’, that turn up unannounced. When they do I alter my outline to go with their new direction. So am I really a plotter or a pantser? Both! Cheers, Paula

    • I can appreciate that Paula. I’m just the opposite, but I’ve learned that I do my best writing when I prepare the groundwork first. So yeah, I’m aiming for that happy medium too!

      • I think a happy medium is something we all need to find. All my methods have failed me before, and I wouldn’t be averse to writing all my books as a play first from now on. I grew up on the stage, and scripts are something my brain understands well. At least I’m no longer trying to force myself into someone else’s method. Thanks for visiting Paula, and thank you Chris for hosting me today.

  2. Thanks Angeline. You’ve put into words what I’ve been thinking for some time. Short stories are a quick fix for me and I thoroughly enjoy writing them. Novels are hard work. I’ve yet to complete one. I have 2 unfinished works. Good luck with Cutting the Bloodline and I’ll add it to my list of books to read. 🙂

    • There’s something special about the instant gratification you can achieve from a short story Francine! Good luck finishing the novels. Give me a hoy if you think I can help in any way.

      • You’re so right Chris, the instant gratification is a great motivator. I have no plans to stop writing shorts, I love it, it’s such a different discipline to writing novels. And what I’ve learned, Francine, is that the years I was writing and publishing shorts, helped me to meet other writers, and connect with readers, and build a network I wouldn’t have had otherwise. Keep going, good luck, and thank you for stopping by. I really hope you enjoy Cutting the Bloodline.

  3. I can empathise!
    As a flash fiction junkie (I can churn out those ‘short-shorts’…) I wonder if I’m meant to write a novel…?
    I always say that my brain is ‘wired’ for short stories.
    Maybe I’ll eventually manage a novella/novelette…
    Congrats on the release of your book, Angeline! 🙂

    • I’d convinced myself that I just ‘wasn’t designed’ for novels, so a novella has been the perfect stepping stone. I’m looking forward to making the next book longer. We can do it! Thanks for your comment Michelle.

  4. Give yourself a pat on the back Angeline! You’ve done a great job but it wasn’t without hard work. You have earned your way and you did it following your own path. In the end we each have our own unique journey.

    • That’s so true, Elisabeth, it’s a shame it can take so long for us to be confident enough to follow our own paths. There’s a lot of people who preach that their way is the only way, and maybe don’t even realise how it can make other writers feel.

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