Nail Your Novel (book review)

nail novelI had quite the productive day yesterday. I’ve found a new book – oh yes I have – and like many others it starts off really well and positive, but unlike many others, this one is actually holding my interest and keeping me writing.

On Sunday evening I wrote nearly 600 words onto index cards for Catch the Rainbow. I’ve been looking for hints and tips about using index cards for ages, and finally I seem to have found some. Then yesterday, I wrote nearly 900 words of the book. This is a result for me, and a process I intend to stick to.

For years and years I’ve been reading books on how to write, and so many of them disappoint and end up donated to the library, because they all have such useless exercises in them, or none at all, that contribute nothing to my job as a writer.

I don’t want to write 13 different versions of the view through a window. I don’t want to describe the folds in the face of a total stranger. I don’t want to imagine stepping out of my front door and into an oasis of calm with waterfalls and wood nymphs everywhere.

I want practical exercises and suggestions for getting my bum on that seat and getting my novel/short story/article written. Yes, I want someone or something to tell me, right, go and do this now, and when that’s been done, do that next … and so on. I want something that moves my work forward to a publishable end, not exercises for the sake of exercises because I’ve got all day.

I’m halfway through this book already, and there I stay for a while, because I’m currently in the middle of “write the first draft”, and writing the first draft takes a while – as it should. And even though I can plan for England, the tips in this book helped me to fill some gaps and show me the structure of the novel as a whole.

I can still add to it, and I can take away, nothing is cast in stone. Bur for something that does exactly what it says on the cover, this is the one. There are also ideas and hints about kick-starting partially written novels hidden away in cupboards gathering cobwebs, virtual and real.

For anyone else who may be interested, the author also has a website. Nail Your Novel by Roz Morris is available from Amazon in paperback and Kindle formats. I have the Kindle, but when I’m feeling flush I may treat myself to the paperback as well so it can sit on my bookshelf.

Aside from this I also corresponded with my solicitor over nuisance neighbour and fielded yet another complaint via The Environment Agency. Apparently I’ve been polluting my storm drain. I don’t have a storm drain … Nuff said. I was in touch with The Environment Agency too, because when I did actually report nuisance neighbour for pouring neat bleach down the storm drain that he does have (on police advice), the agency told me it was nothing to do with them. Yet they responded to a trumped up imaginary complaint and threatened me with legal proceedings. They say the letter I received was no such thing, but I beg to differ – and am still awaiting the promised apology and confirmation that there is no case to answer to.

I also had cheques to bank (hurrah!) and a dog to walk. And I finished making a raspberry trifle that will be my puddings for the next few days.

Today I’m not feeling so grand. It started with a weepy ear at the weekend, through a “bit of a throat” yesterday, to full head flu today, and I spent the morning in bed trying to sleep/sweat it away/out. I have work to do, though, and stuff to see to. “Liggin’ in bed” (as they say around here) is not really an option.

Index cards

ace of wandsWho has used index cards when plotting/planning a book or story? I never have before, but I did find 4 packs of “brand new” (aka still in their cellophane) 6″ x 4″ index cards, 2 of plain white and 2 of assorted colours. (See how old they are? They’re not even metric.)

I’m starting the first of 3 x 4,000-word short stories for a 14-story anthology and the first is loosely based around the Ace of Wands. So I sat down with my Tarot deck, my Collins Little Gem of Zodiac, my old faithful Guinness Book of Names and my Tarot Bible.

And the first card I drew was … the Ace of Wands … What’re the odds?

I shuffled the cards and drew the first of 4 cards I wanted to base my characters against, and the first card out was … the Page of Wands.

I do a yes/no/maybe spread too and when I checked whether or not this was the next small project for me, I received 3 resounding YESES, one after the other, including my own personal favourite HELL, YES the Nine of Cups – the other two were majors, so quite strong, and they fell out of the pack, which is doubly strong …

I’m listening to my Tarot and doing this. After all, this is what the Ace of Wands is all about – follow your instinct and JUST DO IT! (And don’t panic, I am ensuring I’m not taking on too much as well, which is what the Ace of Wands also warns against.)

So yesterday, my writing 2 hours were spent planning this story and starting the characters. Theme and narrative are currently on white cards, characters are on yellow cards … but I haven’t decided how to use the green, pink or blue yet.

So, how do others use their index cards? Don’t forget I’m a longhand worker/writer so anything I can easily carry with me and still work on in a power cut (when batteries have died) or with no power is always a bonus. Please use the comments box for this one, thanks.

Please note: This version of the Ace of Wands is apparently from  the original deck and out of copyright. Later versions and amendments are copyright protected. If anyone knows how I can get permission to reproduce the cards, please let me know. If I’m contravening any copyright laws by reproducing this card, I’ll take it down immediately. But as I’d like to use them – or an artist’s impression of them – in future, I’d like to get permission. Please use the contact form for this one rather than the comments box. Thank you.

(Yes, the FBI have arrived in Baggins Bottom before as they treat this subject very seriously.)