My writing progress

After almost a year of thinking, planning, plotting, outlining, drafting, editing, revising and a whole lot of procrastinating, I finally finished my first novel.

In case you were wondering, those pterodactyl screams are coming from me.

Writing progress Lyndsey's Book Blog

I wrote the first draft of The Fair Queen between September and January, I rewrote it between February and May, and I completed my final edits a few days ago and sent my MS out to a handful of beta readers to read and give me feedback.

Excuse me while I curl up in a ball of utter dread waiting for my beta readers to finish reading and tell me how terrible it is.

I’m exaggerating. I hope. One of my betas has been sending me regular messages about how much she loves it and hopes I’m already working on a sequel (I’m not, just in case editors and publishers alter it beyond recognition and the sequel in my mind doesn’t match anymore, but the ideas are there!).


For those of you who are new around here, I took part in my first ever NaNoWriMo in November last year. If you’re REALLY new around here, Nano is a month long writing camp where writers from all over the world get together online and sometimes in person (your local chapter will have meet-ups but you don’t have to go), and try to write 50k words in 30 days. I discovered it on Twitter at just the right time, by October I’d written about 15k words, so I worked on my outline, created a list of 30 scenes I needed to draft for my WIP, and joined in.

I managed a solid 35k words in November, which I am really proud of, it’s the most I’ve ever written and even though I didn’t “win” I felt so much satisfaction and motivation to finish my first draft, which I did in early January, with around 70k words total.

I took a couple of weeks off to refresh and recharge my mental batteries, before getting stuck into draft two in February. Then I discovered Camp Nano, a branch of NaNoWriMo that takes part in April and allows you to choose your own targets, but gives the same sense of community and support as the November version.


I set my target at 35k words for April, thinking I’d managed as much in Nov and this was just rewriting and editing. Well, do not underestimate the work it takes to turn a first draft into a neat and structured manuscript! I also had a week’s holiday in Turkey booked during April so I basically had to rewrite 35k words in 21 days. I managed about 32k words, which I was really pleased with, although I would have loved to win this time.

I spent May finishing my second draft, and completely rewriting the ending as I had realised it wouldn’t work the way I’d originally planned it. I was going to leave the book on a huge cliffhanger, with the intention of writing a sequel, but I found out that debut authors should always tie up their endings as they may not get a sequel if the first book isn’t a huge hit. So, the cliffhanger had to go, and I pretty much pantsed my way to an ending I’m happy with – one that ties up the story line of the book and brings the characters full circle, but still leaves a couple of questions and plot lines open for a follow up, without being too frustrating for readers (I hope!).

After I finished draft two I immediately started my third and final read through, formatting the MS and correcting any spelling mistakes I spotted, amending a few word choices, and probably delaying the next step to some extent. Then I sent it out to my beta readers. And that is where we currently are. Waiting for feedback. Watching the clock and biting my fingernails. I’ll let you know what they thought of it!


Almost as soon as my MS was winging its way to betas, I saw an email ping into my inbox about Camp Nano July. I really find NaNoWriMo to be the most motivating and inspiring experience, I wouldn’t be where I am today, with a completed MS and a real sense of achievement, if I hadn’t come across Nano. So of course I’m going to take part in July!

I decided, instead of hoping my betas all have their feedback in by then so I could do a final round of edits before querying agents, I’m going to start working on a new novel idea. It’ll help me to get some distance from The Fair Queen before that final round of editing, hopefully making me more objective to any faults and flaws in the book. And if TFQ doesn’t sell and get me my first book deal, I’ll need something else to work on and submit! So, as of July, I’ll be working on a sort of modern retelling of The Secret Garden in YA fantasy style.


So, that’s what I’ve been up to in my writing life, I’m feeling pretty proud of myself right now for finishing what I started, and I actually really enjoyed reading my novel back through to check for spelling errors etc. I really hope my beta readers enjoy it too, but more than that I hope they give me honest feedback about the plot and characters and pacing and whatever else they have thoughts and feelings on. I definitely need a fresh pair of eyes to tell me what’s working and what isn’t, so I can make this MS the best it can possibly be before submitting it to agents.

What have you been working on lately? Will you be taking part in Camp Nano next month? Tell me all about your current WIPs and story ideas in the comments.





My writing progress Lyndsey's Book Blog

Camp Nano week one

It’s day seven, week one is over, and we should all be a quarter of the way to our goals. How are you doing? Smashing it already? Slowly building up to a last minute sprint?

As I’m off to sunny Turkey tomorrow for a week of eating, drinking and reading, I’ve been overshooting my daily word goals (1,167 per day) to try and stay a week ahead of target. Rather than leave it to the last week to catch up, I wanted to prepare in advance, allowing for any unforeseen circumstances that might prevent me from smashing out 20k words in the second half of the month. (In November, I started strong and tailed off, ending up with only 35k words, so I wanted to take advantage of my initial focus this time.)

I’m working on my rewrites of The Fair Queen, which I wrote most of the first draft for during last November’s NaNoWriMo. I had a head start because I was already part of the way through draft two, meaning that if I reach my target goal of 35k I should have draft two finished by the end of April. That means it’ll be time to send it out to beta readers before the next stage of editing!

If you’re up for beta reading a YA fantasy which is a cross between The Chronicles of Narnia, The Remnant Chronicles and Tamora Pierce’s Immortals, then send me an email!

Camp Nano week one

Curly blog divider

Daily Stats

1st – 1,876

2nd – 2,601 | total: 4,477

3rd – 1,698 | total: 6,175

4th – 530 | total: 6,705

5th – 1,441 | total: 8,146

6th – 1,115  total: 9,261

7th – 0 (what with work, packing for holiday, and scheduling blogs I haven’t had a spare minute to write today! Maybe I’ll churn out a few words before bed, wish me luck!

Week One Total: 9,261

How has your first week of Camp Nano gone? What are you working on? Let me know in the comments!




Camp Nano week one stats Lyndsey's Book Blog

Editing your novel

I’m currently working on the second draft of my WIP The Fair Queen, and I wanted to share a few things I’ve learned along the way about this phase of the writing process.

There’s a lot of advice about rewriting, revising and editing your manuscript online, and some of it is brilliant, but some of it is pretty vague and unhelpful for newbies like myself. So, I’m going to share my method (bear with me, it’s my first novel and my first ever second draft!) and if it works for you, then great, but if your method is a bit different please let me know in the comments, I’d love to hear about other ways of tackling it.

First things first, I finished my first draft at the end of January, with just over 69k words. I was aiming for 80k, but with a bit more research into standard genre word counts I found that most initial YA fantasy novels (i.e. first of the series, or standalones) fall under 80k, usually between 50 and 70k. I also have a good few notes about story lines I want to add and remove, scenes I need to write or delete, and ideas that popped into my head towards the end of the book that I would need to go back and weave through from the beginning in draft two. So, who knows how long the second draft will end up? At this rate it could be shorter or longer.

Anywho, on with the show!




Get some perspective

The first thing I did after finishing draft one was take a few weeks off, get some distance from my manuscript and really just recharge my batteries. After five months of writing my story I was pretty drained, and probably not in the most objective position when it comes to rewrites.

By the time I picked my laptop up again and dusted off Word Online, I actually really enjoyed rereading those first few chapters I had written back in September/October, and felt ready to completely rework them. I wasn’t upset about the story lines, characters or sections that had to go in order to streamline the story and bring it back into line with where I wanted it to end up.


I’ve seen a lot of advice that recommends putting your first draft on your Kindle or tablet (cheaper than printing it out!) and sitting down, maybe with a notepad and pen, and reading the whole thing from cover to cover to get a sense of the story, character development, etc. The big picture things that you will want to tackle before getting into the nitty-gritty of phrasing, grammar and fine detail.

I decided not to do this with my second draft. I’m going to do it after, and if a third draft is required before I send it out to beta readers, so be it. I just had too many big changes I wanted to make that I couldn’t face reading it knowing how different I wanted it to be. I just wanted to get stuck into making those changes so that when I finally read it through from start to finish it would be as close to the final story as possible.

Does that make sense? Do you think I should have read it through anyway? I’m not completely sure, but that’s the decision I made and I’m sticking to it!


The one major piece of advice that I did take, and am really glad I did, was the recommendation I came across from elumish on Tumblr to start a new document and completely rewrite your second draft. I cannot recommend this enough, I have reworded almost every line of my first draft and made some important stylistic changes along the way.

This was an essential step for me, mainly because of the aforementioned major plot changes I had decided on, but also because this is my first attempt at writing a novel, I want to make sure it is the best possible piece of writing that I can do, and I don’t want to short change myself by just skim-reading and changing a few words here or there.

If you take anything from this blog, let it be this – open your manuscript, open a blank page and rewrite your first draft!


My WIP is written in third person past tense, there is only one POV, but I felt like this was the tense that best suited the story. I’ve read a few articles about how first person present is the tense preferred by readers, the one used by authors like Suzanne Collins in The Hunger Games, and it’s the best for letting readers get into your characters heads, but I think either tense is fine as long as it suits your story. I think, like with all things, there are trends and first person present is having a bit of a moment.

The most important thing is to be consistent. Having multiple POVs that switch between tenses will only make readers feel disconnected from the characters and the story. A prologue or epilogue in a different tense might be a fun way to switch it up. Just make sure that your manuscript doesn’t accidentally flip from one to the other mid-way through!

Active voice

The active voice refers to when someone ‘does’ or ‘did’ something, depending on your tense. If somebody ‘was doing’ something, you’ve slipped into passive tense and that can really weaken the action in your book. Need an example?

Passive: “Laura was doing the dishes and the phone was ringing.”

Active: “Laura scrubbed the dishes and stacked them in the drying rack. The phone rang.”

It’s a terrible example, but you get the gist. The first one is boring and plodding, and the second one is much more dynamic.

Go through your manuscript and hunt down any sentences where you’ve used the passive voice, you could search for ‘ing’ and just scroll through these picking out the ones that don’t belong.

Dialogue tags

I’m calling this one a stylistic change, it might not work for every writer or every story, but I think it is one of the key changes that has improved my story – or at least the telling of it. I read several writers’ opinions on dialogue tags, some believe ‘said’ is the most innocuous and least jarring to the reader, others think using ‘said’ every two lines is too repetitive. Then, I read about a third option, one that I’ve come across while reading but never really noticed. Which says a lot.

Using action to show who is speaking. I’ll give you an example, because I know you love those:

Said: “Hi, Sarah,” said Mark.

Other dialogue tag: “Hi, Sarah,” called Mark from the kitchen.

Action: “Hi, Sarah.” Mark came out of the kitchen to greet her with a hug.

So, in this version, it’s clear that Mark is the one saying hi to Sarah, but instead of interrupting the flow of the story to show who is speaking, the action continues.

This is probably the biggest change I’ve made as I’ve been rewriting, not a MAJOR change, but removing ninety percent of the dialogue tags I had used and amending the following action to show who was speaking has probably had the biggest impact on my story so far. Like I said, this one is more of a stylistic choice, so if you don’t like it, don’t do it, but it’s a simple change that can have a huge effect.


Adverbs are the devil, according to most writers. They are seen as a sign of lazy writing and poor vocabulary. Why use an adverb when you can use a more accurate verb? Instead of said loudly, shouted? Instead of ran quickly, sprinted? Instead of jumped high, leaped?

Getting rid of unnecessary adverbs and strengthening your verbs will tighten up your manuscript, cut your word count and improve your writing. You don’t have to get rid of every single one, just the ones where there’s a stronger verb you could use.

Ultimately, it’s a judgement call, and this is your story, no one else’s, so tell it however you need to. But, the aim of editing is to cut the fluff and help you express yourself in as few words as possible, without losing meaning or effect. Conciseness is key – if you can say it in one word instead of five, do.


So, those are the lessons I have learned on my editing journey so far. I’m only a fifth of the way into my second draft, so I’m sure I’ll learn many more along the way before my novel is ready for querying – or even beta readers!

Pop your tips for editing success in the comments and let me know how your WIP is coming along.





Word count (second draft): 15,990