NOW what do I do?

Picture of a tigerWriting’s not an easy job. Some people can write a book in a couple of months – or less. They just sit down and the words flow out of their fingertips. I’m not like that. It’s a hard slog, especially when I try something different.

Somebody sent me an email about the plight of tigers in the wild. Their numbers are dwindling – fast. Humans hunt them for their skins, their teeth, eyes, bones, organs. Despite the Chinese government’s best efforts, it’s hard to persuade people their thousand-year-old traditions are crap. Powdered tiger penis isn’t going to help your erections, guys. Try some viagra. It’s sure to be cheaper.

Anyway, I’ve always had a penchant for tigers. I was born in the Chinese Year of the Tiger and they are such magnificent, solitary beasts. I thought I’d try writing a paranormal romance starring a tiger. I wasn’t keen on trying a novel. I thought I’d do a short story and see how that went. I sent a draft of about 15k words to a couple of friends to see if it was eyewash or something worse. Given words of encouragement, I edited – and added ten thousand words in the re-write. I sent that version to my most trusted beta reader – who responded with ‘loved it – read it in one sitting, where’s the rest?’


I thought it was finished. She obviously didn’t. So would I just fiddle about with the ending, tie a few things up – or would I venture forth into the ocean of storms and try for a novel? Twenty-five thousand words is somewhere around a third or a quarter of a novel. I would have a loooong way to go.

I’ve been using the story for an editing course I’m doing and it’s given me some ideas. I’m pretty much decided I’ll try for a novel. I’ll have to do some plotting and planning, introduce extra characters and many, many new scenes. But I’ll give it my best – and when it’s finished, any profits I make from the book will be donated to a tiger charity, such as David Shepherd’s initiative.

What about you? Do you have it all planned out in advance, or do you twist and turn as events catch up with you?


About Greta van der Rol

I'm an author of fast-paced, action-adventure novels, mainly space opera - although I've been known to write in other genres. I live not far from the coast in Queensland, Australia and enjoy photography and cooking when I'm not bent over the computer. I have a degree in history and a background in building information systems, both of which go a long way toward helping me in my writing endeavours.

Posted on 14 September 2011, in On writing and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. That’s wonderful! I love this idea! I just read a story a few days ago about some zoo where the tigers weren’t being watched carefully enough and the female killed her mate due to some jealous thing apparently between her and another female. There was a beautiful photo of the male, and every time I look at it I am so sad he’s dead. I also remember a very beloved book I read when I was very young. I think it may have been called “The White Panther,” and the whole book was in the viewpoint of the white panther.

  2. I sort of plan as I go, if that makes any sense. I have the basic idea, sit down to write, and then, as questions pop up, I make a Mind Map and a spreadsheet. The spreadsheet is based on one I saw floating around the interwebs that JK Rowling made when she wrote HP5: Along the top of the page each main character has a column, and along the left side is the chapter number and period of time in the novel, so this way I can keep track of who is doing what and where at any given point.

    Also I love spreadsheets.

    Novel writing is definitely a marathon, not a sprint. Maybe at some point it gets easier, but for now I feel your pain: each chapter, each word, is like pulling teeth. Out of myself. Why do we do this, again???


    • Yes, I can relate to that. It’s pretty much how I work, too. As you say, novel writing isn’t a sprint. Although I know one writer who can knock up a really great first draft in a few weeks. not this little black duck, I’m afraid.

  3. Do any of your Beta readers tell you where they’d like the story to expand? Sometimes it’s a matter of growing one of your story threads, whether it’s a relationship, a secondary character, or maybe an additional plot line. You could maybe push it up to Novella length, and try it on a new reader–someone who reads critically and you trust to be honest with you. Maybe a couple of readers. They’ll ask: “Well, what about…” which should give you an idea where to expand.
    Monica Stoner w/a Mona Karel

  4. I think I need to sit down and doodle – think it through and decide whether I can keep the ‘knock out’ ending. You’re lucky you can do the ‘pantser’ thing completely. Wish I could.

  1. Pingback: Born to be wild « Greta van der Rol

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