To Finish or Not To Finish: a Novel in Limbo

I spend a lot of my time sat in the dark as I feed my baby, staring at a picture of a girl in a yellow dress. And now one thing for sure: her story isn’t over yet.

When I started my Master’s a year ago, I did it with the intention of using the time to work on the sequel to Searching For Katherine (r.2014), which has sat unfinished in my proverbial desk draw for the past three years.

However, three months into my course – I found out I was pregnant. Overwhelmed by work, university and now pregnancy – the novel remained unfinished.

Well now I am on maternity leave, my degree has come to an end, and I have a month-old baby boy – my time is both free and less so at the same time.

Hanging on my living room wall is the original sketch – done by an old friend of mine – of the cover for Searching For Katherine.

It is of Katherine in a torn yellow dress, walking through the forest. I always loved the drawing because it was of a pivotal moment in Katherine’s story; of limbo. She finds herself leaving one hell, with no promise of salvation or safety once she gets wherever she’s going – but she still takes the journey. And thus, I too am in limbo when it comes to this book.

But now it’s time to come out of the forest and choose a path. Do I scrap the book altogether, and take time as a sign that some books just shouldn’t be finished? Do I pick up where I left off? Or do I start the manuscript again; and embellish it with the things I have learned in life since last writing it?

I always felt a duty to Katherine to finish her story, I still intend on doing so, but perhaps not in the way I originally planned.

I think I’ll dust off the old hard drive tomorrow and see where we left off, and if there is a story yet to be salvaged.

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Sneak Peak: Searching For Katherine

*EXCLUSIVE* There’s only two weeks left until the book launch, so I thought I’d give you all a little treat! Here is a sneak peek from my new novel, Searching For Katherine.

SFK New

Extract from Chapter One

She looked at her watch, forty minutes to spare and Katherine was going to meet her for a coffee. She walked across the high street and entered the double doors of the coffee shop. There was no queue, so she approached the barista with a smile and said, “Can I have a large tea, please.” She removed her purse from her bag and pulled out the coins she needed.

“Yes, of course. That’s £2.95.” Jennifer handed over the money and watched as the barista put the change in the till and wandered off to make her drink; chewing gum as she called out to her colleague about a ‘fit guy walking in, and how it was her turn to ‘have a go’. Jennifer gazed at the paper coffee cups as she waited. Of all the drinks they sell, she must think my order is so dull. Then again, it’s probably a lot easier to make. I mean, I add the milk and the sugar, all she does is put a tea bag in hot water, she thought, fiddling with the zip on her purse. The barista returned – still chewing her gum -, handed Jennifer her drink and walked off to serve another customer. Jennifer looked around for a table and found the only one free was in the corner. She hurried over and put her drink down on the table. She sat down and pulled a book from her bag: Discussing Wittgenstein. She had been there for five minutes when she was interrupted by a figure hovering over her.

“Sorry, do you mind if I sit here? There’s nowhere else.” A tall man with tanned skin and dark hair stood in front of her.

“Oh, of course, go ahead.” She pulled her tea closer to her side of the table and returned her gaze to the book. A moment later, she peered over the top of it to find him trying to read the blurb on the back, his head tilted a little to make up for the odd angle at which Jennifer held her book. She had often been told she positioned books weirdly, especially when she was sitting in a chair reading them. Katherine had frequently told her that she looked as if she were about to curl up or topple over the way she twisted herself. Jennifer paid no attention to her friend and carried on reading at strangle angles, but the strange man was now making her acutely aware of how odd she looked half-leaning, her book on a forty-five degree angle compared to the level table. She straightened up, tucking a loose hair behind her ear and tried to brush off the deep embarrassment she was experiencing as the man corrected his tilted head and apologised.

“Sorry, it just seemed interesting.” He laughed, picking up his coffee cup. He was beautiful: green eyes, a killer smile and lightly tanned skin.

“It is an amazing story – it’s all true.” She replied.

“Really? Have you read it before then?” He asked.

“Yes. Only once though – it is a beautiful read, but I can’t read the ending in public.”

“Oh and why is that?” The pretty stranger enquired, his eyes looking past the book and Jennifer felt nervous, as if she were being recorded or studied by odd people in lab coats. She expected someone to show up to take her pulse or a blood sample at any moment.

“It makes me cry,” she stated, still attempting to read, and yet looking at the man’s face. “Have you just been on holiday?” Her subconscious question escaped from her lips, noticing the warm hue to his complexion.

He laughed and answered, “Yes I have – Bora Bora.”

“My room-mate is going there in a few weeks with her boyfriend. Is it nice?”

He murmured in response as he drank his tea. He put the cup on the table and held his hand out, “I’m Marcus.”

She gave him a big smile, put down her book and shook his hand. “Jennifer.” She laughed, “I didn’t think people shook hands anymore?”

“I’m a businessman – it’s polite. And it’s an excuse for some skin-to-skin contact I suppose.” Marcus winked at her and she could do nothing but giggle and blush. “Well, it was lovely to meet you, Jennifer. But I have to go and take care of some business. I’ll see you around?”

“Yeah, sure. I come here quite a lot so… yes.” She held back a girlish squeal and straightened her back, which pushed her chest forward.

Marcus stood up, nodded goodbye and walked away from their table. Jennifer tried to return to her book, but she couldn’t get his face out of her head. A few minutes later, Katherine arrived, waved at her and sat down. Her hair was messed by the spring breeze and she wrapped her scarlet coat around her frame.

“What happened?” Katherine smirked, stealing a swig of Jennifer’s drink before yelling to order her own. “

Like what you see? Pre-order Searching For Katherine on Amazon today! Out 31 October 2014. 

‘Searching For Katherine’ is Finally Ready!

Here I am, a full three months after ‘Searching For Katherine’ was due to be released, and it’s only been ready for the public as of three days ago.

If you’re new to my blog, here’s the short version:

  • I had a breakdown trying to get the book ready in time to publish in July
  • My lovely lecturer explained it was OK to wait and let the book stew
  • I spent all summer ignoring the book until I finally decided to pick up from where I left off
  • I got some wonderful friends to read the manuscript and they helped me decide what was missing
  • I then got my writing cap on a shifted the entire focus of the book
  • Now I’m really happy with it and it’s a lot longer!

So that’s basically what has happened with ‘Searching For Katherine’ this summer. It’s been nine months in the making and I am so excited to share it with you.

Artwork by Deborah Bretherton. Book by Melissa Holden

Artwork by Deborah Bretherton. Book by Melissa Holden

For those who don’t know anything about it, here is the press release. 

I am hoping to use my student loan pay day to buy paperback copies of the books to sell to close friends, I am also looking into having my book sold at the CCCU book shop – but I will let you all know!

At the very least, ‘Searching For Katherine’ will be available to buy this winter on Amazon Kindle. 

Editing A Novel: Seven Steps

As some of you know, I am in the midst of my first full-length novel, “Searching for Katherine.” Well, here’s the scoop – I’ve finished writing it!

*runs around thsuccess_next_exit-life-goalse room screaming with excitement*

However, now comes the hard part – EDITING!

*hides in the corner and cries*

 

In my situation, I have to take out the boring narrative and add more interesting parts in. I’m currently on about 30,000 words and have decided to use a seven-step drafting process:

  • Draft 1: Read through, make basic notes and then change.
  • Draft 2: Read all the way through and note small issues.
  • Draft 3: Flow – does the story flow? Is there a clear beginning, middle and end?
  • Draft 4: Dialogue and narrative/description corrections.
  • Draft 5: Plot holes, fact-checking, etc.
  • Draft 6: Does it fit the themes?
  • Draft 7: Grammar check and a final read through.

After your own personal drafting, you then should hand your manuscript over to proof-readers, three’s the magic number (preferably with different ages and reading tastes.) Then you cry as they repeatedly comment on your lack of plot and time lapsing.

I hope this helps, but in all honesty: you will develop your own screening process for your work.

TIP: Don’t edit straight way – you’ve literally just finished writing it. Give yourself a few days grace, write some silly stories and watch loads of movies. Chill out! Then, in a few days, a week or even a few months, come back to your manuscript and start drafting.

I wish you luck with your novels, as I hope you wish me luck with mine!