First Year Tally – Anne Lyle

As I’ve written earlier today, we are meeting two writers today, both from Absolute Write Water Cooler forums. After Charlotte Jane Ivory, it’s Anne Lyle’s turn to take the stand.

Born and raised in “Robin Hood Country” (Nottinghamshire, England), Anne has a passion for English history. It’s a bit surprising considering she has a degree is zoology and is currently a web developer for the second largest medical charity; it all sounds so here and now! *laughs* But then, her fascination for non-European languages, especially Native American ones, fuel her creation of realistic dialects for her fantasy novel. Safe to say, she’s comfortable and inspired by the variety of her interests!
Here’s what she has to say about her writing debut!

I’m Anne Lyle, and I write historical fantasy. I guess I’ve been writing since my early teens, but as so often happens, my writing got put on the back burner for decades whilst I completed my education, started a family and establish a career, in my case as a web developer.

I made a few attempts at getting serious about my work in the early 2000s, but there was a lot going on in my personal life that made devoting time and energy to writing very difficult. So, I contented myself with puttering along and improving my craft; I joined a local SF&F writers’ group and a couple of writers’ forums online, I learnt how to critique and, more importantly, take criticism. By 2006 I was pretty confident in my ability to string sentences together to make enjoyable prose, but every time I attempted to write a whole novel I would stall after a few chapters, with no idea how to get from there to the ending I had planned. It was in the summer of that year that I realised Something Had To Be Done.

That was when NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) came to my rescue. The goal of this annual writing frenzy is to write 50,000 words (the length of a short novel) in 30 days. This, I felt, was achievable, and the manic pace would surely force me past the dreaded block. But the thought of running out of ideas and failing to complete the 50k terrified me. I needed a plan.

I’d tried outlining before, but always shied away because I find it difficult to develop characters in the abstract – I need to write my characters, hear them speak and watch them interact, before they become real people to me. And without complex characters, how do you plot a whole novel? This time, though, I didn’t have a choice. So, I worked out roughly how many scenes I would need for a 100k book (about 90 at first estimate), and brainstormed that many scene ideas. When November came along, all I had to do was sit down each day with my printed outline and write 1667 words of one or more scenes. I let myself deviate a little from the outline as the characters came to life on the computer screen, and skipped scenes that no longer fitted, but at least I got to the planned ending.

I “won” NaNoWriMo that year but, although I was happy with the overall product, I could see it needed more work. So I began revising it, dividing the scenes into chapters, polishing them up and submitting them to the writers’ group. But as I revised, more and more ideas started to flow. The plot changed, characters changed, even the setting changed from an invented fantasy city to the real Elizabethan London. Suddenly my original story was broken, and I didn’t know how to fix it. So, in November 2007 I did NaNoWriMo again, writing a sequel to the first book, just to take my mind off the disaster on my hands. On the plus side, by the end of November I had done what I set out to achieve just over a year earlier: I had completed not one but two novel-length drafts, and broken my block.

Fast forward three years, and I have finally finished the book that began with that first NaNoWriMo, and sent it out on submission in September 2010. Right now I’m doing a further round of revisions at the request of a publisher I met at FantasyCon, and I have an agent interested in seeing the revised manuscript when I’m done. Of course the wheels of publishing turn painfully slowly, so it’s going to be some months yet before I know if they like it enough to bet their own careers on it! In the meantime, I’ll be working on the sequel, because the publisher wants to be able to pitch a two-book deal to his marketing team, and applying the lessons I’ve learnt through my struggles with the first book. And who knows? I might do NaNoWriMo again in 2011, either to draft a third installment of my Elizabethan fantasy or try something new.

After almost five years, things are finally moving full steam ahead, and I’m incredibly excited about what the New Year may bring!

You can find Anne on her writing blog at http://www.annelyle.com/journal and on twitter at @AnneLyle.

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About Aheïla

Somewhere in Quebec City, Aheïla works as a Game Design Director by day and writes by night. Known for her blue hair, unyielding dynamism and tasty cooking (quails, anyone?), she’s convinced “prose is the new crack”. She satisfies her addiction daily on The Writeaholic’s Blog and weekly on Games' Bustles View all posts by Aheïla

One response to “First Year Tally – Anne Lyle

  • mish

    Hi Anne ~~ thanks for sharing the story of your writing debut .
    I really liked your approach to the writing process as explained in the outlining method in your post . I know it probably isn’t rocket science (LOL) but for me it was an AHA ! moment . It was a simple realisation that , in order to write an entire novel , it would have to be broken down into manageable portions ~~ but I wondered about the best way to go about doing this . The idea of creating numerous scenes and then writing a specific number of words on each scene , really sounds like a good basic plan to work from .

    Congrats on your achievements !

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