The Rolling Barrage: Novel Madness

To The House of Death…

Cover for "To the House of Death," Charcoal Drawing by Yours Truly

Cover for “To the House of Death”
Charcoal Drawing by Yours Truly


Rough Draft Madness

Rough Draft Madness

I just finished the rough draft of “To The House of Death,” a Young Adult slipstream novel I’ve been working on for three months. It’s the second novel I’ve written completely by hand (that’s right: with old fashioned pen and paper!), but boy, is it long. It filled up five and a half notebooks (see picture at right)!

The idea for this story originally came to me in a dream. I wrote out the outline on a Saturday morning in June, and have been hammering away at the novel ever since. I would write three or five pages in the morning, after lunch if I had time, and again at night (wash, rinse, repeat). Life was busy, and three to five pages was all I had time for! But after months of plugging away, I now have a rough draft that will probably weigh in at about 300 pages typed, if not more.

The advantages of writing long-hand

Rough Draft: Side View O' Giant Pile

Rough Draft: Side View O’ Giant Pile

I tend to have so many dang ideas for plot twists. If I’m typing and have the ability to write quickly, I end up chasing too many plot bunnies down too many plot bunny holes. This is traditionally what happens to me every November during NaNoWriMo. The result: a five-hundred page novel that is not cohesive and that would need major editing to be viable.

The advantage of writing long-hand is that it gets me to slow down, and thus, the material comes out at a much higher quality the first time. Plus, I find it is a lot more relaxing to write in a notebook than to sit in front of a computer, which I do for work most of the live-long day. So I end up enjoying the writing process even more as an added bonus.

I got the idea of writing novels by hand from my hero, Margaret Atwood. She calls it a “Rolling Barrage,” a term from the first World War, where one row of soldiers would fire, duck—and then the row behind them would fire. Unfortunate if timed incorrectly, but effective if done well, as Atwood says. Similarly, she starts typing up her hand-written chapters as the writing creeps forward. I prefer to write out the whole rough-draft first and then type it up, but it’s a similar drill.

Here’s the video interview where Margaret Atwood talks about her creative process. It’s edifying to know that like me, my idol is also a terrible speller:)

Let the Barrage Begin!

I am thinking about posting a weekly or bi-weekly chapter either here on my blog, or up on Scribophile, to get beta-notes and feedback. Are you interested in being a beta for the first version of my novel? If so, please raise your cyber hand and let me know in the comments or via email.

What the Story is About

The basic premise: two demigods descend down into the underworld to prevent the destruction of the sun and the moon. They must ultimately confront Father Death and the terrifying demons who haunt the places under the earth.

I think this novel will really appeal to teens who are having their own “underworld” experiences: illness, depression; even just the “ordinary” struggle for young people to adapt to our violent and crumbling social structures amidst mind-numbing technology and schools that do not serve their needs. I believe it will offer adolescents solutions to hold their own darkness, and ultimately, offer hope that their own situations will improve by moving through their emotions in a healthy way.

All in all, I think this is the first novel I’ve written that will be worth pursuing in terms of publishing, with all the labor of love that entails. I’m excited to embark on the journey, and I hope you will join me:)

Interesting in becoming a beta reader? Poke me in the comment section or via email at art4earthlings at gmail dot com!


6 thoughts on “The Rolling Barrage: Novel Madness

  1. WOW! A whole novel written by hand — amazing! I’m quite impressed, my dear. I’ve been plotting a novel and found it extremely helpful to do all my notes and worldbuilding by hand too. Still…I’ll probably type mine out.

    Your book sounds fascinating. I’m not sure if I’ll have time to betaread the whole thing very quickly as I’m working on a few projects myself, but I can try. 🙂

  2. Alexis, that is incredibly sweet of you!
    The plan is to post a chapter or two a month, so there would be no pressure: read what you wish kind of deal. I still haven’t determined if I’m going to post the entries on this blog, start a separate blog, or post on Scribophile.

    My plan is to accrue a list of awesome people (read: folks like you:) and then ask y’all what you would prefer. So you have been duly added to my list: stay tuned for more info, and thanks for being awesome:)

  3. That is awesome! Congrats 🙂 You made me want to turn off my work computer and turn around and get to typing away on my book.–I’ve tried long-hand and I just get so frustrated that it never works out. I have the problem where writing by hand gives me too much time to think, so I edit the whole way.

    Anyway, I’m extremely happy for you and would love to help out reading it 🙂 I’m long overdue for some writing time or Scribophile time, even.

    • I hear you: I really had to force myself not to edit, though I did a little bit anyway:) It’s so hard not to! But I try to keep in mind that when I type the novel up, chapter by chapter, that I’ll do plenty o editing then. *shrugs* It’s different strokes for different folks I guess. And for different projects! For example, I always hand-write poems, but short stores–especially flash–I type (I’m kind of a word-count nut when it comes to flash fiction).

      THANK YOU for your offer! As I assemble my elite ninja team, haha, I am learning towards the idea of creating a private, by invite only, blog to post the chapters. That way I won’t spam my regular readers here if they aren’t into being beta readers, and my beta readers who don’t want to join scribophile won’t have to leap through an extra hoop. Though I still may post a chapter or two on good old Scrib…

      Anyway, once I get everything together, I will send you an email. Thanks so much 😀

  4. I’m impressed with your commitment to write your first draft out in longhand. What kind of “notebooks” are those? I don’t know if I’ve ever seen any like that before.
    I do most of my writing on the computer, but I must admit…when I hit a hard spot, often the best thing to do is just grab paper and a pen, and scribble away. 🙂

    Your novel premise is really intriguing. I’m up for being a beta-reader if you can use another one. I currently have a decent bit of free time and could use something new to read. I’m a sucker for anything with the written word on it. 😉

    • Thanks so much Gabrielle, welcome to the elite beta team! I’m hammering away at the first chapter and hope to post it in a week or two on a private blog (separate from this one, by invite only:) I’m excited to have you on board!

      As for the notebooks, they are made with really nice scrap paper I got from an art print shop. It’s the nicest paper ever, and it’s free–which is nice when you tend to go through paper at the rate I do:) A lot of them have fun covers I doodled when I was procrastinating!

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