Friday, 9 April 2010

First Writing Conference - Argh!

Well, here goes. I'm currently sitting on the train heading to York, going to my first ever writing conference, the Festival of Writing. I think I'll be fine when I get there, but at the moment I'm mainly trying not to think about it! I'm definitely excited, but I'm also pretty nervous. It's an amazing opportunity to meet some fantastic people in the UK writing world and get some helpful input, and I'll try to post some kind of report soon after I get back.

But that's all to come. For the next hour and a half, I'm just aiming to get some revising done. This revision is taking much longer than I'd hoped, for a number of reasons - my routines have been entirely shot to pieces lately, so time hasn't been on my side, but my process is also proving difficult.

For some reason, I'm finding that this time around - perhaps because the revisions and rewrites are just so extensive - I'm having to do a few scenes on paper and then type them up and slot them into place. Last time I was revising I did the whole thing on paper first - I marked up my existing scenes and wrote in new ones, but nothing got typed up until I'd worked through the whole manuscript. This new process is helpful, since it's giving me a much better grasp of how the whole thing fits together, but it does feel much slower and as if I'm stopping and starting a lot.

Still, I'm getting through it, although I'm itching to get this draft done so I can start playing with my new shiny plot idea. All I've let myself do is write down a couple of sentences on what the story's about, and I really just want to get on and start discovering the rest. (Ideally, I'd be doing the discovery along with the Lucy March/Lani Diane Rich workshop over at Storywonk, but unfotunately my budget needs time to recover from the Festival!)

Well, that's where I am. And since I'm now fifteen minutes further into my journey, my manuscript is now screaming for attention.

Have a great weekend!

Friday, 12 March 2010

Revisions, query letters and creativity

I'm ploughing on slowly through my edits. Well, actually, the editing itself is going pretty well, and I even feel like the synopsis is pretty good - the difficult part is the introduction and author bio I have to write. Essentially, it's a query letter, and having never actually had to do one of those before I'm struggling a bit. I have two days left to get it how I want it. Then I'll have to get it sent off, so at least then I'll be able to concentrate properly on the actual revisions. But yuk, it does feel very messed up doing this now, when I still have so much more editing to do. I know it'll be worth it for the chance to get some decent feedback, but it just seems very unnatural to be essentially writing a query letter before I've properly finished the book. Mainly because it is. And in an ideal world, I wouldn't be doing it. But hey - I covered all that pretty thoroughly in my last post. Kindly allow me to shut up, and I'll try to talk about something else.

I've been feeling a real need for other creative input in my life lately, which has mainly manifested itself in something of a book-buying binge. Financially, this isn't a great thing, but from the point of view of that whole filling-the-creative-well idea? It's fantastic. It's not that I'm feeling all that uninspired, or that I'm finding it particularly difficult to write just now, but I think it's a pre-emptive thing. It's been a while since I had an obsessive reading splurge, which is a shame, and I think if I hadn't given in to the urge I probably would have found myself running on empty pretty soon. (I may still do so, who knows - but I'm hoping not, with all the new and exciting territory I have to uncover in that pile of books.)

The only problem I'm having at the moment is that I'd bought the first two books in a series (Holly Lisle's Secret Texts trilogy) and once I'd finished those, of course, I had to have the third one. I immediately ordered it online, and it was posted on Tuesday, but it has yet to arrive. Now, I have that whole pile of other books waiting to be read, and there's a part of me that wants to just dive one of those - but I'm still very much in that particular world, and so I'm really, really hoping that the third book arrives tomorrow. If not, I guess I'll just have to try something else, because for some reason I'm seriously craving other people's writing just now. I mean, I always love to read, but at the moment, it's making me a little crazy!

The other thing I'm obsessing about just now is fantasy art. Not just looking at it - no, I want to draw it. The problem, of course, is that I can't draw, never have been able to, and so, although I am dying to pick up a pencil and start sketching, I know without the slightest doubt that the moment I do, I will be disappointed. But I think I may just have to risk it. Maybe I just need that additional outlet, even if the product of said outlet ends up heading straight for the dustbin.

What do you do to keep that creative well from running dry?

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Revising on a deadline

It has to be said - I never expected to be working to a non-self-imposed revision deadline before even attempting to get anything published. But because attending the Festival of Writing in York this April includes two meetings with agents/editors who have read through a first chapter and synopsis beforehand, I need to get those together. And I now only have three weeks left to do so.

I've been using the How to Revise Your Novel course by Holly Lisle so far, and it's been incredibly useful in highlighting problems I would almost certainly not have noticed without it, but I'm going to have to wing it a bit from this point on. I don't have enough time to put Amulet through the rest of the course, so it's time to take everything I've learned so far and start figuring out how best to use it to ensure that my first chapter is gripping and my synopsis is accurate.

There are a lot of changes that I know need to be made to strengthen the story. By necessity, I need to figure out all the intricacies of my new plot now, so that I can get my synopsis sorted. Then I need to get on with tidying up and rewriting that first scene, before working through the rest of the story. It's far from ideal and obviously if this were for a traditional query I'd be holding off on sending anything out until the story were as ready as I could make it, but under the circumstances... Well, I can't afford to miss out on the opportunity for professional feedback.

Today I've made some decent progress, writing out the scene by scene synopsis of the manuscript as it currently stands and then marking in broad strokes what needs to be kept and what needs to be cut. But there's a long way to go. So I'd better get started.

Friday, 12 February 2010

My writing space

Quite some time ago - approximately eight months ago in fact, when I first moved into this house - I promised the Wiffers some photos of my writing room. And since I am way behind in my blogging and currently trying to make my way through the rather messy world of my revisions on Amulet, this seemed like a good time to make good on my word. Well, better late than never, right?

So, here we go.

My whiteboard is on the left, with the collage for Amulet taking up most of the space. While I was working on the first draft of The Bonded, that collage was up instead. I use the part below the collage for random notes, key quotes, and change it whenever something better or more relevant comes along. On the right I keep track of my goals.

Then there's the desk, as you can see. When I'm writing, the laptop's in pride of place. Since I'm editing at the moment, there's revision notes, pens, index cards, and usually the lever arch file containing the manuscript.

And there's the view from my desk, looking out onto the park. I got lucky there.

The rest of the room consists of two bookcases, a filing cabinet and my craft drawers. And that's it really.

I like it. I'm not really at home often enough to take full advantage, of course, but when I am, it makes a pretty good writing space.

What about you? Where do you like to write?

Friday, 27 November 2009

Dana Is My New Best Friend

I've been longing to get an Alphasmart for months. For the last few weeks, I've been watching Ebay like a hawk, and generally losing out at the last minute to sniper bidders. This week, however, I got lucky, and won myself a lovely Alphasmart Dana.

It's already proven invaluable, as my new part time job involves an hour on the bus each way, and I also have an hour once I arrive before I actually start work. So the day after it arrived, I managed 1800 words before I started work. It was a great start to the day!

It was particularly good since I've lost a bit of my lead over the last couple of weeks - I've managed to stay ahead of the minimum NaNoWriMo word count, but there were a few days where I got very few if any words. I'm at 48K now, so overall I'm still pleased with my progress, but life did get a little annoying for a while.

I finally managed to get to a NaNoWriMo meet this week as well, which was great - it's so rare that I get to spend any time physically in the company of other writers that it was a real treat. (All my online writer friends are truly fabulous and I honestly don't think I'd have got nearly this far with my writing without the wonderful community at Will Write For Wine, but there's a special kind of energy that comes from actually being in the same room.) Even better, the group is planning to continue meeting after NaNo finishes, so I may finally have found a writing group.

I also had a rejection this week on my short story, but it was a personal one and said that there was some nice writing in there, so it was actually quite uplifting.

The WIP itself seems to be going okay - I think it would have benefited from a little more planning, but since the idea came together about three days before the start of November there wasn't much time for that. It will need some pretty heavy editing I think, but the story seems pretty strong.

Tomorrow, I have a three hour car journey, and a date with Dana. So if I don't hit 50K tonight, I very much hope to do so tomorrow.

So, that's my fortnight covered. What about yours?

Current word count:

48105 / 50000 words. 96% done!

Saturday, 14 November 2009

Note to Self: Write This Scene

The writing continues to go well on my NaNo book, despite a couple of stumbling blocks this week. For the first time I'm finding it useful to leave little notes to myself about scenes and passages I need to add in later, which is allowing me to keep going even when I feel I can't quite write the next scene yet. For example, one of the scenes I need is where my MCs are brought up to date on the battle they're going to have to join, but since I haven't quite figured out the details yet I thought I'd leave it for now. So I wrote a few lines in square brackets about the things I need to cover, and just doing that helped me get a better feel for the scene. Usually, when I get to a scene I don't feel ready to write, I go off and do something different and hope the words come next time I sit down at the laptop.

I'm finding my notebook really useful for keeping track of things, especially names of some of the less important characters. There's one name though that I keep forgetting to put in, and since I can't be bothered to scroll up to check what I actually called her I've given her a new name, which will likely become permanent since by the time I get round to checking I'll have used the new one more than the old. Ah well, such is life.

I was aiming to hit 30K by Friday, and I just managed it, scraping in at around 22:30 that night. It feels pretty good to be ahead of the game - minimum word count for yesterday would have been 22K.

My goal for this week is 43K. It would have been 45K, but since I've just got an additional job over the Christmas period I've decided not to push it quite that much. However, if all goes to plan, I'll be getting an Alphasmart this week, which will make the one hour commute perfect writing time.

Current word count:

33367 / 50000 words. 67% done!

Friday, 6 November 2009

Off and Running for NaNoWriMo, with Collage!

My goal for this week was to hit 10K. I did it - and this morning I hit 15K, which means I'm three days ahead of the minimum word count and averaging 2.5K a day. This is great, especially as I'm unlikely to be writing much this weekend so needed that extra buffer really.

For next week, my goal is 30K. That means I really need to keep this momentum going after the weekend. Minimum word count by next Friday (according to official NaNoWriMo recommendations, that is) is 21,671, so if I meet my goal I'll be well ahead.

The last two years I've found hitting 1667 words a day a bit of a struggle, but this year I'm finding it much easier. I think the key is that I've been writing so much more this year. I'm lucky in that I do tend to write quite quickly - inevitably this means there will be that much more editing to do, but that's okay. I'm just hoping this streak continues, because I'm loving every minute.

Last week I mentioned my collage and soundtrack. I've been listening to the soundtrack regularly, although only when I'm about to write - usually in the morning while I'm having breakfast. I've also put a version of my collage into my project notebook, which is fantastic - each place and person has a page in the book with pictures, where I can jot down anything I need to remember. This is already proving invaluable as I try to keep track of everything going on. Anyway, the fabulous Pamela Cayne asked to see my collage. The structure surprised me, as the last collage I did was more just a collection of images. This one has a timeline running through it of all the places involved in the story - starting top left, running to bottom right - pictures for all the key characters, and images for some of the themes as well. It's different, but I like it. Here it is - click on the image to see a larger version.

Current word count:

15394 / 50000 words. 31% done!