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!

Saturday, 31 October 2009

Two hours and fifteen minutes to plot a novel...

I'm a day late posting, but I seem to be a day behind on all my goals this week.
  • Finish ficlet

  • Story plotting using How to Think Sideways methods

  • Collage
I did finish the ficlet way back at the beginning of the week. The collage however was put off until today (and first I had to figure out how to transfer the last one from where it was beautifully blu-tacked to the whiteboard to a sheet of paper I could actually keep it on). I did spend a couple of hours mid-week finding pictures, but it wasn't until today that I actually compiled them.

There were two reasons for the delay, and these also explain why I've failed to complete the plotting modules. As you may remember, last week I'd decided that I was going to write a completely non-magical story this time around. Well... that sort of fizzled out. As soon as I tried to take it a step further than concepts and actually work out a story, I realised I didn't care enough to write it. So instead I'm writing a fantasy story that's been hiding in the depths of my imagination for a few years - I finally feel it might be the time to write it. So today I found names for the four key characters, and then I put together a collage.

It's now 21:45. I have two hours and fifteen minutes until NaNoWriMo starts. I really want to get some key plot points outlined on paper before I go to bed - I have a very rough idea in my head, but I want more so that when tomorrow morning rolls around I can get on and write. So... that's tonight's goal. As for my week's goals - well, they're pretty straightforward, given the month.
  • Hit 10K in NaNo story

  • Blog post
I am choosing to ignore the fact that I'm going to be away from home for the next ten days. Must be optimistic...

Current word count:

0 / 50000 words. 0% done!

Friday, 23 October 2009

The End, and Onward

Last week's goals:
  • Fit in seven writing sessions

  • Reassess short story and see what can be done with it

  • Start on new ficlet

  • Blog post
Well, you can see the blog post for yourself; the ficlet was written this morning and tomorrow I'll check it over before posting it - it's a fanfic snippet for a Lord of the Rings forum I'm a member of.

As for the rest, well, I've yet to revisit the short story, but I'm fairly sure I won't be doing anything else with it. Maybe I'll post it here at some point, but it was just a short, fun little piece which I don't think will really find a place in a paying market. And I'm happy with that.

As for the writing sessions - I didn't quite get seven. I didn't write all weekend in fact, but then Monday came around and as I was capturing tapes to the editing PC for the day job I got a lot of writing done - over 10K in the end, which took me past the 70K mark and well towards the end. So on Tuesday, I finished the first draft. It came in a little short, but since I know there are things to be added earlier in the story I'm not too worried about that.

This means that technically, I've now completed two novels. I doubt I'll ever do anything with the first one - I started it nearly exactly a year ago, for NaNoWriMo 2008, but I've learned such a lot since then that I know it would need a complete rewrite to work. I definitely plan to revisit some of the ideas and maybe even one or two of the characters, but I hadn't really grasped the concept of actually telling a story when I first started it.

I'm feeling more positive about the second one. I'm putting it to rest for a while now - after all, NaNoWriMo is nearly here - but when I come back to it in a couple of months I think I can do something with it. I loved the concept and with a bit of TLC I'm sure I can make it work. Finishing it was a bit odd, because I'd been enjoying the writing so much that I felt rather bereft when it was done, so I'm looking forward to diving back in.

First though, I have a new story to write. This week will be dedicated to plotting (having written one book with plotting and one without, I now know which I prefer). This story is going to be very different to the previous two - as far as I can tell, there's nothing magical or paranormal about it. However, there will be a white horse.

So, this week's goals:
  • Finish ficlet

  • Story plotting using How to Think Sideways methods

  • Collage
Final word count:

76358 / 76358 words. 100% done!

Friday, 16 October 2009

Building the Writing Momentum

Last week I set myself these goals:
  • Fit in five writing sessions

  • Submit short story to another magazine

  • Start on the next lesson in How to Think Sideways

  • Blog post
I've had mixed results. My writing has been going great, and I definitely exceeded the five writing sessions goal, but I'll come back to that. As far as submitting the short story goes, I deliberately haven't, as I'm not really sure where I should send it. It's a 750 word one-shot, probably classified as urban fantasy (or at least something along those lines), but I'm not sure there's that much to it. So I think I need to reassess that one. I haven't started on the next lesson in Think Sideways because I've been spending most of my spare time actually writing, since I'm so deep in the story. And as for the blog post - voĆ­la.

But it's the writing that's the interesting part. After last week's post, where I said that "I need to remember that evenings are available too", I decided that I was going to see what I could do with that. But rather than just doing so when I skipped my morning writing session, I thought I'd try for both. The results were pretty surprising.

I've found this before, and in so many ways it seems entirely obvious, but the more I write, the easier the words flow. I get completely into the story, so that when I come back to the page a few hours later it's still fresh in my head. This is why the rule "write every day" is so important for me - if I don't, I lose track of where I am, and it can take me a whole scene to get back into the story properly. I know there are some writers who work differently, but I'm learning that this is the most important rule for me. And writing twice every day places me even more solidly into the story, and lets me remember how much I love it.

I actually lost track of my number of writing sessions, but my total for the week is about 16K - by far the most I've written in one week since last year's NaNoWriMo. It might actually be my most productive writing week ever, which is a fairly staggering thought, because it's just seemed so easy. There's got to be a stumbling block just around the corner, but for now, I want to keep up this momentum and keep writing. At this rate, the first draft of this story could be done before this year's NaNo starts - and although I haven't got a clue what I'd write if I were to take part, I'm pretty sure I'd have to give it a go. Provided of course I don't run into total burnout, which is probably very likely.

All in all, though, an excellent week, making it a bit more difficult to set next week's goals. I don't want to lose momentum, but I'm not keen on setting daily word count goals, and it isn't practical to aim for two sessions daily, even if it is the best case scenario. Still, I need something to write on my whiteboard, so this week's goals are as follows:
  • Fit in seven writing sessions

  • Reassess short story and see what can be done with it

  • Start on new ficlet

  • Blog post
Current word count:

62587 / 80000 words. 78% done!

Friday, 9 October 2009

Nowhere to go... and no time to write?!

I'm finally at home with no plans to go anywhere in the immediate future, which means there is the smallest chance that I might actually be able to manage a blog post now and again. I'm not making any promises though - life is unpredictable.

Despite being in one place, this week hasn't been the greatest writing-wise. I keep sleeping badly, which means I end up staying in bed longer than I should, which means that by the time I get up I feel like I really need to get on with the day job rather than fitting some writing time in. (This is a serious hazard of working a) from home and b) with my husband. Because I hate working late into the evening, but if I don't get the hours in then I'm letting him down - which means working when I get up is the best option.)

When I get up early enough, I love writing in the mornings - but tonight I realised that actually I quite like writing in the evenings too. This is the first time I've done this in months, so it was something of a revelation. The biggest problem with it is that I'm far more likely to be disturbed, but for those days when early morning writing sessions aren't an option, I need to remember that evenings are available too. If I plan my time well, I can actually have quite a bit to play with, and I'm incredibly lucky in that - but somehow it's easy to forget.

Despite not updating my blog, I have been working with weekly goals. I write them on my whiteboard, but I think it would make sense if I were to start posting them here too. I didn't do too well on this week's goals. (My week is from Saturday to Friday, incidentally, because that's how we do at Will Write for Wine.) In fact the only goal I met was to make a blog post - and you can see how last minute that one is. This means that a couple of my goals are carried through to this week - and the other two should be happening every week anyway.
  • Fit in five writing sessions

  • Submit short story to another magazine

  • Start on the next lesson in How to Think Sideways

  • Blog post
Last week I only got four writing sessions in and completely skipped the second and third goals. Hopefully next week I'll remember to check in - and maybe I'll even have met my goals!

Current word count:

46041 / 80000 words. 58% done!

Friday, 18 September 2009

Writing Lessons Learned

So. Yes. Once again, rather a long time between posts... what can I say? Life is hectic.

I haven't been writing very consistently of late - I'm noticing that my periods of blog-silence generally correlate rather neatly with the times when I'm not getting any writing done. Which makes sense, I suppose, since if I'm not writing, I have nothing writing-related to post about. And if I'm not making the time to write, I'd rather I wasn't making the time to write about not writing, if you see what I mean.

Anyway, despite the very small progress I've been making on the writing front, I have learned one or two things recently.

It really is easier if you write every day.
I know it's said all the time, but I'm seriously growing to recognise the truth of this. If I skip a few days, a week, a fortnight, then when I finally get round to actually sitting at the keyboard I've lost all sense of who my characters are and where they're supposed to be going. I suppose it wouldn't be so bad if I were writing short stories, but it isn't just the story itself that I lose track of - it's the actual writing. Words fit together much more easily if you're making it happen regularly.

If I plot, I have to plot every scene.
With the first novel I finished, it was pantsing all the way for me, until about 20K from the end when I hit a solid stone wall and found I had to figure out what was going to happen before carrying on. With this one, I actually plotted out the bare bones before I started. As I've gone along, I've found myself planning additional scenes - and having to plan them before I write them. Not intensively by any means, but if I don't have a sentence or two describing what needs to happen then I can't seem to write the scene. They've crept up on me, and developed from the story as I went along, but once they pop up they have to be plotted. I'm finding this rather baffling, since I've always considered myself a pantser or discovery writer. But when I realised a few days ago that there were two days in my story timeline that needed to be filled, I was incapable of writing another word until I'd figured out what had to be accomplished in that time and how I was going to do that. (I ended up with five extra scenes plotted.)

I need to be more flexible about my writing time.
One of the reasons I've been writing so little lately is that I'm travelling all the time. I like routine - I like being at home and being able to get up in the morning and shut myself in my little room that nobody else uses just to write. But when I'm staying with other people, I don't have my own little room. (I have somewhere to sleep, obviously, but since my husband sleeps later than I do as a rule it's not an ideal place to write in the morning. I need to try and make the time later in the day - perhaps in the evening - to creep away to a quiet corner of the house I'm staying at and write. Otherwise I keep coming back to that first problem and not writing for days.

In other news, I was delighted to learn recently that Will Write For Wine is returning to regular podcasting from October 9th. This is a fantastic show - thoroughly entertaining and always useful. There'll be a new podcast each month, and you can help influence what Lucy March and CJ Barry (AKA Lani Diane Rich and Samantha Graves) talk about by posting in the forums. I can't wait!

Monday, 27 July 2009

SocNoc, Blogging Fail and New Routines

June was an utterly insane month, as we moved house and juggled some of our biggest jobs ever, and as a result I didn't do very well in SocNoc at all. I wasn't really expecting to win, but I only managed 12,336 words, which was less than satisfying. Still, I'm up to 25K in the new manuscript and really enjoying the story, so I won't complain too much.

Blogging, of course, dropped off my to do list entirely, for which I can only apologise. Actually, I think double apologies are in order, since I should have posted a couple of weeks ago when we finally managed to stop in our new house for more than two days at a time. The problem with that was that I wanted to post about my new writing room, and in particular put some photos up, but the truth is I haven't got round to taking a single picture of the house yet. (I did, however, manage to write an article about Using Writing Spaces and Rituals to Your Advantage, if you're at all interested.)

Another thing that was rather ignored during the madness of June (and most of July, obviously) was my How To Think Sideways lessons. I nearly have all the lessons now, but I'm only half way through what I have (I'm on lesson 11 of 22). When I've had the chance to work on it, it's continuing to be very useful indeed, but lately that's not been very often.

As a result of the last couple of months, I've changed my routine a bit. I missed so many writing sessions that I got quite grouchy about it, so I've lowered my sights a little. I'm setting myself a weekly word goal of 4000 words and giving myself weekends off. That works out at 800 words a day, which is usually quite manageable, and if I hit my word goal earlier in the week, I can have an extra day free. (I'm also considering an Amazon reward system, but I'm not sure that's entirely wise.) It's an odd way to do it, but it seems to be working - it's not that I don't want to be writing on weekends, it's just that we're still so busy at the moment that I need to let myself off the hook a bit.

I'm really only working on the novel in the mornings now, although I'm trying to make a point of doing something writing-related in the evenings - whether that be blogging, writing an article, or working on an HTTS lesson. Assuming that I manage to stick to that, I hope it won't be quite so long before my next post.

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

From May to June: Goals and Achievements

So... the May Marathon over at Will Write for Wine went pretty well for me, all things considered. I'm pretty sure I met all my goals - it surprised me, but I'm pretty pleased with myself.

May's Achievements:
- Wrote, edited and submitted a 2500 word short story - two rejections so far, waiting to hear from the third market.
- Typed up all of my handwritten edits for my NaNo 2008, making further changes as I went alone, and sent that off to be beta'd by my sister.
- Using Lessons 7 & 8 of Holly Lisle's How to Think Sideways course, I actually did some serious plotting and produced about 35 scene cards for my new story idea, creating a full story skeleton.

June's Goals:
- It's SocNoc, so my main goal for June is simple: write 50,000 words. Hopefully on this new story idea that I've got all plotted out.
- As far as short story stuff goes, I'm hoping that the market I'm currently submitting to will give me some helpful feedback. I already have a couple of things in mind I'd like to take another look at with this short story, so before submitting it elsewhere I think I'd like to do one last pass on it. I was so excited about my first submission that I think I may have sent it out before it was really ready to go. Or perhaps I'm just being paranoid. Either way, I'll at least check it through once more before resubmitting.
- Lessons 10 and 11 of the How to Think Sideways course. I'm on the six month version, which means I get a sent a new lesson each week, and I was hoping to get through them faster than I am - but being able to take it at my own pace is going to prove very useful this month as we're in the process of moving.

So that's that. We'll see how we do. The whole moving thing may cause a few hiccups this month, but I think it should be okay. I'm aiming for 50K, but honestly, I'd be happy with 25.

Have a good month!

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

May Goals, Sims 2 and Other Stuff

Okay, so I think it's time for another update on my May goals. If it's just crossed out with no explanation, then I already covered it in my first update on my May goals.

- Write a 3000 word short story - it's pretty much all planned out now, and even has a working title (which is more than I can say for my NaNo), so I hope to get started on that in the next couple of days.

- Work through Lesson 8 of the How to Think Sideways course, Planning. - I have started this. Or at least, I've read through the lesson. I'm deliberately putting off the actual task, though, since I don't want to start properly until all my edits for my NaNo are typed up.

- Type up all my handwritten edits for my NaNo story and send it to my sister to read. Will also probably get my husband to read it, although he's insisting that he wants me to read it aloud to him! Try and line up another writer to take a look at it, terrifying thought though that is. - I'm getting there. I'm nearly at the halfway point. I scrapped 3000 words today. Ugh.

- Put the pre-plan modules from Lesson 7 of HTTS into practice for my new novel idea. - Done.

- Edit the short story.

- Put Lesson 8 into practice for new idea. - Nope - see above!

- Further research into possible markets for short story.

- Submit short story. - Done. First and second rejections already received. Third submission made - and this one gives mainly personalised rejections, so hopefully if I don't make it in I'll get some helpful feedback.

So I'm doing pretty well, all in all. I've also done some other stuff on my NaNo - I finally drew a decent map for it (yay!) and I also built two of the key buildings in Sims 2 (my gaming weakness). That's really helped me get a feel for the world and the layouts - I had most of it pretty much in my head anyway, but it's really helped to clarify a few things. I did create two of the characters as well - limited accuracy, really, but it made me think a bit more about the physical characteristics that I maybe haven't described as well as I should. I've also been doing some behind the scenes work on my new website - not quite ready yet, but it's getting there.

Oh yes, and I'm moving to Wales, where I will have a gorgeous view over a beautiful green park from the room I've already labelled my Writing Refuge. If that doesn't help my muse, I don't know what will.

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Writing Resources

I'm still waiting on feedback for my short story, and in the meantime I'm getting on with typing up my edits on my NaNo 08 novel - which still hasn't got a title. I'm not even close to one. But anyway, it means there isn't really much to tell you, so instead I'm going to talk about writing resources.

As I'm still working out my process (and I hear that's something that can go on indefinitely) I like to try out new things from time to time, and here are a few of the sites, programs and other resources that I've found particularly useful.

  • yWriter 5. This is a completely free piece of software which I've found works really well for organising longer pieces of fiction. It allows you to create chapters and scenes, with individual notes for each if required, helps you build character bios, allows you to generate a timeline for your story and keeps you on track by letting you know how many words you've written that day. (As I'm editing at the moment, though, this isn't always a good thing - yesterday my word count was minus 1500.)
  • SuperNotecard. Another free piece of software (although you can upgrade to the full version for $29), this is great if you like your 3x5 index cards. It allows you to group and move around notecards on the screen, so it's great for plotting and outlining. It has a number of other features I haven't quite got round to exploring yet - for example, factors, which look like they allow you to create relationships between cards.
  • Evernote. I only downloaded this yesterday, but already it looks like it's going to be really useful, especially for keeping research notes together. I was sceptical until I actually tried it, since although I've heard lots of good things about it nobody had really explained what it does clearly enough for me to quite grasp. Essentially, it allows you to take 'clips' from whatever you're looking at or working on - a webpage, an email and so on - and save them to what's called a notebook, so that all the pieces of information relevant to one topic, from whatever medium, are available to you in one place. As well as being downloadable software, you can also access all the things you've saved straight from the web - so you don't even need to be at your own computer to bring up all those important bits of research.

  • Remember The Milk. Okay, so this one isn't strictly just for writing, but it's been invaluable to me since I started using it a couple of months ago. Essentially, it lets you create to do lists - so for example, I have one list for work, one for personal stuff, and one for writing. You can schedule tasks for a particular due date, give them a priority level, and set them to recur. Currently I have 'Type up changes' on my writing list as a task which occurs every morning, and every weekday evening. I get so much satisfaction from ticking things off lists that sometimes I'll add things I've already done, just so I can hit the 'Complete' button. It's really helped me to organise myself - so if you're a bit absent-minded, like me, give it a try.
  • Books And Such Literary Agency Blog. This is a fairly new addition to my favourites, but there's a lot of really good information here. At the moment they're doing a Kiss of Death series of blog posts - to quote, "The phrase “kiss of death” is shorthand for “Uh-oh, that writer has just stepped off a precipice.”" It's a very interesting look at some of the things writers can do wrong in their careers!
  • BookEnd Literary Agency Blog. In another great agency blog, Jessica Faust's posts are very honest and fair, and always fascinating to read. She often answers questions which have been posted, and I haven't yet seen a post in which there wasn't something I was really glad to have read. Well worth checking out.
  • Genreality. Another blog, but this time from the author's side. There are six bloggers, each of whom have a different day to post, and they all have interesting insights into the writing world. (I'll also point you specifically to this post, which is what prompted me to try Evernote.)
  • Will Write for Wine forums. Writing can get lonely sometimes, but there are lots of other people in the same situation. If you can join a writers' group in your local area, then do it - but if not, there are hundreds of communities for writers on the internet. This is my favourite, which grew out of the fabulous Will Write for Wine podcast (which I'll get to in a minute). If you're looking for somewhere to find other writers, and especially if you also have a fondness for wine, Joss Whedon and procrastination with online games, then come on by and say hello. We're currently in the middle of our May Marathon, where we're all trying to psych each other up and get on with some writing, so now's a great time to join.
  • Duotrope's Digest. Particularly good if you're writing short stories, this is a fantastic resource - a huge database of markets for your work, which lets you search, browse and find the publisher or magazine you're looking for really easy. It also allows people to track their submissions, and from that generates helpful information about which markets have a higher acceptance rate, how likely they are to give you personalised feedback and how quickly they respond. Really invaluable.
  • How to Think Sideways with Holly Lisle. This is the writing course I'm currently working my way through. I have to mention it, because although I'm only eight lessons in it's made a really huge difference to my writing. I really do feel as if I'm learning a lot more as I go along - not just about the craft, but also a lot about me, my process and how I work best. And I'm definitely running into some surprises there. It's really spurring me on, and if you are looking for a course, this is well worth checking out.

  • Will Write for Wine. Although sadly this podcast has come to an end, there are around sixty programmes in the archives. Presented by Lani Diane Rich and Samantha Graves, the podcast covers a huge range of publishing and writing topics, and is filled with useful information, as well as being highly entertaining. Definitely worth checking out.
  • Writing Excuses. This one's really great when you don't have much time to listen, as each episode is only fifteen minutes long, which means that it's almost pure information. Although it's mainly aimed at writers of science fiction and fantasy, there's a lot of great advice in there for any writer.
  • I Should Be Writing. First started when the podcaster, Mur Lafferty, was entirely unpublished, listening through the archives to this and following her journey is fascinating. As well as her own thoughts on various writing and publishing issues, Mur also posts regular interviews with other authors.

Fun Links - I'm not going to explain these ones. They really just have to be seen to be appreciated...

Friday, 8 May 2009

Update on May Goals

Just over a week ago I set myself some goals for May as part of our May Challenge over at Will Write for Wine. Here's how I'm getting on - completed tasks have a line through them, my comments and additions are in bold:

- Write a 3000 word short story - it's pretty much all planned out now, and even has a working title (which is more than I can say for my NaNo), so I hope to get started on that in the next couple of days. - I had a first draft before the 1st May was over. It turned out that it wasn't quite going to make it to 3000 words - there wasn't enough story for that - but I was pretty pleased with it.

- Work through Lesson 8 of the How to Think Sideways course, Planning. - Haven't done this yet - seems silly to start it when I haven't finished the previous lesson's exercises yet!

- Type up all my handwritten edits for my NaNo story and send it to my sister to read. Will also probably get my husband to read it, although he's insisting that he wants me to read it aloud to him! Try and line up another writer to take a look at it, terrifying thought though that is. - Nothing yet.

- Put the pre-plan modules from Lesson 7 of HTTS into practice for my new novel idea. - I've started this - I've done character sheets for my protagonist and antagonist. Hoping to get some more done over the weekend.

- Edit the short story. - Done - I'm on the third edit now. First I showed it to my husband, who was very helpful, and followed his suggestions. Then I asked a couple of the people in my HTTS workshop to take a look at it, and have taken their comments into account. I'm waiting for their feedback on the changes now, and then I think it's about ready.

- Put Lesson 8 into practice for new idea. - Nope.

- Further research into possible markets for short story. - Done - I've found six I like and put them in the order I'm planning submit to them. I'm not expecting miracles - these are pretty difficult markets to crack and I am after all entirely new at this - but I'm kind of looking forward to that first rejection. Also a couple of them seem pretty good at personalising rejections, so that should be useful.

- Submit short story.

Thursday, 30 April 2009

May Goals

At the suggestion of the lovely Karen Pinco, we're holding a May writing challenge over at Will Write for Wine. I have quite a few things going on right now (at least in my head!) so I thought it might be a good idea to write down my goals for the month.

- Write a 3000 word short story - it's pretty much all planned out now, and even has a working title (which is more than I can say for my NaNo), so I hope to get started on that in the next couple of days.

- Work through Lesson 8 of the How to Think Sideways course, Planning.

- Type up all my handwritten edits for my NaNo story and send it to my sister to read. Will also probably get my husband to read it, although he's insisting that he wants me to read it aloud to him! Try and line up another writer to take a look at it, terrifying thought though that is.

- Put the pre-plan modules from Lesson 7 of HTTS into practice for my new novel idea.

- Edit the short story.

- Put Lesson 8 into practice for new idea.

- Further research into possible markets for short story.

And if I manage all that, maybe I'll even get to start writing that new story!

Monday, 27 April 2009

Deadline's creeping up on me....

I have seven chapters left to edit. Fifty-four pages. And three days to do it if I want to reach my self-imposed deadline.

I've been averaging a chapter in the morning and a chapter in the evening, so in theory if I do one extra chapter in a session (and I know a couple of them are quite short) then I don't need to make any real extra time for it. Of course that doesn't allow for any additional scenes I might need to write in. So far I've added an extra ten or so - well, sort of. Some of them are really extensive rewrites rather than actual new scenes.

Anyway, one way or another I think I should be able to make it. It would be nice to be able to just say I'll take a morning, an afternoon, even a day and get it done, but unfortunately work is rather hectic at the moment so that's not really practical.

Once I'm done with this bit, of course, I'll have to figure out the best way to process the changes - I can't decide on the practicalities. On one hand, working in yWriter 5 is amazing - I love the way I can move scenes around and so on. On the other, though, I don't want to overwrite the original draft in that form, and it doesn't seem to come with a Save As button! If I were to work from an exported file, I'd have to do all the scrolling that comes with a long Word document, but I wouldn't be making any changes to the original. Decisions, decisions.

I decided a while ago that I wanted to try my hand at writing a short story, and with some considerable help from Thinking Sideways I've come up with an idea I really like. I've done some work on the idea and I think I have it pretty well mapped out, so before I start transferring all the edits I think I'm going to try and write that. It should mean that when I get back to it I'm a little more distanced again too, which will hopefully help.

As an extra bonus of the How To Think Sideways course (and yes, I know I'm linking to it a lot, but really, it's wonderful) I had the chance to submit up to 500 words to Holly Lisle for a new concept she's starting, the Writer Crash Test. Essentially, if she picks mine I'll get a free crit - but in video form, on the internet. If you visit the site you'll see that the first crit is up - and even if mine isn't used, I think it's going to prove to be quite a useful resource.

I'm currently on Lesson 7 of the course, which is to do with getting everything you need together before you start writing - pre-planning, if you will. It's not plotting, exactly, more getting particular ideas and conflicts in place. I'm just working through the theory at the moment but it will be interesting to apply it to both the short story and the novel idea I've had recently.

And I think that about wraps it up for now.

Friday, 17 April 2009

Progress Update On Edits

The past week has been fairly slow for edits, what with being away and Easter get togethers and so on. Still, I'm half-way through now, and although the really bad bit is still to come (that would be the bit before I completely changed the villian's story) I still think I can reach the end before the 1st May. I think there will still be some tidying up to do after that - mostly making sure that I've actually followed up on all the notes I've made during this process - but to my surprise I'm finding that there's less actual rewriting to do than I expected. I've only got about five A4 pages of completely new material, although of course that's on top of all the bits I've written directly onto the manuscript.

I had a bit of a breakthrough the other day when I finally got a handle on my single sentence blurb (thank you, Thinking Sideways course!), quickly followed by figuring out my theme. So my sentence is as follows, although I'm sure I'll rework it a few times:
With powers so great they scare even the Guild of Magic, a naive new witch is dragged into a struggle with the ambitious King of the Elves for control of magic itself...

And it turns out that my theme is all about how people deal with the pressure of expectations. I suddenly realised that this affects all of my four main characters in pretty significant ways, but I'd completely missed it until now.

So all in all, I'm feeling fairly positive about things at the moment. I am definitely thinking that this WIP may be veering to YA, but that's okay - my younger sister ought to be able to tell me if that is the case. She loved my sentence and kept trying to steal my manuscript when I went to visit this weekend, so at least I know she's willing to test drive it!

I haven't yet completed another Thinking Sideways lesson, but the next one is all about figuring out your market, so it should be fairly appropriate.

One last thing - a fabulous quote from Dennis Lehane printed in my Writers' News magazine last month:
"It's good not only to realise that you can't please all of the people all of the time, but that you don't want to. There's a certain type of reader that you don't ever want to write for. And that really helps."

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Edits & Sideways Thinking

I'm more than a quarter of the way through with my edits now and I think it's going quite well. I've scrapped a lot, but rather than being disheartened by that I'm finding it quite exciting. I can't remember where I heard this metaphor, nor indeed exactly what it was - but it's like I've got the rough wood or clay into a vague shape and I'm now smoothing out the bumps, chipping away the bits I don't need and adding the extra details. There are a lot of people who say they hate editing - but the process of refining this is proving rather enjoyable for me. Of course, I haven't got to the really bad bit yet. I've also got back into working on it morning and night, which is much better for me. It means it sort of tops and tails my day very nicely, and I get an extra chapter done each day. Although I'm letting myself off the evenings at weekends!

The only problem I'm considering at the moment is one particular scene. A couple of days ago I decided I should bring it forward, reworking it to fit in before one of the key moments. I was all set to do that this morning, and then I looked at the chapter and a half that would end up happening after it and realised that actually they're pretty key to making that scene happen. So now I'm sort of stuck. On one hand, I was convinced that putting the scene earlier would give a particular decision the extra kick I thought it was missing. On the other hand, this is going to mean a lot of rewriting - and so far, I haven't done more than a paragraph at a time of that since I started edits. (Which is probably why it seems so much easier than I expected.)

So really, I guess this is the bit where it gets difficult. Essentially I'm going to have to rewrite two, maybe three chapters, changing the location and various points which feed in and out of this particular scene. I think I'll have to condense them a bit, since I don't want to push this key moment any further back if possible, and then add some extra bits afterward to fill the void. This morning I almost convinced myself that I didn't need to, but thinking about it now... yes, I do need to. The practicalities are interesting - up til now I've been making my corrections, additions and deletions on the MS itself, and adding notes for clarification in the spiral bound notebook I bought for this very purpose. I think I'll need to use separate lined paper for this though - I don't want to start using the notebook differently as I've got a decent system in place that I'm happy with, and there's going to be too much to write it onto the MS itself.

Right, there's that decision made then. I'll let you know how I get on.

As for Thinking Sideways... ohhhh, I'm loving every minute. The last lesson I did was Lesson Five, which looks at how much you should develop your story idea before you start to write it - how much background information you need, how much worldbuilding you should do, etc. I got some great story development from it for my favourite of the three ideas I mentioned last week and I'm starting to get really excited about the story. It's all about looking for the extraordinary in your ideas and making it unique, and to my surprise I'm getting on really well with Holly's rather unconventional methods. So far, I wholeheartedly recommend the course.

Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Edits and Duh Moments

I have started on my edits - and despite all my apprehension, I'm really enjoying it. I don't know if I'm doing it 'right' as such, but it feels pretty satisfying all the same.

To help me get an idea of a good process, I looked over on the NaNoEdMo site for some recommendations, and that was useful. But what really helped was Holly Lisle's article on How to Revise a Novel.

Pause for a serious *duh moment*. I just realised as I went to find the article that although that link is the article I've used so far (and has proved useful as such), it's actually not the one I was intending to use. I was planning to use the One-Pass Manuscript Revision. So, um, I'm going to go over that one tomorrow... I'll let you know how that turns out...

Anyway, with the How to Revise a Novel link, editing has been fairly simple so far. (Looking at the second one, though, I think things may be about to change slightly.) I'm finding that although there's a lot of stuff that needs changing, cutting out completely or bringing into line with the rest of the book, what I've got is actually okay stuff. This makes me both nervous and excited about how things will change as I get further into it - I thought the second half was probably a lot better than the first, and I'm a bit worried that perhaps I was wrong and actually the second half is dreadful!

I was expecting it to be harder to cut things out, if for no other reason than losing precious word count, but actually, there's something quite satisfying about it. I'm only five chapters in to the edit (and I will probably go over those again once I've worked through that article) but I feel like I'm really getting rid of the weeds. I am however very much aware that I will probably end up completely scrapping most of the first half of the book - so maybe I'm being unconsciously easy on myself?

As for the Thinking Sideways course - I'm very much enjoying that too. Repeating Lesson Three helped a bit, and after a week I had the three ideas I needed. Lesson Four was all about refining them, and so today I did that with two of them. It was very satisfying, really helping me to get a grasp of what the stories could actually be about. I tried with the third one as well, but it turned out to be a fairly terrible idea that I wouldn't have enjoyed working on at all, so I scrapped it instead. I think the last part of this lesson is about making good ideas great, and I hope to get on to that tomorrow.

My current goal is to finish the first round of edits by May 1st. I'll have to pick up my pace to do that as I'm averaging a chapter a day and I'm on Chapter 5 of about 50 - but I think I can manage that. I'm only writing in the morning at the moment, and if I get back into the habit of working at night too then that ought to solve the problem.

Also, I think I've finally settled on a name for my hero. Hurray!

Monday, 23 March 2009

The Prospect Of Edits

I finished the first draft on the 8th March, coming in at 106K. Since then, I haven't written a word. Nor have I started editing.

When I wrote the last line, I was surprised to find that I actually knew it was the last line. For about half of the novel, I'd worried that I wouldn't know when I hit the end, and that I'd go on and on about nothing interesting until the whole point was lost. I was very pleased to find that wasn't the case. The last line couldn't have been anything else.

Since this was the first time I'd completed anything of this sort of length, I didn't know what to expect, and when I reached the end, I didn't know how to react. I was slightly stunned, slightly jubilant, and also slightly lost. I've been writing this since November 1st. Since the 26th January, I've even known what was going to happen. Suddenly this thing I'd been creating for over four months had a beginning and an end, and the initial writing was - well, over. It was exciting, but also bewildering.

I'd told myself I wanted to take a couple of weeks away from the MS (manuscript!) once I finished the first draft, partly just because I've heard so many people recommend that. But there's more to it than that. The fact is, I just don't know how to start on the edits.

I can do proof-reading. Thanks to Critters, I think I'm okay on short story critiques. And I can just about do reviews - at least, I try, at Pondering Around. But while editing seems to me like it must be a combination of those, actually sitting down with MY manuscript to start on it is an incredibly daunting task. Should I read it through once first, from beginning to end, without making any notes? Or should I plunge straight in with a red pen? And was the two weeks off really a mistake? It seems very distant now, but I guess that's a good thing.

Holly Lisle's How To Think Sideways course is going quite well for me. At least, it was. Lesson Two was all about getting to know your muse and what you really want to write, and I quite enjoyed that. Lesson Three is causing me more problems, since my muse is being rather contrary and not coming up with the ideas I need, but I think that was partly my own fault as I was rather caught up in Karen Miller's Godspeaker trilogy when I tried to 'call down lightning' as Holly calls it. I think being absorbed in someone else's story while trying to generate new ideas for yourself is possibly not the way to go. So tonight I intend to go over that lesson again, and we'll see how it goes.

Tomorrow, it's on to the editing. I think I may start by reading through some of the articles over at NaNoEdMo. I've given up all hope of reaching any decent editing count for March, but April, I hope, will be a better month for that. And I still have eight days to get as much in as I can.

Of course, the biggest problem I have is that I still haven't settled on a final name for my hero. But let's not dwell on the negative...

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

The End Is In Sight

I hit 100K today and I am very definitely on the downhill slope now. I know exactly what has to happen from here on out - there may be a few tweaks as I go along, but I can see the path in front of me and it's both exciting and frustrating. Mainly, it's thrilling, because I know I can finish this now. But the fact that the end is in sight isn't actually making it any easier to reach. Every day I'll write a thousand words, maybe two, and although I've written a decent scene that had to be there the end doesn't actually feel any closer. I know I'm going to get there, and that's great, but I really just want to be there now. Knowing you will do something isn't the same as knowing you've done it.

Oh, yeah. I didn't finish by the end of February. Which means hitting 50 hours of editing for NaNoEdMo is fairly impossible. When I do get to the end, I'm going to put it down for a while - maybe a couple of weeks, possibly even longer. This story's been in my head since the beginning of November (although I was rather distracted for most of December) and I think I'm going to need to let it breathe for a while. I already know a lot of things that will need editing, and there are notes on most of my scenes for things to check and change - particularly for the second half. Although in fairness a lot of them are things that have changed halfway through, so the changes will actually be mostly for the first half! The second half though is full of brackets and sidenotes for me to make sure that names and descriptions match up.

I know I haven't finished this yet, but I've learned so much about how to approach writing a novel next time. The main thing is that while I am at heart a pantser*, life is actually far, far easier if you know where you're going. It's not necessarily faster, but I've found that since my plot revelations in January writing has been a lot less stressful. To my delight, I've also found that it doesn't ruin the excitement for me either, because I plotted in quite a general way - they need to get here, she needs to show up, there needs to be a confrontation, etc. That's meant that there's still plenty of room for inspiration to strike and for my elusive muse to take me off down some unexpected road.

There's still so much to learn, but I'm looking forward to that. I know that I've learned loads of tips and tricks as I've been writing this, mainly picked up from podcasts (e.g., Will Write For Wine, I Should Be Writing, The Secrets, The Writing Show), and I'm quite excited about reading back through the manuscript to see how my writing's developed over the last four months. I've also been following a lot of blogs relating to the publishing industry - writers, agents, editors. Some of my favourites are A Newbie's Guide to Publishing, Karen Miller, Editorial Ass, BookEnd Lit Agency and Erica Orloff. There are numerous others, but those just happen to be near the top of my RSS feeds right now!

I'm also just starting Holly Lisle's How To Think Sideways writing course. I'd been eyeing it up for a while, but then it got to the end of February and it was the last chance for new members to get the Charter member benefits, which included free access to a special forum when you graduate and various other bits, so I decided to take the plunge. I've followed through the first lesson, which is very much a mind-orientated one, and it's very interesting so far, looking at some of the mental barriers we can put up which stop us from achieving things. I'm looking forward to seeing some of the more practical exercises.

You know, I think I'm all blogged out. Time to settle down with one of those podcasts and my knitting I think. (Knitting, incidentally, is my most recent pastime. My mother taught me to knit, purl and rib at the weekend and somehow I am now in the process of making a jumper.)

Oh, and my current word count? So glad you asked. 100,963 words and counting down to the end.

* What's a pantser, you ask? The term comes from 'flying by the seat of your pants' and, in writing terms, refers to someone who doesn't plan. Someone who does plan is referred to as a plotter. There are of course many, many people who fall somewhere in between.

Friday, 20 February 2009

Up and down

I missed posting last week, since I spent the whole of Friday curled up on the sofa with the worst headache I've had in ages. I can't remember why I missed the week before, but you have my apologies!

It's been an odd week - I've only managed to write on three days, but my overall word count for the week is higher than last week. I'm experimenting a little with the best methods to encourage myself to write more, and it turns out that aiming to write for a particular amount of time, rather than aiming for a particular word count, seems to work far better for me. There's something far less pressured about it, but somehow I end up producing more that way.

I'm still fairly pleased with the plot points I've planned out, but I'm happy to report that I've also managed to go 'off piste' a little and have found myself wandering through detours I didn't expect - namely a rather spooky forest. I love the excitement of that - while it's great knowing where I'm going, finding those secret passages is a thrill unlike anything else.

I'm not sure I'm on track to hit my goal at the moment - I have nine days to finish this first draft. I really hope I manage it, if only for the thrill of meeting a deadline. I suppose it wouldn't be the end of the world if I didn't, but that will mean that my next goal - to complete NaNoEdMo - will be made all the more difficult.

Current Status
Current Word Count:
Sentence of the Week: There was no echo, the words falling dead in the air, and not even a murmur came back to me. I looked around carefully, through the trees that were no longer quite so close together but which seemed to go on forever, but he was nowhere in sight. Seconds before our hands had been clasped tightly together, but now he had disappeared and I was completely alone.
Best Moment of the Week: Writing 2K in one sitting. Delicious.
Worst Moment of the Week: Realising that I hadn't written for three days straight. Yuck.

Friday, 30 January 2009

I can haz plot!

This week's big moment was figuring out my plot. It means there will be a lot of editing to do, but frankly, I knew that anyway. The important thing is that I actually know what needs to happen. I haven't done a full line - I can't work like that - but the key points, including all the details of the face-to-face confrontation, are there. Which means I have things to work towards. And knowing that has left me free to consider other things I could put in, and allowed me to figure out how to deal with other, smaller problems without having to worry about the really major issues.

It's been an okay week words wise too, although not as good as I'd like. Tomorrow is the end of WinoWriMo, during which I've written around 20K. It's not quite up to NaNo standards, but it's pretty good considering there were about ten days in total where I didn't write a word. Some of those days, I plotted - not all of them, but since I actually started on the 5th I have managed to do something every day. That was my goal, so I guess I've done okay.

For February, my goal is to finish this. I don't know how many words that's going to take, but I know that it's approximately 15 days in my characters' timeline, most of which don't need to actually be shown. I feel like I'm about three quarters of the way there, maybe slightly more, which works quite nicely at 72K.

Current Status
Current Word Count: 72189
Sentence of the Week: As always, I disguised myself carefully, making the most of a spell I could actually use to my advantage. A lightening of the hair, lengthening of the eyelashes, and slight reductions around the waist always made me feel rather more self-confident as I walked through the city, and the addition of my pretty blue cloak completed the look to my satisfaction.
Best Moment of the Week: My plotting breakthrough. Utterly exhilirating.
Worst Moment of the Week: Last night when I realised that despite my plotting, I couldn't write properly when I was completely caught up in someone else's story.

Friday, 23 January 2009

For the last couple of days I've stuck with the getting-up-earlier plan, and it seems to be working. My daily average has gone up from 700 to 1100, and although that still doesn't quite feel like enough it seems to be working with the rather 'bitty' way this is progressing. I know there's a lot left to do, but I'm struggling a bit with seeing far enough ahead to just write for more than a few minutes without pausing to collect my thoughts. And it's really frustrating. I've made notes all over the place about things I'll need to go back and change later though, and every time I've done that it's helped clarify where I am, which is good.

My aim's to reach the end of this story before the end of February, so that I can have a couple of days off before jumping in to NaNoEdMo. After that... well, I'm not sure. I think I might let it sit for a while and work on one of the other ideas swirling around, but I'll see how I feel when I get to that point.

Current Status
Current word count: 66537
Sentence of the week: I couldn't see anything in the dark misty world of our minds, but I could almost feel the world we were passing over below us as we headed west. I could sense when we were above a large town, and when we passed a pack of wolves hiding sleepily in their den. Most vividly though, I sensed when we began to approach the Elves. - It's not that it's particularly well written - it's just that it really feels like fantasy, and I think that's something I've been struggling with a bit.

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Plodding along

This week has been a bit slow really - I've had lots of work to do, although I have been extremely bad about putting most of it off (don't mention tax to me right now). But just knowing it's there makes me put other stuff off too, which means that I end up not getting round to writing until 10 or 1030 at night. Today I made a point of getting up earlier than normal, and got about 400 words written before I started work. In total, I've only managed about 3K since my last post.

More positively, though, I've also done scene summaries for everything so far, and gone through everything to make sure that I know what I need to tie up with the rest of the story. That does mean that I've also spotted a few fairly big problems with the story so far, but so far I'm resisting the urge to edit. I really want to get to the end of this one. (Partly because I haven't managed that yet, but also because I then really want to write the backstory for one of the other characters - her history is fascinating me and I am desperate to find out more about it, but at the moment it's not fitting in to the current story.)

So far today, it's a total of 765, which is about what I've managed the last couple of days. But since it's only 10, I have a bit longer to stretch out my writing time, and I think I'd better go make the most of that!

Current Status:
Current word count: 63980 (with a few more later tonight hopefully)
Favourite sentence this week: Finally her eyes wandered down to settle on the quivering ball of fur I was holding, and a soft smile crept over her face. Because in context, it says so much more than the words.
Best moment of the week: Realising that despite the feeling I've been having of not knowing where to go, I do actually have a lot of places left to visit in this story.
Worst moment of the week: Realising that the villain's destructive plan needs a LOT of work.

Thursday, 15 January 2009

A year on...

A year on, and I'm almost exactly where I was this time last year. Except this time last year was about when I ground to a halt. And this time my word count, only about 1K off what I was on when I just about gave up last year, is for a different story entirely. Thank goodness for NaNoWriMo kickstarting me again.

So I've been writing again since November, despite a lull in December due to crazy work hours, but I didn't want to start posting here again too soon for fear that the same thing would happen all over again. I made a total of ten posts before abandoning this place altogether. Fortunately the wonderful girls over at Will Write For Wine are keeping me honest now, so I am hopeful that maybe this year, I'll keep at it. By 'it' I mean the writing - but as long as I keep writing, maybe I'll manage to keep this updated too. I've also subscribed to a writing magazine at last, so at least once a month I'm getting a timely prod and reminder. I do now have a nifty new iPod, which means I can listen to relevant podcasts when actual writing isn't an option.

So, I'm wishing myself luck for the new year. Maybe I'll even call it a resolution.