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Scotland Easter

I haven’t been writing on here nearly as much as I used to, and I want to change that.  In the meantime, I might make up for lack of blog words (as I’m trying to focus all my words elsewhere at the moment) with photos.

We just returned from a week in Scotland, and spent 2 nights camping in our favourite spot at the foot of Ben Nevis. There was snow and hail above 700m and it rained almost the entirety of our stay, plus I was on week SIX of a mutating flu/cold/virus thing with my right ear completely blocked, so we didn’t do any proper climbs. But it was gorgeous as ever, regardless of where I stood.

Once back on dry, sunny land in the lowlands, I managed to meet one of my favourite authors (Laini Taylor — author of the DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE trilogy and the recently released STRANGE THE DREAMER, which I’m currently devouring). And ate some scrumptious Mexican food.

Hope you all had a marvelous Easter weekend! <3

Rushing water everywhere on our first hike of the day.

 

 

Love this tree.

 

First view of Steall Falls (my 2nd, but first on this trip), which was used as backdrop in Harry Potter & the GoF.

 

The infamous wire bridge.

 

Steall Hut in the glen facing away from the falls.

 

Steall Falls.

 

Sodden.

 

But all that water makes for gorgeous green, right?

 

Just wet.

 

 

Miros Cantina in Edinburgh, best Mexican in the UK!

 

Had a brief chat with the inspiring and utterly fabulous Laini Taylor at Waterstones in Edinburgh, after her talk and Q&A.

 

Back on dry land, down in Cumbernauld.

 

Until next time!

 

 

 

 

 

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Pitching Helped Me Focus

A bit dusty around here, right?

I was away for 5 weeks in late March-April-early May, and it made this year start to fly, but also kept me off the internet. I missed a ton of #WIPMarathon posts, and generally feel like everything in the world happened on Twitter, and now it’s too late for me to catch up. But if I have to choose, I’d rather be living life then reading about it, and in April I was able to attend RT Booklovers Convention in Las Vegas with my sister (also a writer) 🙂  So it’s all good!

Book Fair at RT
Book Fair at RT

I wanted to review the convention but given it’s been a few months now, it feels outdated. I will say that for a first big American convention (since I’m in the UK and it’s not as easy to attend), I had an overall fantastic experience. I got to hang with one of my CPs (the fabulous Jessica Gunn, whose debut, GYRE, is out now), meet and pitch to agents, listen to some great teaching at the pre-con bootcamp as well as a handful of inspiring and motivating panels and workshops.

Look closely & you'll see my husband & sister on the zip wire at the Rio. I did not take part in this event.
Look closely & you’ll see my husband & sister on the zip wire at the Rio. I did not take part in this event.

One of the most memorable was a workshop on prose by Kate Brauning and Nicole Baart, about the sound of language, Latinate versus Germanic words (which I’m ashamed to admit I never considered before — if you want to see how Jane Austen used language to reveal character, check this out), synaesthesia (sense given to something abstract), transferred epithet, and much more.

Pocket Picard checking out Yosemite
Pocket Picard checking out Yosemite
“When you’re tired, you take a nap-a, you don’t MOVE to Napa.” – Carrie Bradshaw

It was a great opportunity to meet other writers at various points in their journeys, published authors, agents, and editors, and I am so grateful I was able to attend. Highly recommended! I appreciated that many of the writing workshops were not genre-specific, and there were a good handful aimed at SFF writers or targeted areas of the craft such as fight scenes.

Maybe the most useful outcome has been honing pitches. I pitched to agents in person for the first time, and I was ridiculously nervous. But after a few workshops and some advice from the supportive writing community around me, when I sat down to work, in about 20 minutes I put together a 3-minute pitch, managing what I hadn’t been able to do ever before: communicate the hook and meat of one of my manuscripts in under 3 minutes, comps included.

I can’t lie. I often struggle to be concise. My first drafts are about 30% longer than the final draft. But this exercise forced me to stamp down on the feeling that I HAVE to mention XYZ about my plot, oh, and this character’s arc, oh, and this bit of world-building, and this theme, and … and … Something just clicked in my head, and I’m confident that if I focus on what I can say in 3 minutes or less, I’ll have boiled down the concept and the hook and can stop right there. For me, it was about what I would say verbally to another person. I always stumbled over elevator pitches to friends and acquaintances who asked what my books were about, but this forced me to see it as a useful strategy for finding the focus of the story and sticking to it, throughout the writing, editing, and pitching process.

After RT, the Scotsman met me in Vegas for a California road trip through Death Valley (beautiful, especially seeing the highest and lowest points within the continental U.S. without moving my feet!), through Napa and down Highway 1, which I never drove all the time I lived in California. Despite the fun travels, this spring was a very difficult time for personal and family reasons, making 2016 the most stressful and challenging year I’ve ever had. It all made me more thankful for my friends than ever — I was able to meet up with seven old friends in California and Vegas, many of whom I haven’t seen in 10 years or more, as well as spend a weekend with both my sisters together. By the time this year is done, I’ll have seen every one of my dearest friends in the same year, which has *never* happened before. I’m reminded how amazing each one is, and that while distance sucks, it doesn’t stop us from picking up where we left off 🙂

I’ve been learning so much, not just about writing and publishing but about myself, where I want to be, and how and who I want to be. It’s a daily struggle, but I’m grateful for the lessons I’ve been able to learn and hopeful that I can implement them to make the rest of 2016 a more joyful and positive time. I think the theme for this year has been cutting away the unnecessary to get to what really matters. Practicing pitching has, in a strange way, helped me focus on what’s actually important in life as well as in my stories <3

Yosemite
Yosemite
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#WIP Marathon — January!

Last report word count:

When last I left my WIP, SAPPHIRA RISING, I was at about 20k, with a load of backstory and character arcs written out on top of that…

Current word count:

…but, somehow, despite feeling not *fabulous* about my progress in January — you know, berating myself for too many breaks, too many internet black-holes, not enough consistent daily habits — I somehow managed to get the WIP up to a whopping 59,988!

If this t-shirt would suit you like it would me (though I did a film degree, not English. Sentiment’s the same!) …

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… then to help you out 😉 that means I somehow got almost 40k done in January! WOOHOO! Not including all the other stuff I wrote that WASN’T this WIP.

WIP Issues This Month:

I’ve been away from this WIP for since early summer, busy on other manuscripts and online writing classes. I realized the truth in something Delilah Dawson said in her LitReactor class on world building back in Nov/Dec. As I mentioned last month, she said she sees first drafts as carrying hot laundry from the dryer. You need to hold all of it tightly and walk as fast as you can. If you drop stuff, you have to go back and find it. If you go too slow, it gets cold.

I loved this analogy, but this month, I recognised its applicability. I let this WIP go cold, and as a result, had to work really hard to find any spark in it. I should have written it when the idea first came, but my writing brain was occupied by other stuff. I’m not 100% back in love with the original idea, but at least after January, I can say I’m rolling out the words again, and maybe a *new* spark for me — for this story — will ignite.

And as for first drafts, these two recent tweets spoke to my soul. Maybe you can relate, too:

Screen Shot 2016-02-01 at 2.14.38 pm
Screen Shot 2016-02-01 at 2.14.16 pm

That’s the best way I’ve ever seen to summarise first drafts:

“Here’s the worst version of this scene I could write. Moving on.”

That should be my aim. In fact, I want to write that on a Post-It and stick it to my monitor whenever I’m first-drafting.

Four things I learned this month in writing:

Apart from the above, there’s also everything I read in Elizabeth Gilbert’s rad book, BIG MAGIC. Walk, do not run, to your nearest bookstore or Amazon and buy this book. I’ve never read EAT, PRAY, LOVE nor anything else by her. But this book picked me up from a dark place and put me on my feet. And each time negative thoughts have encroached on my flow, I’ve gone back to highlighted passages. I went to a café and copied all the best bits into the back of my daily planner, so they’re there, with me, all the time. Reminding me.

One of my favourites:

“The ones who stand at the gates of our dreams are not automatons. They are just people. They are just like us. There is no neat template that can ever predict what will capture any one person’s imagination, or when; you just have to reach them at the right moment. But since the moment is unknowable, you must maximise your chances. Play the odds. Put yourself forward in stubborn cheer, and then do it again and again and again.”

(emphasis mine).

What distracted me this month while writing:

David Bowie. Alan Rickman. The days we learned of the deaths of these two wonderful artists, I felt physically hit by a wave of loss. I’m writing a very belated blog post about this that I’ve not put up yet. That was an extremely emotional week, especially given of course that I didn’t know either personally, and I can’t begin to imagine what their families and loved ones are going through now. I’m just another fan and appreciator of all they did. But wow. I hadn’t expected the impact.

On the bright side, I dove into Bowie’s music and Rickman’s work with renewed love, and am inspired more than ever.

Gylly Beach, Falmouth, Cornwall
Sunrise on Gylly Beach, Falmouth, Cornwall

On another bright note, I then went to Falmouth, Cornwall for another writing retreat for five entire days. (I know, right? I’m trying to enjoy it while I can). I got a lot of thinking, reading, and writing done, so while this could have been a major distraction, the weather was decent enough that I got out for seaside walks but didn’t sit lost in people-watching all day. I actually sat in my closet of a hotel room most of the time, pounding away at the keyboard.

Goal for next month:

I’d hoped to get 50k written in my WIP during January, but since I got almost 40k + a few thousand on two separate stories, plus my first completed short story ever (4k) through a 2-week Lit Reactor class with Richard Thomas on short story mechanics, I’m absolutely thrilled with my progress so far in 2016. Praise God.

So for February, I’d like to finish my WIP first draft, and finish the edits on my last MS that I thought were long done. But no. An adverb hunt led from one thing to another. It’s amazing how in love you can grow with the adverbs that have been in your story since the beginning. You feel like they’re part of the DNA. I’m here to say, THEY ARE NOT. CUT. Cut the ones you don’t need! I’m leaving in a few that I think are integral to the tone, mostly in dialogue. I don’t think you need to cut them all, but just try it. Cut out an adverb you’ve been clinging to for months, and then re-read the entire paragraph, and come back and tell me it doesn’t sound cleaner, neater, more elegant. 🙂

Last 250 words:

This is so very first-drafty. But I haven’t done it in awhile, so here’s something.

“Fretting doesn’t suit you, Charon,” came Galen’s voice from the tank. “And it’s unnecessarily. It’s my fault. I told you people on Staffa were after me. I stole tech from Staffa when Arthur was still alive. He required help with a project, and that was the easiest source for the parts he needed. I got them, but not before being ID’ed, and banned from entering this sector. They only discovered it was me four years ago, but when they did, they had my commanding officer inject me with tracer fluid.”

“So if you flew in this sector, an alert would go up. Great. But why the hell did this affect Sapphira just now? What’s going on?” Jericho stood and leaned over the tank, glaring down at Galen’s face.

Galen sounded like he might shrug if he was attached to a body. “I went rogue, shortly after.”

“I can understand why,” said Charon.

“But why Sapphira?”

“I suspect those on Staffa raised an energy field when the tracer fluid set off alarm bells. The timing of the field raising must have coincided with your download of my memories back into my brain. This set off a reaction, like static electricity, only much more powerful, and as Sapphira was touching me . . .” His voice trailed off. “Also, you’ll find this cruiser is unable to pass out of the field.”

“Lovely,” muttered Jericho. “We’ll see about that.” He pulled up a chair to the comm panel and Charon got out of his way. “I’ll see what I can do. Charon, see if you can get that tracer fluid out of Galen’s head. We need to get the hell out of here before his old friends lock on.”


If you’re writing, I hope you have a fabulous and productive February 🙂 The days are getting longer! Hooray!

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Unsocial Media

Princes Street Gardens, Edinburgh
Princes Street Gardens, Edinburgh

Helloo! Happy Autumn, or if you’re in the UK like I am, happy fog!

Basically, if you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to live in the UK and haven’t watched Monty Python and the Holy Grail a thousand times like I have, here you go:

Except we don’t usually get the summer bit 😉

Anyhow, it’s been awhile since I’ve blogged for two reasons:

1) I’ve been to the States twice since August, and up to Scotland shortly after, so I’ve had little time to write let alone blog *about* writing.

2) As much as I love reading all the wonderful content out there, not just about writing but about people’s lives, their adventures, their struggles, how they handle and overcome those struggles, most of the time I don’t feel a great need to blog about my own.

When I do, I post something, but lately I feel strongly that what I add to the bulging-at-the-seams interwebz needs to be meaningful, even if just in a small way. I don’t want to post about how much I wrote or didn’t if it doesn’t matter to anyone but me. I guess I don’t know exactly what my blog should include at this point, but along with the updates I share with #WIPMarathon and other writer buddies, I want it to say *something*, even if it’s just, “This is what I learned this month.”

Which brings me to this post’s point. Yesterday I read about Essena O’Neill‘s departure from social media Continue reading “Unsocial Media”

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September #WIP Marathon Check-in (I miss summer already).

Coastguard Beach, Cape Cod
Coastguard Beach, Cape Cod

Well hello there! Hope you’ve all had a gorgeous summer! I certainly have, having just returned from 3 weeks to the USA to visit my family and then do a road trip of New England (which I’d never explored before–and I totally want to go back, especially Boston, Maine, and Cape Cod).

I always find this time of a year a bit… bleak. Don’t get me wrong, there are some beautiful blue-sky days where the air feels crisp and clean. But I’m such a spring/summer girl and the shorter days and lack of green leaves and sunshine really do my head in (I do have a SAD lamp, but nothing beats a walk outside on a summer’s day for me. Nothing.)

That’s why, when I read a collection of Ray Bradbury’s short stories recently, these two paragraphs grabbed my heart and found me nodding vigorously. Yes. This is exactly how lonely autumn always feels to me: Continue reading “September #WIP Marathon Check-in (I miss summer already).”

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