I Love Trees, and other disclaimers

choose joy

So I’m way behind (two months, in fact) on check-ins with the #WIPMarathon gang, and I haven’t just blogged to blog in donkey’s years (real time, a few months). I’ve been buried in my current manuscript, as well as summer travels, and a decision that seems increasingly weightier every time I peer at it. Sideways.

But now’s the time to sort that out. Summer’s always my busiest time of year since that’s when we tend to cram in all the trips. July was the most incredible (I mean that literally; I couldn’t believe how much I fit in) month, and I can tell you that easily because I recently invested in one of these:

http://www.passionplanner.com/

I had to order it from the States but it was well worth it. I like lists and organising and planning, and I’ve tried any number of diaries and planners over the past two decades (I was very fastidious with my planning back in high school, too!), but this one is TRUE LOVE.

I won’t go into all the reasons why — check it out for yourself — but suffice it to say it shows me at a glance how I’m doing this week, asks me questions, gives me encouraging quotes, and does it all in a neat, tidy, professional-looking package (without being sterile-looking).

Anyhow, back to July! When I answered my questions about how July went, how I felt about it, etc., I was BLOWN AWAY by how much I accomplished in the month! It’s my favourite month, I suppose rather egotistically because my birthday’s in it (even though these days, the idea of no longer being 25 freaks me right out), but also because it’s summer and reminds me of all the fun childhood summer adventures I had.

giant volleyball
This July, though. My husband and I played in TWO separate outdoor volleyball tournaments with our friendly club (the Horfield Hornets), Wick and Whitefield in the Bristol area. Between those two weekends, I went to Falmouth, Cornwall (where I attended uni) on a solo writing break for 4 nights, had the most glorious (distracting) weather, and edited about 50k words.

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The next free weekend, we went to the west coast of Wales for my birthday present (my husband is the most thoughtful guy ever), which was a day photography course with this guy:

http://www.andydavies.info/pages/workshops/skomer.html

We took a small boat to Skomer Island and I learned some new tips for using my DSLR to photograph wildlife, specifically, puffins (and how I love puffins… and taking photos of them; my patronus is a puffin). So that was magical.

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And in the midst of all of that, I finished 2 passes on my manuscript and got to host one of my dear uni friends for 2 weeks while she was doing a course nearby.

And all sorts of other things went down. I had my first (and I would love to say, last) MRI! I was forced to remove the belly button piercing I’ve had in since I was 22! (and put it back in immediately afterwards). I went bowling and beat my husband 179 to 177! (He wins at every game and sport ever ever ever). All KINDS of jolly japes!

We were in the VIP pit at Taylor Swift’s first ever concert in Scotland, in Glasgow, and she was adorable and sweet and entertaining as always (oops, that was June, but here’s a photo anyhow):

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Admiring her outfit as much as I was.

Needless to say, been a bit busy! But regarding…

WIP MARATHON!

I can’t really add my check-ins for June and July now, but I will say this. Trees. I love them. I wish Ents were real. Trees make this world marvellous, and I’m happiest when I’m in (or near) a forest. But I’ve gotta say, I’ve just learned the secret to editing (for me) is printing the manuscript.

That’s right. I’m on manuscript #4 and have never printed that bad boy off before, but I’ve done it now, three rounds on the current manuscript, and taken each to Staples for a cheap comb binding. And the number of invaluable changes I’ve made because I’ve seen it all on paper is beyond counting.

The proof!
The proof!

I try to utilise as much paper space as possible, so I set the page horizontally, make two columns, font size to 11, and single-spaced. Some people might say this’ll drive them cross-eyed, but it works for me. It looks (somewhat) like a real book, and that tricks my mind into seeing so much more than on the screen. Even my with massive Apple Thunderbolt screen.

I’ve read for years the tip about printing your MS and editing on paper, but until I actually did it, I sorely undervalued it. I did two drafts and two passes on Scrivener, received feedback from my crit partners, made those changes, all before printing off the first hard copy. It seems like a lot of work looking back, but I’m lip-bitingly optimistic that this has saved me a lot more work, given the endless revisions I did on previous manuscripts.

So, fellow WIPMarathoners, if I have any tip from the past two months to share, that’s it. If you’re like me and just smile and nod when people say that but have never actually tried it, I highly recommend giving it a shot once.

Of course, as with everything in the romantic and whimsical dreamscape that is the writer’s life (yeah, I know), what works for one doesn’t work for another. There is no secret recipe, but for me this has been a massive boost.

Until next time, enjoy the rest of your August!

The Scotsman and I had theme shirts this year. If you know these names, big-ass batch of brownie points to YOU. (Best ep ever).
The Scotsman and I had theme shirts this year. If you know these names, big-ass batch of brownie points to YOU. (Best ep ever).
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#WIPMarathon May Check-in

I never turned assignments in late at uni, but for some reason I find myself late almost every month with the WIP Marathon update. I think it’s because I’m usually busy on Saturdays, nowhere near my computer, and then the week gets rolling, and you know how that story goes. But the Marathon helps me see my progress and everyone else’s, and that’s encouragement I sorely need!

Kilchurn Castle, Loch Awe
Kilchurn Castle, Loch Awe

Last word count:
119,336.

Current word count:
118,177. That works for me. I finished my 2nd draft and did send it off to some CPs like I planned, so it’s been in their capable hands for awhile now.

On my last day of that 2nd draft, I worked through over 20,000 words. Mostly because they were the last words I’d drafted so they were fresher in my mind and more in line with what the story had become by the time I got to the end. But I was relieved and thrilled to put up 20 little star stickers on my calendar for the day, denoting the amount of words read/revised. 🙂

WIP Issues This Month:

After I finished that draft and sent it to CPs, I was ready to get back to my space opera, WIP #2. I hadn’t looked at it in 6 months so it was pretty daunting. I MUCH prefer revisions to first-drafting. I love research, when the ideas start to organically unfold, but I find I’m way more tightly-wound and in my own head when I’m world building and character developing and drafting. I feel like my brain is trying to find its way through a swamp made of superglue and treacle. This is the period of a million lists, scraps of paper, documents, and disparate ideas, where I’m trying to combine them all into some semblance of a 3-act structure.

Treacle. That’s all I’m saying.

Four things I learned this month while writing:

1. Something about each scene must be wrong, off, and irreconcilable. And that wrongness can’t be understood unless a reader keeps reading.

This is so simple, the idea that every scene needs a mystery to keep the reader compelled. But put this way, it actually feels doable to me.

2. I still don’t know if heavy outlining/planning is for me. I’m a plotter/pantser hybrid, and spreadsheets and documents and notebooks that have it All Planned Out sounds fantastic. But every time I try it, I think, this is all going to change when I start writing, so what’s the point? 

I guess the point is a starting place. I’d love to chart the whole thing right to the end, but inevitably characters and plot twists appear as I’m drafting. I have to accept that I make the plans in order to change them, but that doesn’t mean I can get away with the plans I make now being crap. They have to exist as though they will be written that way. They have to make sense, and be my goal, for now.

I find it too easy to sketch a lame ending and assume I’ll have a better idea by the time I get there. Which, when you think about it, is not what you want to be working toward throughout the first draft process. You need an ending you’re dying to reach. So I need to work on discipline to at least sketch out major story beats that I can’t wait to write.

3. It dawned on me that I will never be a hardcore fan or writer of hard sci-fi. Star Trek is about as “hard” as I get. The sci-fi I’ve read and loved has been varied, but the stuff I re-read is mostly along the lines of outrageous adventures focused on the characters and their interactions, with few tech explanations and long-winded scientific hoo-hah.

See? I just used the word “hoo-hah” to explain something science-y.

I don’t know why this never occurred to me before, but I realised that there are a lot of opinions out there about what truly defines sci-fi, and as for what I am attempting to write in this WIP, I think it would more accurately be called space opera or space fantasy.

I’m in utter awe of hard sci-fi authors, but I’m the first to acknowledge my limitations. I know what I find most entertaining and moving. And that’s what I have to write. And that is absolutely a-okay.

4. I actually am becoming more efficient. It doesn’t feel like it, day to day, but when I look at how much more I accomplish when I stick to a loose routine, and how much quicker I am at, say, ruthlessly revising a scene the first time around, I feel good about the progress I’ve made in the past several years. It’s easy to feel like I haven’t succeeded since I graduated from uni. But as one of my old lecturers told me last year, this time is all work. It’s the behind-the-scenes prep that will pay off, and it’s necessary. It’s not wasted.

What distracted me this month while writing:

After I sent off WIP #1 to CPs, I had two weekend trips to Cornwall, one day trip to London, and a 4-day driving trip to Scotland and back, and not just Glasgow but Oban, which is on the west coast. Then I got a cold which mutated into another cold the second the first cold ended. So May didn’t yield much fruit on the tree that is WIP #2.

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Getting ready to reboard the Hoy Lass from Staffa.

But the trips were all good. In London I saw two old friends from Australia, one of whom I went to Falmouth University with and hadn’t seen either of them in about 6 years. It was a quick, fly-in visit as they were just stopping off here, but it was amazing and felt like no time had passed. One of the best days I’ve had all year. Plus the Scotsman and I spent our third anniversary in the Inner Hebrides watching puffins. Puffins, in person, for the second time in my life. Amazing! <3

Goal for next month:
1.
Complete the Snowflake method (more or less) on WIP #2, including a beat sheet, a rough list of scenes, and character sheets. If I can get the major plot points and an ending I’m excited to write sketched out, no matter how sketchy, I will be THRILLED.

Until next time <3

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#WIPMarathon April Check-in

Outlandia path in Glen Nevis
Outlandia path in Glen Nevis

Okay, so it’s April’s check-in for WIP Marathon but I’m here to say, we’ve still got four whole days left in this month! And I will finish what I said I’d finish in April by the time the 30th rolls around. Maybe we should start doing these on the last day of the month, whenever that day falls? :}

Oh, and here are more gratuitous shots of yet another set of Scottish adventures.

Last word count:
116,587. What was a first draft of my WIP has become a second draft, really. When I was drafting it in Nov-Jan, I started to change my mind on characters by the time I got to the last third of the ms. And I also began to develop more worldbuilding ideas. So when I wanted to do a quick read for continuity of the first draft before sending it to CPs, I realised a lot more work had to be done for them to receive a coherent story. (Or something vaguely resembling one, anyhow).

I also realised there’s no point in sending out a mish-mash patchwork story to anyone, if those ideas are all likely to change. So rather than work on a new WIP for Camp NaNo, I’ve spent the month giving this story a much more detailed clean-up. Terminology confuses me sometimes, but this was no revision. This was just trying to get all the subplots to make sense!

Current word count:
119,336. I’m happy with this. As I said last month, this is unfolding to be a rather epic tale, and if I have about 120k to send to CPs/betas, then when they tell me everything that’s wrong with it (haha) and I have to turn into Edward Scissorhands to clean it up, I’ll have plenty of buffer.

WIP Issues This Month:
I think this story is a bit schizophrenic at the moment, so trying to fix that has become trying to accept it. It will have several more drafts before it’s ready to go, but in the meantime, it is what it is. And until I chip away at it to find out exactly what kind of story it wants to be (apart from fantasy, obviously), it has a handful of elements in it that *I* would want to read. The fact that they’re currently all mixed together is something I’ve decided is okay, for now.

Loch Tulla near Bridge of Orchy

Four things I learned this month while writing:

1. Get characters talking. I’m pretty sure I “learned” this before, but it’s an important point. I just finished reading RED SEAS UNDER RED SKIES by Scott Lynch — second in the hugely engrossing Locke Lamora series. Actually, I listened to the audiobooks for both because the voice actor is perfect. Lynch is one of the most incredible world builders and the detail he delves into makes you believe in his world implicitly (though some might say that detail gets a little rambly at times, but on audiobook I don’t mind it so much since I’m usually multi-tasking).

Lynch is also amazing at dialogue. They’re never talking heads. And what I realised is how much time he spends in dialogue. He has his interludes of descriptive language of setting or how an aspect of his world works; but when the characters are talking, it’s never boring. It’s always entertaining, always revealing conflict, always upping the tension. He’s a master at this stuff and highly recommended.

Of course, not all books share the same style, but it’s helping me be unafraid of pushing the dialogue envelope. I have a tendency to leave them in their heads and that’s BAD, and boring after a very short while, but most importantly, misses out on conflict.

Yes, a character can be in conflict within themselves and that’s often a large part of the story; but it can’t be the only part.

I also read an article by KM Weiland where she discussed one of the easiest ways to fix a boring scene is to get the characters interacting. The most basic of concepts… but I’ll take that reminder as often as I can.

And I’m leaving it at just the 1 item for this month because it’s a biggie 😉

What distracted me this month while writing:
Apart from a long Easter weekend trip to Glasgow (8 hour drive because of traffic so a VERY long trip) and two fun, peaceful, rejuvenating days camping and hiking in Glen Nevis/Glencoe, I’ve not had a lot of distraction. Mostly had my head down trying to plough through the most difficult stage of editing (to my mind) — when ideas are still forming. I find polishing much easier than arguing internally between various characters’ traits or personalities, for instance. Once I know them well, I’m much happier!

The north face of Ben Nevis.
The north face of Ben Nevis.
Buachaille Etive Mor. We’ve been up there 2x! NEVER ceases to amaze me 🙂

Goal for next month:
1. 
Send out A SIGHT OF NEVERSEA (this WIP) to my CPs.
2. LEAVE IT ALONE while they have it.
3. Read, brainstorm, and return to the first draft of my space opera.
4. As for other matters of which some are aware, grow in the areas of patience and belief I’m on the right path, no matter what the outcome is.

Looking forward to seeing how everyone else did this month!

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#WIPMarathon 12: January

Hello! You may have noticed my blog theme has changed. My old background decided to go offline and I’ve not had time to customise this new theme, but it works for now.

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View from Gyllyngvase Beach, Falmouth, Cornwall, Monday sunrise. <3

 

So our first WIP Marathon check-in for 2015 is here and it’s been my most productive month in awhile — my most non-NaNo month I should say.

I just returned from a 5-day writing getaway in Falmouth, Cornwall (where I went to uni) and it was such a refreshing and invigorating time that I’m pretty much sold on the idea of trying to do it a few times a year. I’ll post about how it went and writing holidays in general in a day or so.

On to WIP Marathon!

Last report word count:

80,936

Current report WC:

113,431

Yes, that means I wrote 32,495 words in January!! This is truly AMAZING and I hope I can keep this up, given how sluggish parts of 2014 were. This year is off to a fabulous start!

This WIP is an adult fantasy, the bulk of which was drafted during NaNo. My goal at the end of December was to finish the first draft in January. I got a shedload written in Falmouth, but yesterday, the last day of January, I managed a whopping 8,889 words in one 24-hour period.

I took plenty of breaks, went to the gym, watched several Sex & the City eps with dinner, and kept coming back to it and somehow, got my climax scene written. It helped that I had a list of beats and all the revelations that had to come out in the end. I somehow write better when I get up every 30 minutes and do something else for 5-10 minutes in between.

WIP Issues This Month:

I struggled with the last scene. I spent all Saturday trying to write it but it didn’t want to come, and I think it was because I was trying to force it in a setting I didn’t know and couldn’t picture well. It felt nowhere near as spectacular as it could be. So I changed the setting, and the characters found their voices in it a lot easier.

Four things I learned this month while writing:

1) If a scene isn’t flowing, take a muse break. Watch TV, a film, get some exercise, read a book. Or do what I did and change the setting.

2) I can’t begin to list all the things I’ve learned from rereading Susan Sipal’s fantastic A WRITER’S GUIDE TO HARRY POTTER. If you’re an HP fan, check it out. It uses endless examples of how JKR made HP so addictive and believable and rich.

3) Revelatory dialogue at a chapter’s end can be a good thing. A sudden and surprising piece of info coming out of a character’s mouth can focus in on the character and their secrets, and build suspense for the next scene (if done properly, of course). Someone recently told me this doesn’t work, but I just read MAKE A SCENE by Jordan Rosenfeld and she addresses this exact technique. And her explanation made more sense to me than the other person’s argument 😉

4) Regarding internalisation/inner dialogue: Instead of telling readers what the character is thinking, show it. Sounds simply put that way, but read this amazing post by the always awesome Janice Hardy. I really struggle with falling back on internalisation has a bad habit, and this really clarified it for me. I’m finally become hyper-aware of when my POV character is dithering over an action rather than just TAKING it.

What distracted me this month while writing:

I had writing and life issues in general because I jacked my back over Christmas — possibly just prolonged bad posture at the computer, or a dodgy yoga pose, or something. I saw an osteopath and physio TWICE each. It’s nothing major, I just need to keep up with stretches and get up every half hour. But when it’s bothering me, it feels like the back of my right leg, from my butt down to my foot, is really cold. Not to the touch, but inside. Very unpleasant and ridiculously hard to concentrate when it’s happening, but when I’m running or walking, I don’t seem to notice it. Going to keep up the osteo visits and hopefully get it sorted out.

Goal for next month:

One complete read-through and first revision of this WIP done, and hopefully have sent it off to some CPs/betas by then.

Last 200 words:

I’m going to hold off on this, given that my last scene was . . .  well, my last scene. But next month when I’ve done a round of revisions, I’ll be happier to share something then 🙂

Hope it was a productive month for all my fellow WIPMarathoners, and I’ll be posting soon about my writing holiday experiences, and how I managed to write 14k+ in one week (when I’ve been a snail for most of the year).

Happy February!

 

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It’s been HOW long?

So my last post was aptly titled, “I’ve Been Away.” I’ve been away again, but I definitely don’t want to make a habit of it.

This summer, I did some of the most awesomely fun things ever. My friends Lauri and Charlie and I visited our university town of Falmouth, Cornwall. I was busy with multiple trips to Paris and London and the U.S. to see family. My two sisters and I were in the same place at the same time, which is rare these days and always over way too fast. I met my new niece for the first time. Then more trips, my first Star Trek convention, in London (at which I met the entire cast of TNG except for Jonathan Frakes and Wil Wheaton, who didn’t attend, sadly… but it was AMAZING), some friends’ wedding in Lyon, France, and just lots of incredible busy-ness! (Did I mention I met Brent Spiner on both sides of the Atlantic? Data = <3).

But unfortunately, the health problems I was struggling with in my last post are still present. And I’m angry at myself for allowing it to put a damper on everything that happened over the past 8 months.

I just had my 2nd gastroscopy, this time to biopsy my esophagus. I’m awaiting those results, but the scope itself showed that my esophagus and stomach looked to be in perfect working condition. The endoscopist said, “You’ve got a stomach to be proud of!”

All of which is lovely, except it doesn’t explain my mystery swallowing problem. When I eat most foods, it feels like they’re sitting somewhere between the back of my throat and the entrance to my stomach. And no tests or x-rays have been able to show any problems. It might be easy to dismiss this as a mental problem except that I did have gastritis, which has been treated with PPIs that I’m still taking, and the acid reflux it’s caused has been known to also cause swallowing problems. It’s just that no doctor has been able to TELL me, “Yes, this is what’s going on. Do this, and you’ll get better.”

So for now, I’m still taking the PPIs, hoping they’re doing something, and await a specialist appointment in December (that was made in July and can’t be bumped any sooner).

I know this is not a serious issue, and the doctors have assured me of this as well. But to me, it’s serious, because it’s affected my quality of life. It’s made me miserable to be around, and made me miserable, period. I want to eat like I used to. I’d LOVE a glass of red wine. I’d love to just eat like normal and not think twice, “Is this going to feel stuck in my esophagus and make me panic?” Though I remind myself over and over, this isn’t major. Some people have REAL issues. This is not one of them.

And, I have faith. The only real comfort I’ve had has been God getting me through this. I might feel at the end of my rope some days, but I’m back to writing regularly, and exercise.

Which brings me to today’s point. (Yes, I have a point!) — (1) NaNoWriMo, and (2) the gym.

(1) I’m doing NaNo this year! Let’s be buddies! I’ve prepared nothing and have only the beginning of a draft I liked, that had no idea where it was headed, so I’ll work on that.

(2) GYM. Here’s where we throw down. I’ve been trying all sorts of things to overcome the anxiety that’s accompanied this mysterious dysphagia. A lot of it’s been helpful, to a point. I’ve been a runner for years (not a GOOD one, but a runner who does 10ks and is pleased with coming in under an hour. That kind of runner), but since our current neighbourhood isn’t conducive to refreshing jogs, I joined a gym. And it’s time I really use it.

I’ve never done this sort of thing before, but I’m posting it publicly so that, even if no one reads this, I’ll still feel compelled to stick it out. For ONE WEEK, I commit to getting up at 7 on weekdays, going to the gym, and starting my day with a workout behind me. Some people do this without thinking twice. I’d like to just do it, for once 🙂 Beginning next Monday, 3 November.

If you want growth, you gotta get out of your comfort zone, right?

No matter how rainy, no matter how tired, no matter how cold and lazy. I’m going to do it. And we’ll see what all the fuss is about after a week. If I feel better, I’ll try to keep it up. If not, then I’ll go back to once or twice a week whenever I can fit it in.

Until next time, here are some gratuitous photos of the past 4 months (the fun stuff, not the not-fun stuff):

Brent Spiner RocCon 2 - Version 2
Brent Spiner at RocCon in Rochester, NY

 

Gates, Marina & Denise DST3 - 19
The lovely ladies of Star Trek: TNG – Marina Sirtis, Gates McFadden, and Denise Crosby

 

John De Lancie DST3 - 16
John de Lancie. I love Q.

 

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ENGAGE!

 

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The handsome fellas: LeVar Burton, Michael Dorn, and Brent Spiner (again!)

 

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Amazing weather in Paris.

 

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My favourite spot on earth (Allegany State Park, NY)

 

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Another Allegany shot

 

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Lyon, France — hot in October!

 

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Finally – FRONT ROW for Phantom in London. I was SO FREAKING HAPPY.

 

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Our hotel room view. Amazing.

 

 

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Cakes and champagne in Falmouth. As one does. (Thanks, Lauri!)

 

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Stopped for the view on my favourite run, in Falmouth.

I’m grateful to God that I’ve had the opportunity to do all these amazing things and visit these beautiful, breathtaking places. I just need to learn to stop focusing on my feelings, and focus on what’s real, and the other people around me. And in that department, I need all the help I can get.

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