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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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#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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WIP Marathon February check-in

Yeah, you read that right. February. That’s how I roll.

Actually, that’s how I rolled last month. Next time around should be more prompt. A last-minute weekend jaunt to London, followed by our annual March-let’s-get-some-sun-before-rickets-sets-in holiday, this time to the Canary island of Fuerteventura, sort of took over. I was still working, I just didn’t get around to posting about it, though if I could choose one or the other, writing wins over writing about writing every time.

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That said, my February check-in has arrived!

Last report word count: 113,431

Current report word count: 120,600 — bearing in mind that I’m on a sort of second draft right now, cleaning up the first draft hot mess and smoothing out some side plots and world building before sending it to CPs/betas. I don’t have a goal word count for this, but in the end I’d be happy around 100-110k. It’s become a bit more epic than I intended, but I *always* prefer to have lots of padding to work with when I get to the serious edits later on down the road, so I’m pleased with this!

WIP issues this month: I’ve had surprisingly few stumbling blocks, but there are things . . .  like a scene I wrote within my outline parameters, but then threw in a twist at the end. Some characters open a chest in another character’s chambers, and they’re shocked by what they find.

Why did I do that? I had no idea what was inside, and just left the scene that way and carried on. Now in this 2nd draft, I’ve had to puzzle out what of significance they could’ve discovered. Last night, I succeeded. But I tend to work like that! It’s not very organised and for someone as Type-A as I can be, that’s bizarre. But I’m learning that the way I work in writing is not indicative of the way I work in other matters 😉

Four things I learned this month in writing:

1. This I actually learned in reading: the thing that makes me enjoy a book isn’t how perfectly the opening scene is crafted (though a first scene has quite an impression and a lot of responsibility), but the characters and their choices, above all else. One of my holiday reads had an opening scene that made me think it would be a fluffy, one-dimensional tale of one-dimensional characters. Which isn’t good, but this book had such hype, and the subject matter interested me so I pressed on. I’m glad I did! I LOVED the book. So while opening scenes are weighty indeed, I only saw how it fit the story and characters as I read on. On its own, it made me literally wrinkle my nose. But in the end, it all worked together.

2. This isn’t something new, but a necessary reminder! I have a tendency to say the same thing in 2 or 3 (or, geez Louise, sometimes 4) different ways. I don’t know why. I think my brain feels this idea is so *deep* that the reader won’t get all that I’m trying to convey if I don’t describe it from multiple angles. But you know what? That doesn’t really matter. Different readers will always take different views of your words. Nailing a feeling, a vibe, or that one key feature is great. If they don’t get every last little nuance you want to impart, the story goes on. Just nail the key, and trust the reader (ie, get over yourself 😉 Less is often much, much more. They will fill it in with their own experiences just fine.

3. Some great tips on foreshadowing, by K.M. Weiland here.

4. And again, this is obvious, but sometimes the obvious things are the things I need reminding of the most: mystery = compelling. I wrote this on a Post-it and stuck it on my corkboard. Every scene needs to have something, no matter how small, that compels the reader to keep reading. Sometimes I get caught up in ticking all the plot boxes that I forget the simplest goal of each scene is to make the reader care, whether through a budding curiosity, a heart-twisting cliff-hanger, or a shocking revelation. There’s gotta be a question of who, what, where, when, or why, or you lose the reader.

What distracted me this month while writing: Piriformis Syndrome. I think this is what I have, coupled with some sciatic nerve nastiness. I’m calling it Writer’s Ass. I’ve had a shooting cold sensation down my right leg, which moves around and wavers in intensity (sometimes disappears! Like it did for the entire week we were in F’ventura!). I’ve been seeing an osteopath and a physical therapist for awhile now and I think we’ve narrowed it down. So. Strengthen the glutes. And I’ve just ordered a kneeling chair. I’ve used them before and they’re great. I’m praying it helps this because I can sit still for so long but the cold sensation can be so intense, it’s hard to think about anything else. No stretch or ibuprofen or hot bath or anything makes it go away when it’s happening, but sometimes I’ll get a few days’ reprieve. Argh.

Goal for next month: I’ve foolishly signed up for Camp NaNo. I’ve no idea how I’m going to write 50k in April when I’m still working on finishing this 2nd draft of NEVERSEA.

Last 250 words: (A random selection from February. Still first draft.)

Then he saw the front door clearly, the same chintzy white curtains hanging in the bay window that he’d meant to replace but believed there’d always be time. And all these years later, he didn’t regret that the time they’d shared had been spent enjoying each other, rather than mundane chores like redecorating. Seeing those curtains now filled his heart with new purpose, like a royal banner being raised, whipping wildly in the winds of decision. He would take time now for those things she wanted — they wanted — to make their home one that reflected the love they had. And the time they’d lost.

The truth will set you free. Wasn’t that what they said? The truth of his otherness would be breathed by his voice, proven by his native form, and all the cover-ups he’d shamefacedly doled out to her would come undone. He didn’t expect her to understand, or to love him still. But the fantasies had given him the guts to come this far.

The moment was here. The jig was up. He knocked on the door, a door like a hundred others in a hundred London suburbs, but as his flesh connected, it could’ve been a silkenstone gate to a palace of crystal and diamond and cut-glass beauty that would only shimmer in his sight. Of all the wonders the cockatrice had seen in his long life on both sides of the fissures, this door and — more importantly — what waited beyond, was incomparable.

A dog’s bark came from inside, followed by the sound of a chair scraping the kitchen floor. His heart thumped like a wild hare beating the burrows to announce the presence of danger.

Anna was allergic to dogs.

– – –

Good luck with March! What’s left of it 😉

White Saharan sands <3
White Saharan sands <3
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