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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:

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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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#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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WIP Marathon Report #4 – May

How is it June tomorrow? HOW?!

Last report wordcount + chapter count/scene count:

18,160 / 5 chapters / 12 scenes. Some of these scenes are just ideas for later, set aside. 

Current report WC + CC/ SC:

24,795 / 6 chapters /16 scenes. Again, some of these scenes aren’t sorted into chapters yet. I write out of chronological order at times when a future scene starts bubbling up in my head, and save it for later.

Not great progress. Not at all, especially considering I’d hoped, once again, to finish the flippin’ first draft of this by June. It pained me to delete off my iCalendar yesterday, “FINISH 1st DRAFT!” because obviously, that was laughable. But I have spent a LOT of time working on an older MS. Again. 

WIP Issues This Month: 

I’m currently going over what I’ve already written, which I don’t usually approve of in a 1st draft, but I want to make sure I understand the characters and check for tension BEFORE moving forward, and I had a few ideas of improving both these areas. I wanted to implement these ideas now before I drafted any further chapters, and that happened about mid-month so it sort of stalled me in writing new words. But ultimately it will help.

Four things I learned this month while writing:

1. This wasn’t something I learned, but was reminded. You CANNOT and WILL NOT EVER please every reader. Other writers, readers, agents, publishers. Trying to make every change to suit every taste is the way to madness. Note to self: just stop trying.

While I’m beyond grateful for every drop of feedback people are generous enough to share, if I run around changing every aspect of the story I’ll never stop changing it.

I received kind feedback from someone recently who writes other genres/age categories, and obviously likes their characters a bit more bubbly and perky than one particular character of mine. There are things I’m taking from that in order to consider how the character comes across off the bat, yes. But in this example, if I try to make my character fit this person’s taste, I’m doing myself and my writing a disservice. Polishing, yes. Changing to suit someone else’s personal taste? Not unless you agree.

It’s hard to remember for someone like me who is an immense people-pleaser. I want to please everyone, but it’s just not gonna happen. Nor should it.

#1 was a biggie, so I’ll be brief with 2-4.

2. Janice Hardy, as usual, rocks. To add tension to your scenes, think: what do the OTHER characters want? Super-simple, yet effective. Read here.

3.  A reminder from a WD bootcamp I did this month: keep your characters interacting with their environment. Always. Not just standing around thinking. That’s a given, but it’s worth repeating!

4. Another given: if you’re sending a query / letter to your editor / entering a contest, EVEN IF you’ve read the submission pages a thousand times, if you go and tweak one word on the fly, make sure you re-read the whole dang thing. Because if you don’t, inevitably you’ll miss that one word that is actually a word, but the typo in it gives it a whole new meaning. Yep. I did that this month. Just saying.

What distracted me this month while writing:

Such a busy month! May is by far the busiest. I have about 9 family & friends’ birthdays this month. The Scotsman and I went to London for 2 days, saw Phantom, and got to catch up with my old college buddy, Mike (who’s been Miley Cyrus’s keyboardist for 8 YEARS!). I saw Mike in London last time he was here on tour 4 years ago, but he hadn’t met my husband (who was my boyfriend still then). Mike and I went to Belmont University in Nashville together back in the day.

Then the weekend after was a bank holiday. The Scotsman and I did some hiking on a 2-day trip to the Peak District. And last weekend was another bank holiday and our 2-year wedding anniversary, so we had 5 nights away in the Scottish Highlands. My first trip to Aberdeen as well, to visit a friend. It was probably the warmest, loveliest day all year! Who says Aberdeen is cold? 🙂

Doune Castle
Doune Castle

We stayed in Edinburgh one night and in the morning, walked through a neighbourhood my MC in my WIP stays in for part of the story. I took a ton of photos and imagined which flat she might stay in, and there was something really magical about seeing it in real life. I’ve been to Edinburgh dozens of times and usually visit the same places, but this neighbourhood was new to me.

Edinburgh Castle
Edinburgh Castle

We stopped in to see my mother-in-law the next day, toured Doune Castle (filming location of Monty Python & the Holy Grail, and OUTLANDER!), did 2 days of hiking in the Cairngorms, then to Aberdeen. Fun times! 🙂

Hike near Loch Brandy, Glen Clova
Hike near Loch Brandy, Glen Clova

Goal for next month:

1. Be completely polished-as-polished-can-be (aka DONE) with Older MS. That means Chapter One rewritten, CP-approved, polished, DONE.

2. Reach the 50k mark on WIP. That’s a bit more reasonable.

Last 200 words:

Ugh. I just can’t. I struggle sharing first drafts because they’re just so first-drafty! Next time.

And a photo post coming up detailing some of the above-mentioned jaunts 🙂

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WIP Marathon Report #3 – April

Last report wordcount + chapter count/scene count:

13,195 / 3 chapters / 6 scenes. 

Current report WC + CC/ SC:

18,160 / 5 chapters / 12 scenes. Some of these scenes are just ideas for later, set aside.

WIP Issues This Month:

As those numbers reveal, I didn’t spend NEARLY as much time and focus on the WIP as I planned this month. We still have a few days left in the month but I’m sitting here wondering where the majority of April went! We were gone for 5 days to Paris (see previous post) so that really gives me about 14 days of work in the time since our last check-in.

So what the hay else have I been doing? Working on another MS, and spending a lot of time reading. But I’ve also been experimenting with daily routines, trying to find one I can make a habit, or a combination of ones that might work best for me. I’ve come up with two daily (weekday) schedules, and while I know I won’t stick to them exclusively, I’ll spend next week trying them and seeing if it helps productivity.

I think the recent experimentation has shown that I am prone to switching between Chrome tabs and apps like mad… if I think of something I need to do later, I open my to do list. If I remember something I wanted to order from Amazon, I stop what I’m doing and do that. I don’t have ADHD (that I know of), but it’s more a fear of forgetting something and a panicky sense of IT MUST BE DONE NOW. So I’m trying to note on my daily planner anything that pops in my head while I’m working, and then forget it.

I did get a lot done when I look at my spreadsheet for the month, but it wasn’t mostly on this WIP!

Four things I learned this month while writing:

    1. Share things, even silly things you’re unsure of, with CPs. I shared something with my CP, Joy, last week that I thought was a throwaway, which I did just basically toss together. She really liked it. I did NOT expect that, and it turned out to be just what I needed. So never be afraid to run something by a CP or beta, because that’s what they’re there for! (so my CPs and betas, please use me! 🙂
    2. Even the work you do on the run (the train, the bus, waiting in a queue) is work. Write it down, don’t chuck it for not being “real” work since you’re not at a desk. Sometimes my best ideas come when I’ve just got a notebook or iPad sitting on a train.
    3. This article on rejection — so encouraging! http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-8400/if-youve-been-rejected-read-this.html

    4. Another article from author Jen Blood about writing suspense: http://blog.janicehardy.com/2012/05/guest-author-jen-blood-5-ways-to-build.html


What distracted me this month while writing:

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Goal for next month:

My goal last month was a joke (finish this WIP’s 1st draft). But for reals, people. By the end of May, I propose to have this draft complete. COMPLETE, I SAY!! If at first you don’t succeed, right?

Last 200 words:

I plead the Fifth 😉

Good luck with May, fellow WIPMarathoners (and all writer friends! 🙂

 

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