IMG_5355

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.

IMG_8876
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.

Version 2
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):

P1110903
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).
Share Button
IMG_5355

#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.

IMG_8289
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

IMG_1741

 

Share Button
IMG_5355

Write Motivation Mega-Post! May & June

Well, hello there, puffin!

IMG_4256

Yes, it’s a gratuitous puffin, but he’s still adorable, isn’t he? I kinda lost the plot with the end of May’s #writemotivation as it was our first wedding anniversary (which also means it’s been over a year since I started participating in #writemotivation! Woohoo!). We flew up to Glasgow and took the train to Oban for a tour of Mull, Staffa, and Lunga (Inner Hebridean islands) for the express purpose of seeing puffins!

And that we did. I took over 200 photos of puffins, mostly from about 2-3 feet away. They’re absolutely adorable, and on Lunga, they practically nip at your toes. They’re the sweetest creatures I’ve ever seen, and I could’ve watched them for much longer than the 2 hours we had. The tour group (Turus Mara) call that part of the tour “puffin therapy” with good reason. It’s quite soothing to watch them waddling around and posing 🙂 A lot of travel to see these little guys, but we’ve tried before on a different tour and failed, so this was well worth it!

We were away for 4 days and while I did get some writing done in that time, blogging about it didn’t happen. So I’m here to say, I *nearly* finished my goals. I had 2 for May, and the one I nearly finished was my first revision of my WIP. I finished the first draft in April, and I wanted to have a complete edit done in May. I fell about 4 chapters short, but I will have completed this by the end of tomorrow. I can live with that.

IMG_4137

Fingal’s Cave, on the isle of Staffa. Fascinating place!

And on to my June #Writemotivation Goals:

1) Complete Revision #2 (paper revision) of WIP. The first pass this month was just to tidy up some nonsensical sections, fill in some gaps, and generally smooth it over. This time I need to crack down on back story and passive voice! I hope to print out my WIP in its entirety on Tuesday/Wednesday to get started. I’ve never done this before – never did it with my first MS (which may go some way to explaining its thus far lack of success).
2) Find 2 CPs/betas willing to read as soon as this revision is done! I believe I have two of these already 😀
3) Rewrite synopsis. This will be the last thing I do this month, after I’ve done Revision #2 and cleaned it up a bit.

I have high hopes for this month, despite the fact that I’ve got a rather large, exciting distraction for the last 2 weeks of the month. That means I need to work SUPER HARD for the first 2 weeks. We’ll give it a go.

A friend mentioned the Pomodoro Technique which I’d never heard of before, but I’ve certainly seen those little tomato kitchen timers enough. I downloaded a free app and I started it today. I work much better to a timer, I discovered, probably for purely psychological reasons. Check it out if you think you could use a bit of help with time management!

And good luck this month! 😀

IMG_3901

McCaig’s Tower in Oban

Share Button