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WIP Marathon February Check-In

A few days late. Fashionable, right?

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These Falmouth clouds mean business.
Last Report WC For WIP:

59,988 on my WIP, SAPPHIRA RISING.

Current Report WC For WIP:

About 75k for SAPPHIRA RISING, 1,297 for New Story A I just started, and 2,384 for New Story B. I have never written simultaneous novel first drafts before. This should tell you something. (See below).

Writing Issues This Month:

I deleted and I wrote, and I wrestled. I had some amazing (for me) word count days: 4,234 one day, 6,043 another, 5,000 another. I’m really proud of the fact that despite how I’ve struggled with this manuscript like no other, the words came out like water from a faucet. It’s just… they weren’t grabbing me. I loved some of the character ideas and worldbuilding and backstory, but I didn’t feel this pulsing NEED to be in my chair writing it, like I did with my first three manuscripts.

I’m still in love with the initial idea, but the words all felt flat. Usually first drafts are the hardest for me, but I felt like I might as well just take a box of letters and toss them into the air and type out whatever landed and I’d have as deep an emotional connection to it.

Bill Bear, moral support on writing trips.
Bill Bear, moral support on writing trips.

So, I did some soul searching, some crying (and moaning to my lovely CPs) and more crying, and yes, I prayed about this hot mess. Lo and behold, the day after I basically surrendered the story, and writing in general — not given up, mind you, just *surrendered* … as in, if this is not what I should be doing, I’m all ears — the next day, I sat down with a notebook and a pen and told my husband to not let me leave my office until I’d written 5 full pages of brainstorming notes.

He didn’t hold me to that, but he didn’t need to. I wrote three pages, and that was enough to ignite me again. I had a shiny new idea — for New Story A. And I’m super excited about it. But I *also* managed to tease out what I didn’t like about SAPPHIRA, what wasn’t working, and I rewrote the entire prologue and backstory. And now I feel like a new person.

I still have a lot of work ahead of me. Out of that 75k, there are lots of ideas and snippets of dialogue that are salvageable, but I have to face the facts that it was all an exercise in finding the story.

You can't go wrong with the hot chocolate at Gylly Cafe.
You can’t go wrong with the hot chocolate at Gylly Cafe.

I’m a hybrid plotter/pantser through and through. Diana Gabaldon says she doesn’t write in a straight line. She writes what she sees happening, scenes and dialogue that come to her, and figures out where to slot them in as she goes. She does a truckload of research, of course, and this probably feeds into those somewhere-scenes, but I admire her for that. She’s not tied down to must create this in the order it is told on the page.

And why should we be? Maybe some people can ONLY work that way and that’s absolutely fine! But it’s so freeing to see, in practical terms, that this might be how I work best, too. Films are made that way, so why not books? Whatever scene can be practically shot next, whatever makes sense for the production crew and makeup and costume and locations and weather and everything else. So of COURSE books can be written the same way. It seems so simple, now that I’ve experienced it, and it gives me a kind of freedom I hadn’t expected.

All that to say, this is my first experience of writing so many words that I’m not keeping. I’ll open two Scrivener windows and as I go, see what bits I can save, but this isn’t about editing those 75k. It’s a fresh start. That’s really hard for an impatient person like me who feels like she’s been waiting a hundred years to find her agent and publisher and see a book of hers on a shelf. But that emotional connection is so critical. And I’m grateful to have found it!

Things I Learned About Writing This Month:

1) I can write more than one story at a time. In fact, switching gears actually seems to boost my creativity.

2) I can write short stories! At least, one! I took a Lit Reactor class with Richard Thomas and he managed to coax out of me my first ever completed short story! I used it as an exercise to flesh out backstory of a side plot in A SIGHT OF NEVERSEA, so it wasn’t completely new ideas, but it’s just over 4k and I’m stunned I managed to do it.

3) I learned that I can edit like a BOSS. While I was doing all this writing this month, I also managed to cut … wait for it … 5,000 words from one manuscript, and close to 4,000 from another. And that wasn’t cutting “unnecessary side plots” because I don’t think I have any of those left. That was cutting redundant phrases and adverbs. And wow. Does it make a difference.

4) Check out this post Chuck Wendig put up, if you haven’t already. He talks about simplicity in writing. It’s really perfect. But here are the highlights that spoke to me:

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What distracted me this month when writing:

The fun stuff: I got a new tattoo! My first in about 11 years. And my first not with my friend’s husband who’s an amazing artist in Nashville, TN.

The unfun stuff: not knowing if I should carry on. Doubting my ability and my voice, which is the worst thing to doubt because I’ve been writing for the best part of ten years, seriously, and to doubt the way my voice has grown through that time is really painful. My voice will never be for everyone. I just hope and pray that it might be for some. Also unfun was considering trashing SAPPHIRA and moving on, until I reread bits of Elizabeth Gilbert’s BIG MAGIC, like this one which was incredibly apt:

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Goals For Next Month
:

I’d like to say finish the first draft of SAPPHIRA RISING but due to stuff happening at the end of the month, that’ll be very hard. I would be happy with 10k a week on SAPPHIRA and 5k a week on New Story A. And go from there.

I hope my fellow #WIPMarathon-ers had a successful February! Onwards and upwards!

Facing toward Swanpool in Falmouth.
Facing toward Swanpool in Falmouth.
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WIP Marathon March Check-in

Wow, it’s like I just did one of these!

…oh, wait…

Gorgeous view from Mirador Morro Velosa, F’ventura

At least this month, I’m (sort of) on time! I promise my next post (which might be today, who knows) will be about stuff other than my word counts, because I realise that for non-writers and even non-WIP Marathoners, that might be about the most boring thing in the world to read. Sorry.

Last report word count: 120,000. This is my WIP’s first draft, version 1.2 😉 (Not a 2nd draft, oh no).

Current report word count: 116,587. As I said last month, I like to have a lot of padding before I dig into a serious edit. I’m still at the “Does this story follow any kind of cohesive narrative whatsoever?” stage. So… As they used to say in Infocom text adventures, Maximum Verbosity.

WIP Issues This Month: I find myself feeling like, “Is this enough?” and wanting to add side plot after character backstory-reason-for-doing-X-Y-Z after side plot. I know I’ll have to scale back, but this is going to be my biggest (not just size-wise, but cast/world-wise) story yet, and I’ve yet to find confidence in the balance between enough complexity and too much. :-l

Is there a writing craft book called “Knowing When You’ve Got Enough Actual _Story_ And You Can Stop Adding Bits Now”?

Four things I learned this month while writing:

1) That it would be awesome if I was a meticulous JKR-like writer who has spreadsheets out the wazoo about what characters do/reveal when and related symbolism, flashbacks, foreshadowing, and what-have-you. I am not.

I have typically one journal per story, and keep notes in as organised a fashion as I can, as well as using different docs within Scrivener for keeping track of world building, but I’m constantly afraid I’ll miss some Post-it or scrap of paper or Evernote stream of consciousness where I’ve written something of UTMOST IMPORTANCE to the unravelling of this story’s universe that I’m stressing myself out.

Last Sunday I heard (and saw) Diana Gabaldon speak for the second time, this time at the Oxford Literary Festival at the Sheldonian Theatre. She was brilliant. I’ve heard and read her how-I-got-here story many times, and each time is increasingly inspirational. She said she doesn’t outline, she doesn’t usually even write chronologically, and often writes conversations or scenes where she may not even know who the characters are yet. And she offers no apologies. She does her research, finds something interesting, and finds a way to work it in. As much as I admire JKR for her sheer imagination and ability to weave plot threads from Page One of Book One with, apparently, God-like awareness of how it will all pan out, I loved hearing Diana explain with wit and refreshing self-confidence that no, she doesn’t know precisely how the series will end until she gets there. And that might bring me to …

2) There is no right way. There’s the way that works for you.

3) If you could use some great examples of plot points, head on over to KM Weiland’s website here: http://www.helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com/movie-storystructure/its-a-wonderful-life/. This particular example uses It’s a Wonderful Life, one of my favourite films, with a very concise and helpful look at how structure holds that story together so neatly.

4) Keeping Twitter/HootSuite/TweetDeck/whateveh shut for 3 hours = 4 scenes edited. BAM. Thus, henceforth I’m going to try to limit Twitter to breaks. I’m way too easily sidetracked. (Though I believe that sometimes this is a GOOD thing, and inspiration sneaks into cracks and crannies (what a word!) through means such as internet distraction. But for real, I need to be more disciplined right now).

What distracted me this month while writing: Besides Twitter, we went to Fuerteventura in the Canary Islands at the start of the month, I had a monster cold, and then I went to Oxford for the following weekend. That and my previously mentioned Writer’s Ass, but in the past few days it’s gotten much better! I discovered something called somatics, and it seems to be helping. Praise God!

Goal for next month: Finish this draft by April 17th, then write 20k of Camp NaNo story in the days left in the month.

Next blog post around, no word counts! I promise.

And one more thing, infinitely more exciting than my WIP progress, is the amazing, generous, and talented Susan Dennard (author of SOMETHING STRANGE AND DEADLY and writer of words over at Pub(lishing Crawl) is giving away a bound copy of her upcoming TRUTHWITCH! Check out this link to enter — it’s exclusive to subscribers of her Misfits & Daydreamers newsletter, which you can subscribe to RIGHT HERE. Run, don’t walk! Her newsletters are packed full of magical cookie GOODNESS. OMNOM.

See you next time!

 

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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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