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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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My Writing Process – Blog Tour

So I sort of jacked this blog tour up. Four awesome writers asked me to take part in the past month at different times, so I’m breaking the rules by just posting in the middle of all of them. The first tag was by the talented YA/NA author Deirdre Riordan Hall a few weeks back now! Last week, NA/YA SFF author and CP Jessica Harvey tagged me, too. Sorry for the belatedness, ladies! And for those who invited me for future posts, apologies!IMG_8012

I have two completed novels under my belt, and am currently seeking representation for one (A BREATH OF SILVER, or ABOS). My WIP is speculative fiction, possibly New Adult.

I’m so grateful for the writing community. Over the past five years, I’ve been blessed by it time and again. I’m so thankful for my CPs, beta readers, and all the amazing, hard-working contest hosts and hostesses, agents and writers running workshops and webinars, and everyone on Twitter who posts encouraging words for each other and shares their ups and downs.

When I began writing full-time, I worried the solitary aspect would be difficult. But I’ve since learned that writing is not and can not be solitary. Not for me, anyhow. Interacting with other writers, even if it’s mostly via the internet, is integral to feedback, growth, and support. So thank you all!

1. What am I working on?

My active WIP is fantasy, possibly NA as I said, and possibly based in the same universe as A BREATH OF SILVER (though not in any way related, story-wise). A SIGHT OF NEVERSEA (working title) follows 25-year-old Luma Grey, born in Edinburgh and raised by adoptive parents in America. She returns to the UK, to make her third attempt at graduating from university, in Cornwall. She’s burned a lot of bridges and still has the ashes in her hair to prove it — then things get worse thanks to her rebound crush on a university lecturer.

Luma Grey has lived with disturbances that dance like demons on the fringe of her vision throughout her 25 years. Ocular migraines, doctors claim. While photographing an abandoned tin mine in Cornwall, England, she senses the macabre visions begin to dim. But a slip sends her sideways. Emerging, she finds herself in Unseelie, the Realm of Fey, where the demons leave her at last.

Their work is done, but Luma’s is just beginning.

Fleeing the limp loose ends of life in California, she thought starting over in Britain would give her much-needed focus to make something more of herself than the birth parents who ditched her in an Edinburgh orphanage at 2 weeks. Instead, she rebounded with a debilitating crush on her department head. Desperate to impress, her extracurricular research led her to the mine.

The door between realms has been sealed for decades, and Unseelie’s residents are as surprised as Luma. The Fey are living legends, creatures of reverie who have poked their heads into the world of men since time began. From these fleeting sparks and ephemeral sightings throughout the spinning of our globe, humans have spawned countless fairytales, myths, and works of art. Minstrels, storytellers, and even conspiracy theorists have taken the credit.

The Fey want it back. Now thanks to Luma, they have a chance.

I’ve also got a space opera on the back burner, SAPPHIRA RISING, a sort of Romancing the Stone against the backdrop of a space empire.

2. How does my work differ from others in its genre?

Whether fortunate or not, the voice that has grown through my initial manuscript (a women’s fiction I still very much believe in, SOMEBODY THAT I USED TO KNOW, previously known as NICE GIRLS DON’T DATE MUSICIANS) and throughout the revisions of ABOS is not one I’ve seen in other recent fantasies, either adult or YA — a little tongue-in-cheek with a (I hope) twist on some typical fantasy tropes while still paying homage to the tropes I love the most. Whether fashionable or not, my voice is definitely growing roots and I’m actually happier with it as time goes on!

While the tone is dark, I like to inject relatable emotions and relationships from a modern perspective within these universes that have parallel realms or fantasy elements. ABOS travels from London’s near-future to Britain’s past, and while the fantasy is light and the time travel aspect is based on ley lines and Celtic folklore, some might consider this a blend of SF and Fantasy (I don’t). I’ve been told this makes it unique, mixing the imagined future and the known past.

3. Why do I write what I do?

I primarily write SFF because that’s what I grew up on. I began playing fantasy-type computer text adventures when I was 4, when my family bought our first computer, a Tandy TRS-80. I was obsessed with Infocom games like Zork, Enchanter, and Wishbringer. I devoured every fantasy/adventure book I could get my hands on. I loved drawing out maps of these worlds, and my thoughts were constantly invaded by the creatures and settings of these games and books. And I totally related to Jennifer Connelly’s character in Labyrinth.

My voice and stories’ tone is influenced heavily by the fantasy authors I was entranced by from my early teens: Simon R. Green and Patricia C. Wrede. If you’re a fantasy fan and haven’t read Green’s BLUE MOON RISING, or a SF fan and haven’t read the DEATHSTALKER series, you’re totally missing out. Please read them!

I wrote my university dissertation on Tolkien’s definition of a fairy story, and the success of films that have been adapted from such. Tolkien is my ultimate hero (along with Jim Henson), and I believe wholeheartedly in his opinion that stories of other realms — where men are enchanted by the beings and goings-on there — are the stories that can tell us the most about our own lives. Escapism, but not as the world tends to apply that term; escapism that’s used to reflect our own lives and how to better live them.

But the creatures and settings help, too 😉

4. How does my writing process work?

It’s flexible, and ever-changing. I get sparks of ideas, however tiny, and keep them in a file. When I’m ready to work on a new story, I pick the one that won’t leave my brain, often encouraged by a song or piece of music, Pinterest images, and news articles. I sketch out a 3-act structure diagram and mark the plot points, and fill in those blanks. I’m trying to briefly outline the main points of each scene before drafting it.

IMG_8011I listen to classical, film scores, and jazz while drafting (mostly Craig Armstrong; Austin Wintory; Clint Mansell; John Barry; Jerry Goldsmith; Assassin’s Creed, Elder Scrolls, and Dreamfall scores; Two Steps From Hell; a LOT of Celtic music). When revising, I tend to listen to a mix of this and wide-ranging playlists that include Radiohead’s In Rainbows, Taylor Swift, Christina Perri, Birdy, Ben Howard, Karine Polwart, Jayme Dee, and many more. Sometimes I need silence, but only when I’m stuck on a tricky part. I try to read a lot of genres, not just what I’m writing at the time.

Then, ideally I’ll send the MS after an initial one or two passes through to CPs and betas. Based on their feedback, I make changes, do a full read-through, and either send questionable sections or the whole thing back to them. It doesn’t always work out that way, but that’s what I aim for. Sometimes I send a few chapters as I’m drafting them, when I’m less sure of the story’s direction.

During ABOS, I did an AWESOME LitReactor course with John Skipp while revising it. He was vital to getting my action scenes the way I wanted them. So I love taking part in courses and seminars in that stage. Constant opportunities for growth is a necessity.

 

– – –

So that’s where I’m at. Hopefully the next time I’m asked to answer similar questions, I’ll be a bit further ahead with my writing aspirations. Thank you for inviting me! 🙂

 

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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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WIP Marathon Intro

Autumn at Killerton
Autumn at Killerton

If you’re full of pie like I am, you probably also aren’t doing much exercise today. But at least my fingers have had a workout, with two looming contests (one that I’m in, Baker’s Dozen, and one that I’m entering on Monday, Pitch Wars). And then I stumbled across Ifeoma Denniss post about #WIPMarathon, and excitement over my lightly slumbering WIP grew again!

Read all about it on her blog! It runs from 1 December – 1 February. My details:

Marathon Goal: NaNo for me this year went from hastily throwing down words to setting it calmly aside and investing the month in agent-led tutorials, a Writer’s Digest bootcamp, and many other fantastic resources. See my previous post for all the goods 🙂 Now that I’m refreshed after a month focused on improving my craft, I want to get back to my shiny new WIP. By 1 February, I’d like to have paper-plotted every scene and drafted the first 50k.

Stage of writing: I have a list of plot points and the first chapter drafted. So, in the very early stages, though it’s been in my head for awhile now.

What inspired my current project: It’s a space opera, prompted by my husband’s and my recent Star Trek:TNG marathon of every episode in order, re-reading one of my old favourites, the DEATHSTALKER series by Simon R. Green, and this song on endless repeat.

What might slow down my marathon goal: Christmas and Hogmanay in Scotland. Cradling my finished fantasy novel, and trying to give it wings. But hopefully I’m ready to focus.

Best time of the day for writing: I’m on London time, so 5 hours later than EST. I write from 10 AM onwards, and am on and off until 6, sometimes much later.

That’s it for now! I think I may have a slow start, but come the second week of December, I should be settling into my stride. 🙂 Looking forward to it, and to meeting new writer friends!

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June & July #WriteMotivation Updates

Hello!

Due to our mid-month trip to Western NY to visit family, and a week-long jaunt down to Disney World in Orlando (my first time, husband’s third. Ironic given he’s not from the U.S…), my goals were not *quite* reached for June. That’s okay! That’s what July is for! Right?

My husband began changing lyrics for just about every song to include my name. This one started it all a few years ago, and has become my theme song somehow...
My husband began changing lyrics for just about every song to include my name. This one started it all a few years ago, and has become my theme song somehow…

For June, my only Write Motivation goal was to finish revising my first paper draft of my WIP. I didn’t quite get there, but I hope to by the end of next week.

For July, my goals are:

1. Finish paper revision of WIP. I think I can get this done by the end of next week.
2. Read-through of revision changes. Hoping this only takes me a day. 
3. Send to 2 betas/CPs.
4. Beta reading for J & A. Working on this currently.
5. SOMEBODY new version x 5. This clearly needs refreshing as my last batch hasn’t been too successful, despite having much professional advice heaped upon me, and following said advice. It seems unless women’s fiction has paranormal elements, is straight-up pop-culture-laden chick lit, or has lots of sex, it doesn’t seem to be selling. At least, according to Publisher’s Marketplace. Anyone know different, feel free to get in touch 😉
6. Draft WIP synopsis. This will probably get pushed to August, but we’ll see.

And that’s it! I will be making the blog rounds soon and have already left a few comments and Tweets, but I am very behind! My apologies! 

Hop on over to K.T. Hanna’s blog to help her celebrate her Blog-iversary with the very generous prizes she’s offering! And stay tuned for my Western NY/Disney holiday recap, and an upcoming post on the things I miss most (as evidenced by this last trip to the States) about the U.S. Thanks for visiting and enjoy the fabulous weather if you’re in the UK! (and by fabulous, I do mean above 65 and not raining!).

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