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#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.

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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

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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 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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What I Did in 2014: WIP Marathon Edition

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This isn’t technically late since today’s my first day back at my desk. The Scotsman and I had a relaxing 2-week holiday in Scotland over Christmas and New Year’s, despite the fact I had a chest infection the entire time. But I survived, and was well enough to ring in the New Year at Edinburgh’s amazing Hogmanay festivities.

The Scotsman had never been before (despite being a Scotsman), and I’ve always wanted to check it out. We picked the best year to go as it was in the 40s and *dry*. We wandered my favourite city during the day, had dinner at an old favourite (La Lanterna on Hanover, though it seems to have been taken over by new owners and may no longer be my favourite, but was still nice), then attended the Candlelit Concert at St. Giles’ Cathedral.

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We then explored the street party, vendors, food & drink (mulled wine & crepes, mmmmm), and spent most of the evening at the Ceilidh, which was good fun if a bit crowded for some of the more complicated dances 😉

I hope 2014 was full of blessings for you, and here’s a toast to 2015 being more joyful, more celebratory (of big AND small moments), more peaceful, and your best year yet!! <3

On to the year’s writing round-up…

Things I’m Glad I Did In 2014:

  1. Through my frustrating mystery illness (a very fiddly case of acid reflux), I learned and re-learned a LOT. The illness caused 6+ months of panic, stress, anxiety, and soul searching, but I am so glad for what I learned and am still learning through it, the biggest lesson of which is that worry & fear don’t prevent death; they prevent life. I’ve got to trust in what I have faith in, breathe deep often, and relax as much as possible, even when I’m working.
  2. All the fun events I planned that turned out to be the highlights of a very difficult year: in February I saw Taylor Swift live in London, in March we went on holiday in Cyprus, in May we hiked in the Highlands for our anniversary, in June we saw Monty Python live in London, in July we visited my family in New York, in October we attended Destination Star Trek in London and I met every main ST: TNG cast member (except Jonathan Frakes, who sadly had to cancel) — which was a mega-dream-come-true. My year was full of amazing experiences, and I’m grateful.
  3. Joined the WIP Marathon crew and was introduced to some very dedicated, encouraging, talented, and friendly writers, with special thanks to Ifeoma Dennis, who continually encourages and inspires me! I’m so grateful for you all!
  4. NaNoWriMo. It was my 4th time, but the first time I really saw what I can accomplish when I put my mind to it. It was a huge boost, to my WIP and my confidence.

In 2015, I’d love to:

  1. Release the worry, fear, and anxiety. Let peace & joy define my life, instead of negative thoughts. Meditate on the lessons I’ve learned until they “drop from my head into my heart”.
  2. Complete a total of 2 books.
  3. Expect and look for good things, instead of expecting, fearing, and dreading bad.
  4. Draw closer to my writing buddies, whether online or in person, and continue supporting each other!

 

Last report wordcount:

73,000.

Current report WC + CC/ SC:

80,936. Pretty good considering CHRISTMAS.

WIP Issues This Month:

Zip, but reminding myself that first drafts are for me. subsequent drafts will reach others’ eyes, so many changes to come.

Four things I learned in 2014 while writing:

  1. Time to refresh and rejuvenate, read and play games, and explore other peoples’ worlds is an absolute must for creating and populating my own.
  2. Jot down or Evernote all the little ideas, photos, articles, names, words — anything that pops into my head. You never know when something seemingly insignificant can prompt an entire character — or entire world. One single writing prompt posted on Google+ in the Write Motivation group last year sparked my current WIP.
  3. I can’t work effectively by strict schedules; I seem to do better by daily goals, i.e. aim for 1k a day, gym/workout 3x a week, etc. Rather than, “Between 9 and 9:30 I shall be doing this!” I’ve tried that over and over. Just doesn’t cut it for me!
  4. From a CP/friend: you don’t need them all. You just need one. And everything can change in a day.

What distracted me this month while writing:

Christmas, chest infection, Scotland. In that order. And absolutely none of this:

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Goal for next month:

1k a day. And hopefully, this WIP first draft will be finished!

Last 200 words:

(X-ing out some words since this is the start of a rather pivotal secret-revealing scene)

Luma paced the room, having re-read the yellowed letter half a dozen times before stuffing it in her jeans pocket. She needed to return to Cornwall, but she’d only just arrived and had all but depleted her student loan for the month. She had a credit card which she hated to use, but if now wasn’t an emergency, what was?

She hadn’t ever worn the necklace to sleep before, despite her penchant for napping whenever a spare moment presented itself. Her sister used to say Luma would sleep through life if she could get away with it, but that was unfair; she’d always believed time was precious, even as a child. Sleeping had simply seemed the best remedy when her vision disturbances got to be too much.

Maybe she was making it all up, the images in her dream and—no they were more than dreams, more like an awareness beyond sight. She knew it, in her heart, the way you know before you open the curtains that a new snow has fallen in the night, pockmarked now with footprints of early morning dog-walkers and creatures that stirred while the city slept. She could sense its truth. And the truth was this: XXXXXXXXXXX. Gildas had been on to something, after all. She had XXXX, just like Nelwenna Carbis. She had seen her parents, XXXXX, and this was their story.

– – –

On to an amazing 2015!

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