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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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Happy New Year! #WIPMarathon Check-In #5 -and- #WriteMotivation Update

Two birds, one stone!

Since #WIPMarathon and this January #WriteMotivation overlap, I’m hitting these babies at once. Because I can 🙂

WIPMarathon Check-In #5 (NEW YEAR UPDATE)

Things I’m Glad I did in 2013: 2013 was a very busy year for writing and personal stuff. A quick roundup!

Writing: I could spend pages telling you how much I learned this year. Suffice it to say I am implementing it all with my WIP, and hopefully this helps me cut WAY back on self-doubt, endless revisions, endlessing sending to CPs and betas and then saying, “No, wait, I just changed 10 things!” I want more thoroughness at the start so there are less doubts and no need for 15 different revisions. Also, I placed in a few writing contests online, which boosted my confidence in a big way.

Personal: 2013 was my first full year of marriage, a year in which:

  • My husband and I bought our first house.
  • After being trapped in the UK for a year and a half thanks to the UKBA, I was able to visit the U.S. FOUR TIMES.
  • My husband and I visited California and I played tour guide, showing him all my old hang-outs. We visited Napa, explored the Bay area, and I had the best time I’ve ever had in California.
  • I finally visited the home of one of my best friends ever and meet her dogs 🙂
  • I snowboarded for the first time — and actually made some turns! One of my biggest fears conquered (I won’t say I conquered snowboarding because it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but I will do it again :).
  • I visited Disney World for the first time, for the belated second-half of our honeymoon. It was AWESOME.
  • I took numerous Writer’s Digest and LitReactor classes and attended my first writers’ conference, at Bloomsbury in London.
  • I genuinely began believing I AM a writer. Still working on learning that everyone has opinions, but that I don’t need to give time to the negative ones. It’s not for someone else to tell me what work I “should” be doing with my life, and I’m more grateful than ever for the family, friends, and fellow writers who have shared their encouragement and own work with me. Thank you!! I couldn’t do it alone, because writing is NOT solitary <3

In 2014, I’d Love to Do/Be:  2014 is the year things start to take off. I can FEEL IT! Professionally, but also personally — health-wise, making time for hobbies long ignored, trying more new things, and learning to just let it go (cue Idina). Let go of negativity, let go of caring what other people think, let go of anxiety and fear, let go of being in my own way when it comes to success. I really want that more than anything.

Current WC + CC (or SC): Still working on an older project, but I have my chapters outlined for my WIP, so I plan to start drafting scenes for it this week.

WIP Issues this week: None yet!

What I learnt this week in writing: It takes longer to do the admin-type stuff than the actual writing.

What distracted me this week while writing: Back from Scotland and lots of little things to catch up on.

And now, for #WriteMotivation:

I’m keeping it simple for January. I want 50k on my WIP. Shouldn’t be impossible because I’ve outlined the entire MS. And with Rachel Aaron’s awesome 2k to 10k tactics in mind, I know I can accomplish this. See you all on Twitter! 🙂

Some photos from Christmas holidays in Scotland:

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I love the Royal Mile for things like this.

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Broomhall Castle, Clackmannanshire — where we were married in 2012, and where we spent New Year’s Eve and day. It was great to be back 🙂

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Edinburgh pre-Hogmanay

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Glasgow <3

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When life hands you a butternut squash…

Confession: I’m failing at NaNo right now.

Prediction: This month will be incredibly important to both my most recent manuscript, and the one I planned to use November to sketch out.

Result: WIN anyhow!

The truth is, sometimes life hands you a butternut squash when what you really want is a pumpkin.

Case in point, my friend’s husband went in search of Halloween pumpkins for carving, and came home with a butternut squash. It was all he could find after trekking across various stores. Did he just give up? NO. That man bought it, brought it home, and they carved the best damned butternut squash jack o’ lantern I’ve ever seen 🙂

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The photo’s by me. Brilliant carving is by my lovely friends.

Apart from making me laugh, this story has been the theme for November. I regularly read blogs and how-to craft articles and books, clicking on Twitter links, or reading the blogs I subscribe to. But this month, I went for it. It was time for another serious growth spurt in my writing, and I wanted to nurture it before putting one. more. word. down. That was the squash life gave me. I certainly hadn’t planned it that way — no! I wanted to WIN WIN WIN! But a little voice said it was time for learning, not doing. No matter what the calendar tells me.

Everything I’ve read/listened to this month has had major effects on both the story I’m polishing, the one I’m plotting before throwing more words at, and all my future stories (maybe even my past ones…).

Here’s what I did:

1) Got hooked into Susan Dennard’s awesome series, How I Plan A Book. She’s the author of the SOMETHING STRANGE AND DEADLY series, and is a kick-butt motivator. There are several parts to the series, and I highly recommend reading all of them (and taking notes). Her magic cookie concept, as well as her pointing to Rachel Aaron‘s earth-shattering reveal on how to write 10k a day, have changed my life.

2) Scoured the brilliant Janice Hardy‘s website for articles in how to handle internalisation, exposition, and backstory. These two stood out, but every article on her blog is an incredible tool for writing. Exposition can be filtered in – it has to be, especially in fantasy/sci-fi. We ARE in another world, and we do need to let the reader know how it works, and what its history is. She talks about how to add a character’s judgment/personal opinion to anything that sounds like telling that you can’t do without, to stop it from drying out your readers’ eyeballs. Among other gems.

3) Read Nathan Bransford‘s book – In case you haven’t heard, the man behind the hugely popular writing advice blog has a book, HOW TO WRITE A NOVEL. I loved how clear, concise, witty, and straight-to-the-heart this book is. I read it in one sitting and then re-read all my highlighted sections. Really puts things into perspective, and has a very helpful checklist on how to know when you’re done revising.

4) Listened to several hours of Writers’ Digest webinar archives – There are tons of video tutorials from past webinars on their website, and you can get a month’s worth of listening to as many as your heart desires for $25. I’ve “attended” a few of the webinars at the time, which usually comes with some critique of your work by the agent/pro who runs the webinar, but for a cheaper option, sans critique, you can pay 25 smackers and listen to as many as you want, pausing to take notes, etc. I wasn’t sure at first but you can listen to some 5-minute samples before taking the plunge. I’ve found it totally worth it – particularly for Chuck Sambuchino‘s tutorial on how to write a synopsis, agent Kathleen Ortiz‘s tutorial on querying, and agent Jim McCarthy‘s tutorial on “10 elements of a viable, lucrative novel”.

5) Revisited Query Tracker’s query forum. Post, critique, receive feedback. I’ve used it in the past and it’s been great, and it was wonderful to revisit, read others’ work, and receive feedback myself.

6) Joined Online Writing Workshop for Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror  I heard about this through Susan Dennard, and thought I would give it a go. Working with CPs and betas is one thing, but posting my work – whole chapters – for people to read and pick apart publicly always makes me squirm, but it’s great practice. Once you’re published, I imagine you must learn about squirming under public scrutiny on a WHOLE new level, and not only is it great practice, but I’ve read some wonderful stories and received great feedback. 

More than that, I traded feedback with a few people this month who’ve made me see the way forward for what would’ve been my NaNo story. I feel a lot more confident about starting this one out now, with some shiny new tools under my belt. That’s what makes writing fun for me — amongst the world building and character creation and tension plotting, I love that whenever I learn new tactics, or see something I’ve been doing wrong, it injects me with renewed passion.

If you’re looking for some new (or revisited) resources for inspiration and honing your skillz (with a Z), check any of the above out, and good luck with your pumpkin 🙂

 

Gratuitous Halloween shot . I am now the proud owner of a Starfleet uniform. Troi, eat your heart out.
Gratuitous Halloween photo. I am now the proud owner of a Starfleet uniform (phased out in late 2365).

 

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It’s that time again.

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Nana nana nana nana, NANO!

My sister introduced me to NaNoWriMo several years ago and since then, I’ve used it as a tool to gauge how I make use of my writing time the rest of the year. A lot of people will argue over the value of racing to get 50k written in a month. Don’t listen to them. It’s a great idea that helps lots of people get the words down, the people like me who work better under a deadline with a ticking clock than without such parameters.

Does everyone who takes part in NaNo believe they’ll have a bestseller come December, when they’ll immediately begin to query said masterpiece? Of course not. Maybe some do, but the NaNo critics should stop and realise that many people do know how things work, and take the opportunity for what it is – a chance to kick yourself in the butt and get moving. It’s that simple.

More than anything, I love the community that springs up around it every year. It’s hard to find time to constantly take part, but I love chatting and seeing the conversations on Twitter and blogs between writers who are so supportive of one another’s goals and dreams.

This year’s a bit different than last. Last year I had my story meticulously planned, and writing was a breeze. This year, I’m doing revisions on one MS, and with the recent move, I haven’t had time to put a single word down in advance. So while the vaguest plot was floating in my head with two very distinct characters, I didn’t type a word of it until Saturday. But already, I’m excited with what’s coming out in my plot sketch and first chapter. We’ll see how this goes…

About Time

The other week, we went to see this film as I’m not ashamed to admit I love Love, Actually and watch it religiously once a year. It contains my favourite piece of music of all time (which I walked down the aisle to), and was penned by the guy behind Black Adder, Richard Curtis (If you haven’t watched Black Adder from start to finish, DO IT. Hilarious, historical, and also, quite heartbreaking).

One of the things I loved about this film was that Bill Nighy’s character had all the time in the world, and what did he choose to do with it? Read. He admitted to reading every book a man could want to read. The more I think about that, the more I wish I had that chance. I’m a re-reader. I know that phrase splits a crowd down the middle. I’ve read certain books over ten times. I love reading new ones, don’t get me wrong! But when a world and its characters take me in like a friend, I don’t ever want it to end, and find myself returning for the cosy familiarity mixed with the wonders of uncovering new things each time.

If you could go back in time indefinitely, what book(s) would you want never to have to read for the final time?

My top votes would go to LOTR (the whole thing), Simon R. Green’s Forest Kingdom and Deathstalker series, Harry Potter — all of ’em, and Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander. Of course, it’s easier to re-read picture books from childhood – I have a pile of these on my shelf that I’ve read since I COULD read, and opening them to revisit is relatively easy, but they’d make the list, too.

#WriteMotivation November

My goals:

1. Do Nano. Write 50k as a basis for new fantasy/sci-fi. Started, and on target.
2. Work on getting back into a daily routine after the Move That Took All Month. Trying. Adjusting sleep schedule again isn’t easy.
3. Spend majority of online social time encouraging others. Need to work on this!

I should also add, “Finish revisions on fantasy MS.” By next week, I hope to say this is the case. Good luck, fellow NaNoers!

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Moving Right Along

IMG_3717If you’re a kid of the 70s/80s like me, or just someone with admirable taste, you read those words and immediately begin humming that song from The Muppet Movie, one of cinema’s classics. That was my hope, anyhow. 😉

The Scotsman and I officially own our own house, as of yesterday, for the first time. We’ve got a lot to look forward to, and a lot to get through. Carpets, appliances, furniture, you name it. So suffice it to say I have been and will continue to be tied up with that for the next several weeks at the least. NaNoWriMo is coming up in November, though, and I will be ready and raring to go by then.

In the meantime, I’m in the midst of taking a few weeks off editing, and am back to looking around Query Tracker and furiously taking notes, reading interviews, and researching. And I have managed to find some time to redesign my blog. It’s not perfect, but I’m no coding wiz. I think it’s a big improvement, anyway. 🙂

So, to all my #Writemotivation friends, I hope to be back and hitting the goals in November. September’s been weird – for the first time, I finished all my goals within the first week, and with one manuscript out with a few readers (and some lovely and amazing feedback already received), I’ve been away from Scrivener. And it feels weird. But I think even the things we love most, we need a break from.

I get into bed and am so exhausted lately I can’t even read an entire page in whatever book I’m reading now. And even just this past week busily away from the writing and editing, I’ve come to realise how much a part of me it truly is. It’s crazy, but it’s awesome. I miss it so much. So if nothing else, this time has been a great reminder of why writing is so important to me. Even one day going by without opening a document feels like missed opportunity. To quote Gloria Steinem, writing truly is the one thing that when I do it, I don’t feel I should be doing something else. (Okay, spending quality time with loved ones trumps that, of course, but you know what I mean).

Hope you’re reaching your goals this month. Are you going through upheaval, too? Any tips on how to keep the creative processes going when you’re swamped in other chores? The main thing I’ve been doing is making mental notes about my next story so it can stew in the background until I finish working on my WIP.

Happy Autumn!

 

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