Tag Archives: novel

The Writing Process Blog Hop

Writing Process Blog HopYes, that’s right, I’ve been nomated to take part in the Writing Process Blog Hop.

My dear friend Denise Falvo taggd me a couple of weeks ago, and I’ve been intimated by the idea of writing this ever since. Denise didn’t just answer a few questions, she wove a story around her Muse and her blog and her writing style, and only then answered a few questions.

After much deliberation, I have come to the conclusion that there’s no way I can compete with that. So, instead, I shall simply do it my way.

My friend Denise, perpetrator of blog hops.

The gorgeous Denise, perpetrator of blog hops.

Oh, but before we start, why don’t you pop on over and read her post here? Go on, you know you want to see what all the fuss is about. It’s okay. I’ll wait.

Alrighty, shall we continue?

Great.

So, here’s how this thing works. I’m going to answer a few questions about my writing process, and then I’m going to tag a few other people to answer the same questions on their blog. And, eventually, every writer in the whole entire world will have shared their writing process, and then the sky will boil and the sea will burn and the streets will run with the tears of writers demanding: Why?! Why did we reveal all our secrets? Now anyone can write a best-seller!

Ahem.

Sorry. Got a little carried away there. Perhaps I should just get started.

What am I currently working on?

As I said in my last blog post, I’m working on a whole lot of stuff right now. I’m writing short stories every week (I have a number out on submissions to magazines, and am happily collecting rejection slips on my way to world domination.), I’ve just started writing a Brand New Shiny Story, and I’m seventeen shakes of a lamb’s tail away from finishing the final revisions on my comic paranormal novel: The Clock Struck Twelve.

And it’s The Clock Struck Twelve I want to tell you about today.

Twelve is the perfect vampire’s Head Minion. He lisps. He limps. He serves his master in all things. But when his master develops a disturbing pop culture fetish, Twelve has to choose between doing what he’s told, and doing what he’s always done.

A good minion follows instructions. A good minion maintains the status quo. And breaking either of those rules will result in Twelve losing his job, if not his life.

With his master’s arch-nemesis on the attack, and a rival minion determined to topple Twelve from the top spot, Twelve will need to draw on all his minion training to navigate his way through this minefield. And he’ll have to do it quickly.

Because things are about to get… sparkly.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

The Clock Struk Twelve is a bit of an odd duck, in that although I class it as “comic paranormal”, that’s a sub-genre classification I made up on one lazy Sunday afternoon.

The story is based in a world within part separate from our own world. There are pop culture references and in-jokes scattered through the story — some more subtle than others — and I have a secret hope that one day I will receive a fan letter from someone saying:

OMG! I’ve read The Clock Struck Twelve fifteen times, and I only just realised that you totally referenced The Princess Bride in that scene on page 239!* I’m so in love with this book! I keep laughing so hard I fall off my chair!

omg vampires

Why do I write what I write?

Because when I write, those are the words that flow through me.

Look, I didn’t have the greatest childhood in the world. I didn’t have the greatest teen years in the world. I didn’t even have the greatest twenties in the world. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned in my life, it’s that as long as you can laugh, everything will be okay.

As long as there are bad puns and clever references and the satirisation of pop culture icons, everything will be okay.

Besides, you can lay down an awful lot more hard truths in a frothy comedy than you can in an earnest drama. At least, you can lay down an awful lot more hard truths before the reader closes the book, puts it on a table, and backs away slowly.

How does my individual writing process work?

Okay, if I tell you this, you have to promise not to tell. It will be our little secret, okay?

pinkyPinky promise?

Okay then.

Are you sitting comfortably?

The first secret to my writing process is… Soup. I must eat soup. And not just any soup. This soup must be the colour of sunshine after a storm, with the texture of an eary morning cuddle, and the strength of a mother’s love. It must taste of autumn nights and starlight, be as warm as a dragon’s heartbeat, and as creamy as a unicorn’s mane.

And when this soup has been prepared under the light of a blue moon, I drink it up, and then the words begin to flow. Stories pour forth from my soupified mind and spill on to my keyboard in a mess of wild abandon. (Leaving me to clean up after them, I might add.) Once done, I give them a good vacuum to tidy them up and make them respectable, and send them out into the world.

Alternately, I could tell you that my writing process is pretty much like anyone else’s. It involves a hell of a lot of hard work, focus, dedication, commitment, time, frustration, inspiration, luck, research, revision, and vodka.

So let’s stick with the soup. Mmkay?

And the nominees are…

Okay, here’s where I run into problems. You see, I’ve been out of the blogging circuit for so long, I don’t actually know who amongst my loyal (and patient) readers has already done this blog hop, who would like to do this blog hop, and who honestly couldn’t think of anything worse, thankyouverymuch.

So if you’d like to join the fun and post your own Writing Process Blog Hop post, hit me up in the comments or via the contact page, and I’ll hit the edit key and add you here with an introduction and a link.

Any questions about my writing process? Want to tell me about yours?

* I don’t really reference The Princess Bride on page 239. I do reference it. But you’ll have to find out where for yourself.

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I Still Aten’t Dead

*tumbleweed rolls*

So, hi. *waves*

It’s been so long since I blogged, it took me fifteen minutes of trial and error to remember my password. To all the people still hanging around to read this: Thank you! If you’ll excuse me, I’ll just put down this oversized cardboard sign…

I aten't dead

It’s been a busy full months full of busyness. Between parenting, writing, and learning how to cope with the changing seasons in a largely outdoor living arrangement, there’s been little enough time for life. But I’m back, and I shall endeavour to remain back for the foreseeable future.

So, how are things going? Funny you should ask. (I’m going to assume someone asks, and I’m not just shouting into the void.)

I’ve been busily writing-writing-writing, and loving it.

I’ve almost finished the final round of revisions on Clock Struck Twelve. (Stay tuned, I’ll be posting about my writing process for that manuscript over the next few days.) It’s been a long journey, and every time I think I’m finished, I come up with something new to add. But this time — this time — I’m sure I’m about done and ready to start querying.

I also started a Facebook group dedicated to writing short stories. Ray Bradbury famously said:

Write a short story every week. It’s not possible to write 52 bad short stories in a row.

And so, the group Bradbury’s 52 was formed. Each week we have a series of prompts (a character, a location, an item), and members write a short story based on those prompts. We’re up to the 11th challenge this week, and it’s a lot of fun. If you’re interested in stretching your short story writing muscles, come along and join us.

Once uponFinally, I’ve started writing a new story. I estimate it will be about 75,000 words when completed, and I”m at the 4000 word mark at the moment. Early days, but my characters have taken on a life of their own, and I’m excited to see where they end up.

In other, non-writing-related news, my children are growing.

That is all.

Okay, that’s not all.

Sometimes I turn around and wonder how it is that the little baby I held in my arms, who locked his beautiful dark eyes with mine and grabbed hold of my heart in both hands, could possibly be seven years old — and looking me right in the eye while he argues that he really, really and truly, really needs a new Lego set, and he’s got a whole list of ones he’s wishing for, and if I don’t let him buy one with his pocket money right now — right now! — then I am officially the worst mother in the whole entire universe.

And when his little brother, a respectable three-year-old looks me in the eye while actively choosing to ignore every word that comes out of my mouth, I fondly remember the days when he couldn’t actually move at faster than a crawl, and I could make him smile with little more than a cuddle.

And then Master Three walks up to me out of the blue, puts his beautiful (and probably dirty) hand on my cheek and tells me he loves me. And Master Seven gives me an earnest smile and says, “It’s okay, Mummy, I’ll make us lunch today. You can keep writing your story.” And I realise that growing up is a beautiful and wonderful thing.

And it would be even more beautiful and wonderful if they could do it without arguing every freaking five minutes.

*deep breath*

All is well in my little corner of the world. The sun and the wind and the rain challenge me, and the stars look down on me at night. And all ahead of me is vast open fields of happiness ready to be explored.

So, what’s been going on in your life?

Five points to Gryffindor* if you can name the book the title of this post comes from.

*Or the House of your choosing if Gryffindor** isn’t to your liking.

** Gryffindor forever!

 

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To Plot or Not to Plot: That is the Question

 

To plot or not to plot: that is the question:
Whether tis better for the story to first
Plan the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune
Or to cast your hero into a sea of troubles
Unplanned and unprepared? To plot; to pants;
To choose. And by choosing to cast yourself
Into heartache and the thousand natural shocks
That writers are heir to, ’tis a common dilemma
Faced by all who write. To plot; to pants;
To try; perchance to fail: ay, there’s the rub;
For in that plot or lack, what thoughts may come
To throw you off your story’s course
And give you pause; there’s the respect
That makes calamity of so long planning;
For who would bear the whips and scorns of prose,
The long hours spent, the hardships borne,
The pangs of ignored loves, the dinner’s delay,
The disregard of hygiene and the coffee,
The quiet toll the life of writing takes,
When you yourself could better your story tell
With a plan in place? But if with a plot,
You grunt and sweat under a weary fear,
And the dread of something planned to death,
And prefer the undiscover’d country from whose bourn
All magic springs, and find the mystery will,
Make you love your story better than any other
Then write of things your plan speaks not of.
Thus overthinking does make cowards of us all;
And the best answer to the question
Is hidden in the first of your thoughts.
Plot or Pants as you think is best.

I put this together as an answer to the question “Should I plot or not?” when it was recently asked by a new writer in the Writer Unboxed Facebook group. After spending so much time getting it right, it seemed a shame to let it vanish into the interwebz as a comment on someone else’s post. So here it is, recorded for posterity. I hope you enjoyed it.

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The Mid-Year Goalpost

Goalpost

I love goals. I’ve mentioned this before. I grew up in a family where setting goals was as commonplace as brushing teeth and complaining about siblings. So I’ve developed something of a tradition here on my blog. In January, I set my goals. In July I revisit them.

That’s a bit misleading, though. I’m actually re-evaluating my goals on a weekly and monthly basis. Because goals are living things, better set in silly string rather than concrete.

Nonetheless, tradition is as tradition does. Here’s how I’m tracking with the goals I set in January.

TNT#1

Achievement unlocked!

I had set a goal to complete the first draft this by March 1st. I actually typed ‘The End’ on February 1st.

I also set a goal to do a once-over revision by May 1st. I actually completed it on Marsh 14th.

Moving forward, my goal is to finish revisions on this novel by October 1st, and have a query letter ready to go by November 1st.

Novel B CST

I set a goal to complete this first draft by the end of 2013. Really, that was a generous time period. I knew that even when I set it. And considering I’m 2/3 of the way through it, I’m revising my goals for this novel to:

  • Finish first draft by 1st September.
  • Finish revisions by 1st November.
  • Have query letter written by 1st December.

Novel C

Because… why not? I have three ideas that I really want to write, as well as the sequels to TNT. So come the end of the year, I will have decided what I’m writing next and got to work. Really, my only official goal is to have an outline done by December 31st. But I’ll be thrilled if I’ve started writing it as well. (Comic dystopian? YA Urban fantasy? Paranormal Thriller? Or something I haven’t yet dreamed up…. Only time will tell.)

TNT#2 and #3

I’ve got the stories mapped out in my head, so my goal is to have the outlines written for both by November 1st. It never hurts to be prepared.

Flash Fiction

I set a target to write and share 12 flash fiction stories, and so far I’ve done none. As you may have noticed, I haven’t been blogging as often. This is partly because Life has thrown me some curve balls, and I don’t have as much time as I expected, and partly because my main focus is on novel writing. So I’ve officially removed this goal from my 2013 plans.

Short Stories

My goal was to submit six short stories to contests and/or fiction markets. As with above, my priorities have changed. I have submitted one, and have plans for another. But I don’t anticipate any more than that. So consider my goal down-graded to two.

Reading

I was going to read 75 books. I was. And then… life. So I’ve only read 20 books at this stage. I’m revising back down to 50 books for the year, and that will be a stretch target.

Overall

What a great year so far! I’m loving my novel writing, and can’t wait to get stuck into writing every day. I’m part of a great writing community on Facebook (seriously, if you’re not part of Writer Unboxed, you have no idea what you’re missing out on!) and have made amazing, supportive, and encouraging friends and colleagues through both WU and a second, more intimate writing community.

I said in January that this is the year I’m moving from “enthusiastic amateur” to “professional writer”, and I feel well and truly on the way there.

How are you tracking with your goals?

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One Hour a Day

Hourglass

It’s just after 7:00pm, and I’m in a hurry.

“Mummy, can you read me a story before bed?” six-year-old Big Brother asks.

“Of course,” I say. Then I amend, “As long as you’re in bed before I count to twenty.”

A mad dash ensues, with Big Brother racing to the bathroom, into his bedroom, and finding his current favourite book.

“Nineteen and a half,” I call. I’ve spent the closer-to-two-minutes stacking dishes and wiping down benches. I won’t have time to wash the dishes until later, but I like the kitchen to be neat and tidy.

“I’m already in bed!” Big Brother calls. “I beat you!”

“So you did,” I call back. “Have you got your book?”

I pick up a couple of stray toys and drop them in their appropriate toy boxes.

“Yes! Are you coming?”

“Coming!”

I make it into his room and look at the book he’s chosen. It’s a long one. I consider. “I can read this one, but we’ll have to be quick,” I say. “We’re running a bit late tonight.”

“Okay,” Big Brother says.

I read the book. Quickly. (But not so quickly I can’t do the voices and get him to chime in with the parts he knows.) Then I say goodnight.

Big Brother grabs me arm. “Now you’re trapped and you have to stay!”

I look at the time, look at him, and give him another kiss. “It’s time for sleep,” I say. “I’ll see you in the morning.”

He nods and releases my hand. “Is it nearly Creative Time?”

“Yep.”

“Okay,” he says. He gives me a beautiful big smile, another kiss and cuddle, and then grabs a book to read on his own.

I head out and check on Little Brother. I give him a kiss, make sure he’s comfy, and move on.

It’s 7:25. I have five minutes left.

“Are you nearly ready?” I ask my husband.

“Just getting set up.”

Great. I do a quick check of the house, make sure all toys are away, all dishes are stacked, and all children are still where they’re supposed to be. Then I head into the office. It’s 7:29. I’m a minute early.

“Let’s do this thing,” I say.

And we do. My husband draws, either on a sketch pad or on the tablet connected to his computer, and I sit at the purposefully-not-internet-capable laptop and write.

For one hour, we focus on our creative pursuits.

For one hour, we lock the rest of the world out of our minds, and we focus on our creative passions.

For one hour, we are artists first.

The clock ticks over to 8:30. My husband stands up and stretches, and I finish the word I’m typing (the word, not the sentence, and certainly not the paragraph) and hit CTRL+S. Then we talk. He shows me what he’s working on, and talks about the process he’s using. I tell him how many words I wrote, and how I’m feeling about my story and characters. We’re relaxed — more relaxed than at any other time in the day.

And then we step back to the real world. We check on the children, fire up Facebook, and wash the dishes. But the world looks different; brighter. Our conversation is more lively. We smile more readily. We feel fulfilled. Connected. Alive.

This is not something we do every now and then. This is something we do every night.*

Every.

Night.

Every night, we spend an hour being creative. And it’s amazing how productive that hour is.

When I’m working on a first draft, I average around 900 words a day. My record is 1700 words in an hour of Creative Time.

To put that in perspective, consider that I’m writing an 80,000 word novel. At 900 words a day, that’s 89 days of writing. Just less than three months.

The idea of writing the first draft of a novel in three months, while investing a mere hour a day, is ludicrous to me. Ludicrous. I mean, it took me 18 months to write the first 35,000 words of my last manuscript.

But I finished the last 55,000 words in two months after we started our daily Creative Time habit.

Not so ludicrous after all, it would seem.

( After all, I’ve written 8500 words over the last 7 days.)

I know what you’re thinking.

You’re thinking, “Yeah, it may work for you, but I can’t do that.”

I don’t work that way.”

I can’t write in short blocks of time.”

I’m too busy.”

I don’t have a spare hour every day.”

I have to be in the mood to write. I can’t just switch my creativity on and off at will.”

The thing is, I said every one of those things at one time or another. Every single one of them. But I tried this system because… well, what did I have to lose? It’s not like I was getting any real writing done anyway. I mean, 2000 words a month isn’t exactly something to write home about. (Assuming I found the time to write home.) “Besides,” I said to myself. “When it doesn’t work, I’ll just stop.”

But it did work.

The first few days were hard. It felt alien and unnatural to be sitting down to write at the end of the day, and I picked away at the keys like I’d never seen a keyboard before. I wrote maybe 100 words. I wasn’t in a routine. My creative mind wasn’t ready. It was all over the place. It was out of practice.

It took until day four for my creativity to really kick in.

On day four, I wrote 1100 words in an hour. And I was hooked.

Now, six months down the track, I’m still busy. Busier. Not only am I writing every day, I’ve also taken on a paying part-time job that I do from home, and extra volunteer work. I drive two hours every weekday getting Big Brother to and from school. I bake and organise birthday parties and do housework and raise children. I’m busy. I have no spare time.

But, you know what?

I have no idea what I used to do in the one hour time-slot that became Creative Time.

Whatever it was, it can’t have been that important.

Certainly not as important as this.

*     *     *     *     *

If you’re struggling to find time to write and want to organise your own Creative Time, here’s a few tips that might help:

  • Talk to your family and get their support. Even better, get them to pick a project and join in.
  • Tell people what you’re doing. Let people know you’ll be unavailable for phone calls, internet chats, and other things during that one hour — and stick by your guns.
  • Choose a time that suits you and your family. An evening time-slot works for us, but maybe an early morning or an afternoon time-slot would work for you.
  • Set up your work area before your Creative Time starts. Turn on your computer, load your file, get out your notes, whatever you need to do.
  • Stick to it, with no excuses, for at least two weeks. Even when you don’t feel like it or you’re not inspired. Your creative mind needs to get into a routine.
  • Record how you go. Track word count, or pages written, or whatever progress you’ve made on your creative project. Being able to look back at a diary and see written proof of your success is an amazing motivator.
  • Once you’re in a routine, and you’re confident with it, give yourself a break when you need it. But not for more than one night at a time. You don’t want to get out of routine.

Good luck!

*     *     *     *     *

* Yes, including the mad rush to be ready on time.

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Achievement Unlocked: Complete First Draft

First Draft!Remember last week when I wrote a post about how I was almost finished the first draft of my WIP?

Well, the seemingly impossible has happened.

I’ve FINISHED.

(Yes, that did deserve all capitals.)

I typed the last word of my novel last night. (For the curious, that word was “do”.)

In total, the first draft is 88,760 words. That works out to 326 pages. If you’re like many non-writers, that doesn’t mean much to you. So if you’d like an idea of what that means in real terms, grab a handy paperback book and open it to page 326.

That’s how big my novel is.

Before you ask…

No, you can’t read it.

Not yet.

I still have a LOT of work to do before my novel is finished, and even a lot of work to do before I’ll willingly hand it over to beta readers. So, what happens now?

My plan goes something like this:

  1. Take a break for a few days. Because wine. And chocolate. And the accolades of my friends and family.
  2. Because I’m a pantser rather than a plotter, a lot of story elements actually changed during the writing process. I significantly changed the backstory of my protagonist at about 35,000 words. I significantly changed the motivations of the antagonist at about 40,000 words. I changed the setting at 50,000 words and the season at 65,000 words. So a lot of the early part of the story is, shall we say, inconsistent with the last half. So my second step is to address this.
    • I’ll read through the first half, making notes about structural and character changes that need to happen.
    • I’m not going to pay any attention to word usage, spelling, grammar, etc during this.
    • Then I’ll step into the story and make the changes I’ve highlighted.
    • Finally, I’ll make the relevant changes to setting and season where necessary for the continuity of the story. (But without getting bogged down in adding description.)
  3. Then it will be time to hand it over to my alpha readers and ask for feedback on the story, structure, and characters.

I don’t know how long it will take for my alpha readers to give me their feedback, but I don’t plan on touching this novel again until 2-3 months has passed from the time I hand it over. Then there’s a round of edits, beta reading, more edits, and possibly more beta reading. But I’ll think about all that later.

So what am I going to do during the upcoming 2-3 months?

I’m glad you asked.

You see, I have this great idea for a novel…

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The Importance of a Supportive Environment

Celebrate

You’re probably wondering why my posts have been a bit more sporadic than usual over the last few weeks.

Okay, in my ego-driven imagination, you’re wondering why my posts have been a bit more sporadic than usual over the last few weeks. In reality, you probably haven’t noticed. And there’s a pretty good chance that, even if you have, you don’t care.

Leave me to my delusions, darn you!

Now, where was I? Oh yes.

You’re probably wondering blah blah blah last few weeks.

There is a reason — a reason I like to think of as A Good Reason, in fact.

My creative brain is locked inside a little room with the novel I’ve been working on for… well, almost as long as I’ve been blogging, (two years in April) and I’m finding it hard to write these little snippets of my life on as regular a basis.

Because…

I’VE NEARLY FINISHED!

Okay, the celebration may be a little premature. But not much. I’ve got about 8000 words left to write, and then I’ll be finished the first draft. And the last bit is, of course, the best bit. The high tension, high excitement, do-or-die, winner-takes-all, good-vs-bad, stand-off between the protagonist and the antagonist. It takes all my willpower to draw my mind out of my story for long enough to remember that my children need to be fed, let alone to remember to blog.

So, I’m sorry.

But not that sorry. Because this has been a long time coming, and I’m looking forward to finishing the first draft and starting on the long, and much-anticipated Road of Revision.

So I just wanted to take a moment to say thank you to everyone who has supported me while I’ve been writing. Thanks to my blogging friends and the great community I’ve found here and elsewhere on the web. Thanks to my family and friends. Thanks to my writing partner, Claire, who has provided inspiration and pep talks when needed (as well as a bottle of wine to open when my draft is complete!). And thanks most of all to my husband, Robbie, who has supported, encouraged, and believed in my writing and this story all along.

When I told Robbie I wanted to celebrate the completion of the first draft by purchasing a book that will give me extra insight into my setting and help me with my revisions, he said, “That’s not a treat, that’s a necessary tool you need for your career. You should get a massage or something.”

Thanks, Rob, for your support. And also for using the word “career” instead of “crazy, impossible dream”.

So if there’s a few days in between my posts, now you know why. I promise I’ll be back full-time when I type ‘The End’.

Who is your biggest fan and supporter?

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