Compromising

I hate leaving things unfinished. I don’t necessarily mean completing something totally (obviously, haha, don’t look at all those half finished manuscripts), but I generally need to finish a draft or a section of a story before I can comfortably move on. It feels like finishing a line of thought, and to be cut off halfway through to work on something else isn’t something I like to do. Mostly because more often than not it is a real challenge to get back into that story in when jumping in half way through. At least it is for me. I’ll have trouble picking up where I left off from and catching the characters voices’ again or not be confident with the story or the world. Not to even mention the nagging feeling in the back of my head whispering “you need to finish doing that thing” which makes it ridiculously difficult to work on other projects.

Sometimes though, compromise is necessary. This happened to me just last week. It was a tough enough week to begin with, but on top of it I was struggling terribly to finish the first draft of The Fishperer while desperately wanting to start work on the next draft of Through the Black. The ending had deviated from my original plans – big shocker there – and I was not only writing rubbish but hardly writing at all. Finishing that stupid draft felt like an insurmountable task. So I cheated.

Compromised is probably a better word. Either way it doesn’t matter because it worked and I now feel free to focus on my main and most progressed project. I ‘finished’ that first draft with bullet points. I knew vaguely what I wanted to happen, conversations, lines and actions that I wanted to include. So I completely stripped everything back and bullet pointed every moment of every scene that I anticipated writing. This left me with a lot of detail while being able to move swiftly through the scenes. It allowed me to better plan and figure out what I wanted to happen. Before I knew it I had pretty much the last two chapters finished – just without writing it.

It feels like an acceptable compromise right now because I’ve got all the information I wanted, including character quirks and lines, without dragging it out another two months of painful head-to-desk struggle. Of course it’s not a perfect solution and will mean more time in fixing this later but now that The Fishperer is out of the way for now I’ve made some real progress on the next draft of Through the Black, which to me makes it completely worth it.

Compromise is a vital aspect of so many walks of life, yet I still manage to forget about it in my writing. It’s another in that long list of things that I sometimes need to remind myself is okay.

Resolutions 2016

Happy New Year’s everyone! Hope you all had a lovely holiday season! I certainly did and as of tomorrow will be back to business as usual. Hopefully this will do a lot for my productivity. It’s picked up in the last few days but aside from that has been pretty much nonexistent since the end of November. That’s December for you. Now, for the first post of the year, I give you my new New Year’s resolutions! Wooo!

 

1.) Diversify my reading – After a long hiatus of reading at uni, I had a lot of books to catch up on. Most of them were recommendations and have resulted in not very diverse reading! Now that I have mostly caught up on most of the big series I want to branch out and read some of these awesome diverse authors I’ve been hearing about.

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Don’t panic – this isn’t my only shelf. It’s just too amusing to not use as an example.

2.) Start leaving short reviews on Goodreads again – I’m not very good at writing reviews but they’re good for both me and the author I’m writing one for. Writing reviews makes people look at stories: the good points, the bad points, what works, and what doesn’t. As a writer, drawing my attention to these things helps highlights issues in my own writing. Improving my own work and helping other writers out at the same time can only be a good thing. So, I want to leave at least ONE review a month. Hopefully more but I’m expecting a busy year so I want a realistic goal.

3.) Submit more short stories – I won’t bore you by waffling EVEN MORE about the positives of trying to submit stuff. If you visit regularly, you’ll know how I feel about this so it should be no surprise that I want to make submitting a more regular occurrence!

4.) Finish next draft of Through the Black – Again, no big surprises here! Twyned Earth, my main project, will be getting a lot of love this year and I am aiming to have a shiny new draft ready for beta readers by the end of the year. Eeeeep! And eventually hopefully an actually decent title…

5.) Lose more weight – After last year, I have a numerical value I’m aiming for and this one isn’t a stepping stone like the last but the endgame. Woo!

6.) Get a tattoo – The same one I’ve been saying I want for years but have never got.

7.) Move in with partner – It has been a long time coming and hopefully now in the near future!

 

Phew. Got a busy year ahead of me, I think! Reach for the stars, right? Who else has exciting resolutions for 2016?

Resolutions 2015 Roundup

Uh oh all, here we are, it’s the end of the year! Ahhhh! Let’s have a look back at my original list of resolutions and see how I did.

 

1.) Start maintaining this blog again.

Looking back, I posted 24 posts this year (not including this one) which works out at one post every two weeks. Which is surprising to me, because that’s really not bad at all! Okay, so they weren’t posted that way and we still got some preeeetty big gaps but it’s a vast improvement. Also, aside from one missing side project, everything is looking pretty up-to-date elsewhere on the blog too. I’m hoping to keep this up next year and might deliberately try to aim for a two weekly posting instead of weekly as that feels much more manageable to me.

2.) Send Twyned Earth Book 1 to beta readers.

Mission accomplished! Okay, so this was done ages ago but not only did I send it but I got loads of feedback and have a plan for tackling the next draft next year. Woo!

3.) Lose some weight.

This went pretty well actually. I didn’t start the year with a numerical value to reach for so I’m counting this one as a win. I eventually settled on a number, which I didn’t hit, but I got 91% of the way there which has set me up pretty well to carry on losing next year to hit my final weight goal.

4.) Keep up with blogs.

Argh, this was a total flop. Started out okay, then got a little bit more ropey, then it all just kinda went to pot. I could make excuses and say that I had a lot on this year but everyone has a lot on every year so it feels like cheating. This one will have to go back on the list next year because it really is something that I want to do. I still have my list of blogs but there are only a few that I’ve managed to keep on top of which means I’ve been missing a wealth of good advice! The horror! Hopefully next year I’ll make a better stab at this one.

 

There we have it. Not perfection but I’m pleased with how I’ve done this year. There’s been a lot of other somewhat massive stuff that’s happened which helps make this year feel pretty successful so despite some minor failings I’m okay with this list. If you’re the resolutions type, how did yours go?

Rejection, Steps and Time

As you may recall, I submitted two short stories away to places earlier this year. Somewhat predictably, they both came back rejected or “unsuccessful” as was so diplomatically put in the letter. The kind tone was greatly appreciated because rejection sucks. We all know it and we’ve all been on the receiving end of it for one reason or another. It is one of those things that we must accept, pick ourselves up from, and just carry on.

I said before that the first step was the hardest. As it turns out, I was actually right. One of those stories has already been submitted elsewhere. That particular submission is probably a major case in punching above one’s weight but trying is the only thing that gets results. Thanks to taking that first step, I managed to take a second and without even half of the anxiety and dithering of the first. I’m taking those steps toward my dream of being published and keeping up the momentum.

Sending short stories for submission though is just the first in a long list of things I hope to achieve, writing wise. The end game is the accepted novel. The trouble with novels though is that they are big and eat more time than I can eat Malteasers (that’s a lot). I sent book one of my main project off to beta readers this year, at the end of February. It’s really easy to trick myself into thinking that I’m way behind, that I should be far further through this next draft than I am. What I’ve done though is go through all my beta feedback and carefully construct a game plan. Novels are big, slippery beasts and they need time and revisions need plans. I need to remind myself (and possibly you) that creating a publishable novel is a marathon, not a race.

Events like NaNoWriMo can give writers a fantastic head start – but that’s all it is. Taking the easy bit running. Then comes the hard graft and even then everyone works at different rates. I’m slow. Really slow. I also like to work on side projects to keep my creativity fresh and prevent burnout. It works for me, and after this year’s NaNo I am ready and raring to tackle revisions some more.

I just need to sit back sometimes and remind myself that this is a long game, and that being “slow” isn’t the same as being behind.

NaNoWriMo the Teacher

One of the great things about NaNoWriMo is that you always learn things. Whether that is the names and shapes of different types of blades, how to deal with head trauma or the problems associated with marine mammals’ blowholes, it teaches you things. Things about the way things work, things about yourself, things about writing. You write. You practice. You research. You learn.

I won NaNoWriMo 2015 writing a Waterworld inspired high fantasy about bounty hunters, and it taught me just how much of our everyday language is gendered. In this still currently unnamed world (I am rubbish at naming things), the language is gender neutral apart from pronouns – chosen from three as part of a coming of age ritual – and archaic royal titles. It was actually a lot more limiting that I thought it would be and made me realise a few things.

 

1.) We use gender to talk about people a lot. You would think that, as someone who perhaps considers gender more often than most, I would have noticed this. To an extent I had but when it came to completely removing gendered terms I realised how reliant on them I continued to be when I wrote. I had to learn to avoid writing that “a man had entered the room” and come up with something new – something that sounded good and flowed without being forced. Even in speech, characters would say things like “aww man” and that would have to go.

2.) Trying to sound informal and gender neutral can be tough. “Oh, there was some guy asking about you.” A perfectly normal and casual sounding sentence. The structure is familiar and commonly used, at least where I’m from, but when changing the “guy” to “person” it loses a lot of the formality. These types of switches worked well enough in the prose but when it came to dialogue things became tricky. Instead with the sentence above, I found myself altering much more than that in order to accommodate both of these essential requirements – gender neutral and informality. Of course, in the true spirit of NaNoWriMo there was often a far simpler solution that I couldn’t see at the time (“Oh, there was someone asking about you.”) but it got me thinking about language and how we use it, which I think is the point.

3.) Even some ungendered things are gendered. No, you read that right. This novel is set in an ocean world and it took me until twenty thousand words to realise that the word “fishermen” didn’t fit the setting. An easy thing to fix, just changing it to fishers, but I was still impressed (okay, so more annoyed) that it had slipped past me after I had been so meticulous with other very similar words. To myself though, it is just so ingrained into my mind as the word for “people who fish.” I don’t know about you but I’ve never heard anyone say either fisher or fisherwomen. When it comes to fishing, fishermen generally means everyone. This could be regional, of course. I was at university before I learned that “jamp” wasn’t actually a word. The point is that this term that would never had existed in this world slipped in because it was so normalised to me that I never spotted it. And it wasn’t the only one. I know now that I will have to be exceptionally attentive when it comes to revisions.

4.) I had it easy. I speak English, just about. I am, very slowly and poorly, trying to teach myself French. I’m awful at it. Just dire. But I’m trying, so that’s something. In French, everything is gendered. Apples, for example. Why are apples gendered? I don’t know. I also don’t know how one would even attempt to set a novel in a gender neutral world with a language that works in this manner. For personal reasons, I find this part of the language stressful enough. Just the idea of trying to figure out how to make it neutral and legible makes my head spin. There could be a way, for all I know. Like I said – I’m still learning and moving slower than an escargot. All I know for now is that I had it easy!

 

I hope everyone else’s NaNoWriMo adventures were as fun and fruitful as mine or, if you didn’t NaNo, that you just had an awesome November. I have two and a half chapters of the Fishperer left to write and then I will be cracking on with the dreaded Through the Black revisions.

If you took part in NaNoWriMo this year, what weird and fun things did your novel teach you?

 

Bowling Memories

It’s been that crazy time of year again where a good few thousand people write like the wind to produce especially floppy first drafts. Being partial to a floppy first draft myself, I wrote a fun adventure story about bounty hunters and whales that will pop up on the Other Projects page at some point.

Tomorrow (or yesterday, depending on when I post this) I am going bowling with my coworkers. I am expecting a fun and ridiculous time as this has happened before. It happened on the 28th of February, 2015. A strange date to remember, maybe, but it isn’t the bowling that I’m thinking about when I remember it. This was the day I sent Through the Black to beta readers. That was less fun but equally ridiculous. I was a stressy pile of nerves and hitting send was one of the hardest things I’ve done. It was also one of the best. The combination of good, honest advice and real encouragement are what made me believe “hey, I might actually be able to manage this!” The prospect of bowling with drunks now reminds me of this glorious inspiration. So here I am.

In fact, I’ve been hit with such a blast of inspiration that I actually have plural blog posts LINED UP to go out! I know! This is all to do with bowling inspiration, of course, and nothing to do with us hurtling to the end of the year and looming Resolution judgement. Nothing at all.

In all seriousness, life has been interesting this year. A lot has been happening, a lot of changes, and a lot to keep me from writing. When I’m struggling with writing, blog posts are always the first to go. I find them difficult enough to write at the best of times so when I’m struggling I’m really at a loss. One of the things that has been keeping me busy has been job applications. Lots and lots of job applications. Nothing kills your enthusiasm quite like those.

Rest assured though, the blog is never forgotten. Swept gently into a corner, maybe, but never forgotten. I hope you have all been excellent and enjoy the upcoming posts.

The Submission Thing

Yesterday I took a huge step in the direction of my dream to become a published author – I actually submitted work to someone who publishes things. Mind blown, right? This dazzlingly simple thing is difficult for a lot of reasons, self-confidence and actually saying “it’s finished” being my own two biggest hurdles.

Somehow, I managed to overcome both of these and have submitted two short fiction pieces. Nothing like the power of a hard deadline to help you finally just bite the bullet and go. Sometimes that’s what you need – a good hard push. I can’t even remember now how I decided I was going to submit but once I had I worked to the deadline. Those stories were going no matter what. There were wobbles, of course. The DAY before the deadline I decided one of the stories was awful and terrible and it just wasn’t going. I went to sleep one hundred percent convinced that I just wasn’t going to send it. The only way I managed to solve the situation was stubbornness. I’d promised myself I was submitting them both. In the end, I did.

I think taking this leap was a hugely positive step, now that the dust is beginning to settle. I’d be lying if I said I had high hopes of either work being accepted, but it’s the principle of the thing. Symbolic, even. It’s about the conquering of demons, standing up to one’s own weaknesses and punting them in the face with the smack of a ‘Submit’ button. It’s about doing things I’ve never done before in the hopes that the more I do them the less scary they will become. That’s how life works, right?

Right?

Okay, so maybe some things are always scary. Standing up to those things though is important. I might be afraid of flying, but no time has been worse than the first. After that first flight, I knew what I was going into and I knew that I had come out the other side before. I gained a quiet little voice inside me that whispered ‘you can do this.’ Yesterday I faced my fears and sent stuff away, and now I’m thinking maybe I can do this.

Let’s face it, I probably have less to worry about submitting fiction than I do in a plane anyway, my brain just didn’t get that memo. I’m hoping for these two be the first of many submissions. And who knows, one day one of them might just make it through.

Did you struggle to get to the point where you were ready to submit? How did you get over it?