Withdrawing From Camp

Tis with a heavy heart that I am officially withdrawing from July Camp NaNoWriMo 2015. As much as I would have loved to be able to do the things I had hoped to this month, it just is not going to happen. This is partly due to coming out of a very stressful time recently – I thought I had recovered from that but apparently not. More time is needed and so reducing my stress and responsibilities seems like the most sensible option right now.

My project for the month was to edit 50k words of Twyned Earth Book 2. While it is something I desperately want to complete, I have been having such a difficult time working on it. Not because I am fatigued with the project itself but because there are too many distractions – both in my writing life and outside of it. For once, the distractions inside my writing life are actually favourable. With all the feedback I’ve been getting for Through the Black, I’ve been feeling so inspired to start work on the next draft. There is a lot to do and thanks to my beta readers I have some great ideas for the novel. It’s a nice change to be feeling compelled to work on the novel I have closest to a querying position as sometimes it feels like I’ll never move forward. I feel trapped in limbo and that I’ll be here forever, never able to commit and complete a project fully – not a great feeling when already stressed about other things too!

It was only this year that I finally came to the realisation that I truly want to become a published author. Since this realisation, I’ve felt a lot of pressure.

Before writing was my hobby, it was what I did for fun. It didn’t matter if my writing was atrocious or if my drafts never reached a standard worthy of the light of day. Enjoyment was the sole reason I wrote so what did it matter as long as I was having a good time? I could work on all the side projects I wanted to, never even knowing where they would go. It didn’t matter. It was FUN.

Now, suddenly, two things have changed. I have to be good and I have to finish. Both are ridiculously scary, especially as publishing is a long game. Fantastic authors wade through piles of rejections before landing an agent. After that, it has to start getting sent to publishers for more of the waiting game. Then, if you’re lucky and good, you get your publishing deal. Then it can be another year -or more!- to wait on top of everything else before your book ever comes near a shelf. It’s fairly harrowing. It took me a long time to finally figure out what I want to do with my life, so long that I feel like I’m already behind.

Which is why I’m chuffed to have got some inspiration to continue work on Book 1. There’s still a long way to go before that’s going to be ready for agent hunting – but some day it will be. I need to focus on that, and not how far away that day is. In my present frame of mind, I really feel like I want to work on something that will bring me closer to my end game – not put more time between me and it. As such, my current plan now is give up on NaNo this month and leisurely resume work on Through the Black – when I’m ready. No deadlines for myself yet. It’s time for some much needed R&R and just generally straightening out my head. I’ve been neglecting my mental health a little too much recently and it’s time for that to change.

Character Profile: Tony

Portrait of Tony by OlieBoldador - commissioned by a close friend

Portrait of Tony by OlieBoldador – commissioned by a close friend

Story: Twyned Earth Series, first appearance in Through the Black.

Protagonist or Antagonist?: Protagonist

Name: Tony

Age: 45

County of Origin: Aigorshuck, Sarn

Occupation: Unemployed. Nothing shady going on here. Nooooope.

Loyalties: Family, and one or two close friends

Goal: Save the world.

Morals: Strict, if skewed. There are some things you just don’t do. Try to keep the civilians out of it. Don’t hurt kids and kill anyone who does. And if there’s the risk of a world war starting, ugh, guess you try and help.

When Tony’s best friend decides he wants to stop a war, he supposes he should probably tag along. After all, Michael’s an idiot and Tony’s got connections. Totally legit connections, you understand, but they could come in handy – especially when things get heavy.

It’s easy to underestimate a man who’s four inches tall. Someone’s in for a big surprise.

The Resolution Update

So, about six months ago you might remember me making THIS blog post about new year’s resolutions! Well, since we’re half way through the year and I don’t have a whole lot else to say at present, here’s an update to keep myself accountable.

1.) Start maintaining this blog again.

It’s not been perfect, and there hasn’t been posts every week,  but a total of fourteen posts so far this year (not including this one) means I’ve been doing a much better job than I did last year! I’m hoping to try and pick things up again as I’ve been slowing down, but as of next week I should have a short story ready to go up in three instalments to keep you all (hopefully) entertained!

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

Mission accomplished! Not only accomplished but I also have almost ALL of my beta feedback now! Huzzah! There will be a full post about this, hopefully by the end of the month, but for now I will simply say a massive thank you to all my beta readers. Current work has moved onto the editing of Book 2 and the plotting of this year’s stand alone NaNoWriMo project.

3.) Lose some weight.

Due to lots of sickness at the start of the year this one started pretty late but now that it has it’s actually going very well! I’ve lost 43 % of the weight I’m currently aiming to drop. If I hit my target, I might lower it after spending some time there, depending on how I feel.

4.) Keep up with blogs.

Getting better, even if that has devolved into binge reading a whole month’s worth of posts at once. That still counts, right? This is one I need a bit of a kick up the backside with, just so that I don’t lose whole evenings where I’m supposed to be working or playing Xenoblade Chronicles. What?

Now what about you guys? How are your resolutions/goals going?

Character Profile: Ashlyn

Portrait of Ashlyn Hearn

Portrait of Ashlyn Hearn

Story: One Dead Prince

Protagonist or Antagonist?: Um, yes

Name: Ashlyn Hearn

Age: 26

County of Origin: Northern Eirach

Occupation: Herbalist and phony fortune teller

Loyalties: None

Goal: Power

Morals: Possibly

Incarceration for witchcraft and the sentence of death briefly set Ashlyn back in her hunt for a creature of great power. When the kingdom of Eirach is invaded by the Avinbourgers though, she sees the opportunity for escape and jumps at it. Enlisting the help of a bounty hunter to travel far away from the city, she briefly abandons the goal she has been working so hard towards. That is, until they come across a man who knows the true fate of the late Prince Tiernan and suddenly the pieces of a new plan all fall together with even less risk than she could have hoped for.

After all, it’s hardly a sacrifice if you won’t miss them, is it?

Alternate Editing

Another round of NaNoWriMo bites the dust and this CampApril15 brought One Dead Prince to 75% completion. That’s pretty exciting me for me since this is such a huge project. I’m used to a first draft being around the 50k mark and then added to during editing. This one is probably going to hit 220k during the final part, which is quite different to what I’m familiar with.

The editing process is different for everyone and one of the big reasons for that is that everyone drafts differently as well. It turns out for me that drafting is wildly different for certain projects too.

Take Through the Black for example. The first draft of this was just breaking 54,000 words and was the very barest bones of a novel. There was absolutely no description of anything and very little internal thought from the main character – something very conspicuously missing in a first person novel. There was not enough challenges for the characters and things worked way too easily for them. The story was there though, and that was what I needed. The editing process saw me adding in forty thousand words, almost doubling the manuscript. I am certain that during round two of edits some of those will need to be shed but what I have now is leaps and bounds more fun and interesting than what I had before.

One Dead Prince is a completely different kettle of fish. There are some sections with long winded and dull descriptions (but still places where description is completely absent) as well some huge internal monologues where the characters ponder everything and anything and quite frankly put me to sleep. There is a lot of repeated information from different character views and a lot of things that are explicitly stated when they don’t need to be. When it comes to editing, I’m going to find it pretty easy to know where to cut a few thousand words.

So where did these differences come from?

These two stories, while both being of the fantasy genre, have very little in common. Through the Black is a fast paced action adventure type thing where as One Dead Prince is a epic spreading across a whole year and following several different groups of people with multiple different plot arcs.

The first draft of Through the Black was written very quickly and bare boned because it was important for this story to follow the flow of the action. With One Dead Prince there is a lot more of what I would call ‘padding.’ This isn’t because I really wanted to jack up my NaNo word count (though that always helps) but because with everything going on I found it necessary to explain in detail what a character was thinking as well as their motivations and reasoning for the sometimes strange things that they do. It is such a big story with enough complexities that I needed to leave information about why and how things were happening for future reference.

With one story, I needed to blast to the end just to know what happened and how it happened. With the other, there’s so much going on that the manuscript had to be littered with passages which really are nothing more than notes to myself. For the first I needed to go back and turn the framework of a novel into a novel. When I edit the latter, I will be using these little notes to myself to tweak things earlier and later in the MS before just cutting them out altogether. Two very different approaches to get the same result – a hopefully half-decent novel.

It’s funny the things you think about when you should be writing. Have you noticed differences in your writing styles for different projects? What sort of observations have you made?

Writing Games Mark Two

Hey, hey, hey! 

Today we have another installment from Melanie’s Writing Games! I hope you enjoy this ridiculous little story. The quote below is this month’s prompt and can be found at The Write Hobby blog, and the story follows.

So three film producers are sitting at a bar complaining about their latest sci-fi movie. The script is lacking something important. It has no interesting worlds or locations. One of the producers, with more money than sense stands on the bar, almost completely drunk and brings the room to a stop. The producer yells out to the crowd. “A hundred thousand dollars to the person in this bar who can save this script and make the final combat scene set some place extreme. I want the location to be so fierce that the set becomes a character in my movie.”

A hundred thousand dollars?! You betcha Mary was up for that. She was on her feet and careening sharply sideways before the guy on the bar had even closed his mouth. It wasn’t often three rich Americans wandered into tiny Scottish pubs but she certainly wasn’t complaining.

“Yo!” she hollered, raising a hand above her head and pointing an ill-aimed finger down at her own scalp. “Right here, sonny-jim.”

She swayed left, then right, and then left again, before finally settling somewhere close enough to upright. Rows of large, inebriated eyes turned to peer at her. Great. She had their attention. All she needed now was an idea. Uuuhh…

“Well?” the wobbly man on the bar demanded, head skewed to the left as it fought some hanging beer mugs for space.

She remained frozen and another slow second passed. A proverbial tumbleweed scampered past.

One of the propositioner’s friends sprawled his upper body over the bar with a dismayed groan. “She’s got nothing. We’ve got nothing! We’re all hacks-”

“Picture a scene before you,” Mary said, voice loud, hands splaying out like fans as she stepped closer to the bar on unsteady feet. “Picture… picture a snowstorm! But, uh, instead of snow… it’s LAVA!”

While there were one or two startled gasps from the crowd, but most just cocked eyebrows and looked confused. The three rich men at the bar looked so unimpressed that even their expensive pressed suits appeared bored.

“How does-” one drunken by-sitter began, but Mary didn’t let them carry on.

“All around is a darkened landscape, the sky a deep, judgemental orange glow, the ground for miles around all, uh, dark.” Her eyes darted up and to the side as she desperately pondered just what the hell she was talking about. “Peat! Dark, black, squidgy peat hills rolling for as far as the eye can see! Flecks of molten hot… STUFF raining down like phosphorescent snowflakes, twisting  slowly as they descend in the utter stillness.”

People were leaning forward now, listening closely. She had them, now to keep them.

“The air is thick and hot but there is not so much as a breeze to disturb a hair on your heads. All around, nothingness. Just thick, dense silence like the calm after a snowfall. Dampened, muted nothingness.”

You’ve said snow too many times! she thought in a panic. New words, new words! What little attention the three men at the bar had been showing was rapidly waning. One pulled out his phone and started jabbing at it, struggling with his hand eye coordination. Another’s eyes started to very slowly close over. The man’s words began to repeat in her head again. I want the location to be so fierce that the set becomes a character…

She grinned. “Just then, when you thought all was quiet, stood in the desolate quiet  – uh, I mean silence – something stirs.” A little more attention came back as she wove between the tables orating, occasionally knocking into things and tipping glasses to disgruntled mutterings. “Perhaps that is the wrong word.” She spun on her heel, doing a full three-sixty and nearly ending up on her face. Three different hands shot out to steady her as her eyes bulged different sizes. She squinted them, forcing them to focus on the rich men. Somehow, there now seemed to be six of them.

Everything stirs.” She raised her arms up in the air and began to undulate them like an eckied up octopus. “The ground rises in places and falls in others, moving like a sea monster, like great Nessie herself!”

“Nessie’s a bloke!” someone shouted from the crowd and she pointed a stern and angry finger at them.

“Don’t you start that shit with me again, Timmy. Don’t you dare.” She turned now manically wide eyes back to the suits, all of whom were watching her. “The ground moves and shapes itself as it likes, never making a sound, never breaking that eerie, haunting quiet. In places, cliffs as high as the Hebrides-”

“That’s not that high,” a petulant Timmy began.

She raised her voice to almost a shout, giving her very best Brian Blessed impersonation. “-and low as the Marianas Trench appear out of nothingness!”

This drew a couple of drunken ‘ooooooo’s from the crowd.  At some point she had dropped into a lunge, both hands curled in front of her like a particularly enthusiastic glam metal act.

“That’s right,” she continued on, rising again and lifting an arm in the air, “and every fifteen minutes, it all-”

“Here,” said one of the suits, now stood right in front of her. She hadn’t even seen him approach, too wrapped up in her own genius, but he held out a small white slip of paper to her. She took it. A cheque for a hundred thousand dollars. Her face lit up, mouth wide with delight. “There you are. I’ll give you that if you agree to shut the hell up.”