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?

A Photo of a Pirate Ship

So far, 2015 has been a hectic year. For me there’s been a lot going on and a lot of stress from various different sources. The end of the year heralds more of the same, but for now I find myself in a little bubble of calm. The issues that have been causing bother have, for the most part, been resolved as best they can be. On top of that, I’ve just come back from a lovely little holiday to the seaside town of Whitby. It’s amazing the benefit of stepping back from everything can have. A proper chance to clear one’s head, be removed from the stresses of everyday life. I have come back feeling rejuvenated mentally and ready to make the most of this period of calm.

Now, I said a while ago that a serial would be getting posted to the blog and you’ve probably guessed from this long period of silence that that has changed. With slightly growing confidence in the piece in question, I’ve decided to try submitting it to a few places to see if anything comes of it. The idea of my work reaching a larger audience – as well as the prospect of getting some writing credentials – is both exciting and scary. Apparently when there isn’t enough stress in my life I have to create some! Still, it’s a positive step in my ultimate goal of becoming a published novelist.

So, my rejuvenated brain power at present is going towards polishing up two short stories for submission – watch this space! And, of course, the ongoing work on Through the Black continues. I received such a volume of fantastic constructive feedback that I’m still in the process of plugging in comments and my current fixes for those issues. It’s a long and ever evolving process that I hope to talk about in an upcoming post. Now that things have settled a little I hope to get inspiration for a few more posts before life overwhelms me again. I won’t make any promises on specific topics as I’m apparently terrible at following them through. I will however try and work up to being semi-regular again.

For now though, here is a picture of a lost pirate ship.

Ahoy!

Ahoy!

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.

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?

Goodbye Sir Terry

I’m not one for public mourning. Relatively recently, a lot of celebrities who have been close to my heart have passed away and I have, for the most part, remained silent about it. This is not because they were not special to me and certainly not because I did not think they were beautiful, wonderful people in need of praise. I just tend to be more private with this type of thing.

Today however, is the exception to the rule. There are dozens, even hundreds of people who inspire my writing in one way or another. Writers, actors, artists, loads of them. They all inspire my words and my worlds, my characters, my plots. They inspire it all.

But Sir Terry Pratchett is the reason I write.

I cannot remember how old I was when my older brother forced Guards! Guards! into my hands, but I was barely scraping double digits. It blew my mind and, without wanting to sound too dramatic, changed my life. I didn’t know books could be like this. I didn’t know stories could be so utterly ridiculous yet so magically real. I’d written before, frequently, and I loved it. Stupid little short stories, creative writing in school. Then I read this amazing book and I wanted to write one like it. The rest is history.

The news of Sir Terry’s passing has made me very emotional. I’m sad, yes, so sad that this world will see no more of his wonderful stories. Sad that I never had the chance to meet him. Sad for his family and his friends who will all be mourning the loss. It’s more than that though. I’m so incredibly grateful. Without him and his novels, I don’t know if I would be the person I am today. I feel like he is the person who gave writing to me.

So thank you, Terry Pratchett. Thank you, and I hope you are now somewhere as wonderful and wacky as you are.

Organisationing

Today I’m going to talk about organising projects. Now, if you’ve ever looked over at my Other Projects page, you’ll see that I’m terrible at sticking to one thing. I get all these shiny ideas and run off plotting them. Meanwhile, I’ve got a bunch of half written, half edited manuscripts laying all over the place! Y’know, figuratively.

In the computer

It was for this reason (and nothing to do with the fact that I have a massive deadline a week from today that I’m avoiding) that I decided to make a spreadsheet. I started by trawling through my writing folding, ditching the half baked ideas that were terrible and I no longer have any interest in, and sticking all the rest into a list.

Next, they have to be organised and prioritised. I decided to come up with three groups: Active, Queued and Not Active. Only a certain number of projects can be Active or Queued, and the only way to move up a priority is dead man’s boots. Or, stage completed man’s boots. That sounds less perilous though. Anyway, once a project has been moved into “Active,” it stays there until the stage it is currently in is completed (or goes up a level, eg first draft –> second draft). I’ve given myself three Active slots, so that I don’t burn myself out on a single work, though one of those slots will ALWAYS be Twyned Earth, until they are done. And as you can see, I only have two at the moment, until after the 28th!

I definitely should have been working instead of making this.

I definitely should have been working instead of making this.

The reason I’ve chosen multiple Active slots is because sometimes project hopping is good for you.

Sometimes you just don’t have the inspiration for a certain project. You have the desire to write, but can’t even look at the story you’re supposed to be working on. The advice online quite often tells you to just fight through it, sit down and power on. I’ve done it and sometimes it works. When I’ve got a deadline, or it’s a NaNoWriMo project, I just sit down and force myself on that project. The thing is though, I’ve found that if I’ve hit a block, stepping back and looking at a different story entirely can help lift that. I know I have a problem as a serial project cheat, but instead of letting it be a problem, I’m letting it be a solution. Sometimes the brain needs a reboot, and what better way than focusing on something else for a while? Similar to how other hobbies are good, for people like myself other projects can help kick writer’s block to the kerb.

I’m taking control of my constant hopping, but at the same time giving myself room for flexibility, because without it I don’t know how much joy I would find in writing. And without that, what’s the point? I’m narrowing my hopping down because I’ve gone too long without finishing anything, but I’ll never give up totally. I love all my stories and they will all receive love!

What about you guys? Are you a project hopper? How do you keep it under control?

Progress Report – The End is Nigh!

Not going to lie, I do not have a lot to say to you today. I’ve had a busy week working on the editing, desperately wrestling with the rewrite of the final confrontation. I’ve been dealing with new orders from the doctor (I now have a magic “infection begone!” spray). And I’ve had a busy weekend being all gooey in the grey south with my partner where we celebrated our seven year anniversary. So that was nice.

BUT YOU DON’T CARE ABOUT THIS!

You’re here for writing!

And I’m getting there, honest. The rewrite of the infamous ending scene has been completed, which leaves the remaining tasks before it is ready to be seen:

1.) The last scene and the short epilogue must be edited (total ~6k words)

2.) I need to work through the list of “desperately important minor points that I forgot to add,” currently consisting of about seven things

3.) I need to decide if I want to add/write a short prologue

I’m now fairly confident to say that it will definitely be ready to send out on the 28th. It was looking a little shaky there for a while, but no, I think we’re good. A little scary, sure, but this is the goal. Woooooo! I think. Okay, going to hide in a dark corner now. On the plus side, I have my “beaten my fears and actually taking a positive step” rewards sitting and waiting for me, which arrived today.

The Beautiful Rewards

Beautiful, aren’t they?

So tell me, how are all of your WIPs coming? How are you all progressing? And have you set yourself rewards for milestones?

Ups and Downs

A bit of a personal post from me today.

Friday was, shall we say, emotional. I had one of those days at work where, very early on in the day, someone completely and utterly trampled over my self-worth. To top that off, as it was their last day on the job, this issue will never be resolved and I’ll never get to know what went wrong. Nothing like confusion, hurt and self doubt to kick off your day. There was only one thing that I could think of that would make me feel better, and that was immersing myself in the fantasy worlds I’ve created. Unfortunately a had a whole day to stew before I could do that though.

To anyone who isn’t a writer, using fiction to forget your problems might not sound like the healthiest thing in the world. The thing about writing that non-writers have to understand is that to a whole lot of us, it isn’t a job. It’s a hobby, it’s our fun, it’s how we unwind and, very frequently, it’s our therapy.

Some people like to explore their trials and tribulations in their writing. Other’s like to use fiction to forget about them for a while. Whichever works for you, it beats the hell out of sitting there with a tub of Häagen-Dazs and is more productive too. On Friday though, being a writer helped me deal in a new way.

First of all we were nearing the end of the day, all of us in the lab being silent, when suddenly my co-worker turned to me with a humongous grin on her face and said “thirty six days” with more than a modicum of excitement. I peered at her, confused. Thirty six days? I spent a few panicked moments trying to remember what happened in thirty six days. Was her granddaughter visiting? A particularly significant footie match? A holiday? Eventually, I had to ask. My memory had failed me. Her grin only widened. “In thirty six days I get to read your book!” Talk about a confidence boost. Not only was someone excited to read my book, they were literally counting the days until they got to do so. Not even one of the writing community, because we all get excited at getting to beta each others’ books. I couldn’t help but join in her excitement, especially when I checked my emails later that evening.

A few weeks ago, I sent off the first 20k of Through the Black to a friend who needed stuff to critique for experience for a course. On Friday, I got their feedback. While I couldn’t get feedback on the overall plot or character arcs, what I did get was hugely positive. It was so validating and almost completely erased the woes of the morning. I was excited and delighted, grinning at my screen so much it hurt. Then I wanted to cry, overwhelmed by the fact that someone was actually enjoying the novel I had poured so much of my time and soul into. Then I was grinning again. This went back and forth long into the night, and it felt amazing.

Sometimes real life is awesome, and that energy gets channelled into writing.

Sometimes real life completely sucks. That energy goes in as well.

Because writing makes everything better, and I might be starting to think that sharing that writing is awesome too.

Betas And Babies

Right now I’m in full on editing mode and am currently still on track to finish on time (just). The last third of this book needs some major rewriting though, so we’ll see how this goes. I have currently edited twelve out of seventeen chapters of TE Book 1, in case you were wondering. Anyway, today I’m adding another brief note on beta readers and why they are important, if only to convince myself that sending this MS out is 100% necessary.

Beta readers are essential.

Disclaimer: You may get bored of this topic, as the prospect of sending this MS out is pretty much always on my mind right now, eating away at me. The fear is strong with this one. But so is the stubbornness. I’ve said it’s going out, it’s going out.

I am very easy to please. Ridiculously so. Quite often I find it difficult to spot faults. It’s one of the reasons that I find beta reading such a challenge. No really, I genuinely loved that story and don’t know how to criticise it. Like, I actually kinda enjoyed Alien Resurrection!  That’s how bad it is. I see a good film and think it’s amazing. I see an all right film and think it’s great. My brain nearly exploded when I saw Guardians of the Galaxy. How can I see the problems in my own work if I can’t see it in other peoples’? It’s tough, but that’s where beta readers come in.

It feels like such a strange thing to complain about, since most of my time editing consists of me dramatically flopping over my desk, lamenting how this prose is completely unfit for human eyes. There are problems. I know there are problems. What are they? Why are they problems? And how, oh how, do I kick them to the curb?

There are parts of my story that I really like, certain scenes, conversations, settings. Yet the thought of people reading them still makes my blood run cold. Do I, on some subconscious level, know that there are issues in these things that I love and I just don’t want to change them? Very possible. Our books are our babies. Actually, scratch that. I hate babies. I love books, especially  mine (about 40% of the time). The point of beta readers is to challenge this love, to question, to poke holes. So eventually, someday you will have the perfect, remade, new and improved, robo-baby. Uh, I mean book.

And that is why beta readers are essential.