Post Move Update

Things have been a bit quiet here of late! Apologies for that, life has been very much on the hectic side of things. My last few weeks of work were incredibly busy due to staffing issues and then I was moving home! We’re all settled into the new flat now though we’re still without internet, which is another reason why I’ve been very quiet both here and elsewhere. Things are still going to be pretty busy as I get settled in and find work in the area. Either way, I hope to be back to posting bimonthly consistently again.

As for updates on the creative side of things, here’s how things have been going.

I’m on the last chapter for this sweep of The Fairy Godfather, which is slowly turning into an actual story instead of a horrifying jumble of gunshots and one liners. Overall, I’m feeling relatively happy with how it’s shaping up but excited to go back and implement a lot of the changes I’ve got listed as I think they’re going to add greatly to the story. I’m hoping to get back to Through the Black in the next couple of months and have recently reached out to my beta readers, so once I’ve got enough feedback I can press on with that!

My art practice has taken a serious hit but now that we’re settled in I managed to pick it up again last night and to my shock it didn’t go completely terribly. I’ve been watching other artists’ online streams and it’s helped me figure out some stuff with my own line work that might help me improve, so more practice on that coming up! Maybe I’ll finally be able to get a new character profile up in the not too distant future. Unfortunately all three attempts at drawing Xin from The Fishperer turned out unfit for eyes human or otherwise.

I’ve managed to keep up slow but steady progress on my Snowflake Method project, slowly fleshing out the basics. I’ve been doing little bits of progress on The Fishperer and I’m going to be focusing on that for a couple of weeks once this sweep of The Fairy Godfather is done, just for a bit of head clearing time while it sits.

I hope you’ve all had a good summer so far and have been making excellent progress with your own projects!

Snowflake So Far

You may remember me mentioning that I was going to try out the Snowflake method to see if it’s something I want to use in the future when plotting stories. So far, I’ve found it to be an incredibly useful tool. Already I’ve identified several major problem areas and managed to change them quickly, all before I’ve actually gotten to the point where I need to go back and alter other things. Let’s look at the list.

First, I found the character arcs really helpful. This is where a one paragraph synopsis is rewritten for each of the MCs. For one thing, I noticed that one of the MCs had basically no arc whatsoever. She was a Manic Pixie Dream Girl without being manic, pixish or a love interest, which was kinda impressive when you think about it. Noticing this now allowed me to really look at her and her story and make sure that she had goals and pursuits and a purpose other than holding up the other characters. I rewrote her paragraph and turned her into a fully-fledged story all herself. And I didn’t have to alter 70k words of prose to do it – a nice change from my usual method.

Next in Stage 4, the plot expansion step, I was able to combat another old nemesis of mine – the “things are too easy” problem. I make a bad habit of this one and it’s led to me having to insert entire arcs into already fully written manuscripts, and of course alter all the rest of the novel appropriately. Here I could tweak just a few sentences to make things more interesting and less predictable and it only took me an hour or so as opposed to a couple of months.

Stage 5 is very good for weaving all the characters’ stories together and finding ways to add depth and intrigue to use characters to their full potential. It made it easier to keep track of subplots as well, as it allows for slight tangents away from the overarching stories to look closely at each character. Doing half pages for minor characters is something I’ve never done before – I’ve never put much thought into them before the actual writing and always let them develop with the story. It feels very different and I’m interested in seeing how this effects the story and how my secondary characters feel.

I’m currently on Stage 8 – the outline stage. This feels like more familiar ground as it’s extremely rare for me to write without at least a rough scene-by-scene. Naturally, I like the idea of this stage but I found working in a spreadsheet pretty clunky. I’ve modified it a little and instead jumped into Scrivener, using the corkboard feature. This allows me to very easily move scenes around and also put notes and ideas into each document as I go. I’m just too addicted to being able to put extra info absolutely everywhere, and being able to rearrange with just a drag and drop is so convenient.

cofNeedless to say, this new project has become way more of a thing than I ever intended so whoops on that one. What can I say, I need something to distract me while TE1 is with the betas! That said, playing with this story is going to slow down considerably as TE2 has sat long enough. It’s time to work out those huge structural changes that I’m trying to prevent in future projects.

Wish me luck.

It Is Done

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It is done.

The draft. All that is left is a read through and then Through the Black will once again be beta ready. It fills me with overwhelming excitement, relief and fear. I don’t know when I’ll send it out but probably not immediately. I might wait until January when the holidays and whatnot are out of the way. Still, it’ll be a huge load off my shoulders to have it completed.

I think once I’ve done the read through I’ll be taking a little break from writing. That isn’t to say I won’t be writing at all, I just won’t start any serious work on anything. Poking and prodding at whatever takes my fancy. Because let me tell you, as much as I adore writing and my WIPs, this year has been utterly exhausting. Being a bit more casual for a while is definitely on the cards.

That said, I’ve already picked out my two main projects for next year because my brain doesn’t know what down time is. Though I will need to distract myself from the fact that beta readers have my novel.

So what will I be working on? First up as my “main” main project will be Through the Black sequel The Fairy Godfather. The concepts and events of book one are now solid enough that I feel I can start some proper work on it – the poor thing’s still in very rough shape from when it was my first official NaNoWriMo novel. It needs about 30k added to make it novel length and interesting, but considering I had a whole gang of shallow disposable bad guys who were never dealt with in the first draft I’m certain that’ll fill up quick.

Next year’s official side project will be The Fishperer, because it’s too much fun to ignore (and not a behemoth like certain other side novels who shall remain nameless). It’s a short stand-alone which will be nice to work on for a change. It’s also set on the back of a whale, which is a huge draw for me.

I hope your writing progress is going well and if you’re not keeping track then I hope you’re just having a good time with it!

Resolutions 2016 – Half Time

We are already—terrifyingly—halfway through the year so here is a half time update on those resolutions I made back in January. Now, I commonly use the phrase “going to sort my life out” when I’m exiting a conversation, normally to mean I’ve got something to get ready for or something important I’ve been putting off that I finally am going to do. This year so far has been a pretty special one for me personally as it is the year where I have finally, actually, sorted my life out. Big, big things are happening in the next few weeks, as you will read below.

 

1.) Diversify my reading – As I’m a slow reader, I set my goal for this at ten books (half of my Goodreads challenge). I have currently read 6 out of 10 of those and am finding some amazing books I might not have found if I hadn’t specifically gone looking for them. If anyone has any recommendations for great diverse sci-fi, horror or fantasy novels I would love to hear about them in the comments below!

Diverse Books

If a book has the phrase “giant penguin apocalypse” in the blurb I’m probably gonna read it.

 

2.) Start leaving short reviews on Goodreads again – I set my goal for this at one a month and I’ve managed to keep that up, which means I’m currently 50% of my way to completing this goal. My reviews are still short and fairly pants but I’m writing them and making myself look more critically at a book than I normally would do. This in turn is helping me think about my own writing, even seeing the same issues in my own writing when I really sit and think about it.

 

3.) Submit more short stories – Submitting stuff is scary and between working on novels and a pretty hectic life at present, I set my goal for this at submitting three times. This is to allow for the time it actually takes to write a story and the time it takes to hear back. So far I’ve submitted one but I have another that’s almost ready to be submitted and the first is due back on the 5th of July at the latest, which will be getting sent elsewhere if rejected.

 

4.) Finish next draft of Through the Black I am currently 27.8 % through this draft! That number might not look great but I’m actually really on track with Through the Black work. I’m 81.6 % through the first sweep which is by far the longest part of my revision process. Thanks to an influx of time (see below) I’m a couple of chapters ahead of where I was expecting to be and have even moved up deadlines so that step two and three have more time for perfecting!

 

5.) Lose more weight – BAM! Mission accomplished. I have hit the number that I was after. The new goal here is to still be at that number or below come the end of the year. Maintenance is tough so I’m going to be working hard to make sure I don’t slip.

 

6.) Get a tattoo – The same tattoo I’ve wanted ever since I first saw Dragonheart when I was seven. Yes, that was 20 years ago and I have been putting it off and off and off. Observe below! Tah daaaaah!

Tattoo

Not Draco but a dragon all my own.

 

7.) Move in with partner – Now this is where things get really exciting (and terrifying). The 17th of June was my last day at my previous job. That’s right – I’ve finally found work down south. Less than a week from today, I am moving. The next couple of months are going to be turbulent as I juggle with a new home, a new city and a new job. It’s going to be scary and stressful but I welcome it with open arms because finally—finally—I will be living with my partner.

 

How is your year and resolutions going? Tell me all about it below!

Beta Readers and the Next Project

You may recall that this year I’ve been working on my horror story The Deconstructor as my primary side project to help avoid burnout as I continue to chip away at Through the Black. Well, at the end of last week I got the first draft finished! Woo hoo! So what now for it?

I was originally planning on it being put on the shelf and sitting, since I didn’t think there would be much interest for it yet and I’m focusing on other things. However already I’ve got a couple of volunteers who want to beta it – a promising start. So I’ve decided to see if anyone else is interested and then send it out with questions in a few days’ time. This will be useful in the long run as when it’s time to look at it again I can start right away.

As you can see from my projects page, I’ve got a good few open and a bunch of them that I’m excited to work on right now. Continuing with my theme of trying to tie up loose projects—let’s face it, I’ve got more than enough!—I’ve decided to work on The Fishperer. I’ve got a full rough draft which puts it next in line as most complete. I’ve let my list of open projects pile up way too high and for my own peace of mind I really want to work on at least getting them to beta ready stages. That way they feel less of a loose end, ready to be sent out when the time feels right.

The Fishperer doesn’t have its own page yet but I will be changing that before the next post is due out in two weeks, so you’ll be able to read all about it! It’s a project I’m very excited about, set in an ocean world where it’s not uncommon for people to be able to talk to fish and an aging, hydromancing bounty hunter is chasing the score of a lifetime. And it comes with a nice change in tone from working on The Deconstructor, easily the darkest and most serious long work I’ve written. It does however also require an obscene amount of rewriting. The joy of NaNoWriMo drafts! At least it’ll keep be busy?

If anyone else is interested in being a beta reader for The Deconstructor, either send me a message on Twitter or leave something below in the next couple of days and I’ll get back to you!

March 2016 Progress Report

We’re into the third month of the year already and I have no idea where the time has gone. The days have been running away from me faster than I can make good use of them. It’s been a really rough start to the year but a lot of the sources of stress have been dealt with now so hopefully this quiet period keeps up a bit so I can get down to some serious work.

So in spite of everything how has the writing been going, you ask?

Twyned Earth edits had a bumpy start due to Chapter 2 being a gargantuan struggle. There was a lot of change and problems needing ironed out. That said, I am now 19 % done and am on track with my plan to have one chapter completed every two weeks. If I manage to stick to this, I will have revised all chapters by mid September and I can go back and look through my changes as a whole and make sure everything works. After that will be the print out stage, where I’ll go through it line by line with a pen. One final read through and Beta Bothering Round 2 commences! Exciting.

Twyned Earth isn’t my only plan for this year, though it will be the priority and as such no other projects are getting goals set in stone.

As some of you may know, I’ve been working on my One Dead Prince novel over several Camp NaNoWriMo sessions, using one month to write one 50k word section (don’t even mention the cuts I’m going to have to make to this poor thing). Well, I’m currently at three out of four sections done, and I’d really like to have this rough draft finally finished just so I can put it out of my mind. This year I’m thinking that instead of doing it during one of the camp events I will split it over both, doing 25k each month to put less pressure on myself and not detract too much from Twyned Earth. Of course, if I’m behind on my main editing project, poor One Dead Prince will be getting left to sit for another year.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I can sometimes find it hard to work totally on one project without getting totally burnt out. That’s why I like to have a side project I can pick up to clear my head a bit. Normally that’s to do with world building or plotting, but this year I think I will try to focus my excess efforts on my Deconstructor story (once I’ve done a scene by scene plan for ODP Part 4). This project has sort of snuck up on me and really isn’t too far, relatively speaking, from being beta ready. I don’t know if I’ll be sending it out any time soon but it would be nice to have something else shuffling towards the mythical “Complete” stance on my project spreadsheet. It’s really important to me to get the next draft of TE finished, so not only is working hard on it important but avoiding burnout is essential. If I just so happen to eke another project within visual distance of the finish line then all the better!

So that’s where I’m out. How are your projects going? Have you hit the ground running this year or are you, like me, slowly building up steam?

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.