No Going Back.

So this month has been made an unofficial NaNo Edit month by the gorgeous and talented Melanie Francisco, which if you follow me on Twitter will explain all this #NaNoEdiMo malarkey. This is a great opportunity for me to kick myself in the behind. As I stated was my intention in my last post, this poor dusty blog has been getting a renovate in hopes for it to be frequented once again by me. And, while fixing the categories out so that “uncategorised” wasn’t my biggest one (urgh, go Past Me), I came upon a very excited post by me.

In this post, I was talking about how I was going to get through a draft of TE1 and send it out to betas super soon. Rather like one of the resolutions in my recent post. Only this last post was dated December 1st, 2013.

Yeah. Pretty epic fail, right? And it’s not the first, or the last. But this time I mean business, and NaNoEdiMo is giving me the boost I need. On top of that, I made a vow that I would not go backwards. Once a chapter is done, it is done. And once they are all done, it’s going straight in an email and flying off to betas. It’s so difficult to let go, and I’ve been going back and forth over this thing for two years and getting nowhere. I need new eyes.

So now I can’t go back, and I’m currently on Chapter 9 out of 15. That’s a lot of stuff I can’t touch.

It’s gonna be scary and it’s gonna hurt, but my book might finally get better as a result and that right there is the dream. It’s time to let go. And it’s time to edit like hell and get this thing OUTTA HERE!

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The Name Problem

Recently (about ten minutes ago) I asked the scary Twitterverse if the names of two of my MCs were too similar. The conclusion was yes. Damn.

Okay, so, I have these two characters, Tony and Thomas. As I’ve been working on this project for well over a year now, I’ve become rather attached to said names for said characters. I’ve got a back up name for Tony, and have done for some time, but I’ve never been sure about employing it. So here I am.

The character is a fairy and, in this universe, that means his real name is virtually impossible for a non-fairy to say. It is traditional for any fairies who leave the fold to be given a nickname that is somehow appropriate to them. In this case, Tony was named after the infamous character Tony Montana. It’s a painfully obvious association but it made sense with how the name came about and also provided an amusing parody, especially when (not very surprising spoilers ahead) Michael’s upbeat, fun loving, substance abusing fairy BFF actually turns out to be an ex-mobster. Which kinda leads us into Book 2 – The Fairy Godfather.

The backup name I’ve got going on is Frank (or Frankie), this time after Frank Sinatra. This still brings connotations of sharp suits, women and substance abuse (okay, so it’s alcohol and not a MOUNTAIN of coke) – the characters three favourite things. There are also alleged associations with organised crime. So, we paint a similar picture but far less in the extreme. Which could be a good thing. After all, the character’s nefarious past is a secret throughout a good portion of the book. At least to Michael, our poor gullible narrator.

Thomas’ name is a different story. It literally just popped into my head. Serious, that’s the story. Tony’s name has reason and rhyme and that has made it easier for me to think up an alternative. I really couldn’t think of another for Thomas that wouldn’t pain me. Which sounds ridiculous and irrational but, hey, I’m a writer so excuse me while I go and drink and weep in this corner.

So, the question. Is Frank (or Frankie) a good replacement name? From that little bit you know of him, does that capture him even a little? Should I just man the frick up and change Thomas’ name?

Oh, that’s three questions. Never mind, I’m drunk and crying, remember?

It’s Better to Burn Out Than to Fade Away

Unless you’re a writer.

I have to apologise for my absence recently. I wish I had a good reason for it like I was off fighting bears to rescue some helpless villagers but the truth is that I’ve been having a hard time writing the past few weeks. There are a few potential reasons for this including some personal stresses and an upcoming holiday but I think the main reason may be a little bit of burnout. You know, in case you didn’t already guess that from the title I ripped of from the Kurgan.

You see, I have been working hard on my Twyned Earth series pretty much solid for a full year now. In that time I feel like I’ve had some great achievements – such as finishing my first two novels (second draft finished, not PROPER finished). Now I’m trying to soldier through the third and I keep running into plot issues and having to rewrite the beginning before I can move on further. I think these set backs coupled with the length of time I’ve been working on this one project have frazzled my brain a little. Though, as they say, admitting you have a problem is half the battle. Now I know that the best way to finish this series is to just put it the hell down and leave it alone until I am no longer burnt out on it.

But how does a writer get over a burnout? Simples. Write something different! So I have.

Now, I have my serial killers story which has been progressing along slowly. Some of you may recall this post in which I talked about completely hand writing writing a story while out and about, and I have been doing this, but the interesting weather this year has only given me small windows to do so. Still, I’m squeezing in sections here and there, just enough to make sure it doesn’t become a shelved project. That would be sad because I really like this story so far but I didn’t want to go back on the challenge that I had set, so I still needed a new project.

Enter – an idea!

This new story actually formed in my head pretty rapidly. One of the things that has made it take off so well in my mind is the advent of new characters. All of the major characters in my main project were thought up this time last year and the same goes for the serial killers. I think I’d forgotten a little what it was like to have fresh new voices running around in my head. I’ll tell you what – it’s hella inspiring. They seem to be writing this one themselves. You can expect to hear more about this new story in the near future. For now, if you’re curious for what is currently an awkwardly generic synopsis, you can check out “Desolate” in the Other Projects tab.

So, Twyned Earth. I’m sorry, it’s not you, it’s me. I think we just need a break. I’ll be back. I always come back.

Am I Part of The Problem?

Alternate Title: Am I a Sexist Asshat?

One of the major topics that pops up on blogs and on forums is the question of sexism. Especially, it would seem, in regards to the genre of fantasy. And I agree that it is terrible when women are solely portrayed in restrictive and stereotypical roles. Or when they are flat and lifeless. Or when they are solely there to aid the male character’s story and no other reason. Female characters need to be interesting in their own right. They need to have their own dreams, motives and goals. And they need to want to achieve them and strive to achieve them. Otherwise, what’s the point? In books (or films or games or series or cave paintings), it’s so frustrating to see a true ‘token female’ character. If she were cut from the story completely and no one would notice she had gone (unless of course, she had been distracting you from the whole affair with her boob plate and chain panties), then what is the point in her having been there in the first place?

In Book 3 of the trilogy I’m writing, there is a character named Charlie who I love more and more with each scene she is in. She is fun to write. She is complex. She has a number of very strong motivations for her actions. And I thought to myself – as a female character, I think I’ve managed to avoid forcing too many stereotypes on her. I think she comes of as pretty well rounded and she sure has hell as enough motivation to be there. This got me thinking to myself – are ALL my female characters like this? That’s when it hit me – what female characters?

Oh crap, I did I just fall down the Sexism Well?

Let’s have a look starting with Book 1, Through the Black. There are a grand total of four female characters, two who are extremely minor.  For various reasons, their screen time is relatively limited. There’s a lot of movement and travelling and the only characters who are seen for an extended period of time in the story are the three main characters, all male.

Book 2, The Fairy Godfather, does a little better with a female Ambassador driving the war plot line while there is also a female support character helping the MCs along with the revenge plot line. There are a couple of minor characters thrown in there but overall the screen time for the women doesn’t measure up to that of the men. The thing is, I’ve always worried about making my characters well rounded, believable and relevant. Now I’m faced with a lack of female screen time. Is this worse?

I have always felt that I would rather read a book completely devoid of female characters than have a book where half the cast were women who had been shoe-horned in because sexism. Isn’t having a flat and lifeless female character there just to make up numbers more damaging than having none at all? Or is this attitude adding to the sexist feel in fiction? Am I a part of the problem?

In tackling the issue in my own writing, there is always the option of gender swapping characters. This is another subject I’ve seen pop up across the world of internet discussion and it is a legitimate option. There are characters within the story who could be swapped to being female. The only issue, and I admit it is a selfish one, is that I don’t want to. I’ve said it before from my Twitter account, potentially quite a few times. I write what pops into my head. No, really. I sit, I daydream, then I write. In my head, my characters are who they are. I’ve found that one of the most important things with writing is to go with my gut. To write what feels right. I’ve written my characters in the way that I envision them and I don’t know if I could bring myself to make such a drastic change to any of them. Unfortunately, it might be a sacrifice I just have to make.

Another option, the one I’m leaning towards currently, is that the screen time of my current female characters is ramped up when I go back for the big edits once Book 3 is finished. I already have women who are interesting but perhaps they don’t get to shine as much as they deserve. This does however still leave me with the issue that in Books 1 and 2 none of my ‘main’ characters are women. Is this an issue if I have good female support characters? Or conversely does that make it WORSE to have good, strong female characters that are, when it all boils down to it, just support characters?

Any and all opinions are welcomed and asked for.

Camp NaNo Update – Need More Words!

Just a quick update so you all know I’ve not vanished. Just been a little bit eaten by NaNoWriMo.

So we are past the half way mark for this month’s Camp NaNoWriMo challenge and I am worryingly behind! I should have seen problems arising – this month was never going to be a quiet one so things weren’t always going to go smoothly. Unfortunately, apart from expected set backs, there have been a couple of unexpected ones too and as such I’m starting to worry that I might not actually be able to hit the coveted 50k by the end of the 30th. Am I giving up? Am I heck! No chance! A wise man once said: “Never give up. Never surrender!” Okay, it wasn’t a wise man, quite the opposite (it was the captain from Galaxy Quest).

Anyway, I’m here to give you an update on Camp! I’m currently sitting at just over 30k. Not fantastic but not too shabby either. Click here to see my profile if you are at all interested. Aside from falling behind, the story is actually going pretty well (if I may say so myself). Things keep getting more intricate as I go which is nice, dispelling some of the worry I had that the story was extremely shallow. Also, as usual, the characters like to keep making themselves more complicated and never doing the right thing.

Another plus point is that, as it is set in the fictional half of the world in my storyverse, I am doing a lot of world building as I go and learning a lot about this world I have created. As well as a lot of standard fantasy creatures, there are quite a few that I have made up myself (such as the subterranean bat people or the feral mer people) that the more I write about them more I fall in love with them. I’m already planning completely separate stories just so that I can write about them in detail.

Anyway, as I say, just a quick update from me! I should be back to normal operating procedure the first week in May and give you a proper run down on just how Witch Hunters is going.

And if you too are taking part in Camp – Good luck and write write write!

Charactercide

I have recently been informed by my dear proof reader that, while she was enjoying reading through The Fairy Godfather, she hasn’t yet finished reading it. With any normal person this would not bat an eye lid but this woman devours books in a similar manner to how I devour marshmallows. Alas the poor dear felt the need to stop and take a break due to the emotional distress of too many people dying off (some times really unpleasantly).

It sounds mean but I like it in books (and films, TV programs, and so on) when bad things happen. It makes the presented stakes of the game seem real. There’s no invisible safety net to stop bad things from happening just because it isn’t nice. You sit there reading whilst thinking “Oh yes, they’re technically risking their lives but they aren’t actually going to die” and all of a sudden someone is completely, horrifically and irreversibly dead. Oh. Right. This author isn’t messing around. Their characters are in danger. The stakes are real. And suddenly, I’m a whole lot more invested in the story.

Now, when I was informed that my friend needed ‘a break’ my first thinking was something along the lines of “oh crap, this is so distressing it’s unreadable – I’ve clearly gone overboard!” Though it occurred to me shortly afterwards (and a friendly Twitter face also voiced the same opinion) that yeah, sure, I may have left my best friend curled up in the corner but she actually cares about my characters enough to feel bad about all the horrible things I do to them! This brought back a bit of confidence in my story. It gave my characters a certain validation that someone telling me they liked them just didn’t give. People can always say they like a particular character but being pushed to feeling an emotional response by them is something different. It is real. That is when they cease to be a collection of words on a page but an actual  character.

I can’t help but feel a little proud. My babies are all growing up. Yes, my dear characters, I do love you. Though I hate to say it, there’s still one more book left in the trilogy for you. Let the torture continue!

The Editing Wonderland

Well, I’ve been away for a while! In a whirl of life I’ve left this blog a little neglected and I do apologise. However, now with certain tests and the festive season in the past things should settle down and hopefully I can resume normal operating. deToday seemed a good day to return as I finished book two of the Twyned Earth series last night. Huzzah! Just one more book in the opening trilogy to go.

I know that a lot of writers detest – and I do mean detest – the editing process. I am not among these writers. Personally, I love editing. I adore the stories that I write (or I wouldn’t write them!) but I always get caught up in the moment and find myself running before I can crawl. The story always ends up with inconsistencies and gaps that really make the whole thing seem, well… appalling. Editing is where you can take that massive chunk of prose and make it good. I’ve found that even with a little editing I’m so much happier with it. Book two didn’t come as easily to me as the first one did, particularly as I didn’t have as much time to plan. A lot more is going to change through the editing process in this book than the last – and I can’t wait for it!

One of the things this particular story was lacking in was depth in the minor characters – most of them didn’t even have names. Now, they are coming to life and turning into people in their own right. While writing, I hated having such obvious filler folks but now they all have not only personalities but back stories of their own and, thanks to that, places in future novels. Basically I’ve only done one day of editing and already I can feel this turning into a book I’ll some day be proud of.