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?

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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.

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?

Reasons To Write Often

You may recall me mentioning NaNoEdiMo, during which I set myself the goal of editing 1k a day. It’s the 1st of February today, and while I didn’t quite manage 1k every single day, I did manage well over the total 31k that I was aiming for. Success! As a result I am currently still on track to have this badboy ready by deadline day – the 28th. Eeep!

This novel has changed one hell of a lot. It was originally a NaNoWriMo project, my first one actually, though technically it was a camp project (camp of August, 2012! Wooo!). I finished it just in the nick of time at a measly 53k, with virtually no characterisation or description. It was all dialogue or action, and in the grand scheme of things there wasn’t even much action. It had characters who became besties at the drop of a hat and the ending of a popular action film that came out three days after I finished writing it. (No really, remember this post?)

Two years later and it has grown into 90k of misadventures and (hopefully) interesting characters who spend half the time fighting with each other. There’s now a tangible villain to distract from the fact that the big bad is off screen until books 2 and 3 (the curse of the first person novel). There’s still that ill fated ending, but I’m now on the last two chapters, so that’ll be gone soon too. A lot has changed, but that’s only made it more like the book it was supposed to be when I first wrote it.

Y’know, when I had been out of practice writing for a good five years. I’ve written approximately 456,000 words of fiction since then (not including the original 56,000 of the Deconstructor that was redone NaNo14). Damn. That feels like a lot for two and a bit years. It works out at approximately 14,250 a month. I’m happy with that. Really happy. But it’s time to slow down and start editing some of this. Currently, it’s 456,000 words that no one in the world is allowed to read. I should probably work on that.

Rereading my old August 2012 stuff, it’s a bit cringe worthy. That’s good though. It reminds myself that writing is about work. Not just “you’ve got to sit down and write this sucker” but “you’ve got to practice your ass off.” I wrote a lot before I went off to university. A lot. And I lost it. All the structure, the voice, the world building. I lost it. Writing is about hard work, and it’s a skill you need to keep up, to practice, to maintain. Some people might be lucky enough to just sit down and puke out perfect prose. I am not one of those people. I’ve gotta work, and I’ve gotta keep at it.

What I think I’m trying to say in my own and slightly verbose way, is that it gets better. I’m not saying that you’ll stop thinking you suck. I’m not sure that’ll ever happen. You might however, rather like myself, realise you’re sucking less. Read something recent you’ve done, then read something old. You’ll see it. Use it as inspiration to keep going. Write, write, write. You’ll never improve if you don’t and you can only get better if you do.

The Shower

Harold awoke to a terrifying sound. It was both a hiss and a rumble, deep and brash, loud enough that the vibrations wracked his body. The peaceful sanctuary he had stopped to rest in was awash with chaos. Baleful orbs of water fell from the sky, larger than his own head. They pelted within inches of his body, their disturbance of the air palpable. Instinct kicked in immediately and he knew that he had to move. Only death awaited here.  Far below, the water pooled and swept away debris with a fierce current – one he knew he could never fight.  To either side, the verdant drape Harold clung to curled in toward that vicious rainfall. There was only one way. Up.

A stab of panic sliced through his thorax as he tried, unsuccessfully, to move his leg. The appendage was drenched in water, the strong membrane pinning him down. His heart convulsed in fear as he whipped his gangly body about in a frenzy, flailing from side to side. It held him fast. The weight was unbearable, stifling. Hope began to sweep away from him.

And then he saw her face.

A brief flash across his vision, her beautiful face.

Maria…

The quiver of her antennae, the multifaceted emeralds that were her eyes. In that moment, she was his strength. He reminded her of everything he had to live for. Of a wonderful wife who would be left alone. Of three hundred children raised without a father. Determination slammed into him with all the force of the drops from above. He commanded his leg to move and it did, eking slowly at first but it moved. Harold strained against the grip, refusing to relent, body quaking with exertion. The membrane gave and Harold lurched upwards.

He scrambled onward, ignoring the screams of his aching body and the trembling of his limbs, dragging himself up and up as fast as he could. Water sloshed toward him, dangerously close, and the air grew thicker and thicker, hot and dense with vapour. His breathing was laboured and unsatisfying, each lungful merely keeping him conscious and doing nothing to stave off the crushing feeling of suffocation.

And suddenly, time was standing still. Water hung suspended in the air. All the vapour in the world could not have made Harold have felt as breathless as the sudden sense of dread he now held. Very slowly, like the crawl of a glacier, it turned to look at him. The thing, the thing that basked in the fitful pelting of the water, turned and looked at him. Harold did not know what they were, nor did he want to know. He wanted as little to do with them as possible. The things were gargantuan creatures of bizarre proportions, their legs barely longer than their bodies and heads grotesquely large. Some said they were keepers of the earth. Others said they were gods. It didn’t matter. They only ever reacted one of two ways to Harold’s people. Hateful anger or cold indifference.

The thing eyed Harold, the protective layer gliding over its eyes and back. He was overcome with jealousy that the creature could hide its sight in such a way. All he could do was stare, betrayed by his own vision, forced to watch his fate with the torturous drag of time. Eventually, the creature chose its path. Choosing cold indifference, it turned its back on him and he was forgotten.

Reality came crashing back to Harold. He was alive. Struggling and suffocating, but he was alive and his resolve remained. This was clearly a sign, he thought. He was meant to live. He chose to live. He continued to climb, fighting his way every agonising step until finally he was mere inches from the top. Then the water stopped. Silence tumbled around him, the only sound to be heard was the persistent throbbing of his heart. It took a moment of confusion for him to realise what had happened but when he did he waved his antennae in elation. He’d made it.

The curtain was thrown back and folds of it came crashing against him. Enveloped in darkness and motion, he could barely hang on, a mere two of his feet left clinging desperately to the fabric, all that was keeping him from plummeting to the damp, soapy abyss. His four loose legs scrambled for purchase but in his panic and disorientation, he could find no hold. As suddenly as the turmoil had started though, it ended. The curtain was pulled taut again, giving Harold the space and light he needed to compose himself and cling safely. He wasted no time in hoisting himself up the last little bit, over the top of the drape and onto the rail.

He hunkered down, taking a moment to try and catch his breath in the thick air. The thing moved on the other side of the curtain now, ignorant or simply uncaring as to Harold’s presence. It moved over to the great screen of light and began to toy with it. Harold watched, forgetting his own near death and laboured breathing. The thing lifted something and then pushed. The screen of foggy light fell away and pure, unhindered light spilled through. At first Harold thought he was hallucinating but a blast of cold, pure oxygen filled air penetrated his lungs, the feeling of which was almost euphoric. He scrambled to his feet to get a better look. The trails of mist upon the air spun and danced as the fresh, untainted breeze from outside swept in, mingling with it.

Freedom.

Harold didn’t need another sign. There had been too many already. He was supposed to live. He would see Maria and all his little children again. He was supposed to live.

Giddy with joy, he leapt from the rail and into the air, wings spreading and hammering to keep him aloft. He whizzed toward the open portal to the outside world, to freedom, to victory. And as he passed the threshold from the watery prison and into the world, he pumped his antennae victoriously into the air.

When, really, he should have been keeping an eye out for that chaffinch.

Interviewed by Madison

My first blog post in ages and it’s a total cheat. A few weeks ago my writer friend from the twitter machine, Madison, asked if she could interview me for her own blog. This genius approach to keeping up with her blog while busy was inspired and it inspired me with the cheaty idea to link to it. Hahaha!

So please, feast your eyes on Me, interviewed by Madison! Also, you should check out the rest of her blog because she’s pretty darn cool and writing a story about a merman.

A quick update from me, since it has been so very long. I am currently fighting through another Camp NaNoWriMo session. This time I am working on the new Project 2 on the Other Projects tab, hoping to get part 1 of 4 completed, with plans to do part 2 in June. I’ll be out of action from April 30th to May 15th as I’m away on holiday but then I’ll spend the rest of May hardcore editing on Through the Black because I’ve got a bunch of betas lined up and they’re getting impatient. Eeep! I doubt I’ll have it finished before the next camp but I’ll be getting relatively close.

Hope you enjoy the interview and keep writing!

 

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!