Suddenly September

Suddenly it’s September. How on Earth did that happen? I have no idea but it’s terrifying. We only have two months before the madness of NaNoWriMo starts again and I still haven’t decided what I’m going to work on. I have so many open projects that I don’t want to start a new one and make the pile even bigger. What I’d like to do this year is work on a draft of something I’ve already started and, as I generally use NaNo events as a break from my main projects, I won’t be looking at Twyned Earth.

The three projects currently fighting for my attention are The Fishperer, One Dead Prince and War of the Heavens. Each has their pros and their cons.

The Fishperer is the shortest of the projects and I have a pretty much complete rough draft. Choosing this one is the quickest path to getting another MS that I wouldn’t be horrified to show anyone. I’m worried the story is a bit naff but I love the world and the characters are, in my opinion at least, hilarious.

One Dead Prince has the benefit that I’ve been working on it most recently so a lot of its issues are fresh in my mind. It’s neatly spilt into four sections, each of which is roughly 50k words so I could aim to edit one of them. The only issue is I’d have a lot of work on the build up to November as I’d need to re-read and make extensive notes on 215,000 words to know what I needed to do to it. It’s a big and very messy draft in need of a lot of attention.

Finally there’s a project I’ve not spoken about very much recently but that’s not for a lack of passion for it. Somehow it just always seems to get nudged out by something else. War of the Heavens is the project that first got me back into writing as I was in my last year of university and as with ODP it’s a big one. However unlike the other two this one still doesn’t have a complete rough draft, which means I’d get to do some actual writing done instead of just editing. Given how most of the year has been spent working on edits, it’s a very tempting thought. It also wouldn’t take as much prep work as either of the other two as I already have chapter plans typed out.

Right now, I’m leaning towards War of the Heavens because that poor project has been pretty neglected over the last couple of years. Plus, as I was half way through transferring it to Scrivener last time I looked at it, it’s in a bit of a state so it’s really about time I fixed that. I’ve still got a few weeks before I need to start prep anyway. Let’s just hope I don’t get stuck by a dreaded Shiny New Idea like I did last year.

Are you starting to think about NaNoWriMo this year? What plans, if any, have you cooked up?

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?

NaNoWriMo the Teacher

One of the great things about NaNoWriMo is that you always learn things. Whether that is the names and shapes of different types of blades, how to deal with head trauma or the problems associated with marine mammals’ blowholes, it teaches you things. Things about the way things work, things about yourself, things about writing. You write. You practice. You research. You learn.

I won NaNoWriMo 2015 writing a Waterworld inspired high fantasy about bounty hunters, and it taught me just how much of our everyday language is gendered. In this still currently unnamed world (I am rubbish at naming things), the language is gender neutral apart from pronouns – chosen from three as part of a coming of age ritual – and archaic royal titles. It was actually a lot more limiting that I thought it would be and made me realise a few things.

 

1.) We use gender to talk about people a lot. You would think that, as someone who perhaps considers gender more often than most, I would have noticed this. To an extent I had but when it came to completely removing gendered terms I realised how reliant on them I continued to be when I wrote. I had to learn to avoid writing that “a man had entered the room” and come up with something new – something that sounded good and flowed without being forced. Even in speech, characters would say things like “aww man” and that would have to go.

2.) Trying to sound informal and gender neutral can be tough. “Oh, there was some guy asking about you.” A perfectly normal and casual sounding sentence. The structure is familiar and commonly used, at least where I’m from, but when changing the “guy” to “person” it loses a lot of the formality. These types of switches worked well enough in the prose but when it came to dialogue things became tricky. Instead with the sentence above, I found myself altering much more than that in order to accommodate both of these essential requirements – gender neutral and informality. Of course, in the true spirit of NaNoWriMo there was often a far simpler solution that I couldn’t see at the time (“Oh, there was someone asking about you.”) but it got me thinking about language and how we use it, which I think is the point.

3.) Even some ungendered things are gendered. No, you read that right. This novel is set in an ocean world and it took me until twenty thousand words to realise that the word “fishermen” didn’t fit the setting. An easy thing to fix, just changing it to fishers, but I was still impressed (okay, so more annoyed) that it had slipped past me after I had been so meticulous with other very similar words. To myself though, it is just so ingrained into my mind as the word for “people who fish.” I don’t know about you but I’ve never heard anyone say either fisher or fisherwomen. When it comes to fishing, fishermen generally means everyone. This could be regional, of course. I was at university before I learned that “jamp” wasn’t actually a word. The point is that this term that would never had existed in this world slipped in because it was so normalised to me that I never spotted it. And it wasn’t the only one. I know now that I will have to be exceptionally attentive when it comes to revisions.

4.) I had it easy. I speak English, just about. I am, very slowly and poorly, trying to teach myself French. I’m awful at it. Just dire. But I’m trying, so that’s something. In French, everything is gendered. Apples, for example. Why are apples gendered? I don’t know. I also don’t know how one would even attempt to set a novel in a gender neutral world with a language that works in this manner. For personal reasons, I find this part of the language stressful enough. Just the idea of trying to figure out how to make it neutral and legible makes my head spin. There could be a way, for all I know. Like I said – I’m still learning and moving slower than an escargot. All I know for now is that I had it easy!

 

I hope everyone else’s NaNoWriMo adventures were as fun and fruitful as mine or, if you didn’t NaNo, that you just had an awesome November. I have two and a half chapters of the Fishperer left to write and then I will be cracking on with the dreaded Through the Black revisions.

If you took part in NaNoWriMo this year, what weird and fun things did your novel teach you?

 

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.

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!

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.