On Writing

why i’m enjoying editing my second draft

I’m one quarter of the way through the first round of edits on Project If … WHICH HAS A PROPER NAME NOW (I know. I feel as though I’ve named a child. MY CHILD!) and I’d just like to announce exactly why I’m enjoying this fantasy/truly-terrible-political-thriller/mystery-with-a-touch-of-comedy …

I’VE MADE THE MAIN CHARACTER SUFFER

What do you get when you try and combine John Wayne and Jackie Chan-esque characters? Nothing. That’s what. You give him a name and suddenly he decides that a) you make terrible decisions and b) he’ll be completely his own person thankyouverymuch

He doesn’t have many words, he hates paperwork, and his eye twitches when things get on his nerves. Also, he is thrust into many, many awkward and dangerous situations and my gosh there’s one in this health spa (there’s a health spa named after the Very Dramatic Heroine of a Very Dramatic Never Written Story That I Once Outlined. Because: obviously) and I DIDN’T MEAN FOR THE CLAY MASK AND THE MISSING TOWEL SITUATION BUT IT TOTALLY HAPPENED. And I cackled while I wrote it. And I have zero regrets.

Marius is …

  • a teddy bear, if the teddy bear has been up to his neck in bureaucracy and forms and completely done with it all.
  • a far distant cousin of Aquila, from The Lantern Bearers
  • a relative of the Phantom. (If having scars qualifies you as relative of the Phantom of the Opera. In that case, I’m related tO HIM TOO! Who knew that pruning my finger instead of the garden hedge would pay off so well?!!)
  • like Batman, in that he’s a man and he’s fictional.

THE SIDE-CHARACTERS ENTERTAIN ME

Hilda’s name might change but I adore her. She may have a huge Marius-sized crush, but she also has a goal and by golly, she’s going to reach it even if it kills her. (And it just might kill her.) Born because yes, there might be love interests BUT YOU KNOW WHAT? LOVE INTERESTS HAVE THEIR OWN DANG INTERESTS TOO.

And then there is V. B. who I couldn’t resist but inject a leetle bit of a Heyer Hero into. (I. CAN’T. HELP. IT.) and K who is suffering from a terminal case of Bad Writing (NO fault of my own) but I will rescue you, I swear it. YOU WILL BE LIKE A GLORIOUS VIKING GARDENER.

THE WORLD

Dragons are the blue whales of the sky.

the author

My imagination is having a BLAST.

THE PLOT

I’m pretending that all the twists were meant to happen from the very beginning. It’s pretty fun to pretend, if just for a little while, that I am Clever and Totally Meant This To Turn Out The Way It Did.

IT’S LIKE A SECOND CHANCE

The first draft is always horribly rough – and I love the fact that with a second draft I can go back and I can just do better. I’m not aspiring to greatness; I just wish for characters that make me feel and a world that draws me in and action that isn’t boring and perhaps something that I take with me once I’ve read the book. So not much. *cough*

If you’re a potter, I have an ENTIRE analogy for you: You know when you’ve centred the ball of clay and you’ve plunged your thumbs in? You’ve got to just bring the walls of the pot up and up to transform it from the dumpy little ball into something nice and refined and breathtaking? That’s what all the drafts after the first one are like. Right now I’m just thinning the walls.

So watch this space. I have a deadline. I have several deadlines. I am terrible at deadlines but oh, I’m going to try.

Books, On Writing

writing a first draft

It started because I’m as excellent at remembering birthdays as I am at maths.

(I am terrible at maths.)

Recently, I wrote the words ‘The End’ to Project If. I’ve been basking in the weight of ‘I must get this story told’ finally – FINALLY – rolling off my shoulders.

Sure, there’s so much more to do but for right now, the project is marinating and my mind is resting, relieved from the burden of a story made corporeal.

Here’s how I did it …

THE ‘I HAVE A REASON FOR WRITING THIS’ STAGE

There’s nothing quite like a big birthday coming up to make you panic. My dad was days away from his birthday, and I was in a different country. Now, I’m terrible at remembering birthdays and presents on a good day. I was aware of his birthday approaching, as I was aware of the Pyramids of Gaza – they and it existed, but it never troubled my mind.

Until it did. And then I realised that the only proper and meaningful gift I could give my parent was … a book. I mean, obviously.

True, he never has much time for leisure, and true, there are other things he’d probably rather do in that leisure time but dang it, it would be a meaningful gift (to me) and I couldn’t think of anything else befitting such an auspicious occasion.

It was decided then – I would inflict graciously pen an exciting adventure novel for my stunningly grateful parent.

THE PLANNING STAGE (REALLY THESE ARE ALL VERY IMAGINATIVELY TITLED)

I went to the local print shop – braving the weather conditions and nipping in before my classes started – and loaded up with lots of stationary. There’s nothing as wonderful as a good, honest pack of post-it notes. There’s something delicious about it. Something that promises of infinite possibilities.

First of all, I did a brain storm – I wrote elements I wanted in the story on post-it notes and slapped them onto the wall. And then the monster was born – an entire wall was covered. (Okay, so it wasn’t the entire wall!) Characters had a post-it note cluster, there was a time line divided into three acts, what the city would look like and how the plot was go – OBVIOUSLY there would be no plot holes. There was NO ROOM FOR ERROR AT ALL.

And then I transferred them from the wall and onto A4 sheets of paper which glamorously represented chapters.

And then, using FocusWriter set to ComicSans font (honest to goodness, any pompous notions of I’m writing the next big thing are effectively knocked out by that font. It’s aces. You can just concentrate on the story because it’s not going to be worse than ComicSans. I believe I have Hayden to thank for these tips.) I typed the fateful first words that are probably going to be completely butchered in the next month:

He didn’t think he’d ever betray his country.

PROJECT IF – PAGE ONE, PARAGRAPH ONE, FIRST SENTENCE. OBVIOUSLY.

THE TRUDGING STAGE (ONE MUST)

I wrote the beginnings of Project If whilst I was teaching in Moldova. I’d take up the A4 Chapter that I was working on and write the chapter from there – side note, I’m terrible at planning reasonable length chapters. They’d end up being 3,000 to 4,000 to 5,000 words and that’s a little too long for me, personally. But still.

I was teaching and planning lessons and marking papers and all that sort of thing, but I wrote and that was wonderful.

And then I came home and everything changed. Paradoxically, it seems that it’s when I have the most time for writing, I write the least. I had a few weeks in which I had nothing pressing to do – except for writing. And I wrote barely anything.

My brain is very contrary; when I started working full time AND ESTABLISHED A ROUTINE suddenly, I was writing a lot more and word count soared. It wasn’t record breaking; I wasn’t getting down 10,000 words a day, or a week … but words were happening.

And so, slowly, the word count creeped up. Day by day. Sometimes I did timed sprints. Sometimes I simply thundered as loudly as I walk on the keyboard. Occasionally, the plot would veer off into unthought of grounds, but you have to roll with it and fill the plot holes up later.

Being consistently creative, for me, requires a routine. And so I’ve found a sort of groove. And yes, it can mean that one moment I’m writing a gory scene in my lunch hour and the next, I’m having a pleasant conversation with a colleague. But hey – variety is the spice of life and what they don’t know won’t put them off their lunch.

THE FINISHING STAGE (LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL. BOOKS CAN BE FINISHED)

I stalled. I couldn’t help it. Stage fright whisked me into a land of worrisome panic. I delayed it day after day until I realised that I just had to do it. This wasn’t that ’30 day until you get killer abs’ app that I refused to complete on day 29 on the grounds that 1) I had put weight on and 2) no abs had happened.

I had to complete it. So I sat down at my desk, rewrote a section of the final chapter that hadn’t worked out too well, added a few more scenes and typed THE END. It wasn’t quite as speedy as it sounds, but it happened.

Typing ‘The End’ was exhilarating – there’s much further to go on a first draft, at least there is for me, but the story in its crudest, most basic form has been told. It’s all about rewriting and editing it and trying to make it look like I totally meant for that to happen. Yep. Totally.

THE EDITING STAGE (PANIC. JUST … PANIC A LOT AND THEN ROLL YOUR SLEEVES UP AND DO IT)

I’m about to plunge into this – by the time this has been posted, perhaps I will have already done so. It’s going to take a while, I suspect. I’ve planned out my list of edits – and there are five rounds to do in the second draft and just oh this is going to be so time consuming kill me now I mean don’t I’m joking but it’s going to be PAINFUL.

I’ve had a glorious week researching and planning out my next novel – Project Unicorn Poop is undergoing an overhaul. There’s only been one post-it note used. You need a large, empty wall for the Post-It Note plotting method, and I don’t quite have that any more. But another novel is happening because … well, I simply must.

And though it’s going to be a trifle tricky trying to edit one book and write the first draft of a second at the same time but … I’m going to do it. (Probably with total success. *ah-HEM*)

There’s so many stories to tell, you see.

Life, On Writing

highlights of text butchery

thepunone.JPGI’ve been quietly editing Insalted for some time now. However, only recently did I bite the bullet and print the whole thing out.

There’s a lot of it. I don’t know if it’s my dramatic usage of paragraphs, the halts for Bolded Lists (I haven’t a better name for them), or if I’ve completely got the spacing wrong, but I’ve ended up with 334 pages to edit.

!!!

Usually, I just employ a liberal use of a pen, butchering this and scribbling out that. HOWEVER, with this manuscript, I have a better plan. As per usual, I butcher … but I also use highlighters and sticky notes.

I have four colours and these stand for a sub-plot, a mega-plot, background info, and THE ROMANCE THREAD.

(And yes. That deserves capitals. I’m quietly proud that this story HAS A ROMANTICLE ELEMENT!!!!)

Image result for old romance book cover
like this cover. but with more clothing

Why Using Highlighters Is A Highlight of Editing:

  • You can look back on a butchered page and think: my gosh, this looks legit! Maybe I am a Proper Writer after all!
  • It teaches you to never underestimate the importance of the highlighter in validating your career choices.
  • You can actually keep track of each plot line – how much of this plot is in this chapter? Do I need more? Less? How much ROMANTICLE ELEMENT!!!! is in it?
  • If you are a visual person, you can sum up what happens per plot line at the beginning of the chapter, and strike it through with the appropriate highlighter. It looks very pretty! And is useful. That’s 100% my reason for using them.

workspaceistidyMy work space isn’t very tidy. I have several coloured labels that er, I thought were sticky notes when I bought them. (SPOLIER: they weren’t.)

Now, they hang about like I did around other earthlings, wanting to be cool and useful but never quite making it.

(HANG IN THERE, LABELS! YOU’LL FIND YOUR SPACE YET!!)

I have highlighters, sticky notes, pens, hair things, soap, books, tea, an empty purse, and a laptop for music just chilling on the desk with me.

It is clutter, but I am of the opinion that I work better with clutter than without. (I have no wish to test this theory.)

Recently, I butchered into the wee hours and  … I felt like a Proper Writer. I was haunted and hunched over with a blanket about my shoulders, eyes stinging, hand wielding pen and highlighter with fervor.

It was a wonderful feeling; I am doomed to plenty more of it.

SIDE NOTE: I’ve discovered that THE ROMANTICLE ELEMENT!!!!!! comes more easily when I’m tired. I haven’t re-read what I corrected last night, but I’m sure that it’s all coherent.

Related image

On Writing

This Could Take a While

I’ve learned some bad news: writing a book takes time. Disappointingly, it doesn’t happen overnight. I can’t plant my idea in my laptop, go to sleep and find a finished manuscript by the printer in the morning.

A book – a story you tell, a tale you spin – takes time. Lots and lots of it. Buckets of it.

It’s something that grows steadily if you work at it. Slowly, if it’s tricky and throwing benders at every turn. Think of it as planting an acorn and waiting for it to grow into a mighty oak. It’s not the best analogy, I know; because you can’t wait for it to grow of its own accord – you have to grow it.

But you know what? It’s worth it.

And so, whilst I commit Text Butchery on OIH2, I’m keeping that in mind; I’m changing there, fixing here, chopping this and butchering that, knowing that if I keep on plodding away I’ll reach my goal.

And it will be so worth it.OIH2frontcoverA Curse has plunged the hovel owners of Cackling Meadows into gloomy times, their economy has taken a sad dip and no longer is their meadow viewed as an ideal wedding location; it is all very depressing.

Homeward bound and suddenly beset by her own troubles, our Intrepid Heroine stumbles into Cackling Meadows, and – accidentally – into the Curse Kicking business. (She blames misunderstandings, unicorns and carrots for that one).

Together with a unicorn with sensitive nostrils and a Songster with too powerful lungs, she will discover that Princes, Protectors and even Curses aren’t always quite what they seem.

Our Intrepid Heroine: The Curse of Cackling Meadows will be released on September 19th.

On Writing

I am rather stuck … [Editing Block]

https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/66/18/c6/6618c69d95e0149af7fb870916351487.jpg
via Pinterest

Our Intrepid Heroine 2 has stalled. It’s written, all right. It’s even got a smashing front cover and a title with which I’m quite pleased.

However, every time I sit down to wrestle with it … nothing. Zero. Nada. You know when you put two magnets together, but turn one so that they repel each other? Yeah. It’s like that. Somehow, I simply can’t do it. And it’s affecting all of my writing. Because I’m not writing.

Which, for someone with vast dreams of world domination writerly success, is a wittle problem.

So, as with every problem, there is a solution. Mine? I’m moving Our Intrepid Heroine the Second’s Publication Aiming Date to September. And then I’m writing my trilogy and other projects because I am rather sick of producing nothing, nothing at all.

I’m rather disappointed that I can’t share OIH2 with you just yet. But it will be coming. Eventually. In the mean time, in another world I’ve got some dragons to slay and a marriage between a renegade and a willful young woman to arrange.

Whoever said that writing was boring?

While I usually attempt to post once a week, last week’s posting didn’t happen. Therefore, another post might pop up later this week to make up for it.