December 18 – A moderate case of writer’s lack of confidence

December 18th, 2012

8.00pm
Ok, 8pm crashed into me today. But I’m here, my files open, I’m ready to go, sorta.

8.20pm
Grr, like pulling teeth. I think it’s because I had a rushed start. Stupid game was distracting me. I’d meant to go home, but didn’t, so I got started at Mum’s and now I’m kind of bound here tonight.

It’s a rough start, probably because of the rush, but I still managed 535 words.

8.30pm
Ok, getting started again. I’ll have to remember to make a cup of tea real quick after this one. Battling a headache, mild dehydration, and a moderate case of writer’s lack of confidence. Still, one must not let these things defeat the art, right? Onward!

8.50pm
*sighs* It’s not getting any easier. Perhaps because I’m displaced and getting distracted/interrupted. People talk to me here. It’s very frustrating. I wish I’d gone home in time to get started with these.

8.55pm
*groans* 423. And it’s still like pulling teeth. I’m afraid I’ll end up having to scrap this whole scene. It doesn’t feel right. I’ve definitely got to figure out the various character voices. Maybe I’m over-thinking the whole thing. Or maybe it’s because I’m scattered tonight and can’t settle into it.

9.00pm
*sighs* Ok, going again. Words is words after all.

[spoiler]

9.10pm
I have to double check that I didn’t already kill Jackson. I hope I did already kill Carvy. Gotta double check all that.

[/spoiler]

9.20pm
I only wrote 203 words that time. But really I wrote more, because I took a lot out too. I’ve been having trouble with this scene so I’ve been going back, fitting bits in, fleshing it out more instead of just straight writing. Still, it’s progress, and it’s 20 minutes of focused progress. For me, that’s what Word Wars are really all about.

9.50pm
298 words. *grimaces* Still, that scene has mostly come together and I’m started on the next scene. I’m wading through it because I have snippets from an earlier draft that I need to consider for these next few scenes. It’s a complete rewrite but the story is buried in those snippets so I’m passing back and forth between pages of old draft. Stupid way to write, really. But that’s the way it works after the first (and second, and third) draft sometimes.

10.50pm
I have a problem. The scenes unfolding tonight have rushed too far ahead. Of course, I have pages of old draft that can be woven in and hopefully I can pull these pieces apart a bit to better fit my outline. I can’t rush these last chapters. Yes, the tension needs to remain high but I always hate books that seem to crash to the end. They build up and build up and then suddenly it climaxes in a rush. You want to sustain that literature orgasm. That’s what these scenes need to do. Keep that thrumming tension quivering there as the climax comes together, draw it out, make it a sweet ecstasy of reward for the reader, and then take a soft breath to wind it down at the end. At the moment, it’s rushed like a clumsy teenager.

10.55pm
Ok, done some math. That last word war gave me another 324 words. Bringing my total for today to 2,312. Not too bad. And then *drum roll* my current book total stands at 86,250 words. That’s just 13,750 words until my 100,000 word target. So if I can straighten out these chapters here, get them unfolding correctly and at the right pace it should be a good run down to the finish line. I might even want to cut out a bit.

December 16 – Loneliness is anathema to writing

December 16th, 2012

12.15pm
Ok, I have serious issues with Crey’s voice at the very least. *sighs* It’s going to take some significant editing to work the kinks out of it. Still, I try to remind myself that the book needs to be written more than it needs to have the character voices all straight at this point. I’ll go through and work on his dialogue separately later. In fact, I indent to isolate every characters dialogue individually and work through it to make sure the character voice is consistent. That’s going to be a task and a half, but it will be worth it.

12.40pm
*sighs* It’s so sad to know what I’ve thrown away from the first and second draft. There is some good writing there. Yes, there is also a LOT of bad writing too, but the good writing is sad to cut away. Still, that writing doesn’t belong in this draft and I have to be brutal about not trying to force it to fit. Sometimes murdering your darlings is the kindest thing you can do.

1.55pm
*chuckles* Oh, I like that paragraph. It feels like a transition from one state to another. Embracing yourself, instead of running from it. Theme, distilled in a half dozen lines. I mean it’s not. Every word has lead up to it and it really couldn’t stand alone, but it still feels like a turning point that encompasses that theme. From helplessness, to power.

Trouble is, I feel like the scene needs to end there, but the scene card that follows shouldn’t start from there. I suppose I could chapter break there. It would be a kind of short chapter, just shy of 3,000 words but it’s not the shortest chapter I’d have. I could also, potentially, flesh out the Lucas scene in this chapter, maybe. Yeah, chapter break is probably the best bet.

2.40pm
I’m flagging. It’s different when there is no one here. I mean, I’ve probably written more than I sometimes do at a write in. I’ve certainly written more than I did in the 5 hours at Murdoch yesterday (since I wrote nothing then), but I still feel like I’m struggling. It’s a hard slog. Possibly because I started today with a migraine. The heat doesn’t help either and the sun is starting to come down on this window so the heat and light is getting worse. But somehow, it’s the loneliness getting to me the most. No one else could make it this week. I hope that’s not a sign of these Sunday’s becoming extinct already. Hopefully it’s just that everyone is busy with family and Christmas etc. Hopefully future weeks will pick up pace.

December 13 – I don’t write this, I just take dictation

December 13th, 2012

8.50am
Ok, so I’ve been telling myself I should write, every single night this week. Then I’ve spend a few hours watching t.v. programs instead. So, no more excuses. I need some friends to pull me out of the mindless stupor of the box and back to the final 20,000 words of this book. So, I’m calling on my Novel Ninja friends (a bunch of local Perth-based writers I met during NaNo) to help me challenge myself with some word wars.

Starting from 8pm I’m thinking 20 minute word wars every half hour from 8-11pm. Everyone welcome.

7.40pm
Ok, pulling myself up by my bootstraps to live up to my promise of Word Wars tonight. First one in 20 minutes.

8.00pm
Doh! No idea what I’m going to write, but it’s time. Biting the bullet. Lets do this thing! 20 minutes, go now!

8.20pm
Ok, that’s 20 minutes. 641 words. Not bad given I had no clue what I was going to write when I started. I need to build on the angst in this scene and I guess I’ve got myself in a good position to get started on that. Next war in 10 minutes.

8.30pm
Ok, next one’s up. Here we go. 20 minutes, starting now!

8.50pm
Ok, 774. A bit better. Raced through some dream sequences I wasn’t expecting. Was fun. Wonder what will happen next. lol

9.00pm
Ok, 9.00pm. time to get going again. Another 20 minutes.

9.20pm
Ah ha! 724. And I ended up starting a scene I didn’t even know would exist. Characters really do write these books you know. We just take dictation.

9.30pm
Time to go again. 20 minutes, here we go. (Or I go, whatever.)

9.50pm
Only 605 words that time, but I stopped about 3 minutes early because I needed to pull myself together again. Crying my eyes out, which is ridiculous because I already know how the story ends. Still, I guess if I can make myself cry with these scenes, I might be able to make the reader cry too. And isn’t putting the readers through hell with our characters part of the whole point of being a writer?

9.55pm
I’m fragile tonight I admit that, but even so I do hope these scenes touch my readers as much as they touch me. Still, I’m very aware that I need to go back and give a good working over on Crey’s dialogue. When I write him it comes out me. But I know he has his own voice, his Italian accent, his correctness of language with those few dialectical quirks that are common to a person who speaks English as a second language.

I also have to work through continuity. Things get revealed to me later in the story and I need to go back to make sure they’re woven through at the beginning. To make sure they’re not in conflict with things from earlier scenes/chapters. My beta-readers are catching up to my well edited chapters so I need to make time to go over the second act. It’s not ready for readers yet.

I have doubts about the whole drafts readiness at this point. I know the dialogue in particular needs careful vetting. Along with the continuity. I need to make sure all the notes I’ve taken are put into action. Part of me hesitates to continue when I know I’ve left so much undone behind me. But maybe that’s resistance talking. I just have to get through this fourth act. Only a dozen or so more scenes.

10.00pm
Ok, going again. two more tonight. 20 minutes.

10.20pm
689. Bit clunky I guess. And again, something weird cropped up I wasn’t expecting. Still, it’s interesting, I’ll go with it.

10.30pm
Opps, almost missed the last roll call. Was writing some more. lol Ok, resetting word count, here’s the last round. Ready, set, go!

10.50pm
And that final run brings me to another 775. Time to add up the total of tonight’s word wars.

Sweet! If I did my math right (and that’s always a big if) I wrote 4,208 words. In three hours. That’s damn good. So, even if I was at war with myself it was worth every minute. Look forward to taking another run at it tomorrow night.

Oh, forgot to add the 395 words i wrote between wars. So that’s 4,603. Nice!

December 4 – The Wisdom of Pre-Readers

December 4th, 2012

4.50pm
Got some great feedback from one of my pre-readers today. She’s just had chapter 3 (and I’m about to send her chapter 4). There are two points she’s brought up that I need to stick placeholders on so I’m adding my responses to her in my journal today.

5. I really like Jess, I need to play her out a bit more, make Jess a bit more fun, I think. Trouble is, I wanted to do some research into Irish accents so I could really get a feel for her voice.

7. ‘… somehow just having him here…’ Jess doesn’t know, but she’s so flighty that I deliberately dropped it in as something Jess might miss at the time. Is it too big a point for Jess to skip over? The him kind of refers to ‘police’, but of course Tori means Lucas specifically. I thought maybe Jess would just assume him means them. What do you think? I’ll make note of this one to come back to.

Both these points are probably meaningless to anyone else but they’re enough for me to go back and sort things out when I come back to them.

11.1 I love Darcy. I wish there were more of Darcy in this story. *sighs* That could actually be a plot hole. Tori’s role as a reporter really isn’t brought back into the story beyond chapter five where she actually does follow up on the story doing her reporter thing. I suppose time moves quickly after that and there really is no occasion for it to come back up. Except, oh, it could come up there (there being a spoiler so I won’t specify). I wonder how “reporterly” I should make Tori. Would Tori want to report what she’s learned to her editor? She won’t have time to write the story herself, so maybe she won’t tell him because it is her story and she is directly involved. Still, it’s definitely something I need to make note of and think about some more. Any opinions?

11.2 Another thing that occurs to me is that Tori calls him on a landline. I wonder if I could/should modernise this to a mobile phone. She also uses a voice recorder in a later scene, I tend to use my iPhone to take voice notes. An interesting point to consider.

You know what just occurred to me? I should write a post with her feedback and my response because she’s an excellent reviewer and it would be a good example of a great way people can be beta-readers or pre-readers for other people. Reviewing or critiquing work is a fantastic way to build your own skills. I have a few people I do it for, and I have a few people who do it for me. It’s a great symbiotic relationship. I should blog about that.

December 2 – It’s Sunday and I’m writing.

December 2nd, 2012

12.30pm
So, it’s Sunday, again. I actually did come down to the library to write, but have spent the first half hour doing non-writerly things. In a way, it is writerly because it organises my mind, ready to begin. But now it’s 12.30. It’s time to stop organising my mind and just start writing already. Music goes on.

1.05pm
I feel like I’m missing something. I thought Lucas had come across Tempany when he came in from the balcony and someone slipped out of the door. But I can’t find it anywhere. Obviously, it has to be an earlier scene. It foreshadows the fact that Tempany knows more about Uriel than she’ll admit. Where is it?

1.35pm
Yay, I’m feeling really good about this. I’ve written almost 1000 words in less than an hour. I’m not certain they’re good words, but they’re there, on the page, after four days of no words. It’s another scene closer to the end of the third act, another scene closer to the end of the book. It also accomplished what the scene was supposed to. I just hope it did it in a way that is both believable and comes across real and passionate. I’m not sure it does. I’m also not sure I foreshadowed the possibility of it happening earlier in the book. It might feel a little deus ex machina (I should totally write a blog post about that!). Although, at this point it doesn’t really serve much purpose. I’m assuming it will serve more purpose in the sequel.

1.40pm
I’m taking a short break. Need some water.

2.05pm
Just went back and tweaked a scene in the first chapter to foreshadow something that becomes a big deal in the third act. I love when there is a feeling of hitting the right note, hitting home, when I read parts of scenes I wrote earlier, months ago. There is this image, I’m describing a photograph, and there is one where a man and woman share a kiss, the woman is clearly pregnant. The line that tugs my heart is fairly simple in the grand scheme of things: “The woman’s rounded belly was a swell that stretched her top and the man’s arms cupped her gently, as if cradling the child within.”

I think it touches me because I know who that child is, who the man and woman are, so I know the connection between them, and the the idea of the man and woman loving each other so much, and the man loving the child so much, tugs at my heart. Perhaps it’s also because I don’t really feel like my father ever felt like that about me. It’s one of those moments where we can put something truly special into a book and touch cords with our readers. At least, I hope it feels as intimate and touching a moment to my readers as it does to me.

Also, it is one of those occasions where using the adverb makes the sentence better. *winks* I could have written, “his gentle hands cupped her” but it needs to be softer than that and the adverb softens the sentence.

2.20pm
Ok, so I did hit the right note with that last scene. I read it over and almost burst into tears in the middle of the library with three other writer friends around me and and seven strangers reading their books. Still, if I feel a wash of sadness, hopefully that means my readers will too.

That also brings a close to Chapter 22. Moving on to Chapter 23, the final chapter, and only a single scene, before the end of act three and the beginning of act four. Rush of excitement and thrill. This book is almost written. About 20,000 words to go.

2.25pm
I just realised Tori needs to have killed someone recently for the Inner Demons scene to work the best. That means I have to go back a few scenes and find someone to kill. No idea who it will be. Actually, I think I do know, he’s the only character I’ve grown to like, despite being a bad guy, his little character quirks kind of make him a fun character, much more fun than the other two characters that could be chosen. And you know, it has to be a likeable character that gets killed. Although, Tori hasn’t had much contact with him. Maybe I need to thread back a bit further to have him in her life a little more.

Ok, it’s possible that I need to get rid of Jeremy. It’ll require a bit of editing but it’s a good way to get the character I mentioned above into the prior scenes with Tori. Although, having said that, I’m not sure if that’ll mean he’s in two places at once. Better check. *groans* I think this sort of thing is why the later chapters are so much harder to write.

[spoiler title=”Story Outline”]
Ok, lets get this timeline worked out.

Afternoon: Tori and Lucas are captured in the afternoon.

Evening: The ceremony at the alter happens in the early evening, prior to dinner I would assume. Carvy, Orton, and Jackson get Lucas down to the cells and Crey and Zara takes Tori to her room.

Morning: Tori wakes up, possibly the next morning. She is guarded by two men, unnamed.

Morning: Lucas is visited by Crey. Possibly morning. Orton and Carny come down to give him another beating and Crey sneaks past them back up the stairs.

Morning: The High Priestess visits Tori in her room. Two guards, unnamed, but one is young – Same guards as before.

Late Morning: Zara visits Tori. Two guards, unnamed, one young – Same guards as before.

Late Morning: Zara visits Lucas. Orton and Carny escort her down but then leave as she’s tending to him.

Late Afternoon: Hours later, Tori guarded by two guards, demands to see the high priestess, one guard is killed.
(This is the best place to weave Carny into Tori’s POV)

Late Afternoon: Zara takes Tori away. Dinnertime.

Dinner time: Lucas calls out, Orton answers. Crey comes down to him.

Evening: After dinner, Tori is ‘guarded’ by Crey

[/spoiler]

3.30pm
Ok, so I’ve fed the Nagaran person in to an earlier scene where he has a fairly interesting encounter with Tori. I’ll have to edit the first scene of chapter twenty two as well to play out that whole kill someone more recently idea.

3.40pm
Ok, only managed to get 1,325 new words today but I did get a whole scene and some good segments of foreshadowing sorted out. I say that’s pretty good progress for today. Of course, I do feel like I need to do more than that soon because I don’t want it to take 20 weeks to finish this book.

Five Creative Ways to Kickstart Your Novel

At some point everyone aspires to write a novel. Then the hypothetical writer sits down to write, Grand Idea in tow, and can’t find a way to realize it. Then the hypothetical writer gets depressed, closes the window, and quits working for six months, though they continue to tell everyone they know that they’re either writing or “getting ready to write” a novel.

You don’t want to be one of those people who talks about getting things done more than they get things done. Instead, if you want to be writing a novel, you should be writing a novel. Here are some creative ways to get that novel started.

1. Cut to the chase.

Don’t think in terms of establishing everything right away, especially if your grand masterwork hasn’t been outlined and will be more made up as you go along (as if things aren’t made up as you go along). If there’s a single event, or a character, or some other factor that’s making you feel forced to write, write about that right away. It doesn’t even necessarily need a place in your novel
right away; you’ll find a place for it as you go, and establishing that will help make everything else come naturally.

2. Don’t begin at the beginning.

Beginnings and endings are brutally, painfully difficult. They require a whole lot of revision and a great deal of planning to make them successful, effective and not bogged down in cliché. Start from just about anywhere else and your chances of getting frustrated go down considerably; your beginning and end will come when they come. Don’t assume that you’re writing a beginning
when you start writing, and that you’ll find a place for the first pieces you write as you get further along in your writing project.

3. Power through your first draft.

Don’t assume that you’re going to craft something truly great as you simply start writing. Instead of reading and rereading when you only have a few pages, keep moving; when a cohesive whole, or the seed of a cohesive whole, starts to take shape, begin revising then. You’ll feel a thousand times less prone to abandoning the entire project if you’re trying to support more than only a few hours’ worth of work, and your increased investment in the project will help you in the long term as you seriously approach the revision process later on.

4. Experiment with narration. (point-of-view)

If you find it difficult to write in the third-person, try writing from the first-person. Or consider even trying an epistolary format or another version of second-person address. In doing so, you might find yourself suddenly more invested in a character, or a concept, or discovering things that do and don’t work for you as a writer or the long-form work that you’re attempting to complete.

5. Read fiction that inspires you. Poach a good idea if you find one.

Supposedly at some point Pablo Picasso said that “Talent borrows, genius steals.” Don’t steal someone else’s work and don’t plagiarize, but if something moves you enough to start writing, ask yourself why it affects you so much and why it works, and twist that concept or idea until it begins to feel like yours. The best writers are also voracious readers of fiction; they know tropes and the rules of language well enough to be able to subvert and play with them, and how to make something that stands out in a world in which thousands of books are published yearly and there aren’t that many readers. Bringing up your consumption can only help you in the long run.

Andrew Hall is a guest blogger for Pounding the Pavement and a writer on call center management for Guide to Career Education.