writing

An abundance of M’s

Today I’ve been trawling through every file on my computer, Dropbox and Google drive in an attempt to find  something I started writing 3+ years ago. I remembered that it had been an attempt to write something with more of an ‘action’ feel to it, and that it began as an exercise in a creativity workshop thing I was doing just prior to Natalie’s birth – I’d been too tired, too scared, too anxious about trying to write something novel length since Lauren was born, and this particular piece, stemming from a dream I’d had, was a perfect way to cautiously approach a novel.

Of course, I never finished it, because life with a newborn, a 20 month, and a 5yr old is actually kind of insane.

But I thought about it today as I’m in a weird place in life right now – I have some spare time, but I have to start work on another assignment really soon, I have no pressing deadlines hanging over me (for uni, or anything else), and I want to write, but have nothing in progress as such. I’ve finished the drafts of three novellas this year, but I don’t have the time right now to revise any of those, and there isn’t much point in stressing myself out about that right now because I don’t plan on releasing those until late next year…

So naturally my brain went back to that other time when I was in limbo, waiting, and wanting something to play with. And this novel was the thing.

It has zombie babies, and regular zombies too. I’m on a bit of a kick right now and a friend recently said to me ‘you should write your own zombie novel’, so it was inevitable that my brain latched on that old idea.

I never titled this piece, and I couldn’t for the life of me remember the main characters names, so I went digging through every forgotten file, every ‘untitled’ document I could find.

And I didn’t find the story initially*. What I did find was that I have a ridiculous tendency to give my female leads names that begin with M. Overwhelmingly so. I had no idea!

Madea is the MC in Sun-Touched, and then we have Melanie from Surplus to Requirements, there is Melody in The Way the Sky Curves, and Moana in Shell and Bone. And then we have Meredith, Marama, Meagin, Megan, Marie, and Melissa from various short stories. And finally, Matilda in the Zombie Baby novel. Yes, I’m just going to call it the zombie baby novel for now. I literally have no idea where the story is going, though I’m sure I’ll have a blast finding out.

Not ALL my novels have M’s in the lead – Delaney is in charge in Saving Tomorrow**, and Lyssa is the female lead in Chasing Ascension… Gah! That might be it? Lord help me. I have an obsession with M names. Someone stage an intervention, right now. I’ll have to go out of my way to pick ANY other letter of the alphabet the next time I start a novel. Well, Samantha is the lead in my next novel, so at least she’ll kind of balance things out…

Save me?

Next time I start something new, I think I’ll put it to you to choose the letter the name begins with, because I need help. Obviously.

*I did find the first couple of chapters, thank goodness, but only because I’d emailed them to Anthony and I hadn’t deleted that email. I’m so pleased that my inbox seems to hold EVERYTHING from FOREVER ago. Apparently sending your stories to other people is the best back up method after all!

** It appears I might also have a thing for titles that begin with S… 

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Jumping ship, again

This year I have done a lot of project jumping. I started the year off with the decision to get the first draft of Saving Tomorrow written. Then I worked my ass off on Mocha Nihilism, only to trunk it when it was almost ready for submission. I moved on to Chasing Ascension, hoping to get the first draft of that finished off quickly after cutting 15,000 words from the original version, which I then ditched to start work on Saving Tomorrow, again…

Yup. A lot of project jumping.

And now I’m ditching Saving Tomorrow, for the second time this year. I don’t have another project in mind. There is no new shiny. No other temptation. There is exhaustion and the inability to push ahead with a long term project.

I tried all the tricks in my book. I broke it down into smaller sections – I wasn’t thinking about a novel. I was thinking about this scene, or that. Getting this chapter sorted. Introducing this character. Exploring that situation…

I set myself small, manageable tasks – 750 words a day.

I allowed myself to suck while writing the first draft. I played with whatever ideas came to me. I pushed through blocks and outlined just the right amount for me.

And yet, I just can’t write this novel. Not right now.

Nothing I have tried has managed to get me past the ‘gosh this is going to take me such a terribly long time’ barrier in my brain. I guess what it comes down to is that I am a somewhat hedonistic writer, and one thing that gives me great pleasure is finishing off a draft. Unfortunately, finishing the draft of one scene, or one chapter, is simply not the same as finishing the first draft of an entire novel. It’s not really ‘done’ unless it’s ALL written.

Right now, I can’t make great progress. Life is so very busy. There are many demands on my time and less time than ever for writing. I could write the novel, but it would take me the better part of a year and I just don’t have the stamina for that right now.

What I can do is write short. I can start and finish short stories because they need so many less words. So much less time invested. That feels good. It keeps me smiling, helps me feel like I am making progress. I can begin and end, and have something to show for it. A ‘finished’ something. Eventually a ‘published’ something.

I can also write medium. I’ve proven to myself this year that I can do novellas. I can write them. I can revise them. I can edit them. They are not too hard. Not too big.

I cannot write a novel. Not yet.

So while it feels kind of shitty and lame to put Saving Tomorrow aside, again, it’s really my only option at this point. Setting it aside means that I will still want to write it. I will still love it and have drive for it when I do get the energy/time/head space to throw myself into a novel. (maybe next year, when my middle child starts a couple mornings of pre school a week – maybe when she finally learns to sleep through the night, which please god, can’t be too far off, surely).

Because right now, I feel like I am bashing my head against a wall. I don’t want to write. I feel uninspired and dragged down, and like I’m failing at something I should be able to do. And that’s not good for me, for my creativity, or for my novel.

So, now it’s official. No novel for me. Not this month. Not next. Probably not this year.

BUT, plenty of short stories to complete, new ideas to be had, and hopefully a return to gaining some pleasure from my writing. It’s been an exhausting month for reasons I simply can’t go into here, so I am going to go easy on myself for now.

Let’s see what happens 🙂

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I’m normally pretty determined…

I tend to write under most circumstances – death, pregnancy, newborns, natural disasters – but sickness really knocks me out of the habit. School holidays + sick babies + sick me = zero writing, and zero desire to write.

Which is a pain in the butt, because I was really feeling like I was getting my groove on, and had hoped to have the first draft of the current short story finished by now.

Oh well! Sometimes, you just can’t keep a cold at bay. I guess it’s better now, than once school goes back (I’m very ready for school to go back, by the way. It’s a madhouse with all the kids home – they are either playing nicely, but very loudly, or fighting, very loudly, and nap times? Yeah, lucky if they happen! /sigh).

Anyways, there are always other days, and if Natalie is any indication, another day or so and I should be feeling a little more functional. I feel like I haven’t done a lot this year, but I know it’s more than it feels like. Perhaps that’s because a lot of time was spent refining Mocha Nihilism, and while that’s not a waste, at all, it does mean I am back to working something up to submission standard.

I’ll get there! Hoping to finish this draft of Chasing Ascension in August, and then get stuck into Saving Tomorrow – I have some more planning to do, but I feel just about ready to delve into a whole novel rather than these shorter works. Almost…

How are you doing this week?

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Why shorts (the story kind) rock

I’ve believed for a long time that learning to write short stories can only benefit me as a writer – those of you who are regulars will know this (I feel like I’m always harping on about it). I don’t believe you have to write good short to write good novels, but I certainly think it helps.

I came across a post the other day by Angel Leigh McCoy called Short Fiction for the Long Term which I think has a lot of really great points. You should go and read it.

That post, as well as another pointed out to me by a friend, and a gentle kick up the butt from one of my crit buddies helped get me moving again.

Last night in the short periods of time when the little ones were awake I hit on a title for a short story, and a couple of characters, and the first spark of an idea, which grew over each waking period (I’m up and down like half a dozen times a night, lol so when I have an idea, its great for mulling it over!).

I’m feeling the buzz today. Something that’s been lacking for a little while. I’m finding first drafting really hard after focusing on editing and revision for so long, but for some reason, short stories are a lot easier to draft than novellas or novels right now, so I am hoping to blitz it today and get a good number of words out. AND that it kick starts my drafting brain so I can get some solid words on Chasing Ascension!

Wish me luck!

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July?

Eeep, where is the year going? I think I say that every month, but it never seems to change. I am stunned that it’s moving by so quickly.

I had a few goals for June, and I’m not interested in going back to see what they were as I am pretty sure I bombed on them a few times. I did, however, complete the latest round of revision on the novella formerly known as Mocha Nihilism. I also submitted three short stories, and while I’m pretty sure they will all get rejected, it’s just nice to have something out doing the rounds.

This month I’m going to do something a bit different, in that it’s pretty much all about a first draft. Two days ago I started working on Chasing Ascension (which feels great, btw, now that I don’t have MN in the back of my head going ‘finish revising me, finish revising me!’). I’ve set a teeny tiny daily goal (100), but am finding that because it’s so low, I am hitting it, and steadily increasing the number of words I get out. I mean, a chimp can write 100 words a day, so I can totally do it. I HAVE to, otherwise I’m a tadpole or something (they can’t write 100 words a day as flopping from key to key is far too tiring and they would die from the effort). I don’t want to be a tadpole. So I’m writing.

MN is currently out with a million readers (okay, seven, but it’s possibly the most I’ve ever had read one thing other than when I was at Critters.org so it feels like a lot) and I am doing my very best to pretend that isn’t the case. It’s not that I think they will rip it to shreds, it’s just that right now I’ve worked on it a lot and I don’t want to think about all the potential revisions they will come back to me with 😉 All in good time, my friends, all in good time.

So, that’s me. I’m also hoping to find time to revise a couple more short stories and get those out into the world, but mostly I’m focusing on CA. It’s the first first draft of a longer piece in a long time, and will be a great warm up for when I start writing Saving Tomorrow (after I do my final passes of MN and send that out to a couple of places).

What are you up to this month? 

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Chasing Ascension

I have finally come to a point at which I feel I can start writing this again. I worked on a rough outline over the weekend, and while initially I knew I was going to have to cut a chunk, to get back to the good stuff, it ended up being a lot more than expected. About 13,000 words to be more specific.

Which leaves me with under 5,000 words in my new document.

Eeek!

At this point, I am thinking that, hell, maybe I should just cut it all and start over – but I like the start of it. It was on track. It flows well and makes sense.

One of the main problems I had with CA was the world it was set in. It was flat. Really flat. When I read back through it I realized what I could do to change that. You see, the first section of the story (the bit I kept) is post apocalyptic, the world is in a pretty bad state, and it works. My MC’s end up knocked out of things for a couple of years though, and when they re-enter the world nothing has changed. This is an issue, because huge things have happened while they were gone.

It’s at this point I can inject some life into the setting. Things are getting back to ‘normal’, it’s a whole new world for the twins, which also in the long term is going to mean plenty of new challenges for them. And challenges are good! There are bits of the story line from the cut section that will make a come back, but they need revamping to fit in with this new vision.

Thank goodness for new vision. And for being wise enough to get rid of the things that were holding me back and push ahead. 13,000 words is a lot, but ultimately if they aren’t the right words, what’s the point in keeping them?

Anyway, I thought I would share the rough blurb I’ve had sitting around for awhile, to let you in on what this story is about:

People have been disappearing from the streets, but no-one knows where to, or why. Despite this Lissa and Jareth, twins and ‘acquisition agents’, still need to make a living; so when they are offered a huge sum to retrieve a book from a rundown temple, they are willing to run the risk. But it turns out that the book is not what it seems and as people are being murdered in the streets outside, Lissa and Jareth find themselves infected with a strange code and sealed, unconscious, within the temple.

When they are woken several years later, it seems that life in their post-apocalyptic world has changed dramatically – the Gods have made themselves visible and ‘saved’ humanity from destruction. The twins, however, know better. Guided by spirits from another dimension, must find a way to shatter the Gods thrall and free humanity to seek ascension.

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Stop! Planning time

Yes, I do have the MC Hammer song in my head, for some reason…

I recently read through all 17,000 + words of Chasing Ascension. The first chunk is good. It’s exciting, and action packed and I love it. And then I obviously hit a bit of a wall and wasn’t sure what to do next because my characters head out of the city and do some thinking, and then they head back into the city. The only valid reason for leaving is to hide from the people searching for them, but it is still obvious to me that I was floundering.

And then I had a plan! And I wrote til I ran out of plan, and left off with my characters in limbo again – they aren’t really sure what to do, and to be honest, I’m not sure what they should be doing either.

This seems to be a pretty common thing with me. I have many short stories hanging in limbo because I wanted to just start writing. I used to be a good pantser – or maybe I just thought I was, and now I know better? I really couldn’t tell you which, all I know is that when I have big ideas, fun ideas, I just want to get writing and I typically don’t take the time to develop those ideas, to figure out where they are going, or where they will end up. Not every story seems to evolve naturally – especially not those stories where the characters are out of their depth. And I mean WAY out of their depth.

Perhaps that’s where my problem lies. Normally, I follow the character. They drive the story, they make choices, and respond to situations. In CA, both the main characters, and myself, have no idea whats happening and so they CAN’T drive the story for me. I need to stop and plan.

I hate planning…

Does anyone want to do it for me? No? Okay, I guess I better get to work then.

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Done! But not really

I hit the end of the novella yesterday. I’m not entirely happy with the final scenes, but aware that I suck at endings. It’s bound to need work, and I can fix that once I have reader feedback. It’s great to get to ‘the end’, but I know it’s not finished.

Once I’d got my head back into the story after finishing up with Tales I realized that the changes I had made weren’t enough. There were still areas where I could make it stronger and I have a bunch of notes relating to those, waiting for me to address them. I can’t send it out to my readers as is! I’m sure it’s ‘okay’ but it’s not the best it can be, and I don’t want to settle for ‘okay’. This is where it gets fiddly. I need to make sure that what I add is followed through and consistent throughout the novella. Thankfully, I am sure my readers will tell me where I missed spots.

Ultimately I know there are two big things still to address. I have my head around one of them, it’s the other that is still giving me a little trouble. I need to find a way to show how Christy gets to where she is at the start of the story, without huge info dumps or back story. I can do it, it will just take me a few days to figure out the perfect way. I’m kind of hoping that as I make the other changes, the right spot will become obvious. Even typing this, some thoughts crop up. I love blogging for that reason (and others, but that’s a big one!)

I’m going to let it sit for a couple of days while I plot outline for Chasing Ascension and build my wall of inspiration. I may play around with/try to finish a short story I started ages ago, in order to still be writing. But we’ll see – it’s a long weekend here in NZ, and a family one with my Nana’s birthday lunch later today.

Hope everyone has a nice weekend lined up!

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Ah, this is the life

I’m so content right now. I’m blissed out on the cuteness/wonderfulness of my children. I’m in love with my novella. I have plans, and thoughts and ideas. I have a wonderful husband. Within these walls, I get about a million hugs a day, ten thousand giggles and smiles. It’s perfection.

Even the drama is amusing. Ivy is so keen on homework at the moment; she works and works until her brain gets fuzzy and I have to ban her from doing homework in case her head explodes, ‘because I don’t want to clean that mess up!’. Natalie has turned into the biggest pest to walk the earth, but no-one really minds because she is just so darned cute. And Lauren…well, she’s always cute, and easy to diffuse if you do silly things when she’s having a tanty at you (well, most of the time!).

This is exactly where I want to be. Finally at a place where everything is under control again and even though I’m still sleep deprived, I’m happy, and functioning, seeing actual progress in various areas of my life. I feel amazing.

Over the last two days, my novella has grown to 14k. I have just 9 scenes (or so) left to write and I can see the end approaching fast. All the threads are coming together, it’s just a matter of getting the balance right and seeing it through to the end. I’m going to be finished this round of revision soon, which seems ridiculous seeing as I struggled so much over the last few months to make any progress at all.

And there are other things waiting ahead. I think I’m going to participate in HalfNoC this year. Use it to get back to some solid writing habits. Finish this novella, finish Chasing Ascension. Write anything else that crops up after that in order to hit the 25K goal for June. 25K for a month isn’t huge. It’s totally achievable.

Everything is just so exciting right now. Exciting, and possible.

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Arg!

The last few days have been a series of highs and lows, well, mostly lows if I am honest, brought about by sheer exhaustion, a baby who is biting while feeding, difficulties with sleep and 6 teeth coming through at once (another two started cutting in). I mean seriously, when am I going to catch a break? lol I can’t complain too much though, I am alive and well and thats something to be happy about.

After an incredibly productive Tuesday, I fell off the wagon again.

It’s just struck me that I didn’t blog about Tuesday! See, yesterday really was rough. I finished the short story I was working on, starting editing a different short story, and got to work on Chasing Ascension. All in all, a fantastic day – mostly because Lauren slept for THREE hours straight in her new bunk bed, and I had so much time to get things done.

Yesterday however… after an incredibly rough night, we both finally passed out just after noon. I had to get up after an hour, but she slept for a good two hours and last night was a whole lot smoother. We’re at a transition time and I just have to accept that getting her to bed is going to take a whole lot longer than it used to. She really needs to learn how to go to sleep by herself, but it feels like its going to be a long and painful process. I know it’s for the best in the long run though…

Anyways… I’m feeling somewhat more alive today, though less focused. Technically I’m not knocked out of NPI just yet because I wrote more than 1000 words on Tuesday and gained myself a day off (which I used yesterday). But I feel like my head is out of the game and I’m not sure whether I will continue with it. I will probably write today, but I don’t know… I still feel like I am working so far below where I’d like to be that it barely seems worth it.

When your words seem to be not as vibrant as you’d like them to be, for huge stretches on end, do you still forge ahead?

I tend to, but right now… oh it would be so easy not to.