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Novel Hopscotch

I’ve always been the kind of writer who starts at the beginning of a novel and works her way through to the end. In order. This has been the only way for me to write a novel because most of the time I’ve had no idea what happens next. Diving in without an outline usually means you have to put one foot in front of the other to see what happens.

However, Saving Tomorrow is a different beast (in many ways!). I’ve finally pulled all my bits and pieces together (with a little over 3,000 words so far) and have the beginning of the novel outlined. I’ve jumped around quite a bit, playing with different scenes, different characters, and the different ideas that have been hopping through my head.

I’d heard of those people that write scenes out of order. Always thought they were a little crazy, but now I’M one of those people. Me. I never would have predicted this. Never. And yet here I am, with one file, some outline notes and scenes missing or incomplete.

It’s an interesting feeling, knowing that I can throw my stone on a scene that isn’t working for me and just jump right over it for the moment. Sure, I will have to come back and write it later, but maybe I’ll have a better idea of what goes in it if I’ve filled in the scenes around it.

An interesting concept. I’ll let you know if this is the way it works out.

Right now I am filling in the scenes I missed. Adding the last of the characters I need to, working on firming up the beginning of the novel. I’ve made no notes about the middle or the end, though I know the who, where, what and why of the questions at the core of the novel. I know where it ends, I just have to figure out how to get Delaney there in one piece.

In order to try and do this right I am going to flick through Bell’s Plot and Structure again to refresh my memory on what makes a solid novel. I would love if I didn’t have to rewrite this one from scratch 😉

How do you write a novel? Beginning to end, or jumping around like a kid playing hopscotch?

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Location, location, location

As I was lying in bed last night I started thinking about where Saving Tomorrow is set. So far there are no location keys. In fact, typically, I tend to write things without saying where they are. It’s in a city. In the future. On Earth.

But is that enough? Wouldn’t I gain more by placing it into a more specific setting than leaving it to the readers imagination?

This question is tumbling around in my mind a lot today, and so I’m turning to you, my dear readers, for opinions. What works for you?

I’m tossing around the idea of setting the novel in New Zealand. Because, well, it’s where I am. I love the country, I know it, and it would be nice to write something set locally. I’ve avoided writing local in the past because I haven’t read much set here. It seemed like no-one wanted to know about little old NZ. That perhaps writing it set locally would mean it was more difficult to sell to an overseas market.

This is what happens when you have publishers in NZ telling you that NZer’s don’t read fantasy, don’t read science fiction. When there are so very few places within the country that will so much as look at a piece of speculative fiction with an eye to publishing. So of course, my thinking goes, if you want to sell it to the world, you should use a location more people can identify with. Or don’t specify one.

But is that really the case? I love reading sci-fi set on other worlds. Isn’t that kind of the same thing? As long as there is enough in the story that relates to me as a human being, then I can identify with the characters and connect with the novel. That’s what really matters.

Yet, I am still undecided.

To specify, or not? That IS the question.

So tell me, my lovely readers, what do you think? How much does the setting impact on you? Does it really matter?

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Sickness, a snow day and stealth novel writing

It’s been quite a week, well, almost week, since I last posted. My middle child got a case of Hand, foot and mouth disease which wasn’t a lot of fun. She was mostly happy, but her sleep was all messed up which resulted in a tired Mummy. Thankfully, none of the other kids caught it – but seriously, what a run of illness! I think after a month, we’re all finally well.

The most exciting news of the week is that it snowed here. And yes, yes, I know, many of you get snow. Lots of it. However. I’m 30 years old and I’ve never seen it snow here. Despite the fact that there is a mountain not far away, my city is right by the sea, and it just doesn’t snow. This last week the whole of New Zealand has been hit with an arctic blast and it’s snowed pretty much everywhere. Apparently the last time this happened was back in the mid 70’s.

Anyway, it snowed, it was amazing, I acted like a crazed child and insisted the kids come out and dance in it with me. We caught snowflakes on our tongues. I was with some friends, so there were three adults and seven kids sharing in this, it was just plain awesome. This is the second time ever I have been in falling snow. I think it might have made my year.

Please no comments about how I don’t get a ‘real’ winter, and I don’t know what snow really is. It was exciting for me. Kill my snow buzz, at your peril.

I guess I should get to the whole ‘stealth novel writing’ bit, huh? Gee. It just kind of happened. I was working on some stories ‘around’ the novel, and then all of a sudden I was writing a scene from the book. I got halfway through before I realized. It was a little bit of a shock, but also wonderful. Somehow, I managed to get past all the little fears and sink myself into the writing of Saving Tomorrow, pressure free. It’s pretty fantastic.

I’m hoping that today I can pull together all the bits and pieces that I’ve got and form the actual document for the novel. I’ve still got an outline to write up, but in the meantime I can press ahead because I know what the initial events are. I think that this time around I’ve made more notes and development than ever before. It’s helped me get a clear idea of the characters, their goals, their motivations and their arcs throughout the novel. I’m so excited to be writing this.

Which, I guess, means that maybe this novel will also make my year 😉

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Making friends with a killer

I started some free-writing yesterday, just to see what cropped up; interestingly it was the man who kills Kira in Saving Tomorrow. He actually seems like a nice enough bloke, which I was surprised by. I thought it would provide some insight if I wrote the lead up to, and the murder, of Delaney’s lover, and while I didn’t quite manage to get that far it raised some really good questions for me.

So far, his name is Gavin – though I’m really not sold on that. It could easily change (any suggestions welcome!), it works for now. I’ll probably end up getting attached to it and struggle to think of him as anything else, but that’s okay, too. He has what he thinks are valid reasons for doing what he does. I love it when that happens. I hate for the ‘bad guys’ to be bad for no reason, it is always more interesting if they have a cause, or justification, no matter how twisted that might be.

I’m not even convinced he’s a bad guy, yet. We’ll have to wait and see how it plays out. I love the fact that I am learning more about these characters, more about the world and how they interact with it.

OMG and I just had a brain wave, sitting here thinking about what else to say. I would hate to give too much away, and I know there is a fine line. Just trust me when I say that he’s going to create many challenges for Delaney, and is definitely a worthy adversary.

I must go and make some notes now. Oh, this is good, sooooo good.

In the end though, whether he’s working for good or bad, this man kills. I think we’re going to be good friends, Gavin and I. Perhaps he’ll be enough to keep Delaney out of my head, once I start writing this novel 😉

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By hand

I picked up a new notebook this morning, while I was out getting some other basics; you know, a new pillow to replace the one the cat peed on, some CRC so that I can stop the doors from squeaking, it only took me two years to get around to that…some more notebooks for the kids to draw in, that kind of thing (thanks heavens for The Warehouse, a one stop shop!).

Anyways, the notebook was pretty, and I couldn’t help myself. It does not fit the tone of Saving Tomorrow, but regardless, I’m going to use it to do the bulk of my planning. Of course, I had to photograph using the flash to show you the sparkly hearts! So pretty…

I have found in the past that I really enjoy planning by hand. There is something about it that connects me to the story in a way that typing doesn’t – perhaps it’s because it takes me longer to get my thoughts on the page, and so I have time to think more carefully before I put the words down. In any event, it’s a lovely way to spill ideas onto the page.

Right now, I am asking a lot of questions and searching for the answers. So far, those are coming fairly easily, but then, this is mostly about fleshing out the world. Another day or so and I will start getting into the details of the plot, seeing as there is some mystery involved in the story line, I might need to think ahead. I have a character in mind as the killer, but I need to flesh him out more, ground him in the world that’s growing in these pages.

I do so love this stage where everything is blending together and forming a rich, delicious world, filled with great characters and loads of promise. I can’t wait to start writing!

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Clawing my way back

Well, I’m happy to report that I am mostly better. Apparently it was the flu, and not a cold. My sinuses have taken a beating and are still causing me a fair amount of pain – but it’s less than yesterday, and less than the day before, so I can only hope the trend continues and I feel better again tomorrow.

I’m 100% over being in pain from the moment I wake until the moment I fall asleep at night.

I’m also totally over being sick and not getting anything much done, so today I worked my way through the second half of yesterdays list and I’m almost to the end – the last tasks are to write this post, and get some words down on my latest short story.

I can do those things, because I really want to. Almost two weeks of doing very little when it comes to writing has left me really wanting to get stuck in. I’m determined this month to finish off the current story, and to edit another story that’s been sitting around for too long, as well as get whatever planning/pre-writing/whatever I need sorted for Delaney, because it’s not long now until I plunge myself into the depths of a new novel.

For the record, that thought scares the crap out of me, but I’m not going to let it stop me. A novel is just a bunch of sentences strung together, and I can easily write sentences. Therefore I can write this novel.

So, yes, that’s me at the moment! Still not in perfect health, but getting on with it anyway. Time to get back to business.

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Watch out!

Somewhere around here *looks over shoulder* is a thing that looks like me, sounds like me, writes like me – I am quite convinced it can’t possibly be me though. I’m just not that organized of late.

I opened One Note today, purely because I mentioned it to someone else as a good way to brainstorm, and was quite surprised at what I found there.

Did you know that Delaney’s novel has a title? *looks confused* apparently, that happened awhile ago, and I have no recollection of it. Possibly, as far back as December. *shakes head* it’s moments like this that I realize the whole ‘sleep deprivation’ thing really is bad. It’s called Saving Tomorrow, though I bet I blogged about it at some point or another! If I didn’t, then it was definitely some other me, making notes, but not sharing them with the world. That’s not a very Cassie thing to do.

On the bright side, there are lots of little shiny’s in my One Note. It really is a fantastic place to brainstorm, apparently, because it’s loaded with little gems. I am going to have to make use of it more often – or maybe just let that other me have at it. I’ll peek into the file now and then and see what I can steal.

I’ll leave you with the rough blurb I found for Saving Tomorrow, and post it just because strangely it fits in entirely with my current thoughts on the novel. My brain is a wonderful thing, even if it has fragmented.

Delaney has always known her role in life is to stop those who would do harm to the world from being born. But when the love of her life is brutally murdered while on the job, Delaney has a new purpose – to find the man who killed Kira and get revenge. But is the murderer really the man at fault? Or is there something deeper going on?

***HA there is a tag for Saving Tomorrow, so I must have posted about it!!!! I really need to get more sleep. Sometime. 

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Backing Delaney

Long time readers of this blog will know that I have a character called Delaney Jones. She’s one in a million, and has been taunting/harassing me for a while now.

What most of you won’t know is that for about 4 months now I have discarded her.

I hear you shrieking ‘WHAT!!!??’ at me. Calm down! I know, I know. How could I set her aside? How could I NOT want to write her novel? She is the character I have had the most interest about from readers, and it seems insane to consider sidelining her, and refusing to give her a moment in the spotlight.

And yet, I’ve had some series doubts and issues about certain things in the novel. Some huge barriers which made me think that it was just too much hassle, too much drama, and way too much work to make the novel okay. I was worried about the squick factor, the sexual core, and some other stuff to boot.

It made me sad, thinking that it was never going to get written, but I’d come to accept that maybe Delaney just wasn’t ready. Or maybe the world wasn’t ready for her yet, or whatever. We writers can come up with all kinds of excuses not to write something.

However, this morning I was chatting with a writer friend about what novel I will work on next. I was debating whether to write a new one, or work on an old one, saying that I wasn’t really being pulled one way or the other about it – but I figure, any novel I write now will need less work due to my being a more experienced writer. An old novel will need to be rewritten, pretty much, so both ways will take roughly the same time-frame.

I mentioned Delaney, and she asked me to tell her more. So I did. The more I talked about it, the more excited about the idea I got, and the more I realized that I could find a way past those big barriers if I wanted to. And I do want to, I can see that now. Yes, it’s big, and daunting, and it intimidates the hell out of me – but that’s where the really good stuff comes from. If I dig deep, if I push at my boundaries I can do something amazing with this novel.

So I’m backing Delaney, again. We’re not in business yet, because I do still need to finish this novella, and I have other things that need tidying up as well. You could say that we’re speaking again though, and that’s what I needed – a voice to call me, to lead me into a novel. We can be lost together initially. Kira is dead, after all, and we both mourn that. Together, Delaney and I can solve the mystery of her murder, and bring this story to life.

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Taking a break

Thought I better blog about it, to make it official – I’ve set aside my goals for 2011 and am just cruising through January. I’ll reassess where I’m at come February, but for now more than anything, I need to take the pressure off.

I think I’ve finally hit the wall of exhaustion that’s been looming ahead of me for a very long time now. I haven’t had a new story idea for…well to be honest I can’t remember when the last one was. I have no passion for Delaney’s novel (definitely a bad sign), and no real drive to do anything else either. I’m feeling flat, and uninspired – something I simply refuse to have come through in my writing.

I’ve done pretty well to push on until now. I’m still excited about things, but I have no energy for them. I tried to come up with an idea for a flash competition and while a few things were there, a potential story, some neat ideas that normally I would have loved to play with, I just couldn’t do it.

So, it’s time for a break. Obviously. I still want to get a lot done this year. I still have things I would like to get done this month even – but I’m not scheduling anything in. I’m leaving it wide open and if it happens then AWESOME, and if not, I’m not gonna kick myself. I can’t have this list hanging over me, helping me to feel guilty and like I’m getting further and further behind where I should be. It’s just not worth the energy.

In the meantime I’m reading some books on writing and applying the ideas to both Mocha Nihilism and Saving Tomorrow to see where I can make them stronger. I’m actually really looking forward to ripping into MN and making it as good as it can be, though that’s a post for another day. I guess after any decent sized project (like a novella) one should take some time to recoup ones energy anyway.

That’s me. And besides, school is out ’til Feb 1 – with three kids home who has the time to write? lol I need to go a bit easier on myself, and this is me trying to do that. Pretty sure I’ll still have plenty to blog about – and maybe now that I’m not thinking about how much I should have done (but haven’t) I can finally finish making my desk pretty enough to take a photo of!

Anyways, enough rambling. I hope everyone else has a great writing month. I tend to like to start the year as I mean to continue, but right now rest and recovery are more important. And play. That’s important too.

I’ll have my writers bounce back soon enough 😉

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Goals

I’ve been trying to get myself back on track by returning to my old staple: Goals. One week in, and I managed to tick everything off the list – I added 4,000 words to MN bringing the current word count to just over 15,000 (and meaning I only have another 5,000 or so to go!), I wrote a focusing blurb thing for Delaney’s novel and I have settled on a working title “Saving Tomorrow”.

It feels good to have set goals, and met them. I wasn’t hopeful at various points in the week but it all seemed to fall into place. With the help of a mammoth writing day on Friday (3,000 words!), I made it.

It’s a timely reminder that I flounder when I have nothing to focus on. When all my wants are just floating around with no clear ideas on when and how I want to achieve those wants, nothing happens. Well, that’s not entirely true – stuff happens, but haphazardly. I much prefer to be making regular, predictable, weekly progress.

With Christmas approaching, and a little time away, I’m not setting anything in stone for the next few weeks though. January is the time to kick things off again for real. That said, I WILL finish this round of writing on Mocha Nihilism before the year is out, and I plan on polishing up some short stories over the Christmas break ready to send out in the new year.

I’m thinking ahead to 2011, and I’m excited. 2010 was devoured by pregnancy, new baby, adjusting our family for the changes and just plain survival. While I still managed to get a few things done, 2011 is going to be amazing. I can just feel it.

Are you working on anything in these last weeks of 2010? Or taking a well deserved break and waiting for the new year to hit?

Speaking of the new year, kiwiwriters.org always hold a New Year Novella challenge in January. I’ve signed up with Saving Tomorrow – while it will be novel length, I think 20,000 in January is a great start to the process!