humour, Scrivener, software, writing

Dear Scrivener

We’ve been back and forth a few times now, and I have to be clear – this is your last chance.

I’ve taken you out on a few occasions and it’s been a little awkward. I was nervous about getting something wrong, or simply not being able to figure out the way you operate. Because let’s be honest, you’re different. I don’t mean that in a bad way, but I’m not sure it’s in a good way either. It might be, but I need time to figure it out one way or another.

And yet, everyone else raves about you. You’re the best! they say. You’re amazing! Some even claim you’ve changed their whole lives. I want to feel that too! I do. Which is the only reason you’re even getting another chance after that last time when you insisted you couldn’t open the files you yourself generated. But I can’t ignore my friends. They might be right.

You have November to prove to me that we can work together. I’ve done a lot of research, talked to a range of people about the best way to approach this, and we’re doing it. You and me. I’m trusting you not just with a brand new project, but with my first draft of a new project this year. That’s a pretty big deal. I figure if we can’t make it work now, we’re never going to. I want it to work. I do. I’m going to try my hardest, and I hope you do too.

Yours sincerely,

J.C.

Advertisements
disneyland, life, writing, zombies

Things I found in my desk

Over the weekend I spent some time cleaning out my desk – eradicating all traces of study and making it a writerly space again. So. Good. It all feels a lot better now that I know there are no text books or study guides lurking in there. I tore all my study notes out of the various notebooks/pads I’d scrawled on over this year and discovered some things I hadn’t seen in quite some time.

IMG_20141012_081322125Exhibit A is the beginning of the first draft of my story The Dead Way. Everyone writes their horror stories in pink pen right? You know, I don’t even recall starting the story handwritten. I hardly ever do that, though at times it helps me connect with my story more, and I think The Dead Way is a good example of that paying off.

IMG_20141013_113940794Exhibit B is a deck of The Zombie Survival Guide that my husband gave me. I think I’ve barely had a chance to open the deck, let alone have a good look, so it was awesome to stumble on it again – perfect timing too, what with The Walking Dead starting back tonight 😉

And lastly, there is this. I’m not even sure what it’s called, or what exactly it’s used for. All I know is that it’s from Disneyland and my father brought it home for me that time he was in America and decided he should go and enjoy all the rides he promised he’d one day take us too… Still waiting, Dad!

IMG_20141013_115901317

IMG_20141013_115926878

I’ve been holding onto this for… Jeepers. I’d say 15 years or more. Maybe half my life? It might be the closest I ever get to Disneyland, so I figure it’s worth keeping. But, if anyone knows what I’m meant to be using it for I’d love to hear!! Maybe I can get some mileage out of it 😉

Uncategorized

Going Camping

Last night I had a fun catch up with some of my writing group: Google hangouts + wine + writer friends = total win. Somewhere between the middle and end of my 2nd glass of wine someone mentioned Camp NaNoWriMo and it sounded like a terribly good idea. 

I mean, I DO want to write the second novella in this series next month. I might not have done an outline yet, but there are ideas there… I’m sure I can find time to jot some more notes down before June ends and July rolls around. 

So, yes. I signed up. 

I’ve stayed clear of most things NaNo for a few years now, unable to really manage the larger goal of 50K in a month with small kids exerting their tyrannical will on me. Of course, the beauty of Camp NaNo is that you can set your own word count goals (I’ve put mine at 20K), and still be considered a winner. I’m actually kind of excited! I really need to kick another first draft out and writing alongside my group will be awesome fun.

Are you going camping in July? 

Uncategorized

First draft, complete

Well. I’ve been in hiding from the world for a week or so (more or less), so it’s old news to some, but I finished the first draft of Shell and Bone on Friday last week. Am really happy with the way it panned out – loved the surprise my antagonist threw at me in the second to last scene – and feel like everything kind of slipped into place.

Lessons learned? Outlining really does help, even if I have to write a few thousand words before I can really get a feel for the characters. I had a false start in two parts for this novella, hit the wall at around 13K and had to take out about 3.5K words and change a couple other things before I could get stuck back into it. I’m really pleased I took the time to do that, as it has made a stronger story which will need less revision.

I haven’t had the time to read it through since then and probably won’t for a little bit as I have other things to do.

As for my other goals, I’ve been reading Perdido Street Station and am at 75% now (from 30%). It’s a very big book, but I am pleased with my progress. Really enjoying it too,  though I am looking forward to a couple quick reads once I am finished this. I had another false start with the Artists Way, but am doing my morning pages still.

I haven’t yet begun my read through of Sun-Touched, and am still figuring out the best way to do this. It’s my next big task (reading, then making a plan for revision), and I am both excited to get stuck into it, and nervous about it as well.

In the meantime I am rewriting a short story and hoping to have that off my plate in the near future. Until it’s out the door though, it’s my primary writing focus.

How is January treating you so far?

Uncategorized

Habits: New and Renewed

This first week of the year has been an interesting time for me. I think it’s probably one of those (many and varied) points where you shake off another layer of mummy brain and reclaim a little of who you used to be, though this time it’s not in a massively obvious way, at least, not externally. It’s more about mindset, and clarity.

You see, I used to be a really productive writer, pretty much until I had Natalie. Lauren never slowed me down, not at all. I mean, Ivy was in preschool for 4-5 hrs on a weekday then, and babies sleep a whole lot. In fact, Lauren was almost always on me, but she was quite comfortable to sleep in a wrap and I had my hands free to get on with my outpouring of words.

Back then I wasn’t really editing, or even revising though, I was simply writing first draft after first draft. And it was SO much fun.

Of course, at some point, you have to admit that actually, continual first drafts are not the best way to learn your craft and so before Natalie’s arrival I made the (wise) decision to switch from novels to short stories. I learned to revise, and edit, and how to make a story go from crappy to decent.

(Hang in there, I am getting to my point!)

And then my darling third came along and wow, everything was harder. Two under two is no walk in the park. It was virtually like having two newborns because Lauren was still breastfeeding and any time Nati wanted a feed, so did Lauren. That was my choice, and I was (and am) totally happy I made it as they have this awesome bond that I wouldn’t trade for anything. The point is that it was hard, and my productivity went out the window. I forgot a lot of things between then and now. A whole lot.

I forgot that I am actually a pretty fast writer, and that if I know where I am going, I can achieve a great deal in very little time. I’ve been reminded of this because in the last 4 or so days I have been using a stopwatch and timing how long I’ve been writing for in a day, and how many words I’ve written. I’m stopping the clock every time I get interrupted or have to stop for something or other – it’s not a perfect system, by any means, but it’s done a few things for me.

The first is that because I am aware that there is a clock on, I am more focused. And the second it’s revealed that over the last few years (aside from a few patches of focus), I have been super disorganized and pretty much shooting myself in the foot. I can consistently write 500 words in a ten minute period, even if that ten minute period has been interrupted 10 times (and yes, sometimes that can happen! Today was a good day, I wrote for 27 mins, managed 1610 words, and that was only over 7 blocks – the shortest one was 1m20s, the longest 6m48s).

The fact that some days I have not been writing even 500 words means that as much as I have been complaining about the constant intrusions on my time, I’m really the only one to blame. If I am not giving myself even that long, then what kind of writer am I?

It was kind of hard, making that realization. I mean, I’ve admitted I am a lazy writer, and I don’t plan or outline nearly enough. And yes, I’m constantly exhausted. It’s far easier to blame the rest of my life for that, but really, at the end of the day I am the writer, and I am the one who has to say ‘I need x amount of time!’ and find a way for that to happen.

So now I am making a conscious choice, and I have been writing over 1k every day for the past week or so.

That was the new, the renewed habit came about as a result of taking up with The Artists Way again. One of the first things you read about is the morning pages. This made me remember how I used to use 750words.com as a place to just let off some steam and get the words flowing. Six days ago I logged in and spat out 750 words. Since then I have learned that with no interruptions I can actually get out 750 words in 7-8 minutes. It’s pure freewriting, stream of conscious, not worrying about spelling or anything else. I just vent whatever is on my mind, I let loose, and usually around the 600 word mark switch from that to writing to myself about what I want to do with the day, or what is happening in my story.

This has been AMAZING. I’m really finding that it means by the time I sit down to my novella my fingers are warmed up. In fact, they are itching to get writing. Not only that, but because my last chunk of words is directly related to my story, I can just jump straight into the novella. I had forgotten that too – that daily writing means you never lose touch with the feel and shape of your story.

In the last six days or so I have written about 8,000 words on my novella, compared to December where I managed 13,000 over the entire month. Hopefully, with this new clarity, and these old and new habits back in my arsenal, I can continue on the path I’m currently carving out for myself.

Of course, after I finish this draft, I’m going to be revising, and that’s a whole different kettle of fish! lol I’ve got some new tactics I am going to be trying though – hopefully they work as well as these ones.

How is the year starting out for you? Anything new, or old, that you’re trying out?

Uncategorized

And then it was almost December

This is the first year since I started a blog that I have been such an unreliable blogger. I mean, 2012 has thrown me some real curve balls, and the living of life has certainly overtaken much of the time I used to spend sitting here blogging. I have countless posts that were started and then abandoned as the subject matter became irrelevant or a week passed since I first started writing it and I couldn’t remember what my point was.

Do I endeavor to do better next year? Well, I’d hope so, but there is certainly no guarantee. Life is not going to get less busy, and I wouldn’t really want it to.

I’ve done very little in the way of writing this month. The ideas that began to spin at the end of October have been taking shape, and then got derailed by a passing comment someone made to me about one of my first novels. So I had to dig deeper and find something new, something different, for the novella I’m writing in December. Nothing came to mind, and that was okay, I knew something would crop up. But the month went on, things got exhausting for awhile with teething kids and sleepless nights, then a friend died and that threw me too. While that death still plays in my mind, we’re now here, almost to December, and I’ve got very little to show for the month.

Except maybe that I made it out of November. I guess the simple fact that I am alive is enough of a blessing to eradicate any of the frustrations of the month. I’m alive, and I do have an idea, and it is shiny and exciting and while I can’t seem to summon the energy to write now, I know that in just a few days time my new character will blaze onto the page and the story will devour me for the month. I’m calling it Shell and Bone for now. It’s always nice to start a project with a title of some sort or another.

So that’s me for November. I turn 32 in a few weeks time, and then it’s Christmas. I’m looking forward to BBQs, the beach, hanging out with family and friends and enjoying life. What about you?

Uncategorized

Plans, they keep a-changing

I’ve made a lot of plans this year, and it seems like every time I’ve been on track with one of them, something has cropped up that means I veer off in another direction, or get jolted off course altogether.

And that’s life, isn’t it?

This was meant to be the year of the novel, but it wasn’t. Apparently it was actually the year of the novella, which in some ways makes sense. Making that leap from short fiction to long can be difficult, making that leap when your family is in chaos and stress levels are through the roof is just ridiculous.

However, I DID finish writing my novel Sun-Touched, and it’s at the top of my list for revision come the new year, but Surplus to Requirements simply did not get further than about 5k into the rewrite. I couldn’t get past those opening scenes, and then the nudge to write Burn came along so I ran with that. Sometimes you have to run with things.

My writing group has been a great help in my sanity this year, and in keeping me moving forward. Even though we’ve all been busy, just knowing that these other writers give a damn and are there when I need a boost, or need to be challenged or cajoled does a great deal in keeping one foot moving in front of the other.

I think I am slowly learning to be okay about the fact that just about anything can derail a writing plan – the important lesson this year has been that no matter what else is going on in my life, writing will be there when I recover enough from life to get back to it. I can’t count the number of times this year I’ve been sure the muse has abandoned me forever, only to find that the moment my stress level has dropped below that line where I can begin to think of other things, the ideas are there, waiting for me.

And I do have ideas, good ones. I’m just starting to rough draft a new short story, as well as planning for a new novella to launch into come December. They’re both set in New Zealand, which is exciting for me, and I’m looking forward to tapping into some of my personal history, my heritage and experiences of life in NZ and using them creatively in fiction.

What have you all got lined up for the last few weeks of the year?

Uncategorized

Cough, splutter, cough

I’ve been sick for the last week, which has been incredibly not fun. The saving grace is that the kids managed to avoid catching the same thing, which would have been terrible. I can’t breathe, and breathing is so very important! Well, today I can breathe a little easier, finally, but no running or jumping for me. It almost kills me lol

This has meant not as much writing has happened recently. Which is a shame. I started the month off with gusto, and then fall flat a little, though not because of the story – because of ME.

My story is awesome. I’m sitting around 13.5K at the moment, and there are around 3 scenes/5,000 words to go. This should put me right at the bottom end of the word count guidelines for the place I want to submit it, and gives me plenty of room to expand where necessary and play in this wonderful world I have.

I have to say that I think this novella is the least populated that I have written to date. Considering the length of it, that is. I’ve had short stories with only three characters, one with just two. But when the other main characters are a baby and a dead person, it makes dialogue a little tricky at times. I firmly believe dialogue is important though, so its lucky that I know from experience that people talk to babies ALL THE TIME, just like they talk to cats and other things that can’t talk back.

Anyway, I’m kind of hoping to finish up the first draft this week. Then I can let it simmer for a week before giving it a tidy up and passing it on to my crit group. It feels really great to have set the goal of writing it in one month and actually knowing that I can achieve that. Does wonders for my confidence as a writer.

Now I just need to set some firm goals for the StR rewrite. And follow through on those, as well. I’m starting to get a better shape of my day sorted out in my head, seeing patterns of time blocks that will work for me. It’s not just a matter of making sure I don’t waste those on unimportant things, like facebook, and twitter… damn those evil sites which eat time. Maybe it’s time to go on haitus again?

Anyway, enough about me. Tell me about you! What are you all up to at the moment?

Uncategorized

June, already

I’m still getting my head around the fact that it’s June already. I know I keep saying this, but the year is flying past. May kicked my ass. It was one of those months that simultaneously blew past, but also dragged on forever. It was pretty hellish. June is already looking better, and I really hope it stays that way.

My big goal for this month is to get the first draft of my new novella (Burn) written. I began on June 1st, and am currently sitting at just over 6,500 words. I’m hoping to hit 10K by the end of the approaching weekend, which should mean I am around halfway done – that said, I am lousy at predicting word counts, so that could well change.

I’ve done things a little differently this time, having sourced a bunch of images on Pinterest to help guide my character, and myself, through the plot of the story. Several of them have scenes crafted around them, while others just contribute to the general feel of the story for me. I’m really enjoying writing it so far, and have to say that this month, first drafts are easy!

I’m quietly hoping to wrap it up before the end of the month so that I can claim some more time for StR. I only managed 5,000 odd words on it in May, when my goal was 10,000. I feel like getting back to basics with this novella has helped shift my head from the ‘must be perfect’ mind set that was choking my progress just a few weeks ago. Fingers crossed huh?

What’s happening for you this month?

Uncategorized

Admission time

I was going to have a great April. I was going to get SO much done. I was going to finish the first draft of Sun-Touched, among other things.

And all those high hopes went out the window, pretty quickly! It’s been a tough month, with many of my friends and loved ones having some pretty difficult times. I’ve had some difficulties as well, though I’m past those now, and trying to regulate things once again. School went back yesterday (YES!!) and so we can start to return to some kind of normal routine.

I have no idea why I told myself that this month was going to be a productive one. Two weeks of school holidays? Not a recipe for success when it comes to writing.

Anyway, I am forcing myself back on track. I’ve made a list of things that need doing and rather than dividing my time, I am focusing on one thing until it’s done, and working my way through. The last few days have felt reasonably good, and the list is getting smaller. Saturday was AMAZING, because I managed to tick off a whole bunch of things. Now if only I could get another day or two like that before the weekend…

I say before the weekend, because it’s the very first Beta Weekend Event for Guild Wars 2, which I pre-purchased mid last week. *shakes with excitement* I’ve been waiting a long time for GW2, and this will be my first taste. I can’t wait.

But, I need to have some more done before I can play. Namely the completion and submission of a short story (Longing), and the first draft of my assignment for my counselling paper.

Sun-Touched may have to wait, though I would like to crack the 70K mark before the beta opens. I no longer think it will be done this month, but I am looking forward to writing the ending once these other little tasks are ticked off my list.