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Halfway!

I reached the halfway point in my Burn revision last night. I was a little stunned to get there seeing as I feel like I have been slacking off big time. Apparently not as much as I thought 😉 I’m really looking forward to working towards the end, and I love that feeling of making things better as I go.

However, a bad habit has become far more obvious to me. I’ve known for a long time now that where my writing really lacks is when it comes to culture and world building. I definitely do not spend enough time on this before launching in a first draft, and then when I come up to something during the first draft I often revert to [insert town name here] or [make some stuff up], which I often come back to and try to fill in later.

The problem is that on second pass it is no easier to fill in, and that’s often because I just haven’t developed something nearly as much as I should have. For example, I am working through my revision of this first draft and I have still managed to so far avoid giving the invading nation a name. The city has no name. The village has no name… It might not seem huge to you, but this shows me that my world is lacking. It has some rich spots, but I don’t have a cohesive picture of how it all goes together, and that’s important. Until I can conquer whatever barrier it is I have towards this, my writing isn’t going to come alive like I want it to.

Definitely time to tackle that one.

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Change is afoot

Over the last several months my husband and I have been doing a lot of thinking, a lot of talking, reading, learning, and soul searching. Because we’ve had this problem, you see, and it just didn’t seem like it was going away, at least not without compromising and doing things that we weren’t entirely comfortable with.

The problem was that our eldest was unhappy. Hugely unhappy. Crying every day for hours, wishing that she could just hide under a rock, unhappy. And this unhappiness also showed itself in anger, and frustration, and raging against the world for no particular reason that we could fathom. It meant conflict about everything as she struggled with life. And all of these un-fun emotions were being directed at our family.

I just want to make it clear that Ivy is NOT the problem. But her misery was. We needed to help her. To find a way to make the world make more sense to her. It is not okay for a child of seven to be feeling like the world is a terrible place. We love her dearly and it was heartbreaking to know she was feeling like this. And so we got help, which included therapy sessions every week for the last four months, a fair few tests to see if they could figure out what was going on, and finally, a trial of some medication for ADD which they determined is the cause of Ivy’s struggles.

Except the medication didn’t work as I was told it would. In fact it had the opposite effect which suggests she doesn’t have ADD, though they are leaving her with that diagnosis for now. I took her off it as quickly as I could – neither of us were thrilled about trying them to begin with, but we got what we wanted from it.

On reflection, with this diagnosis of ‘ADD’ and the discovery that she has difficulty focusing in a classroom environment, and the knowledge that while she was holding herself together during class, she losing it within moments of school finishing, we realized that maybe the real problem here was school. It was a huge contributor to her misery. And we decided (after lots of consideration) that what we wanted to do was home school her.

Prior to this, I’d had thoughts about pulling her out of school approximately 10 times in the last couple of years. Incidences would crop up, things that made me uncomfortable but weren’t big enough issues, or solid enough to really place my finger on the cause, but there, all the same. But school is what a lot of people do, and I had never really considered being a home schooling mum, and didn’t I want a career at some point in the near future? And didn’t I desperately need the break from Ivy’s misery that those hours at school gave me?

Well, I did. Until I realized that so much of our conflict revolves around school. Until I realized that in the school holidays, when it’s her at home, being a part of the family, she’s actually really happy and I love being around her. I can and will still have a career at some point, but my time as a stay at home mum has now been extended by a few years, and that’s fine.

In fact, I’m really freaking excited about this. I have so many plans, and every time I talk to Ivy about it she comes up with plans of her own, and we bounce ideas and I can see her brain working overtime, being creative and being excited about learning, which is so wonderful to see because she’s been so resistant to regular schooling.

One of the things I think is important to gift to our children is an innate sense of curiosity about the world. Creativity, a desire to learn and explore and the skills with which to do those things under your own steam. And I can see that already. I can see she has the desire, and I can be the one to teach her the skills she needs.

We’re going to be embarking on an amazing adventure. Not just for her, but for our whole family. Lauren is thrilled that Ivy will be home and is keen to get in on the learning. Natalie will enjoy it too, and Ivy… She is so happy. She can’t wait to get started and has been telling everyone she can about it.

It’s going to be very interesting finding a new groove once we get the exemption certificate through. But I can’t help but be filled with hope. It feels like finally we’re onto a winning thing. Finally, we can help Ivy follow her passions, encourage her dreams and support her in learning the way that suits her best. Very exciting. Very exciting indeed.

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Project 2012: 1st quarter progress

It’s April 1st, and we’re now moving into the 2nd quarter of Project 2012. It seems strange to think that only three months of the year have passed because it feels like we’re much further in than that. I thought it was time to check back and see what I should have accomplished, and compare that to what I’ve actually achieved.

So, what was I meant to do?

2012: Q1
The first quarter is all about the big picture.  You’ll be looking at your story as a whole.  This is the phase where you chop entire sections, revisit soggy plot devices and give those wimpy characters some backbone.

  • Hook versus climax
  • Plot arc
  • Character arcs
  • Mapping tension
  • Voice, tone and language

Worksheets: chapter list, timeline, character journey

I read through my revision novel (TCM), made some notes, did lots of free writing and brain storming about the world, the story and the characters. I even created a new outline for it. There are still chunks of the novel that need more detailing before I can rewrite, but all in all, I’m feeling positive about where it’s at.

Revision: Getting into the nitty gritty of theme, message, tension mapping and beats.  Scenes rearranged for maximum impact.  All these should be firmed up ready for Quarter 2.

First draftPlotter: You should be 10,000 words in at least.  Pantser: Why aren’t you writing?

I had the benefit of already being in the process of a first draft when the year rolled around, I’m now sitting at 62,000+ words for Sun-Touched and heading towards the end.

While my revision stuff isn’t quite where it’s at, I am hoping to dedicate most of my time to TCM once ST has been finished off. I started reworking the beginning, but it was really odd trying to write in Mel’s voice after spending so much time with Madea. The stories are quite different in ways, though I have noticed some similarities as well.

The 2nd quarter is meant to look something like this:

2012: Q2
Second quarter is all about the chapters, zooming in to make sure that each section of your book develops the story, advances the plot and illustrates character development.   You’ll be looking at flow and movement and making sure each chapter strengthens the work and moves the story forward. For each chapter you’ll be looking at:

  • Hook to climax – chapter
  • Rising tension
  • Character development

Worksheets: scene list, locations and events, character journey.

I’m hoping to get well into the rewrite in Q2 – am giving myself April to finish off Sun-Touched so that I can really focus on TCM. For a month, anyway, and then I am taking a short break to belt out a new novella. It will be the first thing I’ve written that has been totally outlined from beginning to end before I start the first draft, and I am really interested to see how this might impact on my productivity and the writing itself.

So far this has been a year of growth in regards to my writing. Learning to plot, reforming the writing habit, being flexible and pushing my ideas further. I’m feeling really good about where I am going, even though the “I Suck” fairy still does the rounds here on a regular basis.

If I keep going the way I am, I should have a finished first draft of a novel, a revised novel, a newly written, revised and submitted novella, as well as a second novella in first draft stage. Short stories have been given the boot entirely, for now, though I am still intent on polishing up the few gems I have and finding homes for them.

How is your writing year going so far??

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Planning Ahead

It’s a little early in the month to have thought through 2012, but that is exactly what I’ve done! Nothing like knowing you’re going to have an insanely busy year to get you motivated.

My writers group has recently been talking about the structure etc, and it prompted several conversations with Merrilee, which in turn prompted her to jot down a plan for 2012. She’s posted a bit about it over here, but the gist of it is that next year I (we) are planning to edit one novel and write a new novel at the same time.

I’m really hopeful about this, because it’s a whole 12 months to get things sorted. If I do it a small bit at a time, I will get there, it’s just a matter of breaking it down into components and working my way through. It will be really great to learn to balance fresh writing, with revision/editing – I love them both, and they stimulate me in different ways.

Of course, on top of this I have study for my counselling paper, finishing up Lifeline training in January/Feb and then at some point beginning to take calls myself – they seem to have a relaxed approach to this, in that they encourage you to do it when you’re ready.

It’s going to be a huge year for me, learning to juggle a few new roles in my life – but I have discovered that the more I have going on, the better I seem to be at scheduling things in. The fact that I am getting time to focus on myself, and get out of the house and follow my passions, can only be a good thing.

I’m so excited! I can’t wait to see progress in every aspect of my life!!

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Break time is over

I’ve been very gentle on myself for the last few weeks, and it’s probably been close to a month since I was seriously writing. I needed a break from the pressure I was placing on myself, to step back a little bit and take the gentle approach. If there is one thing you can’t do with writing, it’s force it when you’re exhausted – the results are never pretty.

It was weeks before the first new idea hit me, and I did nothing with it – it was enough that it had happened. I didn’t want to write it down or push it into being before it was ready.

Yesterday, I finally got the itch to put words on the page. Then this morning between 3am and 4am words began to form in my mind (sun-touched, hollowed, exposure, dome, Magda), and by 5am, I had a world, a character and an idea. Oh and a title. Everything is falling into place. It’s time to get back to work.

I’m doing things a little differently this time though. After I tried and failed with Saving Tomorrow, I know I need to find a way to stop pressure from building up inside me. It’s all self-inflicted, so I need to stay relaxed and just enjoy each bit of writing I do.

So, I am not defining what The Sun-Touched will be. It will be as long as it needs, no longer or shorter. I will not force it into a box, or get predetermined ideas of length and time it might take to write. I will start at the beginning, and I will write it through, write it thoroughly, and live in the story for however many minutes I get to write a day.

And hopefully this time I can keep myself from getting stressed and frustrated. I think I can, and hope to soon have the words to explain the things I’ve learned this last week about myself, and the way I write. It has everything to do with me getting a new idea and feeling ready to start writing again.

Here we go again, but at a gentle pace, with no restrictions and all the time in the world.

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Why (some) rejection rocks

I got a new rejection this week, with some solid feedback on the piece. At first I wasn’t phased by it – I knew could take the advice on board, and rework the story a little, then send it out to another market – but then I went back to trying to work on my new short story and hit a wall.

I was going about telling it in the same way that earned me my rejection. In fact, I’m pretty sure this is the way I have told some other stories in the past and while I know that it’s a technique I’ve seen used by others, I just couldn’t do it again. I ended up frozen, unable to see how I should write the story, and constantly repeating the phrase in my head about what I couldn’t do.

ARG!

Anyway, after some mulling, and wailing about how much I suck, I left it alone for a little while, and as always, the answer came and hit me in the face. The scene I had written was the end of the story. Not the beginning. I mean, lots happens after that scene but the really interesting stuff, the real meat of the story, was before then and in order not to fall back on ‘static backfill’ I should start the story earlier, and end with the scene I had already written. Though of course now it needs rewriting – something I can easily do.

I love it when good feedback is provided. It gives me the opportunity to learn and grow as a writer. I am pretty sure that I could simply submit this story elsewhere and have it accepted, but I want to make it the best I can, which requires a little more thought and work. And I want to do that, I want to put out stories that are great, not just okay.

Feedback is subjective – not all of it should be applied, all the time. Editors all have different opinions, and they may not agree about what makes a story good. In this case, I can see that the feedback is widely applicable, and I can make my stories stronger by taking it on board.

Happy writing everyone! I will hopefully have time to get this first draft out over the weekend. The concept is really exciting me, and I’m trying to push it as far as I can.