#notebookappreciation, organization, planning, writing

New notebooks

A couple of days ago I treated myself to some new stationary. I had a voucher burning a hole in my pocket, and it seemed like the absolute best way to spend it.

IMG_20151014_101725054_HDRLately, I’ve been doing a lot more writing by hand, and a few of my go-to notebooks are getting depleted. I was so happy to find a replacement for one of them! This is the ‘strangers’ notebook. I totally relate to the girl – head in a book, ignoring other people…

IMG_20151014_101739776What I love most about this book though is that it’s spiral bound, with easy to tear out pages, broken into several different sections. The pages are a little browner than my Beatles notebook (which is down to about 5 blank pages and some notes…) and the tab colours more muted, which I adore. Oh bliss. I can’t wait to start using it, though I’m going to finish off my old faithful first!

IMG_20151014_101835433After finding that, I spotted this one. It was plastic wrapped, so I had no idea if it was lined or what I might find inside. When I got home I was pleasantly surprised.

IMG_20151014_102052986First of all, the word on the front spoke to me. This year has been a lot about me figuring out who I am, who I want to be. Shucking off other peoples expectations and challenging my assumptions about myself. (You can read a post I wrote about that here if you want). I’m still working on that (I may always be working on that), but it felt like something I wanted to buy, so I did.

IMG_20151014_102106896It’s a lovely notebook, full of blank pages with that same message ‘be’ on the bottom of every single one. It’s perfect for personal journaling.

IMG_20151014_102130938Last, but not least, I was tempted by a lovely purple (seriously, it is purple, not sure how my camera captured is as this colour! lol) planner for next year! It feels really early for me to be getting soIMG_20151014_102144119mething like this (I tend not to think about it until, you know, March), but when I found one that laid out a whole month at a time I needed to get it.

I really want to be better at tracking things, and I find that writing them down with a pen rather than on a digital document works for me. I have all my proposed deadlines in an online calendar, but I want to put my actual/achieved timelines into this paper one. Might sound like a weird system, but I have a feeling it’s going to work for me. Rather than looking at everything going on in my online calendar, I’ll be able to go ‘Look! I published a book here here and here’, or whatever.

I’m really happy with my purchases, and I can’t wait to start using them. A writer can never have too many notebooks, right?

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authors, life, Uncategorized, writing

Writers Retreat

Last weekend I had the pleasure of going away on writers retreat with some of my writing crew. These girls are AWESOME people, and it was an absolute pleasure to go and hang with them for a couple of days.

Of course, a weekend is never really enough. It disappeared far too quickly for my liking, and it was a bit too ‘whirlwind’ on arrival and departure.

I flew up to Auckland midday on Friday, leaving the kids at home with their Dad. My Dad picked me up and took me for a coffee while I waited for Leigh to arrive. Then we hung out in the pick up zone until her Step-Dad arrived, and then it was off to pick up Tee and say hello to one of her daughters!

From there we went for dinner at Tee’s folks restaurant (the weekend really expanded our writer lives to include our families), and then headed over the harbour to Whangaparoa. Naturally, at this point, wine was consumed and we talked and talked and talked… though we couldn’t get properly started until the next day when the last of our group would arrive.

Saturday was definitely the best. Melissa and Brenda arrived about 10 and we launched into talk of business plans and marketing!

Seriously, unless you’ve had the opportunity before, you’ve got no idea how EPIC it is to spend, literally, hours just talking about writing and publishing. Everyone but me has at least one novel published, but I’ve edited or given feedback on a good portion of the books published, so I feel like I’ve got a fairly decent grip on things. I adored hearing about the many, varied things these women have lined up. The next 18 months or so look AMAZING, and I can’t wait to finally be out there publishing alongside them.

Sunday morning saw us all working away at various things. We had a large lounge to take over and there was writing, editing, critiquing, listening (Tee was proofing her audio book), all in relative silence, punctuated only by the occasional goal shout-out. And then just before 12 we packed ourselves into Mel’s car and headed back to the real world.

The rest of the day sucked. There were too many goodbyes, and it feels like way too long until I’ll get to see them all again in the flesh – thank heavens for the internet though! At least we have something.

So, lessons learned over the weekend?

A writers retreat really needs to be more than a weekend! I think we need at minimum, a day and a half for talking, followed by at least the same for working, and probably half for winding things down – I could easily do more. If we have longer, we may even venture out of the house at some point over the weekend 😉

Sharing your business plan, and hearing other peoples is incredibly motivational and inspirational. I felt really validated and encouraged after sharing mine, and inspired after listening to everyone elses. You can learn a lot from other people, so take those opportunities when you can get them.

Once a year is not enough! Escaping from the real world to indulge in writing is a real treat and I wish I could do it more often. I’m going to try and make an effort to at least get some more uninterrupted writing time in the near future as I’ve been reminded how much that feeds my souls.

Finally, possibly the two most important things it confirmed (for me): THIS – writing – is what I’m most passionate about outside of my family. Right now everything else (like study) is a barrier to what I truly want to be doing. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to try and do the things I ‘should’ do, when the thing I am called to has such a loud voice and tempts me constantly.

And, having a bunch of supportive writer friends (not just counting the ones I was away with, but everyone else as well) is a huge advantage and something I could not do without. They make everything writing related better and I’m truly blessed to have so many kick-ass friends.

Have you ever been on writers retreat? Any tips or hints? I think it’s going to be in my town next time and I’m already planning possibilities 😉

writing

Publishing plans

PSince I spoke about options in my last post, I thought I’d take the opportunity to talk a little about publishing, and my plans for it. It’s all still very much in the formative stage because I’m knee deep in my last year of study at the moment and find it hard to balance the two of them, but at least planning helps keep me focused on the future and provides ample opportunity to daydream about the months and years to come!

And I cannot wait to be done with study so that I can launch into my writing career.

At present, I’m working on editing mostly, and am submitting my novel Sun-Touched to publishers, sans agent. I wanted to try this first because these days there are quite a few publishers that have open submissions periods throughout the year, and it felt like a good book to take advantage of those opportunities with. I’ve considered trying to find an agent with it, but at this point I’ve got assignments looming and I think I’ll put that stress on the back-burner. I don’t want to add more stress to my life, and from past experience, querying agents can be all consuming. We’ll leave that til I’ve got less going on 😉

So why am I looking at a publisher for Sun-Touched? Well, first up, it’s science fiction, and I’m not yet convinced that science fiction sells all that well when self published (please, if you have some information that differs from this, I’d love to hear it!). Secondly, I’ve had awesome feedback about it – all my readers have loved it, and this has given me confidence that it could sell well. Thirdly, honestly, I would have to say because it’s what I’ve wanted all along and I guess I see it as kind of a challenge – not so much as that they are ‘gate keepers’ or anything, but a personal challenge, a ‘can I do this?’ kind of thing. I want to know if I can, and in order to find that out, I have to try. If I can’t find a publisher keen to take it, I will definitely self-publish it, because I believe in the novel.

Aside from this I have a series of works, novellas and novels, based on the west coast of New Zealand, that I’m planning on self publishing beginning at the end of the year. I’ve written 3 novellas already, and the first novel is a work in progress. There are about 7 stories lined up for the main story-line, as well as ideas for other stories set in the same world (one of the novellas already written is outside of that main storyline and will hopefully be released at Christmas!). I’m hoping to get most of the editing and work done on the novellas throughout this year alongside my study, as well as the full first draft of the novel. Covers are already in progress with my wonderful designer friend, Leigh, and I’m feeling really positive about where everything is at.

I know a lot of people would be chomping at the bit to get published, rather than having these things sitting around, but not me. Self publishing  has been on my mind for quite some time now, and I always knew that if I was going to do it, I wanted to do it right. For me (and just me, we’re all different) this means having multiple works lined up. I didn’t want to release one thing because it was ready and then have to scramble for something to follow up with. It makes the most sense for me to write a series, and roll them out on a reasonably regular schedule, which is why I’ve been stockpiling the series to date.

And why am I planning to self publish these? Well, first up, they are paranormal romance/urban fantasy, and this seems to be a genre that does pretty well when self published. Secondly, I’ve had awesome feedback about the series and I think it could do well. Thirdly, much like my reason for trying a publisher with Sun-Touched, I want to see if I can do it. Self publishing provides a whole new set of challenges, and I’m really keen to try my hand at them. I love the idea of having control over these books, and that any success I have will be down to the effort I’ve put into it.

So, when it comes down to it, I guess you can say that my decisions regarding how I want to publish come down to challenging myself, having an awesome product, and looking for the best way to publish each type of work. I don’t think there is a one size fits all for publishing, nor do I believe that you have to stick with one path – do whatever works for you, find your happiness, make your own definition of success and go for that.

Sorry that you’re getting a few posts today – I ended up succumbing to the vomiting bug as well, which knocked me off track again, but this time I had actually had a plan for what I wanted to write about, so I decided to go ahead and write the posts! 

authors, writing

Writing Process Blog Hop

So I was tagged by the lovely Zee Southcombe for a blog hop about writing processes. Naturally, I thought, why not?

The rules are:  Answer the four questions below, link back to the person who invited you, and name the people who will be posting the following Monday.

The questions are fairly straightforward, so, let’s get on with it huh?

What am I working on?

Gosh, what am I not working on?? I’m tidying up some last minute edits on a novel at the moment, as well as trying to plan out my next small project which should keep me busy during April. Aside from that there is a lot of broader planning going on for future works and assignments for my post grad papers.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

For my science fiction work I’d say what’s different is the underlying sense of discomfort/unease (or creepiness as several of my writer friends like to say; I write creepy), juxtaposed with unique characters and strong relationship themes. Not specifically romantic, but all kinds of relationships (family and friends as well as lovers).

And for my paranormal romance works, it would have to be the small town NZ vibe. I feel like the works are very ‘kiwi’ and I love that about them. It’s given me the opportunity to tap into my Maori heritage, as well as my experiences growing up in a small rural town. The series is a lot of fun, but also sexy and edgy (despite being set in the wop wops!).

Why do I write what I write?

I only write things that I can get excited about. If a story is invading parts of my day that it shouldn’t, or hits me in those moments between sleeping and waking, or if I am wondering how something will end, then I want to write it. I’ve had times before where I’ve been like ‘now, what was that book I was reading? I really want to finish it’ only to realize it was my hypothetical book I was thinking about!

How does your writing process work?

Normally I get hooked on an idea and set about doing a bit of planning. More often than not I get so excited that I *think* I’ve done enough planning and launch into writing, only to find that between the 5,000-10,000 word mark I have to stop and do some real fleshing out of the world and characters.

It’s not until I’ve actually done this first bit of writing that I feel like I know the characters and what the story really looks like, so I find I can’t fully plan until I’ve done that first bit. After some planning, I get back to work! The words usually flow pretty well, with one or two stumbling blocks along the way, and then I typically rush through the end and stare at the screen thinking ‘is that it?’. Never entirely sure, I save and close the document, then promptly fall into the belief that it’s the worst thing I’ve ever written.

I tend to then avoid reading it for as long as possible, until I get the itch and peek back in. Thankfully, it’s never as dreadful as I suspect, and actually, most of the time I’m pleasantly surprised 🙂

I typically work on something new before diving back in for revisions as I like to get some good distance in order to look at the work with ‘fresh’ eyes. Then after revision, I send it off to betas, after which I jump feet first into editing, taking all their delicious and hilarious commentary on board (seriously, my critters more often than not have me giggling. What can I say? They have a way with words! Even the harshest critiques give me something to smile about).

Eventually, there is a finished product, well, finished enough to send out into the world anyway. Because of the way I work I often have several things on the go at once, and if I ever get stuck, I can jump ship for a little in order to maintain sanity. I generally stay focused on the one thing until it’s through whatever stage it’s currently on though, as it gives me that lovely buzz of feeling like I’ve made progress.

Look for the blog hop to continue next week (or the week after that, if they’re like me) on these sites:

Worlds of Wonder (Meryl Stenhouse).

Tama Wise

Leigh K. Hunt at Parchment Place

Emma Lindhagen

And Richard Parry, who hasn’t agreed yet but will just have to cope anyway 😉

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Raring to…

Revise!

Yes, you heard me right. I am gearing up for the great novella revision, and I couldn’t be more excited!

I know. What on earth has gotten into me? I can’t really explain it. Don’t get me wrong, I do love a good bit of editing – I love cutting words, and finding ways to make things better, and cutting words, and adding more tension and all that (and cutting words – did I mention that?).

But right now, I am knee deep in the part of the process I loathe the most, and I’m more excited about it than I have ever been before. Go figure! Today I went through the novella and made scene notes, and then noted conflicts and changes, and then wrote comments on what needs improving, what needs removing, what needs moving… And came up with a pretty decent length list of things I need to do.

Strangely, this is not that different from how I normally do things. I don’t edit in order, I make lists of things to do, then usually I start with something easy (to prove that I CAN do it, and LOOK IT’S REALLY NOT SO BAD), and then I tackle something major so that I can sigh with relief and pat myself on the back for a job well done, before going back to something quick, so that I can tick something else off the list and see PROGRESS, and so on until I am sick of the sight of the thing and can’t wait to send it off to my poor crit buddies.

I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately, about other peoples editing processes, and it’s encouraged me no end to see that HEAPS of people do it this way. I thought, for awhile, that I was basically just flailing around blindly, but it turns out that folks like Chuck Wendig and Rachel Aaron have a similar process. I’ve taken some notes from both of those articles, and incorporated them into my own process to give a try this time, as always I’m ever hopeful of finding a way to make it all run a bit smoother.

I still have to write a timeline for the novella (groan…. but I know how important this is. I mean, I’m pretty sure that at one part of my novel it’s summer and then a few days later its the middle of winter), as well as get some character info solidly on the page. A few people get a bit wobbly here and there. Gotta straighten them out.

But this story is GOOD, I really believe that. Now I can’t wait to make it BETTER.

And I think, for the first time in a long time, maybe ever (definitely ever, for a story longer than a short), I’m doing all of this before I send it to so much as a single reader. I’m super pleased with myself for that. I’m going to call that growth, and a step towards not being such a lazy writer.

Go me 🙂

Hope you’ve been having a good week!

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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?

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Day-dreaming

You know how I said I was taking a holiday? Well, we did go away for a few days, but my brain hasn’t stopped working, other than to fail at combining sentences and finding the right word for things.

As we drove to Rotorua my mind was turning over ideas and options for the novella I’ll be writing in December. I saw a lake at the bottom of a waterfall that sparked my imagination, and then the mist as we climbed into the hills, and then once we were at my inlaws I collapsed on the bed for a bit and more things connected. Over the next few days a whole town emerged with snippets of my personal history intertwined and I began to get really excited about writing in a New Zealand setting.

I’ve mentioned in the past that I often don’t place my stories. They aren’t grounded anywhere in particular, and I’ve actively avoided writing about NZ for a long time. I’m totally ready to embrace my country and my heritage in my writing though and I’m excited to see how it all turns out.

Of course, I still need a character, and a story line, but I am sure those will come. The MC is beginning to talk to me, and I know that as we get to know each other I’ll be able to piece her story together – whether I can make it fit into a novella is another matter entirely, but I’ll do the best I can.

And so October is almost done. November will see much planning, for both the novella, as well as the rewrite of Sun-Touched. I think it’s going to be really interesting, seeing if I can work on the outlines for both at the same time. They are quite different – one being urban fantasy, and the other science fiction – but at the story level, there are bound to be things they have in common.

What have you got in store for the new month? How many of you are doing NaNo this year?

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On the hunt for a new album

Throughout the writing of Sun-Touched, I had one album that I put on repeat. Whenever I sat down to write, it was there. If I was trying to write and it wasn’t on, at times I struggled. It helped to get me in the zone, to focus me on the writing – even though the type of music, the lyrics, etc in no way, shape or form mimicked/added to/accented the type of story I was writing.

Now that Sun-Touched is done. I feel a little like I am done with that album. I want something new (to me), something fresh to accompany me while I write my next piece.

May is going to be full of planning, so it’s the perfect time to stop and find some new writing music. Seeing as I have two projects coming up, I need two different albums! And this time, I am going to try and do a better job of matching the albums to the stories.

I’m so out of the loop with the music scene though, that this could prove to be challenging. I may need your help.

The novella I plan to write in June is about an older woman’s journey to reclaim a part of her heritage that many of her people have abandoned. She travels with her baby grandson, whose parents are dead, so a lot of the time she’ll be virtually alone. As much as it’s a physical journey, it’s also an emotional/spiritual journey, so that’s going to be interesting to write.

On the other hand, my YA science fiction series is full of action and drama, romance and conflict (or will be when I’m done with it!).

Any suggestions for music to check out?

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The End

Yesterday, for the first time in almost four years, I wrote those words at the bottom of the last page of a novel.

That’s right, folks. The first draft of Sun-Touched is finished.

WOOOOOOOOOOO. It feels amazing, and yet at the same time, I know that it is in no way a finished novel. It needs a lot of love, a lot of filling in and fleshing out, it needs plenty of tweaks and changes.

But for now, it’s done. I can step away from it, happy that I’ve finally cracked my novel-drought, having proven to myself that I CAN still do it. I think it’s got oodles of potential, and when it’s the right time, I’ll get back to work on it.

So, a few thoughts. I started this novel back in October, on Wednesday the 12th to be exact. I wrote in chunks, some weeks being really good, and others not good at all. I had to contend with Christmas, a road trip, two sets of school holidays and a number of other family/friend troubles. We started going to Playcentre, and I started studying…

It took me seven and a half months to write the thing, but I got there in the end. I’m sure the next one won’t take so long 😉 With everything else that went on, I think that time frame for a first new novel post baby isn’t too bad.

Anyway, yesterday my friend Leigh tagged me in a ‘Lucky Seven’ post, and seeing as pretty much everyone I know has been tagged by now, I am not going to put anyone on the list.

The rules are that you must post an excerpt from one of your books and this excerpt has to be seven sentences, lines or paragraphs from page 77, seven lines down.

Without further ado, here is a snippet from Sun-Touched.

The creature hesitated for just a moment before entering her body. It broached the skin of her chest, half disappearing. She felt sick watching it, so she shut her eyes, blocking out the sight of it.

The same sensations as yesterday crashed over her and she lost the ability to tread water. She began to sink, catching a mouthful of liquid before finding herself buoyed by the creature. It wasn’t doing anything that she could see, and yet it was the only explanation Madea could think of. She felt lighter, stable, despite the emotions that were overwhelming her.

What’s next? Well, I have some major planning to do for TCM, as well as some on another project, a novella which I will be writing in June. I still have to finish polishing off Longing and submit that (Today’s task), and then there is the essay… Funny how I said I was going to do that, and then finished my novel instead 😉

I intend to take the weekend off! I totally deserve it. Though no doubt I will find myself being drawn to something or other… We’ll see. I’m flexible. I feel positive and full of excitement. I mean, I finished my novel!!! How great is that?

I hope April is turning out better than you expected – I had high hopes, realized there was no way I was going to get everything done, and then found a way to do it all anyway – so it’s never too late to turn your month around.

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I totally need a new title…

I’ve barely mentioned the novel I’ll be revising this year, because I’ve been in deep thought about it. Without having read the thing yet, I know that there is a major issue with it and I wasn’t sure how to tackle that.

You see, it’s one of those pesky ‘partly set on earth, and then partly set on new planet’ novels. I chatted about it with M via email this morning and when she said those inevitable words ‘Do you even need the part on Earth?’, I had to stop and seriously think about it.

The novel was originally called The Consign Mate. The idea was one I had back when I was a teenager. It was about a girl who basically flunked out and so was set to be shipped off Earth to help colonize planets for the worthy. Part of the programme is that they are assigned a ‘mate’ who is genetically determined to be the match best suited to producing healthy, intelligent children. Her mate is someone she has a lot of negative history with. This is all pretty standard stuff, really, I mean, I was only 15 or so when I started writing this!

Anyway, the story morphs into something else entirely once they get to this new world, and that is where the interesting stuff happens. I think I would have come to the point where I asked myself whether Earth was really important at some point, but this conversation has spurred me on to it earlier. There will need to be some drastic reworking, but I think it will make for a much better story – one that I’m more excited about. There is something to be said for cutting massive amounts of story.

But I totally need a new title, because it has nothing to do with mates now. In fact, I could change a huge chunk of the backstory (and already have, in my head /rubs hands together in glee). It leaves room for some more freaky stuff, yup, I can see it now…

OH, this is going to be fun.

Of course, I should probably read the thing in it’s entirety before I get too carried away, and that task is on the cards for next week. I have a couple of things I would really like to finish up first, and then I plan to get stuck into a read through, during which I’ll also make scene/chapter notes.

It’s going to be such a good year, folks. SUCH a good year.

How is your 2012 shaping up so far? Making progress?