life, writing

Kill me now!

As a writer there are so very many mistakes you can make, sometimes you don’t even realize them until after the fact, but without fail every time you discover you’ve done it there is that moment where you want to hide under a rock and beg your writer friends to just kill you then and there because you might never recover from the shame.

(Trust me, you will. We all make mistakes and that’s part of learning.)

I’ve made many in my time.

I’ve forgotten to attach stories.

I’ve sent stories to the wrong markets.

I’ve queried a novel LONG before either it, or I, was ready. (I feel a lot of sympathy for those poor agents who had to read my submission).

Most memorably, I managed to somehow rename my assignment as my novella and submitted that instead of the novella I’d spent months working on for that particular market… The only silver lining was that I ALSO managed to submit my assignment to my lecturer, and I got an excellent grade on it*.

The thing is that all of these things are surmountable. You can make mistakes, as long as you work to fix those errors – find a better way of tracking your submissions, of organizing all your pieces, triple check what you are sending against what is required. Despite this, you can still make mistakes because we all have bad days, but you want to do the best you can as much as possible.

Many markets are actually pretty forgiving (the time I forgot to attach a story, they let me know and I was able to send it in), and I think most places can tell the difference between when you’ve simply missed something in the guidelines and when you’re blatantly disregarding them.

We’re all only human right?

Get out from under that rock, tell your friends to console you, not kill you, and then get back to work.

*I’ve made a deal with myself never to go in for deadlines that occur at similar dates as assignments to prevent that from happening again!

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life, NaNoWriMo, writing

December – what???

Really, where is this year going???? I’m totally running out of weeks and days. I’m fresh out of months already!

With November behind us, and many people recovering from the ordeal of NaNo (check out Richard’s post NaNo wrap up for more on that), I’m still editing away at a reasonable pace. Not quite as fast as I’d like – I had a cold for like two weeks, and this week has mostly been about wrapping up loose ends in the real world: school stuff, Brownies stuff, dance class stuff –  but despite those things, I’m hopeful that by the end of the month I’ll be sitting right where I want to be.

And where is that? Well, halfway through the edits of Sun-Touched. The next three months (counting this one) are all about the editing for me, because I’m really wanting to get a good chunk of it cleared away before I go back to Uni at the end of February. Sun-Touched will be done end of Jan, and then it’s time for The Way the Sky Curves to get a look in. I want things I can sub next year while I study! FUN TIMES!

I can’t believe that we only have three weeks left of 2013… In no time at all I’ll be doing my yearly wrap up and looking ahead to some new goals, though I think they will all but write themselves 😉

Hope December is off to a good start for you all, and that you’re feeling festive enough. I’m looking forward to BBQs, long summer evenings, and enjoying time with friends and family.

NaNoWriMo, writing

Failing at NaNo and why that’s fine by me

I’m guest posting over at Kiwi Writers today about why I’m failing NaNo and fine with it. In that post I mentioned that at day 4 I realized I didn’t want to be writing a new draft.

So what am I doing instead?

Finally settling down to edit Sun-Touched, that’s what. This novel has been sitting around for long enough and I am well and truly ready to get it out into the world. Once the fog of my last assignment had cleared and I realized that I was finished with study for the year, it hit me that the main barrier to revision I’ve had in 2013 has been study, so, now that study is done it’s time to get back to it.

I’m going to be spending the next couple months kicking this into shape, and then hopefully I’ll have time to edit The Way the Sky Curves afterwards.  It would be amazing to get to March next year and have two things I can shop around while I complete my final year of study.

Part of me really wanted to write this new novel, but if I keep focusing on drafts, I’m going to get to the end of next year and not feel like I am any further towards my goals. It’s kind of scary, but also incredibly amazing to be working on getting things ready to submit. Am certainly feeling no regret whatsoever for ditching NaNo 😉

For those of you still cranking out the wordcount – you rock! Keep up the good work. And for those who, like me, have falling off the NaNo wagon – don’t beat yourself up over it, just keep writing 🙂

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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?

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What’s in store for 2013

I love this period over the end of one year and the beginning of the next. I love the buzz that happens when people talk about their fresh starts, hopes and dreams for the new year. It echoes the way I feel and just makes it all so much better!

Obviously, after a pretty rough year last year I am hoping for a little bit of an easier time in 2013. Whether that happens or not is yet to be seen. No-one can predict these things.

This year, for me, is a lot about finishing things. I didn’t even realize this until I sat down just now and looked over the list I was posting to the blog. My other list is a lot bigger, and filled with each step required to achieve the goal – but I won’t bore you with all of that here. I am going to keep it really simple.

I want to finish Sun-Touched and submit it. It’s currently a finished first draft, and I’m really looking forward to diving back into that world and fleshing it out more, and then sending it out into the world.

I also want to finish writing Shell and Bone, get that ready and submit that as well. As for any other writing? Well, it’s purely a bonus. I am quite sure I won’t be able to resist starting something new, but these two projects are my main squeezes this year as far as I can tell.

I have a couple books that I am going to finish this year if it kills me. The first of which is Perdido Street Station. A friend recommended it to me YEARS ago. I started reading it at the beginning of 2011, and I am only about 30% through. It’s so long. I’ve really enjoyed what I’ve read, but there just never seemed to be a good time to finish it off. The quick reads have won out in the last couple years. Mindless books. Well, it’s time. As soon as I finish the book I am currently reading, I am switching back to Perdido until it’s done.

I also have The Artists Way sitting around. I read the intro and first chapter and that was as far as I got. Several of my good writers friends recommend it though, so this year I am finally going to work through it. I think its a good time to do that, as I really need to work on finding some balance in my life and making sure that I get time out from the every day grind to work on my creativity.

Another recommendation has been Writing The Other. I started reading this last year too, but started skipping exercises and forced myself to put the book down. It’s all very well and good reading books on writing, but the real learning happens when you put those things into practice. I decided that until I had time to do that, I was going to set the book aside.

I have a lot of learning to do. And I expect (hope) that this year will be a year of great growth. I am now able to admit that I’m a lazy writer, and I want to change that. I waste a lot of time on mindless, stupid crap, and I don’t want to do that anymore. It’s time to stop letting that little voice in my head demotivate me. Time to push past my ‘play it safe’ barrier, time to stop waiting for someone else to tell me to fix something and just get on and do it myself, because I shouldn’t rely on other people to tell me whats wrong*. Most of the time I know what’s wrong. I do. I’m just being lazy because I’m exhausted all the time.

Well, screw exhaustion. It’s not going to beat me this year. I’ve just finished reading 2k to 10k and I’m totally ready to get on the bandwagon and outline and write, and actually make the most of the extremely limited time I do have. I want to see Sun-Touched heading towards publication of some kind or another. I want to write other novels, and edit those novels and see them out in the world too. And it’s only going to happen if I put the hard work in.

So, that’s me. Really. One novel, one novella. A bunch of reading and learning and everything else that goes along with this writers gig. There are a lot of other things I am working towards, but I think they can be summed up in the words balance, and harmony. That’s what I’m hoping, for me, and our family.

*I know my writing buddies are there to help, they are amazing writers and their input is fantastic – but think how much more valuable their feedback will be to me if what I’m giving them is free of the same old things that keep cropping up? I’m pretty certain they are getting tired of seeing the same basic issues 😉 I know I would be! Time to do them, and myself, a favour. 

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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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Familiarity and comfort zones

I was having coffee with a friend a few days ago and she asked how my writing was going. She knew I’d been working hard on Mocha, and was checking in. I said to her that it was out with readers at the moment, but that I was hoping to do a final revise and polish in August and then send it out.

It wasn’t until that moment that I felt a little bit nervous about the whole thing. I mean, normal swings have happened – it’s wonderful, it’s rubbish, it should totally find a home, no-one will ever want to publish it – but I realized for the first time that the thought of ACTUALLY getting an acceptance is kind of out of my comfort zone.

I’ve had a couple short stories accepted. That was wonderful. I’ve done revisions and edits and checked proofs etc, so in some small way, I’ve had experience of what can potentially happen when you have a piece of your work accepted for publication. But the world of publishing longer things? It’s all new and kind of scary and for the the first time I’m actually going to be submitting something I truly think is ready (compared to when I was submitting Lifelines to agents and I had a feeling that neither my novel, or myself, were ready for bigger publication). Or at least, it will be ready by the time I submit.

And I am ready, I think, to have something longer in the world – whether that happens via a publisher, or whether I put it out myself. I’m actually ready. Nervous, yes, but excited. Scared, yes, but wanting to push ahead anyway. I’m familiar with rejection. I know it so very well. It’s time to kick down the walls of this comfortable nook though and extend myself.

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Those words were not a waste

Yesterday, and this morning, I’ve been clearing out my writing folders. It’s long overdue! While they are fairly well organized, they are (were) littered with stories that simply don’t hold that essential spark. I made a point of reading through them all, just to be sure, and was disappointed that a lot of the stories I thought were pretty good were not.

Immediately, the ‘I suck!’ thoughts set in. It’s pretty natural. I was feeling low about the quality of my writing, considering that some of these pieces are just under a year old. I thought that I got this whole short story thing now. I thought I was better than this.

Then I was reminded that each of these stories has been part of the journey. They may not be (now, or ever) up to scratch for publication, or even for giving away/sharing with friends, but they have all been part of the process. The words were not a waste. Not every story can be amazing, not every story can even be great, and to expect that level of awesome from myself is unrealistic. (Maybe when I am getting eight hours a night, every night, and the kids are in school…lol). Sometimes you have to clear out the mess so that you can make room for the good stuff.

So what am I left with? 20 or so stories in my ‘trunk folder’, 5 in my ‘to finish’ folder, and just a couple out on submission – one of which I will be trunking when it gets rejected. There are plenty of other ideas floating around, and at some point when I have more time, I’ll get back into the habit of writing shorts on a regular basis.

At some point, I will also have to go through my novels and clear them out as well. I’m not quite ready for that yet though. I am firmly attached to each of my novellas, so they aren’t going anywhere. It’s a little scary, culling. It makes it seem like you have little to show for all that time. But I know, those words were not a waste.

*With thanks to Sadie Hart and her tweets to me earlier today*

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It’s not fair!!!

All around me fellow writers are getting things published, getting acceptances letters, having partials and fulls requested, hearing fantastic, amazing, inspiring and motivational things back from beta readers. And what am I getting? Nothing but rejections.

R-E-J-E-C-T-I-O-N-S. Lots of them, because I’ve been a busy critter, sending out stories left right and centre. Regrouping when I get a ‘thanks, but no thanks’, and submitting them again.

And I’m not bitter about this. It’s just how things go sometimes. I’m setting my sights high – I know very well I could target lesser markets and get stories printed, but I’m working my way down the food chain. You just never know when you might get lucky.

However, I am feeling a little left behind. I can feel this thing inside me. Growing, stretching, pushing against my skin. It’s not an idea or a story, a plot or character. It’s that want to be where the others are. The desire for a novel. For a great novel. One that’s at least through it’s first draft stage, but still shiny and holding so much potential that I almost can’t breathe.

It’s not jealousy though folks. I am thrilled for all of these writer friends. They deserve to be getting the feedback they’re receiving. I WANT them to succeed. I just wish that I was in that place too, sharing in the buzz instead of sitting here, wanting it.

I know one day I’ll have the time to get back into a novel. I’ll have that great idea, that rush, that drive. Just not today.

However, I am going to eat some easter chocolate and get to work on the third scene of the novella. It may not be as big and bright and shiny as a novel, but it’s pretty darn fun place to hang out 😉