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Refocusing, again

I’ve been really struggling to get back on top of things (namely any kind of routine) since we all got sick over a month ago. I got behind on absolutely everything I possibly could have, and have been struggling ever since to catch up.

I’m still not finished ticking tasks off my to-do list. But I’m getting there.

Unfortunately, I still have no routine, and since getting my most recent assignment in a week ago, I’ve been floundering. Well, I’ve decided that a week is enough and it’s time to get back to work. Perfect timing, really, because my writers group had a critique session on Friday night which means I can now get stuck into the revision of Burn with those notes in mind.

I’m excited to work on Burn for several reasons – it’ll mean I get something ready for submission (and gosh it’s been so long!), I have a fond feeling towards the story which I’ve not even read since finishing it, and it’s also great practice for when I start work on Sun-Touched. I’ve finally settled on it as the novel I’m going to finish, and it feels really good to commit to something after spending so long undecided.

The next few months will see a whole lot of change, which I’ll talk about in a post of it’s own, but I need to make sure that I’ve got some kind of routine down or I am going to find myself falling off the focus wagon again. And I don’t want that. I have another assignment on the horizon, submission deadline up ahead, and my health and well being to balance as well.

But let me assure you that life is grand. I’m sitting on a good deal of excitement and that’s an awesome place to be. I have so much hope inside. And I know that I can do this, do everything that I have chosen to include in my life.

Reflecting back, I had such high hopes for July. But that’s okay. I got my novella finished, and I got my assignment in. Those were the two most important things that needed to happen. August is just around the corner, and I’m looking forward to it.

How has July been for you? Did you achieve your goals? Or did you have to shuffle things around a bit?

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Meet Leeloo

A week ago, I drove two hours with two children and my mother in tow to collect a bundle of fur. I’ve been feeling puppy lust for months now, and spent an inordinate amount of time trawling websites and forums in the hopes of finding the right puppy. Well, I found her.

She is a teeny thing, smaller than I expected, but full of personality and energy (when she’s not sleeping, and admittedly, right now she sleeps a lot). She settled in quicker than I thought she would, and already knows who her mummy is. I love it when she curls up at my feet to sleep, or shelters behind my legs when the girls get too much. They love her, I love her, and you know? I think she’s coming to love us too.

Aside from the fact that she is super cute, she’s also a great unwinder. I’ve been working really hard over the last few weeks on my latest assignment, and since Leeloo’s arrival on the scene I’ve been closing down my computer around 9pm for some play time before bed. It’s been great. Just her and me, messing around. Fabulous in multiple ways because anytime I am trying to keep a head full of information in my brain, I can’t really read fiction, so that was out as a way to relax.

I have been really slack about blogging recently, I know. I’m going to try and do better. It’s just been a few of those months. I even forgot to update and say that I had finished the first draft of Burn. It’s currently out with my crit group. I’m looking forward to gathering on Friday night via Google hangouts for a few glasses of wine and some writerly conversation.

And now that my assignment is done, I can start reading through Sun-Touched! I’ve just finished a great writing book and am looking forward to dissecting my most recent novel and then reconstructing it. I have high hopes for that one, and can’t wait to have something submission ready.

Have you had enough cuteness yet?? Here’s one more.

Hope you’re well!

 

 

 

 

 

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And then it was May

It was almost 9am this morning before I realized we’d entered a new month. A bright, shiny new month. I love those. Aren’t we lucky to have 12 of them every year?

I’m feeling a little silly this morning (in a good way). I have this huge smile on my face and I’m filled with zest for most things. For starters, April was actually pretty successful. I looked back on my first post of the month and checked in with what I wanted to get done. Despite my slackness, I finished Sun-Touched, which was my primary objective!

I also planted a garden, made my new office space my home (my book shelf is where the TV was! yay!!!), purchased a second hand sewing machine (an old Singer, in a table – love it), day dreamed about upholstering my office chair, started writing my first essay for my Counselling paper, polished and submitted a short story, and many other things.

One of which was to enjoy the first beta weekend event for Guild Wars 2. I LOVED playing the game. I tried out a bunch of the classes, and all the races. I love it. LOVE it. Can’t wait until the game is actually released, and am very excited for the next beta weekend as well – hopefully the other two races will be playable!

I was meant to have the whole weekend off after finished Sun-Touched. And it was my intention to. Strangely, I really missed having a work in progress though. Missed having a novel to use as my home base. So really, it was just Friday that I took off. Saturday rolled around, I played in the beta, attended my writers chat in Google Hangouts, and um, opened all my documents relating to TCM.

For some reason, something this simple has really confirmed for me that I AM a writer, through and through. I could have spent all weekend delighting in GW2, but I spent quite a lot of time playing in my own world, tracing character arcs and solidifying plot lines. I love Mel, the main character, and I am loving figuring out how to make her story the best it can possibly be.

A week ago, I would have said to you that May would be the month I’d finally finish Sun-Touched. Get my essay completed and sent in, and then spend the rest of the month planning. I need to fully outline the novella that I’ll write next month, as well as finish off the planning for TCM.

Now that goal has shifted slightly. I still want to do all those things, but I also want to revise the first 10,000 words or so of TCM. (Funnily, that’s in line with my post from the first of April! – I’m amazed how sometimes things work out to plan, even when you think they can’t possibly). I don’t know if I can get it polished to submission standard by the end of the year, but I am certainly going to try.

What has May got in store for you??

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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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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.

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Why I love Monday

Typically, Monday has been one of my favourite days of the week because it’s the first day we’re ‘back’ into things. School, work, Playcentre. It usually comes after a busy weekend, and is my first chance of the week to actually get some stuff done.

Today, I love Monday because it’s the beginning of a new week. I’ve been feeling really flat, depressed and just plain waaaaahh for days now. It’s not been a typical block, as such, because if I could’ve sat down and made myself get to work, I would have got a lot done – I just couldn’t sit down and face it. The words are all there for both my novel, and my first essay for my counselling paper, but I just couldn’t make myself let them out of my head.

Which sucked. Big time. I got caught in a loop. MUST get this stuff done. CAN’T sit down and do it. Getting further behind. The clock is counting. I sat here at my laptop every day, frozen, and feeling worse and worse about the fact that I wasn’t making any progress.

Well, not today. I did a little writing yesterday, and a few days before that – the words flowed as soon as I let them out which shows that I CAN do this – and I refuse to linger in this hell hole of limbo any longer. I’m the only one who can change the way I feel, and so I’m going to do that. Now.

Monday is a wonderful day. I love that every week I get to start fresh. So here is to letting go of the week that was, and welcoming in the week to come. Here is to making the most of every day and not letting the bad days of the past encroach on what could well be a good one.

Happy Monday! (and to those who haven’t quite reached it yet – I hope it’s a good one 😉 ).

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Against my nature

I had a little feedback from a writer friend recently re Sun-Touched, and while I know that the issues can be fixed, it’s made me sit down and think about why I struggle with certain aspects of story.

It’s because I am boring.

No, boring isn’t the right word. It’s because I am a peacemaker, because I strive to see the good in everyone, because I try to look at situations from different perspectives to understand where people are coming from, and ultimately, this means that in general I don’t have a whole lot of conflict in my life.

My husband and I don’t fight. Ever. We will discuss things, but it’s very unusual for us not to see the other half’s perspective. We respect each other too much to not allow the other to have their own opinions, even if we agree to disagree. I don’t tend to get into many arguments in general, though I have an opinion and voice that when I feel I need to.  I’m treated with kindness and respect for the most part, by people who are considerate of whats going on in others lives. And all of this is great for life, but it’s not great for story.

My characters do get into fights, but I struggle to escalate the tension. I resolve things, because that’s what I do in life. I find solutions and ease tensions. But that doesn’t work for a novel.

So I need to work on that. I need to ignore my innate desire to find a resolution, and leave things un-smoothed. I need to have my characters walk out mid argument, ignore the pleas of others, be so steadfast in their own opinion that they are forced to up the ante rather than find a compromise. I need to hold out on making things better until the end, and I think that’s going to be quite a challenge for me!

But I am up for the challenge. I can find a way to raise the tension throughout the novel and hold out on my reader. Things don’t have to be tidied up, things can be uncomfortable.

What do you struggle with in your writing? Are there aspects of her personality that seem to clash with what makes a good story?

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A Weekend Off

I’ve not really written in a few days now, and I was pondering why I didn’t feel guilty about it. I mean, I really want to finish this draft by the end of the month, so how is taking a few days off helping me achieve that goal?

The truth is that I am/was exhausted. All the stress and emotions surrounding what’s going on with Ivy (see the passworded post), combined with a couple of kids who are still getting the hang of that whole ‘sleeping through the night’ thing, and the knowledge that every single day there is going to be some drama or difficulty to deal with, it simply wears one out.

Thursday after school Simon and Ivy headed off to his parents place for a few days and peace settled over my house. I couldn’t bring myself to write, or review, or critique, or even study. The little girls played really nicely, and for possibly the first time ever they ASKED me if they could go to bed. Earlier than normal. Colour me stunned. I had a relaxing evening, with a quiet house, catching up on a few TV shows and then reading.

I did a lot of reading these last few days. I spent a lot of time playing on the trampoline with my babies. I enjoyed the tidy house and the lack of drama. I nurtured my soul with no pressure and time spent outside. I basked in the glow of conflict free time, and relished the fact that my vocabulary got to use more yes, sure and of course’s than no, I’ve already said no, please listen to me and other such phrases.

I love all my kids dearly, I will always love them no matter what, and I will always do everything in my power to give them the things they need to thrive. But I am human, and I have to confess that right now what I needed more than anything else was a weekend off from the near constant conflict. Which also meant a weekend off from anything else. Who knows when I might get another weekend off, I had to make the most of it.

And I feel better for it. I don’t feel on edge any more, I’m not waiting for the next round, or constantly trying to calculate what scenario, which foods, which word choices are going to get the best response.

And best of all? I miss Ivy. We spoke for a good twenty minutes on the phone last night and I enjoyed hearing about her day, telling her what we’d been up to. She misses me too, and I think that she probably needed a weekend off too. She is staying with her Nana until Tuesday and I know that my mother in law will take the best care of her, nurturing her soul, being there for her every need and giving her some precious one on one time.

Simon came home last night, and so I’m pleased that he will be getting a couple of days off as well. We all need it. We all need to have some room to breathe so that we can be effective moving forward. Sometimes the best thing one can do, is have a weekend off.

The writing will be there when I’m ready. The story will zoom towards the end and by the beginning of May I WILL have a finished first draft. But for now, the sun is shining, I have kids to play with, books to read and a husband to hang out with, and I’m going to make the most of the time off while I have it.

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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??