New beginnings

There is something about September that brings me back to blogging. That ‘new year’ feel, I suppose, that I get far more at the start of the academic year than I do each January. This is natural to me. Harry is at school now, James and I both work at universities, and I am studying again. Until my phone took over my diaries would always run from September to August. There is also something about the autumnal days setting in that brings the anticipation of NaNoWriMo and the motivation to write.

So I am giving this blog another chance. This may be a bad idea, what with my Masters resuming in a few weeks time, but right now I am feeling psyched. I put the boys to bed, ate my dinner while watching James’ flight to New York on FlightRadar24 and suddenly within an hour I had written 500 words and submitted it to a flash fiction competition. Last week I submitted a short story to another competition. This needs to continue. I have only entered short story competitions on a few occasions – last year I vowed to do one a month but I got caught up in other things. Stupid of me really as one story was long-listed and the other short-listed, which was obviously a big boost with regard to my confidence and my ability but not, it seems, to my motivation.

I have so many ideas at the moment and my brain seems so much more open to inspiration than it has been in a long time. Writing short stories is allowing me to get outside my comfort zone (fantasy) and explore different genres and writing styles. One big idea I had when reading last month’s Writing Magazine (this month’s arrived today and thank goodness for six hours on a train next weekend because I still haven’t finished last month’s) I think I will adapt to be my NaNo project, partly because it ties in with my Masters so might, theoretically, make it easier to work on both at the same time. Basically, an article in the magazine made me question why I never write about what I know. I’m not sure my stories have ever been set in a hotel or a cafe, or if any of the characters have worked in those places like I have. I certainly have never covered issues of sustainability and social responsibility, even though this is what my Masters is all about. And it is not like any of these topics, settings, and characters are boring! So this year’s goal is to write a story encompassing what I know. Let the planning commence!

I often read advice to new writers that a good starting point is to write about what you know. If you write, do you find it easier to write about what you know or to explore other avenues? If you don’t write, which way would you be more inclined to take?

Reaching 50k!

I’m so tired.  I suppose writing 50,000 words on top of daily life in 17 days does that to a person. Not that I’m ready to stop. I’m aiming for 75,000 now, hopefully more as what I really want is to finish the book. It is the last in the series and until it has reached its grand finale I don’t feel like I can focus on writing anything else. This whole epic world is dominating. The first book is currently doing the rounds with the agents. Whatever happens there is a different story. The sequels still feel very personal. The second book is still in its first draft as I did not see the point in editing until the whole story is complete. Imagine the plot holes!

NaNoWriMo aside, the tiredness is a sign I need to take it easy. I have managed – for the third time since having Charlie – to strain my stomach muscles. So it’s back to avoiding lifting and reaching, rolling out of bed, and lying down where possible. Not easy with children. And l am one of those people who always has something to do. Resting just means I think of more things.

Anyway it is finally that time of day. Once the boys are in bed I plan to have a bath, write another chapter and wrap the soaps I made today. Hopefully tomorrow will be a more productive day. I have had to categorise my to do list for possibly the first time ever.

Rolling, swimming and writing

A week ago Charlie rolled over for the first time.  He had been so close for a while but finally managed to get his arm free. He is unstoppable now! Straight over as soon as I put him down! His neck is high, and he’s trying to pull himself forward and roll back again. As it happens I also got his discharge letter yesterday. He has been to see a paediatrician because our doctor was worried about his tone. In particular his neck lagged. Nothing to worry about but they gave us an open appointment should we have concerns.  Fitting that the discharge came in the same week he rolled over!

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Looking very proud of himself!

Harry is loving school still and always the first one in! He’s been practicing Christmas songs for the nativity all the time. And he’s finally pooing on the toilet. So happy and proud of him! He also did really well in his swimming lessons today and next week he’ll be starting to go on a Saturday instead as a place became available so one more thing sorted in terms of starting back to work! Oh and we made an awesome knight’s castle – almost a shame Father Christmas is bringing him one too!

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And NaNoWriMo is going fabulously! On 45,000 words so I’m hoping for 75,000 by the end of the month, maybe more. Book 4 was originally going to be two books and I can see why now! I am surprisingly in two minds now about how it is all going to end, despite having written the ending already I can see another option. But that’s probably a good thing as there is a spark of hope.

Editing book 2 and the synopsis

Last Friday I reached the next stage in my editing process of book 2. I was so excited to crack on that I did half an hour over the next few evenings before getting back into routine on Monday. I haven’t had a splurge like that for a while and it felt great.

I don’t have a specific editing process, or even a writing process, as yet for my books. I am still finding my feet, figuring out works best for me and each individual book. Because book 2 has been very different to writing and editing book 1. Book 1 I always had a plan. I had left it a long time before writing a second draft that when I came to write it I knew exactly where I wanted it to go. Yes, there was still a hell of a lot of editing but I never doubted myself. When I ‘checked’ it against various plot outlines it flowed in all the right places. Book 2 has always had a life of it’s own.

I wrote book 2 during Camp NaNo last April. I left it a good few months before picking it up again, concentrating on getting book 1 ready for submission. When I did pick it up again I read it through. I have heard people say you should just readthrough and not make any notes or comments, but I can’t do that. My red pen is alive and I am prone to forgetfulness. If I see a typo or read something ridiculously cliche or ‘what on earth did I write that for?’, or find a glaringly obvious contradiction, I need to make a note of it there and then. So that is what I did, having typed out my MS and printed it out, each page is now covered with notes, crossings out, ‘REWRITE THIS SENTENCE/PARAGRAPH/CHAPTER’. There was even a scene I had completely omitted to write in the fast-paced flow of NaNo. This happened when I wrote book 1 too, although I think the scene I did not write then was more because I didn’t think I could do it justice, because it was on my very detailed plan. This one in book 2 was just plain oversight.

However, once I had finished this process I put the MS aside. I didn’t want to, I spent days picking it up and just staring it, willing it to come alive in all it’s true perfection. But obviously, that did not happen. So in the end, I did what it wanted me to do and just ignored it for a few months.

Picking it up again, I tried a different tactic. I plotted it against an outline to see how it fell. At the same time, I plotted book 3 against one too, trying to figure out if they would make more sense as one book. Because my biggest issue at the time was that book 2 ends on something of a cliffhanger. Nothing dramatic. The story has been rounded up, but it leads on to the next one immediately. Despite my doubts about my plot, the flow of the story was good with regard to plot turning points, etc. I felt better about that and set myself the task of writing the synopsis for the book. Never an easy task and nowhere near polished it did identify the key difficulty I am having with this book – multiple POVs and storylines. Actually, the POVs I feel pretty comfortable with, it is the multiple storylines which feel quite disjointed, like there is too much going on. But at this stage, everything is important to the overall story.

Synopsis

The rainbow bridges that unite the realm of Kisan-ru are open once more, but the realm is still not at peace. The answer to peace – or so Selene believes – is to kill Electra and to do this she must return to the realm on the other side of the rainbow.

But things are never this simple when soul-destroying monsters haunt the night, civil war wreaks havoc through one of the kisan, and the guardian of Kisan-ru is searching the realm for the scattered remains of their true enemy and has not told Selene all she needs to know.

Because when Selene kills Electra things do not go to plan. The two girls are connected by more than they could ever know and Electra, unable to die by anything other than natural means, is sent to the guardian of Kisan-ru to be saved, as Selene is hunted down to meet her own punishment.

Selene will not accept that what she did was wrong and she demands answers, learning that Electra’s death is not the only thing that will bring peace. The guardian of Kisan-ru must also be at peace with herself. But this can only happen if the true enemy is put back together again. Any chance of eternal peace could be destroyed in an instance, but it is a risk the guardian must take if Kisan-ru is to exist at all.

As the enemy grows in strength, the guardian falls. She is sent beyond the shadows to the place where it all began. But so long as one true believer exists, she and Kisan-ru can both be saved. In the search for peace, Kisan-ru has entered its final age of darkness.

When I sat down last weekend I felt ready to crack on with editing each chapter in turn. My red pen went wild on chapter 1 and it has been much improved. I have sorted an issue I was having with POV, which was the main problem with this chapter. I also realised, although I don’t feel chapter 1 has this problem, that I have been withholding information – as book 2, I need to provide enough information that the book holds it own, but not too much that the reader (and I) get bored. (I once read a comment of someone who said the first draft of their second book in the series felt like fanfiction of their first – at the moment, book 2 feels something like this.)

As excited as I am about editing each chapter in turn, I am wondering if this is the best tactic right now. I think what I actually need to do is research multiple storylines and POVs, and sequels before I go any further.

Future plans

I didn’t win NaNoWriMo. I don’t want to say I lost because, to me, I didn’t. I just didn’t win it; I didn’t achieve my goal of 50,000 words in 30 days. And you know what? I don’t mind. I am proud of what I have achieved. I have won three times in the past, I know I can do it. In the past I have pushed myself to do it. But this year, I didn’t. I didn’t want to. Which is strange in itself as the build up to NaNo, the excitement and impatience I feel every October was the same as ever. I tried to stay up until midnight on the 31st October, but it didn’t happen (as I knew it wouldn’t happen). I wrote 600 words on the first day. I wrote about the same again over the course of the weekend. I had a lot to catch up on but after my slow start I was writing anything from 2000 to 3000 words a day. Yet I was still behind. I pushed myself, yes, I took part in online write-ins for the first time ever and they were a wonder for my word count. Yet, I never seemed to catch up. On the 15th November I had 23,000 words. Catching up was in sight. But, I stopped. I just stopped.

The thing is, I took a pregnancy test on 31st October. I’d suspected for a week or so anyway, so it was just for confirmation. I’d told myself I wouldn’t let it affect NaNo. When I think of all the things I juggled when I was expecting Harry I had high expectations of myself; I couldn’t fail, it was impossible. But tiredness and nausea overtook me in a blanket that stole away my motivation. When I try and put it into words, motivation isn’t quite the right word for it. Suddenly, things that seemed important weren’t so important anymore. The story, the third in my series, no longer wanted to be written. It wanted to linger in my head a while longer. There were points that were developing nicely, albeit incoherently, on paper, the story gradually unfolding though still not quite whole. When I stopped on the 15th I had the words in my head for three more chapters and they are still there.

I think part of the problem was that even before November began I was having a change of heart about book 3. Not the story, just how it fitted into the series. I was starting to consider whether it would make a better trilogy after all, for I’ve always had books 4 and 5 in my head as one book too. So, if I combined books 2 and 3 as well, then I would have a trilogy. It all depends if I want to leave book 2 where I left it with something of a cliffhanger.

So since NaNo, I have been doing a lot of thinking about my writing. I have now heard back from all of my round one agents and have sent out queries to the second round. I should hear back (or not) by Christmas. So over the next week I am going to prepare my next lot of queries ready to send out in the new year.

As for the new year, I want to get my act together. I set writing goals at the end of last year and refined them considerably over the course of the year to concentrate on completing book 1 and doing the first draft of book 2. But with the opportunity of maternity leave looming next summer, I want to get organised. I want to get myself more established, actually write more, read more, blog more, enter competitions, try harder. Because right now I don’t feel a very good writer. Not in terms of my writing. In terms of my discipline. My discipline sucks. So I am setting myself a plan, a calendar, and I must find myself some sort of reward for accomplishing it each week/month! (By the way, Thursday evenings have already been assigned as my ‘blog day’ as James is away so I have computer to myself and peace and quiet! So, I will be checking back next week! :-))

NaNo Eve

So, I am procrastinating. I have a seemingly endless list of things I want to achieve before NaNoWriMo starts tomorrow but now that the clocks have changed there is something about getting home in the cold and the dark that makes me want to just stop and do nothing when I get in. I am also hungry. I have finished my dinner but it wasn’t enough. Fortunately, while sorting out my handbag so it is loaded with notebooks and pens for tomorrow (actually, it’s currently overflowing onto the bedroom floor), I found the packet of Cheddars I hid from myself earlier to prevent myself from eating all of them. So I am now eating all of them.

Yesterday wasn’t a good day. I was havign doubts about NaNo, not least because I was in a horrible mood. It was just one thing after another (starting with almost breaking my toe at 5 o’clock in the morning) and I was thinking of all the days when I would not be able to write and how would I ever manage 50,000 words… Well, i has passed now. So long as I do 2,500 words a day I’ll do it. Which is what I was doing last year, and during camp too.

I sent off my first 3 chapters to a few other agents this week too. I am at the 6 week mark since sending off the first five (1 rejection, 1 ‘if you don’t hear from us in 6 weeks’, 3 yet to hear from as have up to 8 weeks). I am also purchasing the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook (which has been my intention for a while). Was going to do it when I got paid but held off – good thing too as got an Amazon voucher today from the Exec as a thank you for working this big event we had over the summer. (The same LSU Exec who have today been on Radio 1 due to a YouTube video that has caused a lot of controversy.)

Anyway, I really should be getting on. Tempted to stay up to midnight (I have even registered on the chatroom for the first time!) but we’ll see. Last night I stayed up just to see the beginning of it, wrote the title and chapter 1, then went to sleep!

Good luck to anyone else taking part 🙂

Querying book and approaching NaNo :-)

It’s been a while and I think it has been for the best. I couldn’t get my head round blogging; I felt as if I was trying too hard. Hopefully a break has done me some good. I can just let the words flow and write what I want to write. About whatever randomness I want to write, just like I always have done. I don’t know, I felt like I was moaning a lot about things but I think that was all in my head. I’m going to let this blog be just me – not really about anything particular, not one of these blogs that aims to be useful and provide a service to readers, not even a diary. It is just going to be whatever it wants to be; I’m not going to force it in any direction.

Anyway, my hiatus (if you can call it that as I’m not a very good blogger anyway) in the main was due to lack of computer. Mine got broken :-(. And James’ seems to have trouble connecting to our internet for some reason even though mine never had a problem. It has been kicking up a particular fuss this week and as such I have the laptop wired to the router and am sitting at a makeshift desk. Very uncomfortable!

Computer problems came at a very inopportune time as I was finalising my first three chapters, synopsis and letter to send off to agents. However, we worked around it (we have two computers again now – both James’ as he gets one from the uni he is doing his PhD at and one from the uni where he is lecturing) and I have sent them off to a handful of agents! It felt so good to have finally got to that stage. It has been a month now and most have a response time of 6-8 weeks which coincides nicely with NaNo :-/. Four queries went via email or online submission forms and pressing ‘send’ didn’t feel quite like I expected it to. But the one query that went by post… going into the post office with my big padded envelope and handing it over the counter – THAT felt like I expected to. That feeling, those goosebumps and the shiver down my spine, the feeling in my tummy – those feelings are why I’m going down the traditional publishing route. I can’t really explain it, but to me there is something so real, so solid, about it. It’s the difference between wandering around a bookshop or browsing Amazon. It’s the difference between sending a long handwritten letter and sending an email. Maybe I am just stuck in time; sometimes I feel like I belong to a difference time altogether, a time before this one, maybe even a time still to come. But it is something I can touch, something I just feel with all my senses.

Book 1 aside for now, I have began editing book 2. It came to a standstill though as soon as October hit and NaNoWriMo forums were wiped and suddenly bursting with life again. I could no longer focus on book 2 when book 3 is itcing to be written. However, October is not a month of planning (I have a few basic plot points, a working title, but otherwise I’m going to see what the world throws at me), it is a month of organising and catching up with reading (which I initially was calling research as I was rereading a trilogy to study how old information was portrayed and introduced in the following books; however, I got into the story too much…). As for organising, I found that last November completely threw me and when December it I suddenly got very panicked about the approaching Christmas. I cannot afford to let that happen this year as I AM DOING CHRISTMAS! Which I am very excited (and a little bit scared) about. So, yes, I have written myself a ‘Things to do by the end of October’ list, which does actually include things like ‘write Christmas cards’ and ‘start Christmas shopping’. And lots and lots of batch cooking so I can have 10-minute meals throughout November!

Anyway, writing of batch cooking, I am hungry and must have my dinner :-D.