Tag Archives: WAVERLEY

Back on Track (plus: do you know this book?)

It’s been a while since I last posted about my writing – and that’s because I hadn’t been doing any writing!

After a good start to the summer (I handwrote my way through a Moleskine notebook) I developed major resistance to writing. And while I kept thinking about my writing, I just couldn’t seem to sit down and actually do any writing.

Luckily, I have the best writing buddy in the world. Janel Gradowski kept the magic of writing alive for me through her daily emails to me. She’d write about her progress in her latest WIP and talk about plotting, outlining, POV, making characters come alive – stuff that made the writer in me itch to get to the keyboard. She’d write about organizing things with post-its and index cards (I love organizing with post-its and index cards). She’d send me links to great writing books and posts and interviews.

She never made me feel guilty, though. It was more like she’d hold open the doorway to the writing life, and just gently made sure I knew it was still there, waiting for me.

All of her support helped to eat away at my resistance. Last week, the last remaining bits of resistance suddenly lifted. I found myself embracing two words that I’m not really that fond of: Discipline and Commitment. (“Not really that fond of” is putting it mildly.)

I decided to make my writing a priority. I committed to sitting down to write first thing in the morning, right after my meditation but before I did anything else. I decided I had the discipline to keep that commitment.

Now, I’ve done this before – say to myself, my writing is a priority. And “I’m going to just do it”. And it always kind of fizzled out. But the strange thing is, when you add a dash of Discipline and a spoonful of Commitment into things, things don’t fizzle out.

I’ve been writing a chapter a day (I’m doing a rewrite of my old WIP, WAVERLEY). I have absolutely no resistance to sitting down to the keyboard.

I’m not making excuses, procrastinating, picking up a good book instead, cleaning the dishes, taking a nap, working on the next index, surfing the net – I sit down and I write. I try to write for at least an hour. Mainly I write until I’ve finished the chapter, which might or might not take an hour.

I’m not sure if I’ll be doing NaNoWriMo this year; it depends on whether I get Waverley finished before November 1. But it’s okay, because I’m back on track!

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In reading news: I just finished Midnight Riot, by Ben Aaronovitch. It’s a very fun urban fantasy about Constable Peter Grant of London’s Metropolitan Police, who interviews a witness to a murder, only to discover the witness is a ghost. Very tongue-in-cheek, with fun sci-fi and fantasy pop culture references.

Which reminds me of another book I read recently. I’ve been trying to remember the name of it (I forgot to mark it down in any of my usual TBR-recording spaces). It’s a newer release, and it’s about a woman who wakes up in this woman’s body, and all she knows is someone’s trying to kill her. The theme is a little like Midnight Riot, as it’s about a ministry or department in England where people with magical powers police the magical things that are happening.

The woman discovers that the woman whose body she has now, was a doormat, but it turns out her powers are very powerful. There’s a “Court” that the woman turns out to be a part of (and a conspiracy within the court). There’s a being who inhabits a number of bodies all at the same time, and another being who turns out to be a vampire. It was quite an exciting book. I’m hoping the name of it will come to me (if you know what book I’m talking about, please let me know in the comments!) as I’m hoping there’ll be a sequel and if there is, I want to read it!

Update: I was just looking through the latest issue of Shelf Awareness, and I discovered the name of the book! It’s The Rook by Daniel O’Malley. I’m definitely going to keep my eye out for a sequel.

The Summer Update Post

I’ve been quiet lately, both on the blog and also out and about in the blog world and on Twitter. But there’s been a lot of stuff happening here over the summer!

The publishing industry is definitely getting back to speed – and from my perspective, it’s not just back on track after a couple of rather dismal years, work-wise. It’s more like full steam ahead.

I had nearly as much work in July as I normally would during November or December, which is usually when work really heats up for me. And August is not looking any different! I was talking on Twitter recently with Beth Fish Reads (she’s a freelance editor), and the same thing is happening for her.

We hadn’t made any holiday plans this summer because we knew we’d be busy getting ready to sell the house, and as it turned out, not having any plans to go away really worked well in terms of my work schedule.

We haven’t put the house on the market – but we’re in the process of working out a sale of our property to a developer, and it looks like we’ll be closing in November. So between now and then, we’ll be looking for a new place (thankfully we’ll be leasing, not buying, so hopefully it will be an easier process), and figuring out what to move, what to store, and what to sell/give away.

And what a job that last part will be! We’ll be downsizing from a 3000 square foot house to a condo; we’ve started looking around already, and the average two bedroom condo in Toronto is between 860-960 square feet. We’re hoping to find a two bedroom plus den, at around 1060 square feet. But that’s still a lot less square footage.

But I think it will be fun. We’ve already started looking at each piece of furniture, doing the “use it/store it/give or sell it” debate. And we’re starting to see that a lot of things we thought we absolutely needed to have in our lives – well, we don’t, not really!

It’s shaping up to be a busy fall, too, what with work, looking for a new place, getting ready to move – and Ward is going to Okinawa, Japan, to train for a few weeks in September!

Writing-wise, I haven’t been up to much at all. I dug WAVERLEY back out of the work pile, and plan on doing some sort of collage thing to get the creative juices going. This is what I do know: once we complete the sale, move, and get settled in, I’ll be able to turn my energy to my writing.

How has your summer been so far?

NaNoWriMo the Longhand Way

imageI’ve been thinking about doing NaNoWriMo a little differently this year.

I recently stumbled on this post on Neil Gaiman’s blog from back in 2007, when he was in the middle of writing The Graveyard Book (I got there, as usual, by some convoluted route while I was procrastinating. It’s how I find most of the interesting things I come across.)

I loved seeing the blank book in which Gaiman wrote his first draft. I know he writes all his novels in longhand, using a fountain pen, which sounds both wonderful and tiring to me. But I admit to trying out the longhand way this summer. It never quite took, though. For me, there’s something about my fingers flying along a keyboard that really lets me get the image in my head down onto paper in just the right way.

But I think the children’s book that I’ll be working on as part of NaNoWriMo next month (my intention is to work on two projects simultaneously) would benefit from being written in longhand.

I’m saying this after what happened with last year’s NaNoWriMo project, WAVERLEY. I “won” NaNoWriMo last year, hitting over 50,000 words in November. But after that, I got stuck, so I set the project aside to mature for a bit.

Now, usually this is what happens when I reread something I’ve set aside for a while: I almost always think it’s better than I remembered; but not so in this case. I ended up cutting 33,000 words from it.

And back then I had thought I’d be able to plunge back into rewriting the words that I’d kept. But I haven’t been able to. Because I realized something else a little while after that.

I’d written a very different story than the one I wanted to write.

And I’ve been thinking today, it’s because I wrote it on the computer. My writing brain took a look, found a tangent it liked, and basically took the whole story down another rabbit hole.

(I actually think that tangent is a good tangent on its own, just not a good fit with the story I was trying to tell.)

Also, doing NaNoWriMo the longhand way gives me an excuse to find “just the right notebook” and “just the right pen”. Such excuses are worth their weight in gold!

What about you? Do you write on the computer, or by hand? Or a bit of both?

Where My WIP Went Wrong

I’m working on a new WIP right now, another children’s fantasy.

But some of you may have been wondering what happened with my NaNoWriMo novel, WAVERLEY.

I’d been wondering myself. To recap, I wrote 50,000 plus words of it during November, 2009.

Then I stopped writing. Something just wasn’t working.

In desperation, I even went as far as to cut 33,000 words from it.

I thought for sure this would do the trick.

But it didn’t.

So I just let it sit there, and for a little while, I had quite a bad case of “I can’t write for beans”.

Slowly, though, I got my confidence back. Which was when I stood back and took a hard, close look at what exactly went wrong with WAVERLEY.

And finally, I figured it out.

I tried to shoehorn the story into something it wasn’t.

WAVERLEY is not a swashbuckling kind of fantasy. It’s really meant to be more subdued, with most of the fun coming from an exploration of the concept. But what I tried to do with it was make it into an epic fantasy. Which it most assuredly isn’t.

What I’d written wasn’t bad, actually. The problem was, it belonged to a totally different story. So I’m glad that when I cut those 33,000 words out, I saved them to a separate file. One day, an idea just might bubble up for me that makes full use of all those words. After all, I’ve got down all the bones for quite a fun, fantastical world already all set out – the bulk of the world building is done, and it’s actually quite a good world.

For the right idea, it could really be something.

And I did manage to fly through NaNoWriMo. I did end up sitting down and writing daily.

In the meantime, though, I’m not ready to write WAVERLEY. There’s a sweetness to it that has to grow a bit in my mind first, I think. But one day, I’ll be ready. And then the story will write itself.

(I hope!)

I’ve learned a couple of things from this. First, don’t try to force a story into being something it’s not. And second, writing is never wasted. No matter what. I always do get something out of it, even if I never use those words anywhere.

Have you ever done this? Started with an idea or concept or characters, and then tried to make it/them do things they were never meant to do? And as a reader, have you read any books that made you think the author forced the story into something it really wasn’t meant to be?

Bad Guys and Villains

Have you noticed? I haven’t talked much about my WIP, WAVERLEY, after having to cut 33,000 plus words from it early last month.

That’s because I felt kind of numb.

I didn’t really know how to begin again.

So I did what I now do when I’m not sure what to do. I let it go. I decided to stop worrying about it (and were there ever a lot of worries – the main one being a deep fear that perhaps I would never be able to translate the story in my mind onto paper).

Thankfully, after letting it go, the answer came. Not anything full scale, no brilliant moves forward in the plot or anything like that. But enough to get my feet back on the right track.

Bad Guys and Villains, Alive, Alive, Oh!

We don’t “do” television at our place. No cable, no satellite. But one of our favorite things to do as a family is to find a series we’ll all enjoy, and then purchase each season on DVD as it comes out for family night fun.

One such series is Numb3rs. We recently finished watching Season 5 on DVD, and I noticed something interesting. About a third of the way through the season, the episodes really began to pick up. Things got a lot more exciting.

That was the first nudge from the Universe.

Then recently I had my own very lovely personal mini-readathon weekend, during which I managed to get through three books and partway through a fourth.

That was the second nudge.

I added the two nudges together, and realized what was wrong with WAVERLEY, why I was dreading going back to it.

Numb3rs really picked up because suddenly the bad guys in each episode became really bad guys, and as a result, there was so much more at stake.

And in every single one of the books I read during my mini-readathon weekend, there was (1) a make-no-mistake-about-it villain who (2) showed up early enough to let me, the reader, know that (3) there was a hell of a lot at stake.

That was my answer.

WAVERLEY is an urban fantasy that’s wrapped around a very lovely situation (if I do say so myself) – it’s one that is just brimming with possibilities and the world-building has been so much fun. And my main characters had shaped themselves up nicely in the words I’d initially written (well, all except for the late-comer). My plot seemed to be moving along okay, too. Not chugging along, but still, every time I sat down, something new and interesting flowed from my fingers.

But when I read through those 50,000 plus words of WAVERLEY last month, I wasn’t excited. I didn’t find myself tearing through the manuscript, like I had done when I picked up and read the first 30,000 words of NANTUCKET, written during NaNoWriMo 2008, and found myself wishing, when I came to the last word, that  I’d written more (which was how it became my practice novel).

You see, with WAVERLEY, I don’t know who the villain is. I have some vague idea of a group of bad guys with an equally vague evil intent (to destroy the world as my protagonists knew it, of course) but other than that, the villainy and badness is as clear as mud. It’s all terribly generic, and not particularly exciting.

The thing with NANTUCKET, my practice novel, is that from the beginning, I knew who the bad guy was. Not only that, I knew why and how, too. Even though I didn’t have a clue how I was going to get from A to Z, I knew as much about my villain as I knew about my protagonists. I knew what was at stake. I knew the motivation driving my main characters to do what needed to be done.

Plus, being a murder mystery, the bad stuff is introduced right at the beginning, which is a huge help, too.

Because I had all the necessary elements I needed, getting from A to Z without a map was a fun ride which resulted in a fairly interesting manuscript.

Now I’m back on track with WAVERLEY. I still don’t know who the villain of the piece is, but my imagination’s going to work on that, and when I do know, I’ll be able to sit down and begin working on the manuscript again.

And now I know something more about the way I write. Which is very helpful indeed.

“Snip” – And There Go 33,000 Words …

Ouch.

I did my readthrough of WAVERLEY yesterday. I wasn’t entranced by the opening chapter, which will need a thorough re-write and in-depth trimming.

The rest of the beginning chapters were good for a first draft. I even had some nice character building going on. It was all a fairly good match to the movie that’s been playing in my head.

And then the tale began to go wonky. The vision I had then just doesn’t match the vision I have now.

The result? I kept 20,300 words. And there are three chapters which I will rewrite, so some of it will be salvaged. But the rest of the novel?

Ziiiiip. 33,000 words pitched into the Deleted Scenes file (for “just in case”).

The good thing is, I can start working on it again now. I know why I felt so stymied and unable to get back to the writing. Now everything is a whole lot clearer.

Now to see if I can pull this one off. WAVERLEY is a story that’s been near and dear to my imagination for quite a while now. When it went off track, it went majorly off track. But it’s back on track now.

I think. I hope!

Writing Update: WAVERLEY and NANTUCKET

It has been a very long while since I last sat down to work on WAVERLEY, my current WIP. First it was the workload over the holidays – I tried, but I just didn’t have the energy to write on top of meeting all those deadlines.

Then, during the past three weeks (my recuperation phase, as it’s now fondly called at the Bookish household), I found myself procrastinating the final approach to the computer where my writing program rests waiting for me to – at long last – click on it and open it up. And start writing.

Here’s the thing: I really, really like Stephen King’s idea of whipping out that first draft without going back to reread, not until the first draft is done. I like the sound of that as much as I like the idea of working without an outline, so that I have the fun of discovering what happens as I write. So I’ve been determined to do both things.

But there comes a time when one has to look facts in the eye and say, “flexibility is a good thing”. And that time is now.

Because, you see, the seven weeks of not-writing has really pulled me out of the loop when it comes to WAVERLEY.

It feels a lot like putting down a book when you’re only half finished, and not picking it up until seven weeks later; I don’t know about you, but I hesitate to pick up such books again (which is why often when I put down a book and don’t pick it up for a while, it’s the kiss of death for that book even though I hang onto it, fondly thinking that, yes! I will! eventually! finish! reading it! Doesn’t happen as often as I’d like, sad to say). The excitement of reading the first half is, by that time, only a ghost of its former self, and it feels like a lot of work to pick up where you left off.

Not only has my momentum been lost, but there are certain things I remember only vaguely. And I also added a new, important character and it would be nice to go back and add in the scenes where we first get to meet him, and re-do the scenes that he’s supposed to be in, only he wasn’t, because at the time I wrote them, I didn’t realize he was supposed to be in them.

So I’ve decided to print out the 50,000 plus words of WAVERLEY and give it a readthrough before I start working on it again – even though I’m really only at the halfway point.

(For all of you who’ve offered to be my first readers, no need to panic. The first draft will likely be over 100,000 words, which is way too long for a children’s book, but my intention is to pare down to the requisite number of words by the final draft.)

After the readthrough, I will begin my “it’s just 20 minutes a day” daily writing goal again. It worked so well for NANTUCKET, and I know it’s going to work well for finishing WAVERLEY now that NaNoWriMo is no longer here to push me onward.

It helps that I’m pretty certain I’ll be able to get back into the momentum of it all once I’ve read it through and the things that have faded become bright and shiny for me again. To write my stories, I need to be in the world I’ve created; a hiatus only works to pull me further away.

I think this is what King was talking about when he said don’t stop the momentum of that first draft. Get your story down as quickly as you can. And now I’m adding, for myself: and if by chance you do stop the momentum, get your momentum back by reading what you’ve got, get yourself back into your story again, and then … don’t stop the momentum.

And as for NANTUCKET – it’s been sitting on my shelf for three months now. It’s also ripe for it’s first readthrough. I know it’s my practice novel, but I’m feeling very curious about how it will read after airing out for this long.

The thought of reading what I’ve written so far of WAVERLEY and my first draft of NANTUCKET is very exciting …!

Enter: Marcus

Thank you so much to everyone who commented on my 20 minute writing commitment post. I felt so inspired after reading all of your comments – and suddenly, it really did feel very much like “it’s only 20 minutes”.

So I took roughly 20 minutes today to work on Waverley; I am now 1200 more words into the story, and even better, a new character has made his way into the tale.

His name is Marcus, and as I’m writing without rereading what I’ve written, I just inserted him right in the scene I was writing – I’ll have to revise earlier chapters to get him in just right.

But the great news is, he fits. He was an off-page character earlier on in the novel, but I’ve been having this feeling that something was missing, and apparently, that something was Marcus.

The funny thing is, I know him so well – if any of my characters is my alter ego, it’s Marcus.

So now I have my threesome: Charlie, Nella and Marcus. They have come a long way since they were Thing 1 and Thing 2 in my mind. And while they still have a long way to go, at least now I feel like, yes, they will get there eventually.

At the pace of 20 minutes a day!

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Is anyone signing up for Bloggiesta? It is being held on January 8, 9 and 10 of the new year, and I’m debating whether I’ll be able to sign up.

Unfortunately, it falls right on the final weekend of my current “I’ve got a TON of work” period. And we’ve been invited out for dinner on the 8th. So I’m not sure I’ll be able to commit to doing Bloggiesta properly or not.

On the other hand, I’m going to be installing a new template for MsBookish, and it would be lovely to be able to get that done during Bloggiesta.

So I’ll have to see how many of my deadlines I can finish ahead of time. I may be able to sign up after all!

How about you? Do you have plans to do Bloggiesta in the new year?

NaNoWriMo: Winner!!

nano_09_winner_120x240I did it! I won NaNoWriMo this year!

According to the word validator, my official final word count is 51,070 words. But that includes my chapter titles, and according to my writing software, my real word count is 50,774 words.

I really wanted to do this – I felt such determination on Saturday when I woke up and realized there were only three days left in the month, and I had to write 13,413 words by midnight tonight.

As it turns out, I managed to write 14,187 words, and it’s not midnight yet! (Although I won’t be getting back to my novel today, because I still have that work deadline to complete …)

I must say, this type of deadline really seems to work for me. Not only did the deadline itself motivate me to write, but the chapters I wrote between Saturday and today flowed well and really moved the story forward.

A death also turned into a spooky murder, which I’m eager to find out more about!

Here’s my NaNoWriMo profile page, with that nice little “Winner!” banner.

Cheers!Of course, there’s still more to go. For this first draft of Waverley’s Word Shoppe, I’m aiming for about 70K words, which I will then edit down to between 50K-60K. I’d like finish this first draft over the next two weeks (which doesn’t seem impossible at all, now that I know I’m capable of writing 14,000 words over three days!).

In the meantime, cheers!

(My husband took this picture of me on Saturday, at the Dojo holiday party – and no, I don’t normally wander around with TWO drinks in hand. What can I say? It was a fun night!)

A Book Diary for WAVERLEY

I have a confession to make.

I’ve never been any good at keeping a regular journal. Not that I haven’t tried. When I was in grade school, some well-meaning person gave me one of those small five-year diaries, the kind that has two cute little keys and a lock. I found it quite intriguing, and in a spurt of excitement, immediately filled in the little space allotted for that day.

I can’t remember exactly the course of events after that fateful day, but soon after, I lost the keys that came with the diary. Yes, both of them. And you know I locked the thing, because really, wasn’t that the whole charm of it all?

When I was in my teens, I gave the whole personal journal thing another whirl, this time with a small hardcover journal another well-meaning person had given me.

This is what I discovered back then: I would write consistently whenever I was feeling anguished, and I wouldn’t write at all when I was feeling grand or even partially good.

My problem was that, even during the whole hormonal mess of puberty, the days I felt pretty good outnumbered the days I felt angst by a whole lot. Which usually meant months and months would go by before I picked up my journal again.

Nothing changed since my teen years. The fact is (and I’ve finally accepted this, although very reluctantly), I simply do not have the disposition to keep a personal journal. I’ll only ever write in a personal journal when I’m feeling down, and quite frankly, I’ve always been quite an optimistic person.

Where I’ve had success, though, is with “specialized” journals. For example, I stayed faithful to writing daily “Morning Pages” as outlined in Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way for eight years. I also have a spiritual journal which I find myself coming back to again and again. And the year after my divorce from my first husband, I kept a Gratitude Journal which helped me to keep my spirits up during a nasty custody battle.

Specialized journals work for me. They’ve proven to be rather magical, in fact.

The other day, I came across the idea of writing a book diary at author David Hewson’s blog.

Now, I’ve come across this idea before – in her book Write Away, Elizabeth George prefaces each chapter with an excerpt from her “Journal of a Novel”.

But it wasn’t until I read David Hewson’s thoughts about keeping a book diary that I felt really inspired to give it a try – the fact that I’m deep into WAVERLEY for NaNoWriMo is probably a factor, too.

Here’s what Hewson does with his book diary (he starts a new one for each book). It’s the place where:

…I note down ideas, concerns and, at the end of every week, a tally of the word count and any general feelings I have about the project. My wake-up thought this morning has gone into that diary already. So I know where to find it and it will stare up at me until I either accept or reject it.

While Hewson recommends the software program he uses, I always like to find free or shareware alternatives whenever possible. After a lot of searching around and trying out several different free and not-so-free programs (it was, after all, a nice way to procrastinate – not to mention, I ended up finding a lot of sweet-looking software that had very little to do with journaling), I decided on Efficient Diary. While there’s a paid version, the free version has all the features that I think I’ll need.

What I was looking for, mainly, was the ability to create several different diaries, the ability to print out my diary, and the ability to search diary entries. I also wanted to be able to add a picture if a diary entry felt like it needed one, as well as links.

What Efficient Diary lacks is the ability to use tags but since it has a search function, I figure I can just manually type in any necessary tags at the end of an entry (like “Revision”, “Edit”, “Chapter 9”) and I’ll find what I want eventually.

I suspect my book diary for WAVERLEY will be a success. I’ve only been doing this for a few days so far, but what I’ve been finding is that at the end of a writing session, the first thing I think of doing is opening up Efficient Diary, and jotting down my thoughts, fresh from the completion of a writing session.

There will, I trust, also be days when I open my book diary to add thoughts that come to me about certain revisions I’d like to make to WAVERLEY.

I may eventually move on to a paid journaling software – there are several on the market, and the company that makes the one that Hewson recommends (a Mac-based one) also makes a Windows-based one that looks pretty good.

But for now, I’m thrilled (and inspired!) by the idea of keeping a book diary of my thoughts while writing WAVERLEY.

What about you? Do you journal about your personal life? If you’re a writer, do you keep a book diary, or “journal of a novel”?

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And now for my NaNoWriMo update: I went for three days without writing, because of the dinner party we had this past Saturday, and then a deadline that ended up dragging into Monday. So I’m about a day behind.

My total word count right now is 28,449 words.

I plan to do two writing sessions tomorrow, so hopefully I’ll get all caught up!