Tuesday, 19 January 2021

#XpoNorth...


Last Friday (15th Jan), there was a Twitter-pitch event run by XpoNorth. The idea was that authors Tweet-pitched their work - essentially send a Tweet (with #XpoNorth in it) pitching a book. Agents and publishers were following the hashtag, and if any of them liked the pitch, they could get in touch and ask for more details, or invite the author to make a full submission to them.

I pitched book #10 over the day. The advice had been to pitch, even if the book wasn't at submission-point and if an agent was interested, to then give them an estimated date for when the work might be ready to submit (but to submit only when the work was ready). Book #10 is almost at first-draft stage. There are a few scenes to write and of course, it needs editing, but I thought, "Nothing ventured, nothing gained" and pitched it.

Well, I got lots of likes and re-tweets on my pitches, which gives me heart that I've written something the market will be interested in, but sadly, none of the likes were from agents or publishers. Ah well.

There were some cracking ideas in the pitches. If you're on Twitter, go and check out #XpoNorth to see some of the amazing ideas that were tweeted over the day. I'm really hoping that quite a lot of them are ultimately published, because they sounded fantastic.


Tuesday, 12 January 2021

Back in The Realm

After last week's post, I opened the file from Fiona for "Invasion" (Guardians of The Realm 4), made a large pot of tea, and read through all the feedback.

Huge relief because...

She LOVES it!

That's not to say there weren't a gazillion comments throughout - this is Fiona, after all, and she's the most thorough editor I've ever worked with. And the best.

I've been delighted at how easy it has been to drop back into The Realm. It's as if I've never been away! Okay, I've been living (and dreaming) this world for some time now, but I've also drafted another book while Fiona was working her magic, in a different genre and with a very different setting. When I've done that in the past, I've sometimes struggled to become fully immersed again in the first project. This...? This feels like putting on all my comfiest clothes and snuggling down. I'm loving being back in The Realm.

All going to plan, I should have these edits done by the end of January, then the book will be back to Fiona for a last check. The cover is getting designed as I type this, and various other things sorted. I'm aiming for March as a publication date, but I'll keep you all posted. I'll be looking for cheerleaders soon!

Until next week...



Tuesday, 5 January 2021

Updates...

Happy New Year everyone. Let's hope 2021 isn't as much of a shocker as 2020 was!

blackboard with news written on it

I have updates for you! "Book #9" is back on my desk, and it now has a name! It will be called "Invasion" and is the fourth book in the Guardians of The Realm series.

The editing arrived back from Fiona on the last day of 2020. At time of writing this (Sunday 3rd) I haven't opened the file yet, because I know that as soon as I do, I will be sucked back into The Realm and there are other things I need to clear before that. I'm hugely excited to be back in The Realm with Aeron and Faran again and I'm hoping that Fiona really has loved the book as much as she said she did!

As for "book #10" - that's on hold for the moment. I didn't quite get to a full first draft by the end of the year (partly because I started on a second draft really - checking the timeline and the scene orders etc). I've packed away all the notes, maps and paraphernalia relating to book #10 to clear some real estate on my desk for "Invasion".

In a Facebook group I'm in, a fellow-writer (Mason Cross) had a suggestion of writing 100 words per day on a side-project, so I am also doing that. I've tweaked the challenge slightly to be 100 words and/or 10 minutes of planning. The idea is that by the time I've done the edits on "Invasion" and also the editing of book #10, I will then have a few thousand words and some planning for "book #11". 100 words is easy to achieve. 10 minutes of planning is easy to do. But they will add up to  a decent chunk by the time I'm ready to start that project for real. And then the 100 words/10 minutes will be on the next side-project. And so it goes on.

Setting writing goals seems almost futile with the way the world is at the moment, but I'm intending to publish both "Invasion" and book #10, hopefully before summer. I'm also hoping to have a first draft of another book by the end of the year. In a (more) ideal world, I'd like it to be at second draft (or better) but let's see what 2021 is going to throw at me! Two books published and a third drafted is enough. Anything more would be a bonus.

How about everyone else? What plans do you all have? Have they been scaled back after what happened in 2020? Do they exist at all, or are you just hoping to get through the year as unscathed as possible? Or are you optimistic that 2021 will be closer to normal and have drawn up plans accordingly? Drop me a note in the comments below.

Whatever your plans, I hope that 2021 is kind to you.


Tuesday, 15 December 2020

Taking a break on here...

Season's Greetings to all of you, and all best wishes for the remains of 2020. What a terrible year it's been in many ways.

I've had some highs, and many lows. Am I glad to see the back of the year? Yes and no, but mostly yes. I've published three books and written another. I'm 3/4 through a fifth, so writing-wise, it's been a decent year. I'm hugely proud of The Trilogy and am looking forward to publishing the next book in that series.

But all of my book-events got cancelled because of covid-19 restrictions and sales have been awful. I'm not alone in that, but that doesn't make it hurt any less.

I've had longed-for holidays cancelled. I've not managed to see friends. On the plus side, I haven't lost anyone, either to covid-19 or to anything else. Since keeping our distances saves lives, we have all been happy to do that.

I haven't been able to hug my Dad since March. I currently can't even see him, except via Facebook messenger, which he struggles with. I won't see him for real on his birthday, nor on Christmas Day. In fact, on Christmas Day, not even my mother will be able to see him, unless his care-home changes their policy. For the first time in >55 years, they will be apart on Christmas Day. There's always the fear that this will be his last birthday and Christmas, which is heart-breaking enough, without adding in him not seeing his family. Visits are currently restricted to my mother being allowed to see him for 30 minutes a week. It's not enough, but we understand why it has to be that way.

To be frank, I'm beginning to struggle with all of this, so I'm going to keep my head down and try to focus on finishing off this draft of book #10. My solution when Real Life is hard has always been to disappear into an imaginary place. I generally just want to stay there and not come out.

So, I will see you in 2021, and hope that life will become easier next year. That I will be able to visit my father, see friends, sell books... live a little. Until then, I shall immerse myself in writing and knitting.

Stay safe, everyone. Hang in there. I think I see light at the end of the tunnel.

Tuesday, 8 December 2020

Taking stock

Having managed to write just over 50,000 words in November, I've barely written any in the past week. Partly my brain needed a rest, and partly I needed to catch up with a lot of things that had fallen by the wayside over November. I also wanted to take stock or where the book was at - what needed changing and what still needed to be written.

I've not been happy with the opening of the book - those were the scenes with the "bleugh" comments I was on about, when I discussed not finishing scenes might be the right thing to do. Re-reading it, I was marginally more happy with it, but most of it will still end up getting changed.

There are also some big gaps later on in the book, where I wasn't quite sure how to get something to work, so moved on to scenes I was more sure about. Now that I've got a much better idea of what is happening in the book, and how everything pans out, these won't be so difficult to sort out.

Will I get this sorted before the end of the month? Hopefully, if I roll my sleeves up and get on with it, and stop being distracted by beautiful wool and knitting!


Tuesday, 1 December 2020

NaNoWriMo... did I manage it??

Back near the start of November, I considered doing NaNoWriMo - where you write 50,000 words of your novel over the 30 days of November. On the day that I posted about it, November was already 10 days old and I was already >1200 words "behind" (working on the 1667 words per day theory), which didn't feel like the most promising start. But as I'd done so much planning before the start of November, I gave it a whirl. I knew that on a good day I would be able to write more than 1667 words, and if I needed to stop and plan more, well, I would stop and plan more. A decade of writing experience told me that if I just turned out 50,000 words without a decent amount of planning, they would be 50,000 of garbage.

Did I manage it? Did I write 50,000 words over November?

YES! By close of play on Saturday (28th) I'd written 50,220 words in November.

Are they 50,220 words of garbage??

Hopefully not!

I didn't do NaNoWriMo officially. I don't have an account with them. I don't have any kind of badge or sticker to 'prove' I did it, but I kept a daily tally for myself, and, being a scientist, I turned it into a graph.


The small blue bars are my daily writing totals. You'll see that on several days, these are zero and on others, they are not as large as 1667. On the other hand, on a lot of days they are far more than 1667.

The orange bars are my cumulative total over the month. The grey bars are the 'goals' - a cumulative 1667 words per day, to give 50,010 over the month (+10 because of the rounding!). If the orange bar is bigger than the grey one, I was 'ahead' and vice versa.

How did I find the whole process?

A combination of stressful and motivating. The pace is relentless. 1667 words a day is okay. Take a day off and that becomes 3334 - an altogether tougher target for me - at least if I want to be able to keep any of the words. Two days off? That can feel like an insurmountable amount to catch up.

By managing more than 1667 words on most days, I put enough slack in the system to be able to take days 'off' - mostly for planning, but also because Life happens and some days it just wasn't possible to sit down and write. If you look closely at the dates, I was 'ahead' of the target by most Fridays and then 'behind' again on Monday.

I was glad to have written as much as I did, but I really need to take stock now. Usually when I'm writing, I take stock every few days, so my writing pace is slower than 50,000/month! Right now, I feel I need to spend about week going through it all, marking up scenes that will probably go, scenes that will change drastically, and creating a list of scenes still to write.

Would I do it again?

Maybe. But only if I'd already started writing a book and had detailed plans of where it was going and what was happening with it. The pace is high and I am genuinely pleased and surprised in equal measure to have written so much in the month. It's showed to me that I can do it. Time will tell in the editing phase as to whether I then feel I should have done it. If I end up taking far longer over turning a first draft into a final manuscript, then the process is not worth it.

Will I finish the first draft of this book by the end of 2020? That was my goal. Last month I wasn't so sure. This month? Maybe. The draft is currently just over 60,000 words. I'm aiming for a first draft of ~70,000, but I will need to stop, take stock and do some more planning before those 10,000 get written. I'd like to think I will have done the draft before book #9 reappears on my desk at the end of December!



Tuesday, 24 November 2020

When NOT finishing a scene is the right thing to do...

Now, I don't mean this for the finished product! I once read a book that had "Make a better ending than this" at the end of a chapter, which presumably had been a note the author had left themselves in the drafting stage and never actually done anything about it (the whole book was fairly ropey to be honest).

No, I mean during the writing of the first draft, it can be the right thing for me to NOT finish a scene.

Why?

I can only speak for myself, but during a first draft, the aim (for me) is to get the majority of the story down in a semi-decent way. I'm mostly a planner, and so I have the majority of the key scenes mapped out before I start to write. Admittedly, these often change and there are organic changes to the plot, but the bare bones of the book are mapped out.

Some days, the words can flow and flow and I can see the whole scene - beginning, middle and end - as clear as day. Other days, it flows a bit more like treacle, and I'm not sure where a scene is going or how it's going to end. When that happens, I stick a note to myself, in block capitals, at the end of the scene. These notes can range from: STILL TO FINISH to BLEUGH! I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT IS HAPPENING HERE! When I reach that point, I know there's no point keeping on writing. I leave the scene alone and start on another scene that I can see more clearly. The idea is that I go back to those scenes and finish them off on another day, when my brain has been processing things and has come up with an ending!

Right now, I'm about 70% through the first draft of book #10. The crux of the plot has stayed fairly constant, but some of the details have changed since I started the first few scenes. Those first few scenes were like pulling teeth and after all of the scenes between the main character and one other character, I ran into the sand. I put notes on them (mostly more the 'bleurgh' kind!) and moved on. Now that I'm ~70% in, this other character has never reappeared in the book. He was part of a strand that isn't going to be written and in fact, all of his scenes will be cut (or at least significantly changed). Thank goodness I didn't spend any more blood, sweat or tears on trying to fix them!

For those scenes, absolutely the right thing to do was to stop writing them and leave myself a note, because subconsciously, I obviously knew they were wrong.

Other times, I go back to a scene and the ending to it falls out naturally because of what I've written in the next scene, or in a later scene.


I find it hard to remember that a first draft is always terrible. There are plot holes; the order of the scenes isn't right; whole scenes are irrelevant; vital scenes are missing... I need to remind myself almost daily, that a first draft is me just getting the story sorted out in my head; that the first draft is always the worst version of the book; that no one, not even my closest writer-friends, will ever read the first draft. I constantly want to go back and to polish the scenes I've written, because their awfulness pokes at me and saps my confidence. They sit there, telling me that I'm a terrible writer who can't even finish off a scene.

And then, I go back and look at some of the scenes with the 'bleugh, I have no idea where this is going' notes and realise, no, I didn't ever know where that scene was going, because ultimately it was going in the trash!


If you're writing your first draft, my advice would be not to get bogged down in a scene, but to keep marching forwards, because when you get to the end of the first draft, those 'difficult' scenes might be cut, or their solution may have appeared.