I was lucky enough to win a guest post at Cupid's Literary Connection, and Cupid not only posted it, but very nicely raved about it (thanks, Cupid!).
You can find the post here.
Yikes! When did October happen? It's school holidays here in Western Australia, so I've been plugging away at my new book, NaNo-style. I'm writing 6,000 words a day in the hopes I'll finish it before I have to go back to work and spend weekdays with little munchkins.
My latest project isn't my best work in terms of "homg this is literary genius let's put it in a museum and study it in English classrooms for all time." More, it's my best work in terms of "homg this book is so much fun I can tell the author loved writing every word and I can't stop laughing because these characters are AWESOME."
I was aiming for the first version with all my other manuscripts. Tell you a secret: I prefer the second way. Maybe it'll flop, and no agent will touch it lest they catch my crazy. Or, hey, maybe people will think my crazy is Pure. Genuis. (Shut up, I can dream.) Regardless, I'm still having more fun writing than I have in a very long time.
Got a finished (unpublished) manuscript?
Well, this is for you! Australian publisher Twelfth Planet Press is having a Pitch Anything Friday for TODAY ONLY. It's open internationally - all you have to do is tweet your pitch and use the hashtag #12thPlanetPressPitch. It can be for any genre, any style. Fiction, nonfiction, art, craft, promotion, anything!
If you missed the window but still want to find out how to submit to Twelfth Planet Press, check the website.
And if you need help pitching using less than 140 characters, I did a post on how to do that here.
A few posts back I raved about how well plotting worked for me. I got the story written quickly, it was an adequate length, and there were few revisions needed. With such a successful experience, I figured plotting would be my best bet for my newest story. So last week I sat down and started brainstorming. I wrote copious notes for about five pages.
I didn't write anything else for six days. Not a word.
Yesterday, I'd had enough. I didn't know the minor details about my world yet. I didn't know much about the plot. I didn't have essays on my main characters (although I know a fair bit about where my minor characters come from). Despite all this, I opened up a Word document (I know, not even Scrivener!), and started writing.
I wrote a chapter. Four(ish) pages. Maybe not a huge amount, but it was a start, and it was darn better than how I was doing before.
So why didn't plotting work for me this time?
I thought about it, and the best answer I can give is this: Last WiP, it wasn't really a first draft. It was a rewrite. I wanted to take out the magical elements (which were essential to the plot in the original), and emphasise what had been the secondary plot.
And that made all the difference. Because I had a basic plot already written out. I had the setting, and the characters. Technically, that original story WAS my plotting.
I don't know much about this new story. At ALL. But maybe if I think of my first draft as my plotting, work out world-building and character development as I go, and write it relatively quickly, I can do up a proper plotting sheet and then open up Scrivener to do it properly.
I can't believe it's taken me so long to figure out that this is my process.
How about you? Have you worked out a process, or does it change for each book? Do you have another way of besides just "plotting" or "pantsing"?
This is another post for my book reviews for writers. I break down the main plot and character components of a novel and discuss what writers can take away from it.
There are a few minor spoilers in this post. Read at your own risk!
Someone suggested I pick this book up because it was vaguely similar to my own manuscript, and I'm so glad I did! I hadn't read Asimov before - in fact, I haven't read much science fiction at all - so I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed it.
Here's the basic premise, for those of you who have been living in the dark (haha) like me: In a world where there are six suns and constant daylight, an approaching Darkness threatens to send the entire population into madness.
Nice, huh? And the first half was brilliant. The entire lead-up to the Darkness was mesmerising. The astrophysics and mathematics behind it was awe-inspiring (for a layman like me, anyway). There were multiple points of view, and all characters ended up being linked by midpoint.
Lesson: A good, different, interesting premise will have people picking up a book in a genre they normally wouldn't read.
Erm. This is where the book sort of... fell into a heap. Please remember this is only my opinion, and if anyone who's read it would like to dispute my thoughts in the comments, by all means do so! I'd love to hear a convincing argument for the second half of the book.
Because the second half is where this story (in my opinion) flops. The lead-up was magnificent. Then from the midpoint it seemed to go downhill, and not in a good, thrilling, hang-onto-your-seat-so-you-don't-fall-out-the-side sort of way. The Darkness happens. People go mad. Anarchy. Chaos. Bedlam.
The characters just seemed to wander around and not do much. They had a vague goal, and that was it. I think it's fair to say the main goal was "to survive", and if you've ever had to write a character's motivation before, that's not something you want to say. This wasn't the tense, pillow-grip-worthy HUNGER GAMES survive either, this was just wander-in-the-forest-and-don't-get-murdered-by-crazies survive. I actually started skimming. And then just when it started getting interesting again, the book stopped. Finished. The end. Whaaa?
Lesson: If you're going to have a major change in the middle of your book (which isn't bad - I've done it in one of my WiPs), be careful to give your characters goals and motivations. They'll probably be different to the goals and motivations from the first half of your book, but they still need to be there. Just because there's madness and chaos doesn't mean you don't need to stick to those writing rules that will keep your reader interested.
That's right, the biggest, best FREE writer's conference is on again! And the Ninja Agents start making their appearances THIS MONDAY.
Last year I tried my luck with PRINCE OF CITY NIGHTS and won a few pitch contests but it didn't eventuate into anything. This year I'm going in with my freshly-polished sci fi TWELVE MINUTES OF MIDNIGHT.
If you wanna see what I've been working on (and help stop my query getting lost in the forums while the agents are snooping), please check it out and post a comment/suggestion/crit on my page. It'd be much appreciated! (You have to sign up to see the forums, but it doesn't cost anything. Plus, you can see all the awesome crits on my work already! :D)
Here's my QUERY.
Here's my FIRST 250 WORDS.
Here's my FIRST FIVE PAGES.
I'm not going to get any sleep for the next few days zzzzzzz
PS If you're looking for an agent and haven't signed up for WriteOnCon... WHY? GO DO IT NOW!
Look, I'm a writer. Writing is ingrained into my soul. I'm not happy if I'm not writing. I always have one foot in reality and the other in my imaginary world. I'm sure most of you feel the same.
So naturally when I meet someone at a party or social gathering, who I am comes up in conversation. "Oh, I'm a writer," I'll say.
And then it happens. Every. Single. Time. That dreaded question. "Have you had anything published?"
Being a writer isn't about being published. I'm not claiming to be a "published author." But those non-writer types (more fondly referred to as muggles) don't understand that. If you don't have a book on the store shelves, you're not a legit writer.
After having had to answer this question more times than I can count, I've come up with a way to keep myself amused until I can finally answer, "Yes. Go buy it." Here are some answers to use and enjoy:
1. No. Drink?
2. Yes. I'm the ghost writer for J.K. Rowling.
3. Sure. Why not?
4. Yup, it's coming out in four years. The title's subject to change. So is my pen name. Keep an eye out for it!
5. Oh look over there, a pigeon! *runs away*
6. Yeah, but it's stuff you wouldn't read. Trust me. *shifty eyes*
7. These tapas are amazing.
8. No. You?
9. Give me your money and I'll send a copy to you. Honest. (Bonus points if you can get them to "buy" one for their friends.)
10. *set self on fire à la Hyperbole and a Half*
Any more suggestions?
Ahaha, are you ready for this?
School holidays have just finished.
80 thousand words.
My latest WiP is DONE.
I can't even begin to describe how good it feels. 80k. Eighty. Thousand. Words. I've never written a finished manuscript this long, let alone a first draft. (The last first draft I wrote was 36k. Seriously.) While I don't know if I can technically call this a first draft, it was written from scratch, with only the setting and maybe three characters the same. The plot had changed from fighting a Beast to... nothing even remotely related. In fact, the fantasy elements were taken out altogether.
But how did I go from writing teeny tiny first drafts to this mammoth of a manuscript?
It's possible that those who know me have just fainted on the spot. I know, right? Me? Plot? NEVER!
That's what I used to think, and I'm not sure how well I'll do if I tried it again, but goodness, it worked this time, guys. I was lucky enough to have recently attended an advanced writing class hosted by Juliet Marillier, and she mentioned her plotting methods and how she didn't understand the whole "pantser" thing because she couldn't imagine doing a million drafts. And I thought, wait, you don't have to do a million drafts? So I had a go at plotting, writing the whole story out scene by scene then adding scenes when necessary, and viola! I now have a real, much-more-advanced-than-usual first draft that has a decent word count.
I'm so excited. I'm off to do my victory dance. How's everyone else's writing going?
Morgan Hyde tagged me in the Lucky Meme (you know the one), and I haven't done a post in a while, so I figured I'd go ahead with it.
Here are the rules in case you've been living in a coffin:
1. Go to the 7th or 77th page of your current WIP
2. Go down to the 7th line
3. Copy the next 7 sentences or paragraphs and post them AS IS (no secret editing - the guilt monkeys will know).
This one's from the seventh page of my current WiP:
How? How could wax be this stubborn? Did it take after the personality of its owner or something?
She ducked down and checked the cupboard under the sink. It was cluttered with Bluet's many products and...
If it wasn't mildly acidic she would have kissed the bottle. Every privy needed dissolving fluid, and chances were it wouldn't damage the leather.
She used toilet tissue to dab a bit onto the boot and held her breath. The wax sizzled away. The leather remained unharmed. Thank the King.
"Miss Stella, what exactly are you doing in there with my boot?"
Stella almost dropped the bottle and the boot. Merse opened the door and stared at her. "Are you quite finished?"
If you want to be tagged, consider yourself tagged! And link me in the comments so I can read it :)
I'm lucky enough to have on the blog today the magnificent Tansy Rayner Roberts, author of the Creature Court trilogy.
For those of you who haven't yet had the pleasure of reading these stories, you're missing out on the most epic world building and character development I've ever read.
With setting, I'm talking about a magical version of Rome, viewed through a Gothic Victorian lens. (Her words, seriously). Seriously.
How much do you want to read these books???
I've tried not to include any spoilery information in the interview questions, so you can read how she does it without ruining anything. You should know I'd rate the series R for sex, language, and gore. If that hasn't scared you off, the first in the series is POWER AND MAJESTY.
Hi Tansy! Thanks so much for doing this interview. I just finished THE SHATTERED CITY this morning, and OMG I can't wait to jump into book three! (Although I'm going to cry if my favourite characters die, ug.)
The main reason I wanted to do this interview with you is because the world building in the Creature Court series is incredible. I have so much to ask you about your planning and plot development, and I thought I'd share the answers with everyone rather than hog all your insights to myself.
First, obvious question: Is there a story behind where you came up with the idea for the Creature Court series? Did it happen instantaneously, like a burst of inspiration, or did it come to you slowly? How long did the series take you to write?
The first spark of it was when a little brown mouse invaded my writing room, back at the last house we lived in. I walked in and saw it halfway up the leg of the computer chair, and it suddenly froze as if maybe I wouldn't notice it, if it wasn't moving. So there was that...
Then I started to get the idea of this dressmaker character, and she wouldn't settle in my head until I found her name, which took AGES (I knew it started with V).
There were a few other scenes here and there which came together as the story started to build in my head, probably a good year or more before I started writing it down. I was working on other things, but this one kept invading. The first scene I wrote was an introduction to Ashiol which never made it into the book, where he's running through a city being destroyed by unseen forces, and then slowly the city begins to fix itself before his eyes, and his scars literally wriggle off his body. Elements of that found their way into the final story - and there is the key scene in the first book where we (and Velody) see his scars disappear, but pretty much everything else changed over the years & drafts.
The first book took the longest time to write, but that was more through interruption and circumstance than the story itself being difficult - The year I started writing it down was also the year I was trying to finish my PhD, and the year I became pregnant with my first daughter, so, TIMING. I had to set this book down when it was only 2/3 drafted, in order to finish my thesis before I had my baby which, haha, of course didn't quite work out in the right order. Plus my supervisor retired at the end of the same year, a month before Raeli was born. It would have been so perfect if I'd finished my thesis that year... but I didn't. So Creature Court languished for long periods while I sorted everything else out. The benefit was that I got to workshop that first book a couple of times, at varying stages of completion, with my writing group, ROR. They were the ones that pointed out I had started it in the wrong place (that scene with Velody and Ash in the marketplace, and him getting his powers back) and I had to go back and fill in how they got there.
Working backwards, the first novel was published in mid 2010 but sold I think in late 2008. The book was finished a year before that, in late 2007 which was when it first started to be noticed by potential publishers and agents thanks to the first chapter being published on my friend Marianne De Pierres' website. But I started writing it in early 2004, and planning it at least a year before that.
2. I have to ask about the city of Aufluer. It's absolutely gorgeous - possibly my favourite setting of all time. How would you describe it to someone who's never read the series?
Thank you so much, that's lovely to hear!
Aufleur is a skewed, magical version of Rome, viewed through a Gothic Victorian lens. Of course it's not really Rome at all, though I did build it on my head based on one lovely month of living in Rome and travelling everywhere on foot. I wanted it to be a tall, dark and handsome city that seduces readers with its cathedrals, storefronts and sinister secrets.
3. I find the reality of Aufluer is in the painstakingly crafted detail you've added to the series. How did you go about coming up with this world? Even in LOVE AND ROMANPUNK, which is a collection of short stories, you have so much history and reality drenched in your writing. Did you sit down and plot every festival/ritual/accompanying food and drink/building etc, or did you let it come to you as you wrote?
Mostly I worldbuild one detail at a time, as the story itself is unfolding. The festivals system of Aufleur required quite a bit of work, though, if only to keep track of things as I made them up, so as not to contradict myself later! I started with the Ancient Roman Fasti (calendar of festivals) as my starting point, as I was unduly influenced by Ovid's poem in honour of the many, many ancient festivals observed and/or ignored by the people of Augustan Rome. But I added a whole bunch more for emphasis, because I wanted the festivals of Aufleur to be even more outrageous and elaborate than the Roman system - I wanted an economy that revolved around the various observances, and I knew that would be relevant to my protagonist Velody and her friends, because their business revolved around the making of gowns, garlands etc. for the festivals.
Partly this was to create a sense of conspicuous consumption in the daylight folk but I also wanted to look at the kind of daily work that goes on in a city, and to show that Velody's priorities were already pretty fixed once the magical world intruded on her life. Imagine if Buffy the Vampire Slayer hadn't come into her powers until she was in her late 20's and had a job and a mortgage to juggle? I don't think she would have managed to slay nearly as many monsters...
But yes, there was a spreadsheet involved. And reference books.
4. Not only is there history in your setting, but each of your characters - especially in the Creature Court - have such a rich background. How did you go about creating these characters? Did you write a background story for each of them before you started the series?
I thought I was being terribly clever, telling an epic fantasy story from the point of view of slightly damaged adults as opposed to using a teenage farmboy as my starting point, but soon ran into trouble because of course they all had elaborate backstories and baggage to deal with! I worked this out mostly as I went but soon discovered that there wasn't a spreadsheet in the world big enough to factor in all the complexities of the Creature Court characters - most of their current relationships were deeply affected by the hierarchy of their world, where youngsters start off serving Lords as Courtesi, then become Lords themselves, and sometimes reach the level of King. So it completely made my head explode, figuring out all the details of who had served who, and when they had been promoted to Lord, and whom had served them, and in some cases many of them served more than one Lord. Their backstories changed as I needed them to, and a few of them - Livilla and Poet in particular - shifted allegiances as my chronology tangled itself up in knots.
Seriously. Even spreadsheets can't fix everything. I had a few fixed points such as certain ages of characters when particular events happened, and everything else orbited wildly around it. Sometimes I felt like I was juggling hamsters! Strange, sex-obsessed hamsters who liked to set fire to things.
5. Were you worried the reader wouldn't be able to keep track of such a broad cast list? (The only ones I'm having trouble with are the courtesi, but after the new character introduced at the end of the book two, I'm thinking we'll learn more about them in book three.) How do YOU keep track of the comings and goings of the heirarchy?
I worried a little bit, but mostly for myself. I think it helps that the story is told through several points of view, and so you get to see most characters from several different sides. Hmm. Maybe that doesn't TECHNICALLY simplify things. But because of the complexities I didn't have any qualms about just setting down details as they became relevant, through the observances of the characters. Ashiol, for instance, knows all the details of Livilla and Mars and well, everyone's sex life, and will happily supply any plot relevant details, either through dialogue or his brain. But he had been away for five years so even he needed things explained to him. Velody doesn't know who any of these people are, and what their connections are, but she's trying to work it out fast, and the readers get to go on that journey with them.
I realised quite late in the day that I didn't have a point of view character who was a courteso - all the other roles are covered, but that one wasn't. That was why Topaz joined the story in Book 2, another newcomer. And Book 3 has an ongoing flashback storyline from the point of view of one of our adult characters, giving new perspectives not only on what it's like for the youngsters when they first join the Creature Court, but also some insights into the emotional baggage and relationships of some of our favourites. I like to think all the bases are covered!
On the whole, though, there are a bunch of characters we really don't need to know about for the sake of the story, and there are some I've deliberately left blank because if I tried to go into detail about every single character, the reader would be lost, and I'd probably have thrown myself out of a window.
6. Any tips for writers who want to go into the type of depth with both setting and character background you have with the Creature Court series?
Spreadsheets are wonderful things! History will provide you with stranger and more wondrous facts than you can possibly ever invent. And it really does help to know everyone your protagonist has slept with, even if you never need to mention this in the narrative itself.
7. Finally, anything you want to plug while you're here? (Ahem, Galactic Suburbia, ahem ahem.)
Well I do have a rather lovely podcast you might be interested in! Galactic Suburbia was recently nominated for a Hugo, and it's basically me and my friends Alisa (indie publisher Twelfth Planet Press) and Alex (Atheling-winning reviewer) talking about speculative fiction, books, publishing news and chat. We're very proud of it.
You can also find my short story collection, Love and Romanpunk, over at Twelfth Planet Press in print or e-book (though we are nearly out of print of the print version I hear! Down to the last box). I recently had stories appear in the anthologies Beyond Binary (Lethe Press) and Epilogue (Fablecroft). I also have an essay in the upcoming book Chicks Unravel Time (Mad Norwegian Press), in which every season of Doctor Who is analysed by a different female writer, fan or critic. I'm writing about The Trial of a Time Lord and the problematic death/undeath of Peri Brown.
Thank you so much for answering my questions! I'm off to read the last book, and cling to the hope that this is going to end well...
Are you convinced yet? Haha, thought so. RUSH AND BUY THIS SERIES NOW!
I've finished the first draft of my latest WiP! *pause for cheers* Some stats for the interested parties:
Total word count - 52,129
Projected word count (once I've added in all the extras I thought of along the way... and fixed all the plot holes, ug): 75k-80k
Date started: 28th May this year
Current feeling towards ms: I never want to see it again (Kidding! Kind of)
What will happen next: Leave it to work on second WiP and come back to it in a month or so... hopefully with a little more enthusiasm than what I'm leaving it with
YAY! Party for all!
How's everyone else's WiP going?
This is another post for my book reviews for writers. I break down the main plot and character components of a novel and discuss what writers can take away from it.
The first time I read this book was in primary school, and I'm surprised I a) got through it, and b) understood a single word. It was tricky for me to follow, the main plot didn't happen until almost halfway through the book, and the tension went up and down erratically throughout the story. Why does it work? It's a classic, it was written in 1960, and readers were looking for something different than what they look for today.
So could we try a story like that? Tricky, not impossible. But I wouldn't recommend trying it unless you're a pro. Why?
My answer is based on a theory I have about today's readers in general. With technology making things simplistic and instant, people expect everything to happen Now Now Now. That's why I think YA has become so popular - usually YA books get right to the point, are quick, and are easy enough to get through in less than a day.
Lesson: if you're going to go down the path of a plot line similar to classics such as TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, I'd recommend you know exactly what you're doing and know whether it will work with your target audience.
Atticus. Oh, Atticus, Atticus, Atticus. Perfect in every way. In danger of being the biggest Gary-Stu around. So why isn't he?
Firstly, the story is narrated by his daughter Scout in two ways - a) her looking back on childhood moments, and b) her living those moments as the nine-year-old. It's natural and understandable that both versions of Scout would portray him as the flawless, generous man he is in the book. A young girl often looks at her father in such a light, and older Scout might have lost her father by that stage so of course she might remember him as a better man than what he was.
Secondly, a Gary-Stu is not only perfect, but everyone loves him. That's not the case with Atticus Finch. He's attacked, abused, and ridiculed by the townspeople throughout the entire case. This invokes sympathy from the reader instead of disgust.
Both of these cases have to be included to work in Atticus's favour and to keep him from being so perfect it makes the reader close the book in disgust. They're written in balance of each other, as carefully as every gesture, word, and action is written in terms of the character himself.
Lesson: If you're going to write a character with so many amazing qualities, make sure there are (real) ways to balance out the "too-perfect" syndrome, not just one little quirky fault.
I hope you have a cup of chamomile tea to drink while you're reading this, because if you're anything like me your blood might actually boil with indignant rage. I saw this article years ago and it still makes me seethe whenever I think about it.
An author (I can't remember who, so there's no point asking me) once put a "How to Deal with Telling People You're a Writer" post up. I figured hey, that'd be a fun read. Sometimes it can be a pain telling people you're a writer when you always get the same types of eye-rolling responses.
One of the points was when people ask "But are you a real writer?" kind of question. The author addressed this by saying something along the lines of "Don't worry about this line of questioning. They're only asking because too many people go around saying they're writers even though they haven't gotten published."
...too many people go around saying they're writers even though they haven't gotten published.
I'm sorry, WHAT?
(Urge to kill rising, rising...)
EXCUSE ME. I've spent eleven years writing stories. Working on manuscripts. Researching the publishing world, following agents, reviewing books, editing, rewriting, screaming at frustration at the computer when that scene SIMPLY WOULDN'T WORK. How DARE that author assume I'm not a writer just because I haven't gotten published?
Writing is in my blood. My fingertips tingle when I sit down to tell a story. Even if I never get published, I won't be able to stop creating worlds and people and crazy situations. What part of that ISN'T being a writer?
If you ever hear or see something like this, lift your chin, give an indignant snort of disapproval, and walk away. What does that person know about you and your passions? And when I find the author that wrote that book, I am never, NEVER going to buy their work, because hey, who needs them?
This story takes place after the happily-ever-afters of several fairy tales (and we're talking the OLD versions, with all the gruesome stuff included), where the princesses of Cinderella, Snow White, and Sleeping Beauty have become kind of Charlie's Angels/spies/sorceresses/rescuers.
Sounds good, right? That's what I thought, anyway.
Unfortunately, I barely made it through this book. I skim read most of it just so I could be done with it. How could such a great premise be so boring?
What I've done is broken the problems down for you to see what didn't work so that you can keep this in mind for your own writing. I've tried to include only minor spoilers, and hopefully you'll be able to benefit from this post even if you haven't read the book.
Please note these are purely my opinions. I'd also like to mention that the author seems like a great person, and I hate the fact I didn't like this book.
The main character was Danielle (aka Cinderella). I disliked her immensely. Firstly, she had no personal agenda. She was an empty character. I didn't find her interesting or relatable at all. Also, her stepsisters tried to kill her, they tortured her, they stole her husband and ahem, something else that will be spoilery... and she didn't get the slightest bit rage-y. She didn't want them hurt. She was like Sailor Moon, only it felt like she was more a pushover and annoyingly forgiving rather than kick-butt cool. There was one moment she lost her temper, but then rational thinking came in again and all hopes that the book would get interesting vanished.
Lesson: Don't make your character a perfect, forgiving, sickly sweet character. They're boring, and the reader will only get annoyed.
So the prince is kidnapped and the girls have to go to Fairytown to rescue him. Sounds good! Sounds fun! Sounds like a great adventure!
I've wracked my brain trying to figure out what was wrong. Why wasn't I interested in this? It's so up my alley! They shrank, they rode winged horses, they used swords and magic and all these awesome wa-pow! moves. So why didn't I care?
Partly it was due to the fact that the other two princesses were doing all the super cool stuff, while Danielle did barely anything. But the other part of my problem was there was nothing new. I'd seen all this before. Trolls, fairies, forests... done and done. Sure, there were a few different things in there, but where was that extra something that made it magical?
Lesson: If you have a true and tried setting, make sure you have LOTS of elements that are unique to your story. Also, small details add realism, generates reader interest, and breathes life into your world-building. Think of all the detail that was in the Harry Potter series.
The toilet humour might be refreshing for some, but surely I'm not the only one who found the fart and privy jokes unnecessary and gross? This is a fairy tale book featuring three female characters. I accept that some readers might appreciate the humour. Not me.
Lesson: Think of your target audience!
I'm the kind of person who loves sitting down to write. Sure, it might take me a little while to open the document and actually get started (I'm sure it's the same for many of you), but once I'm in my story, it can take a lot to pry me away. I've never really had a proper schedule - my plan was more just write, write, write... often until my fingers wanted to fall off. Does this sound familiar? Are you the same?
Hate to tell you, but I've discovered a lot of problems with this type of plan:
1. You feel guilty All. The. Time. if you have free time and you're not writing. You shouldn't have watched that episode of How I Met Your Mother! You should have been writing! There could have been an extra thousand words done in that time!
2. You often can't simply sit down for short writing breaks. Often you need to carve a chunk out of your day to feel successful.
3. The amount of writing you do (even 15k in a day!) doesn't feel like enough.
4. You can burn out. Badly.
5. Maybe the most important reason: It's quite possible that the reason you're writing so much isn't for the joy of writing - it's to get it finished. Getting it finished means you're ready for the next round. It means you can send it to betas. It means it's that much closer to being ready to query.
For those who've been following, you know why this is a problem. This kind of mindset means you're not writing for pleasure. You're writing to get published. And that leads to all kinds of new issues.
I've started setting myself a writing schedule (a chapter a day), and here's what's changed about my writing - and my life - so far:
1. I actually have time for other things. Relaxing! Reading! Watching television! Spending quality time with the boy! Accompanied by NO GUILT!
2. I've slowed down to enjoy the writing process. Each chapter has my full attention, because I don't have to worry about the next chapter until tomorrow.
3. Spacing my writing out means I have plenty of time to ponder over things that might happen in my story during the day. I've come up with lots of new ideas that might not have occurred to me if I'd ploughed through my WiP without that stopping time.
4. The health benefits! My fingers and back don't hurt so much because I don't spend hour upon hour at the computer.
5. Extra time for blog posts! :D
The great thing is, this works if you're a pantser OR a plotter. When you've plotted your story, you know what scene to write next and you're ready to go as soon as you open your document. If you have no idea where you're going with your story, you have extra time to think about what happens next because you'll stop after finishing the chapter. There's no pressure to continue right then and there.
It's kind of like exercise. Regular writing without over-exerting yourself can lift your game, rather than tumble it. Give it a go!
This is one of those posts where I'm going to tell you something that seems obvious but can be overlooked too easily.
So your protagonist is about to embark on a character arc. They will be changed, and much will happen to them over the course of your book. They might even fall in love. Great!
However. The protagonist shouldn't just step into the story and start existing. They're not there purely for the plot and romance. They should already have goals, desires, motivations, history. You know that, but do you know that?
Your protagonist should have a life AS WELL AS the romantic plot, and even as well as the main plot. A personal agenda.
The idea of doing this isn't just to give the character realism. I find myself more empathetic towards a main character who's out doing something besides what the main plot (or romantic plot) requires.
I'll give you some examples:
1. In Marissa Meyer's CINDER, there were plenty of subplots, the romantic plot was with the prince, but Cinder's own agenda was to run away from her stepmother.
2. In HEART'S BLOOD by Juliet Marillier, the main plot was about the curse, the romantic plot was with Anluan, but Caitrin's personal agenda was to escape from (and later face) her own demons.
3. In LEGEND by Marie Lu, the main plot was about uncovering the truth about the murder, the romance was entangled with the main plot, but Day's own agenda was to get medicine for his family.
A lot of people complained Bella from TWILIGHT had no personality. At least part of this stems from her lack of personal agenda. Stuff happens to her, sure. But what does she do in the meantime? What does she want? What part of her can I root for?
I've only realised this consciously in the past few days. The main character in my current WiP has a lot happen to her, and there's a love story in there too, but until the plot starts she does very little on her own. She has problems to deal with that turn quite dangerous... but that still doesn't give her the characterisation I'm looking for.
In my next draft I might have her involved in a small political campaign, or trying to start up her own business - something that tells the reader who she is, but also introducing a danger of failing (and therefore giving the reader something to root for) without it directly being about the main (or romantic) plot. It will be her personal agenda, and it should make a world of difference to the story.
Think about your current WiP's main character. What is his or her personal agenda? If they haven't got one, try coming up with something they want for themselves OUTSIDE the main and romantic plots.
I've been posting less recently, especially on "How To" topics when it comes to writing. This is mostly due to the publisher's comments to write my own story, without worrying about the rules and crits. So I figure, if I'm not reading up on the rules, why should I be writing them?
I have to admit, though, that the other, darker part of the reason I haven't posted is due to the fact that I've lost a little (read: a lot) of confidence in my writing. Yes, I'm writing a manuscript from the heart, so the story conventions aren't being followed by the book. But I've been doing this for so long now that I wonder if I could just keep writing and writing and never be published. I've kind of hit that point where getting published has taken a backseat to a more wishful fantasy-type place (instead of the reality it is during querying), and I'm just writing this story because I have to. I'm taking my time, I'm plodding along, and there's no real panic to get an agent. For now, that's the best way to go, right?
And, you know, on that far away day when I'm actually making some kind of living writing books, I'm going to wish for all the time in the world to work on a manuscript, rather than living with deadlines. Suppose I'd better enjoy it while I can...
Today I was lucky enough to receive 20 precious minutes and a critique from the managing director of a major Australian publisher. She'd read the first ten pages and synopsis of my WiP last week.
That 20 minutes turned into 40, and she gave my writing so much praise I was starting to repeat my thank yous out of sheer astonishment. I definitely used the words "you're so nice" too many times - someone could've turned it into a drinking game and gotten smashed.
Now this woman is a total stranger. She didn't know me from boo. But she saw something lurking beneath the surface of my writing, and it's something I've been struggling with for about a year.
The writing lacked ME.
It was good, she promised me. Excellent, even. But where was the passion, the uniqueness, the voice that made it stand out?
Her question brought back memories of a time in 2011 when I was writing PRINCE OF CITY NIGHTS. I had read so many "how to" guides and so many blogs that the rules/guidelines/whatever you want to call them were whirling around in my head every time I sat down to write. I struggled with a blank page for almost a month. Eventually I stopped reading blogs, shut the voices up, and just wrote.
So it's happening again. While I can switch those immediate voices off, it seems subconsciously I'm still thinking of my target audience (and getting published) over writing what's in my heart.
I'm not sure how to overcome this problem because it's so hard to get out of the mindset, but I'm thinking if I work on the story I'm writing purely for me and my friend (just for fun), as well as practicing some stream-of-conscious writing, I might be able to shake the nay-sayer voices off. If you have any extra advice, I'd be glad to hear it.
And, yes, for those of you who are curious - she asked to see the full manuscript once I'm done with revisions *insert flailing here*
Japanese steampunk? Hell yes.
STORMDANCER is close to my heart for a variety of reasons - it's set in a world "heavily inspired by Japan", it features oni, and it's written by a true blue Aussie. What's not to love?
You're going to throw things at me for this, but I managed to get my grubby little hands on a copy of this baby (much to Jay's disbelief and paranoia). After zooming through it with many an evil, gleeful cackle, I knew I needed more, so here's an interview with Jay - ahem, Mr Kristoff - to keep me going until the next book... and you going until the first :p
1. Why did you choose to set your story in Japan?
I wanted to write a steampunk story, but I felt like Victorian London and America had been done, and done very well. I wanted to do something people hadn’t seen before, something readers wouldn’t expect and could hopefully get excited about. There were a lot of other amazing cultures in the world at the time of the Victorian era, and I’ve been in love with Japan forever, so it just seemed a natural fit. Steampunk samurai – I mean, what’s not to like?
2. Tell us in ten dot points or less a little about your writing journey (eg how you got started, how you snagged an agent, how your agent snagged a publisher, any particularly painful rejections).
· I wrote a vampire novel for fun. I just had a scene in my head and started writing. I knew nothing about publishing or how to be a writer, I just wanted something to show for my time other than phat purple lewts on my Night Elf Rogue. Eighteen months later, I had a book.
· I did a bunch of research on publishing, because I kinda liked the way the book turned out, and loved the writing process. I soon realized writing a vampire book at the height of Twilight hysteria probably wasn’t such an awesome move.
· I queried the book. A few agents said really nice things about my writing, but nobody wanted to rep it. Sadfase.
· I wrote another book, which started as a dream in my head. Took me about six months, during which time I hung out on Absolute Write and read Miss Snark and Author!Author! and learned everything I could about publishing. The book made my wife cry, so I thought it might be good. I named it STORMDANCER.
· I started querying. Agents seemed to really like it, and I was lucky enough to receive four offers of representation. Happyfase.
· We subbed the book. Again, publishers seemed to really like it. We had three houses interested in buying it, which lead to an auction. The process is described in a little more detail here if you’re interested. Biiiiig happyfase.
· And here we are. :D
3. Do you have any quirks or necessities when it comes to writing? A special place, a certain type of food, a ninja doll watching over you?
I need silence. Like, I’m talking ‘vacuum of space’ type silence here. I don’t care if alien sexbots have abducted the president and I am next, just STFU. If I’m planning a long session, Red Bull is almost mandatory. I’d drink that stuff every day if I didn’t know it’d implode my brain. I have no ninja dolls watching me, but my dog usually keeps me company. Unless he’s being noisy and then it’s GTFO.
4. What scares you most about being a real published author?
That people will realize I suck.
5. What television shows/movies/books/other inspired you while writing STORMDANCER?
Oh wow, so many. Pretty much every manga I’ve ever read has a role in there – stuff like Akira, Battle Angel Alita, Ninja Scroll. Movies like Seven Samurai, 13 Assassins, video games like Tenchu, steampunk books like Infernal Devices, the Difference Engine, the Leviathan series. But the biggest influence on me was music – even though I don’t listen to it when I’m writing, music is a huge part of my life. There’s a Rage Against the Machine album called The Battle of Los Angeles that I had on almost constant rotation during those six months. I’m not sure this book would exist without it.
And there you have it: A terrifying glimpse into the mind of a mad genuis who thought to combine the world of steampunk with the world of mythological Japan. If you'd like to learn more about STORMDANCER and Jay Kristoff, you can visit his website, and if you want to stalk him, he tweets as @misterkristoff.
A while ago I wrote a post on how writers can keep up with such a fast-paced technological age. For my lastest WiP I had to journey into the contemporary world and use not just current technology, but high tech stuff. It's scary because I know it won't be long before this "high tech stuff" is outdated.
I was doing fine at first. I wrote about animatronics and state-of-the-art robotics and glasses that allowed you to use the internet...
Google, you've done it again.
Now, I need these glasses. They are imperative to the storyline. But they need to be awe-worthy in terms of technological development, and by the time I've found an agent and a publisher and this book hits stores, the glasses will be a thing of today, not the future. And a few years from then, they'll be a thing of the past.
I'm sure plenty of you have come across something like this before. When I tweeted my woes, I had more than one sympathetic response that came with a similar story. I guess I can count myself lucky that I've come across it this early in the drafting stage. It can still be changed.
Well, this is where the brainstorming comes in. (After the curled-up-in-a-fetal-position-crying, anyway.) Thanks to an idea from my lovely boyfriend, I'm keeping the glasses but using them in conjuction with internet-based contact lenses. It will require further thought to cohesively fit it into the storyline, but it's something.
And that's the thing, isn't it? Living in a time like this, the only choice we have is to keep up, keep changing, and stay one breathless step in front of the people who are working much too hard to make the future today.
And Google, don't steal my idea until the book's out, got it?
There was an April fools' joke going around that scientists had discovered a moon orbiting Mercury and they were going to shoot it at an angle that would bring it to Earth.
WHAT IF this was a real proposition? How would you feel about it? Personally I'd be furious that scientists were playing with things they shouldn't. Problem is, there may just be a time in the future where something like this may actually come about. Scientists decide to do something stupid that the population doesn't want. Rumours would flood social media on the effects - good and bad - of the decision.
So we'll go with the Mercury moon. Scientists are going to blast it off its orbit and it's going to reach Earth. They list a variety of reasons why it's a great idea - it will allow them to study moon and learn more about space. The alarmists will start talking about the impact causing the end of the world. Realists will question just what potential disasters this choice will bring. People will rally. Some will just sit back and watch the chaos.
Where are you on the scale? Would you rush about preparing for the end? Would you get out and rally? Would you tell everyone who'd listen to calm down because the scientists know what they're doing?
The problem is relying on people with power not to do anything stupid. Of course, that's usually the most interesting part to add into your story. Think about how the people with power in your book add to the story world, and see if you can get them to do something really, really stupid.
Just a little something for your Monday mind to munch on.
It's been a while since I've done a personal post. I thought I'd better update you on the two AWESOME things that happened yesterday:
Exciting news one:
Have you joined SCBWI yet? I thought nah, it's more an American thing. I thought nah, I'm in a teeny tiny isolated city - it's not worth paying money for conferences I can't attend.
And then I joined.
And there's a branch in my teeny tiny city.
And better than that, there was a callout to meet with Sarah Foster, managing director of Walker Books.
And I got in.
I get to meet with Sarah Foster and talk about my latest WiP for twenty minutes. She will read and crit my first ten pages and synopsis. Some people have snagged publishing contracts this way.
Now I'm not looking specifically for a publishing contract, but wouldn't you say this is a mighty fine opportunity? Wouldn't you like a similar opportunity?
Get out there. Join SCBWI. It's worth it.
Exciting news two:
I am now officially an intern at Twelfth Planet Press, a boutique Australian publishing company run by one of the most successful, hard-working women I know. I found out yesterday, and by this morning I was swamped with emails of things to do. Not a lot of it makes much sense to me (there may have been panicked tears for a bit there), but I'm going to sit down today and go through it slowly, googling the terms I don't understand.
My first jobs involve making up a sales kit for a distributor and writing a feature article for a blog. It's so great to see this side of the publishing world, and while I'm slightly terrified, I'm also really, really excited. I hope to do the best job I can, and I'm looking forward to the learning experience that comes with it. I think this will definitely make me a better, more worldly writer.
And that's the news!
So you know those horror stories with evil mist?
Yeah, well, there are fresh-from-the-oven rumours going around that there is a mercury laden fog.
According to Science Now, monomethyl mercury can reduce memory, attention, language and motor skills, impair peripheral vision, and lead to muscle and coordination weakness.
These posts are always about going big, so let's go big.
WHAT IF a more concentrated version of the fog spread across the planet? It eventually affects all humans (or most humans, at least) and of course the food chain. What kind of world would that be? Where could you hide? How could scientists fix the problem? What kind of random genetic traits might pop up?
Imagine living inland, in one of the few untouched towns left. Or maybe humans retreated to higher altitudes, to live on mountains or even in airships. There would have to be people in protective gear going back every now and then for supplies, and some kind of refinery plant would definitely be needed to get the mercury out of the food and water. Imagine there's a fog watch - an alarm goes out when a fog draws near and you have to airproof your area to keep safe. Imagine what the people still in the fog would look like/live like.
Pretty crazy, huh? But possible, always possible. That's the point of being a writer, isn't it? To imagine the possibilities...
Just a little something for your Monday mind to munch on.
Ever had the same dream as someone else on the same night? I have.
Think about it. Think about it. Think how crazy it is, that the same images and actions can be performed in the subconscious of two completely different individuals.
When I was a kid I had a nightmare that a snowman was chasing me through the construction site of a massive hut in an unknown village. My friend, who was sleeping over at the time, was in the dream, as was my dog. I woke abruptly and sat up in my bed to find my friend sitting up too, staring back at me.
Turns out, our dreams had been exactly the same except for one detail - I was in the lead during the chase in my dream, while she was in the lead in hers.
We hadn't watched any movies about snowmen or huts or anything the previous day. There was nothing I could link the dream to. And yet, we'd both seen the same thing in our minds.
Someone told me once that the consciousness stretches out of the body during sleep, and if you're in tune with someone nearby, the two can mesh and cause the same dream. Load of rubbish? Possibly. But...
WHAT IF it was real? What if part of your mind really did hover over your body during sleep? What if there were laboratories to monitor such movement? What if that part of you could detatch from your body? Could you roam about at night, meshing with other people's conscious? Or enter into different realms of existence?
If you needed a way to throw a character into another world, this is an interesting way to do it.
Just a little something for your Monday mind to munch on.
Now that the second (and a half) draft of my WiP is complete, it's essential that I put it away for a period of time. I'm sure you've all been there before - that break you need to take so you can come back to the ms with fresh eyes.
But putting down a story can be hard. I know it, you know it. It's good. Agents will drool at the (already-written) query letter. It wouldn't hurt to rush it off to betas or - god forbid - send a few nibbly queries out, right? Right?
Put on the brakes.
You only get one chance to make a first impression with this ms. It doesn't hurt to wait. I'll say it again: it doesn't hurt to wait. Polish it up and let it sparkle before you let it out into the world. If you need inspiration, read the waiting that Marissa Meyer endured as she patiently went through several drafts and revisions of CINDER. She knew it was a stellar story, but she didn't jeopardise her chances of getting an agent by sending it out too early. It was worth it in the end, wouldn't you agree? And your book will be worth it too.
To help you along, here are some ways to keep yourself busy while you let that story sit:
1. Do those things that you've been putting off while writing. Clean the bathrooms. Take the dog for a walk. Have a shower. You know, that less important stuff.
2. Catch up with friends, who probably haven't seen you since you typed the first word of the first draft.
3. Make a dent in that never-ending TBR pile of books.
4. Write another story - either a brand new WiP, or if that's too much for your brain to handle, try a short story or revamp an old shelved ms.
5. Throw yourself into your (real life) work. For example, if you're a teacher, maybe do some actual marking and (gasp) lesson plans.
6. Visit your family. Yeah, remember them?
7. Plan your next holiday. See if you can design a way to save enough to actually go, rather than just dreaming about it. Writers should experience life in as many places as they possibly can, after all.
8. Write a post about how you can survive the rest period. Possibily similar to this one.
Any more suggestions for those of us who are itching to get back into it?
A musing on whether geomagnetic storms are making us sick went up recently. Interesting concept, but let's go bigger.
WHAT IF we really were connected to geomagnetic storms? The article states that we're affected thanks to some lingering biological traits (detecting magnetic fields) that mostly disappeared as we evolved. What if there were people out there that were not only affected, but changed by the storms?
Now we're talking.
What kind of abilities could be unlocked? Scientists claim we only use a certain percentage of our brain. I honestly believe there are some things we'd be able to do if we used more of our brain's potential. Ever had déjà vu? Imagine if that was magnified to the point of skipping ahead and actually being able to tell the future.
Hello, new reason for superheroes (that doesn't involve radiation).
Just a little something for your Monday mind to munch on.
After stumbling across this post on robotic surgeries, I figured it's only natural that soon surgery will be a completely mechanical procedure with humans behind-the-scenes rather than in the room. Doctors could operate on patients anywhere in the country... or the world.
While this can be an interesting little tidbit to add to a futuristic story, it might turn into something much less trivial.
WHAT IF every surgery was done robotically? What kind of amazing things could people do to their bodies via elective surgery? How will lasers and easy recovery fit into it? What could go wrong? What would a surgeon's life be like if he or she was working purely behind the scenes?
Just a little something for your Monday mind to munch on
Yes, it's Tuesday, but here we go with yesterday's post:
Today it was announced that scientists have discovered an "immortal animal". Considering ageing has to do with the degradation of genes, I'm willing to go so far as to believe there will one day be a way to "become ageless" once scientists crack the gene code.
Now some of you may disagree, but as writers/readers, let's suspend our disbelief for a moment and discuss this. (NOTE: I'll use immortality and eternal youth interchangeably, but I'm talking here about stopping the ageing process, not the inability to die.)
WHAT IF scientists found a way to stop the genes from ageing? If, once a certain age, humans were injected with something that made them immortal? Or perhaps with the altered genes it would only have to happen for one generation before it was passed on to children.
In either case, we're looking at some massive problems. What kind of system would governments set up to control something like this? Would they only allow immortality to the people who could afford it? The elite? A mixture of types of people to keep the human race varied and growing? Would everyone eventually have access to this immortality?
And if they did, the new problem is where to put them all. If it's a scientific race between space colonies and immortality, at the moment immortality is winning by a long shot. Countries would be bursting at the seams with people before there was a chance to set up a habitat on another planet.
The day scientists announce a way to stop the ageing process is getting closer. Imagine if you're still alive when this happens. What day to day problems would you face? What kind of work would be available for an ever-growing immortal race? Would euthanasia and suicide be acceptable? Would you get bored after living for hundreds of years?
It's a scary thought, isn't it?
Just a little something for your Monday (or Tuesday) mind to munch on.
I was watching a documentary on underwater mysteries, and while it's been done before, there's still so much about the depths of the ocean that humans are oblivious to.
Take a look at the dumbo octopus, that uses ear-like fins to float.
Or the Vampire Squid, so named because the spines on its tentacles look like Dracula's cloak. There's so much to research, and even more to dream up.
WHAT IF... we went exploring? What if there was a way to go down there, to live among the sea creatures? Use your imagination, and don't be afraid to get it wrong. The best adventures/explorations (in my opinion) come from times when much of science and the world was still unknown. Jules Verne and H. G. Wells - yes, they got it wrong, but that doesn't mean their stories aren't amazing. There was so much more to write about and imagine before science got in the way!
Go out, dream big, and come to me when you're done, because I'd love to read it!
Just a little something for your Monday mind to munch on.
There was something on the news last week about a power station playing with people's digital clocks, such as microwave times fast forwarding an hour. Suffice to say there were a lot of confused people that day.
After a quick google search I discovered a link to the MAIL ONLINE website that described a similar incident in Sicily last year. Mount Etna's short eruption was said to be the reason behind people's clocks running fifteen minutes fast. Pretty weird, huh? Not something scientists think to predict.
One day the world will run on digital clocks. One day our timekeeping will be reliant on satellites and flashing numbers. So what if the clocks stopped working, like if a solar flare wiped out radio waves or something happened that scientists didn't consider until it was too late? What would life be without exact time?
WHAT IF we had to use another way to tell time? We still need to go to meetings and see movies and arrange flights. What kind of technology could take over from our usual time-telling? Special sun dials? Planet alignments watches? Moon trackers? Or instruments that measure the Earth's rotation?
Again, it's not something to base a whole story on, but those little details can make your "other" world that extra bit special.
Huzzah! It's very short and barely brushes the surface of what I have planned for the final draft of this story, but OH I'm excited for this one. It's controversial, it spans continents, and it pushes the limits of what I as an author can do.
More importantly, I'm not afraid to query big-shot agents with this one. I know the querying stage is just a speck in the future, but I've always been timid when querying big-shot agents with my other projects. Sometimes I just queried the assistant instead, or someone else at the agency.
I already know I won't be timid with this manuscript. Guess that says something, doesn't it?
Did you know there's a possible correlation between La Niña and influenza, and it has nothing to do with the cold weather making you sneeze?
According to this article, La Niña affects a bird's migratory patterns, and birds are the considered incubators of the human 'flu.
The website says:
...the La Niña pattern alters the migration, stopover time, fitness and interspecies mixing of migratory birds. These conditions could ... favor the kind of gene swapping that creates novel variations of the influenza virus.
Don't you love how nature and weather and humans are so interrelated? There are hundreds of thousands of other ways we're connected to and changed by our environment, which are in turn connected to and changed by other parts of their environment.
Well, goodness, the possibilities are endless. I love it when a story links a simple thing (the butterfly flapping its wings) to a major thing (the tsunami). Mere coincidence doesn't work - you'll need to set it up at the beginning, but my, when it works, it works.
If you have ever seen La Cité des Enfants Perdus (The City of Lost Children), you'll have witnessed a fabulous play of how one tiny teardrop saved a child's life. It is honestly the best event-linked scene I've seen.
Just a little something for your Monday mind to munch on.
Remember your first One? You thought it was forever. You couldn't see a life outside the dream you had. When it didn't work out, it destroyed a piece of you.
The Ones after that were easier. Not roses and sunshine all the time. Just easier. You knew you could survive, even if you had to part. You had survived before during your darkest hour, you could do it again.
Those Ones make you happy, keep your passions running high, but it's only when you find The One - capital T, capital O - that you really know it's going to work. And that's what we're all searching for.
Okay, so this is kind of a pseudo-science, but if we as humans have learned anything about science and nature, it's that we shouldn't be so quick to laugh at ideas that sound outrageous at the time.
There are claims floating around that ordinary water has memory. I don't know how that's possible or what that means exactly, but just imagine for a moment if scientists started researching into it.
WHAT IF they unlocked it? What if they found a way to not only access the memory inside water, but began storing it there, too?
How would this affect ordinary life? How do you think the governments would use it? What do you think we could learn about the origins of life? How would this change space travel? Time capsules? Cross-cultural communication? Would there be archives of every point in history? What if one point in history was missing? Why might that be the case?
It's not something to revolve an entire story around, necessarily, but it's something to think about if you're writing a distant future or sci fi novel.
Just a little something for your Monday mind to munch on.