Month: January 2013

Bloodyminded Characters – Wednesday WIPpet

It’s time again for the Wednesday WIPpet. Because it’s the 30th today, I’ve chosen to share a passage out of Chapter 30 of The Legend of the Kings (mainly because I haven’t written chapter 30 of my current WIP yet). The Legend of the Kings is book three in my Heartstone Trilogy. It was intended to be a standalone novel, but the backstory gained a life of it’s own which is why I’ve been writing out of order.

In this scene the capital city has been all but destroyed by dragons who have somehow being working with the Kingdom’s neighbouring enemy, the Rohe. A small group have managed to avoid the fallout until now, but Peter’s actions have given away their location. Instead of working with the group Peter is behaving true to form: (In Megan’s POV).

Not Peter.  Stubborn, and angry; he’d paid cursory attention to anything Roan advised, preferring to poke around the canyon himself.  Now his stupid pride was putting everyone at risk.  She caught his attention and signalled for him to move further up the rock. Whether he didn’t understand her gesturing, or was choosing to ignore it she couldn’t tell, because he stayed right where he was.

Megan was so wild, she almost left him to his fate. But knowing the Rohe could arrive at any moment, she scrabbled down the rock and sprinted towards him. She felt horribly exposed, but she wasn’t about to let Peter’s bloodymindedness ruin everything. Hoping the curve of the canyon would give her a few minutes grace, she leaped onto the rock beneath him and scrambled up until she was close enough to hiss out a warning.

“You need to get higher – they’ll see you.”  She pointed to a crack in the rock.  “There. The shadow – it’s deeper than it looks.”

As she pulled herself up next to him, he refused to look at her – the stubborn set of his jaw confirming her fear; he’d rather die than be obligated to Roan.

“Go yourself.  I’m fine.”

Please Peter.”  She wanted to shake him, but there wasn’t enough time. Fighting to keep her voice soft, she laid a hand on his arm.  “You don’t want to fight them again do you?”

Throwing her hand off, he finally turned – thrusting his face right up into hers.

“Come on Megan.  You don’t really think I fought them last time do you?”

His breath was hot and sour, his contorted features barely recognisable. Recoiling, Megan almost fell off the ledge – just as a sweet sharp whistle echoed down the canyon.

The Rohe were here.

If you want to join the WIPpet fun the rules are: each Wednesday share something from your Work In Progress that relates to the date. As today is the 3oth it could be 30 words, 30 lines, or something from page 30 or chapter 30. You can find the linky here or at K.L. Schwengel’s very cool blog My Random Muse.

Happy Writing!

Editing is Writing Too

I had an a-ha moment this morning. Turns out I’ve been measuring my writing progress by word count alone. Not the actual words I’ve written each day – that might have been more helpful. But by the running word count of my WIP. And because I’m editing the front end of it at the moment the word count isn’t changing dramatically. In fact some days it actually decreases. So as far as goal setting goes, it’s been pretty demoralising.

But the truth smacked me upside the head this morning: Editing is writing too, and I just need to set better goals for this season.

So how do I measure my progress while I’m editing?

1. Do I need a goal?

Turns out I do. As the word count stagnated, I was starting to feel like a fake. Am I the person who talks about writing, but doesn’t actually write? Well the piles of notebooks, scribbled ideas and post-it notes suggested something was indeed happening, so it looked like the goal needed a revamp before I psyched myself out of the book altogether.

2. What’s the point of editing?

Editing occurs in layers, and we all peel that onion differently. There are a number of reasons why I’m editing right now:

On a practical level it’s the school holidays (one more week to go) and editing is more suited to the short and rare periods of quiet time available in this house. I’ve also written the first movement of the book, so I’ve stopped at a natural break in the story. It seems like a good place to take stock and evaluate. Plus the plot will hang together better if I iron out some of the kinks now.

I’m also telling the story from five different points of view. Although it’s common enough in fantasy, it’s hard to pull off – and I want to be sure each POV is necessary and that their voices blend smoothly. I know some people enjoy reading it and others find it jarring – but I need to be confident going in to the next phase that each one is working. I could just push ahead, but I’d rather not write a whole storyline if it’s destined for my dead file.

3. What does it look like?

I must have read a lot of motivational books over the years, because I know the best goals are identifiable and measurable. So right now my goal is to do chapter edits. I take one chapter at a time, summarise the action, note down any glaring mistakes for later attention and see how the chapter works as a unit. Does it have a sense of progression (is anything really happening)? Does it have a hook? Does it flow? I’m writing a brief summary for each chapter and using these to evaluate the overall story arc.

It’s also easy to measure, because like a word count I can easily mark off my progress by the number of chapters completed. A quick look back, and I’ve already identified some issues that will strengthen the story when I do the first big rewrite. Later on these goals will change as I focus on character voice and dialogue, cleaning up the grammar and loose writing.

4. A Record of Industry.

Actually I’ve done quite well recently. (If you knew my children and the whirlwind of activity that goes on in our house, you’d wonder I ever got anything done at all. Distracted much? You have no idea…)

In order to keep motivated on this very long journey I’m trying to keep a record of how far I’ve come. This blog is part of that – and I am so grateful for all of you who share this journey with me.

I’ve also picked up a Mslexia Writer’s Diary (after reading about it on the lovely Kate Frost’s blog) which is full of writing tips and competition dates (UK). I use it solely to record my writing committments or achievements; whether I’m posting on this blog or There and Draft Again, giving critiques for others or keeping a record of writing or editing sessions. Looking back, I have been very committed.

The best piece of writing advice I ever received was to write every day. Sometimes that’s going to look like long stretches of prose, but there will be times when it’s working out ideas and doing the hard editing yards. I’m not too bothered what form that takes now – because I know it’s still writing.

How about you? How do you keep motivated in different seasons of writing (editing, drafting)?

Stories that Stick – A Word About Courage

Some stories just stay with you. It might be a moment in your life when you got a glimpse of something a little bit bigger than you. A poem or a lyric that struck a chord. A picture that stirred your soul. Or a conversation that changed the way you looked at the world.

For some reason, I’ve been thinking a lot about a conversation like that I had many years ago with a man called Charles Eade. At the time I was in my late teens and Charles was retired, and an elder at our church. He was one of those people where the age gap didn’t matter in the slightest. He’d always smile as if he were really pleased to see you, and he always had something interesting and uplifting to say. (You can tell I had a real soft spot for him).

But the conversation I remember best was about an All Black called Michael Jones. For those who don’t hail from our fair shores, the All Blacks are our national rugby team, and Michael Jones is a legendary player, beloved for his incredible skills and ability to keep calm under pressure (his nickname was Ice Man). He is also a Christian, and had made a personal decision to not play rugby on Sundays. At the time Michael was at the peak of his career, and Charles Eade had somehow managed to spend some time with him.

I was suitably impressed (bear in mind I was a teenage girl and there may or may not have been a poster of Michael Jones on my wall at that time…).

Me: Wow, what did you talk about? (Thinking I would have been tongue-tied being in the presence of such greatness).

Charles: I asked him what he prayed for before a match.

Me: Huh?

Charles: You know I’ve always wondered what he’d ask for. His passes to stick, for the opposition to fumble, that God might help him score some amazing tries (like touchdowns), to win by a great margin…?

At this point Charles gave me one of those looks, you know the ones where people sort of widen their eyes, and nod their head to make sure you’re with them. Honestly the thought had never crossed my mind, but the question was so – Charles. What would I pray for in his situation? I had no idea.

Me: What did he say?

Charles: Courage. He prayed for the courage to go out and play to the best of his abilities.

And I never forgot it.

It’s not about the show, the hype or even the performance; it’s about having the courage to give it your all. Especially when others are watching. Michael Jones carried the weight of a nation’s expectation with him and always played out of his skin. For those of us who write we have to deliver our work for public scrutiny; and the pressure to perform or produce can be huge. It takes no small measure of courage – but that’s what we need to have.

We write for many reasons. To tell a story, to entertain, to ask questions – of ourselves and our readers, to make a connection. Somewhere in the middle of all of it I hope I can tell a story that sticks too. Even if, like Michael Jones, I never know anything about it.

I’ve read many books that have challenged the way I think – and not because they’ve been overtly making a moral point either. In Till We Have Faces: A Myth Retold, C.S. Lewis really made think about the way we can be totally convinced by our own versions of truth. The Picture of Dorian Gray, by Oscar Wilde made me wonder whether a person’s countenance is changed by the life choices they make. Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott – that life can often be hard and full of loss – yet still full of hope too.

In my current WIP, the question is about choices. What happens if a good person makes a spectacularly bad choice? Two of my characters do, and respond quite differently. I hope it resonates with someone and makes them think.

Looking back through some old journals I found a poem I wrote some years after my conversation with Charles Eade.

Charles Eade asked Michael Jones
What do you pray for before a game?
               Ball handling
                              Speed
                                             Good hands
                                                            Points?
Do you ask to win
               To anticipate your opponent
                              To play well?
What does a man like you
               Ask God for?
Michael Jones said
               Courage
 
Charles Eade told me
               I have never forgotten

Poetry isn’t my strong suit, but it captured a moment that has really stuck with me and inspired me. How about you? Have you ever been surprised or challenged by a story or conversation?

By the Light of the Heartstone – Wednesday WIPpet

By gum, it’s Wednesday (yes, yes, in NZ by the crazy placement of the international date line) and time again for the Wednesday WIPpet, where we share something from our Work In Progress. In honour of the 23rd, I’m sharing (about) 23 lines, from page 23 of The Fall of the Kings.

Josiah has had a rough day and has finally found a moment alone:

As always, the pulsating glow of the giant crystal was an immediate balm to my frazzled nerves, and I sagged against the cool stone lintel transfixed once again by the miracle it was.

It was twice the height of a man, with a girth at least three times that again. At night the soft amber glow radiating from its heart could be seen all across the Kingdom.  It was a beacon to the lost, hope in the darkness, and all the more amazing because it was surrounded by a garden full of mature trees that by all reckoning should block the light.  But somehow it was always visible, and I for one had set my course by it more times than I could count.

This view was the one privilege of being Overseer I cherished above all others.  While the Heartstone was freely accessible to all, this was the only room in the Kingdom that looked straight down into its golden heart.  Although I was able to watch all who approached the stone, by a clever quirk of design it was impossible for anyone on the ground to see me.

With every exhalation I felt the burdens of the day ease.  Legend told the One God himself had reached down and laid the Heartstone in Gaelladorn as sign of his blessing and favour. Over the years I’d heard many people give their opinion on what that entailed – although I suspect God’s idea of blessing and favour isn’t the same as our limited human ones.

Stretching out my hand, I curved my fingers so they followed the silhouette of the stone.

Gifted by God and watched over by me. 

I fought back the urge to laugh hysterically.

Well there it is. Josiah is my only character (ever) written in the first person point of view and I’m not sure it will survive the current edit, but for now that’s page 23.

If you’re participating in the Wednesday WIPpet, or want to – here’s the Linky (thanks K.L. Schwengel) – just add your URL so we can all come and see what you’re working on!


The First Draft Run Through Blues…

What do you do when you pour your love, sweat and soul into a first draft, and on read-through it looks terrible? If you’re me, you have a huge confidence crisis, rue the day you ever told anyone (let alone the internet) that you’re a writer, and then oscillate between feeling sick about wasting so much time on the page and wanting to put a match to the whole thing.

Fortunately the rough draft is still in tact, and I’m at least on the right path to putting this into perspective. So in a physician heal thyself type of way – this is how I’m trying to handle the jandal.

1. Emotional Space.

I’ve always been told that you should give any kind of critique a few days to sit (even if it is your own), so the emotion can settle down and you can make an objective evaluation. I can’t speak for other writers, but the creative side of me has a flair for drama, or if I’m honest – melodrama. I’m either on track and loving the process:

OMG these characters are amazing – and I so didn’t see this coming. This is awesome!!!

Or the whole thing seems hopeless:

The whole thing is drivel. And I still can’t understand the comma rules…

Even as I write this, I realise the emotional sting is fading and I will be able to do something with this draft. I’m neither brilliant nor horrible, just a writer on a journey.

2. Identify the Positives.

There must be a reason I’ve plugged away at this for so long. There are bits that work. Obviously not in the way I need them to yet – but that’s what reworking is all about. There are a few characters that shine, one subplot that’s working beautifully and an ending that’s worth putting in the time to get the start right.

3. Is there a Quick Fix? (Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water).

Often there isn’t much difference between a strong scene and one that misses the mark. I see this most often when I’m beta reading or critiquing for others (because I’m usually having a moment when it comes to my own work). Which means with a few small changes the scene can really shine.

For example the biggest issue I have with my WIP at the moment is the opening chapters have good character development and world building, but instead of exploding out of the gates, the plot is still warming up doing stretches somewhere. Yet I know in this day and age hooking the reader early is essential.

If I were counselling someone else I might ask if there was some incident I could drop into the earlier chapters that would tie into the plot and give the start more momentum. And with a great sigh of relief I can already think of a few interesting possibilities.

4. Develop Stamina.

Writing is not for the faint hearted. At the end of the day you need to find a way to keep going. There will be edits, rewrites, plot bunnies and one day when the dream of publication happens – there’s always the joy of public critique. That’s how it is. I wish my WIP actually reflects the story in my heart – but it is going to take time, effort and determination to make it happen. So I’m digging deep. I’ll still be here next week. Writing.

5. Draw Strength from Others.

It helps to know others have gone before and overcome the obstacles. They’ve written at odd hours, learned the comma rules (or found an understanding editor), survived the criticism and have created something beautiful. Although I am in awe of those rare creatures for who the journey to publication is easy, I’m more encouraged by people who have endured the hardships of learning the craft and have triumphed. So I read author blogs, aspiring author blogs, articles – and I don’t feel quite so alone in this journey.

6. Set a Course for Adventure.

I was reading Victoria Grefer’s awesome blog, Creative Writing with the Crimson League this morning and she seemed to sum it up perfectly:

Let me tell you, you have to find an adventure that makes trudging through the struggles and the challenges worth the pain. You have to be on as great an adventure as your characters are, or you’ll pack it up and go home. Believe me.

I’ve done that. I wrote 100 pages of a novel once before I gave up…. Because there was no adventure. Nothing was happening. While I liked the characters, I didn’t like what some of them were doing, and I didn’t see how their actions would lead me to where I saw a possible adventure I could really invest in. So I started over, and began with the adventure itself, instead of trying to paint a background for it. That was one of the best writing decisions I’ve ever made!

And I realised for me, like Victoria, writing fantasy is an adventure. And adventures are exciting, captivating and always moving forward. My WIP is an adventure – something happens and my characters are all pulled into something bigger than themselves. If I can connect with that sense of adventure from the outset things might be very different.

Honestly, when it comes with dealing with the first draft blues I suspect the only answer is to write a great, polished final draft.

How about you? I’m sure I don’t have all the answers – I’d love to hear how you deal with first draft disappointments.

A Sneaky Peak at Page 16 – WIPpet Wednesday

Wednesday seemed to roll around pretty quickly this week, so it was with great trepidation I scrolled through the WIP looking for something shareable that would have something to do with the date. A quick skim through Chapter 16 revealed it is in serious need of editing (or a total rewrite), so I was holding my breath that there would be something on page 16.

What I found was this little transition scene before Jae takes on a thug who has robbed one of the travelling children. Jae is one of my favourite characters because she is fearless – the kind of girl who will always go where angels fear to tread…

It was late when the oaf finally spent the last of Tau’s purse and staggered out of the tavern.  He’d tried to secure a room, but to Jae’s relief the innkeeper had pleaded capacity.  With any luck he’d sleep in the woods tonight.

At least when the money was gone the opportunistic eyes had also turned away.  She’d waited as long as she could for the others, – if she didn’t act now she might not get another chance.

Jae watched as he veered off the road into the woods, and then slipped quickly through the shadows behind him. The moon was out so she could see him clearly – not that she needed to, he made as much noise as a wounded buck crashing through the trees.  As she followed, she fished a small tin of ointment out of her pocket and smeared it across her face.

Don’t believe in magic do you? Well you will my friend.  Tonight you will.

Let’s just say it doesn’t always go the way she plans…

If you want to participate in WIPpet Wednesday, you just need to choose a small section of your work in progress that has some correlation with the date. Today is the 16th so it might be 16 words, 16 lines, something from page 16 or chapter 16… you get the idea. I heard a rumour that K.L. Schwengel might be putting together a linky for anyone who might want to participate. But until then feel free to leave your link in the comments so we can come and check out your WIPpets until then!

A Feast of Books and Random Loveliness!

one-lovely-blog-award

A few days ago I received the One Lovely Blog Award from the ever supportive E.M. Castellan. E.M. is a fantasy writer to watch. Check out her blog for writing tips, author interviews and book reviews here – or look out for her posts over at the There and Draft Again fantasy blog. Thanks, E.M. I really appreciate the award – it makes a girl feel special!

So the rules are; thank the person who gave you the award, share 7 random things about myself and pass the award on to 7 deserving others.

I’ve shared quite a few random facts about myself on this blog, so I thought instead I’d combine these with 7 great books I’ve read recently.

1. The Gargoyle, by Andrew Davidson.

A man recovering from 3rd degree burns, an enigmatic artist who is driven to carve gargoyles and a love story spanning the centuries. This book captivated me in a way few have. The prose is beautiful and interesting, the characters compelling and captivating and I literally couldn’t look away during the accident scene. The protagonist isn’t very likable and it’s more tragic than feel good; but keeps you guessing right to the end. I hadn’t heard anything about this one when I picked it up in a bookstore – but it has to go down as one of those books that really got under my skin.

Random fact: I’ve always been fascinated by gargoyles and their less functional friends, the grotesques. When we were backpacking around England I took many (non-digital) photos of the weird and wonderful ones we found. I always used to feel each one had a story to tell…

2. Ironskin, by Tina Connolly.

A steampunk Jane Eyre with disfiguring injuries, strange fey curses and a cast of interesting characters including; a disturbed young girl, a brooding Byronic artist, and a string of beautiful women travelling out to an isolated gothic manor. What’s not to love!

Random fact: Like gargoyles, windswept moors have also held great fascination. I blame Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights and a great number of atmospheric BBC TV productions. Sadly in real life, I found them a bit of a let down. Mainly because I never got a glimpse of anyone vaguely resembling Heathcliffe and my sense of direction is shocking. I’d be the tragic ghost of the woman wandering the moors because she forgot where she left her car…

16086843

3. Revive, by S.C. Harrison.

A girl with no memory, and an emotionally distant uncle who blames it on an accident that killed her parents. What happens when you find the life you’re leading is a pale reflection of what it was meant to be? What I love about this book is that although it’s set in our world, when you scratch the surface there’s magic beneath. More than a teen love story, I can’t wait until Harrison’s next installment Sustain is released later this year.

Random fact: Although agents wax lyrical against prologues, I love them – especially when they are atmospheric and make you want to suspect everyone. This book has a great prologue. #savetheprologue

51qRziqfUnL._AA160_

4. The Snow Child, by Eowyn Ivey.

A magical story about an older childless couple who bury their emotional pain trying to carve out an existence in pioneering Alaska. I’ve always been a bit in love with the ruggedness of Alaska, but in Ivey’s hands it sparkles with the wonder of a hoar-frost at first light. (Okay I’m not very poetic – but this book makes me wish I was). One night the couple build a child out of snow – and the next day they find it gone, and what seem to be a child’s footprints leading away. Another story that always keeps you guessing whether there is a good explanation for everything – or if some things really are magic.

Random fact: After I read this I wrote a long and gushing review for Goodreads, but somehow the site crashed before I posted it. Gutted, I didn’t have the heart to write it again (but will stick this in instead). So another mental note to paste the draft somewhere else before I try to post…

186074

5. The Name of the Wind, by Patrick Rothfuss.

Actually I can’t believe I included this so far down the list – this was perhaps the best fantasy book I’ve read in a long time. A family tragedy sets a young boy on the road to exact vengence against beings that exist only on the edge of myth. With no money, no social status and nothing more than his wits and determination to get him where he wants to go this is a clever and captivating book, by an amazing writer.

Random fact: I won a cruise last year and read this book stretched out in the sun sailing around the Pacific Islands. I can not tell you how amazing that was!

6. Green Rider, by Kristen Britain.

Apart from the fact this book has one of the prettiest covers I’ve ever seen, this is proof that Y.A. Epic Fantasy is alive and on the Bestseller Lists. The heroine, strong-willed and running away from trouble at school finds herself giving a promise to deliver a message on behalf of a fallen rider. It’s life and death, dark powers in pursuit, a message that can change the fate of a Kingdom. Think the fantasy version of the Pony Express!

Random fact: I once had a pony called Pepper who I loved dearly. However because I lived too far away to hack to the local pony club (and we didn’t have a float) I learned to ride reading ‘The Pony Club Manual’ while sitting on her back. Needless to say I was pretty hopeless and Pepper spent most of her time trying to wipe me off under the macrocarpa trees in our house paddock. These days I much prefer to ride a bike.

944213

7. The Miracles of Santo Fico, by D.L. Smith.

When two opportunistic locals steal the town’s only claim to fame – a religious relic, the local priest finally loses his faith. His niece, discovering the culprits, forces them to do whatever it takes to set things right. Deciding miracles don’t have to come from the hand of God, they set about creating their own. However God seems to have his own ideas and the man-made miracles go awry with hilarious – and quite unforseen consequences. This is a beautifully written book, which makes you believe in second chances.

Random fact: I’m starting to see a theme that I really love books that make you take a look at life at more than just face value!

And I’d like to nominate these people who also have lovely blogs. I’d highly recommend checking them out! (And if you don’t want to play – there is no pressure. It’s the thought that counts!)

How about you? Have you read any of these books or do any inspire you? Or feel free to leave a random fact about yourself!