Category Archives: Let’s Talk About WRITING, FFS

Posts where I talk about what this blog is all about: writing!

Insecurity

As a random aside, I will inform you, dear blog readers, that I’m a fan of the music of Sia.  In my fandom, I sometimes read interviews to understand the mind behind the music I’ve found resounds with me.  One such interview was in Interview Magazine  online, and featured a conversation between Sia and her friend/performance collaborator Kristen Wiig (of Bridesmaids fame, and with whom Sia perfomed at the Grammy Awards earlier this year).  One comment from Wiig struck me in particular:

In any of the creative arts, you rarely meet people who are like, “Hey, I’m great.” We all have our insecurities and we all kind of don’t know if we belong here: “I’m not sure if I’m supposed to be doing this, and all the other people who do this know that I’m really not supposed to be here.” It’s so subjective. What’s good, what’s bad? A song can be good to one person and bad to another. An acting performance can be loved or hated. It’s hard to have a very strong foot on the ground and feel confident in that world.

(From: http://www.interviewmagazine.com/music/sia/)

I find this is a constant struggle of mine.  On one hand, I’m confident in my skills as a writer (some days, at least).  On the other, I feel like a fraud, a rank amateur and a fool (this is most days).  But hey, look, Kristen Wiig says everyone else feels that way, too!  Hurray!

Anyways, here I am starting to write Bestial Part 2.  It’s taken me a while after completing Part 1 to face writing Part 2, and I’ve begun, and rejected, several false starts already.  However, I’m planning to use April in much the same way as I did November, and complete my first draft within the month.  So long as I push myself to write a segment in every spare half hour I find myself having, despite my toddler-sized personal chaos-monkey following me around, I should succeed.

I love nap time.  Long may it reign benevolently upon me.

How One Book Became Two

I had always intended for Bestial to be one stand-alone novel.  I was tired of all the trilogy hype, and I was determined that it was possible, even preferable, to avoid multiple volumes as a matter of principle.

But then I was sat here, working on my Unhappy Ending, and it was so glaringly obvious.  This novel was finished, and it had the most perfect Unhappy Ending: a cliff-hanger, leading you to volume two, inevitably entitled Mortal.  A novel which can revisit things kept hidden and subtle in volume one, and elaborate on characters not yet explored to their fullest, while still continuing down the current narrative track.

So that happened.

But I’m still not writing a damned trilogy.

The Unhappy Ending

I find ending a story the most difficult bit of all.  I’m often overcome by my emotional attachments to the characters, and my deep-seated wish to do right by them which is nice but ultimately unhelpful.  I sometimes have to first write the ending I wish I could write, where the characters are made happy and the loose ends are nicely tied up – and then delete it.

In writing the first draft of Bestial that’s what I did.  The ending I gave it was the wishful-thinking version of the ending which was easy to type out and required little forethought.  It made me feel nice to write, but it was not a good ending.  I gave The Husband its synopsis the other night while lamenting my ending problems, and his words helped me to feel finally ready to relinquish it to the depths of delete hell.

‘Yeah,’ he said, nodding sagely.  ‘That’s crap.’

Exactly.

Nice and happy and tied-up loose ends are just crap in most books.  If you need any convincing of that, remember the ending of the Harry Potter books, where all the friends are married and have children and all the children are friends and blahblah isn’t that just lovely?

Yeah.  Crap.

Sure, it’s the end you would love to give every character of every book if those characters were your friends and loved ones, and sometimes it works, but other times you have to get a little more brutal to tell the story you intend to tell.

So instead of happy endings for all and everything coming full circle, maybe there needs to be emotions left unrequited, antagonists allowed to escape punishment, and some horrific wrongs unable to be righted.  It’s real life, after all, even if you’re writing genre fiction.

Just because a story isn’t factual doesn’t mean it isn’t a true story.  Just because Bestial is the story of a fairy tale doesn’t make the turmoil of its characters less valid and it doesn’t make characters themselves, even the Beast, less human.

Now I need to spend some time finding the ending the novel needs to tell its story.  It is entirely about humanity, and sacrifice, and love in all its different forms.  It’s about how even those with the very best of intentions can make a god-awful mess of things.  Good does not triumph over evil, it simply comes into conflict with another type of good, from someone else’s perspective of goodness.  This is not a happy story, this is a tragic tale of life’s unfairness, of ugliness inside and out.

There will be no ‘Happily Ever After’s here.

Editing

This has historically been the part where I give up on a story in disgust, when the first draft usually so completely fails to live up to the expectations I had when first imagining it.

I left Bestial for the whole month of December, and only the other day picked it back up again.  I printed it out, hole-punched it, placed it in a binder and went through each page with a red pen.  There were entire sections I hadn’t read since I first wrote them, and I was pleasantly surprised by most of it.

There’s a long way to go still.  I have to reformat the narrative, fill in some gaps and make a couple of decisions on some key points.  But success doesn’t seem as distant and improbable as it has on countless other first drafts.

Tale As Old As Time, Song As Old As Rhyme

Well then – I’ve finished my story, on the eve of NaNoWriMo’s bitter end!  However, saying that, I didn’t reach 50,000 words.  I got to 37,821, which is well behind, but I knew it would be a struggle to reach the wordcount goal.  As I have stated from the beginning, this year’s NaNoWriMo was not about winning the competition for 50k, it was about finishing the story I wanted to write.  I had to rush a lot through the end of the plot but I have finished, and that’s what counts.

I still love it.  There are parts I don’t love, bits that will be chucked out like last week’s smelly tupperware of culinary nightmares hidden in the refrigerator of my mind.  But I have accepted that this is fine.  It was hard, but I have convinced myself, finally, to deal with the fact that novels do not jump out of anyone’s head fully-formed, perfect and without the need to edit.  I have labeled this draft Draft Zero, and am already beginning Draft One which has already markedly improved upon the tone and flavour of what came before.

Does anyone else feel like words have flavour?  Like some books you try to devour (I love to devour my books, in one sitting if possible) are so bland and tasteless, they fall flat both in your mind’s voice and your mind’s eye.  The images they inspire are a dull kind of greyscale.

Or maybe it’s just me.  I digress.

I’m feeling pretty victorious about this whole endeavour.  It has to be said that I thought it would be impossible to do this with a clingy toddler, and with Thanksgiving and the visit of some much-beloved Noodles for whom I happily forwent writing to spend time with.  I will always prioritise my family, but I’m also pleased as punch (is punch really so pleased?) to have been able to have my pumpkin pie and eat it too, to mix my metaphors with reckless abandon.

I will now rest my tired wrists, my sore and unfocused eyes, and recover from this final writing sprint.  And then, after a bit of time away to give me perspective, I’ll jump right back in again.

Progress Report

I hope that there will be a time, years from now, when I am reading this story to my son, in all its finished and complete glory, that I can point to a scene and tell him, ‘I wrote this while feeding you soup, when you were just a little baby.’

Though it might be quite a few years before he’s ready for this story, in all honesty.  It’s a bit grim.

I am enjoying this story so much more than any other novel I have written.  I believe in its message, and I feel that it deals with so much real life humanity, even in the guise of a beast – which is kind of the point.

If you are reading this having read my blog in the past, you might recall that I often struggle with writer’s block.  I haven’t had the luxury of that condition this time.  My writing time is only an hour here or there during naptimes, or when I can snatch some moments when  my silly monkey-baby is happy to entertain himself.

I even *gaspshockhorror* turn on the TV purely for distraction purposes.  I’m actually doing that right now – I know you’re scandalised by my parenting choices.

The one thing I’m not sure about if is this novel will reach 50,000 words.  It depends on what happens after the Crucial Scene which I am actually writing right now, at just over 20k.  I’m not sure if there’s another 30k in it.  But so long as I finish the story, which was my own personal goal for this month, I’m not sure that I care about it not reaching the NaNoWriMo wordcount goal.  My only hesitation is that a shorter story may not be considered a novel.

So we’ll see how it goes.  I’m only halfway through November, after all!

I’m ba-ack!!!

Every time I add a new element to my life, it takes a little while to find the balance needed to maintain all of the disparate parts which make up my whole.  This time it’s not taken me as long as the last hiatus, but then this change hasn’t been quite as life-changing as having a newborn baby.  I just got a new job, is all.

But even so, I had to figure out how on earth I could fit writing back into my life again with so much less free time than before.  So I decided to set myself to write in NaNoWriMo again this year.

I love my novel this year.  I simply adore it.  I’ve never had such strong feelings for a NaNoWriMo project before, so I’m hoping that’s a good sign.

I may not update here much, as my precious writing time will be spent, well, writing.  But I’m back, I’m writing, and I’m hoping something special comes out of this.

 

My 100th Post: The Best Of Blog Tour

This is my 100th post, and so I have decided to try and get 100 views to my blog today!  I have been failing to have much traffic lately, barely a handful of viewers per post, which means that even my dear friends and family may not be reading anymore.  It’s ok, I still love you – but I want you back!

The goal of 100 views is perhaps a too high, since so far the only post of mine which has gotten close to that was my Eurovision post on Conchita Wurst, and that got 90 views that day.  And that was only because of random people who had searched for the busty Polish girls and instead got my post.  Sorry, fellas.

So I’m going to have to try really hard to get people interested in the nonsense I spew forth from my keyboard.  Let’s just consider this post a Best Of Blog tour, in the hopes that at least some of what I write is appealing to the general public.

Every post you read gets me one step closer to 100!  So click away!!  Read, enjoy, or roll your eyes and look at pictures of hilarious animals instead.  Just do it after you click.

So perhaps you’re reading this because you like writing, and that is what this blog is supposed to be about.  Maybe you want to read topical posts like Worldbuilding with my discussion of Ursula Le Guin’s awesomeness or The Mirror of Fantastic Vanity in which I call out Neil Gaiman.

Or maybe you, like myself, struggle with finger-stalling brain-demons and would appreciate Mental Bran Flakes.

Perhaps, instead, you’re only here because I have Facebook press-ganged you into it, or a friend of a friend has posted this link.  In that case, maybe you’d rather read something random and potentially humourous like The Spider and the Flute: a sleep-deprivation-inspired tale of arachnid tragedy about which critics, by which I mean the only person who commented (looking at you, md456), have proclaimed: “I have not felt this sympathetic for a spider since Charlotte’s Web.” Or maybe Hobbies, or “the tale of the boob coaster” where I had an R-rated yarn-craft disaster.

Are you one of my falconry friends?  Or have a passing interest in things raptorial?  How about A Falconry Rant where I bitch about the ignorant masses at my old job as a display falconer, The Austringer’s Lament where I wax lyrically about the hunt, or There’s No Such Thing as a Stupid Question – No Wait, There is where I give up on people in general as having common sense at all.

Maybe you’ve read all these before because you’re my mother and read everything I ever post (I love you!), or maybe you’ve never read any of them and have a new-found appreciation or concern for my mental state.  Whatever the case, thank you for taking the time to read what I write.

This will also be a test of how far this platform reaches.  I have decided that the avenue of self-publishing is the only way for a new writer to break into the industry currently, as much as I long to one day hold one of my books in solid printed paper.  So without the weight of a traditional publisher behind me I will be needing to do all my own marketing and advertising, and that’s the real reason I created this blog.  An author needs to be in charge of her own online presence and so this kind of self-advertisement, however uncomfortable it makes me, is part of the game.

So read, my pretties, read!

Hipster Collie Approves

Leaving the House and Inspiration in Spoken Word

I’ve been working slowly through the ideas in my head, and I feel like this novel will either be pure madness or absolute brilliance.  I’m doing something I’ve never done before, and maybe has never been done before.  It’s definitely forcing me to think outside the box, at least.

And I found myself struggling, as always, and so I made a point of leaving the house as much as I could last weekend.  I think I spend Friday through Sunday mostly elsewhere, with the Munchkin in tow.

I know that when I’m having a tough time, whether creatively, mentally, emotionally, I hermit.  And while hermiting is all well and good at times, it doesn’t ultimately help things.  I also realised that over the last few months I had barely left my house apart from grocery shopping and dog walking.  Even as blind as I can get to my own problems, I knew that wasn’t a good thing.

So I squared my shoulders, put on my brave face, told myself I was a big girl and could face the world outside my front door and did things.  I was social, I talked to people (real, grown-up people!), I wore outfits that were not chosen based solely on comfort or how quickly they’d stain.

It was kind of a big deal.

And in the car on the way home from Somewhere, one of those days, I felt inspired.  Inspired in a way that I have not felt for all my hermitage.

I have this weird thing where I sometimes feel self-conscious even if I’m alone in my own house, as if some nebulous consciousness is aware of what I do and say, and I’m aware of the possibility of that nebulous consciousness.  So I never feel like I can read out loud, or sing to myself, unless I direct it as a silly ditty to the dog or baby, because that’s safe and okay to do.

But I had been given a fantastic book, Steering the Craft, an Ursula Le Guin writing workshop in book form.  The first exercise was to enjoy spoken language, to play with word-sounds, as language was always intended to be heard.  I hadn’t been able to get up the nerve to start speaking, or reading, out loud to myself at home.

But I was out, in my car, with Munchkin sleeping in the back seat and the dog in the boot.  I was on a road that was winding me between hills and then suddenly opened into flat fields on either side.  I had an amazing view of the quintessential fine Scottish summer day – that is to say, it was threatening rain and brilliantly sunny at the same time.  In the distance there were swathes of purple-grey clouds with discernible downpours falling in straight rivulets, but clear bright blue behind me.  It was really breathtaking, and if I’d been able to stop and take some photos I would have loved to.  I’d never seen a sky like it.

It inspired a poem.  I love poetry, it’s something I do for myself when I want to write but don’t have a full story.  It’s a snapshot of a moment.  And this moment was spectacular.

I started composing, out loud, in the car.  I repeated phrases and tweaked them.  Past tense, present tense, adverb, adjective.  If anyone had heard me they would have thought I was suffering some kind of mental breakdown.  I worked it aloud in spoken verse, and when it was done, I told it to myself again, and again, and again, for the rest of the journey home.  I didn’t want to forget it.  And I haven’t, since.

That moment of inspiration would have never happened if I hadn’t left my house, no matter how hard I sometimes find it to do that.

Putting on my Judgey Pants

I was just looking through my computer’s files, and realised that I have fourteen unfinished novels sitting unloved on my hard drive.

Fourteen.

That’s a heck of a lot of shit I never finished.

On one hand it makes me depressed to think that I’ve started so many projects, even if it was just a rough summary or a key chapter, and then abandoned them.  But on the other hand it gives me confidence that at least I keep evolving and creating.  I don’t just have one story to tell.

Isn’t there some stupid saying about how everyone has a novel inside them?  To me that’s like Brian on Family Guy who is constantly writing his “memoirs” to the derision of every other character.  I might be putting on my judgey pants here but people who talk about working on “their novel”, with that particular self-important smugness you get in the educated, middle-class, pre-hipster generation, are by and large doing the written version of public masturbation.  In another decade they would have been writing bad spoken-word poetry, smoking pot, and telling each other, “yeah, man, that’s so deep.”  And in our current generation, it’s the trilogy that’s the new “it” medium for the navel-gazing prose-monkeys.

Seriously, why is everything a bloody trilogy these days?  Can’t anyone enjoy brevity anymore?  One well-rounded storyline not enough?  Because by and large you can practically guarantee that even with the best trilogies around you’ll love the first book, feel meh about the second, and then hate the ending of the third.

So have I told you how I’m writing my novel?  It’s, like, so deep, man.