Sunday, November 30, 2008

Sara Douglass

Well, bugger.

If I hadn't been in my own little world, I would have known THIS!

I don't read Sara Douglass, but that doesn't mean I don't appreciate her talent or her legion of fans who love her work.

You need to send her a supporting email at sde(at)oldlondonmaps(dot)com and lend an emotional helping hand.

One of my eldest brother's friend from his uni days lost his wife to ovarian cancer and I buy a daffodil in her memory every year. She was a lovely woman who was always interested in what I was doing, a delight to chat to on a number of subjects and had a witty sense of humour. Co-incidentally, her name was Sarah.

Send an email; show your support to Sara and let her know you're thinking good thoughts for her.

The last hours...

It's a shite and briney morning here for the last day of NaNo. The clouds of last week and the storms of the weekend have gone, leaving the fresh, after the rain perfume.

Sven and Oleg are ready to tend my every need on this last day as a make a last day dash for the finish... oh, wait... why am I madly writing on the final day when outside is glorious and I've accomplished most of my goals?

It's the 'most of'; I've got to finish the last book. And next year? The inner athlete is joining the inner critic!

Breath deep of clear air, hold on to your giblets and... write!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Happy Dance

Here we are, in the last week of Nano.

I figure some people are saying 'ah, the hell with it' and going off to do other things; then there are more who are wondering if this month of torture will ever end.

Me, I'm currently the latter. I have abused the keyboard most dreadfully, writing with hunched shoulders and a manic gleam in my eye trying to squeeze out words.

Oh, yeah, this has not been easy, regardless of the word count. I've had days were I reached 10,000 words or more before the sun went down, and days were reaching 4,000 was a wretched struggle and I'd be trying to write late into the night.

It's been a month of resisting temptation, of not reading the latest books, of not watching the latest movies, of turning away from the family tree lest the fruit entrance me to linger and wallow in research. Of balancing time between this work and family, who have been remarkably patient with me. And of neighbours looking at me sideways while I try to discover how long you can fight with two swords without your arms dropping off on the balcony. (No, officer, I'm researching a book; yes, officer, I'll do it inside from now on...)

Every year, when I'm done, I swear not to do Nano again. And every year, in October, I get tackled by the plot bunnies, tickled until I give in and yell 'uncle!'. I'll call Sven and Oleg to assist and with renewed vigour, plunge into the murky depths of story writing. I'll swim around until the water clears and start paddling.

So, the last week of NaNo, where most participants will throw up their hands and give up and where happy dances are - as of today - being enjoyed by those canny enough, disciplined enough and persistent enough to reach the 50,000 word goal and beyond.

What will you be? A hand thrower, or a happy dancer?

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Oh, the pain

Banged into that wall at speed!

What wall? The one where you happily motoring along, writing up a storm and suddenly, your fingers go dyslexic and the keyboard feels like it's moving. That's when I know it's time to stop for the day.

I know it's an illusion, but the mind... she play funny tricks.

And then there's the internal debate: I'm a competitive person, but it's not necessarily good for me.

I've written two books this month, shouldn't that be enough? I mean really, it's about encouraging people to write and, for some, 50,000 words is a real challenge. Everyone who reaches that mark deserves their happy dance at the end.

But for me? I see those word counts rise and I can't help but match them. I've got to write more - and keep it readable. If I don't, that muse torments me; gives me more scenes, more dialogue (descriptions of landscape are absent), more adventure.

And so, I'm off to write the third book, this one in modern day Australia.

I think breaking out the metal studded whip and self-flagellating is probably easier than this.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Candy and thieves

Big day, yesterday, with the writing.

Candy scenes, lots and lots of candy scenes! An' that's thu thing, innit? The best way to enjoy your writing is to skip the boring bits and go for the action - not that I did, by the way.

I've spent the past few days building up to these scenes. The gradual (or not) increase in tension to get everyone where they need to be for the near misses, the disappointments, the misunderstandings. And now, the chase is on.

Of course, I've screwed up the time line something chronic, but it's all fixable during the editing. And I've got to find out travel times by coach and horse.

* * *

In real life, my cousin and I have been e-mailing each other about the family tree.

And S. had some disturbing news: that my grandfather's WW1 medals were sold at auction this year. What's so bad about that? They weren't sold by anyone in the family.

Some years ago, my grandmother arranged for the original medals to be copied. Each of her sons received a set with one genuine medal - an MBE, a Military Cross, a 1914-1918 medal and the Victory medal.

When S. contacted the auctioneers, she was assured by the company that they thought the medals genuine.

All I can do is get my brother (who inherited the M.C. from my Dad) to find out if it's a replica or not.

It's unspeakable if we no longer have Pa's medals and while I'd like to have a few words with the guy who sold them, he died in 2000. I know my Grandfather's probably having a few words with him in the afterlife...

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Nano blues

I must be meant to concentrate on Nano - which I have been, dutifully - because the novelette has a bit of a problem. I'm fixing it and trying to create a cover for it, but... I have a terrific photo, it just emphasises the wrong character.

I'm entering the worst part of Nano, the mid-nano blues. It's the time when you've been at it for fifteen straight days, writing and struggling as you begin to lose impetus and other distractions become apparent.

The dust bunnies have taken on monstrous proportions and are stalking each other. The carpet is beginning to feel like a gravel road. Your neighbours start calling because they haven't seen you for a couple of weeks. The grass isn't grass any more but a jungle where wild animals lurk and the dog is afraid to go out. And the laundry pile is procreating.

Like writing any book, this is the hard slog. This is where you grit your teeth and push on. Where you kill someone, have a couple get together, instigate a political crisis, all to move the book on, be it towards 50,000 or towards the end of the book.

If it's all planned, no problem, you've simply got to write the words. But for those - like me - who don't plan, the characters are beginning to sulk because nothing is happening.

That's fine for one of my characters, he's a patient villain. The more time the others waste, the more established he becomes. I'd love to have a confrontation, but it's just not the right time.

I think I'll have to hit the history books and see if there's a catastrophe I can use...

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Stop... Go... Grrr...

Well, that didn't go as expected!

I did nothing... I repeat, nothing, nada, zip and my favourite, bupkiss on my Nano books today.

I did do a lot of Christmas shopping and hunting down highlight tiles for the kitchen. I wrestled with traffic, with other's getting in early for Christmas. I fought for car parks with elderly drivers and laughed at them when I won and sneered at overpriced goods.

Bah, humbug!

And came home exhausted.

But all is not lost, for I finished off a novelette (do those words count?). I've yet to put together the cover art and convert it to .pdf, but that's for tomorrow. Then I'll post it on my Scribd page with links here and on the takeaway. It's just a li'l somethin', somethin' since I haven't done a short story this month.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

One end; one beginning

I finished the first book today (Sven, Oleg and I are celebrating later), and started writing the sequel. I don't have a title yet, I'm hoping for something clever, or witty or something that spe-eeeks tooo meee. No luck.

This one is set in the Victorian era; an age of exploration and exploitation, of fabulous wealth and abject poverty, a crossing from agrarian society to industrial as people left the fields for the cities in search of better paid work.

I've prepared myself better this time with research on Cambridge University, what dissolves iron and how quickly, even the fashions of the day. I'll have to look up the Corn Law, factory conditions, manor houses and much more as I go along.

I'm glad the impetus is still with me, the second week of Nano is always the hardest. With the 'I've past 50k, take a day or two', 'are you sure about this, it's so much more work'.

Another clue for you: do not stop writing until November 30! It takes 21 days to form a habit, and if you want to be a writer, sitting your butt in the chair every day for a couple of hundred or a couple of thousand words is the best habit you can form.

I'm resisting going back and reading what I've done so far; I know some parts will garner a WTF? But other bits will surprise me. It's done and can marinade for a while.

Meanwhile, I have a tomb to open...

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Focus and... ooh, shiney!

Another bright and early morning... well, not now, but I did have my butt in the seat, opened my database and yesterday's work at seven a.m.

What have I been doing the for the past hour or so? Okay, I'll 'fess up: I was surfing the 'net. And that can easily turn into a problem for any writer with access. It is so distracting (but then... I get distracted by encyclopedia - so much interesting stuff; usually right next to what I'm looking up and then there's more to see - and telephone books as a back up for names when I'm not satisfied with the baby name book I have, and...)

...right, you get the idea.

It's all to easy to think 'I'll just check my e-mail', but you've got reply and there's the Nano boards and your ongoing research - which can be a boon or a disaster.

Example? I'd written 60,000 words then looked up French Royalty and discovered that out of the centuries of Kings, I happened to pick the time where Henri III was duking it out with Henri of Navarre - oh and the Duchy of Burgundy wasn't a part of France then. Some might find such a thing distressing, but I don't, I had a good laugh. I mean, of all French history I chose that era? I can't have my heroine friends with any of them, so I'll have to rethink.

This kind of post-writing research can put a crimp in the work, but all of it can be fixed when editing comes around.

Hmm... I had a point when I started... Oh, yes. Another clue to finishing the 50k or, indeed, any book you're considering is to get rid of all distractions. Including the internet. For the time you've set aside to write, you have to be strong and not fiddle with other stuff.

Your work is the most interesting, the most important thing you can do at the time you're writing it. Don't bother with checking the word count until the end of your writing session. Focus on telling the story, picture it clearly in your head, like a movie. Let the words flow. Your typing speed matters not, get the words down and take pride in the effort when you're done for the day.

Okay. I'm off to kill a few characters. I wonder how I'll do it? Ah, war; so many ways to die...

Monday, November 10, 2008

Werkin' out

Well, I've head-butted the 50k and given myself a headache. Actually, this amount of writing can screw you up in a number of ways... but I get around it by... exercising.

Yes, the bane of all writers existence. Getting out there and pumping up those muscles, getting the blood flowing.

The fundamental rule of writing is to write. Obvious, eye-rolling, smirking. But this is a marathon writing session, for me at least. December I have 'stuff' to do so it's all about November and how much I can get done.

Having a zippy typing speed is all well and good, having a kick ass word count is great, but there's a down side to it, and it starts in the neck and shoulders.

You're advised to take breaks, every fifteen minutes, half an hour or so to stretch and walk and to make that next cuppa java. I do this, but I need more because the old brain? She gets a little foggy in the morning.

Of course, I live in a rather fabulous part of the world - in a Marine Park. White sandy beach, changeable sea, sun; where dolphins frolic early, Osprey glide, Pelicans and the Black swan paddle on calm days... sigh

Anyway, it's a great area to walk for an hour. And it clears the mind, because your imagination, while it pings off in all direction, still needs to focus and I abuse the poor pet dreadfully during November. Out there, the quiet noise of nature is relaxing and when I return, I can jump right back in.

I once saw Nano as an excuse not to exercise - it took time away from writing - but found myself more tired as the month progressed. So, I grabbed the MP3 player, stuck on a hat and out I went into the wide world for a much needed distraction. And when I did that, the word count started to rise again and the story flowed much better.

Speaking of which, it's time I wandered off. I have my characters right where I want them, but an hour's extra torture won't kill them... will it?

Friday, November 07, 2008

Nano, na-yes!

And so I've passed the 50k point.

I wrote a little over 12,000 words today in a marathon session that sometimes dragged, especially when I saw how close I was to 50,000. It's like clock watching. The numbers didn't seem to count down as fast as I would have liked.

But I crashed through the barrier, tripped over the rubble and fell on the other side. I think I'll just lie here for a moment and catch my breath before I continue on the finish the book.

I have the characters right where I want them; now I can go ahead and torture them!

The best tricks to completing Nano are consistency and sticking to a schedule. To keeping your butt in the chair and writing. You've got to put yourself into the character and write what they do. Sometimes, it's easy and the words flow; other times it's like trying to loosen a rusty nut - not a lot of progress for all the effort.

You've got to keep at it, keep to your schedule, get into the groove and before you know it, we can turn you over coz you're done.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

The Screaming Halt

Ah, my bookends. Sven the beginning, Oleg the end and me in the middle…

Ooops, did I say that out loud? Hah. Well… um…. Right. Nano.

Okay, you’ve dumped the inner distractions, you’ve been writing like a spider on steroids and suddenly, a screaming halt is approaching.

Put your hands over your ears and close your eyes. Lie back and think of Sven… NO! think of ‘and then…’ or better yet, with your slowing scene, think of where you want that scene to end and work towards it. Too hard? I said not to think of Sven!

Your characters are talking with no end in sight? Throw in something controversial – a secret told, a comment overheard, a distraction (car accident, accidental phasor burst, a vampire appearing, a man holding a pizza box drops it in traffic and it gets run over) anything to take your characters out of their dead end conversation.

You’ve successfully trapped your characters, but what now? Nope, Sven and Oleg will not assist you with their rippling muscles, oiled bodies, distracting good looks and cunning minds… um. Okay. Moving on… You trapped them, but how would you get out? A sympathetic guard? A backpack filled with tools one character thought contained gold? A MacGuyver watch with a nuclear power cell? A lovesick werewolf desperate to impress you? Mmmm…. MacGuyver…

The great escape has occurred but what next? Keep them in danger; a shout from the battlements alerting the guard, treacherous terrain, injuries, a burning thirst for revenge. A shuttlecraft with its engines offline and the bay doors firmly shut. (Luuuke, use the force…)

Finally, they’re alone in the vast reaches of space, in the desert, hiding in bushland, out of the burning building, closed the door on all those obnoxious party-goers. Throw in sex. Yes, indeedy, you want a word count, this’ll get it for you… no, Sven and Oleg are busy for the next… 26 days! (Not now, Oleg, I’ll get the massage later.) A sexual encounter can happen for a number of reasons, but one of the best is the stress reliever, the affirmation of life after a near miss, the inability to reign in the lust. Of course, they can regret the incident later.

And with intimacy established, you can now separate your characters to get them to think on what they’ve lost, to plan how to get more of that… Sven… stop it… intimacy, because damn, neither of them realised how compatible they were. But what separates them? Social standing? Ideological differences? Family values? Best to leave politics and religion out of it, both are like Gordian knots and lead to info dumping.

Okay, take your hands from your ears and open your eyes, you’ve gone past the screaming halt. Look back. See that speck? That’s her, still yelling and that crowd around her? They are the Nano-ers who decided it’s all too difficult and are mesmerised.

You can finish, just keep ‘and then’ in mind and your imagination will take it from there.

Okay, Sven, you can stop doing that in about an hour…

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Sven and Oleg

Some people have staggered starts to Nano; that is, they’re all ready to go and… stagger.

Why? Because the Inner Critic is also prepared and let’s rip as soon as you type the first, painful word.

The best thing is to get rid of the bitch and since she’s leaning over your shoulder, watching you type, it’s easy to get the two really big professional bookends… oh, you don’t know them? They are Sven and Oleg, Swedes, you understand, oiled muscles, tanned, tall, blond and well, you get the idea…. Mmmm… Sven

Anyway, where was I? Oh, yes. The Inner Critic. Sven and Oleg pick the whiney-ass up.

“You loser,” she says, struggling against strong arms, little legs running in mid-air, “you’ll never get this done!” She looks to the left with lust. “Are you Sven?” Then back. “You never do it right.” And looks to the right. “You must be Oleg.”

The boys stand her in a nicely aged wooden box, circled with time-darkened iron bands. “I’m telling you, you’ll be dangling participles in no time without me! And you’ll but up on charges of adverb abuse. And don’t get me started on commas or semi-colons! You’re useless, you hear me? Useless

Sven and Oleg raise identical eyebrows for permission to shut her in. Damn, they are fine looking bookends.

Where was I? Oh, yes. The Inner Critic. She’s still struggling, still ranting about 50,000 words being too much, and you, not good enough to make 10.

“Lock her up, boys.”

She’s shoved down and Oleg closes the box, presses down with one tanned hand, posed to display bulging muscles while Sven squats down, hooks the padlock, closes it with a snick. The Inner Critic can still be heard, but she not begging to be released and that she’ll behave, oh, no, it’s all condemnation and derision.

“Take her away. Far, far away.”

The boys grin. Dimples appear as they lift the box between them and wander away.

The Inner Editor watches from your other shoulder and attracts your attention by clearing his throat.

“Here, a plane ticket.” You hold up the ticket with pictures of magnolia blossoms, aquamarine sea and white sugar sand. “30 days. Enjoy yourself.”

He grabs the ticket and runs to pack his budgie smugglers. But he’ll be back by the end of the month. Alaskan Air ran out of ticket covers and borrowed some from Fiji Air.

As for the Inner Critic, it’s your choice to have her back or get Sven and Oleg to dump her into a volcano.

And now you’re ready. Silence, blessed silence waiting to be filled with music or nothing at all. The characters are waiting, conversations ready to be had, words ready to bring imagination to life.

Touch the keyboard and bring your story out into the light.

Nano isn’t about the perfection of sentence construction, the dynamics of a well-written action seen, or the cleverness of dialogue. It’s about getting the words down, more than 50,000 if you can manage it.

It’s writing the bones of the work, the infrastructure. And when December 1 comes around, you can be sure you have the solid foundation of a great book, your book.

Oh, boy. Sven and Oleg are back and don’t they look handsome?

Sunday, November 02, 2008

And so... it begins

Around the world, Nano-ers are busily abusing their keyboards and their characters.

Thousands of different worlds popped into existence in one massive spatial shift. Tens of thousands of people suddenly appeared out of thin air; wars are being waged, arguments had, action scenes started - or ended - births, marriages, deaths... it's all happening in Nanoland.

I got off to a reasonable start - what with family visiting and all - but I think I stuffed up the beginning. Oh, the salient points are there, it's just not flowing as well as I want it to. (Must have something to do with rambunctious children rampaging through the house - and who can blame them? - there are so many places for kids to work their imaginations on.)

Hmmm... I've just checked previous years starting days and this is one of the better ones. Maybe having the kids around helped! Who knew?

Anyway, I'm rolling along and expect a good day's writing.

Word count from yesterday? 6575. A good day's work.