Tuesday, January 18, 2005

It's a good feeling to know I have been writing - or should I say rewriting - two out of the last three days. Still working on the first part which I wrote more than 6 months ago, but feeling confident that at last I know what to do with it, how to make it better, fix it, whatever.
I'm on a week's leave from work, making the most of it. And constantly aware of how much time work takes up, and why writers say writing full-time is the only way to produce substantial work. Always a dilemma, unsolvable.
I've been offered the opportunity to write a novel in a fantasy series, and have said yes. I think I can do both, and hope the challenge will keep me working and focused. I still battle every day with procrastination. Yesterday was so productive and I felt good at the end of it, a feeling which stayed with me all evening. But by the time I went to bed at 10pm, it had drained away into self doubt again. Always the "can I do this?" question that pulls me down. How do other writers cope with this?
My best writing friend has just been shortlisted for a mentorship and I am so pleased. She has been totally demoralised for months, thanks to a group of fellow writers (whom I can't name here) who have been what I call hateful to her all year. Several of them even more or less said she had no hope of being selected for this thing. So she has showed them! Good for her. She is a fabulous writer, but lacking in confidence like so many of us (unlike the horrible writers who are totally up themselves).
Today I have decided to do a quick library visit and then start writing. None of this putting it off until after lunch! No more excuses.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

I can't even think what I did last weekend but I sure didn't write. Maybe I am kidding myself by trying to pretend I have been thinking about the novel! But I started a new character, and then it stalled.
Back at work, full speed on the 10th, so tired and the brain keeps focusing on work stuff and suddenly writing is out the door again. It's all excuses really, but I do think I am ready to tackle the rewrite of the first section and fear is creeping up. What if I am wasting my time? What do I think I am doing?
Great news yesterday that my publisher has sold one of my books to the US. That cheered me up no end. Temperature today is 38-40 degrees (over 100) which doesn't help. I need to make a commitment to myself - write no matter what, even if it is only a few pages at a time. Or even one. Just one.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Finally finished my scene outlines - some scenes became 10a, 10b, 10c, etc. Guess really they are separate scenes but whatever works right now is OK.
I have come up with a new character who I hope will add to the story when it is further in - maybe 2/3 of the way through. Is this a good thing? Hope so.
More thinking time. I need to start writing soon but the first step will be rewriting the first 20,000 words and working the foreshadowing into them.
I am starting to worry about how long this will be. The whole idea was to keep it under 80,000 words this time.
Maybe tighter writing will do it. And better plotting. I do think the earlier drafts were too wordy and not enough action.
We'll see.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Today I am procrastinating (and hoping that writing this will stir me to get out there and write. Fear. That every time I sit down, nothing will happen. Or that what does happen won't work and I won't know how to fix it.
I can never seem to see what or why something is wrong. And I guess I mean 'wrong' in terms of an editor reading it, being highly critical and judgemental which is their job. It doesn't seem enough to connect directly with kids. You have to second guess editors first.
I do know my main fault - I am always way too nice to my characters. I never raise the stakes enough. Kristi Holl's notes on tension have been so useful, but ultimately I have to tackle this one, step by step. Today I plan to start outlining. I have done my 15 scenes that EG recommends - in fact I think I have 18 or 19, so no lack of story. The outline needs to explore the story in more depth, but also to explore the characters and their relationships and how and why they do things. Motivation is not strong enough in many cases, and credibility and engagement lose impact.
I find it so hard to specify where a scene starts and ends. I know it's because I don't write in that way, especially in first person, yet maybe that is what I have to do - delineate what is a scene and what isn't. It might fix pacing problems for a start, stop me from dribbling on and on.
OK, now I feel sufficiently guilty for sitting here instead of being at my writing table, so I will go and try to get started.

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Spent an hour or so working on a character yesterday. EG provides a handy character checklist, most of which I have read before in other books, but when you get to the questions about what is the event that changes your character, and what is the event that best shows their personality - those are good questions!
I also like where you have to choose one sentence from your narrative that says something about the character - what often happens is you end up with a really good line that you can use in the novel, if you don't already have one.
I like being able to think about this novel and come up with new ideas. I'm reading some other historical stuff and picking up ideas about how I should approach setting and description, and also seeing what won't work for me.
Voice - the characters and their voices. EG has a great chapter on how the characters' voices and the voice of the novel should absolutely not be your own. I do think we each have our own style/voice thing going, but maybe I need to think about putting my own voice away more firmly and allowing the characters to speak.
I went to a remainders book sale today and picked up 3 books that might be useful - all kids books with lots of pictures to help me visualise and create my settings.
Ah, what it would be to actually travel to North and South Carolina and research on the spot. A great thing to dream about.

Saturday, January 01, 2005

Jan 1, 2005 - is this a New Year's resolution? No, I doubt I could keep it up. However I've been reading "Write Away" by Elizabeth George and it would have to be one of the best books about writing I have read. She is very practical, gives lots of great examples and explains stuff clearly. She also gives some terrific ideas on how to approach plotting, in particular, and setting. I was surprised that she is not from the UK (I knew she lived in the US) - she says her passion is the UK and its varied countryside and she loves to write books set there.
One of the bits I like the best was her excerpts from her journal. She has kept a journal about writing her novels for the last 4 books (as Steinbeck did) and it was amazing to see how self-doubting she is, even with all her publishing credits. She is a very good writer, and is very honest about how and why she writes. So I thought I would like to do something similar. And sometimes post it here, but not always. I already spend far too much time on the internet with various stuff, and I don't want to add to it or I'll never write anything.
But here goes.
I have decided to go back to the new version of my historical novel (henceforth known as HN). I have written about 4 versions of it so far, trying mainly to tighten the pace and cut down on the words. Trouble is, it's a novel for about 10-14 year olds and despite the huge Harry Potter's, I can't get away with 94,000 words for kids this age. Mind you, I started with 120,000 so cutting 26,000 words was a good effort, right?
This version (called Version X) was a complete new version - no cutting or fiddling. I have changed it to a timeslip novel and at my last attempt, I wrote around 20,000 words. Now, some 6 months later, I have read these through and done some heavy thinking. Do I want to commit at least another 6 months of my life to this? Can I make it a very good novel? Do I know how? Big questions.
So I have decided, yes, I will give it another try. I will rework these 20,000 first, and I will use a lot of what I have gained from the EG book. I need to spend more time thinking and plotting. Already I have come up with many great new ideas and solutions, just from taking the time to mull it over in depth.
And I am beginning with lots of free writing, building my characters, as I have had to acknowledge that I have never fully got inside my characters. They read too much like cut-outs with no depth, no motivation.
So yesterday I wrote 6 pages on Will, the main character, and already I know so much more about him. And I used EG's guide - the guts - write until something in your guts tells you that what you have will work. If you don't get that feeling, it's not right.
So, onward and upward. Get out the working table to put all my notes and research on, spend the time needed on plotting and character, take it one day at a time.