Sunday, July 29, 2007

100 x 100

Monday of last week, I started the 100 x 100 thing (running via a YA group I'm in) where you commit to writing 100 words a day for 100 days. At the same time, I made a personal commitment that, when possible, I'd try for an hour of writing instead of 100 words. So it's been 12 days of meeting either the 100 or the hour, and yesterday I ... didn't.
I could say it's because it was the day I set aside to clean out two rooms in my house - the two that accumulate the biggest amount of stuff that eventually gets to a point where we have to do something or we can't get into the rooms. Sadly, one of these rooms is my office. After doing Randy Ingermanson's seminars earlier this year, sorting out and clearing out my office was a big goal for this year. The other room was just full of junk - bits of computers, discarded things like clothes for the charity shop pickup, old books and papers, old bits of cars - you name it, it was probably there. So I spent the whole day on it.
There was still no excuse for not writing a measly 100 words. Except ... I had decided to use this writing thing to work on a new YA novel and because I haven't planned enough of it out yet, I'm winging it. Which I hate. Because I start to feel like I'm writing a load of rubbish that will all have to be taken out again later.
Someone (might have been E.L. Doctorow) once said that writing was like driving on a dark road, and you only see as far ahead as the headlight beams allow. At the moment I feel like I'm driving along at about 100km an hour, shining a torch.
For the next few days, the 100 words or one hour will have to be spent on planning and character work and building new plot possibilities, or this novel will be put out with the stuff for the charity pickup!
In the meantime, reading continues. Finished Ranger's Apprentice by John Flanagan, which is about a young boy who becomes a Ranger rather than a warrior. Has the standard evil lord who is trying to take over the world, etc, but also some humour and good characterisation to carry it. Also read Dead Weight by John Francome, a crime novel set in the world of horse racing. When someone is touted as the next Dick Francis, I get suspicious. Francome is not bad, and is different to Francis in that he uses several different 3rd person viewpoint characters. I've always like Francis's characters and thought they carried his plots with extra dash, but then I am a first person kind of reader. Francome kills off a character unexpectedly and this raises the tension level for the rest of the book quite considerably.
I tell students (and constantly remind myself) that you have to raise the stakes and keep the tension working in a novel, no matter what genre it is. Being too nice to your characters ends up being pretty boring!

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