Sunday, November 28, 2010

The last few yards

I'm struggling. I'll admit it. I can't seem to finish my book. I've tried working backward from the ending, I've tried following through from where I was up to, but I can't seem to make it work. I know what needs to happen, but I can't seem to write it. And weirdly, I can't write either character's perspective. The rest of the way through, whenever I got stuck, I'd just move into the other POV and that would usually move things along. At this point, neither of my characters is helping me out.

The other interesting thing that has happened is I've realized Tony's journey is actually almost more interesting than Lucy's. She gets all the big emotional moments, but Tony's quiet struggle with his own nature is becoming more and more fascinating to me. I'm also discovering they have more in common than I initially thought. They both have a need for control. Which creates an interesting dynamic between them.

I'll keep slogging ahead. Maybe I need to do something interesting with one of the side characters. That might get things kick-started again. I have to do something, or I'll keep noodling about here in the middle, never getting Lucy to that damn party which is the climax of the book.

How do you get through your knotty moments?

Thursday, November 25, 2010

What next?

I have my shiny new NaNo certificate on the wall over my desk, and did you see the little banner at the side of the blog? Pretty huh? Enough gloating though. I may have reached the 50K goal, but the book isn't finished yet. I was aiming to get there by the end of the month, but I realized I have another 8 -10 chapters to go, and it's unrealistic to think I'll finish them by Tuesday night. So I'm aiming for Friday.

And after that? Well, I want to read through the book. So far I haven't gone back at all so have no idea if it makes sense or has a shape or even says what I want it to. So I'll do a read through and make myself some notes. Then I'm going to put it to bed for a while. I have pages of revision notes for Assignment 9 to go though and I'm determined to make December the month I get that book whipped into shape. A wonderful friend of mine has agreed to do a novel critique swap, so I'm going to do hers while she does mine. So with that in mind, I should have the impetus to get it done.

Then there's Prayer and Prey which also needs a complete overhaul and another 20K added to its length. So maybe that will be my January project. Then in February I may be able to return to this new book with fresh eyes. It's going to need a lot of work. I know that already. I foresee a lot of cutting, and shaping. But that's okay. I'm not in a rush. I don't imagine I'll be ready to go with this one until June or July at the earliest. Possibly not until NaNo swings around again next year.

And somewhere in there, I'm going to have to find time to write some short stories. I feel like my short fiction group is suffering a bit from all the time and attention I've been lavishing on novels... Don't worry my lovely Let's Publish family. I haven't forgotten you and I will be back soon....

What are your post-NaNo plans?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


So I did it. I made the 50K mark. I had a brief moment of satisfaction about that, then realized it doesn't mean anything because the book is nowhere near finished. And I mean NOWHERE.

Writing in sequence doesn't work for me. I've learned that now. So I've given up on that and am currently working on the climax and ending of the book. Hopefully that will help guide the middle section I haven't written yet. Well, not much of yet.

So, I feel like I'm probably around 20-30K away from finishing the book, which isn't so bad. I thought I was aiming at a 60-65K book, and I probably still am, after serious editing.

How's your progress? Is your book shaping up into a book, or is it a massive pile of jumbled words?

Friday, November 19, 2010


Yesterday my boss asked me if I could jot down some notes on how I write rosters to see if my technique could help the manager of another cinema in the chain get her wage budget to a more acceptable level. I've been doing rosters for so long now, they're pretty much second nature to me. But his question made me think about a lot of the processes I use almost instinctively to do my job.

Whenever I tell people I run a cinema for a living, their first reaction is to say 'oh wow! You must get to see a lot of films!'. And yes. I do get to see a lot of films. Watching films for the cinema though, is a very different experience to watching a film for pure escapism or pleasure. I have to keep a lot of things in mind, not just 'do i like this?' In fact, it's the films I don't like that I really have to consider carefully. I have rather obscure tastes, and the mainstream dross doesn't appeal to me. But the business won't make money if we program only obscure documentaries about German architecture, or blackly funny Finnish films about deranged priests. So I have to set my personal taste aside and think about the films in terms of a wider audience.

Most of the time, if I absolutely love a film, I need to be wary because nine times out of ten, that film has an audience of about three - me and two other devoted cinephiles - and that does not a profitable season make. So it's always tremendously gratifying when a film I love, also finds an audience. It's also disappointing when a film I loathe finds and audience, but that's far more likely to occur.

I imagine what I have to do to select films for the cinema is similar to what agents and editors do with manuscripts. They must have to read in the same discerning way I have to watch films, looking for things that will appeal to a broad range of people, while at the same time being something they can get behind and push as hard as they can.

Is there anything you do for pleasure that you have to approach differently for your work?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Unexpected journeys

I'm struggling. Not with the writing so much though - that seems to be flowing just fine. No, the problem I'm having is, actually driving my story. Characters keep doing things I wasn't intending, and meeting people I didn't know existed. And I'm finding it hard to reign them in and get them to the place they need to be. 12 chapters into the book, it's still only 5 or 6 days into my characters' lives. I thought I'd be well away from here by now.

Last night, I decided that I didn't need to figure out a way to bridge a gap of 3 months which I thought I had to do. One of my characters had a hysterical meltdown that wasn't planned for her (in fact, this was supposed to happen to my other protag, much later on) and that changed the landscape to a degree. So now things I thought were going to happen much later in the book, can happen now. But before that can go ahead, these damn characters need to stop going on tangents with their diving coaches or their best friends. Are you listening Tony and Lucy?

Do any of you have trouble with wayward characters? Do they keep sending you off on unexpected paths?

Sunday, November 14, 2010


A while ago I posted about a book I'd read that was written in the third person present tense and mentioned how wrong it felt. I also said I'd have to try writing something in that style to see how it felt to write. I used to have first person present tense until I tried writing it and now I'm completely comfortable with it. In fact, my new book is entirely first person present tense....

But I digress.

So I wrote a short story, just a 2K quickie, in third person present tense. I don't love it, and have to say I struggled with how to do it, but I finished. I'll have to leave it for a while now, and go back to it, see if reading it later makes me feel any better about it. It seems awkward, and I found myself groping for how to refer to the protagonist.

While it's definitely not something I plan to do often, I like the idea of stretching myself out of my comfort zone.

What do you do to stretch yourself as a writer?

Friday, November 12, 2010

Something I haven't done in a while...

It has been several months since I last submitted a story to a publication. I had four out at various competitions, and last week they announced the winners and I was not among them. So my stories were freed up to be submitted elsewhere. I spent a few hours last week trawling Duotrope for likely venues, and today I submitted all four stories to a variety of different places. My submission tracker didn't know what hit it! The three pieces that are still languishing there, waiting for responses from the respective publications perked up and noticed they had company.

It felt good to do that. Hopeful. I've managed to publish almost a story a month this year, so hope to have an even better success rate next year. Although, I'm not sure how much time I'll have for short fiction with three novels in various stages of completion and revision. I'm going to work my butt off to get at least two of them polished and ready to go after Christmas. Then I'll be able to focus my attentions on polishing (hopefully not finishing) the book I'm now close to 30K into.

And how is that going, you ask? Well, I'm not sure. I haven't been going back to read what I've written because I know if I do, the temptation to start editing will be overwhelming. So I can't say whether it's a spectacular pile of poo, or something with some literary merit. I'm just plowing onward, hoping that at some point I'll crash into my ending... An appropriate analogy, given my book is about a car wreck!

Has anyone else made any submissions recently? Any responses yet?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


About an hour ago I hit 25K on my NaNo novel. That's halfway to the required 50K to be a winner. And it's only 10 days in. Phew! I hoped to get to this point, and I managed. I'm rewarding myself by coloring my hair. It's been this awful washed out shade of pink for about a month now, but in about, oh... 20 minutes, it will be back to the shiny, bright, bright red it usually is.

I'm not going to rest on my laurels though. I knew before I started that this book would be closer to 60K than 50 when finished, so I'm actually aiming for that. But there is a very good possibility I won't finish the book in the month. I felt like I was plodding through it, so rather than get bogged down, I went ahead and wrote a pivotal section that will come toward the end of the book today. And it happened for me. I wrote about 6K today, maybe a little more. I need to come to terms with the fact writing in sequence just doesn't work for me.

I think it's because I work in film. I'm used to scenes, and tend to write scenes, focusing on the pivotal, big emotional or action packed ones first. Only once I have a series of these scenes, do I feel ready to try and link them. In a way, I guess it's like an outline, although I've never thought of it in those terms. And I often like to write the ending early on, almost like a goalpost to aim at. I haven't done that here, mainly because there are three different directions the ending might go, and until I figure out which one works, I'm not going to write it. But I think I know which one it's going to be. As long as neither of my protagonists screws it up for me.

Does anyone else work this way? Care to share your own weird and wonderful writing methods? I'm sure everyone attacks a story a different way.

Sunday, November 7, 2010


I gave in and re-started my NaNo novel and things are progressing much better now. I feel in control of my story and having done all that noodling in the first three days, I have some good background material to use for flashbacks, or just as character notes for myself. I'm at 18K and feeling pretty good. Hoping to hit 25k by Wednesday night, which should be do-able - so long as I don't oversleep like I did this morning. Lost my whole per-breakfast writing hour.

So, since I don't have much to blog about (nose to grindstone and all)I thought I'd share a tantalizing little bite of the new WIP...

So far it's called 'Untitled YA Project' but I'm working on a more permanent title along the lines of 'Following the Taillights'.

Please bear in mind this is a very early draft, and I'm only giving you a couple of pages here...


The darkness is absolute. For a moment I’m not sure if my eyes are open or closed. I strain to push the lids up, but they are already wide. It’s dark. Not a pinpoint of light penetrates the space I’m in. Something covers my mouth and nose, making breathing difficult. My lungs burn for air, but I can only suck tiny mouthfuls through whatever smothers my face.

I turn my head, crying out as a magnificent bolt of pain shoots through it. I waver on the edge of consciousness for a moment, wavy gray lines wafting across my vision. I struggle to keep my wits, what’s left of them, about me, fighting the darkness that threatens to crash over me. When I’m certain I won’t pass out, I reach out my left hand, trying to find something to hold onto. My fingers play over some small objects, pebbles perhaps, that skitter away beneath my touch. I reach further, wrapping my fingers around them. Prickles of pain course through my fingertips. Not pebbles. Glass. Small, sharp shards of glass. Safety glass, perhaps.

Using my scored fingertips, I drag myself forward, an inch, maybe two. A huge weight behind me pins my legs to the ground. I can’t move them, can’t even feel them. I raise my head and see light. Not a lot of light, but light. Red light, bright at one end, dull at the other. I know what this is. I do. I can hear my heart thumping in the side of my head, can almost hear the gears of my brain creaking as they try to make sense of this weird red light.

A taillight. I let my throbbing head drop as a reward, a surge relief passing through me at this small achievement. It is a taillight. But why is it up there? What is up there? And if that’s up there, where am I? The questions whirl dizzyingly around my skull. What day is it? I struggle to remember. What did I have for breakfast? My eyes fix on the taillight, broken I realize, staring at it as if hypnotized. That’s why it’s brighter at one end.

More light. White this time, sweeping in an arc across me. I blink, dazzled by the brightness flooding over me. All around me I see fragments glinting in the new light, tiny jewels strewn across what I can now see is a road. The yellow line is inches from my nose. Why am I lying in the middle of the road? I try to drag my other arm forward, wanting to raise myself on my elbows for a better perspective on the world. It won’t move. Pain rocks through my shoulder, my chest and courses up my neck into my still aching head. The heavy metallic scent of blood hangs over me. When I glance back down at the road, I see the yellow line is smeared with red.

So, what do you think?

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Finding the story

So I'm over 10K into the NaNo novel, but I haven't hit my story yet. I think this is the problem with writing in sequence for me. If I'd stuck with my usual writing style, I probably would have written the scene where Tony hears the news of the crash first. Then worked from there. With writing in sequence, I've written almost 6 chapters now, and gotten nowhere near the crash. Hell, we haven't even heard about the wedding yet!

I know this probably sounds really confusing because you don't know my story, but it doesn't matter. I'm just ranting to try and clear my head. I have to try and get this book on track. I'm pretty sure about 90% of what I've written so far is a waste of time and has done nothing for the book (except maybe helped me find my voices).

The question is, do I scrap it now, and start from somewhere else, or just keep going and hope I drive right into the story soon?

Monday, November 1, 2010

Progress report...

I promise I won't do this right through NaNo, but I'm incredibly proud to have gotten over 5K written so far. It's not as impressive as some of my buddies, but they're not wrangling full time work and two little boys. I have the day off tomorrow and sincerely hope I can top 10K by the end of the day. Then I'll be able to relax a little.

So is what I've written any good? I don't know. I feel kind of like my first two chapters were feeler chapters, a way of finding each character's voices. Neither went the way I had planned in my head, but I was prepared for that. Writing in chapters is strange in a way. I feel like I have to write and resolve a conflict in each chapter, then set up a new goal for the character before the end. And it's not always easy. But I think I've found both Lucy and Tony's individual voices and am looking forward to seeing how they react when I dramatically change the worlds they are currently comfortable in. But first I have to write through some scenes showing their relationship prior to that change. Probably 3 chapters away from the big INCIDENT. I'm afraid that's too far into the book, but imagine I'll be trimming a lot and changing a lot in revision.

The way I usually write, I'd start with the INCIDENT then work both ways to write a beginning to lead up to it and a way toward the ending. By writing in sequence, I'm kind of aiming for the INCIDENT, and haven't thought out the aftermath much. I'm assuming by then I'll be so intimate with my characters, they'll show me the way.

Does this sound promising? Or a hopeless mess? How's your NaNo experience going - if you're participating of course...?