Thursday, 11 November 2010

My story feels less speculative as each headline passes.

I've been fighting with my story again... but I randomly read the 'Have Your Say' part of the BBC website, today's is about benefit reform and one comment struck me hard, quoted as posted, mistakes included:
That's a non problem isn't it? Couldn't the government just create work for those if none is availble.

For example they could throw a load of books into the middle of a huge room and the job is to reorder them alphabetically. That's a days work for 10 people right away. Next day they throw the books back into the center of the room.

Pointless sure. But if people need the money they'll do it right?

It might not be a "job" as such but it is work and therefore will prevent people seeing benefits as a "I dont have to work" option while still providing a saftey net for those that need it. And those that need it will surely just be glad they are getting the money right?

And if people don't want to sort books 5 hours a day, 5 days a week they can always opt out but then they don't get the benefits.

Why wouldn't this work?

My current story is a near future reality on changes to a benefit system and putting people into a system to claim benefit, I use the term 'opt in' and 'opt out' and my system is  well, deadly.

The author of this comment asks why wouldn't this work? The problem isn't that it wouldn't work - but that it would work, and once that works, where does it stop? Once you know you have people over a barrel to make money simply to survive - you can make them do anything, or make the decision to not eat, the decision ultimately, to die. 

When I came up with my story, I thought my storyline was farfetched, who would ever believe that this was possible. Infact early on, this bothered me - I wanted it to be believable, something you could imagine doing yourself in the same situation, not liking it - but knowing at the same time, there is no choice.

Now, some ten months after starting my notes on this story - it's not farfetched. It is scarily believable. To the point where I genuinely get chills thinking about it. I have moments where I think - well, at least the current climate means my book might get a publisher quicker - then moments where I stop being selfish and think, holy shit, the country is going down the toilet.

I think it's a sad day when my speculative fiction story could easily be the next headline of reforms from the Cameron/Clegg camp. And even worse, that I can easily believe if they thought they'd get away with what my story entails, that they'd do it.

We never want to get to a stage where we know that people will do anything because, if people want to eat, they'll do it. Because then, the only outcome is what is suggested gets worse, and the money gets less, because if you want to eat, you'll do more.  ~ Kitty

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Word Count: 29600

Getting there, slowly at the moment, but still... getting there! ~ Kitty

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Ramblings on Character Development

I follow a number of writing blogs and one that I read today touched upon something which is consuming a lot of my thoughts at the moment in regards to the main character of my novel. The idea of depth, of a journey and making a character that touches the reader. I'm often overly critical of my own main characters, and with this character - I know I am extremely critical of 'her' - or more precisely, my writing of her. 

Because this is a first person novel, the story is laced with personal insights from the character. I often feel I get too pulled into her inner monologue at times and that sometimes it is repetitive. The current point I am writing is a crucial point of the character development, it helps define who she is - or more, who she wants to be and sets up the rest of - not just this first story - but the planned trilogy.

This character has certain self beliefs - she is a good person, she is/has been selfless, she would do anything to help others - she's not perfect, she's made her mistakes, she's suffered for them, but all in all, she has a strong self belief in the type of person she is. The early part of storyline shows her that this isn't necessarily true, she has the ability to be extremely selfish, she isn't brave - and shows her cowardice more than once, and her cowardice lets her down. With the back story of the character, it has always been her cowardice that has let her down, and she has a moment of epiphany. A desire - a need - to change, but then is immediately faced with the prospect that she might never get the chance to make that change. 

This change - and need to prove to herself who she is, to give her own life - and possible death - meaning is really the undercurrent of the storyline, her behaviour is guided by forcing herself not to become a person she hates, to face her fears and know that if she dies - she leaves true picture of who she was, and not the coward she never wanted to be. Of course, nothing is simple, she is too trusting, too eager, and does get 'burned' and sometimes being the coward or the 'bad' person is the only way to survive, she doesn't have a choice in who she gets to be. 

I think the scene I'm writing at the moment is so hard because it has became so important. I'm pleased to announce I'm past the first hurdle and have the majority of the entire scene in note format, I'm just hoping that the feeling is there for the reader. That the character isn't repetitive, or dull - but shows that she's struggling with her predicament and in many ways, her own identity. 

I'm eager to hear what my test reader(s) have to say about this scene and how it is building up, and with luck - that elusive 30k word count will be within reach soon. Who knew writing a novel could be such a hard process? ;-)   ~ Kitty

Thursday, 30 September 2010

Writing in the midnight hours

Tonight I went to bed early. I turned off my laptop and promised myself I'd have an early night, as I have an early dental appointment. As it is 3am, and I'm online, it's quite clear that this planned failed. 

I don't know what it is about the early hours, but I seem to have not only some of my best ideas but my best motivation to write. I've spent the last few days talking about writing, but never actually managing to start this scene. I've now started it. Parts of this scene scare me as a writer, as I'm not entirely confident about some of the mechanics, but the more time it took to start the scene, the less confident I got. I'm happy to report that now that it is started, I am once again confident. 

This scene has been my hardest obstacle so far, yet in many ways it's one of the most enlightening parts I've done. I've learned more about the main character, I'm tying up loose ends on parts already past and I'm introducing a new character, who now has a name, 'Darcy' who is a character I like. While I haven't posted any of my actual manuscript on this blog to date, I'd like to introduce Darcy, as she's introduced in the story. If only because she's a character that came from nowhere and already has me liking her:

"She was looking at me with a hateful glint in her eyes, her hair was slicked back with blood and sweat, and bruising was beginning to blossom on her face. Her left eye was swollen, and a long stream of dried blood had left a trail down her cheek, joining another line of blood which came from her nose. I dropped my gaze, following a long deep slash that started at her throat and came across her chest, leaving her top hanging raggedly open while underneath the wound was held together with congealing blood."

I hope that this coming week will send me over the next 'hump', that wonderful 30,000 word point - a count I've never reached before, and a milestone for my personal writing career. ~ Kitty

Word Count: 26200

Word count as of 1st Oct, 03:08 - 26200, after an hour's writing to the new scene :-)
~ Kitty

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Wanderlust in writing

I'm sure that wanderlust is a problem that strikes many writers, no matter how well you are writing one thing, no matter how much fun it is, how much you want to finish it - there are always things that creep their way into your head. Ideas for other stories, ideas for stories once started and abandoned and the desire is there to abandon the current project and rush to work on the new or old piece. 

This very problem is something that for years has successfully managed to thwart attempts to finish anything longer than a short story. I have tried hard to avoid it, but lacked the discipline to say no to myself and my urges. I'm now over 6 months into this project, it's the most professional and most disciplined piece of writing I have ever done and for the past months I've managed to avoid other stories, but now I can feel I'm wearing myself down. Rationalising that maybe a break would be good, just something fun to write, something different. Forgetting of course that the very reason I'm writing what I am today is that I wanted something fun and different from a piece I was writing last year. I am having a lot of fun with what I am writing now, but there's a need for change and I guess the boost of doing something new, where the creative drive is fresh and the words churn out, rather than the slow pecking away that can happen on a slow day. 

Making the problem bigger is that I have many, many unfinished projects, dating back 10-15 years. I have characters who I still muse about. I have even, to my shame, started new notebooks, under headings of other stories to make notes, though I have tried to limit myself doing this. It may seem absolutely insane to limit my own trespass into my own work, but I daren't get too involved, because some of these ideas I adore and in the future I plan to work on, but preferably as a published author, not when struggling through the first write of what I hope to be a debut novel. 

For those of interest, my wanderlust seeks to take me to two different urban fantasy worlds, one set with vampires, the other set with druids, to a cold cottage where a chick-lit novel is brewing, to a far away moon where a woman is throwing spanners at a spaceship that doesn't work, to a world so small we don't see, where fairies rule, to a medieval fantasy where a young girl seeks her birthright then back to the world I was creating last year, where misery is currency and the only way for long term survival is to fight the system, problem is, the only way for short term survival is to keep with the system. 

I hope one day that I'll be talking about writing these stories on this blog, able to explore the worlds as a paid author, weaving worlds as a job and a passion, with readers willing to take the ride with me. ~ Kitty 

Time not wasted

It's rare that I can claim I haven't wasted time, especially since I have spent a month with a short section of my story in limbo. As my previous post details, this bothered me - it's all very well wanting to be the whole 'professional writer' - but if the story stubbornly refuses to be written, it can leave you feeling, well, useless. 

I was never convinced until last night that I had made the right choice in not skipping ahead in the narrative. I had made many excuses why I didn't want to do it, and to the creative person inside me - they were sensible reasons, to the person inside me pointing to the £ symbol on the keyboard, they didn't make sense, I was just wasting time. 

Now - with a wonderfully tied together scene that excites me, a new character who crawled her way out of the woodwork into the story and a series of (in my mind) quite epic links to the rest of the narrative - I am beyond overjoyed with having waited. And in the end, it was the right choice for this story - and hopefully will produce a better piece of work than I would have done had I skipped it. It may have taken a month but some quite important issues were resolved in my head, and as my last post said - my character felt empowered, I've now joined her. 

Part of my main worry has been the depicting of the main character in this story, as it is written in the first person - and everything is seen from her perspective, the early parts make her seem, well, a tad useless and a lot selfish - which was never intended, yet has worked well for the story. This new scene, which never existed before this week has cemented the change in the character, it brings her to a fork in the road - where she can act one of two ways, the way she has been (which hasn't been brilliant) or change, and become who she wants to be. 

This scene is currently still in hand written note form, as I've only just brought the main narrative up to the point that this scene occurs. It's messily laid out, the new character hasn't had her name chosen yet - but it's a solid scene. It forces the main character into action, doing things rather than managing to coast on by (as she's managed so far) - and this interaction and action brings out a lot of what I've so far been unable to show, it also sets the stage for the change in her - a change which before I found difficult to transition in. I always knew I had a problem there, there was no turning point for her change, now there is. 

I'm looking forward to writing this scene, I have a few finishing touches to put to my note form, mainly fine details on the mechanics of what is going on - but the important parts are written. The dialogue between the main character and this new character, the tension - which starts out high, and ends up in an uneasy truce. Mainly, this wild card, this new female character who has opened up a lot of possibilities about later scenes. I can only feel that the story as a whole will be richer with this inclusion, which makes me happy, for awhile there - the light at the end of the tunnel was gone into the black hole of bookthatwillnevergetfinished, but it's now there again, so here's to time not wasted and sometimes the need for reflection bringing out surprises. ~ Kitty

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Writing yourself into a corner a.k.a Writer's Block

In all my years of having fun writing, I learned one thing very early on - Writer's Block is a killer. Over the years it has destroyed various pieces that I've had a lot of enthusiasm for by simply draining the will to write from me. In setting out to write a novel, I tried to prepare in advance for this. I knew it would happen, I didn't know when or where, but I knew it would rear it's ugly head. 

And of course - it did, recently, as you may have gathered from the lack of updates to this blog. My preparation has left me with notebooks filled with detailed notes, however having not made a timeline (something I intend to do in future!) - I had missed a 4 hour dead space in the novel, since this is a story that the main part takes place over a short length of time, that's a fairly big problem - and I didn't know what happened there. Ironically, I know exactly what happens aftewards and for the next 10-12 hours, but not this bit. 

I've spent the past month mulling it over, debating between missing it out and leaving it to do later, to trying to force it out now. I feel I am doing myself a disservice to leave it until later, I think it will plague me, mocking me as the bit I couldn't write. So, I am determined to write it rather than leave it. I have tried for a few weeks now to write it, it didn't feel right - I didn't feel right. Then I'd feel worse for not having done any writing. Writing can be quite a lonely and depressing business, especially when you want to strangle your own story, which I assume is transference to wanting to strangle yourself. 

But - tonight I made progress. It is only 2000 words, and it hasn't even reached the part I can't write. But the character is feeling empowered, and good for her, because damn it, one of us has to know where this going, and maybe I can follow her lead. It's a hard feeling to describe, a week ago, I couldn't write this bit, now - I still don't really know what happens, but I have an idea, and I have the confidence to have a bash at it. 

I suppose that it's the first of many stumbling blocks I am likely to face. I have put a lot of preparation into this, and I think by doing that I felt I would avoid this and have an easy write. Which isn't the case, I just have a bit more confidence in myself to get past the stumbling blocks. A few years ago, this sort of stumbling block would have signalled the end of the story, left in a file to be forgotten. Now - I don't want to give up so easily, although it's often hard to find the discipline and motivation to get past it. Before I would have moved on, happy to have reached 20,000 words, today, it nags at me, I have reached 20,000 words, but the goal is 80-100,000 and anything less than that isn't good enough. I guess in some ways this is about proving to myself as much as anyone else that I can write, and hoping at the end of it all - someone might concede it good enough to pay me for. 

My total word count as of just now (24th Sept 2010, 02:04) is 24,600 - I'd like to break the 30,000 mark soon. I think that is my next stumbling point. Writing 20,000 words is hard, but I have done it before. Writing 30,000 words - on the one story - will be a first, and something that will give me the boost to make it to 40,000. I guess it's like walking, except instead of one foot in front of the other, it's one word in front of the other, and just keep in mind, there is an end in sight. ~ Kitty

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Word Count: 22222

My current word count as of 09.42 on 02/09/10 is 22222 :-)

This count is broken down as: 
Start Section: 5500
Middle Section: 16722

~ Kitty

"Feed" by Mira Grant

I started read "Feed" by Mira Grant at the start of August, having bought it on Amazon as soon as I heard of it. This book travelled with me to Blackpool, numerous times to my field and finally to Featherstone Castle. It took me a long time to finish it, compared to the 5 or so days that it took me to read the mammoth "Under the Dome" by Stephen King. However, this isn't entirely a bad thing. Part of me was enjoying the book so much, I did want to make it last longer but I also didn't feel completely engaged with the book, which made it easier to put down and not pick back up immediately.

The book is set around 30 years in the future, after a zombie apocalypse. This is quite a unique stance from this genre of fiction since most zombie books deal with the immediate aftermath and sudden changes to society that occur with an outbreak, this book deals with a world not unlike the one we live in now, existing side by side with zombies. As a lover of this genre, and apocalypse stories in general, I really enjoyed this slant on it. Summed up best in the cover writing on the paperback edition - "The Good News: We Survived, The Bad News: So Did They". 

The story is written in the first person, following Georgia Mason, her brother Shaun and a girl called Buffy. They are bloggers, the news providers of the future - and the book starts just before they land the big job of following the presidential candidate through the American election campaign. The book is slow to start in many ways - it moves forward with the story, but there's little to grip the reader. Sure, it's interesting and well written, but it's not until about a quarter of the way in (around page 146) that the book becomes interesting and has a real solid hook to draw the reader in. This sets up the main storyline, and while it slows in some places, the pace is mostly retained. 

One of my bugbears of this novel was the pop-culture name checks. While the name checks are explained, I felt they were a bit forced and the novel could have stood alone without them. It seemed almost like trying too hard to be cool and at the same time, serves to date a novel. Part of what makes a novel last the test of time is being relevant to future generations, this novel could be relevant (in a pulp fiction way) - but some of the things/people used extensively in the book will have no meaning to future generations, who may wonder what was so important about them that the author chose to use them in her novel. The fact that the novel is 30 years in the future also bothers me with the name checking as I don't think in 30 years the people mentioned will be talked about, or remembered by most. 

So it doesn't seem like I'm just banging on about this, I'll talk about the main name checks that bothered me. The first was the naming of reckless journalists, those in it for doing silly things purely for ratings (think Jackass, but with zombies) - they are called "Irwins", as in Steve Irwin. And I can appreciate the naming but in 30 years is he likely to be remembered - even if the world did have a zombie apocalypse? Probably not, I'd have expected a made-up hero for the book, based on someone who did the same thing but with zombies. The next name check is the reasoning behind the names of 'Georgia' and 'Georgette' - based on the fact that George Romero's movies became survival guides, which I found a bit hard to believe. I've seen his movies, fun, yes, but I didn't find them a good guide on human behaviour, but for this novel the suspension of belief is that George Romero was a modern day saint almost, producing a series of movies that would define the human survival of the future. The final name check is that of 'Buffy', this is the chosen name of a character whose real name is 'Georgette'. Out of all the name checks, I found this the one hardest to like. Buffy was a franchise of the 90s, in 2010 - the kids of today don't know it that well. The readers of tomorrow will be lucky to know it all. Plus, she fought VAMPIRES and this is a zombie book. 

But apart from these niggles, this is a reasonably solid novel. Get past the slow start, skim read the sometimes overly long technical descriptions and American election descriptions (I'm from Scotland, so don't really know the process or have much interest in it) - and you'll have a nice and unique zombie novel, steeped in high tech gadgets and enough twists (as the book gathers steam) to keep you reading. 

This book is book 1 in a series called "Newsflesh" and I think the second book should prove to faster off the mark and more action-filled. I will definitely be picking it up when it's released. ~ Kitty

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Matter of Perspective

I have a love for first person perspective in both what I write and what I read, my current story (and novel-to-be) being in the first person perspective. I feel it's more personal and more connected with the reader, open to the thoughts, sights and sounds of the main character as if you were there in the story, however, while it can connect the reader on a deeper level it is not without it's flaws.

The main flaw is that the reader can only see/hear/know about things the main character does, so if the main character isn't always at the centre of the action, and that action is important, it can pose some problems. When I wrote short fiction in this style, I didn't come across the problems quite so quickly - with only a few thousand words to fill, it's easy to assume the character knows something from elsewhere without having to back it up with facts of where they got whatever information, and with short fiction it's easy to always put the main character at the centre of the action, but in longer fiction it gets more difficult, because regardless of the story - a character has to rest at some point.

Last year when making my first attempt at my story New World Order, I came across a major problem in using first person perspective. The main character physically left one of the main locations, that was her story - but what happened after she left was important. This was one of the major stumbling blocks of this story and what led me to abandon it. There are options open, but none of them seemed to fit. Whereas had I written the story in a third person narrative, this problem wouldn't have existed.

Third person narrative seems to make things a lot easier, but at the same time, in my opinion, less personal. For me as a writer, I would rather find ways to defeat the problems brought about in first person, than resort to third person. This isn't to say I will always write in a first person perspective, I won't - and I already have numerous unfinished projects that are written in third person, but for many of my stories the joy of telling them is in being in someone else's shoes, with their fears and thoughts as a constant.

Of course that often means one very important fact, if being told in the first person the reader will assume the main character cannot die, because if they are dead, and here's where tense plays an important role - how are they telling their story. I try to avoid killing these characters, there are ways to go about it, usually it's quite messy and doesn't always work. However recently I have been reading a novel called "Feed" by Mira Grant, this novel is written in the first person - and *spoilers if not read* involves the death of the main, first person character, told in a skilful way - where when the narrative is picked up (after the death of the first main character) by one of the secondary characters (in the first person perspective) the switch is smooth, and probably the best that I have seen and makes for a shocking, but very well written end to the book.

Another example of skilful first person perspective is the "Old Man's War" series by John Scalzi, where the main character changes between novels, yet manages to be clearly a different character with a different mindset from the other novels. In focussing on writing in this style, I have found it of great help to read as much of it as possible, and would recommend to anyone out there to pick up these novels. They aren't perfect, but I'd challenge anyone to find a novel that is. ~ Kitty

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Characters that demand their stories to be written

When I was 14 I wrote a short story called "Arielle", it was written in the first person and unsurprisingly about a girl called Arielle. At the time when I wrote this, I did nothing else, my school homework was ignored and even my computer gaming hobby was ignored, all I did was write her story.

The story was quite simple, Arielle, at the age of 14 was kidnapped for a drug testing laboratory. It was incrediably far fetched, and why they wanted her in particular - I don't know, but the story formed quickly - and Arielle suffered greatly at the hands of a barely trained Doctor, who conducted some quite extreme experiments. The story ended with Arielle making her escape, rescuing a girl called Kerry as she escaped and being helped by the barely trained Doctor (Doctor Marta Edwards) who saw the error of her ways.

All in all, the story had few merits. It was well written (if I do say so myself!) with clear areas of tension, despite having little in the way of a clear plot, it was readable - but it was flawed, too many things were lacking description and reason and while I loved the idea, even at 14 I could see it didn't work.

At the age of 28, I rediscovered Arielle. In the past 14 years, I have written a great many stories, and many times tried to re-write Arielle but never could. I knew she had a story to tell, but until this year - I didn't know what it was. Now I do.

Arielle is the main character in The M.I.M.E Games, my novel. While she is older, being in her early 20s and comes from a very different background, she is quite unchanged. The same spirit and personality exists now as did when I was 14. It feels a bit surreal sometimes as I write about her, at times she feels like an old friend - I've spent 14 years of my life thinking about her, and I now feel almost privileged to be able to write her story.

She's also not the only character from the original to stay. Marta Edwards, the barely capable Doctor has a major role in the new story - she is more capable, but her history shows her flaws. I was never happy with the original Marta, feeling that I was making her seem evil, when at best she was misguided. Now I feel I have the ''real'' Marta, she's screwed up in her life, and she's not the best at what she does, but she's trying to make amends. Kerry also returns. Kerry was at best a minor character in the original, appearing only at the end and only for the purpose of being rescued. But I knew that she was important, even back then, realising that somehow Kerry helped make Arielle who she was, so as not to spoil too much of my story - I can honestly say I am happy with how Kerry turned out, reprising her role with style and presence that the original Kerry never had.

I guess my purpose for this post is to show that sometimes the characters who stay with you, do so for a reason. They have a story to be told, and they aren't going away until you tell it. I have another character, Kalar, who I first wrote about at the age of 13 - I know that I will write her story now, with snippets coming to me unbidden during daydreams. Her story isn't as thrilling as Arielle's, but it is still one I feel I must write - and hopefully, if I can pull off Arielle's and become published, I can share Kalar's story too. ~ Kitty

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Word Count Update

My current word count as of 06.49 on 27/08/10 is 20500 :-)

This count is broken down as: 
Start Section: 5500
Middle Section: 15000

~ Kitty

"Under the Dome" by Stephen King

I've spent the past week completely engrossed in Stephen King's new novel "Under the Dome", this book is a hefty 880 pages long (in paperback) and has taken me around 5 days to complete. It is a monster of a book, but as one of the reviews states, it is "staggeringly addictive" - I really couldn't put it down, and today spent 2 hours in the bath finishing it.

It's a hard book to define, and I guess the genre is really "Speculative Fiction" as opposed to Horror or even Sci-Fi/Fantasy (since the ideas within would put it in those categories). It deals with a small town that suddenly and inexplicably has a dome (like a bell jar) placed over it. No one knows how or why, and for much of the book, you still don't know how or why - not that it really matters, since the dome itself isn't that important, it's the reactions to it that matter.

The book covers a time line of around 5 days, which really given what happens seems a bit short - and lacks a lot of explanation by the author. It's almost suggested the speed at which society falls apart is caused by something the dome gives off - but is never stated for definite. If you can suspend belief on the short time span, and the often sheep like nature of the town people, the book is highly readable, if a bit predictable. However the writing is superb, I truly cared about these characters and felt angry/sick at the treatment of characters in the book. Knowing what would happen, but at the same time not wanting it to happen. Which I feel is a sign of a superbly written piece of fiction.

The cast of characters in the book is huge, but well managed. I found myself following the obvious like/dislike as suggested by the author, but at some points saw glimmers of redemption in the roles of the ''bad'' characters that I would like to have seen played out a bit more. There were some evil, evil characters in the book - but had moments where they could have shown more depth, and didn't. In contrast - some of the ''good'' characters just seemed too good, with almost token bad behaviour thrown in to show they weren't always good, but hey, whatever they did back then was forgiveable. However, all in all - I felt the characters were well portrayed, I mourned their deaths, and actively wanted the deaths of others.

I read on some of the reviews for this book that it was an ''indulgent'' piece of work, and in some ways it is, but for the man who wrote The Stand, and with this being a closely related piece of work - I feel he has a right to be indulgent. This seems to be his comfort zone, the lives of people in events beyond their control and the destruction and construction of society and make-shift government in these events.

To close - I would recommend this novel, it's available for £3.99 and even if you buy it and don't read it, it's a cheap doorstop. It is long, but with short and snappy chapters, you are left wanting more and it's easy to pick up and put down, if you can manage to put it down that is. I've not enjoyed all of Stephen King's fiction, but this truly is one of the best he has written, and if you liked ''The Stand'' - you are bound to like this, just allow a suspension of belief when it comes to often stupid/mindless behaviour of the massed town people and a suspension of belief when it comes to what caused the dome, which is perhaps the weakest part of the book and a let down, which I won't share as I try to not spoil endings :-)
~ Kitty

Becoming a novelist

For many years I've called myself a writer. I've written short stories, won a few competitions, placed in a few others and had a lot of fun with my writing. I wrote under the concept that all I had to do was put pen to paper (or fingers to keys) and the story would form itself, and in many ways - that worked. I had no planning, no notes, just wherever the words took me - I went.

For writing short fiction, this worked a treat and I could crank out 5000 word short pieces with no real issue. But I became bored of that, and worried in a way that I'd never be able to write long fiction. So I tried to write long fiction, my sole success was a 20,000 word story about a haunted house which during a spate of dying computers and no back-ups, I lost. It was a story that took me a lot of work, and one which I really liked - but still, it was a short story.

I tried then for the first time to write a novel, I started around 10 different ideas, and with each I'd reach around 10-20,000 words and hit a brick wall, that was if I made it that far. Sometimes I'd run out of ideas, but mostly I'd run out of confidence. Still, I kept trying, determined that a story would write itself, that I wouldn't be resorting to somewhat traditional methods of God forbid - research and skeleton drafts.

That was around 8 years ago, and given I have no novels written - you can see how that went.

In 2009 I started a novel, tentatively titled "New World Order" - a post-apocalypse piece dealing with a number of issues I've covered in a lot of my work, issues that both worry and inspire me. This time - I made notes, I started a notebook and worked hard - and I got somewhere, but I didn't do enough. When in Summer 2009 I started the first draft of ''New World Order'' I got around 5000 words in before I wrote myself into a corner. I didn't lack ideas, what I lacked was confidence. Was what I was suggesting believable? How did X work? How would I make A go to B? Quickly I realised that I wasn't going to write that story at that time, and with sadness, I shelved the project.

Come 2010 I decided that I needed to start small, a workable and non-complex idea that I could fashion into young adult novel. Having long admired the concepts behind ''Battle Royale'', and more recently, "The Hunger Games" - I decided I'd write a novel that dealt with this, that wouldn't be difficult -after all, I controlled the setting/arena - and having a controlled environment made things easier to manufacture plot-wise. Happy with that idea, I started making notes.

My original notebook has now fallen apart, and despite it being a relatively short time since I started taking notes (I started around February 2010) - I marvel at my original notes. Written in pencil, they are the very bare bones of my idea, with unnamed characters - ''big guy'', ''the ned'' etc and scant details on how things happen. Of course, nothing is ever simple and it wasn't long before the idea behind my story grew legs, and spawned sequels. Which to me - struggling to write my first novel, having just decided I was writing a trilogy seemed somewhat insane. But - the idea was sound, and not only that - it was a trilogy or nothing at all, the background I now had didn't work with a stand alone novel, so that was that - suddenly I was writing 3 books instead of one.

I quickly became very enamoured with the story of the second novel and in great detail wrote the notes to it, filling hundreds of pages of A5 spiral bound Tesco notebooks with black biro notes and rough diagrams. I stopped to fill an entire A5 notebook with character background/development. Suddenly - I knew my characters, their histories, their motivations - and I wanted to write their stories, I wanted to bring them to life on paper. Within a few months, I didn't just have a few notebooks worth of notes, I had a writing bag, filled with notebooks and pens with no ink left in them.

I'd made the change from the writer who worked by the seat of her pants, to the one who almost knew too much. I felt like I'd already written the book, and that almost stopped me writing for awhile - then when I started I discovered something else, whereas I would normally write the start and go from there - I wanted to write the exciting part of the book, and what I had of my start was taking me forever to write and I wasn't happy with it. So, I started in the middle, with a lot of trepidation which vanished after the first 5000 words flew by - suddenly, after months of note taking, map drawing - I was writing a novel, and writing with a confidence I'd never known before.

I am still writing, my speed isn't as fast as I'd like - I'm discovering there are things I don't know, but I'm no longer writing myself into corners - I know what happens next, I know how my characters will react - and I'm enjoying myself. No doubt I still have stumbling blocks ahead, but if things continue as they have been, I expect to overshoot my estimated 80-90,000 word count, and hopefully saddle a professional with the job of editing.

In short, I've made the transition (I hope!) from short story writer to novelist, it's a learning curve and one I had to teach myself. I hope one day soon people reading this, will also have read my work. However, as many novelists state in their completed and published novels, writing is not a solitary achievement, and already I have a number of people to thank - Paul, who listens to theoretical discussions on a regular basis, Gemma, who reads everything regularly and serves as my boost and most brilliant test reader and Jim and Phil who read and spot errors, and give advice that is invaluable. Thankyou ~ Kitty

Importance of fine detail...

Continuity in writing is often one of my biggest headaches. Since I started writing - I've always been guilty of forgetful errors, usually it's in the form of clothing -
"Katie slipped her hand into trouser pocket to check her phone was still there.... Katie felt a chill on her legs, as her skirt caught the wind and flared up around her knees"
- this is usually my worst, randomly changing clothing, or moving pockets. But recently I learned of a whole other issue, and only after writing it did I realise the silly mistake I'd made.


Doors open two ways, which may seem like a very obvious statement, and normally when writing or describing something you don't have to pay too much attention to what way the door opens. I'm also quite sure this is an area where I've made many, many errors in the past - but could bluff by it through saying the door opened both ways. 

My current piece of writing involved barricading a door. The character opened the door towards her, went through it, then barricaded it on the other side by putting a chair under the handle. I merrily wrote on past this, but something else about the scene nagged me, so I put it down for awhile. Just as well, since a door barricaded in such a fashion would open easily, since it opened inwards, not outwards.

I've now fixed this by re-writing the scene in a way that I like, but still - there's a lesson to be learned. Even the most basic and seemingly silly details can be important, and it only took me 20 years of writing for pleasure to learn about doors, I dread to think what awaits me in future, continuity error education!

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Word Count Update

My current word count as of 02.51 on 23/08/10 is 18200 :-)

Reading is working towards better writing.

The writer who tells you he doesn't read, likely doesn't write well.

There's a lot of advice given to new writers, the most important I've found is the requirement to read. Not just read your favourite authors, or favourite genre but to really expand your reading and find out what sells. It's a truth that if you only read things in narrowly defined genres or novels printed decades ago that you aren't likely to know what sells. Not that of course you should write purely to sell, but if you (like me) desire it as a full time job, at some point, the concern of what sells has to arise.

I am an easy reader, able to read about any genre and enjoy it, I appreciate being able to do that and blame my mother for the same attitude, of course it's a blessing, not a curse, but does mean I have amassed a lot of novels given the wide range of tastes. But even liking most things there are books I don't readily enjoy, mainly romance or heavily involved historical pieces. Other than those - I have a vast collection of books, and read widely on a regular basis.

In my youth I wouldn't have agreed that it helped my writing, but I can see now that it does. Having read some truly questionable publishing choices, I see glaring errors and failures on the parts of authors - some are niggles, and make me wonder how they escaped the editing process, others so huge that they make me wonder who decided to publish it. Which of course sounds awfully arrogant from a non-published writer, but I don't mean it in a bad way, I'm sure these writers are wonderful people - I just feel bad their work contains such errors, errors which I see myself making every day that I write, some of the mistakes I spot, others my loyal test readers do.

Reading has made me more aware of these mistakes and I am grateful for that. Reading also teaches ways to get around problems, I suppose one of the fears is copying another author's work - but at least for me, I find more that I discover tricks of giving out information to the reader, ways to work complex scenarios but keep the reader informed without giving lengthy descriptions. I hope that my reading makes me a better writer, but in my love for reading, even if it doesn't, I'll say it does just to allow for my continual and obsessive purchasing of books ;-)

I hope as part of this blog to highlight books that I'm enjoying, and illustrate what I mean above where possible with books I've read. I have a current habit of flitting between books, leaving dozens of bookmarks scattered through a range of books, currently I am reading:

Feed by Mira Grant
Under the Dome by Stephen King

I recommend them both! ~Kitty

Pleased to meet you.

My name is Kitty and I am a writer.

I am working on my first novel, the first in a trilogy set in a post modern world not unlike our own, following characters not unlike you and I. Like all writers, I have hopes and fears, I hope people will enjoy reading my work - and I hope to make a living from it, and I fear it will be unread, and the work will be to waste. I feel it's likely a universal trait of those hoping to join the ranks of the published - and recognised author.

I am in my 20s, although not for much longer and I live in Scotland. I have always, for as long as I can recall, wrote stories, whether it be handwritten or on the much abused word processor that took me through my teens, or one of the many computers that have suffered under my ownership. I have written about anything and everything, although the darker, morbid side of me tends to show through. I am not an overly pessimistic person but I have morbid fascinations, part of which sees the American prison service death row sites as part of my regular web consumption. I can't help but be fascinated by death, and all the ways by which it greets us.

This blog is to start my journey as my first draft is well under way. In all my years of writing, I have never been more prepared to write a novel, I have notes which cover many spiral bound notebooks, dog eared and hand drawn maps of my setting and a passion and drive to complete this. In many ways, I am a writer re-born, having wrote for years on the premise that all you need to do is start writing and see where the story takes you. That works, but for me - the confidence to do a piece of novel length comes from the background and history. I have lived and breathed my story, I know my characters and my hope is that one day I can bring them to you :-) And on the flip side of the romantic musings of a writer, I also hope that in bringing my work to the public, the public can bring to me the funds to get a mortgage. Practicality being the curse of modern writing. ~ Kitty