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