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