How do you Write?

[I’m not going to do a long spiel about how sorry I am for not posting for an age. Let’s get to it.]

So my Advanced Creative Writing module has now started. It’s my last module so by next July I should hopefully be a 26yr old Graduate. *Fingers crossed*

My tutor asked our group to write a bit about how we write using the examples of Mozart & Beethoven – I’ll be honest I had no clue how either of these composers worked but from context I’m guessing that Mozart was the kinda dude who composed the whole damn piece in his head before committing it to paper so his scores always looked pristine whereas Beethoven’s were a dog-eared shit-storm of scribbles, crossings-out & rewriting. SO I PRESUME.

I’ve had a lot of time to analyse how I write, especially over the last 3 years or so. For me I know that ideas are like the shiny newly minted coin that falls into your possession out of nowhere and suddenly you’re not sure what to do with it. Spend it fast while it’s all pretty and new? Or keep it in your pocket to mull over, worry it between your fingers, pondering when you will feel ready to use it? By the time you do it’s weathered and dinged but you’re confident that it’s going to be used for something great.

If I try to run with shiny ideas all it does is leave me with pockets full of sweets and toothache. It’s the tarnished, bruised ideas that have rattled around my head and various notebooks for years that I get the most from, that initial quids-worth of an idea has matured into a solid investment that gives you a lot more than just a sugar rush of excitement. It’s the contented satiation of a bloody good roast dinner.

Or at least that’s how things *should* work. They might get to that point eventually but I’m currently stuck in a purgatory called Revisions. I never actually posted here about it but I finished a Draft of the novel I’ve been working on since 2014 back at the end of May. I called it Draft 2 but technically it was an amalgam of a reworked opening third, newly drafted chapters in the middle & the untouched final third all smashed together into a 120K manuscript of dubious quality.

Reading that draft through once left me with a full-blown case of Creative Food Poisoning and for the last three months even thinking about it has made me green around the gills for a little while. But eventually my stomach will be tough enough to take a crack at revising the damn thing and *hopefully* one day reading my book through will leave me with the satisfied feeling of knowing I created a bloody good thing.

Who knows how far off that day may be, but I have to hope that it will come.

At that point I will have the whole new fun experience of figuring out how *I* revise. I’ve read a fuckton of posts online from various authors about how they write and revise so I have a range of approaches that I can try with my own book but there’s no guarantees that any of them will work for me. Then it’ll be a matter of cobbling together the elements which do suit me and welding them into what I can then call “My Revision Approach”. I may write a blog post or two on it and seem all legit and shit.

Anyway this post has gotten rather off the original topic which is of no surprise to anyone, some of this is taken from my Writer’s Journal for this module (I’m actually trying to really keep up with using it this time unlike for A215) but the rest of what I wrote will be included in what I post over in my tutor forum. I’m very likely to go over my word limit unless I edit the crap out of myself (wish I could do that when I speak).

I’m sure I’m not the only person of a writing inclination whose process is still wobbly & not fully set in place so I feel you guys. I’ll let you know when mine is cracked. If I crack it.

Until next time chaps, I’ll try not to leave it a year or something.

Ray xx

What’s new with the novel?

It is rather amusing, to come and look at this blog (which almost no one sees I realise) to see my last post being about my frustration at the lack of progress I was having with my novel. What’s even more grimly ironic is how I start by talking about how my Uncle’s death was still knocking my whole family for six, about a fortnight after I posted that my Grandpa died suddenly which was another blow we could have done without. I have blogged about my feelings on the subject over on Safe Space which is a super cool blog I’m now currently writing for. So this post is going to focus on writing.

IMG_3696April has been a fantastic writing month. Far more so than I ever could have hoped. It was only around mid-month that I started really keeping track of how much I was writing from day-to-day (I have jumped on the method which Victoria Schwab uses to chart her writing with shiny coloured stars on a calendar). Between the 13th-25th April I wrote over 10,000 words – new words on chapters from the middle which have been driving me crazy since November because I just wasn’t filling the void in the manuscript.

Around the end of March while I was on holiday in Florida I got done with drafting Chapter 17 (which I kind of wrote before 16 but whatever), and since I got back I’ve managed to write Chapters 16, 18, 19, 20 and I’m currently working on 21. It’s a hell of a leap forward which I’m super proud of, my Draft 2 ms is now over 60K and the overall Scrivener file which has the rest of the 1st Draft combined with it, is over 110K! Like seriously how have I written that much?

From what I have roughly planned out, I should only need to write three more chapters (after Ch. 21) to finish writing all the scenes from the middle section of the book that I feel need to happen. That will probably come to around 10K all told then I’ll be back with the really old stuff that I drafted way back in early 2014. That’s going to be erm, interesting. At that point I’m going to try and not dwell forever on how shocking some of the writing is (Probably too much of this novel is “telling” but I can’t fucking fix all of that on this pass), and just try to only overhaul bits where I’ve written something in the first half of the book which now contradicts what I wrote in the second half. Was bound to happen when I wrote the end of the book before I wrote all the beginning.

Hopefully *crosses everything* I can get myself to the end of this 2nd Draft by the end of May(?) maybe so then I can do the insane and print off my entire manuscript, ready all the awesome revision resources that I’ve got from the fantabulous Susan Dennard’s website and start working out all the ways I need to crack this book apart and how the hell I’ll put it back together again.

I might do another post soonish on how things are going because in May I will no longer be working (finished yesterday) *BUT* I have my last assignments for my OU module to do so my days will need to become strangely regimented so I do work on the essays as well as the novel. Whether I’ll manage that I don’t know 😄

Anyways I should get back to those things I should be doing.

Speak soon yea?

Ray xx

The State of the Novel

It’s been a loooong while since I did any kind of post talking about my novel-in-progress (currently titled Fire Sworn) but that’s simply because it has been a long-ass time since I even really worked on the novel properly. My motivation to write got thoroughly shot in the face back in early December when my uncle died after battling cancer for 18 months. That loss has obviously devastated my whole family and even now two months later it’s still pretty raw.

That emotional factor plus my extreme frustration at my slow progress in working through this “second” draft has made me deeply dissatisfied with my entire novel. There’s been more than one occasion where I’ve contemplated just abandoning the whole damn thing, bugger the two years I’ve spent on it so far and the 90,000+ words I’ve written for the first book, parts of a prequel novella, and even scenes from the second book.

I don’t have many writing projects that I’ve spent much time on, hell save for my 2010 & 2014 Nano projects this is the only writing project I’ve ever done where I’ve got almost a complete draft written. I have a story idea that I worked on when I was 16 that I wrote a lot of notes on and I’d drafted various random scenes- even the end battle sequence (because I am a nightmare writer who thinks of endings before beginnings) but I never had a cohesive draft plotted out or written. Maybe one day I’ll go back to that idea and actually write it properly.

If I were to consign Fire Sworn to the drawer of abandoned ideas I fear that it would effectively cripple my ability to finish a future writing project. But how do I find my way back to loving my novel and actually finishing this draft?

Stop fannying about with line edit nonsense would be a good first step. I’ve realised that I’ve wasted a lot of time since last July making changes on a sentence level rather than attacking chapters on the higher plot & character levels. If I focused on rewriting the sections of the first draft which are glaringly wrong at this stage and writing the chapters which I still have yet to write then I might get somewhere with the novel.

I wonder if I should be trying to work in speedier passes of going through the whole manuscript working on a specific issue rather than spending weeks picking through a single chapter and then getting angry at my lack of progress. There are chapters of my first draft that I’ve not read since I wrote them in 2014 so how the hell can I have a good idea of what I need to change in my second draft unless I know what I’ve already written? Despite the missing chapters in the middle I have most of the story thought out but I need to figure out what I need to revise & develop in order to make this novel into a cohesive book that I won’t be ashamed to send to critique partners (If I find some) or agents (if I’m brave enough).

It’s going to be a long road back to the happy place I was at with my novel but maybe if I’m lucky I’ll stumble upon a good map to lead me there.

Ray x

Writing Resolutions 2016

A week or two ago one of my favourite authors & writing coaches Susan Dennard sent out her excellent newsletter (which you can subscribe to here – because why the hell not? She’s a delight), in which she talked about some of her writing resolutions for 2016. The three she shared were ones I could really relate to, in fact the resolution at the top of my list is basically the same as Sooz’s, hers could also apply beyond writing but mine in this post will focus on my hopes for my writing and another day (very soon since 2016 is almost here) I’ll put together a post with my resolutions for everything else. I’m not going to talk about what happened to my 2015 resolutions.

Writing Resolutions for 2016

  1. Be kinder to myself and my words. I spend rather a lot of time most days mentally berating myself for one thing or another that I’ve done wrong, or simply not done at all. This also extends to my writing- novel & blog- that get lambasted for being terrible on a frequent basis. It’s not that I have objective evidence to back up this claim against myself (if anyone does think my writing is shit they’re doing a wonderful job of keeping quiet about it), but when I read work by other writers both published and aspiring I lay into my own writing with unbridled viciousness. “Why can’t your descriptions be as beautiful as so-and-so’s? Your story is so dull after reading that awesome book. Why the hell are you even trying to revise this pile of festering turds?” et cetera, et cetera, et al, AD FUCKING NAUSEUM. You get the picture. I am my own worst critic and I often crave the validation of other people saying they like my writing in order to quell the urge to never show any of it again. It’s not healthy but trying to stop myself self-sabotaging is far harder than it sounds. But I need to try. So in 2016 I am going to try and be kinder to myself as a human and as a writer. I’m doing the best I can with what I have.
  2. Don’t worry about the numbers. By this I mean I want to stop feeling anxious over how long it takes me to write or how many words I write in any given time span. It’s unreasonable to keep comparing myself to other writers who can churn out a 60K draft in 8 weeks or whatever, or can edit several chapters in a day whereas I have spent weeks just on one. Worrying over statistics that can vary dramatically from person-to-person, hell day-to-day is only a shortcut to psyching myself out of writing altogether. Just get the words out however they come. One by one, or in a great tidal wave, it doesn’t matter so long as they make it to the page.
  3. Fall in love with the story again. I think part of the reason I have found it so hard to work on my novel this year compared to 2014 when I got almost 60K words written in the first half of the year, is because after being away from the story for several months I’ve fallen somewhat out of love with the story itself. The words don’t come easily because my heart’s not entirely in them, the characters aren’t as real to me as they were when I first imagined them and the plot feels as tired as I do. Any suggestions as to *how* the heck I fall back in love with my novel please leave them below because I need to figure this out before I can achieve the next resolution.
  4. Finish a draft I can be happy with. Pretty self-explanatory. I’m still plodding through a revision/drafting version of my novel that involves me reworking chapters I wrote last year as well as writing entirely new chapters for the scenes I never wrote out when I did the bulk of the drafting. My progress has been extremely slow, I started in July maybe and I’m still only on Chapter Fourteen out of what may end up as 50 chapters, I would rather like to speed up this rate in 2016 so I’m not thirty before this book is finished.
  5. Discover more stories I’d like to tell. It’s fairly safe to say that I’m a One WIP Gal, I am not one of those people who can bounce between six different stories depending on what mood I’m in on any given day. I don’t have the mental capacity to write more than one story at a time but what I would like to be able to do is have more than one novel idea developing alongside my main WIP so if I am having a blocked day I can break out another story and brainstorm some ideas on that instead so my time is not wasted scratching my head bloody in frustration. Hopefully if I have multiple book ideas brewing then by the time I finish the aforementioned draft I will have something that I could begin working on in earnest before I go back to revise the other book again.
  6. Be inspired by other writers, not envious of their achievements. This is something that I already try to do. I follow a lot of writers – published and not-yet-published – on twitter and I see them tweet often about their progress, milestones, successes and disappointments. They’re an astonishingly talented bunch of people and while I try my damnedest to be supportive of everyone there is still an ugly sliver of my mind that turns green every time someone tweets about having finished a draft or round of revisions, or even just a chapter. You will never see me bitch about anyone in particular on twitter but I know that I do occasionally post bitter tweets about my own dissatisfaction at my meagre writing progress. I’d like to be better in 2016 until one day the sight of a tweet about finishing a draft only motivates me to hurry the hell up and finish mine so I can share in that feeling of awesomeness.
  7. Write for myself above all else. In the end I am the one who gets to read my writing first. Some of it does find itself being swiftly emailed to Jess for her thoughts but I should be primarily concerned with making sure that I am happy with what I’m writing. Nothing will stifle my creativity more if I feel I’m forcing myself to produce work that other people will like rather than produce what *I* want to read. If I’m pleased with and proud of my writing then I will be much less anxious about sharing that work with other people in due course.

So there we have it. My list of Writing Resolutions for 2016. I seriously hope I do a better job of sticking to these than I did to 2015’s – they are not quite as restrictive I think, less outcome-orientated and more mindset-based. We shall have to see. I’m going to try to blog a bit more regularly next year both here and on my book blog since it’s all writing isn’t it?

Let me know what Resolutions you’re looking to keep in 2016!

Ray x

Thursday’s Cup o’Thoughts (03/12/2015)

Shit. It’s Thursday and that nice list I did yesterday got shot to hell. Completely buggered. My essay deadline is today, technically at 12 noon but there is a grace period until midnight that I can still submit in and not be “late” as such. It has saved my ass more times that it should have to over my time as an OU student. So yesterday I did not finish my essay, I barely even started it and as I type I’m stuffing more avocado toast into my face so I can be fueled up for the inevitable panic to get it written, checked, referenced properly & submitted before midnight if at all possible. I have done this with a few assignments but none have been essays of this length so I’m a little worried that I might not make it. We’ll have to see.

It’s days like these that make everyone around me despair of my terrible studying habits where I leave everything until the very last second and then give myself a stress-induced heart attack trying to get the work done without being late. It’s like I don’t care enough to get it done early, but I still care enough that I *have* to get something like a decent mark even though I totally don’t deserve it.

I’ve already given Le Boyf permission to metaphorically kick my ass if this essay comes back with a good mark after all my bullshit. I’m a grossly lucky fucker.

Plan of Action for the Day

Morning: ESSAY, WORDS ON A PAGE, COHERENT ONES, INTELLIGENT ARGUMENTS, QUOTES & SHIT

Afternoon: MORE ESSAY, ALL THE WORDS, REFERENCES, CRITICAL ANALYSIS & ALL THAT JAZZ

Evening: ESSAY IF NOT DONE BY THIS POINT. Otherwise wine & something relaxing because…damn.

What am I looking forward to?

Not having to have this albatross strangling me after today.

What do I think I’ll find tricky?

Everything

How can I work through it?

Be better at this “student” shit

What song came up first on my iPod this morning?

I’m having the Mad Max: Fury Road soundtrack playing today, it’s got the angry energy I need.

Now off to work!

Ray 🙂

Wednesday’s Cup o’Thoughts (02/12/2015)

Well it’s certainly been a long time since I did one of these posts! I wore myself out with daily posts even before my uni modules started last October but I felt like bringing back this format for the days when I’m not at work so I have something to focus on first thing in the morning.

If you’d believe it I’m already onto my second cup of tea and I’m eating breakfast! Actual food I went out and bought to feed myself with! Boy was it yummy, I can’t remember if I had jumped onto the Avocado train when I was doing these posts before but basically avocado toast is now a quasi-religious experience for me. *nom*

I’ve got a fair few things to do today and a looming deadline *coughtomorrowcough* which I need to really focus on so once this post is done I’m going to have to be a mature grown-up and properly ban myself from social media until I’ve made significant progress. I did get Leechblock on my main browser which cuts me off from tumblr & youtube between 9am and 5pm which is definitely for the best XD. My twitter access will get revoked if I spend more than a certain amount of time on there per hour but I probably ought to lower that threshold so I don’t weasel around it.

Ok let’s get listy. Y’know how I love my lists.

Plan of Action for the Day

Morning: Top priority – Children’s Lit essay, I currently have 0 of 2000 words so I’d like to get at least 700 words done before noonEdit at 12:25 – This got effectively trashed within 5 mins of looking over the essay guidance and realising that I haven’t read enough stuff beyond the set books to refer to. *sigh*

In breaks – Chuck some washing on, empty the basket of clean washing into respective drawers, eat snacks.

Afternoon: Essay – Edit Now I’d just like to get a new workable essay plan that doesn’t make me want to scream.

In breaks – Swap washing into dryer, do the dishes, do some more of a book review.

Evening: Essay – Edit: 700 words on new essay question, more if going well.

In breaks/After – Work on book review, read, some chapter planning whatever I feel like.

What am I looking forward to?

Tea breaks. I bought some really yummy-looking cookies from the shop 😛

What do I think I’ll find tricky?

Getting my essay wordcount in the time I’ve set for myself. Edit: Maybe writing an essay I won’t get shit marks for will be the difficulty! ugh

How can I work through it?

Don’t spend forever scouring my books for a quote, paraphrase as best as I can remember then search for it later. Also STAY OFF SOCIAL MEDIA. Edit- caffeine, lots of it.

What song came up first on my iPod this morning?

I started the shuffle before I went to the shop and got- Dragon Racing from the How to Train Your Dragon 2 soundtrack. A lovely invigorating track for the day when you got some beasties to slay.

Now off to work!

Ray 🙂

Here we are again

One day I’d like to write a blog post that isn’t 75% apology and 25% lambasting myself for being useless. Today isn’t one of those days I’m afraid.

I just spent a good chunk of time scrolling back through this blog reading all the inconsistent posts I’ve shared since August last year on writing, studying and as you might have seen by the last thing I posted in June – mental health. I’ve done a very poor job of documenting my studies & my writing journey and I really want to try to make 2016 a better year for this, but I’ll need a bit of a run up so here I am trying to blog again.

I ought to give an update on what has happened since I last posted, I’ll have to try and remember the important events. My memory is pretty shoddy with my own life but I’ll give it a go.

  1.  I passed both my OU modules with a 2:1 – somehow did better on my French EMA than my Creative Writing which is insane since I spent almost no time revising for the French exam. My French luck strikes again.
  2. I submitted a story I wrote for my TMA05 to the British Fantasy Society competition – found out in October that I didn’t make the shortlist which was a pretty depressing end to 4 months of waiting.
  3. I started working on my novel again, this time I decided to go back to the beginning of the book and work linearly through it. Reworking chapters I’d already wrote, writing new ones as I got to gaps. I finished writing Chapter 13 the other day which tells you a lot about how fast I’m progressing (glacially). I nearly have 40K of this “Second” Draft now and thankfully a bit more of a clue as to what needs to happen in the middle 25K that I have yet to draft. I’ll maybe do another post talking about the State of the Novel soonish.
  4. I started  my Children’s Literature OU module. This is the first Level 3 course I’ve done so that’s a nice dollop of pressure to do well with it. I somehow got an excellent mark on my first TMA but it was about Northern Lights so I was pretty invested in it. I’m meant to be working on my 2nd TMA right now actually (why else would I be reviving a comatose blog if not for procrastination?) but I’m struggling to get started. I’ve read the books I need to but I’m in that familiar dichotomy of “Want to get a good mark, scared I’ll fuck it up, too nervous to put words on a page because they’ll be shit, ad. nauseum”. Maybe once this is posted I’ll be in a better frame of mind.
  5. I’ve got an official job! Yes it’s doing exactly what I’ve been doing sporadically since February but I’ve got a contract and legit salary so that’s swanky. It is just a six month contract until my mother found another person to take the Finance Admin job permanently (which she now has) so from January I’ll have the fun task of training up the new lady and handing over my job in March. I kinda secretly hope that she’s not as efficient as me straight away because then it’ll sooth my irrational hurt at being replaced (I never wanted to do this job permanently anyway).
  6. I’m now 25. Which is weird because it means I’m on the slide towards being 30 and I honestly don’t know what to think about that. I don’t feel like someone who is 25, I barely feel 20 with how immaturely I deal with certain things, for fuck’s sake my mother brings me lunch when I’m at work! I am more than capable of making my own damn sandwiches but I let her do it cos it’s easier. Before I turn 26 there is a *lot* of shit I need to sort out about myself because I am far too dependent on others in various aspects of my life and it’s not healthy.
  7. Speaking of what’s healthy, I’m not quite sure I am, in the mental well-being sense anyway. Since my last blog post I have had some rather up-and-down times with how I’m feeling in myself. I had a *very* bad day back in October which involved me loitering round Nottingham Waterstones alone for several hours too crippled with anxiety to go upstairs to where the YA Extravaganza was going on. There are still many questions and doubts I have about what I’m doing swirling in my head that I have barely begun to pick apart and deal with. It’s probably a task for another day when I’m not diligently procrastinating what should be my top priority.

I’m going to leave the list there. I am very fond of 7 of things (probably due to my Potter obsession). Whether there’ll be any sort of follow-up post in the near future I honestly can’t say. I have toyed with the idea of starting up the Cup O’ Thoughts posts again for the days when I’m not at work to see if that will help me create a routine for myself, but we’ll need to see if it’s possible.

Going to head off now in search of some food. I might even switch off my laptop and try to get some work done analogue style. I don’t know why I’m finding so hard to be productive in my office anymore. More questions all the time. *sigh*

Hope your Sunday is going better than mine.

Speak soon perhaps

Ray x