The Beginning and The End

This is the version of this story that I submitted for my OU A363 Creative Writing module last month – it was originally 6.7k words but I had to cut 4k from it in about 16 hours in order to make my word count and deadline. So this super-compact version is not my favourite of the four edits but it’s the one I’m sharing for now. Eventually this story will get to grow *way* beyond the confines of a short story, which I’m quite excited about. In the meantime I hope you enjoy 🙂 Ray x

It’s not the first time I’ve been woken in the dead of night by the proximity alarm screaming through the ship.

‘Ada…’ I groan. ‘That better not be because a certain someone has hacked the airlock again.’

Before the A.I. can respond, there’s a low chuckle that is way, way too close. My hair stands on end, I know that laugh.

‘Lights!’ I bark, scowling as the cabin illuminates my favourite nightmare in the doorway, pointing a goddamn plasma pistol at me.

‘What the fuck are you doing here Katya?’

She gives me a smug grin that makes me want to punch her. ‘It’s always such a delight to see you Eliss.’

Continue reading

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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 XD

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

So… anyone for Nanowrimo?

Awfully sorry for the fact that I dropped off the face of the freaking planet for like 3 weeks. After my birthday and my trip to Paris I just couldn’t summon up the energy to keep doing the daily blog posts (still procrastinated just not on here). October is fast disappearing and November is approaching. This means Nano.

I did Camp Nano for the first time in April, for me it was kinda successful in that I reached 15K but that was only after taking my word count down from 25K. For November I can’t really win without hitting 50K and I’ve never done that. Closest I came was around 28K in 2010 but that was a only brief success before I dropped out of Uni. So I don’t yet know if I can reach the goal for normal nano without getting obsessive about it and neglecting all my other responsibilities and driving Le Boyf to distraction.

I have a French OU TMA due mid-November and another one mid-December so it’s vitally important that I still do my French work and get these done. Although I won’t have a Writing TMA due until January after next week I still have various exercises to do for the Fiction unit but I had the ingenious idea of using my Nano story to do those tasks. At least using the world, the characters and the story to base them on and I could always include them in my word count 😛

I was really quite surprised at how quickly my Nano idea coalesced into something I could actually work with and grow into a story that might stretch to 50K. I had written a little scene that was trying to describe using as many of the senses as possible (I’ll post the snippet later) and after I’d done it I was left very puzzled as to what could have led to this girl wading into a freezing lake all alone. So I started asking questions and after a few pages scribbled in my notebook I had ideas for characters, a world and a plot swirling round my head.

There is still a hell of a lot of planning to do (oh yea I’m much more a Planner than a Pantser although depending on how much of an outline I get done before Nov 1st I may be Plansting some of this) but compared to the last time I attempted Nano (2012 which lasted all of 3 days) I feel a lot more confident about my ability to create a story. I think having done 80K of a novel just this year has a lot to do with that. It’s going to be a very interesting exercise in juggling my responsibilities to everyone’s satisfaction especially now that I HAVE A JOB!! (That’s right I’m totally gonna be working in Waterstones from next week until maybe the New Year :D) 

Who else among the A215 group and anyone else is doing Nano this year?  I’m over there as LadyViolet  so if you’re interested in buddying a lass who’s gonna be attempting to write a YA Fantasy novel feel free 🙂

I’ll do another post talking more about what I’m going to be doing but  for now I need to get offline before I fling my internet router into the sun for being a pile of shit.

Laters chaps

Ray 🙂

Trying to finish the damn book (Writing Ray)

I’ve not spoke too much about this recently on the new blog but in case you didn’t know- I’m writing a book.

It’s been rather a strange process and has dominated my thoughts for a good portion of the year. Despite my hilariously naive predictions of having the first draft finished by June I am still around 20-25K words away from having it completed. More irritatingly the remaining scenes to be written are not at the end of the book like they would be for a sensible person who wrote their book in a linear fashion, but they are from the start of the book moving into the middle.

I was a bit of an idiot and the first scene I actually wrote for the book was is effectively the Act One closer scene when my two main characters first cross paths in a rather dramatic fashion. The scene I wrote after that was from around the end of act two (although I still have to properly delineate where the different acts start and end) and then I kept writing from there until I got to the end of the book. So I now have over 70K of a novel with very little middle and I’m struggling to fill the gap.

I have vague outlines of what I think is going to happen in those 12 or so scenes I have left but now I have the issue of actually sitting down and writing them. I find myself doubting the whole book more now than I did way back in January and February and when I re-read scenes I wrote months ago to help me figure out where things are meant to be going I find myself either groaning at the ridiculousness of some of my phrasing or facepalming over the places where I’ve forgotten words or simply changed details about the world or character after the fact.

None of this is very conducive to actually getting writing done. I know a lot of writers are susceptible to self-doubt and that little voice at the back of your mind can be very insidious when it wants to be. Mine certainly is – last month I read a brilliant YA fantasy novel (The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski) and when I finished it I was agonising over the fact that the sequel wasn’t going to be out until March  next year. I was marvelling over how amazing the book was when that stupid little voice piped up “Your book will never be this good” and BAM I was thrown head-first into a pit of self-loathing that would have lasted for god knows how long if not for some of the excellent friends I have who dug me out.

Coming back from that has been slow-going and I’ve never got back to the level of output I had in the first quarter of the year. It can take me hours and hours to write even 500 words when I had evenings when I bashed out over a 1000 words in something like an hour and a half. I worry that if I don’t have at least a complete first draft by the end of this year that I won’t finish it all, that I’ll get so distracted by the two OU modules I’m doing (A215 alone is going to require me to write thousands of words of prose/poetry that are not for my novel) that I won’t come back to my book for so long that every scrap of interest I had for it has disappeared when I eventually do open up the Scrivener file again.

So what do I do to keep myself going? I’m struggling to keep myself focused on prepping for my OU modules at the moment so doing stuff for something I’m not paying a couple of grand to do is a little lower on the list of priorities. Well, it should be yet all I have done in the past two days is hand-write stuff for a scene from my novel. I might get that finished this week or it might get left hanging three quarters done like the rest of the damn book.

How do you go about finishing a book? Without running screaming in fear of your own writing?

It’s been one of those days when I ask myself tricky questions

Toodles

Ray

Music that has helped forge my book (so far)

Although I know I did mention something about music that I like to listen to while I write in one of the old posts that I transferred over from my other blog (Ray Reads Books), I thought I would do more specific post to talk about all the music that has been part of my writing process this year as I try to complete my first fantasy novel.

I know it’s practically a trope that writers like to make a playlist of music for different books but here I go, adding my own tuppence to the pot. The albums below have been played repeatedly (I mean almost constantly) over the course of 2014 when I have been writing on my novel. I’m probably forgetting some tracks or artists but the major players are as follows.

The Frozen Movie Soundtrack – Since the whole went mad for this film after it came out in 2013 I found myself buying the soundtrack around the start of the year and it became my constant writing companion throughout January (and probably February too).  After I get past the rather distracting vocal tracks, by which I mean after I have finished belting out Let it Go and Love is an Open Door all by myself, I love how many instrumental tracks there are on this album and the different emotions they evoke. One of my favourite tracks is the Great Thaw (Vuelie reprise) as it starts off so heart-wrenching and then blossoms into a beautifully triumphant chorus that reuses the theme from the opening credits of the film.

 

The Anastasia Movie Soundtrack – Being a child of the 90’s this film came out when I was 7 and I was in love the moment I saw it. With the animation, the story, the characters (*swoon Dimitri*) and most importantly the music. It was the saddest day of my childhood when my video player chewed up my VHS beyond repair and the most gleeful of my late teens when I found a DVD of it for only £3. This year I finally bought the damn soundtrack and it is glorious. There aren’t that many instrumental tracks but they are all fantastic and bring to mind so vividly the scenes from the film I sit smiling as I listen. Now for some people that doesn’t help to have music so strongly associated with a story that isn’t yours but for me while I was writing the later half of my book the emotions that Anastasia makes me feel are perfect.

The Mulan Movie Sountrack – Again another film I’ve adored since I was 7 or 8. It was such an inspirational story and the music is such a contrast between semi-hilarious vocal tracks and punch-in-the-gut instrumentals. Mulan is the kind of heroine I want to write forever; the kind of woman who is willing to step up beyond all expectations to protect those she loves or defend what she believes to be right.  My favourite track (after I’ll Make a Man out of You because that is just AWESOMESAUCE) is the track called Haircut/Short Hair from when Mulan sneaks in and steals her father’s armour, cutting her long hair off with his sword. I’m listening to it now and my skin is tingling I shit you not. It’s like a call to arms and I love it.  The video below is actually longer than my version because I think the soundtrack I have is slightly abridged *boo*

 

Yoshiki Classical – I talked about this album to excess in a few of my older blog posts and how it heavily influenced one of the hardest scenes I had to write out of the whole damn book. I was left in literal floods of tears  by some of the songs on this album. Check out the previous post talking about the Yoshiki songs that wrecked me  here.

How to Train Your Dragon 1 & 2 Movie Soundtracks – I only bought these two albums around the end of July since I somehow hadn’t thought to look for them sooner. I saw the 2nd film at an advance preview in June and ADORED IT although the music is so much more emotional than you can believe. I have only seen it once but the second I hear the opening notes of the song below my heart shatters and I’m borderline tears. But there are so many amazing tracks on these two albums that something comes along pretty quick to perk me back up after that emotional wrecking ball. I haven’t actually written much since I got them so they might be more influential on the Dragon Book (as they should be :P).

 

I think I need to start winding this back down now as it’s getting pretty lengthy. I could wax lyrical on all the different movie soundtrack albums I own and how ridiculously often I listen to them. If I flash-listed the ones I have it would look rather like this: Tangled, The Swan Princess, Various other Disney songs, Several tracks from the Return of the King soundtrack (one day I will own ALL THE LOTR SOUNDTRACKS), Avatar, The Avengers, Star Trek, Skyfall theme, Casino Royale theme, Divergent, Les Miserables. Yeah that’s a long list, and it’s not taking into account the soundtracks I keep finding on Youtube.

But I hope you’ve liked getting a look at some of the music that has been forging my novel, even if it isn’t finished yet 😛

Until tomorrow

Ray 🙂