Canoeing, Gaia, the 17th Century and the Future

What do canoeing, Gaia, the 17th century and the future have in common? They are all featured in my current writing projects.

It’s been a while since I mentioned my actual writing and today I feel the need to clarify where I’m at and where I’m heading with these four projects. The clarification if for my benefit more than yours. 😀

The Canoeing (Mis)Adventure is a story for children. It is being written for a specific market and must be between 10,000 and 12,000 words in length. I’ve reached the half way mark. Problem is, I’ve been there for a while! I know where the story is heading and I know exactly how it will end, but the middle doesn’t give a toss about the required word length. The story wants to finish around 6,500 words. I know I should push on and finish the story and worry about publisher requirement later, but the lack of words is stopping me. How stupid is that?!

Wynter’s Boundaries is a short story for young adults/adults. It will be published in the upcoming Hope anthology later in the year. However, when the editor finished splashing the manuscript with her red pen, I found her comments overwhelming and daunting. At first I felt the story was beyond repair and actually considered withdrawing it from the anthology. However, not wanting to make rash decisions I put the manuscript away and let the problem(s) roll around in my mind for several weeks. Now I’m able to see fixes are available to improve the story. . .and my crushed confidence.

Whispering Caves is a novel-length manuscript for adults. It is a story I have revised many times. The characters are well known to me, almost to the point where I sometimes forget they are not real people. The problem with this manuscript is that I edited and revised it so much that I ruined it. Every attempt to rewrite it from scratch goes nowhere because the story starts long before my starting point in the manuscript. For that reason, I have decided to write the prequel first. When it is written, this untitled manuscript will be a solid foundation for the new, improved Whispering Caves.

And this leads me to the fourth project. This one is also untitled. There are no notes, no planning, but nameless characters and some crazy events are distinct in my mind. They roll around in that vast vacancy where my brain should be and I’m beginning to see a story set in the future, our future, that is somewhat chilling to think about. I already know the beginning and end, the middle is quickly falling together too. I think I’ll be compelled to write notes soon. I’ve always been an avid planner, however I have a feeling that the most planning I’ll be doing for this project is writing down a few notes, working out a few names and dates and then just writing.

Four projects. All of varying lengths, genres and audience. I’m usually a one-manuscript-at-a-time kind of girl but variety is the spice of life and I think I’m going to have four open projects from this point on. I’ll swap and change between them as I see fit, according to mood, timing and whatever takes my fancy. The prospect of doing this actually makes me feel positive! As long as I write, does it matter?

Oh, I just realised that I haven’t covered all my projects, so now I’m going to throw a fifth one into the equation.

Cat’s Paw is the second book in The Land of Miu series. The manuscript has been completed but it needs a final edit. I intend to do that once I’ve finished reading the book I’m currently reading. Then it will be ready for publication.

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Solved: The Book Thread

Once upon a time there was a book thread in a story that was washed up and going nowhere fast. It was so boring that the writer refused to work with it – horrible, I know, but it’s the truth. Yet, no matter what the writer did, she could not find a replacement. Even with proper advertising, no good candidate came forward.

What was she to do?

Days turned into months and still no joy. In desperation, she talked to anyone who would listen but that didn’t amount to many people. She knew what those glazed eyes meant or the roll of their eyes. She then turned to another avenue which offered a slim chance of solving the problem. From that source she received a few suggestions, but one sparked an image in her mind. A small solitary image.

Had she found a new candidate? Hope stirred in her belly yet she wouldn’t allow herself to get too excited because she knew how disappointed she’d be if it was another false lead.

Climbing out of the box she had found herself in, she decided to throw caution to the wind and attempt something unheard of – for her. She wrote a voice journal from the point of view of a book. Yes, you read that correctly.

It started out like this:

I am the keeper of secrets and most of my life has been spent in hiding. I am a book. When I was young, I had durable leather binding and my pages were an off white, creamy colour. They were thick to touch and held the ink quite well because I was made by an expert in the field. Now I grow old and fragile, but I still hold the secret entrusted to me many, many years ago. But no one has come to learn my secret for a very long time.

Nothing special, but from there it got quite interesting. The book told the story of its existence and the secrets it kept and the author was eager to hear it all. It told of violence leading to death and magic leading to disappearance. It told of old kings, young men and forgetful minds. It told of rebellion and magic of a different kind. It told of old haunts and new beginnings. But it didn’t tell the most important thing of all!

The weak book thread has been abolished and replaced with a storyline that the author is happy with and now the writing of the manuscript can begin. 😀

Writing Update: Doubts, Problem Threads and the Mystery Project

Whenever I make a public declaration about my writing, it all falls in a heap a few days/weeks later, so I’m reluctant to talk about it any more. And I’m sick and tired of reporting that “I don’t have time” or “I’m too tired” or “blah blah isn’t working out how it should”. Excuses, all excuses!

So I’m going to say it straight. I’m doubting my ability as a writer. There, I said it.

Oh, it’s not the first time I’ve found myself full of doubt and it won’t be the last time. It’s just the person I am. I’m a worrier from way back. If I haven’t got anything to worry about, I’ll worry about that. Anyway, I have doubts, but I’ve decided that I want to write so I’m going to write. What happens after that is not to be worried about. And I’m going to write when and how it suits me and stop (or try to stop) worrying about the whole bloody thing because it’s the worry that is taking the enjoyment out of it.

Project 1: Whispering Caves

This is a project I started way back in the old days – and I mean 20 years ago. I finished the manuscript, but it needed much improvement. There were holes like you wouldn’t believe but I fell in love with the characters and world, and have decided to salvage what I can and move on.

Thing is, the longer I plan, the more I’m moving away from that old story. Admittedly, I know I’ve been holding on and holding on. I’ve even written a post about it before, but I’ve finally made the decision to let go and remould the story without holding on to the past. That decision came when I realised I had to remain my characters to fit with the history I have built for the world. If I don’t rename them then I will be leaving a marker in the story that shouldn’t be there.

In essence, the only remainder will be the story title – Whispering Caves – because that is the perfect name for the story I’ve planned.

Now the problem with this story is that I can’t stop planning and that is a bad thing. The reason is because one thread is lacking something, still, and I can’t figure out what to do by myself. This morning, in fact, right now I’ve decided to approach a small group I’m a member of and ask for their help. Maybe getting this issue resolved will allow me to move from planning mode to writing mode.

Project 2: The Mystery Project

This is a project that I’ve started working on and doing research for. I will not divulge any information about it, but I will mention that the planning practically took care of itself in a 24 hour period. It will be written in three parts, which I can flit between at will. I’m ready to write.

I’ve set up the document and plan to dedicate a few hours to it today. This is an exciting step for me as I don’t feel as if I’ve actually written anything in a long time.

Using the Voice Journal Writing Technique

Further to my post the other day entitled Character Development, Using the Voice Journal Writing Technique I am pleased to say that I find this technique excellent.

This simple technique allowed me to get into the character’s head so completely, that I now have a thorough understanding of why she earned the love of a young man and then lost it. It wasn’t enough for me to know that she must of had qualities that endeared her to him, I had to know what made her turn nasty enough to do the things I’ll make her do in the story. I needed to know what those qualities were and what experiences changed her.

With this in mind, I opened a blank document and started typing. I did not pause to edit and I did not suppress my thoughts. I just let the words appear on the screen before me. The end result is a three page history of a woman that is to be the antagonist. The three pages gives me the answers to my questions – valid answers. I feel as if this character is no longer a drawing on a sheet of paper, but a real person standing before me.

Please meet Lonia Navra from Whispering Caves (this is the first three paragraphs only):

My name is Lonia Navra and my life has been filled with death, longing and outrage. My mother died shortly after I was born, from the birthing sickness, and my father never forgave me for that…or for the fact that I was a girl. One daughter was tolerable, but two was insufferable, especially when there was no longer a wife to produce a boy. By the time I was born, my older sister had already won my father’s love, but I was never to be as lucky.

When I was almost six, my sister died from Butterweed Fever and I’m not sure why that was also blamed on me, but it was. My father hated me wholeheartedly from the day he buried his precious Katryn. By then I had given up trying to win him over as, even at that young age I knew it wouldn’t happen.

Is it wrong to be glad when a parent dies? I don’t think it is a sign of good character, but I beseech you to understand that my father’s hatred of me was not restricted to harsh words. I often received the back of his hand across my face or the sting of a thick leather strap when I displeased him. And it pains me to admit that the torment didn’t stop there, the suffering I was subjected to during the long hours of night has left me terrified of the dark. I could never please him. Never! So, on the day I arrived home from tending the goats to find my father laying dead beneath a fallen tree — his skull cracked open — I couldn’t help but feel gratitude that the man would never again place a hand on me. I was nine summers old at the time.

I needed her to have deep routed reasons for her actions and now I have them. I want the reader to feel sorry for her, understand her misery, but condemn her reaction to what happens in the story. It comes down to morals, upbringing, experiences and knowledge. But in the end, she makes a choice. She can go either way. She can pick right or wrong. She is in control. Can she put bitterness behind her…?

I am so pleased with what has come out of a few hours writing today and I highly recommend that you try this method to give your characters realistic depth.

My Writing: Turning the Focus Around

Firstly, you might remember that a while ago I talked about trying out “writing on the train in the afternoon” – I thought I’d give a quick update on how that is going. So far, it’s working out really well. I’m doing about an hour and a half of work during this time frame, which I think is pretty good. Generally, it isn’t too difficult to concentrate and the more I use the laptop on the train, the less self-conscious I feel. The first week was spent on the Whispering Caves planning – more about that later in the post. The second week has seen me reading through my completed short stories (and doing some small adjustments). There are only four in total, which are now all newly edited and ready to submit. I have also set up a spreadsheet with sheets showing “Completed Stories”, “Submissions”, “Rejections” and “Publications”. One of the stories is out on submission, so my goal for the weekend is to submit the other three stories to likely publishers. I will then turn my attention to my completed novel length manuscripts and do the same thing. Once this is done, I’ll feel a lot happier and then I’ll move back to my main project – Whispering Caves.

Whispering Caves is proving to be a difficult story to plan. The character storylines are done, as is the history and world building and I’m extremely pleased with what I have. A single, important thread is where the problem is. I feel it isn’t as strong as it could be and I’m not sure what to do about it. Actually, if I had to put it into words, I’d say it had a wishy washy middle that just isn’t up to scratch. I’m certainly not happy with what I have and cannot start writing until I figure out what’s to be done about the problem.

Despite this small setback, I made another decision that has made me very happy. Due to the fact that I’ve been working on my small list of short stories and intend to submit them over the weekend, I came up with the idea to write short stories using minor characters from Whispering Caves. Not only will this cement the world and its people further into my mind, if I can get the stories published, they could be used to generate interest in the novel length story.

I’m excited by this idea. I know I need to stop planning and start writing. This will be the perfect opportunity to do just that. In the meantime, I can still let that problem thread roll around in my mind and perhaps I’ll find a solution.

Whispering Caves: One-Sentence Summary Revised

As noted in Whispering Caves: Planning a Novel I had a one-sentence summary that I wasn’t 100% happy with. This morning I’ve been physically working on the plan and have a revised sentence.

Transported to a forgotten world, a neglected, modern-day teenager must cope with being the centre of attention as she battles to find a way home.

The above isn’t that different to the first one I had, but it feels more complete and I’m much happier with it.

In other news, I have draft profiles for three of the four main characters. Two of the characters were quite easy to write, but the third one offered some difficulties for me to overcome. I couldn’t work out his epiphany, but with a short discussion with my partner the problem with quickly resolved (I was looking at the character’s situation from the wrong angle). That character’s motivations have changed as a result, which means he’s going to be a different person to what I had imagined. It will be interesting to get to know him.

Anyway, that’s my morning writing session come to a close. I have some things I have to do now, but I intend to have another writing session this afternoon. I’m already looking forward to it. 😀

Whispering Caves: Planning a Novel

I haven’t been writing or planning, as such, but I have been spending a lot of time thinking about this story, which is almost like writing. 🙂 Anyway, before I get stuck into the physical planning, I thought I’d make sense of my thoughts and see where I’m at.

First, there’s the one-sentence summary:

Transported to a world forgotten in time, a neglected, modern-day teenager must cope with all the attention and death threats directed at her.

I’m not 100% happy with the sentence, but I can continue to tweak it until I am. However, the sentence is true, which is a necessity. It also hints at travelling between worlds, which I feel is important, and there’s a hint of conflict – a neglected teenager having to face being the focal point (and that’s not even taking into account the mention of death threats). To top it off, the sentence is under 25 words which was my goal.

Alright, I’m happy to move on to the theme. Of course, the theme isn’t necessary at this early stage, but I know the story from beginning to end and feel comfortable putting my thoughts into words.

The theme should be expressed in a few words or a short sentence. This is my theme:

To be happy and free let go of your past demons.

That was much easier to write than the one-sentence summary. Of course, letting go of past demons is easier said than done, but we all know the truth of the sentence and that’s what really counts.

What’s next? Backstory maybe. That was done some weeks ago. I opened a blank document and wrote it like I was telling a story – with dialogue and everything. I really enjoyed the process and now have a thorough understanding of “how things came to be”. This transgresses into world building too. It allowed me to know how things work in my world, and what the limitations must be.

Apart from the plot, the only thing left to think about is the characters. The four main characters are like personal friends, I know them so well. However, having said that I intend to put them through the Jung’s Personality Test to see if I can define them even more. (I did this test myself the other day and the result was exactly me! It was amazing to read.) I will also take some time to write backstories on these four characters, just to be sure they act and react the right way in the story and to do that I need to know where they’ve come from and what their demons are. Once I’ve finished with the main characters I’ll turn my attention to the minor ones. I have a full list of minor characters, but they could use a bit of an overhaul, so I’ll spend some time doing that in coming weeks too.

As for the plot, that will take the largest amount of work, but I figure that with all the other stuff completed, it will become a lot easier once I turn my focus solely on it. I know the beginning and the end, it’s just the middle that needs a lot of work.

Being a planner, I feel satisfied that I’m ready to start planning Whispering Caves properly. That job will start on the weekend and will continue for several (even many) weeks.

Attempting to Take My Life Back with a Goal

Over recent days I’ve been reading a reference book called Writing Fiction for Dummies. When I purchased the book, I was mainly looking for inspiration even though I know I’m a bit passed the “dummy” stage. It seems my impulse has proven to be correct and I am feeling the urge to write stir within me.

Now, before I move on I want to explain that the lack of the urge to write has nothing to do with writer’s block (which I don’t believe in anyway), burn out or not wanting to write. It is completely due to exhaustion from the long hours I am forced to endure. I worked it out that 14 hours of my day is used up in travelling and working and 7 hours is for much needed sleep, which leaves me 3 hours to do everything else – including chores, eating, spending time with my family…and writing. Often, all I feel like doing in that time is sitting like a brain-dead vegetable in front of the TV because I simply don’t have the energy to do anything else. Yes, I could do some writing during the travel time, but at the moment…in the morning, I’m just too tired; and in the afternoon, I read but I’m thinking of changing my routine in coming weeks.

Anyway, let me stop whining and get back on track. I purchased the reference book with the hope of finding inspiration. I knew a lot of the information would already be well known to me, but I was hoping for quick and easy tips to help me get stuck into the planning of Whispering Caves.

Luckily for me the book is co-authored by the snowflake guy (you can find a link to his website at the bottom of this page). And, I recently purchased a copy of Snowflake Pro (the software for the snowflake method of writing a novel). I use the snowflake method all the time, so any tips are always welcomed and I’m finding them in the book.

I feel inspired!

The question is, what am I going to do about it? I cannot write in the morning. The conditions are perfect for writing – it’s always quiet on the train at that early hour, it’s not as crowded either, but I feel so tired that my eyes water, I can’t concentrate and my sight goes blurry because I want to close them and not think. Writing in the morning is not an option. Writing when I get home from work is not an option either – there’s not enough time and my family deserve some of my time. I’ll just have to learn to write in the noisy afternoon crowd instead. There’s nothing else for me to do.

This weekend, I will install Snowflake Pro on my mini-laptop. Starting next Monday, I will trial writing on the train in the afternoon and see how it goes. As the train is really crowded for the first half hour, I’ll read during that time and then I’ll bring out the laptop and write for the rest of the trip.

There, I’ve set a public goal. Now I just have to wait and see what happens from that decision. I will, of course, let you know.

Snowflake Pro

On the weekend I did something impulsive, I purchase a copy of Snowflake Pro. This is software associated with the Snowflake Method of Writing a Novel. I figured that since I use that method to plan my stories all the time, it would be worth buying the software. I’ve had the software for five days, but unfortunately haven’t had time to really try it out, so I can’t give an opinion on it at the moment. I’ll do that once I’ve used it thoroughly.

The software sells for $100 (US dollars), but if you buy a copy of the creator’s book “Writing Fiction for Dummies” then you get the software for $50. I downloaded the Kindle version of the book for $13, got the software for $50, which means I still saved money. I intend to read the book soon (Monday, probably). I also intend to start using the software soon (as early as tonight, if I’m not too tired when I get home from work).

I have a high opinion of the Snowflake method, so I expect to get a lot from both the book and the software. I’ll report again on both soon.

Using Mind Mapping to Plan a Writing Project

Deborah Woehr has written two inspiring posts on this topic:

1. Experimenting with the Mind Map Technique, and,
2. How to Draw a Basic Mind Map of Your Characters.

I say these posts are inspiring because they lit something creative inside me that forced me to try mind mapping in my own writing. I’ve been having trouble moving forward with my projects, so trying something different certainly wouldn’t hurt.

Due to the life issues I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, I’ve decided to put Mirror Image on a back burner for a while as I’m not mentally strong enough to deal with that manuscript at the moment. Having made that decision, I turned to my other projects and felt myself drawn back to my children’s series. It was whilst I was combing the internet looking for inspiration that I came across Deborah’s first post.

Immediately, I felt the urge to try one of the software programmes she mentions in her post and I quickly found myself stalled. I was a little annoyed by this so I returned to the internet and revised my search strings, but continued combing the internet. At this stage I found a hand drawn image that resembled a mind map. In the middle was an untitled oval which had five “arms” going in different directions. At the end of the arms, where five simple words:

1. How?
2. When?
3. Where?
4. Who?
5. Why?

With these words, or questions, freshly planted in my mind, I returned to my stalled mind map…and away I went. It was such a simple thing, but these words had a powerful effect on my mind and allowed it to “open” up at last. Finally, my mind map started taking shape and the project is moving forward at last.

Thank you, Deborah, for putting me on the right path.