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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Walking the Indie Publishing Road

No, I have not fallen into a black hole. Yes, I am still writing (even though the progress bars in the sidebar are not moving). So what have I been doing? The last few months have seen me more focused on writing than I have been in some time.

My progress with Whispering Caves was going quite well. However, writing in first person presented a problem where I couldn’t present vital information as the main character had no way of knowing about it (or finding out about it). I came up with a solution, but am not convinced it is working that well. Having written 15,000 words, I must admit that the manuscript has been placed on the back burner, once again. I’m not entirely happy with this decision, but feel I should be moving forward on other completed projects before finishing this one.

The reason I’ve put the manuscript on the back burner is due to another decision I’ve made about my Cat’s Series (for young readers). There are four books in the series. Two have been written and edited. The other two have been planned, but need writing. As mentioned in a previous post, I’ve decided to publish this series of books myself.

At present, I’m trying to decide if I want to set up a publishing company (small press) or find out if there are other options that would be more suitable for my situation. I’m usually quite resourceful, but have had little luck finding any good information on what options are available to me. This may mean the options are limited, but I want to make an informed decision so I’ll keep searching.

Ideally, setting up a business would be great except I have no knowledge how to go about it or what it entails afterwards and this scares me…a lot! In fact, my own fear is holding me back from taking further steps and this not only annoys me, but frustrates me too.

In the meantime, I’ve been working on covers for the four books. As I’m not an artist, I’ve decided to go with a theme that will cover (excuse the pun) the entire series. The background colours will be bright, the main image will promote the essence of the series and then there will be another image that will be unique to each book. Books 2 and 3 are done, but I’m having a devil of a time with the cover of book 1 – Cat’s Eyes. I’ve been to many royalty free websites and have not found anything suitable. I have used family photos of my own cats to try and achieve a pair of cat’s eyes that would be right, but haven’t come up with the right look yet. A simple pair of black eyes on a transparent background, at a size suitable for cover artwork, will not defeat me!

That’s what I’ve been doing – artwork, editing, refining plans for the unwritten books, writing blurbs, researching and reading websites regarding indie authors, thinking about formats and publication. All these things are writing related.

If you know of any resources that may help me, please let me know. I need all the help I can get.

Preparing to Return to Writing

At 1.30pm today I will disconnect the internet, turn off the phone and return to writing Whispering Caves (after a two week break due to illness). I will be home alone. There will be no distractions. And I will ignore the headache I’ve got, because I’m used to working through those now.

I want to write and I will write! Nothing will stop me.

This morning, I have surfed the internet, played games and faffed about doing silly things. I have attempted to get everything out of my system so that the quiet writing time I will have this afternoon will be totally focused.

I have even gone to numerous writer’s websites purely for inspiration. And there’s so much to be had. It’s wonderful. But the place I found the most inspiration today was The Clarity of Night website, where a competition is being hosted at the moment. The entries are in and readers are being asked to cast their votes. There’s over 70 entries but as they are flash fiction the entries don’t take long to read and I found myself reading them. All of them. I also found myself enjoying and being inspired by quite a few. Eventually, I decided that since I’d put the time into reading all the entries, I should cast a vote because it was the right thing to do. I want the authors of the entries I really enjoyed to receive points in the competition. I want them to know that someone appreciated their efforts. I want to add at the time that I’ve never been to the website before so I’m not associated with it in any way.

Reading the short pieces of flash fiction helped me get into the zone today. But as I read the pieces I came to realise that my preferences are clear – I like dialogue in writing, I’m not keen on all narrative pieces. That is the case when reading longer pieces too. I sway towards books with plenty of dialogue, I enjoy them so much more. But all readers are different. I know that. Writing is always about finding balance in our work. Writers can always appeal to all sorts of readers if they can just find the right balance. Easier said than done.

But enough faffing. Right now, I need to make myself lunch and a cup of tea. In just over half an hour I will open my manuscript and will be dragged into a fantasy world where lives are at risk, love is blossoming, secrets are being kept and the past and present meet. I can’t wait to get there. 😀

Writing: The Cogs Turns

As mentioned yesterday in Writing Progress Bar (not shown on this website), I have been posting a lot about other things but nothing has appeared lately about my writing. I wouldn’t blame readers for thinking it’s not happening, but it is. I can’t say I’m crunching the numbers, but slow and steady still finishes the race.

Over the last two weeks I’ve written about 2,000 words per week, which I think is good. It’s certainly better than not writing at all. As of right now, I’m hovering just below the 10,000 word mark, which is very exciting.

However, what I really want to post about today is how even the best planned stories can go off in a completely new direction. This has happened to me with Whispering Caves. My plans are sitting dormant and the storyline has changed. The main character’s personality is not how I envisioned. A rawer, gutsier woman is coming through and that is definitely a good thing. Her background has shifted too. She has had a tough upbringing and I guess that’s why she won’t take any crap from anyone. I like her.

But that’s not the only thing that has changed. My entire vision for the manuscript never saw the light of day. For starters, I surprised myself by writing in first person and then I surprised myself by splitting the manuscript into three parts. I won’t go into details as to why, but I’m pleased with the new direction.

Finally, remember that “book” thread that gave me so much trouble? Well, it seems all the thought that went into that thread has paid off because I am now completely rid of the old storylines and scenes that kept popping up in my head. (I suffered from “not wanting to let go” syndrome.) The cogs are turning in the right direction and the storyline is nothing like my plan, but it feels complete in my mind.

I may not give regular updates, but the status bar (not shown on this website) will indicate if I’m still focused and writing the manuscript. At this stage, I will not set a public goal as to when I want to finish the manuscript. I just want to write and setting goals could put unnecessary pressure on me. The manuscript will be finished when I reach the end.

Whispering Caves: The Writing Begins

After all the planning, procrastinating and problems, I finally opened a blank page and started writing. And…to help myself get a good start I made a very public goal on Facebook – I declared I would write 5,000 words this weekend.

In all honesty, I went with my gut when I pulled that number out of the air and even though I published the goal I felt this overwhelming urge to retract it instantly as I thought I’d given myself a recipe for failure. I forced myself to ignore that negative feeling and immediately started to write. That was at about 9ish this morning.

It’s now almost 8.30pm and I’m pleased to report that I wrote a staggering 3,728 words. And I did it with ease. I’m so pleased with myself.

Yet, after all the planning, I was still in for a pleasant surprise when the story I began came out in first person. Now, that was a shock. It certainly wasn’t planned, but it’s given the story a whole new feel which I didn’t expect and have found quite inspiring. Hence the number of written words today.

On top of all this, I have discovered more about the main character I didn’t even know and I also have been given three items that fit into the storyline, which weren’t there when I started typing. Who said planning took the fun out of writing?

Whispering Caves already has a prologue and a first chapter. I’m feeling excited about this whole writing thing and I can’t wait to return to the story tomorrow morning.

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. 😀