Twixtmas, that ethereal time between Christmas and New Year, when you’re often not sure of the day of the week. For extra atmosphere, our town is bunkered under a layer of fog and the streets are still awaiting their residents’ return from holiday trips. It’s delightful.
For me it’s when I start thinking about the encroaching calendar flip, and Making Plans. New pencil case type plans. World Domination type plans. Do Something Big This Year plans.
Many writers (in every medium from blogs to novels) advocate writing every day. Apart from the fact that 300 words a day turns into a decent first draft of a novel over the course of 365 days, those writing muscles need a regular workout.
“Simplifying” is also writ large across my 2017 to-do list. With both goals in mind, this bit of wisdom from Zen Habits really struck a chord this week.
Do you write daily? How about giving it a try in 2017?
I am manufacturing more time for writing this Autumn. Sometimes I’ll be making it out of thin air, other occasions I’ll be borrowing from chores and the boring bits of life and frequently it’ll be snatched back from Facebook and other ways of being social.
If you’re looking for tips on planning and productivity, check out tonight’s #geaqa discussion. Children’s writers, but lots of good stuff on there to help all of us.
So since I last blogged here, what’s been going on?
- I’ve written about 80k of my MG novel, possibly even more, spiralling around in myriad directions
- I rejoined and actually became more active in SCBWI, including going to the conference in Winchester last November
- Through SCBWI, I’ve found a brilliant critique group
- This month I’m doing ReFoReMo and shortly will be starting Kristen Fulton’s Non-Fiction Archaeology course.
In short, there’s still writing happening (life got in the way a little bit too, with some health stuff and a house move) and paradoxically some confidence issues after some people were nice about my work. More on that later.
But I realised that much as I was having fun just writing, I was getting demoralised by the fact that there was no discernable end in sight. Even if what I’m writing isn’t ever published, it’s important to me that it’s finished, and then that it’s polished. I need to believe in the story, and love it, to keep faith with it through that undeniably lengthy process.
From reading more critically, and various useful techniques that I gained from the Urban Writers’s Six Month Novel course, and from SCBWI conference sessions, I realised that despite having all kinds of ‘story’ experience (editorial background, degree in media and screenwriting) it was time to go back to basics and improve my craft dramatically. Hence all the courses and “learnin'” that’s going on around here at the moment.
Sometimes going backwards is just as much fun as going forwards.
Hands up who else gets ‘synopsis dread’? Writing a pitch line is one thing. “It’s Vanity Fair meets Fight Club in East Grinstead.” I’ve tried so hard to be a plotter – and I believe it’s improved my writing and my process – but still I can’t help veering off on tangents. When you need to write a synopsis for something that still in draft, you start to realise what a big hoary mess it’s become and stripping it back for a coherent synopsis is a terrifying prospect.
In a recent #ukmgchat with Sarah Odedina from Hotkey books, she said the most important thing to remember in writing for a Middle Grade (MG) audience is LOGIC.
I have become reasonably obsessed with this, as I think it’s true. As converted pantser, no matter how hard I try to stick to an outline, it tends to veer off when OOH A PLOT BUNNY crosses my path and I just throw him into the mix regardless.
I’ve realised it’s important to make sure that each scene advances each participating character’s “wants” – that their actions propel them towards whatever it is that they want (to be left alone, to climb Everest, to rob the convenience store, to make the perfect cannoli) every time, regardless of plot bunnies. And I need to see that in front of me.
Scrivener is a great tool but I’d love if it had some sort of timeline (and also an iPad version) so I’m going analog. As suggested by some other SCWBI members, I’ve got a roll of wallpaper, and I’m adding some name labels. Going to make the mother of all timelines, check that the logic and ‘wants’ are king, work out what character ‘knows what when’, as Rachel Aaron suggests in 2k to 10k, and note the plot bunnies that need to be shot and boiled.
I’ve got Sharpies and I’m not afraid to use them.
2k to 10k: Writing Faster, Writing Better, and Writing More of What You Love
Rachel Aaron’s book is free til Friday, but even if you end up paying a whole 77p for it like I did, it’s well worth it.