Winter

Winter is very strange this year. We’ve been veering from storms and intense flooding (not in Dublin, thankfully, but Cork, where my family lives, was hammered last month) to proper icy temperatures. Winter is my favourite season, and I do like the crisp, icy mornings, but I don’t like being cold and damp. The line has to be drawn somewhere! I want my frosty mornings, please, not the rainy ones.

I’ve been doing a lot of writing in Starbucks, as usual, but the wonderful festive coffees have returned. Even better, Starbucks brought the Eggnog latte back this year (it sadly wasn’t available last year) and I’ve fallen in love with it again. It’s strange, though, as it’s advertised on the signs outside, but not on the actual boards behind the counters at all–I only discovered it was actually back by a co-worker remarking they’d seen the cartons of eggnog being delivered. I immediately rushed to get one, and I was so excited that the barista serving me laughed at my enthusiasm.

I’m still working away on the third draft of TWFF. Progress has slowed due to Chapters Eleven and Twelve needing extensive rewriting. But it has to be done–it’ll just take some slow and careful work. My glimpses of the finishing line have veered dramatically in the past week or so, but I’m getting there.

I’m in the middle of writing a blog post about female characters that should be up soon. The romantic subplot of TWFF centres around three girls, and while one of them was only introduced in the third draft, two of them have been around since I wrote the first chapter of the first draft back in May 2008. I’ve learned a lot since then about writing female characters, and how to make them realistic and complex and what makes them tick. Werewolves are normally female in the world of TWFF, while men have to be bitten to shapeshift, and that put an intriguing spin on the gender dynamics of the Pack and how they interacted with each other. Thinking about all this and shaping it into a blog post has been really interesting.

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30 Days of Writing

So today is the first of December! Not sure where the year went, to be honest, but I’m looking forward to 2010. Not just a new year, but also a new decade.

My unofficial NaNo challenge last month was to write every day during November, which I did. (I have the sticker-filled November on my calender to prove it, once my camera has recharged.) My word count veered wildly between days, and there was one evening where I wrote two paragraphs at 11.45pm and then went straight to bed, but I managed it.

I learned that it is possible to write every day, even if it’s just ten minutes I manage to squeeze in somewhere. Towards the middle of November, I realised I was automatically putting aside the time in my day based on what shift I was working (if it was a work day. It was obviously a lot easier to find time to write on my days off). In days where the writing wasn’t going well, I went back and reread previous stuff and did a bit of line-editing–anything that would keep the story fresh in my mind.

I also realised that I prefer going back and fixing things before moving on. It’s an anti-NaNo sentiment, but it makes me feel better and more confident about moving on. Being 35,001 words deep in a story isn’t as scary when you know the majority of the problems in the previous 35,000 are a little better than they were. Either way, I’m going to have to fix it, so I might as well do it sooner rather than later. This is the complete opposite to how I wrote a year ago (‘write first, fix later’), but I think I’ve been converted because it’s taken so long to fix the structural and other problems of Draft Two.

That said, no matter how long it’s taking, I’m excited about the third draft. Some characters and events have been put in that weren’t in the first or second drafts. I’ve also noticed I was stuck far less in November than in previous months, and I think the ‘rereading and going back and fixing’ idea was part of that. It’s helped pinpoint problems, or stopped them from causing trouble later on.

I’m still not entirely done, but I’m so close, and aiming to finish as soon as possible–once the Christmas rush starts in earnest I’m going to be so exhausted that writing will slow to a snail’s pace. But it’s been interesting what a month of writing every day has shown me about the changes in my writing process.

Nattering and book recommendations!

Apologies for the radio silence–I’ve been hard at work at getting the current draft of the werewolves into shape. I’m aiming to have it all ready to send to readers by the 1st of December (my own version of NaNoWriMo). This draft has taught me a lot about pacing and how to tackle the ‘soggy middle’ and tightening it up so it’s less… soggy. I’m treating this deadline as an official one, so I’ve been getting in writing whenever I can. It frequently involves getting up disgustingly early in the morning to hammer out words before work. As a result, I haven’t had such a regular sleep schedule in years.

I’m also going to mention some books that I read recently and loved!

Ash by Malinda Lo.

I can’t remember where I found out about this book, but once I heard about it, I was so excited. Fairies, fairy tale retellings, and lesbians–what more could you want? This is a beautiful little book, the US cover is stunning (it isn’t out in the UK until March, but that cover also looks lovely, though it’s very different), and once I started reading I couldn’t put it down. While it’s being marketed as a Cinderella retelling with a lesbian twist, there’s much more to it than that. Relationships are at the heart of this: the relationships Ash has with her mother and father; the colder and harder ones she has with her stepmother and stepsisters; and the romantic ones with Sidhean and Kaisa. The book is also about growing up and learning to move on from grief and loss, and learning to love oneself again. The lack of homophobia in Ash’s world is also interesting and a change from many of the YA LGBT books, though this also hasn’t been without its share of controversy.

The lesbian relationship is handled carefully and subtly, though Ash’s relationship with Sidhean is also fascinating, not to mention unsettling and kind of creepy. One of the things I loved most about this book is Malinda Lo’s fairies–they’re very much not human, dark, and sometimes so alien that you can’t help but fear for Ash in her dealings with them. This is a wonderful book, highly recommended, and I can’t wait for Malinda Lo’s next one.

Magic Burns by Ilona Andrews.

This continues to be my favourite urban fantasy series in years. The world-building is incredible–I love how much of the mythology from our time period has been changed and altered in Kate’s. Best of all, there’s Celtic mythology in this book and it hasn’t been messed up to such a point that I’m ripping my hair out! Ilona Andrews also continues to subvert my vampire and shapeshifter expectations, and Kate continues to be a fascinating character while remaining firmly tight-lipped about her past. Another aspect of this series that I love is that decisions have consequences and sometimes the ‘good guys’ don’t succeed without casualties. I can’t wait to read the next in the series, Magic Strikes, but I’m putting off so I won’t have as long to wait for the fourth book. If you like urban fantasy, I highly recommended this series.


Liar by Justine Larbalestier

I’m actually not going to say that much about this book because I think it’s one that people should go into knowing as little as possible. So: Micah is a liar. She’s a really good one. This book is fabulous. By the time I reached the end, I wasn’t sure of anything. It must have been a complete headache to write and keep everything straight while doing so. This is definitely one that you should pick up: highly, highly recommended.

And now, I return to plowing through my draft!

Checking in

Hello all, I haven’t quite fallen off the face of the planet. Mostly I’ve been knee-deep in revising TWFF and I’m pleased to say that the end is in sight! It’s changed so much since that inkling of an idea I had over a year ago now, but I know there will still be work to do even when this draft is completed.

I have a few days off in early August, just after the bank holiday weekend, so I’m thinking of going down the country and booking myself into a hotel for a crazy writing holiday to get to the end of the draft. I’ve never gone on a break solely for the sake of writing, so it should be interesting, not to mention exciting since I’ll be close to the end of the draft. I’m really looking forward to it.

Other than that, life is not very exciting. You’d hardly think it’s summer right now with the constant rain we’ve been getting for the past few weeks. On the other hand, considering the country I live in I shouldn’t really be surprised.

On weather and demons

Today is a good day, so far. While the weather is unseasonably high–it was 20 degrees celsius before 11am; I was actually warm while waiting for my tram to work at 8am–the writing is going well. I tackled part of a new scene from Chapter Three at lunch, and I think I may be on to a winner. I’ve been struggling with the characterisation of one of my supporting characters and rewrote the first scene between her and my MC about five times in the past year. Today, I think I stumbled on the exact way to highlight what should hopefully be the reader’s first impression of her. I’m so happy I could dance!

In other news, I also downloaded a 30 day trial of Scrivener last night, and so far I’m quite impressed. It’s a lot faster than Word and as of yet hasn’t made my (rapidly approaching middle-age) Macbook groan and stall. I’ll know for sure in the next week or so, but I think I’ll be shelling out to be a license for it!

(Today is also the release day for Sarah Rees Brennan’s YA debut The Demon’s Lexicon! I had the luck of getting an ARC of this (one of the benefits of working in a bookstore and being able to pester reps!) and to meet Sarah herself, who is lovely. This is definitely one of my top reads of 2009: witty, dark and extremely moving, with characters that stayed with me for a long time after finishing it. If you can, definitely get your hands on this one.)

Summer weather?

Eek, once again I sort of disappeared from here for several months! Unintentional, I assure you. Right now I am deep in the second draft of TWFF with a deadline for the end of June. This is a deadline I have to stick to as one of my readers is heading to Thailand for seven weeks at the end of next month, and she’s hoping to either read the draft before she goes or to take it with her.

I recently returned from a trip to New York; my first cross-Atlantic trip, in fact. I may have ransacked the YA sections of many bookstores while I was there. I came back with twenty-six books, but, as I was underweight, I could have bought more. I’m starting to make my way through them, but taking my time of course.

So far we seem to be getting an actual summer, if only for a little while. I think it’s time to start contemplating writing outside in the garden with a cool drink. It’s still bright on my home from work after evening shifts, warm enough that I don’t need a coat–perfect thinking time. While I’m not a fan of summer, preferring pleasant spring days, I love summer evenings and how they make me relaxed and contemplative.

I’m hoping to start querying TWFF possibly in late summer or early autumn, but we’ll see. I think there’s still a draft or two to go; there’s no point in overthinking it until I get some reader feedback.

Writing musings

Eek, yes, I sort of forgot about this place a little. Oops. Anyway, I hope everyone had a wonderful winter holiday of their choice and new year. Mine was lovely, and I entered 2009 determined that this would be the year I got TWFF up to a querying polish and actually started to query agents.

I rambled talked about the book with a couple of writer friends who helpfully pointed out some loop holes and plot problems which I’m in the middle of fixing. I’m hopeful that I can get it into proper shape and make a real go of it.

Other than that, life is pretty boring. I’ve recently become obsessed with the Gilmore Girls and am steadily making my way through the series. And I’ve been reading a lot, but that’s not very unusual.