Archives: Writing Progress

A Puzzle

How can it be, that even after reading a manuscript nine-thousand times, and having other people read it, I can still find clunky sentences, dodgy words, and TYPOS? Answers on a postcard, please. 

In totally unrelated news, I’m proofing the paperback version of The Night Mage, which will be available soon.

Right now, my work-in-progress is my slice of relief each day. Yet I’m approaching the end of Act 1, which is where I either quit, or scrabble for an outline. I have to keep trusting the process, believe in the power of my creative mind, and push on without planning ahead. In future drafts, I’ll have plenty of time to plan and tweak and make sure everything clicks into place, but right now, this first draft is pure fun, pure exploration. Right now, the characters are in charge, not me. 

But damn, it requires so much blind faith.

EDIT: Oh yeah, I’m going without an outline for this project. Don’t think I mentioned that before. A couple of months ago I was back aboard the planning boat, before I hit the rocks and remembered that planning sucks all excitement out of drafting. It’s fun, being so unsure about your own creative process. So fun!

frustrated fuck my life GIF

SECOND EDIT: So, I did mention it. But forgot I had. Oh good. All the wine is slowly dissolving my brain. 

New Beginnings

Today I started a new book. 

studying hand-made GIF by Philippa Rice

It’s a pretty grand statement, and already I’m thinking nah, you’ll never finish it, but I’m going to drown out those nasty critical voices and push on regardless. 

In the end, with no good ideas coming to mind, I decided to go with the flow and make it all up as I go along. I love planning, but I’ve found that if I plan in advance, I suck all the joy out of writing, get bored, and give up. So, I think the best way for me to work is to plan a TEENY bit in advance – like, the next scene and nothing more – and then do loads of planning/musing in the revision stages, after the first ropey draft is complete. 

The hardest thing (apart from actually writing the bugger) will be ignoring word counts. I can’t allow myself to get drawn back into the mental torture of fixating on word counts, so I’ll need to stay vigilant. I do want to check in every day though, so I never lose the thread of the narrative. It’s especially important when there’s no plan to fall back on…

I also need to sketch out a rough schedule, but I’m a little nervous to do so given my abusive history with deadlines.

Why is writing so bloomin’ hard?

Day 1: Decent bit (half a scene); 10 miles (I’m nearly at Rivendell in my Walk to Mordor!).

Writing Roundup 10th May

I couldn’t think of an interesting title.

Anyhoo, I haven’t been blogging much because everything’s been pretty groovy. However, I have had a few changes I thought I’d share.

1 – Not writing-related, but I’ve decided to finally stop restricting food and drink. No more ‘No sugar, No alcohol, 300 calorie treat per day’ etc. I can consume what I want, when I want it (so long as I can afford it!). I was sick of feeling deprived all the time, and of my thoughts being dominated by weight, dieting and food. I’ve got more important things to be thinking about. I trust my body to warn me if something is wrong, and to tell me what it wants; all I have to do is listen. And I fully believe and accept that my self-worth is not determined by my appearance – despite what society has tried to teach me my whole life. It’s a work-in-progress to let go of all the toxic thoughts, but I’m getting there. I feel free at last. I no longer think along the lines of, ‘I’ll be/buy/feel/do X when I’m at Y weight’. Now, I just do it. I almost feel like life has properly begun – it’s that liberating. 

2 – I’m practising yoga again, every day. (I usually do Yoga With Adriene.) But this time, I’m not bothered about strength, calories, core… My only concern is doing what I want to do – and most times that’s restorative, gentle yoga. I’m here for self love and care, not toned arms. Peace, folks.

3 – I’m currently revising The Night Mage (more on that in another post).

4 – I’m not sure what to work on next. The project I dusted down last month doesn’t appeal to me anymore. It draws on very personal issues, but since banishing my Fear, I don’t feel the need to keep exploring them. I want to move on and put it all behind me… Problem is, I have no other contenders at the moment. 

So, despite a mild worry about what to write next, I’m feeling great overall. Since understanding my fear, things have really turned around. I’m more relaxed, more chilled out, more my true self. 

It’s all good. 

Trusting the Gut

I started writing! Hoorah! I wrote, ooo 250 words? then gave up. Now, that sounds bad. But I had a reason, and the reason was this: all the time I was writing, my gut was screaming at me that I didn’t want to write this book. 

I ignored it as long as I could, then took a break and skimmed through some old projects. One jumped out like a bolt of lightning. I wrote a very scruffy all-over-the-place draft around four years ago, and reasoned that, though it was a good idea, the MS was just too big of a mess to ever return to. 

But after skimming through it, the story now makes sense. I know which elements are relevant and which are not. I know my character’s backstory, and the road she has to travel. All of this makes perfect sense now because the story is far more autobiographical than I’d previously realised. I’ve needed this time to process my own crap in order to fully understand my main character and the journey she has to go on. In other words, I have to write this book and I have to write it now.

Good thing is I have the 3rd person mess to use as a guide, which I’m going to rewrite completely in 1st person. I also know my characters pretty well (and I dreamt about them last night, which is always a good sign). My goal is to write something every day for the whole of April. 

This is the book. This is the one I’m going to complete. I shall call it, Project Mountain. 

PM total: 280.

I have a long way to climb. 

Climbing Out the Hole

I’ve had a ropey last few days. Monday was grand; I came out of A Wrinkle in Time feeling so good, so positive, and then something went wrong on Monday evening. Each afternoon since then has been a drag of lethargy, leading me to the sofa, leading me to Bad Places. 

When I feel bad, I feel like a failure, like I have no control over my life, that I’m nothing but a useless housewife (no offence to any housewives; I simply want a career of my own, and not being financially independent while I chase my goal is intensely frustrating and scary for me). When I feel bad, I also feel lonely, and my life feels empty, and everything basically feels like shit. 

Well, I’ve had 2.5 days of feeling crap, and I’m determined not to have another day like it. I’m just so sick of bad moods, anxiety, depression… So my first step is to not drink alcohol or eat any junk food. I had a wedding at the weekend, where I boozed and ate some bad stuff, and I’ve been eating junk every day since. Funny thing about junk: it makes you want more junk. Today I woke up craving a pastry for breakfast (and not even a vegan pastry), but I forced myself to make my amazing banana milkshake, and now I feel full and satisfied without any guilt. I’ve got delicious sushi for lunch, and something nice planned for dinner. I’m seeing my counsellor today however, and I usually come out of that feeling very emotional and very much in need of wine, so I’ll need to combat that urge. Alcohol-free beer all round!

On the writing front, I’ve crawled forward on my story structure, and now I feel like I’ve done all the planning I want to do before drafting. I’ve had real problems finishing manuscripts in the last year – likely due to perfectionism and a self-generated pressure to make the book right in as fast a time as possible – so I need to constantly remind myself that first drafts are supposed to be crap. I’ve forgotten that. (I’ve forgotten so much in the last couple of years, as I’ve crushed myself under pressure to produce at a crazy rate… Sigh.) To fight this perfectionism, I think I need to get drafting. Get some words down, ugly words, and tell myself on a daily (hourly?) basis that this is fine, and all that fancy stuff about theme and story structure can come in during the second, third, umpteenth drafts. That was how I used to write, before the Great Darkness descended. 

Even as I write this, I’m scared. Terrified, actually, to start writing. I’m scared that what I’ll write will be terrible. I’ll waste words, which means wasting time, and I can’t waste time because- ohgodohgodohgod! I have to face my fear. I have to get over this! Get the words down, then fix the words. Rewrite them, even. But I can’t fix a blank page. 

How is it that seven years in, I’m more scared of writing a book than I was when I started? How does it seem more impossible now, even though I’ve completed numerous manuscripts, and published a few to boot? This is why writers drink and suffer a myriad of mental health illnesses. WRITING A BOOK IS SO FECKIN’ HARD. 

I can’t bring myself to finish this post because when I finish, I’ll need to start the book.

But I’ve got to. Fear leads to the dark side. I have to punch fear in the face, by doing the thing that scares me most. I have to tell myself I’m capable of doing hard things. I have to believe in myself. Believe, believe, believe. 

K. I’m going now. I’m going to write some words. And they’re going to be terrible and will probably get cut in revision, but write them I must. 


Suspicious Pants

*moonwalks onto the page*

I am feeling GOOD about this book. YES! I’ve been working on the main characters and their relationships (and I’m getting somewhere in the lovey-dovey department), and my next task is to cobble together a rough outline of all the stuff that’s going to happen. 

Which brings me to the issue of plotting and pantsing. (Actually, it’s not an issue. It’s just something writers like to talk about when they’re stuck on a problem.)

So, I was wondering how much to plot before drafting. I fall somewhere in the middle of the two extremes (like 99.99% of writers out there, hence the lack of Issue), but, in the last couple of years, have drifted more to pantsy waters, the reasons for doing so being, A) I read Dean Wesley Smith’s Writing into the Dark and it struck a major chord, and B) I grew suspicious of outlines that never stick the landing. What’s the point in planning something out if you always veer from the plan? Sounds like wasted effort to me. 

HOWEVER, I’ve had a thought. What if the reason I ditch plans is because I’m doing a crappy job matching my words to my vision? I mean, if I know the character well enough, then what’s the difference between planning their actions in an outline and writing them out in prose? Yes, it’s possible that rushed and shallow planning can result in character actions not making sense when it comes to writing scenes; however, it seems strange to me that, with proper thought, characters behave naturally in my head, then magically try to act another way when it comes to the actual page.

All of this has me wondering: is it more a case of reality not matching the imagined, thus causing me to give up? When I write by the seat of my pants, I don’t have a clue where it’s going, therefore I have no vision to compare it to, therefore there’s a smaller chance of me thinking it’s a pile of crap. Hmm… While I can’t say for sure, I’m certainly suspicious. 

With this in mind, I’m going to sketch out an overall rough skeleton for the book, and plan each scene before writing it. I’m hoping to have my outline done by the end of this month, so I can draft all through April. (Fun fact: I like to do big stuff in April, for the obvious reason. Last year, I made sure to publish The Night Mage in April. For luck? I dunno. It just felt right.)

Where Have All the Good Men Gone?

I like to write romance. Not Romance, but stories with romance at their core. Usually, the main romantic pair come to me as a unit. It’s their relationship that spark the whole book. 

Well, for this book, (I’m gonna call it…Project X), it was four women who arrived as the first glint of inspiration. Four friends. I can see them; I can hear them. I want to write about them. (Yay! Fantastic! Characters that feel real!)

I spent yesterday delving deeper into each of them, before deciding that I had to move on to the romance/antagonism. Great, I thought; now I get to think up hot men for my ladies (well, some of them; not all are into guys). 

Hot men. Boy, do I love ’em…

…Trying to think of some…

…*pictures Adam Driver smothered in oil*…

…trawls memory of all men I’ve ever fancied…

…looks lovingly at husband…

Yeah. I’m out. Stuck again, on the part I thought would be easiest. I can’t crack the romantic side to this book. I can see my leading ladies doing all sorts, except falling in love with a cracking chap. Why? Is it because this book is my celebration of women, therefore I can’t bear to give any power or awesomeness to a man? Unfortunately I need most of the romantic interests to be men, simply because I’m heterosexual and need to imagine falling in love with the characters. I also don’t want a book that promotes women but excludes men. Ugh. Sigh. BUGGER IT. 

I think my only option right now is to Muse a crap-ton. Listen to music. Listen to my fave romantic choons. Perhaps browse Pinterest in the interest of research. Perhaps watch seasons 2-4 of Doctor Who for the same reason. 

Of all the potential problems that arise when writing a book, I never thought this would be one of them. 


P.S. I answered my two major questions. 

Crucial Questions to Ask

I’m one week on from hauling myself back on the horse and happy to report I’m still feeling pretty good.  After my coffee sesh last week, it became clear that one of my older ideas was the one I had to work on. It’s the one that came to me in early Feb (though the seeds were planted back in August 2017). The characters have always felt real to me; they’ve always spoken easily in my company. My job now is to develop them, and dig out a story. I’ve done quite a bit of character brainstorming, and also read Writing the Breakout Novel, by Donald Maass, which left me with pages of notes and things to mull over while I’m in this preparatory stage. 

Even though I can’t wait to get writing (the itch is strong), I’m forcing myself to take my time in these early moments. True, I’m not going to tie myself down to a tight outline – I veer more to the pantsy side of life – but I do want a clear vision of what I want to achieve before embarking on the long slog of the first draft. Having no true vision is probably why so many of my recent projects have spluttered and failed, so this time, I’m giving myself room to think. Basically, I have two major questions to answer:

  1. What will happen if I don’t write this novel?
  2. What am I trying to say and why? 

If I can figure out the answers to both these questions, then I’m ready to move onto some deeper character work. (And then setting, and then plot, and then, maybe! I’ll be ready to write.


Current mood: Optimistic yet antsy.

Current wrist pain: Moderate.

Random aside: How awesome is Black Panther? More of the same, please.

Here We Go Again

I started writing again yesterday, attacking this new idea that’s been bubbling in my head for a week. The morning didn’t get off to a great start (coffee problems), and then when I began to type, a chorus of self-doubt echoed in my ears. Like, it was so loud it was almost funny. I didn’t think I could write anymore; I thought I didn’t know how to tackle a novel. I’d forgotten how to have fun. I believed I was getting worse instead of getting better… Ye know, all that sort of rubbish. 

Anyway, I battled through and got a couple hundred words down, and then the nasty voices got a bit quieter. Then I actually enjoyed myself a little, and managed 1636 over a couple of hours. Not bad, folks, not bad. 

So here I am facing Day 2. I’m going to write a little bit, but I’m also aware that these characters are strangers to me, and the world is empty. From experience, I know that this will probably derail me before the 10k mark, so I need to invest time building the characters and setting. If I’m at my desk for seven hours a day, I think it’s reasonable to expect 1-2k on top of research, brainstorming, and other bits and bobs I have to be getting on with.

After my two-week break, I’m determined to make this version work, and to do that I need breathing space, and a constant reminder that first drafts are meant to be abysmal. 

*takes deep breath* 

I can do this. 


Current WIP: 1636

The Spark

Okay okay okay – there’s a twitch. A wee twitch. I think I do have the right characters, the right world… It’s the right story I need to find. 

The past couple of days I’ve glimpsed glimmers of theme, scenes, a story half-formed. I’ve accepted this project isn’t going to be like any other. I’ve accepted that I can’t scare the Muse. Even though I can sense the spark of inspiration, I’m refusing to write. It’s like approaching a frightened doe – if I move too quick the bugger will run off. I had to stop myself today from sketching too many ideas. I have to let it simmer away in my brain, like sushi rice. If you lift the lid too soon on your sushi rice, you get rubbish sushi rice. I love sushi rice. And I love not having writer’s block. It is very important I treat myself like rice. 

(I’m having sushi for tea tonight.)

Um, yeah. So maybe the fog is lifting. Maybe not. Maybe there’s still a story in me about beasts and beautiful things. Or maybe not.