Month: August 2012 Page 1 of 2

Can I Call Myself An Award-Winning Author Now?

I’ve been nominated for one of those link-sharing things called a Liebster Award, by a fellow writer and blogger I’ve lately followed, Paige Nolley. Thanks!

The rules are thus: you get nominated, you answer a few questions, you nominate a few someone elses with questions of your own – writers I presume. I’m not sure I know of five that have blogs so I might come up a little short in that regard, but here are my answers to the questions I was given.

1. If you could resurrect a deceased author to pick their brain over lunch, who would it be and why?

I’m going to go with Jane Austen on this one. Not only is she one of my favourite authors, she and I are birthday twins. I imagine the conversation will mainly revolve around how much it sucks to be born so close to Christmas when no one pays any attention to you and none of your friends can come to your party because “it’s such a busy time of year.” I’d introduce her to sushi and she would explain the many benefits of corsets.

2. If you were famous to the extent of JK Rowling, Stephen King, or Nora Roberts, would you embrace that fame or hide away? Why?

Oh, I would SO hide away. For two reasons. 1. My kids don’t need that kind of attention in their lives. I want to be normal mom, not why-are-all-those-people-taking-your-picture mom. 2. Hiding away has always been my plan, regardless of career outcome. There’s a little plot of land in the BC interior somewhere with my family’s name on it, along with a bunch of chickens, a goat or two, a large vegetable patch and a woodstove. I’m a half-assed prepper, because being a city girl half-assed is pretty much all you can do. The money from King-level fame could build me a pretty sweet bunker that could withstand any zombie apocalypse.

3. What is your biggest inspiration as a writer?

Music. Besides the fact that my books wouldn’t even exist without the random chance of two songs out of 900 playing back-to-back on my iPod one day, so many of the relationship dynamics and events in my story have been inspired by lyrics and music. My ‘Songs for Writing’ playlist has a lot of Tegan & Sara, Metric, Pixies, the Bird and the Bee, Matthew Good, Shout Out Louds, Lykke Li, and plenty more. I like to post songs that are on repeat while I’m writing on this blog periodically, and eventually I’d like to do a chapter-by-chapter playlist for anyone who might read it. When I’m stuck on something or out of ideas I put on ‘Shuffle All’ and wait for something to catch my ear. It works 100% of the time, and a lot of the time it sends me off in a direction I hadn’t anticipated.

4. If you could have one super-power, what would it be and why?

The inability to feel fear. It’s no coincidence my main character has a crippling phobia. I write what I know.

5. What is the hardest thing you have ever had to do on your own?

Push out a baby. As much as there are people there to support you (and I had wonderful midwives and my awesome husband with me) in the end you’re doing it all by yourself. It’s your body vs. your brain. It probably comes as no surprise then that the hardest thing I had to do on my own is also the most amazing thing I had to do on my own.

I’m going to reflect on who I might send this to and update with a list and questions. If you straight up want a nomination, post in the comments and you’re in.

Putting It Out There

I’m thinking about doing Six Sentence Sunday for the next little while. One thing I haven’t done on this blog is add any samples of what I’ve been writing. I like what I write – I really do – but I have this inferiority issue where I think that no one else will. Even though the few people I’ve shared with are all “MORE WE WANT MORE. MORE CHAPTERS. RIGHT NOW.” Well now it’s time to punch fear in its fucking face. I don’t want to spend hours sifting through my writing looking for the bits that I think are the awesomest, so I think I’ll just take six from whatever I’ve written that day. And there will be rules, because I like rules.

1. Thou shalt not receive any context. All thou shall get is six.

2. Thy own post shall be true to what I have written.

3. Wretchedness shalt not prevail shouldst thy forget to post.

4. Thy use of autopost shall be permitted in cases of grand voyages and other distractions.

5. Such a challenge as this shall inspire thy best writing lest thou giveth words of woe.

Seriously, people used to talk like that?

Stay tuned for the first edition, coming September 2.


I’m setting a challenge for myself. An achievable goal. A milestone to work toward. And I’m going to write it out so I am held accountable, because there’s nothing more motivating than public failure.

At the beginning of November I’m going to Mexico for a week with my sister. The goal is to have a completed first draft of The Unravelling by then so I can sit on the beach with my red pen and a printed manuscript and start identifying areas for revision.

The last time I went on a tropical vacation, to Hawaii in April, I brought my laptop with me but didn’t write a single word (I also had two kids to entertain, whereas this is going to be a girls-only trip, so there’s that). I aim for this to be different.

So there you go. Ten weeks to get ‘er done. I think it’s doable.

Reaching Out

I just added a new Contact page up there ^. It would be great to chat about writing with other scribes. I’d like to collect a couple more early readers to send my work to when I’m finished, but I need to get to know someone a bit first. Of course, random fawning praise is always welcome too. Anyway, drop me a line sometime, won’t you?

Conflict with Conflict

I’ve been writing this argument scene for a couple days, and the dialogue just isn’t falling together for me. Everything sounds really awkward, and I can’t come up with better words for my characters to express themselves with. I think I have a really good sense of the emotions and the non-verbal aspects of the argument, but what they’re saying isn’t coming out right. When I run through the scene in my head, there’s a lot of gesturing and facial expressions and whatnot, but no dialogue. It’s frustrating! Sharing (and avoiding sharing) feelings is so awkward sometimes. I roughed in a few sentences, but it’s definitely something I have to come back to later.

In my own life, I’m a conflict avoider, so it’s no surprise to me I’m struggling with this one. Callie, however, can be a conflict provoker. She often speaks without thinking and will use words as weapons, so this is something I’m really going to have to work on, especially since there are many, many more conflicts in her future.

At least I have the luxury of doing what I’ve always wished I could in real life: going back and changing what I said hours later when I think of a way better line.

Rise and Shine…

I posted that to my facebook today, but I’ll put it here too, because it expresses the mementuousness of what happened.

This morning I woke up, bleary-eyed as usual, at the ungodly hour of 7:45a.m. If you know me, you know I’m not a morning person, and since I don’t drink coffee in the a.m. I just act grumpy until about 10 or so. Having fed the offspring and agreed to let them watch TV so I could go back to bed in peace, I found myself unable to fall asleep again. What to do, what to do? It only took fifteen minutes to check email and facebook and nothing interesting was going on there. The idea of trying to write crossed my mind, but I told myself that since my brain felt like cotton, it would be a pointless exercise.

Fuck that noise, I told myself a few minutes later. I had in front of me an hour of uninterrupted time – a daytime rarity on par with being able to grocery shop alone – and I haven’t written anything in about a week. So let’s see what happens. Even 200 words is further than I was yesterday, right? Right.

Turns out my brain is quick to adjust in the morning, more so than I give it credit for (I think – I haven’t re-read anything I did this morning yet). But I’m 1,600 words closer to the end. It’s also probably the last chance I’ll get to do such a thing – my oldest didn’t have school today and I didn’t work, so we didn’t have to get up for anything. The lesson here: whenever I tell myself I can’t write for X reason, I should just sit the hell down and do it anyway.

The whole excessive-word-count thing is still getting me down, which is why I haven’t touched my work in about a week. I can easily see another 30-50,000 words to go in this thing, and today I hit 90,000. I guess I’ll just see where I end up, but it’s a bit depressing to know that I’ve put so much work into it that might end up never getting seen by anyone. I’ve definitely identified a few scenes that could stand to be cut, but certainly not 20,000 words worth. Maybe I can make it up by chopping all my really‘s and very‘s. That’s gotta be a thousand words right there.

Oh, Shit

I spent my evening hunting around for tips on first-draft editing, and found some stuff – mostly blog posts – that I think will be really helpful. Whereas I’ve been approaching revision with a sense of dread, now I was getting excited about it. So, yay about that.

Then a search engine result caught my eye and I clicked it. It was about standard word counts for various genres of novels. Whether you call what I’m doing urban fantasy or paranormal romance, the standard for both is apparently 90,000-100,000 words. Deviating from the standard can equal automatic rejection for unpublished authors (and I’m assuming I’m considered unpublished because I’ve never published fiction, only journalism).

I’m sitting at 88,000 and am nowhere close to the end.

So now I’m not all that excited about revising anymore. Because chances are good I’m going to be looking to cut around 20,000+ words.

I’m fucked.

August and September

Canning season. The bulk of our preserved food for the year gets put up in these two months. It all comes into season at once, and it’s a hell of a lot of work keeping up with getting it all processed and put away. Subsequently, my writing time has suffered. I sure don’t want to sit down at my computer after spending three hours pitting cherries. Same goes for making 10L of spaghetti sauce. And then there’s the garden, which is a whole other workload. It’s my favourite time of year, to be sure, and nothing feels better than looking at my fully stocked cold room at the end of it, but it’s not my favourite time to be a writer, because I’m scrambling to get in any time at all. Guess I’ll just keep telling myself that I can’t write anything at all if I have to take another job to by store-bought food (or I’m starving).

The Final Tally

I went away for one week. Seven days of rest, relaxation, amazing weather, a view to inspire and extra help with the kids. And as I’ve rejoiced in a previous post, I spent it writing my damn face off. Every day, from 3ish to 5:30ish I sat on a chaise longue (and I have to stop here for a moment and point out that it’s NOT pronounced shayz lownje, it’s shayz long. It’s French for long chair, not lounge chair. End rant) and wrote. And wrote. And wrote. 2,000 word minimum, sometimes over 3,000. And then sometimes I’d do a little bit more before bed too. All told, I banged out around 17,500 words, an average of 2,500 a day. Four whole chapters.

This makes me realize how much of an effect my environment has on my productivity. Yes, it definitely helps that I don’t have to spend the time in the afternoon that the kids are napping with cleaning or cooking or working at my day job, but there was so much around me to stimulate my mind and keep me motivated to write – I looked forward to sitting outside in the sun every day. I certainly don’t spend my days at home eagerly awaiting the time when I can go sit in my cold, dark basement.

Anyway, I’m beyond pleased with how much I accomplished, although I did notice that when I write quickly like that (quickly for me, anyway) I tend to leave out some details or neglect to describe things in sufficient detail in my haste to get all the words out. Nothing a night-time review session with a glass of wine can’t fix, right? Right.

So, the tally:

You may notice the slight increase in the word count goal. There’s no way in hell this story is wrapping up in 13,000 words. I’m even skeptical 43,000 will be enough… 150,000 may end up being my final count. I haven’t been attached to a particular number from the start – it’ll end when it ends, and I imagine after editing that will come down significantly anyway, since I recall reading somewhere that the goal of editing a first draft is to reduce the manuscript by 10%. Crazy to imagine finding so much to cut, but I’m sure it’s there.

After a seven-hour drive today my brain is little more than mush, so there won’t be any writing tonight, but I’m curious to find out as the week begins if I can stick to even a part of my lakeside routine. Writing outside maybe? Saying to hell with the housework (and supper prep) and writing in the afternoon? Or should I be grateful for the break and everything I managed to do, and slip back into my home routine, with fond memories of the time when I felt like I could write forever?

Trying Again

Way back when I first started this project, I toyed with the idea of writing some scenes out of narrative order, just as they came to me, so I could preserve them when they were fresh in my mind. Most of the time when I’m thinking about future scenes I see them as pictures in my mind, a little snippet from a movie. It’s only when I’m actually writing them, or working up to writing them, that I start to think about them in words and sentences. I tried writing one scene ahead of time in chapter two, but found it really awkward when it was time to actually fit it into the narrative. It wasn’t the same seamless transition I’m used to having when I write from beginning to end, so I kind of gave up on that idea. Until today.

For whatever reason, one of the key scenes from Book Three started coming to me in words instead of pictures this afternoon. Why, I’m not sure, but you can bet that since I won’t be getting around to even starting Three for at least a couple years, maybe longer, there was no way I was letting it slip by or trying to hold onto it in my mind until then. So now I have a new doc called Random Scenes, with a fresh 1,000 words in it. I guess time will tell if this new attempt will pay off, since I won’t get to that point for a long while, but it was a positive experience today, getting it all down and out of my head while I had it locked down. If it happens again, I’ll probably do the same thing. I even included what might amount to a brief outline beforehand, explaining what happens immediately before and after the scene I wrote, so I know where in the narrative it fits.

Honestly I think I’m moving closer and closer to making an actual outline, to get rid of some of the confusion I have over what happens when. There are all these mini-movie scenes floating around in my head, but I keep moving them around and I’m not sure where they all fit in relation to each other, sometimes. Maybe once I’m finished One, while I give myself a bit of a break before I start editing my first draft, I’ll take some time to nail down a really solid outline. In the meantime I have an Ideas doc for when bits of dialogue and stray thoughts need to be recorded, and this more formal future scenes doc for when I want to actually write them out in full detail.

Incidentally the one I wrote today is a real turning point for the entire story as a whole. Something major changes in Callie, something that sets her off in a completely new direction from that point forward. It needs some work – it’s a dark point and I want to make it even darker than it already is – but the bones are there, the basic structure, which I can hopefully build on, and with my before-and-after notes, I should be able to fit it into the rest of the story nicely once I get to that point. My previous issue with the scene in chapter two, I think, was that I wrote the orphan scene first, then wrote the before and after, then tried to cram the orphan in between them. I think next time if I stop after the before (this is going to get convoluted here), paste the orphan in, then write the after, the transitions will be a lot smoother. At least that’s what I hope. I’ll report back in 2015 or something with an update.

And I’m still writing up a storm on my vacation. I’m on track to have 15-16,000 words written by the time I go home in two days. I hadn’t really set a firm goal beforehand, but I’d thrown the number 10,000 around in my head as something I’d be thrilled to accomplish. Who knew I’d be so motivated, so inspired and so full of fresh ideas? Every other time I’ve tried to write on a non-writing-retreat holiday has always come up as an abject failure. I wonder now if this is my new routine, my new normal that I can maintain once I’m back into the swing of things at home, or a short-lived burst of productivity? Time will tell, I guess. All I know is I have a seven-hour drive ahead of me, and driving always stirs up all kinds of interesting things inside my head.

Page 1 of 2