A Surprise Development

If you read this blog often you will know that I believe in planning…and planning fully. I know that some of you believe this will cramp your style or that there’s no room for being creative in the actual writing process, but I’m telling you that you’re wrong!

Planning every aspect of a story doesn’t mean you will become bored. Remember, all plans should be done in pencil, which means the plans can be easily changed at any time during the writing process. The completed planning is used as a guide only, so that you can finish the story and not get stuck in a corner somewhere with no way out. You, meaning the writer, will still discover surprise twists and turns along the way. Writing the story can still be exciting from beginning to end.

You’re still not convinced?

Well, during the writing of book 2 of my children’s series, an unexpected surprise development occurred. I had no idea that the plot would take this sudden change in direction, but it felt natural and I went with it. And by doing so, an obvious opening appeared for another book (and possibly series) using the same world in the future – a series that would be written for young adults. At first, I didn’t think this would work, because the current series is for children. But upon reflection, I realised that it would be perfect, because children become young adults and the readers of the Cat’s series may well want to return to the world and discover how it has changed in years to come. Besides, if they have read the series, they will want to know what happens where this plot twist happens in book 2.

The two series would be stand alone from each other. In fact, every book in both series are meant to be stand alone too.

How exciting! I’m feeling inspired by this turn of events and I’ll let you know what I decide to do.

Relaxing or Planning?

A day or so ago Sasha asked me this question:

I’m so pleased that everything went well for your Mini Nano. Will you be sitting back for a while or planning number three before you edit number two?

It’s a good question and I wanted to give it some thought rather than rushing in with a reply I might regret later.

My original plan was to let Cat’s Paw sit for the month of December and then start editing in January 2007. That would give me a whole month to catch up on other things – like my family tree research, reading (which I haven’t done at all this month), lazing around doing nothing, catching up on other writer’s blogs etc. I had no plans for book 3 at this stage.

However, all plans should be made in pencil, because it’s quite likely that you will change your mind somewhere along the line. And, if you are like me, even your planning needs to be neat and tidy.

Without question, I will give myself the rest of this week off; although I am already finding myself wandering around in the evening, feeling a little lost. The weather isn’t helping. I can’t settle down and concentrate because I’m trying to escape the oppressive heat. I hate summer.

Anyway, getting back on topic, on the weekend, I will start planning Book 3 – Cat’s Whiskers. The story has been rolling around in my head for a week or so now, even while I was writing book 2. I have a vague plan started. I know how the series is going to end. I’ve known that from the beginning of book 1. But how book 3 gets started is giving me a bit of trouble. I intend to use Sherry’s card system – A Tip for Getting Unstuck – to plan the chapters, once I’ve worked out a bit more of the plot, of course.

I will probably still do the edit in January, but I’ll be doing it with a firm idea where the characters are heading, and I believe that will be more helpful overall.

Thanks for asking the question, Sasha.

What I Learned

This month, because of Mini-NaNo, I learned something about myself as a writer.

I don’t like to write every day. And I don’t intend to write every day again (unless I do another Mini-NaNo, which is highly likely, but I doubt I’ll wait until next Novermber).

Every writer is different. Some like to write in short spurts – writing a few paragraphs then wandering off to do something else, then coming back to write another few paragraphs before wandering off again. Others love to sit and write for hours on end – losing themselves to the story, forgetting to eat and the housework etc. Some from each group will write every day, whilst some will write when the mood takes them, and others only write on set days each week.

However you decide to write is up to you. As long as you do write. As long as the routine you chose gets the words down and the story told.

Personally, I prefer to set a goal to write a chapter a week. It doesn’t matter if I write that chapter in bits every day, or over several days, or all in one sitting. As long as at the end of the week the chapter is finished. Naturally, if I write more than the required chapter, that’s a bonus and I normally don’t include that in the tally for the following week.

What have you recently learned about yourself as a writer? How did this new found knowledge come about?

Mini-NaNo: The End

The first draft of Cat’s Paw is finished! It took 27 days to write. I find that to be quite amazing.

The only other time I’ve participated in NaNoWriMo I did the full strength version and ended up with 53,000 words of complete rubbish (the whole manuscript needs to be rewritten from the start)…and I burned out. I couldn’t write for six months afterwards. That’s the reason I refused to do it again.

This time, doing Mini-NaNo, allowed me to take my time getting the words down. Even though I didn’t edit as I wrote, which is something I normally would do, the manuscript is a good first draft. There is one section that needs some research in order to improve what I’ve written and to make it more realistic. And the main confrontation needs going over with a fine tooth comb. It’s a bit weak how it is now, but most of my big confrontations are weak to start with. I find them difficult to write. Oh, I almost forgot, a surprise character entered the story near the end and was given a special name – Nameless – so I guess I’ll have to come up with something better for him too.

I’ve made copies of this first version of Cat’s Paw and will now officially set the manuscript aside until 2007. I can’t believe I won’t have a word count to achieve tomorrow. Actually, I’m please to be able to do something else for a few days.

Some statistics:
No. of days I didn’t write during Mini-NaNo: 2
My lowest daily word count: 320 words
My highest daily word count: 1,803 words

“The End” is Near

This morning, having not slept well during the night (in fact, for several nights), I was up at 6.10am. I made myself a cup of tea and turned on the laptop. The house was quiet, because no one else was awake … so I wrote. An hour and a half flashed by in an instant. I finished chapter 13 and started chapter 14. Tonight, right after I finish this post, I’ll head back to my writing desk (which is in another room to my internet computer) and will continue writing. I’m hoping to finish chapter 14 today, which will mean I only have one chapter to write and that won’t be a long chapter. At a little over 22,000 words the end is in sight. I haven’t updated the progress bar, but will do so later this evening when I have finished writing for the day. I doubt I’ll reach 25,000 words, but that isn’t an issue either.

It’s probably not a coincidence that I have been wanting to write at all hours of the day for the last few days. I want to finish the story. It’s exciting to be this close to “The End”. Not to mention the Mini-NaNo goal. It’s important to stick to that as well, but it’s not a driving force.

As I mentioned in a recent post, writing every day is not for me. I have done it (mostly) for this entire month, but it’s not something I’ll continue to do. To me, it’s more important to feel relaxed when I sit down and write. Setting a goal of a chapter a week, or so many words a week would be more ideal.

Anyway, until this manuscript is finished, you probably won’t see much of me. So…until then…happy writing, everyone!

Guilt Driven

When I started Mini-NaNo I promised myself one thing; that I wouldn’t push myself. Tonight, despite that promise, I sat down to write and I pushed myself to reach 18,000 words.

The reason?

Yesterday, I didn’t write. I sat back and thought about it, I talked about it, I kept telling myself that I had to do my words, but I just continued to sit and do nothing. Some might say that “you’ve been doing well and it’s good to let your body relax for just one day”. Others might say “be kind to yourself, you’ve been through a lot this year”. But my inner voice said loud and clear, “you lazy good-for-nothing blighter”. (I had to clean up the exact wording a touch.)

Last night, I went to bed and slept really, really well. Actually, I slept for almost nine hours straight without waking up once. That hasn’t happened in six months, since the night I lost my son. In fact, I slept so soundly that I didn’t even hear the alarm this morning and woke up an hour – yes, that’s right, one whole hour – later than usual. I was late for work, but, luckily, my bosses didn’t mind.

I’m getting way off track.

Anyway, I went to bed feeling fine with the fact that I hadn’t written my words. However, this morning, I had a bad case of the guilts. I can make excuses (which I’ve tried desperately not to do). I can make jokes about it. But, at the end of the day, I didn’t even attempt to write a lousy 835 words. That’s pretty pathetic on my part.

Tonight, I sat down with one thought in mind. I have to reach 18,000 words because then I’ve achieved today’s words and half of yesterdays. It wasn’t too difficult to reach the 1235 words I needed, but…not only did I push myself when I promised that I wouldn’t, I wrote for the wrong reasons. I wrote because I felt guilty, not because I wanted to write.

Mini-NaNo has taught me something. I don’t like writing everyday. I don’t want to write everyday. I would much prefer to write three or four times a week, leaving me free to do other things on the other nights. Does that mean I’m not really a writer? Does it mean I’m not truly dedicated? Does that mean I’m destined to fail? 🙁

Orange Haze

For some, the beginning of summer is a welcomed event because it chases the winter blues away. People dream about walking in the sun shine, taking cool dips in the pool and smelling the pleasant aroma of all the beautiful coloured flowers that greet the sun.

For others, there is a deep seated dread of the humid days ahead. Not to mention the glaring sun that is relentless in sending out oppressive heat, which delights in taking captives and laughs when people lock themselves away in air-conditioned building to escape the heat.

And for a small group of people, it signifies the beginning of something else altogether – the “fire season”.

I live at the base of a mountain that shimmers blue. I remember when the paddocks surrounding this area used to be green but over the years the grass has receded due to a decade long draught and what does thrive is more golden in colour. As the years past, the colourful foreign plants died in the never ending heat and lack of rain water, but the native plants remained strong.

These days, I hardly ever see anything other than Australian native plants growing in gardens. Yes, there are a few rose bushes, but not as many as there used to be. Thankfully, the native plants come in a range of colour, so it’s not all bad.

Another colour that is ripe at the moment is orange. The last two days have been shrouded in an orange haze. The cause of this is bush fires!

A 20km front moves steadily towards a built up area, not far from where I live (but far enough away to not worry me personally). No homes have been lost…yet…but I have it on good authority that there’s a good chance that it will happen (no matter what the media are saying).

I live in a city, but the city is on the edge of the Australian bush. Every year bush fires threaten the homes in this area. It’s a part of life. Last year we were lucky, this year summer isn’t even here and the fires have begun. And they strike with a vengeance.

I work with a volunteer fireman. He worked all day yesterday in the office, spent all night fighting the fire, and still came to work today. He had no sleep. Although he did go home at 3pm exhausted, we all know that after a few hours sleep, he’ll be back on the line trying to save people’s homes during the night. And it was this person who told me the truth about the fire raging towards a community not more than 10 minutes drive from where I live.

The smell of smoke is in everything; it is everywhere. The orange sky is a constant reminder of how bad things really are. Thankfully, the wind has eased now, which might mean that homes could be saved. But what about the heat of tomorrow? Or the next day? Or the heat of the next three months?

Colour…it’s so descriptive. It’s all around us and most of us take it for granted.

Piers Anthony’s Internet Publishing

Piers Anthony’s Internet Publishing has a long, long list of publishers and services. He covers all genres and all types of publishing. I think this is a good resource for anyone interested in having something published. Piers Anthony has included his own thoughts on the publisher where appropriate, and has tried to include all useful information that he was able to find out for himself. Also included are warnings on scam publishers, so don’t just click on the link and submit, read what he has to say first. You might save yourself some heartache.

I intend to work through the list myself and hand pick the publishers that may be of interest to me for my children’s chapter books … and for the anthology stories I’m trying to find a publisher for.