Sunday, October 31, 2010

Hello followers

I've just discovered (because I'm techno-AWESOME) that you actually need to activate the Followers widget in the sidebar for it to show up there.

And lo and behold, when I did activate it, I discovered we already had several followers- some of whom I know, but several of whom I don't.

So, I just wanted to say both welcome and thank you to our new friends (and our old ones), and ask that everyone who reads this blog and feels so inclined takes the time to click once on the "Follow" button on the right. You can follow publicly, or privately. I believe you need a Google account to do so.

I'd like to tell you that doing this will cause rainbows to erupt from the clouds, and that next time you check under your pillow you'll find an enormous ruby. Or something. But in actual fact, I'm not entirely sure what following is all about- I believe it means you can see updates from this site in an easier fashion, in your Blogger dashboard. First and foremost, it means we like you lots, because we know you like us.

Ever mindful of "practice what you preach", I've signed up as a follower myself, just to see what you guys are getting back.

Two hours and five minutes to NaNoWriMo! I am PSYCHED!! Hope you're all just as excited out there- expect big things from all of us ATWOP ladies in the next four weeks :)

Friday, October 29, 2010

Thirty Days & Nights of Literary Abandon

If you haven’t noticed, we’re pretty excited about National Novel Writing Month’s “thirty days and nights of literary abandon” around here. It’s a chance for some of us to start brand new novels and for others it’s an opportunity to speed across the finish line of a dear old work-in-progress.

The phenomenon that is NaNoWriMo begins with a challenge: write a 50,000 word novel in just 30 days. Word-count reigns supreme here, not quality. The idea is to write some “laughably awful, yet lengthy prose” together with thousands of other people across the globe.

Well, as mentioned, some of us are using the thirty days of November for serious work despite the light-hearted, tongue-in-cheek perspective of the people at NaNoWriMo. And there’s evidence that not all NaNo manuscripts die ignominious deaths or moulder away in the dark, dank recesses of a writing file.

About thirty NaNo novels have been published by traditional publishing houses. One has even hit the big time. Sara Gruen's Water for Elephants landed on the New York Times bestseller list and was her second NaNo manuscript to be published.

The NaNoWriMo website has a list of published WriMos — NaNo writers who are now proudly calling themselves published authors. Granted, it’s a very small portion of NaNo participants that are published, but it does give hope to those who have the same goal in mind.

Follow us - five word-crazy women - over the next month, and see if we can collectively write 250,000 words. None of us is crazy enough to believe NaNo will be the magic wand that will turn our novels into best-sellers. But we’re determined that NaNo will benefit us in some way, either with brainstorming a new novel, or with developing new writing habits, or with getting the last section of a book finished. Will NaNo be all we hope it is? We won’t know if we don’t try.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

NaNoWriMo Tactics

I have so many things to talk about today, but I'll try to be good. First, as Rachel mentioned yesterday, I managed to send off my application this morning for the Australian Society of Authors 2011 Mentorship Program.

I can't remember the last time I've stressed quite that much. Certainly not in any job interview for years. Definitely not in public speaking engagements. My mind takes me back to the final year exams in the last year of high school, twelve years ago. Either way, it wasn't fun. Choosing a ten-page excerpt from my story that I felt demonstrated development of a theme and growth of a character was bloody hard. And as is always the way, everything I read with an ultra-critical eye seemed terrible, when only yesterday the same stuff seemed brilliant.

But I gave my inner critic a good slap and got on with it, because hey- you've got to be in it to win it. Certainly the odds are long (15 places, about 300 applicants), but there's always a chance. I'm not sure if I'm more nervous about the idea that I might get in, or the idea that I might not.

In the meantime, I want to shout out to the beautiful people who held my hand at various times yesterday when I was freaking out, and in particular to the seven who read my two ten-page versions and helped me pick the right one- Rachel, Susan, Sarah, Tara, Cathy, Beth, and my lovely husband.

Husband gets the gold medal, though, girls. He reduced me to (happy) tears last night after reading the ten-page excerpt I was submitting, and declaring that it reminded him of my favourite author's work. Which, I know, is the husbandly job, right? Except that being a good lawyer, he went through each bit and analysed all the reasons why it worked in such a way that I knew he wasn't just trying to make me feel better, and he really did like it. You guys are all such fantastic cheerleaders, and I love you dearly for your encouragement and help. It's going to be a long acknowledgements list when I get this book done.


Now, onto the main game: my NaNoWriMo tactics. Planned tactics, anyway. This is my first year doing NaNo and to be honest, I've got no idea if I'll manage even ten thousand words, let alone fifty thousand.

But I intend to try.

And here's how I'm approaching it.

1. I will not touch any scenes that have a single word written in them already. Only new scenes.

I'm using an existing WIP. The NaNo FAQ says not to do this, because it carries too much baggage to let you write fast. I disagree- I think I know the story so well that I won't need to do as much thinking/ planning/ plotting on the hoof. But as part of not being held back by baggage, my first tactic is to tackle only new scenes. Period.

2. I have an outline that tells me everything I need to know about the story. No need to think it through as I go.

I've created a devilishly detailed outline that would make our resident chunksters cry in its complexity. I think it already did make Susan cry yesterday. I've been through the entire story and plotted it from beginning to end. No different from usual, except that I've broken down what were broadly planned sections into very detailed scene ideas, and I've broken each scene down even further into what I know should happen. This is the sort of thing I do anyway, but I've done it all in advance (instead of just some of it). That way, the thinking/ brainstorming part is already out of the way. All I have to do is shape the scenes as they come.

3. Stay flexible, but have a definite path to follow.

I haven't, despite how the previous point sounds, cut off my options. I recognise that as I write, things might change. Almost all my scene plotting is full of options- no absolutes. I've given myself the flexibility to bend with the story, but the structure to keep it on the rails.

4. Get organised and identify a plan of attack.

I've organised all my work, using Scrivener, for maximum efficiency. As you can see in the picture below (click to expand), I've reorganised the whole WIP by years- the story covers 1910 to 1917 at this stage- and within that, by scene. You'll see little numbers on the left of some of those scenes, and not on others. The numbers signify which scenes I'll be tackling in NaNo. The ones without numbers are those that already have checked baggage. If I have to, I'll jump out of order to write various scenes- but at the moment, I plan on knocking them down one after the other.

5. Schedule around other obligations, and be realistic(ish)

Lastly, I've created a calendar that includes all the other obligations I have this month, and I've allocated a rough total of maximum words I hope to get on each given day. I expect to have four days this month (including my daughter's second birthday) in which I'll get zero words written. I've compensated for that by having three days where I expect to get 4000 words. Almost all the rest, I expect 2000. This sounds like utter lunacy to me, but we'll see what happens. My best single day effort in the last three months has netted me nearly 8500 words. One good day like that, and I'll be buying myself some time off on other days.

Yeah, I write fast :) NaNo should be made for me, right? We'll see...

I think I, like probably every other WriMo out there, am prepared to write without looking back to edit. That's the final key to getting this done. Plenty of time to edit after November.

And I'm hoping I can make it to some of the regional write-ins and meetings in my local area- I'm amazed at how many hundreds of people in Perth are doing NaNoWriMo. Go us! We even have a long-standing word count rivalry running with the city of DeKalb in Illinois, which is a brilliant idea. Activate the competitive spirit, and we'll be all over it.

Hopefully NaNoWriMo will get their widgets up soon so we can include a word count monitor for each of us in the sidebar here- they're automatically linked to the NaNo site and should keep you up to date with how we're all going. We're also planning a weekendly check in where we'll state our respective positions, and post a small snippet.

Onward and upward! I can't wait for Monday :)

On Mentorships and Grover

And here I am, postless on my blogging day once again. But I have a REALLY good excuse.

A couple of days ago Claire discovered that the Australian Writers Association will be running a mentorship programme in 2011, whereby unpublished authors are given a year's worth of mentoring from a published author or editor of their choice. There are only fifteen of these mentorships on offer, and the AWA judges make their selections by reading ten pages of your work, plus a three hundred word letter explaining what your book is about and where you're at with it, plus reviewing your literary CV ...

All good - except for the fact the deadline for submissions - by snail mail only - is FRIDAY!

Needless to say Claire and I have been writing and emailing and stressing all day ... and all I am capable of giving you by way of a Wednesday post is this ...


Monday, October 25, 2010

Saddle Up, Little Dogies!

So we've been mentioning NaNoWriMo 2010 around here. The lovely ladies of ATWOP have roped me in as well -I'm under correction: KristenWriting (whoops).

Some of us -Claire, Susan, and Rachel- will be whipping their existing novels into shape. Yes! I expect first drafts in my in-box at the end of the year. Mruwahahahaha!

Like Jen, I'm planing on doing something new. Starting a new novel is a strange thing. For a lot of you out there it's been a while. Our first novel consumes us. So much so that putting those character's away, turning to others can sometimes feel like cheating. How could we give our love and attention to someone new? :-)

On the other hand, the excitement of that first meeting is a wonderful thrill. Sometimes this is a tentative dance. You circle each other at first, make small talk. Get to know each other. There is the initial attraction but how to proceed? Then there are instances of instant lust. You have to have each other. From the first meeting you want to spend every available moment with each other.

I've experienced both, and the both have their merits. With the current project -tentatively titled Britannia -it is a slow dance. It has to be. It is a Steampunk fantasy. World building is important and I don't want to fall headlong into a story that I have to change because of tiny details. But this is part of the fun. Hell, every thing is fun about a new novel. Nowhere to go but forward, no baggage, no backtracking, just the open road.

For me, prepping for a new novel involves copious google searches -I'm a bit leery that my searches for bomb making and how to do it might land me on homeland security's watch list- note taking, doodling (yes, I like to draw costumes, weapons, jewelry the characters wear...) and oddly, listening to music. For some reason, I find myself making up a play list for my characters. Certain music will attract me and help form certain characters.

Claire put up a great post on music this weekend. I'll add onto it again. For Britannia, I've been gravitating toward songs by Goldfrapp. If you haven't heard of Goldfrapp you are missing out. So says me. (g) Her music is haunting and dreamy. Love it. So I give you two examples, a live version of Utopia since it is so dang good, and Forever -because that's the one that's getting the most play for me right now.

So what about the rest of you? Do you do anything special when you start to write? Or do you just go for it? And are you joining in the madness that is NaNo?

Friday, October 22, 2010

Weekend writing

Hope you're all having a good weekend out there- mine's looking ridiculously busy, but I've definitely got the writing fever at the moment. Every spare second I have between swimming lessons, cooking, walks, mummy duties and the rest, I'm glued to my keyboard hammering out new scenes between Kit and Len.

I'm already well over 50,000 words for October (wow), though most of those were not for the WIP. Can I really do this two months in a row? Good grief. I'll need a holiday from myself in December.

Anyway, as is our way now and again, I thought I'd do a weekend post with some of the music that is resonating in my writing world at the moment. Hopefully the other ladies, as is our tradition, will toodle along over the weekend and add their latest inspiration to the list. And feel free to tell us what's inspiring you in the comments.

First up for me, Australian band Amy Meredith with Lying. This song has been getting a lot of airplay over the last couple of months, but it's not until this week that I realised why it grabs me- the jealousy just perfectly fits Len's mindset in the early days, as he and Kit are circling each other, almost coming together, only to push each other away every time.

I can't embed this one, so you'll have to look here for it. It's worth it for the cute dudes in the band ;)

Next, along the exact same lines, one of my all-time favourite songs about jealousy- The Killers, with Mr Brightside. Is it just me, or is Brandon Flowers one of the most oddly, magnetically charismatic performers you've ever seen? I've never been to a live concert. Maybe I shouldn't ever. I might swoon.

Lastly, call this one *extremely* left field, but I've gotta say that Katy Perry has been making good things happen in my writer's brain lately. I know, right? Probably the first and last time anyone's going to accuse her of being deep. Mwahaha.

What her bubblegum pop is helping me do is remember what it was like to be a love-struck, sex-obsessed teenager. Because sure as heck that's what all my characters *are* at the beginning of the book- 17-year-old Bill and 19-year-old Len are vying for the attention of the lovely 18-year-old Kit, and there's a lot of smoke and quite a bit of fire.

Me, I'm busy cleaning up baby vomit before I come back to the computer to sit down and write. Katy's helping me remember what life was like back at that age, when the biggest thing I had to worry about was when I'd get to see my boyfriend next, and whether my skivvy would totally cover the love-bite on my neck :)

Ah, the good old days. Who knew I'd end up marrying the guy and enter all this domestic disharmony? (g). Catch Katy's Teenage Dream here.

So, what are you listening to?

Kristen, here to add onto this.

I love the music video share posts, Claire!

Here is Rachel's comment:

Ah, love the music, Claire. And yes, that Mr Flowers is hawt (though I must say the older guy in the clip is mighty nice (and more my age, LOL!)).

My latest listen is the sound track from the Sherlock Holmes movie, starring Robert Downey Jr and Jude Law. All instrumental, and really summons up the mood of a lot of my book. Here's one track that's on high rotation at the moment - "Is it poison, nanny?"

As for me, I've been listening to moody music lately. Two songs have been revolving about in my head and clearly affecting my scenes. :)

First up is Massive Attack -Paradise Circus. Love this song. It calls to mind mystery, dark alleys, and Victorian London -which is good, since that's my current meat and potatoes. Video? Eh, a bit weird. lol

The other is Groove Armada -Edge Hill. About two minutes into the song, the music changes and I swear I get a lump in my throat every time. That bit of music sounds so hopeful yet bittersweet and timeless. I rewrote a lot of Miri and Archer's love scenes to this because it helped sum up their desperation -especially Archer's. So this is probably more Archer's music than Miri's. (g)

Requiem for a Warrior: Excerpt

In wine, one beholds the heart of another.
- an old French proverb

He stood on the back porch of the family home, breathing deeply the heady smell of pomace - grape skins thriftily returned to the vineyards. He could nearly taste the wine as the vapors filled his senses. Beyond the shady yard and a stand of ancient oaks the vineyards stretched in neat rows, tinted gold, rust, and red. The evening sunlight caught the colorful vines in a blaze of color as the heat of the day gave way to cool Pacific breezes.

It was crush, a season of intense activity for the winery as harvested grapes began the transformation to wine. From the back porch of the family home the sounds of crush, snatches of conversation in Spanish, and noise of the machinery, rose faintly above the vineyards. At the winery, a gondola was being emptied of its precious cargo of grapes and the crusher hummed as it gently rotated the fruit, releasing juice.

The rhythms of the valley harvest rose up within him as if he had never left this place. The scent, the labor of harvesting under cloudless skies, the far-off laughter of men in the winery were as timeless as the art of winemaking and as much as he wanted to deny it, it was in his blood also.

The screen door swung open with a squeak and banged shut a moment later. It had to be Carrie, she was the only one at the big house besides him. He had retreated to the porch earlier when the awkwardness he felt around her had grown unbearable.

Now she found him and joined him at the porch rail, her shoulder nearly touching his. She held a glass of wine in each hand and offered him one.

“One of your brother’s best.”

Despite his earlier feelings of awkwardness he liked having her there, so near, almost touching. He reached for a glass, fingers brushing hers as he took the stem. There was no reaction from her, but his own fingers longed to continue contact, like some adolescent sneaking a forbidden touch.

It was a deep luminous red in the late afternoon sunlight - a winsome wine. He swirled the glass, letting the crimson liquid rise in the bowl and fall back again in a miniature whirlpool. Small rivers of wine clung to the bowl like mountain streams after a rain shower.

“Legs,” he said.

Carrie nodded. Then with a mock sigh and a little grin, said, “My husband obsesses over legs in oak barrels and ignores mine.”

He shifted his weight on the railing and leaned away from her. His eyes traveled the length of her legs, slim, summer-browned, and he remembered the silken feel of them under his hands. He ached to touch them now, especially the warm hollow behind her knees. She was ticklish there. He returned his full weight back to the rail and nudged Carrie with his shoulder.

“My brother’s a fool.” The comment, spoken in all sincerity on his part, made Carrie laugh.

He lifted the glass to his nose and inhaled the bouquet released from the swirling wine. It was a complex layer of aromas, young, smelling of fruit, but with the promise of deepening into something more earthy in time.

“A young wine.”

“Hmmm,” Carrie agreed. “Young, but aging gracefully.”

Her eyes rested briefly on his, their depths unreadable, then flickered away like a small bird avoiding a snare. But it was he who was seized as he continued to regard her. Aging gracefully, indeed. He touched his glass to hers, and the small chiming note carried into the twilight, taking with it the words he would not speak. To what we once were.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

All the news that's fit to print

I've spent the last few days reading the editions of the Cutler family's local newspaper from the years 1914 and 1915. It's been amazing. I've learned so much. Do *you* know about the National Library of Australia's digitisation project? They're digitising and uploading every edition of every major Australian newspaper (and some not so major) from 1803 to 1954, and it's incredible- the digitised records are even searchable. Find the link here.

The most amazing article I came across in my reading was one from October of 1915, which described the first homecoming celebration held at the port of Fremantle for soldiers returning wounded from Gallipoli. My attention was caught immediately, since Len's one of those, and the articles were heartbreaking in what they did and didn't say. Troops had been returning for a couple of months, but nobody had greeted them. Finally it was decided that this didn't fit with the public spirit of supporting the soldiers, so it was arranged to put on a bit of pomp and ceremony for the arrivals from then on.

But only the walking wounded received this reception. The article celebrates the fact that the much-vaunted first boatload of injured were mostly home for a three-month furlough, not permanent repatriation, with minor wounds to arms, chests and heads.

The smaller paragraphs at the end of the article reveal that under cover of night, later the same evening, another ship was docked, and offloaded from that were the more severe cases who required stretchers and ambulances, and didn't get the same fanfare.

I'm trying to decide which of three moments will have the most impact on Len in my story. Does he come home on a boat that isn't met by anyone? Does he arrive to pomp, cheer and celebration, to which I'm certain he'd react bitterly? Or does he arrive home under cover of darkness, to a country unwilling to face the truth of what's happening to their finest young men? One way or the other, he'll think about each of these, but I'm just twitching to write his return scene now. For me, it sums up everything about the war- Australia's optimism being gradually battered, with the need quickly developing to hide the extent of the devastation from those at home, even as the returned soldiers and their families must adjust to the new reality of what it means to have been chewed up and spat out by war.

It's the reason I'm writing this book.

Anyway. Following the classic style of 1914 newspapers, I'm posting a few unrelated snippets of random stuff today.


I sat in my car today and wrote on my laptop for half an hour. I felt like a crazy person. At least a couple of the other ladies on this blog have done the car writing thing before, but I never quite understood how it would work. Then today, when I was kicked out of my house with the toddler for five hours while a termite treatment was put in, I found myself with a sleeping child and nowhere to go. So, I went to a local lake, parked under a shady tree, and pulled out the laptop I had so cleverly brought. 500 words later and I finally understood- sitting in a car you can't leave, you are your own captive audience. It's just like being on a plane, as I talked about back here. And oh, boy, did I get some good stuff.

I had a nice little scene I finished yesterday where 16-year-old Kit helps Len warm up for his football grand final. Not *that* kind of warm-up- he shows her a few tricks with the ball, they talk, they flirt, she forgives him some of the mean things he's done, and sparks fly. The scene was good, but it was slightly two-dimensional. It contributed to the reader's understanding of these two people and what was important to them, and it built the sexual tension between them nicely. But it didn't link into the overarching story quite enough.

Sitting in the car today, it hit me immediately what I had to do. They needed to talk more. Tease each other. And the conversation had to tie into the broader theme. I found the perfect conversation, too. Len has been selected to represent the state in a football championship, but he's not going to go. Why? Because he's the eldest, and he can't let his dad down at shearing time by being absent. Kit encourages him to go for his dream. He unintentionally insults her by saying she wouldn't understand the needs of the farm, being just a girl. It sets up so many things- soon, Len's dad will betray his loyalty by handing control of the farm to his younger brother Bill, thus creating the jealous, angry Len we all know and love. Kit's encouragement is going to be reversed in two years when he decides his new dream is to join the Army, thus finalising the conflict that breaks the two of them apart. And after the war, when Len comes home disabled by his amputated leg, it's going to be Kit who takes the main role in running the farm, thus proving once and for all that he was wrong to think of her as anything but capable.


Like almost all the ladies on this blog, I've joined up to NaNoWriMo. I wasn't planning to, since I already wrote more than 40,000 words this month (more on that in a minute) and if I write 50,000 words next month I'll quite possibly die from over-exertion.

But hey, peer pressure is a strong thing- and even stronger motivation is the fact that if I get 50,000 words next month, I should finish this novel. I know exactly where I'm going, now. Not far to get there in the scheme of things.

Add me as a buddy- I promise to be enthusiastic and to make you work damned hard to beat me at word count. Mwahaha. I'm ClaireGregory.


Speaking of my massive word count this month, most of that (31,000 in total) came from the Constantinople House Party over at CompuServe. Yikes! And I thought the 24,000 I got from the last party was insane.

This time around, most of my wordage came, as mentioned last week, from kidnapping Our Susan's main character Nathan and using him in terribly nefarious ways. Susan and I have always had strong similarities between our stories, characters and even writing styles, and when it comes to house parties we're a natural fit together. Every single party has seen Nathan and Len beat the crud out of each other, and recent ones also saw Nathan vying for the attention of older Bill's lady love Meredith.

I had intended to retire poor Len from house parties, because I've taken him through the wringer and back and I thought I'd exhausted him. But with the big changes in my storyline, it made sense to bring him back, and with him Kit, who for the first time in house party history appeared alive (she's always been ghostly in previous ones).

Well. Along came Susan on the first day and whapped me with a challenge- Nathan and Len had a bet on who could kiss Kit first. Yes, and she's *neither* of their girl.

Shenanigans ensued from there, occasionally blowing up into rollicking Indiana Jones-style adventure, occasionally slowing down into amazing romantic encounters. It was a delight from start to finish to be working with someone as talented as Susan, and I think it exemplifies what we can all get from NaNoWriMo by encouraging each other and working together- seeing other people write great stuff inspires you to do the same. If everyone's cranking at the same pace (here's fingers crossed for the lot of us) we should all get dragged along.


Lastly, every year my workplace Christmas party has a theme. Last year it was 80s bad taste, and the taste was indeed very bad. This year, I didn't mind the theme that had been decided- that everyone should wear something from the year they were born- but there was a collective groan around the office because we're a young workplace, and fully half or more of the staff were born in the 80s or the late 70s. Nobody wants to repeat last year!

So, genius that I am, I suggested we should all flip our year of birth, and wear something from *that* year. Great idea, popular, looks like happening- only what do you get when you flip around my year of birth? You land on 1918.

Eek! Suddenly I'm presented with an idea that tickles me a little- I've been researching what Kit would have worn for a good few months, so I've got ideas. But then I have to wear it myself! And in Australian summertime, too- 1918 was a time for long sleeves and skirts. Double eek.

I think I'm excited about it, though. In fact I think I might need to hold myself back from getting a little too into the whole thing.

Also I wonder if there's a best-dressed prize...

So, that's all the news that's fit to print for this week. Back again with more in our next edition ;)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

On The Hunt

Your girl Tuesday signing in again. Sorry I missed last week. My time just disappeared on me, and all of the things I wanted/meant to do had to be pushed aside. Namely, I was working my patootie off at work. Hence, no houseparty for Jen. No blogging. No writing. It was a tough week all around, and I'm EXHAUSTED.

That said, I made it a point to sit down and blog first thing tonight.

As I stated, I've not been writing... but for whatever reason, I've been able to squeeze in a bit of reading here and there. Mostly on my lunch break...a few minutes here and there. It's kind of crazy that I've finished off a few books this way--especially with that persistant voice in the back of my head, telling me that I should be writing instead. I'll be honest though, when I'm exhausted, I'm too tired to speak, let alone form coherent passages. Sad, but true.

That said, I have finished a few books... and I'll say this for them: they were pretty good. On the other hand, they weren't GREAT. Most have been fairly well-written, of interest on some level to me (hence the reason I finished them), but nothing has really GRABBED me.

To put it bluntly, I'm in a reader FUNK.

Nothing is really doing it for me in a major way. I haven't found that one book that makes me say, "Just one more chapter! Just one more hour! I have to work in the morning, but I Don't Care! I'm finishing tonight if it takes ALL night!"

Funny, because I was walking out to my car tonight with a co-worker and she said pretty much the same thing. She said she hadn't found that one, OMG, this is a brilliant book in a VERY long time.

Where are they??

Okay, there was a recent standout that I have to cop to -- MOCKINGJAY by Suzanne Collins. Doesn't count because I read it so quickly, it wasn't even nighttime by time I finished. LOL. But yeah, serious page turner. I want something like that...that one rare find that just leaves you breathless with anticipation to see what happens next.

Yeah, I might have to resort to reading old faves, like my co-worker is doing, because nothing I've found recently is hitting the mark. I hope it's just me. I'm sure it is. :)

That said -- I'm open to taking any and all suggestions. Hit me with 'em, peeps... got anything unputdownable?

NaNoWriMo Fever

[My life this week is more nuts than usual; so, while I have a post on villains half-done, for now, unfortunately, that’s how it’s going to stay. So apologies, this is only a brief interlude. Hopefully I’ll post Saturday – if not, next week!]

I assume most of you have heard about, if not participated in, NaNoWriMo; in case you haven’t, this is how the good people at the NaNo site describe their aim:-

National Novel Writing Month is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to novel writing. Participants begin writing November 1. The goal is to write a 175-page (50,000-word) novel by midnight, November 30.

You can read more about NaNo, here.

And NaNo fever is spreading round these parts.

I’ve signed up for the first time because November is the last month I’ll be able to stick to my usual writing routine for the rest of 2010. The kids start two month’s summer holidays come December 3rd, so I have to break the back – and more – of this draft of my WIP by then if I’m going to have it done by 31st December. And I need to be done by then. I'm at the stage where I'm really needing feedback from readers as to whether my story works; and while the writing itself can always be tightened and prettied-up, the plot simply has to be in place in order to get that kind of feedback. Currently, my plot looks like a piece of swiss cheese, lots of holes where there are many scenes that remain to be written, and many other scenes that need a good tweak.

Bottom line, I simply have to do this. And I figure that if nothing else, NaNo will force me to leave my newly written scenes be and move on, instead of doing the endless fiddling to which I am prone.

How I’m going to achieve 50K I’m not quite sure – although it’s a little less daunting to think of it as only having to pump out approximately 1700 words a day, for 30 days.

Um, yep.

Anyway, Claire and Susan have also stepped on up to the challenge – how about you?

If you're going “Nano-ing” (go here to sign up) please feel free to add me as one of your “buddies” (I’m “Rachel W”). I’ll need all the public accountability I can get. :-P

Here’s to a mad November!

Monday, October 18, 2010


I’ve been thinking about nice and it’s various connotations today. In my own experience, people tend to be a bit leery of nice. It isn’t that they don’t want other’s to be nice to them. We all do! We want to be treated with kindness and we want to be seen as nice ourselves. And yet there seems to be this hesitation when faced with actual kindness. Is it truly intended? Does this make me beholden? What’s this person’s angle?

We’ve gotten a bit cynical with nice. People just aren’t. Right? I mean we want nice, we expect nice, we believe in selfishness. Yeah, I’m making a grand generalization but I see it every day. At least where I live. Hell, even in the South, where manners and consideration are an everyday occurrence people hide behind nice. They can use it as a weapon, bless their little hearts –she says, tongue planted in cheek.

Which leads me to thinking about nice and heroes. Can a hero be nice? I’ve read lot of review concerning nice heroes and they usually aren’t…well, nice. (g) Kind heroes –at least ones without a dark side, are often considered wimps, Mary Stu’s, or shifty. Heroines are allowed, okay expected to have a degree of kindness. We don’t as readily scoff if they want to run a soup kitchen on the side (okay, I do but…) but a guy? What’s up with that?

Think of Silence of the Lambs. Does anyone really care about Clarisse? No. We read it, watch it because we’re drawn to this super creep named Lector. Gah. Why? But it’s true. And the darker the better. In Batman, The Dark Night, Heath Ledger (why, Heath? Why?) ahem, well, Heath stole the show because he is so much more darker, meaner, kickass than one of the ultimate dark heroes –Batman. We lap it up.

Do we as a society crave the dark hero, turn our back on the good guy? Is this why Superman now fails while Wolverine thrives? What is it about nice that turns us off?

And can there be an interesting nice hero? And if so, how to go about it? Is nice boring whereas dark is interesting. A bit scary if you think about it. :)

So what do you all think? I didn't ask these questions for nothing, you know! (now how's that for nice!)

Thursday, October 14, 2010


Writers are odd creatures. There's no doubt about it. What we do is an odd thing in and of itself. We make up stories. We lie to entertain ourselves. We invent people who don't exist, then go on to have deep, desperate, involved love affairs with them. Often we kill those people in the end.

The interesting thing is that we are unquestionably Something. A group. A writer is a specific type of person. That's not to say we're all identical people, but I don't think I've ever met another writer without being able to identify with them in some way.

I was reading Graham Greene's classic novel The End of the Affair last week. I've seen the movie and really enjoyed it, and I picked it up because, for research purposes for my own novel, I thought it would be a good examination of the mindset of people having an affair (and I was right- it's an excellent novel, and I recommend it if you haven't read it and enjoy a good psychological dissection).

Anyway! I'd forgotten that the main character, Maurice Bendrix, is a novelist. And some of the internal observations the character made throughout the story about the habits and thought processes of writers were so on the money that I laughed out loud in places.

Green, too, obviously thought long and hard about the personality of writers, and used Bendrix to explore this somewhat. The result was uncomfortably close to home in places, but most excellent all the same.

So, if you're looking for solidarity in your necessary isolation, seek other writers. Nobody else in the world can understand the way we think quite as well.

From The End of the Affair, a passage that captured very well the odd alchemy that is our ability to conjure worlds from our subconscious, and how easily that process is knocked by emotional upheaval:

I was trying to write a book that simply would not come. I did my daily five hundred words, but the characters never began to live. So much in writing depends on the superficiality of one's days. One may be preoccupied with shopping and income tax returns and chance conversations, but the stream of the unconscious continues to flow undisturbed, solving problems, planning ahead: one sits down sterile and dispirited at the desk, and suddenly the words come as though from the air: the situations that seemed blocked in a hopeless impasse move forward: the work has been done while one slept or shopped or talked with friends.

In other news, the latest CompuServe Books and Writers Forum House Party is going off like a frog in a sock- we're rocking Constantinople in 1493, and my characters and Susan's have formed a crazy hot love quadrangle, with no immediate resolution in sight... Check it out here for all the action.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Writer's Blok

It's 6pm Wednesday here in my patch of Australia, and a frabjous day it was, for as of 8.15am this morning, the kids were back in school.

{Cue "Hallelujah Chorus."}

I raced the darlings off to school (and yes, I did stop the car to let them out), raced back home, grabbed a pen and opened up the crisp, clean pages of a new note book (plot tweaking time for me today, which I can only do long-hand, for reasons unknown) and proceeded to work my butt off ... and kinda, sorta, forgot it was my day to blog. Sorry about that!

Let me make it up to you with a Jackson Pearce vlog that I snatched from Stet!, which is all about what I should definitely NOT be doing these next couple of months if I'm to achieve my lofty goal of having my manuscript beta reader-ready by the end of this year (OMG, I have no idea how I'm going to do it ... {bites nails})


Friday, October 8, 2010

I'll Get Around To It

Procrastination. I’d love to write about it, and I will, but I’ve got a few other things to do first.

Like open the junk mail. Wow. Lookit this, I can get a free $10 gift card if I sign up on-line with this high-end, hoity-toity, appliance store. It’ll only take a minute to sign up. Granted, ten bucks won’t go far there. I could maybe get some cupcake papers or a cookie cutter…

Okay, back to writing about procrastination. It plagues most writers I know and a few I don’t know. I’ll wager I’m not the only one who can find a myriad of small things to do before finally settling down to write.

Like deciding on what music to listen to. Writing-by-music is a priority. It has to be just the right music for just the right mood. Right now it’s Garth Brooks and all his friends in low places, but don’t let that bother you. It’s not a reflection on the quality of readers here.

Where were we? Ah yes, procrastination. It’s not like I do it on purpose. I love to write, I love to sit down with my story and see where it’s going next. In fact, I’m about to get busy.

But first I need to check my Facebook account because something interesting might have happened there since the last time I looked, which was… Well, I won’t tell you when I last looked because you might think I’m a compulsive nutcase. Which I’m not, unless it comes to checking the CompuServe Writer’s Forum for new posts.

I don’t know what the cure for procrastination is. There might be an answer on the ‘net someplace. In fact, I might Google it one day if I need something to do before settling down to write.

But right now I need to organize my paper clips.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Tipping it upside down

I'm all a-flutter today. There are big changes underway in my novel- again. For the second time in six months, for the fifth time in four years, I'm preparing to rip apart every single thing I've written, and take a radical turn in a different direction.

I envy people who sit down to write a novel, and just... get it done. They figure out where they're going as they write, and at the end of it they've got a complete story.

This just doesn't happen for me. I write until I get to the end, and then I sit back and feel like something's still missing. I go digging until I figure out what it is. It's never small. And then I have to reconsider everything.

I have no problem doing this. I'm unafraid to discard tens of thousands of words and start again. Nothing I write is wasted- even if it all changes, I've learned something from putting those words on paper. I've gotten to know my characters better, my own style and voice, and I've learned what doesn't work.

I have to admit, though, that this willingness to change everything has me slightly afraid that it's just one complicated mental block to finishing the novel. Every time I get close to the end- bam, I ditch a heap of words and start over. Is it really necessary? Or am I just unable to let go and settle for "good enough"?

I don't get that feeling from this latest change. For possibly the first time ever, the options that have come up from all my reworking feel exactly right. They're complicated, devastating, terrifying emotional stakes- but this book is going to be on fire from the first page to the last. The previous iterations were great, but nothing like this. This is it. This is what I've been working towards for the last decade.

Could I have reached this point ten years ago? No way. Could I have managed to work out all these new facets of the story after the first time I changed it all, without going through the other three complete revisions? No, definitely not. Each revision has been a stepping stone and a learning stage.

For the first time, I really feel like all those revisions have been worth something big. Each one of them is contained in this revision- in spirit, at least- and it's not a way of stalling the end. It's a way of making this story the best it can possibly be.

The changes? I don't think I want to explain them all just yet :) But suffice to say, someone else who died in the original version is going to live in this one; and the biggest change of all is to the relationship central to the story.

If you thought I'd broken your heart before, wait til you see what I've got up my sleeve next...

This juggling life ...

How does one juggle writing and life?

Do the great writers set aside their pens without complaint whenever life intervenes? Or do they shut out the world and allow nothing to come between them and their writing?

Since I made a pact with myself to (mostly) treat my writing as if it were my real, proper, paid job, and to write every day, I have become a lot more ruthless in protecting my writing time. There are a couple of things that are now non-negotiable when it comes to my writing:

1. No one enters my study, under pain of death. I’ve made it known to all and sundry in my house that when the study door is shut, no one may enter unless they’re bleeding, or on fire, or a crazy combination of both.

2. I also screen my calls. For me to get any writing done, this is an absolute must. I think I am right in believing that writers are not only good observers of human behaviour, but are also good listeners – which is great, and feeds the writing, but can also be a major time suck if it gets out of control. So, when the phone rings I let the answering machine take the call and only pick up if it’s an emergency. Thankfully, there hasn’t ever been one of them yet.

But then life comes along and makes it hard to stick to these habits. I’m thinking of this because me and the tribe are off for a three day break this week, and I’m torn by the want – the need – to take the laptop and keep up with my writing - knowing there’s a risk I’ll lose my way in my revisions if I don’t - while at the same time wanting to be totally “there” with the husband and kids.

I’m feeling guilty, basically.

Do you? How do you protect your writing time in the face of obligations to family, friends?

How do you find that elusive balance?

This and That

Sorry I’m running late… and that I’ve skipped a couple of weeks of posts. Life has been nutty, and last week—to top things off—my internet crapped out on me. Aaargh. Frazzled Jen, people. I cannot live without my internet.

Anyway, this will be just a short post of random bits… I promise to try to do better next time.

Quick recap of some things with me:

I finally worked up the nerve to post a snippet over at compuserve. (P.S. I’m sorry I haven’t responded or left any comments yet—I will try to get to them very soon.) It freaked me out to no end, but I did it, by George! Whoot!

I’m hoping—HOPING—to participate in the Houseparty, which I believe begins this Friday. It’s a super busy time at work, so if I do make it, it will probably be for just a short while. But I’m definitely going to make an attempt to drag Maddy and Gabe to the soiree.

I went on a ghost tour of my town tonight. It got me in the mood to work on something with a more….paranormal bent. I may have to bust out some BTPM…or even better…the sequel. (g) Definitely the right time of year for it.

I’ve been reading some, when I can. Just finished I AM THE MESSENGER by Markus Zusak. It has THE FUNNIEST opening scene I’ve read in a long time. I couldn’t stop giggling, seriously.

I have just started THE THIRTEENTH TALE by Diane Setterfield. I’m not far enough into it to even say whether I like it (g), but I have to share with you a passage that leapt off the page at me. The main character helps run her father’s bookstore…and this is what she has to say about the books—i.e. the authors—she tends to.

People disappear when they die. Their voice, their laughter, the warmth of their breath. Their flesh. Eventually their bones. All living memory of them ceases. This is both dreadful and natural. Yet for some there is an exception to this annihilation. For in the books they write they continue to exist. We can rediscover them. Their humor, their tone of voice, their moods. Through the written word they can anger you or make you happy. They can comfort you. They can perplex you. They can alter you. All this, even though they are dead. Like flies in amber, like corpses frozen in ice, that which according to the laws of nature should pass away is, by the miracle of ink on paper, preserved. It is a kind of magic.

It’s so funny. I’ve never thought about books in this light. For me, writing is about the story. About being able to translate a discombobulated jumble of thoughts and ideas onto the page. Breathing life into a world—into characters—that wouldn’t exist otherwise. I write because if I don’t, no one will know them. I write to try to do them justice. Scary, yet fascinating, to think of my books in this new light. That they are in fact a reflection of me as a person – and someday they might help someone to remember and/or discover who I am.

Definitely one to ponder, but…it’s a nice thought, isn’t it?

Monday, October 4, 2010


It’s forty degrees outside, rainy and windy. Reminds me of Norway. I love it. :)

Perfection. Is there such a thing? Well not to me.

My daughter’s best friend has discovered a new favorite word, ‘disgusting.’ Everything is now ‘disgusting’ –my son sneezing in the other room, my daughter’s liberal use of the word ‘butt’ (which I believe is prompted by the use of disgusting –a veritable circle, that), people kissing… the list goes on --and mostly centered around people and their bodily functions.

And it got me thinking; yes, people ARE disgusting. We fart, sneeze, cough, spew things from orifices –hopefully not all at once! We say the wrong thing, make mistakes, trip, stub toes, cry, laugh... In short, we are not perfect. There is beauty in that. We are all connected by this imperfection. It makes us human.

And yet we all seem to strive to be perfect, get upset when we are not. It is an effort in futility and frustration. Am I saying that we should give up and simply be? Not make any effort? No. But perhaps we need to give ourselves a break every now and then. And perhaps, when we craft a character, we need to remember these common threads. What is it about your character that makes him or her human? We all want to craft extraordinary characters. Yet by making them human and then having them go forth and live despite all the setbacks, the fear, the bumbling and procrastinating, the failures that humans encounter will make them extraordinary.

Hell, as I type this I realize that good old Ronny Cammareri (Nicolas Cage) says it much better. "Snowflakes are perfect. The stars are perfect..." LOVE this movie!

Friday, October 1, 2010

A Mother's Wish

As a very new mom, I used to watch my baby boy, my firstborn, eager to see him reach every developmental milestone. I should have known something was up at the age when reaching and grasping was common and my son was not doing those things. I worried, but was calmed by the authority of the baby development books that assured nervous moms like me that not all babies reach the same milestones at the same time. Mine was obviously one of those. He did, in time, do all the things infants do as they grow into toddlers and then into preschoolers.

The one thing he did not do was talk. His pediatrician assured me that he was normal, that boys often lag in verbal skills and that he would catch up with his peers eventually.

Fast-forward ten years. My Bear Cub still struggles with language. It’s been a very long journey so far, fraught with difficulties. Much as I’ve wished it, there’s been no magic formula or instant cure for him. It’s been weekly speech therapy and countless hours of work.

But joy of joys, he’s catching up with his peers. Last week his speech therapist tested his receptive language skills and we were all astonished to discover that he scored above his own age group. Above! For once in my Bear Cub’s life he’s experiencing life like his peers. At least receptively (that is, what he understands rather than what he expresses). This week we tested his expressive language and any euphoria we had last week was doused by his scoring -- dismal. He scored at about half his age.

I often wonder if Bear Cub will ever experience the joy of books and reading like I do. I wonder if he’ll ever get lost between the pages, explore other worlds and other times presented in books. Will he ever know the magic? I can only pray he does. I cannot imagine life without books, without stories, without that connection that comes from reading.

We’ve got a long way to go on this journey with Bear Cub. With his language delays comes learning delays. He’s a hard worker, stubborn and thank God for it, because that kind of tenacity serves him well.

My deepest, most profound hopes for my child is that one day he’ll be able to express himself without difficulty, that the gate will open and that whatever he has inside himself will be allowed out with freely flowing words. And I wish for him the joy of reading, for a book is friend, ever patient for you to return to it, ever faithful in telling you its story.

I may be hoping for too much. The odds are against him ever becoming an avid reader. I’m the lone page-turner in our family. My husband is a voracious consumer of audio books, in fact, he “reads” more than I do. He’s dyslexic, but just as stubborn as Bear Cub, and his own tenacity got him through grad school and beyond. But when it comes to reading, he prefers to listen. So do my boys, and so I read to them constantly.

Still, there’s a part of me that hopes one day they’ll discover the magic of reading for themselves.