Saturday, 27 July 2013

How I wrote a novel Phase 2 Building a skeleton

Phase 2 of 10 Building a skeleton. November to December 50 hours.
So by Phase 2 I had a collection of notes and a story premise, a central conflict and a setting. It's a young adult novel. Boy meets girl. Two worlds collide. So much more.
I had K of course, and now A had arrived more hesitantly, developing into my feisty protagonist and main POV character.
I had no idea what to do next. My English Literature and Language degree was quite frankly of little help, although it did enable me to develop my excellent skim/speed reading abilities (it's my super power).
So to the internet of course.
Snowflake method. It was at the top of the google search on how to write a novel. That's all the thought I put into it.
It had pretty pictures, stuck to some classical theory and was well written.

I simply followed the first 6 steps on his website because they made sense. Thank you Randy, you helped me a lot in those early weeks. I only ever looked at the first page of Randy's website because by then I was flying.

My 15,319 word scene synopsis. It changed a lot.

I wrote a synopsis, I expanded upon it, I planned a three act structure, I split each act into scenes.

I blocked out each scene (blocking for me = characters + setting + what they actually do and why - working on it at the moment for book 2 - it's so exciting!).

I didn't spend a lot of time on character at this stage. Aside from K, I discovered my characters by writing them.

By the beginning of December I had 15,319 words. I was happy. Thrilled. A discovery draft. I had actually written more words than my dissertation and ENJOYED it.

Christmas had been and gone. Ideas kept coming. I needed better software. I craved organisation because ideas were coming thick and fast and in no particular order. I wasn't writing in a linear fashion. I followed my instinct.

I discovered Scrivener.

So far (including phase 1) it's 70 hours. Not much. It's about to multiply.

Catch How I wrote a novel Phase 3 Gollum arrives next Friday to find out how My Precious worked its way up to 82,000 words in 8 weeks.


Wednesday, 24 July 2013

How I wrote a novel. Phase 1 of 10 The Sting.

Phase 1 March 2012 20 hours
I never planned to write my novel. I'm a teacher who really likes teaching. I have two small children. I have no time. It all began when an idea stung me.

I was driving home from work one day and he appeared. Named. My character, lets call him K. He arrived, fully formed, with his own way of speaking, his own look, his own character. It was as if K already existed and I'd just found out about him.

I turned off the radio and started thinking about him. I couldn't stop thinking about him. He spoke to me. He isn't even the main protagonist in my novel but everything revolves around him. None of my other characters arrived like that, but then K is special, different, because he's a main character but also the whole premise.

I pulled up outside my son's school, found a scrap of paper and wrote some notes.

Most of the ideas in these notes never got used but the central premise was there. K had burst into life.

I told my bemused husband about my idea and he made supportive (slightly bemused) noises.

 I left the idea for 7 months. I didn't even think about it much - hence 20 paltry hours. I had no idea how to write a book. I didn't even want to attempt it. I didn't think I could.

Then I went on a long car journey with my brother, Rob, a writer himself, a talented musician, an inspirational person. And he told me if I wanted to write a novel I should just start and see where it took me. So I did. I drew some pictures of my setting when I got home that evening.

I drilled my husband about the post-apocalyptic premise (he's even geekier than me). It's not hard sci-fi, but I'm a stickler for detail and the science must be right.

From that day at the end of October there hasn't been a day when I haven't thought about it.

I started building a world for K to live in. About time, he'd been homeless for 7 months. And so it began.

Please catch How I wrote a novel. Phase 2 of 10 Building a skeleton next Friday.

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Mid-week Squeak - Pucket - finger flicking fun

So, no music today. I'm squeaking about a game instead.

The glorious Pucket.

No, I'm not having a bad day or trouble with my teeth. Go on, say the word nice and loud:

Pucket, Pucket, Pucket.

Trust me, once you start playing you'll want to say a few different words, because it's crazy fun and makes even the most chilled people into competitive screeching freaks. That's one of the reasons why I love it.

And this also has something to do with my writing.
Because playing Pucket is actually just like the stage I'm working on now. Word-level editing my novel. And this is how:
1. It's hard work. The game is basically about getting the discs through the hole, but the little blighters just keep bouncing straight back at you. The editing game is basically about finding the right word to fit. And sometimes it takes me a while, yes, just to find one word or phrase. And sometimes there's sweating involved.

2. It's random. Sometimes everything goes your way first time. Resist the urge to overthink, if the games going well, ride the wave. If the words come out best first time, leave them be, they're happy there.

3. Practice does pay off. But you'll still have bad games. I've improved so much in my writing. But sometimes I still write drivel and make myself giggle-cringe the next time I read it.

4. It's finger flicking fun, even when it's really frustrating. I love writing.

So visit and snag yourself a game of Pucket. Dinner parties will never be the same again.

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Mid-week squeak (running late) Johnny Flynn Brown Trout Blues


Midweek Squeak is even more shrill than usual this week because it's Johnny Flynn - who helps me to channel my teenage self....(girly squeal).

Johnny Flynn. Brown Trout Blues. Oh my.

It's Folk like my mumma used to sing. Ingrained in me from the womb and beyond, and Johnny brought it back to me.

My lovely friend Anna introduced to this clip of the sublime Mr Flynn at work one day and I think my comment was "Brown Trout Blues? I'd show him a bit of the Old Trout Blues..." Inappropriate I know but hey, it's his music that I'm interested in. And I'm not that much older than him....

Sometimes it seems too many blessings are heaped on just one person, leaving the majority of us lesser beings sadly lacking. That voice, songwriter, actor, multiple instrument musician, easy on the eye - it's just unfair.

Inspiring lyrics galore from Johnny:

           I could be someone else
           I should be someone else but
           You wouldn't know me if I was
           You'd say I was a stranger just because
           You'd say I wasn't weak enough for you
           You'd want me just to feel as you do too.

I love this. Questions of identity. So Young Adult. My characters need to listen to this. Except they live in a post-apocalyptic world, so I'll listen for them.

So buy his albums A Larum and Been Listening and there's a new one out this summer. Support Johnny, I'm sure he'll be real famous too soon (he's filming a movie with Anne Hathaway later this year).

I need to put this second clip up, although I haven't see the film, I love Johnny's cover of this song.

And I get to see him live at Larmer Tree festival this year. I'll be the one right at the front singing all the words. Thank you Super H for taking me, your understanding goes beyond normal bounds of husbandness. You'll even catch me when I swoon. 

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Writing around your job vs Writing as your job

This is how I began my day today. No hands (not really).

I am on holiday from work and am in a state of bliss.

Because I have TIME.

Sweet, elusive TIME.

I love teaching but I want to write as my career. I want it bad.

This is why.

Day in my life normally
  • Get up - run downstairs write notes on novel ideas I dreamt last night.
  • Provide breakfast (or sit daydreaming and trying to wake-up while Super Husband (SH) provides it, as it's still hellishly early and I was up hellishly late writing)
  • Get ready, get two small ones ready.
  • Survive school run gauntlet.
  • Drive to work - here all good ideas come. Characters actually speak to me, plot holes are mended, new ideas only arrive when I'm doing something else - ideally moving.
  • E-mail myself in the car park with ideas from the drive.
  • Teach for the day. Full on. I love it but it is FULL ON.
  • Drive home. More ideas in notebook. Write them up whilst cooking (see blog post on Burnt Peas).
  • Eat with family. Sometimes fully there - sometimes in a fictional world.
  • Communicate with loved ones then bath and Bed for small people. When I was first drafting, Super did this nearly every night so I could tap tappity tap My Precious.
  • Teaching work/House chores. As quickly as possible. Desperate to start tapping now.
  • WRITE. 4/5 hours usually. No TV, ignore phone and friends in quest for my dream. Sometimes exercise on indoor bike so I can catch up with latest YA fiction and not become hugely fat.
  • Bed. Reading time. Then 6 hoursish sleep.
  • REPEAT for 8 months. In school holidays write in mornings for 3 hours as well.
Day in my life if I become professional (ie today as I am on holiday now)
  • Get up to school run the same except not as tired.
  • An hour out on my bike (see photo). Exercise and ideas time all in one. Thought up this blog post today.
  • WRITE 4/5 whole hours of uninterrupted writing time. By myself in the house. Take some breaks to play guitar, put washing on line. Get loads done as my mind is sparkling fresh.
  • School run, take offspring to the beach and play with them thereby becoming Proper Mummy rather than strange hunched Gollum creature.
  • Cook edible un-burnt food.
  • Cuddle and speak to Super H and help with bath and bed. Mummy and Wife roles fully operational.
  • WRITE. 2/3 hours is enough. Or see long-suffering friends. Or - shock horror - watch TV for an hour with a glass of wine.
That is why I want to do this professionally. I love it. I'm obsessed. But I want to be a mum and wife and friend too. Not a Gollum hunkering over my precious - well OK, but only when I'm first drafting.

Me at 3.20 today

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Mid-week Squeak I will wait, I will wait - For you

I'm introducing a regular feature. My Mid-week Squeak. I'm going to blog on Wednesdays about something that inspires me in my writing. It's a squeak because it's a little bit uncool and fan-like. Be warned - you may find me slightly shrill.

This week it is The Marvellous Mumford and Sons and their song I Will Wait. So many songs move me but this raised goosebumps everywhere when I heard the live front-lounge Glastonbury version on Sunday. I know writers are probably supposed to be aloof and individual and like things other people don't, and sometimes I do, but I also like this. A lot. Along with most of the planet.

How it inspires and influences my writing?
  Let's make a list:

1. Simplicity.
 Most of the song is made up of the words 'I will wait, I will wait for you.' And everybody sings along in utter bliss. Including, or rather especially me - with eyes shut-tight and hands in the air. Unless I'm driving. Three one syllable simple little words, so powerful. Using that. Beauty in simplicity.

2. Alliteration, Assonance.
 That line again - The W's the o's. It's got wings.

3. Pace. 
Marcus' rhythm guitar is frantic, I can't keep up when I play along. But then he stops completely on that magic 'I will wait' chorus. The slow times only seem slow if they come after the fast. I have taken note.

4. Yearning. 
I love yearning. I like my characters to experience love with a good dose of misery. Nothing better than star-crossed lovers and love unrequited. I like it when they have to wait. The main character in my novel will wait and wait and wait - for her. Sigh.

5. Playability/ Singability.
I like to be able to perform it in my front room. Loudly. And with no regard for the neighbours or for the music police. The chords are simple and its easy to sing. It's a perfect way to take a break from my writing, and gets me n the right mood for some majorly passionate yearning (see point 4) from my characters.

That's enough squeaking for today.

Just going to play it one more time before I get back to Chapter 43 on the 6th Edit.

Come on - share some songs that inspire you. You know you want to.