One Year To Go…

Hello faithful blog readers, followers, likers and perhaps just-stumbled-upon passers by.

Today is an important day. It marks a special occasion in my writing calendar; One Year To Go…

In one years time, I hope to have finished my book and perhaps may be on my way to letting people read it. And by people, I don’t mean unsuspecting friends and family members who will have this manuscript thrust upon them.

I’d like to say a quick THANK YOU  to all you readers, followers and likers for actually showing an interest in this little venture of mine. It is proving to actually be a lot of fun, very therapeutic and positively beneficial to my writing.

I didn’t know I had a passion for the writing process. Turns out I do and am finding it fascinating every single day. It is so satisfying to have something to blog about too. This blog in itself should create a story by default, just by following my actual story into existence.

Two for the price of one!

Today I am embarking on Chapter 11 which I will tell you the title of because I’m just feeling all warm and generous all of a sudden. It’s called Morris The Mole.

For those of you who are close friends and unsuspecting family members, you will all ready know that Morris The Mole is actually a song that my father wrote. He’s a folk musician and wrote this song when he was in his twenties, I believe. It’s a song that has followed me all of my life. And I don’t think he knew when he wrote it just how clever a song it is; lyrically as well as musically.

Those lyrics, as well as much of my family and indeed first 30 years of my life, have informed the story in this novel. The day that Morris joined my cast of characters was a momentous day. It was as if everything just fell into place. Doors opened to animals that can speak which was a huge breakthrough. I have always wanted to write a book where the animals can speak.

Chapter 11 takes us to Morris’ hole, which is a lot nicer than it sounds. The Hobbit-type-hole I have been talking about for a few posts is where Morris lives. It’s actually nothing like a Hobbit hole, but it was a universally understandable description (or it should be).

Here, Crystal is going to find a clue…

I’m not going to dwell too much more on plot. This blog is primarily about the process behind the plot. And Morris’ Hobbit-type-hole is a prime example of that.

My dad has already done the work for me! Call it laziness, call it an homage, call it genius; it is what it is. My father has described the mole’s home in such detail in his lyrics that all I have to do is transfer them to prose.

Well there’s a bit more to it than that… Morris as a character had to be fleshed out and actually I am still finding things out about him today. Marvelous things! But the roots of the idea were there. I am hoping that this book being the product of my life so far, as it is, will bridge the gap between family and friends getting a little kick out of knowing where the idea came from, and the brand new reader who will hopefully relish the way I have woven a story around these things. And I’m hoping that it’s just a little bit clever…

I am pleased with my progress so far this year. In January I have written two chapters; TWO CHAPTERS!!!! And this is blog post number eleven; ELEVEN!!!!

Can’t help but feel all positive and productive at my progress.

Positive, Productive, Progress; if I were a politician, that would be my slogan or personal mantra. It’s certainly good advice for the struggling, unpublished and unrepresented author.

So that’s it. One Year To Go. Twelve Months To Go. 52 Weeks. 365 Days.

Good grief, that isn’t long at all, is it?

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Shivers Down My Spine

I wish you guys could read what I’ve just written.

Shivers down my spine!

I cannot express how satisfying it is to write a scene where the characters somehow take over your mind and speak for themselves. I knew the gist of what had to be said but I didn’t know they would say it the way they did. And it is good!

I just re-read it, just to make sure and yes, it is good!!!

It’s such a delicious, tiny scene. I sort of want to add more dialogue, but I must hold out and remember my previous post Screaming in Silence… sometimes there’s too much talking.

Silence is just as good; and here, it is epic.

I love ending a chapter with speech. No ‘he said’ or some kind of description; just close speech marks and end. There’s something so satisfying about it. And actually it makes for an even bigger cliffhanger because the reader is left to interpret the speech on their own.

I have read many blogs and websites discussing the use of said, replied, asked, answered, shouted, exclaimed, sobbed etc etc and the description of how speech is said; for example:

“No more secrets?” asked Edna in a melancholic-tone and with a longing smile.

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“No more secrets?” asked Edna.

The basic argument is that if you have done your characterisation right, then you shouldn’t have to describe her tone or her smile. The reader should be able to put that smile onto Edna without any prompt from the author; and they should know the tone already.

I don’t entirely agree with this argument. I think there is a time and place for a specific instruction to a character’s emotions and actions, and there is a time to let the reader decide. I think that  a balance between these is what I am trying to find.

I have, however, learnt that publishers see it as ‘juvenile’ to use all the different words for ‘said’ (like the ones listed above). Which is completely ironic because at school we were taught to never repeat ourselves; we were positively encouraged to use the different ‘said’s’ as that made us more intelligent; or just mark-able at a higher grade.

Anyway! I am not just using the word ‘said’ in my novel. There is nothing wrong with the word and I’m getting a fair bit of usage out of it. But, I am allowing myself to use some of the other words too.

I DON’T CARE IF THAT MAKES ME JUVENILE IN THE EYES OF THE PUBLISHERS.

I think ultimately it’s about finding your own style of writing. Sometimes, a character says something in a very specific way; and that needs to be described.

And sometimes I just get bored of the word ‘said’, he said.

PS This marks the end of Chapter 10! Hooray!

Screaming in Silence

The smell of toast hit her in the face. The warmth inside made her whole body tingle; she hadn’t realised just how cold she had been. She heard the kettle finish boiling, the whistle soaring through the house and then the hot water being poured into a mug.

            She walked through the archway and into the kitchen. Auntie Edna put the kettle back onto the hob with a slight wobble. Auntie Sis shuffled in her chair. Neither of them said a word. Crystal looked at the floor for a while before lifting her head and facing them. She looked into their worried eyes and felt something she wasn’t prepared for; anger.

            As tears began to build up inside her, she took a deep breath and controlled them.

“I’m not going to apologise for running away,” she said. “I needed… I needed some air.”

“All right,” said Auntie Sis.

“Did you… find the air you were looking for?” said Auntie Edna.

“Yes,” she answered.

“Good,” said Auntie Sis and continued as she got to her feet. “Well we should probably…”

“I don’t want to talk about it!”

“But I think you need…” started Auntie Edna walking towards her niece.

“I want to go to bed,” said Crystal firmly. Auntie Edna stopped short.

            There was silence for a moment.

“I think that’s a good idea,” said Auntie Sis.

            Crystal turned and left the kitchen. She felt a mixture of satisfied that she was able to steady her nerve and successfully managed to avoid the conversation that she wasn’t ready to have, and guilty for abandoning her aunts and staying out all night allowing them to worry about her.

            But she had to sort through so many things. Her anger was subsiding at the thought of her challenge; the task that felt like a huge black cloud hovering over head. Where to even start? Then there was the obstacle of keeping it secret from her aunts, knowing what damage secrets can do.

           The climb up the stairs was difficult. Her limbs felt like lead, but she forced her way into her room. It looked different.

           She tried as hard as she could to stay clear of the shrine to her parents and grandparents. She didn’t think she could take much more; it had been all so much. The idea of looking at smiling photos of them all opened that hole in her stomach. So she turned and made for her bed.

As soon as her head hit the pillow she was gone. 

That’s a scene I wrote last night. It comes at the end of Chapter 10 once Crystal has returned from her strange and magical and terrifying encounter in the wood.

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There was supposed to be a considerable conversation here between Crystal and her aunts airing out all of their issues. But when it came to it, I just wasn’t up to it. Physically I was shattered. It was the end of a long working week and as much as I wanted to write I also just wanted to go to bed.

More than that though, she wouldn’t be up to it. After all of that, she wouldn’t force herself to stay awake even longer and talk about her feelings. She is tired and cranky and in desperate need of her bed. This also brings with it the chance to mull things over and put her thoughts in order. Sometimes it’s best to plan a potential argument…

This scene is actually one of my favourites that I have written so far. There’s something extremely interesting about three characters in a room dying to talk about something but choosing silence.

Crystal’s choice here is important. She doesn’t want to say something that she doesn’t mean, and doesn’t want to upset her aunts needlessly. She also wants to make them understand just how hurt she is about everything, and how scared she is about what the truth means.

Sis here can see the distress that her niece is in and so allows her to retire without talking to them. She is deeply, deeply wanting to talk to her but appreciates just what it took for Crystal to chose not to.

I don’t think Edna can decide if she is more upset about Crystal not wanting to talk to them, or that Sissy lets her not talk to them; she’s practically screaming in silence!

These are the points that I hope this passage illustrates.

It must be quite difficult to read these blogs and not really know the context of the novel. I hope this isn’t too boring a post. I just felt proud that the silence in this scene is the most important part.

Sometimes there can be too much talking.

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A Quick Pre-Work Post

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How dedicated to this blog am I!?

I am currently sat in the canteen at work and my shift starts in 20 minutes. The roads weren’t as bad as expected so have arrived a little sooner than originally planned.

Although I had a productive morning. Dishes done, bins changed and put out, beef in slow cooker ready for tonight’s feast along with my normal getting-ready-for-work jobs.

But the real reason I’m blogging is because I actually did some book work last night. On a work-night!

Am very pleased that I was able to open Chapter 10 and do some editing. I wasn’t quite up to some actual writing, but the read through and little edit helped me to focus on it rather than just watching telly as usual.

I did some good work. Rather than just changing sentences, words and structures, I added notes into the margin. I haven’t done this before, but I am preparing for a future blog post where I will be dissecting my writing process on a whole other level.

The notes I made are thoughts, feeling, choices, decisions and a general commentary on what I’ve changed and why I’ve changed it.

Much happier with it.

So I’ve called that my Second Pass and have realised that the Third Pass is going to be adding more descriptions which will set the scene a bit better. For example, so far I have focused on the main characters and their conversation. But I need to make the secondary characters fit in more.

Looking forward to it!

Right, work is calling.

 

Not-So-Straight-Forward-Morality

It has just occurred to me that in a few days time I will be returning to work. This probably means that there will be less frequent blog-postage.

Unfortunately, I don’t think there is a lot I can do about it. Work takes up time; and a boy has to pay his bills!

But don’t fret, the January enthusiasm is sticking and I am going to push forwards with this book and its development. I have the WordPress App so can blog on the go; even if this means just a quote or picture. Any ideas that come to me whilst out and about may find their way directly to the blog rather than into a note on my phone.

Today I had a coffee with Alex which turned into a 4 hour conversation filled with gossip, opinions, work and book. It was fab! We completely put the world to rights. We went to a cafe in Llanelli where you can buy art and drink coffee; Gallery Art & Coffee = amazing! (follow their tweets @galleryllanelli) It was also lovely to get out into the Winter air and tread through the snow; driving wasn’t too bad either.

I will attempt to write at least a few nights a week. Think I will carry my diary around with me too, just in case inspiration hits.

Last night I sorted through my time-issue. Four weeks of narrative have been filled and actually do make sense.

I also realised something profoundly obvious that I seemed to miss out of my original plan. A little something new which has invigorated me again to continue writing. Sometimes a writer really does need to exercise the creating-muscle.

It’s so inspiring to make-up something brand new to put into your story. I think the only reason I miss these things out of my plans first time around is because I have quite a large cast of characters in this novel. It is easy to miss a beat for some characters sometimes. But then it’s also very exciting when you realise you have missed a moment for that character and you find a way to do that character justice by writing something good in for them.

Look at me, talking as if these characters are alive. But they are, you see; in my head.

Last night, I also found the voice of The Collector; a character that is going to make their first appearance in a few chapters time. A character that I must confess I haven’t given too much thought too.

Let me explain. I know their purpose. I know their direction. I know where they end up at the end of this novel. I know their motivation. I know their tastes. I know where they live. I know the type of person they are. I know where they’ve come from. I know what’s driven them to this point. I know what will ultimately be their undoing. I even know where this character will be after this novel…

But last night, I found their voice. I found how they speak and what kind of things they would choose to speak about; the mere fact that they choose to speak the way they do was a breakthrough. This is going to be a calculating character and one that I didn’t realise until last night I am very excited to write for. They are somebody who withholds themselves from people in the most basic ways. And I know why, and cannot wait to explore that with the reader.

This of course makes them more difficult to write; but all the more fun!

It’s interesting that the characters with a not-so-straight-forward-morality are the ones I enjoy the most. I had one of them in my last novel and still to this day love him so much! I vow to one day do that story justice purely in order to do justice to that character; a man who is ambiguous at the best of times. If I do my job right, you will never know where you are with him; you will always be second guessing him and his motives and I loved writing that!

To me, The Collector is going to be similar in tone; although I think perhaps a bit more bitchy…

After all this talk of characters, I find myself struggling slightly to find the voice of the Lord of The Wood. He needs to click into place for me. Again, I know his history, motivation, where he ends up, how he ends up there, what he has to say… but not how to say it. I think it may be a case of just starting the chapter and pressing on.

Maybe his voice will find me.

Lord of The Wood

Chapter 10 is a strange one.

I often find that when I’m writing a chapter based on ‘the plan’ the amount of story that I have allotted for that chapter spills out into others.

For example, a few chapters back I had an important conversation planned between Crystal and her aunts. It is a vital scene and it ended up being a very long conversation… In fact, I think it ended up taking almost an entire chapter.

That sounds like a lot but remember this is a children’s book.

I love that conversation. The characters really found their voices. And for that reason it stands alone from the other narrative that I had planned to accompany it. The same thing has happened here.

When I restructured the chapters to allow the Hobbit-type-hole to be relocated, ‘the plan’ has morphed with it, and consequently Chapter 9 did not include the meeting with the Lord of The Wood, as intended.

The Lord of The Wood has become a chapter in itself; he says before having actually written it.

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It’s going to be an important chapter that really gives Crystal her driving force for the rest of the novel. Which is why I am going to give it the proper amount of words and time to do it justice.

I am looking forward to writing for the Lord, although I am unsure of his voice yet. I find it helps me as a writer to hear a voice in my head that reminds me of that character. I’m thinking a gravelly Ian McKellen… I’m also unsure if he is Welsh…

This sounds strange but the novel is set in Wales and has a Welsh flavour about it, but these magical/mythical characters trouble me; would they sound Welsh? Or is it a safer bet to assume they would sound like Ian McKellen? More British and expected, I suppose.  I know it sounds strange but if he is Welsh, his speech patterns would be entirely different to that of an RP-English-Posh man. I always assumed he’d have that sort of voice…

At this point, my plan is to also include the conversation with her aunts (that I cut from the start of Chapter 9) at the end of this chapter. In fact I think it will be better there.

I’ve come to the late confusion that sometimes writing conversations between characters is easy; writing silence between them is much more interesting and difficult. When Crystal returns from quite a traumatic night in the woods where she has been utterly changed as a person and has been given a quest and a purpose, the last thing she would want to do is have a domestic with her aunts; despite the fact that they’ve been up all night worrying about her. So I think a short scene with less talking is right for them. I like that idea.

I am concerned though of the chapter after this…

It is mainly due to the restructure. After the chapters in the forest, Crystal has a purpose. And the next time that she acts on this purpose is half-term holidays. I have to move the narrative through 4 weeks of school and home life to get to the next important plot point.

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Having said that, those 4 weeks could be a missed opportunity for some great character moments.

I guess what I’m having trouble deciding is whether to indulge myself in writing those character moments, or whether to just get on with the story. It would probably be the opinion of a copy-editor to just skip it; if it doesn’t move the story forwards…

Perhaps I am missing something in those 4 weeks that will move the story forwards…

Something I haven’t thought of yet…

This is a typical writer’s problem. I’ve got a document open in front of me entitled ‘The Lord of The Wood’ and I’m worrying about the chapter after that! I have enough worries about this chapter, let a lone the next one!!

But I can’t help myself. It has to be right. I have to know EXACTLY where I’m going to write where I am.

In fact, sometimes it’s worse having a plan for a chapter because it seems less interesting, less spontaneous, less exciting! There is something to be said about making a story up as you go along… Although can you imagine that!? Just jumping into a story with no plan? I don’t think I could do it…

Sometimes it’s easy for the author to think and feel that the book that is planned (which for me is in a notebook) is old and stale and is just not worthy of bringing to life. But the life-giving part is so reassuring and reaffirming that all you are doing, all that I am doing, will be worth it.

More self doubt; great.

I think the right thing to do for the narrative is just jump ahead 4 weeks. But I think the right thing to do for the characters is to experience some of those 4 weeks with them.

This might be a fantastic opportunity for me to create a new part of the story that until now I didn’t know that I needed. It may end up being brilliant! Utterly unthinkable to not have it in there! It might feel like I’ve lost the plot; literally.

I sort of want to spend a little time with a notebook scribbling away things that might happen in those 4 weeks, to see if there’s a story there.

I don’t think I’ll be able to write Chapter 10 with this on my mind.

And sometimes allowing yourself to be creating again, rather than just following your own instruction, will liberate you and inject much needed enthusiasm back into what you’re writing.

The Lord of The Wood deserves my enthusiasm.