Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Day 95 - Linked Up and Light Hearted

There are some amazing things going on in the blogosphere, lads and lasses!

Over at Miss Snark's First Victim a whole bunch of agents are bidding against each other for the chance to read the manuscripts of some aspiring authors - but don't worry, I've been assured that the end days aren't as bad as we've all been led to believe.

Rachel Gardener, wonderful agent and all-round good guy, has been reading my diary again. I say that because it's less far-fetched than the idea she reads my blog.

Scarily, The Rejectionist doesn't seem to need caffeine to write as eloquently as she does. I shake in terror as my one plan to vanquish said blogger should they decide to attempt world domination has now been proved ineffective.

I'm an emerging writer! So says Australian Writers Rock! - I don't just have to rely on what my Mum says anymore ^_^  Seriously, I'm reasonably chuffed about that.

Oh! And I'm jealous of Sarah at Earful of Cider because she knows cooler people than I do and of Tahereh at Stir Your Tea because every time I try to pull off cute crazy all I manage is awkwardly bizarre verging on Sweet God Run! and of Gin and Kerosene's owner for getting to go see Muse when the best I've been offered this week is Wiggles tickets. (And yes, I took them.I know one 2-year-old who's going to be uber-excited tomorrow!)

I should have been in bed hours ago.

Word Count - 1,319

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Days 90 - 94 - When is a Failure not a Failure?

I had a five year plan. The first year was meant to be just solid writing - the idea being that I would have a solid base of work to build on come year two.

There have been a couple of problems with this - the main one being that I never see my husband any more. The secondary problem being that I'm dying to start editing my first ever completed novel (I know - I'm weird ^_^) and I don't have time if I'm writing 3000+ words per day!

So I've decided to cut back my word count goal. This was a very hard decision for me - I felt like I'd let myself down, that I'd failed.

But the goal isn't, as my wonderful Dad reminded me, an arbitrary number. It's to work as a published author. And if I want to make it my life, then making balance a habit is going to do me much more good in the long run than focussing all my energy on only one aspect of the craft.

So my new goal is to write 1,000,000 words over two years - to make 500,000 in my first year I only have to write a very manageable 1,305 words per day. That will give me plenty of time for editing, playing Assassin's Creed 2 and teaching my toddler to read.

My quote a day calendar at work has been eerily accurate this year. The day I made this decision, it had this to say:

“Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.”

Word Count - 0

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Days 88 and 89 - Love, Hate and Kittens

So, on Tuesday I came home and my rapidly-getting-fat cat didn't meet me at the door.

(If you've read the title, you probably know where this is going.)

When she came out into the loungeroom, she was starving - and A LOT thinner.

Being naturally suspicious of girls who spend all night out with their boyfriends and then spend the subsequent months getting plumper and plumper, I went around the house to have a look-see and, sure enough, there were KITTENS in my bedroom cupboard!!

(NB. The above non-flash photo was taken with Mum in the room, and I put the bub straight back - so please don't think I've ruined any kitty lives)

Squeee!! ^_^

I love babies of all kinds, and these ones are beautiful! I am now the proud grandma of four kittens. I gave Mum lots of pats and hand fed her some chicken curry until she let me have a look at them. She was happy to let me have a squiz, even nosing them over in my direction so I could see them better. She'd lost one already, but the other four are going strong.

I went and tried to write afterwards, but I had two problems:

1) I was too excited about kittens; and
2) I HATED my novel.

I spent most of NaNo writing my YA Sci-Fi, but as I'd finished the first draft (Booyah! Did I mention that??) I went back to my Regency Romance.

I couldn't do it. I hated all of it - the characters, the plot, even the setting.

So I've been stuck for the last two days. Tonight I really actually have to DO something, but I don't know whether to keep soldiering on with this or start afresh on something else.

Suggestions welcome!

Word count - 0

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Day 87 - The Crap That Gets Published These Days

Ask yourself always: How can this be done better?
- G.C. Lichtenberg

I think when people complain about the lack of standards in publishers today what they are really complaining about is the unrelenting tide of mediocrity that faces them every time they walk into a bookstore.

Despite what I've said loudly and repeatedly about Matthew Riley, none of the books that you will see in your average bookstore are actually crap. Think of publishing as an iceberg, and the mediocre stuff you see is the ice bobbing just on the waterline.

Don't believe me? Take a peek below the surface! ^_^

What we really want isn't fiction that meets the minimum bar. We want better fiction. And that's what I believe we should be constantly striving for as writers.

Don't read a novel and say "I could do that". Read and say "I know what would me even more awesome than that!" Even if your proclaimed ambition is to be a hack, write the most adventurous, romantic, melodramatic pulp fiction you can. Always aim to raise the bar, not just meet it.

At the very least, it will make it harder for your kids to show you up in 20 years.

Word count - 1,889

**EDIT - Oh God. I'd never actually READ a Fan Fiction Friday on Topless Robot. My apologies for anyone harmed by that link. It has been replaced with something less evil.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Day 86 - Twitter Popularity and #AskAgent

I love Twitter the same way Twitter loves words - in short, precise bursts. When the Australian Open finished, I was sad that I wouldn't get to tweet on the #AusOpen hashtag anymore. When Masterchef finished, I may have shed a tear or so at the people I had spent half an hour with every night mocking people who can't make a basic cake, ffs, but can make a three-course designer meal.

Recently I discovered #AskAgent - it's an excellent resource for up and coming writers who are curious about how Agents work. Yesterday I learned:

- It doesn't matter when agents go on holiday, because if you're on the slush pile it doesn't matter when you get there, they still aren't jumping over themselves to read you.

- It is better, if possible, to have the one agent who can handle both genres your write in.

- For the love of all that is holy, DON'T self-publish, submit the MS to an agent and only tell them it's already been self-published after you get a contract.

- Most agents don't really care what you write about, as long as it's really well written.

I've also managed to come up with a formula for how to calculate popularity on Twitter. It's simple, you take the number of people following you and divide it by the number of people you're following.

I'll admit I haven't applied it universally, but using this method I have a popularity of 0.60 whereas Step-hen Free (or Stephen Fry as he is known in the current timeline) has a popularity of 37.6 - that seems about right to me! ^_^

Word count - 2, 534

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Day 85 - Amazon Studios Flatters Frey's Novel Factory

Well, they do say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, right?

Amazon, deciding that it shouldn't just be for conmen to screw over overly-enthusiastic and desperate creative types, has come up with its own version that doesn't stop at writers but encompasses wannabe film-makers, actors and animators.

Basically, it's a free contest. The prize money is, for most of us average people, a lot of money. You put your work on the site, people read it, edit it (getting a co-writer credit in the process) and, hopefully, a director likes it enough to make an entire test movie. Then it goes through a competition process, and if it wins you get something.

Otherwise? I hope you didn't want all those rights you just signed away.

If you are considering putting something up on Amazon Studios, I would really urge you to go and read the Development Agreement very carefully.

The problems, as I see it, are these:

1) Amazon state outright they don't hold with any of that union/guild minimum pay nonsense.

2) If you write a script and it wins, the money is split between you and anyone else who edited it. An unlimited number of people can edit your work.

3) If you make revisions to someone else's script, you retain absolutely no rights to any of the content you provided - however point 2 is a good thing for you.

This last point is important.

4) The entire of clause 6 - 'Grant of Rights from You to Amazon' - made me die a little inside. You are agreeing to give Amazon a 'worldwide, royalty-free, non-terminable, sub-licensable, transferable right' to:

...copy, use, edit, add to, modify and otherwise alter any Original Property you contribute to Amazon Studios and to create, develop and produce derivative works based on the Original Property on and off of Amazon Studios in the form of treatments, screenplays, writer's pitches, trailers, videos and other written, audio or audiovisual works...

That's right. They can take your idea and do whatever they want with it. Also? Even after the 18 month exclusive window you give them, they can still use whatever original material you put up to, for example, put out a novelization of your script. And you don't get a penny unless they choose to exercise their option. Which they don't have to.

Because why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?

Word count - 3,286

PS - Thanks to Scott Meyers at Go Into The Story for his post on this.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Day 84 - Tired of being the Tortoise

I have a five year plan. I work towards it every day - more or less.

But dammit, I don't want to take five years! I want it now!

I don't want to worry about my contract being renewed, I don't want to worry about what kind of menial, boring job I'm going to have to take next to keep the money coming in.

I want to write for a living. I want to BE a writer by occupation.

Slow and steady sucks.

Word count - 3,112

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Day 82 - Meh meh meh

I had a bit of a crappy day. I was told that not only didn't I get the job I applied for, I didn't even get an interview. That doesn't happen to me very often (Yes, I know, I'm spoilt - but I'm bloody good at my job). I saw a lot more red than I would have liked in my edit - and gave it to a friend who fixed the scene in a matter of minutes, making it look more polished than I ever could.

So I decided "stuff it" and gave up on being productive and had a sleep instead.

Word count - 0

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Day 81 - Weeds Everywhere.

Today was my second day off work, and I had planned to use the whole day to write. I sat down at my desk, looked at the computer and just about cried. I couldn't do it.

So I got up, did some washing up, took my two-year-old out with me to weed the garden - (sidenote) he looked so cute wearing one of my gardening gloves on one hand, running around and clutching prickly plant bits yelling "Look at me Mummy! I'm running with the weed!"; a phrase that I'm almost certain he'll need to repeat in College (end sidenote) - and then played Assassin's Creed and had a nap.

It was a really nice day, AND I still got my usual writing time in over the course of the evening!

Just one more thing - how fricking awesome is this??

Steampunk Laptop from Datamancer

Word count - 4,301

Day 80 - I Did It!

I hit the 50K! Technically, I've won NaNo!

(Why is there always a however?!?)
... I still haven't quite finished the story yet. That's the next step.

I had today off work, which is how I managed to have such a good day. I'm hoping to make a similar number tomorrow on my second day off. Onwards and upwards!

But for right now, I'm going to go reward myself with some Assassin's Creed ^_^

Word count - 10, 957

Monday, November 22, 2010

Day 79 - The Missing Day

Somehow I've managed to misplace a day.

Today, Monday 22 November, should be Day 80 as far as I can work out but my blog is only up to Day 79. I'm reasonably certain I only misplaced it recently - the maths was all sound up until the beginning of this month.

So I've added up everything I've written in the past few months, subtracted the total in the sidebar on my blog and the missing day's word count was 1,912.

Ah, order at last! Take that, chaos!

Word count - 1,912

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Day 78 - 'My Dangerous Duke' by Gaelen Foley

I should say up front that I normally read sweet romances. As much as I support people's right to talk about their character's throbbing manhood it's not usually the kind of thing I want to read about. I like the story, the growing affection and tension between two characters who are falling madly in love with one another.

So when I picked this up, I thought it was a sweet romance. You might ask, as did my husband, "Julia, how did you manage to miss the prominent quote from Publishers Weekly on the front stating the book was exceptionally sexy?"
Good question.
But I did miss it, and I'm glad I did.

My Dangerous Duke is a really good story.  It follows Kate Masden, if that is her real name, as she is kidnapped and given as a gift to a cursed Duke with a dark reputation. Managing to convince him that she is not a local girl with ambitions to become a famous courtesan, she and Rohan, Duke of Warrington and assassin for the notorious Inferno Club, attempt to solve the mysteries of Kate's birth, upbringing and capture.

I really liked the characters and in particular the dynamic between Kate and Rohan. The tension between them is tight right from the beginning of the novel and continues well. I especially liked that they were not afraid to talk about things openly - at times when I thought there would be a comedy of errors that would leave me cringing Foley surprised me by averting it through a well-timed conversation.
Bliss! Two characters who listen to each other's explanations!
I also loved how Rohan, a cold-blooded killer doomed by his bloodline, was handled. There was no watering down of what he did as part of his occupation, and Kate's acceptance of him as he was seemed to flow naturally from her growing feelings for him.

The pacing works well for most of the book, and I can't say much about the level of sensuality because I tend to skim sex scenes just to make sure I'm not missing any plot (Seriously, authors, don't do that! Who talks about the people trying to kill them while they're in the middle of coitus?). They only thing I will say was that I felt their change of heart over whether to have a physical relationship or not was a bit forced. The reasons not to didn't seem that important in the first place, and I couldn't really see what had changed to allow it when they did fall into the sack.

The ending of the book - and I won't give away anything here - was extremely unusual, and I liked that about it. Personally, I felt it lacked something, but I really, really appreciated what she was attempting to do.

All in all, a fun read and I'm looking forward to reading the others in the same series.

(By the way - I should also mention that the cover art on my copy is superior to, and less revealing than, the cover art on Gaelen Foley's website - it has convinced me that if I am ever published I am willing to settle for a smaller advance if they are willing to put in the contract that Blacksheep do the cover art. Go check out their publishing portfolio - pretty!)

Word count - 3,165

Day 77 - Finishing the Draft

I read a quote the other day from Stephen King who said that you should always attempt to fiinish the first draft of your novel within three months, because otherwise it begins to feel like a foreign land. I know he's talking about the concept of immersion, but to me it was a bit of a prod.

You need to strike while the iron is hot. You are interested in this story now, but if you keep putting it off and putting it off how long will it be before you get bored of the whole thing and move on to writing the first draft of that AWESOME idea you had last night?

Just the same as you can't edit a blank page, you have to finish a first draft to have a second. That's my goal for Novemeber. I've won NaNo twice now - 50,000 words each time but not a completed draft in sight. This year my goal is to finish my first draft. I think my goal will then be to do my very first second draft, but let's take it a step at a time, yes? ^_^

Word count - 2,723

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Day 76 - First Among Sequels by Jasper Fforde

For years I had thought that the wonderful, innovative, awe-inspiring Thursday Next series ended with Something Rotten, with the action culminating with the thrilling croquet match that saved the world as they know it.

You can not imagine how incredibly ecstatic I was to find out about First Among Sequels. My husband works in a book store and I made him get it for me the day he first mentioned it to me. So as you can see, my expectations were quite high when it came to actually reading the book.

Thursday is still the same, multi-layered character I've loved from the beginning, and the literary references, bizarre happenings and distorted tableaus of everyday life in the world of a mother, wife, cheese-smuggler and jurisfiction agent came fast and furious.

The only problem I had was that parts of the plot seemed a little stilted. It might even be that when I read the first one I found BookWorld, jurisfiction and the like all so bewildering that I was swept along so fast I missed clues, but this time I noticed all the foreshadowing and was able to quiet often guess what was going down. But this was not a real problem and it was still the same familiar world I'd missed.

If you haven't read this series, you're doing yourself a disfavour - go find The Jane Eyre Affair immediately. It's unashamedly snobbish in its literary references, and the more you've read the funnier the series is, but the plots are excellent even without that layer. An excellent read.

Word count - 837

Friday, November 19, 2010

Day 75 - Octavian Nothing: Volume 1 by MT Anderson

I often wonder where the line gets drawn between adult and young adult fiction. The Pox Party, the first volume of the Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing pretends the line doesn't exist. Set in Boston during the Revolutionary War, it is a dark novel that plays on the notions of freedom, identity, race and philosophy.

In 2006 it won the National Book Award for Young People. In one of the early chapters it is mentioned how cats are thrown from increasingly high distances to see how far they can fall before they no longer land on their feet. In 2007 it was an honour mention in the Printz award for excellence in young adult fiction. In one scene the young Octavian watches as a man is tarred, feathered and beaten repeatedly until he screams incoherently.

The tension starts quite early in the book. Like a good horror film, even when people appear to be living completely normal lives we feel the twinge of fear at the looming catastrophe. It is unrelenting in some ways, because even when the last issue is resolved, you can see the malevolent shadow of another on the horizon.

I would strongly recommend this book to everyone. As with And Tango Makes Three, I think adults (or people with more mature life perspectives) will get more out of this than your average teen, but it is a cracking good read no matter what age you are. I can't wait to buy the second volume.

Word count - 0

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Day 74 - Or am I just jealous?

I posted that horrible contract, read with a growing righteous fury the offer he was making to these graduates - and then started to wonder what I would do.

Was I really appalled? Or was I jealous?

These people get a shot I won't get. They get a published author (even if it is a douchebag published author) as a mentor. If they write something worthwhile, it will get shown to a publisher who is interested already.

Is it really so much to ask? To say "In return for giving you your big break, I expect to get all the credit and most of the cash"?

Personally, my answer has to be - yes, it is too much to ask. It is too much to ask that I allow you a parasitic existence while I work my butt off with no guarantee of anything except a chance. It is too much to ask that if I work hard, you reap the benefits.

What would you do?

Word count - 1,201

Monday, November 15, 2010

Day 73 - The Contract From Hell

Hey, aspiring writers! Wanna know what a crap contract looks like?

I'm semi-admiring of the way Frey is unabashedly evil. As a once-was-law-student, I found clause 15 the most amusing. Forget the fact that you only get paid $125 up front, with another $125 when your manuscript is complete and the company owns your work for the rest of time, clause 15 says even if they break the contract, there is nothing you can do about it - you can't even end the contract.

On the other hand, if you stuff up, or even look like you might stuff up, they can get an order from the court forcing you to complete the contract EVEN if they can't show that your considered inaction would cause a loss to the company.

Of course, I know buckleys about US law, but in Australia I am reasonably certain several of those clauses would not stand up in court. 15.3, for example.

But what I am certain of is this - if you sign that contract, you have almost no legal leg to stand on.

Please, aspiring authors, show your contract to a good lawyer first. Or your local authors association.

We all want the dream - a published book. But wouldn't you like to reap the rewards for your hard work as well?

Word count - 3,142

Day 72 - 'And Tango Makes Three' by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson

I had to order this book in, but I had read so many reviews of how wonderful it was that I didn't hesitate to do so.

My first thought when I opened it to the first page was one of dread. TMFW! I hate picture books that feel they have to drown themselves in a sea of text. But it cleared up within a few pages and it was clear sailing from there.

As a child's picture book, it is a nice story. Marcus, my two year old, likes penguins.

But as an adult, I got a lot more out of it. A two year old can't read a homosexual relationship into what is, on its face, two affectionate penguins who live in the same nest. A two year old can't extrapolate outwards from the simple story of two boy penguins who want an egg and comprehend the overwhelming sadness that same sex couples who want a child must experience.

To me, the scene where the two penguins try to hatch a rock because they see all the other penguins with their eggs was filled with pathos. Marcus just said wisely "They don't have a Mummy. They need a Mummy to give them a baby." To him it was a simple matter, a logic problem.

In the end, I liked the book more than he did. He couldn't read it as a parable, which is why he couldn't understand why Mummy cried a little at the simple beauty of the final page.

Word count - 1,260

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Day 71 - A Minor Taste of Victory

Today I broke the 100,000 word mark.

That's 10% of my goal to write 1,000,000 words in a year completed. That's 100,000 words I have written since September 4 this year. It's 100,000 words I wouldn't have written in the entirety of this year if I hadn't got my act together and undertaken this challenge.

After a week of rejection, this is particularly sweet. I didn't make the STALI finals (though my sincere congratulations to those who did!) and I got turned down by two jobs I applied for. It's enough to make anyone a little down. The funny thing is, if you keep writing, you keep finding more and more opportunities.

So I didn't get what I want this week. I'm making progress, steady progress, towards my goal. And that is definitely a taste of victory in itself.

Word count - 6,868

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Day 70 - Handwriting v Typing

When I go out to write in public, more often than not I have to use a notepad and pen. That's because I don't have a laptop. Except for the fact that handwriting is slower, I don't often find much difference between handwritting and typing. Other people swear that handwriting, solely by being the slower method, forces them to think more about what they're writing and results in a better draft.

What do you think? Do you prefer typing or handwritting?

Word count - 270

Friday, November 12, 2010

Day 69 - Tightrope Antics

All of life is a balancing act. Life and work and fun and writing are all trying to get a piece of the action and quite often you have to spend too much time on one thing to do justice to another. As a mother of a two-year-old with a full-time job and, you know, friends and a husband, I often feel like telling everyone to go jump off a cliff for half the day so I can get some damned writing done!

Doyce Testerman, who runs an excellent blog, just reminded us all that we are our own worst enemies. This part of his post in particular rang true for me: 
4. No one else gives a crap if you Finish.

No they don’t.

Not even him. Not her either. No one.

Not even me; I’m distracting you RIGHT NOW with this post.

You are the only person who cares about getting your story done, and the only way to make that happen is to viciously (perhaps anti-socially) defend the blocks of time you set up to write.
I struggle with feeling like a bitch when I tell people I can't hang out because I have to write. They don't seem to get that if I don't put the work in, this will never happen. Because there is no one else who can do it for me.

Simultaneously, your brain needs to recharge every now and then. Yay for Rock Band 3!

Word count - 299

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Day 68 - Trying to Buy the Wind

Working as a freelance writer, the first thing that struck me was the high importance non-writers placed on ideas - coupled with the low value that they placed on writing skill.

"I have a fantastic idea!" a prospective client might say. "It's a novel about... well, I can't go into that right now, it's a secret and if I tell you, you might steal it. But I'll give you $200 to write my novel, which will then go on to be published and make millions."

And this distribution of funds seemed perfectly fair to them, because it was their idea. They owned it. The countless hours of writing and editing - well, that's easy when you have a concept!

The principle that ideas are precious items that need to be guarded I find ridiculous. What I find pathetic is the people who wander around, saying "I had that idea first. I came up with the idea of an orphan going to wizard school. I'm going to sue!"

There is no new idea. There are only different ways of retelling the same old stories, using different characters and settings. Yes, you had a good idea. But did you use it? Whinging about how JK Rowling stole your fortune by writing her own book before you wrote yours (the cow!) might get you a couple of drinks at the pub, but wouldn't you have been better off actually writing your book?

I stole participated in the free exchange of ideas culture and acquired this from The Rejectionist's blog:

Word count - 3,624

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Day 67 - First Impressions

Your opening line should hook your reader straight away.
No slush reader ever reads past the first page.
How many times have you heard that? And yet some great published works still start so slowly you want to stand behind the author at their keyboard tapping your foot and looking at your watch pointedly. It took me three attempts to get past the first page of The Count of Monte Cristo, but I've read that book about 10 times now.

In contrast, I just read the first five pages of Octavian Nothing by M.T. Anderson. The first line is:

I was raised in a gaunt house with a garden; my earliest recollections are of floating lights in the apple-trees.
Wow. Just wow.

The writing is amazing. It pulls you in and wraps you entirely in the time period, surrounding you with a sense of impending disaster and a creeping, overarching menace.

Of course, I'm only 5 pages in and I could be wrong, but I have the feeling this is going to be one of those books - the books that come along so very rarely that manage to enthral you without seemingly even trying. I'm looking forward to the next 346-odd pages.

Word count - 3,460

Day 66 - Failure

I had a very bad day. Yes, I should have worked through it. No, I shouldn't have gone to bed and just hugged my kitty (who I really think may be knocked up...)

So my new goal for the month is not more than 1 day with a zero wordcount!

Word count - 0

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Day 65 - The Good, Bad and Ugly of Libraries

I love to buy books. In fact, one thing I need the most is more bookshelves. I love being able to take down a book and look up sections I enjoyed to see exactly how they were handled, I like being able to look up quotes easily and I like being able to just re-read my favourite books whenever the hell I want.

So I don't often go to libraries, but when I do I'm always bowled over by the sheer scope of them. I spend my time flitting from one section to another going "Ooh! I could learn to play the guitar in three easy steps!" and "Fascinating! What exactly WAS the effect of trade on the downfall of the Ottoman Empire?"

Today our NaNo write-in was at a local library, and after realising that there was apparently a statute of limitations on overdue fees (or perhaps my parents returned the book when the cleared out their house - I have no idea) the library let me take out two non-fiction books on space travel aimed at the 10-13 market and a terrible, terrible novelisation of the TV series Crash Zone, which seems to be aimed at 12-15 year olds.

The ugly came in the form of a crazed religious fanatic who, overhearing our discussion on sex in romance novels, decided to come and favour us with a long and very loud lecture on our own immaturity, the importance of embracing Jesus and the sin of homosexuality. We're not even sure how he got on to that one, but we told him to get lost. Eventually he had to be booted by the library staff. So there's at least one nutjob who's ensured he's going to have a bit part in a couple of novels!

Weighing up crazy evangelicals against free books I wouldn't normally buy and good chairs and free Internet, I'd say on the whole libraries kick ass.

Word count - 4,196

Day 64 - Zzzzz...

After a full day of cleaning, cooking, reading to and playing with my 2-year-old, then hanging with my gaming group and writing when I had half a moment, I am so very, very exhausted.

I was reading a blog the other day that asked, if you had the choice, would you prefer to be a critically renowned yet poor novelist or a reasonably well paid and "popular" hack. I would pick hack any day of the week. After all, if I could write during the day, oh the extravagant bliss!, I could SLEEP at night. Or talk to my husband. That would be nice.

I'm thinking of taking Tom Cruise for my hero - my mantra will be "Show me the money!"

Word count - 1,081

Friday, November 5, 2010

Day 63 - Can't sleep. Scrivener will eat me.

I haven't slept in a really long time and it's all Scrivener's fault. They FINALLY released a Windows beta, and of course I had to download it.
"I won't use it," I said to myself. "I'll just get it on the computer so I can check it out tomorrow."

And then I fell in love.

Editing my complete mess of a first draft went from "Oh God" to exciting so quickly! I've been staying up working, but now if I don't get some sleep I may just pass out on my keyboard.

But the research binders! And the index card philosophy!

*sigh* Must. Sleep! It will be there another day...

Word count - 2,101

Day 62 - End of Month Two

I have to be up in about 5 hours, but I was only 900 words off the 80,000 mark so I kept going. As a matter of fact, if it weren't for the fact that I'd be stuffed at work tomorrow I'd be quite happy to just keep writing all night. When you get into the flow, you can just surf there as long as you want pretty much.

At least until something hits you.

It's the end of month two, and I've done marginally better this month. I achieved 3.51% in my first month, and that has increased to 4.49% in month two. This is still a fair way down from the 8.34% I need each month, but still, improvement is improvement and I'll take that as something of a win. As a matter of fact, it's a 27.9% increase in output. If I keep improving at that rate, I'll catch up in no time.

In any event, I now have 304 days left of my challenge with 920,000 words remaining. This equates to 3,026 words per day.

I think one of the major things holding me back is the sheer number of 0 count days. And there's really no excuse for it. I can do 1000 words easily in about 20 minutes to half an hour. The thing is, and this goes back to the editing versus careful drafting debates as well, is that if I say to myself - Oh, you must reach your whole target even if you're tired, I probably won't do anything at all and will watch TV instead.

I need to give myself permission to have mid-range and low word count days. In most cases, once I start writing I get in the zone and I'll probably keep going. But it's important that I get something down every day.

So my major goal for month three is to not have a single 0 word count day. My secondary goal is to lower my daily target back down to the original 2,739 words per day it was when I started.

Word count - 5,281

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Day 61 - The War of the Words

I'm continuously amazed how sometimes just sitting down and writing with the aim of telling a story that's only half-formed in your head can come up with some plot turns and twists that you had never anticipated.

For example - I was a little lost the other day. I was writing my young adult science fiction, and I felt like my voice was all wrong. My prose felt really stilted and even the dialogue (something I'm normally quite good at) was feeling forced and unnatural. Then suddenly I found myself writing from the perspective of her great-great-great grandmother at a modern day university trying to choose between a life on Earth and a never-ending mission to the stars. And then, because I'd mentioned her, I brought in a diary of hers later that has become a kind of important plot point.

In other new, I took part in three separate word wars today - two through NaNo and one through RWA and ended up with an excellent word count that makes me feel a lot better about myself after being so lazy yesterday!

I hope your NaNos are all going well! I love plot doctoring, so please feel free to ask me questions about what should happen next - that kind of stuff is awesome fun.

Word count - 5,963

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Day 60 - The Natives are Restless

We've only been lost in the novelling jungle for 2 days, and already it seems that some may be resorting to canibalism. Mostly I believe the troops are missing the home-style cooking of the NaNoWriMo forums, which have been attacked by a plague-like disease that threatens civilisation as we know it.

Am hoping to hit a path through to the mainland soon. The natives of NaNo Land line the shores and look at us, their eyes hinting at secrets I dare not guess.

Please, tell Mary I love her.

The drums! The drums!

Word count - 0

Monday, November 1, 2010

Day 59 - All for One, and One for All!

There's something really inspiring about writing with other people. I've done several word sprints today, where another writer challenges you to something of a race. You type for half an hour or an hour (or whatever) and then compare word counts. You win some, you lose some, but you always get a lot of writing done.

It helps if you, like me, are competitive by nature. I can't play poker for fake money, I can't play badminton if no-one is keeping score. To strive, to achieve, to excel - all of these things require a form of measurement by which to judge your progress and success. To do something 'just for fun' with no end goal is something completely foreign to my mind, and something I struggle with as more and more of the world seems to be moving that way.

Even NaNoWriMo is a competition. I'm competing against myself, measured in word count.

Image from

I was thinking that what we need is an Olympic sport of writing. It would be scored similar to diving or gymnastics. You would have a certain time limit, and the amount of words you wrote would constitute your "difficulty", so to speak. It's harder to write an excellent 10,000 word story in an hour than it is a poem. Then the content counts towards the execution scoring phase. There would be a panel of judges, all holding up little placards with scores on them.

NB. This is in no way a cheap way to give myself even a fighting chance of getting in the Olympics. Nope. Really. I promise.

Word count - 3,860

Day 58 - Like Minds

Today I spent four and a half hours talking to a whole bunch of writers. I love that no matter who you are, how old you are, what your background is, when you meet another writer it is almost ludicrously easy to find things to talk about.

Mostly I think this is because writers are interested in the world around them. They read a lot. They watch movies and TV series - maybe even if just to judge the quality of the scriptwriting. They have opinions.

This goes back to what I was saying before about the difficulty of making choices. Writers are an opinionated lot because they have conditioned themselves to make those choices. Love Austen? Hate Austen? Writers generally have an opinion. We're not a group of fence-sitters in general.

To be honest, I was a bit nervous at the beginning that the kick-off party was going to fall flat. I shouldn't have worried. When you're dealing with intelligent, funny people who analyse the world around them for material and aren't afraid to make themselves heard you're always going to have some sort of interesting time! ^_^

Word count - 2,551

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Day 57 - One More Day till Nano!

I'm so excited! I've been thinking about my plot, making plans for the kick-off party and talking to a lot of people about what the pros and cons of a month of uninterrupted, edit-free novelling.

If you haven't joined up yet, go to and get a wriggle on!

Word count - 214

Day 56 - Rocking Out

Rock Band 3 kicks some serious butt. I sang for hours, my voice was so hoarse! But for a short time I had the glory of knowing I was ranked number 2 in the world for one of the songs.

My friend doesn't have the keyboard peripheral yet - I'm looking forward to having a go at that. I would say that the singing seems to get easier with each iteration of the game. A couple of my friends and I started on medium (which is about my level in Rock Band 2 - I can do maybe 3 songs on expert) but by the end of the evening we'd just switched to playing on expert and we were consistently scoring in the 90% range.

One minor annoyance was that they seem to have removed the ability to navigate in the menu via the drum-kit. You have to use the d-pad, which is much less fun.

Word count - 0

Friday, October 29, 2010

Days 54 and 55 - NaNoWriMo Ate My Soul

Well, if by "soul" I mean "sole amount of writing time I get" :-)

I love being an ML, it's fun and interesting and I'm naturally bossy so it's good to have something to organise. But it does take a little of my writing time, especially in the week leading up!

Speaking of which though, I am so excited about November! Woot woot!

Word count - 0

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Day 53 - The Beauty of Georgette Heyer

My mum once told me that she had some books she knew I would love. Being a teenager, I responded with "Bah! I'll thank you to keep your foolish Regency romances to yourself!"

A few years later and I actually ended up reading one of the Georgette Heyer novels my mother had been so keen on. I was hooked immediately. She is an exceptional writer - her pacing, characterisation, use of language, everything is perfect. I own all of her novels now, and I'm a bit sad about it because I've been reduced to just re-reading them over and over again.

I just started The Foundling again. I took that novel with me through Egypt and read it about ten times, so I haven't read it since. Even now, a few pages in, the way she hooks the reader without ostentation is brilliant. Also, in a time where romance novels are decidedly sexualised, her romantic adventure stories are incredibly refreshing. She is people I wish I could be.

Word count - 3,416

Monday, October 25, 2010

Day 52 - Working through the Burn

My shoulders ache, I'm tired and I really just want to curl up in bed with a book.

It's nights like this I feel heroic.

Word count - 3,058

Day 51 - The Agonies of Inadequacy

Stephen Fry always makes me feel like a tongue-tied toddler living in the double-plus good world of 1984. I just wish I were half as fabulous as he. And just to rub it in and have a brilliant laugh at the same time:

Day 50 - My Favourite Crush

I went and saw The Marriage of Figaro at the Sydney Opera House. Oh, it was wonderful! I love the whole Figaro and Suzzana dynamic - and, funnily enough, the main female characters weren't stick figures! I'm what they call very curvy, and I don't expect people to cast fat chicks, but it's nice to see people with, y'know, breasts. And hips.

Over the last couple of Operas I've been to, I've managed to develop a crush on Dominica Matthews. She was absolutely brilliant as the horny-as-hell teenager Cherubino. Even knowing she was a woman, watching her male character try and act like a girl was hilarious. The whole crowd just loved her.

Jose Carbo played the Count and pretty much dominated the stage with his sheer presence. It was a bizarre example of how a character can be almost repellent in his lack of concern for others, but the actor can still draw you in with his amazing magnetism. I mean, generally I don't fall for guys who threaten their wives with axes, but in this case I'll make an exception ^_^

After the opera I was treated to the best dinner I have ever had at the Number One wine bar and restaurant (awww... best. food. ever!) Sumptuous and extravagant - my taste buds were just dancing. And THEN there were fireworks outside my hotel room. Honestly, a pure bliss weekend.

Plus I managed to get some writing done too!

Word count - 586

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Day 49 - Spring Cleaning

My house is always a mess. My Dad always tells me that if I can just get it cleaned, then it will be really easy to maintain but I've never seen any evidence of that. I think it probably helps that my folks have a guy come in once a fortnight to help tidy. If it's that easy to keep up, why waste the cash? 

Anywho, I spent the night tidying. The house looked worse at the end, but that's because I had cleaned out everything from the cupboards, thrown out everything behind the bookshelves, found Marcus' library books (that were borrowed in December last year.... X-( ) and pulled out all the clothes to wash. 

Net gain, I hope...

Word count - 0

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Day 48 - Playing Catch Up

Today was an excellent writing day! My wonderful husband basically threw me into the computer room and took our toddler to the park, and I managed to get myself ahead a little.

But now my head is empty and I have nothing to say. Oh, except:

Word count - 10,136 (Woohoo!)

Day 47 - I *heart* Sheldon Cooper

Still not sufficiently recovered to be creative, but at least managed to do some NaNoWriMo stuff and watch some half-funny TV. I'm gonna count that as a win.

Word count - 0

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Day 42 - 46 - And I thought I was joking...

I made some cracks about pneumonia when I was in the process of getting sick last week. Apparently I was right. I had mychoplasma pneumonia or something, which is mostly quite mild unless it happens to set off your asthma badly and then, like me, you spend days lying in bed struggling to breathe.

I'm now feeling a bit better (still sleeping most of the day and all night) but I know how woefully behind I am. I'm not sure that this is even a plausible challenge anymore, but I'll just keep whacking away at it. A girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do.

Word count - 349

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Day 41 - Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Choice is often touted as a good thing, but I remember a study by a consumer group that showed too much choice is actually bad for people psychologically. If you have to choose every day between 45 types of bread, 6 types of butter and 23 different brands of milk just to have breakfast, you're going to be a nervous wreck by dinner.

That's because choice takes courage. It means closing a door that perhaps will never be open again. If you have Dargblet milk today, and they stop making Crishgy milk tomorrow, you'll never get to have it again.

Writing involves make hundreds of choices, constantly. What would my character do here? What direction does this take my plot? Is this the best word to describe what I'm trying to convey? If I do this here, am I closing the door on some interesting conflict down the line?

I was writing away today when I realised that my main character was trying to use feminine wiles to resolve a situation. Now, I have no trouble with that in general, but that's not who she is. And her journey is not so much one of discovery of the sexualised self as discovery of the power of choice. I went back to the last node and tried again. I had to do that four times and after turning down three trope streets and a dead-end I was finally happy with the direction we were going.

I'm also choosing a different technique aspect to work on each time I write. Today was excess words. I wouldn't stop for telling (not showing), under-written dialogue or trite descriptors, but I always went back and deleted excess words. My worst offenders are 'and', 'but', 'just', 'only'. It's funny how often they are completely unnecessary.

Word count - 2,930

(I'm not so fond of Crishgy as a word, come to think of it, but I do like Dargblet...Anyone want to try their hand at coming up with a definition for it?)

Day 40 - New Moan-ia


Word count - 0

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Day 39 - Downtime for your brain

I just read the most recent blog post by Nicole Murphy and it's really helped me be a little bit less down on myself about my on-again, off-again writing habits. What it boils down to is that you can't be performing all the time. Occasionally you need the time spent NOT using your brain to create to be able to create at all.

Also, last night it was my sister's birthday party. Too. Much. Pide!!

Word count - 0

Day 38 - Mondayitis

A love of lasagne is one of the only things I have in common with Garfield. I don't attack mailmen, I don't try and hit spiders with newspapers (Why would you? A shoe is much more effective) - and I don't hate Mondays.

How could you? They're the start of a new week - so much opportunity! Not this week though. This Monday was blergh-ish and yucky and I'm glad it's gone away and will never return. Huzzah!

You know what's heaps more awesome than my blog? Garfield Minus Garfield.

Word count - 232

Monday, October 11, 2010

Day 37 - Multi-tasking Fail

I wrote a little during the day when my toddler went to visit a friend and planned to write more in the evening, but we had people over and I wrote 30 words while they were here, but they were all crap words and I missed a good joke.

It really is a solitary occupation.

Word count - 970

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Day 36 - Stupid French

My characters have just landed in France, and I'm not as confident writing there as I am in Regency England. I believe that there was some form of official document needed to enter the country, like a passport or something, but I wish I knew a little bit more about French customs procedures at the time.

I'm going to have to do some more research. I'd actually like to write stories set in other parts of the world during the Regency period, but there is less information on places like, for example, Holland than I would like. Thank heaven for Google Books...

Word count - 2,987

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Day 35 - Quantity and Quality

I just rediscovered 'Write or Die' - a wonderful free web-based program that forces you to focus on writing. You can set whether you want to work towards a word total or a time limit and then there are varying levels of punishment if you don't keep typing. At the gentle level, you get a pop-up reminder you should be writing. On normal, your screen flashes a deeper and deeper shade of red till you start typing again. The worst is Kamikaze mode. If you stop working on your writing for long enough, you words begin to unwrite.

I find this an incredibly useful tool. I work for 15 minutes, write a scene and then go away, look at Facebook, come back and write another scene or so. But is there a point where it makes you focus so completely on quantity (the only thing it can measure) that you forget about quality?

A lot of the criticism I've seen for NaNoWriMo is that it produces nothing but crap. "Why bother?" they say. "Just take the time later to write a real novel. You know, one that doesn't suck."
My problem is that I just can't work that way. If I start thinking "Oh, this sentence isn't as wonderful as it could be" I freeze up and don't write anything.

It's a case of different methods suiting different writers. Shakespeare took something like two years to write Romeo & Juliet, while Ray Bradbury apparently wrote Fahrenheit 451 in 9 days. Shakespeare's work was performance-ready, and Bradbury had only a first draft - but in the end it didn't matter whether they crafted each sentence to perfection or bashed out a draft and polished, they still produced excellent work.

Now, if only my polishing were as good as my bashing out...

Word count - 1,266

Friday, October 8, 2010

Day 34 - Talent, practice and tenacity

A study came out recently which suggested that talent wasn't as important in reaching the upper echelons of your chosen profession as practice was. There is an excellent blog post on it at I Should be Writing here.

I can't help but disagree with the study a little. Talent is important. I could practice every day for as long as I live, but I will never be an Olympic sprinter. Or a top-selling pop singer. My talent is writing - I can't sing for the life of me and I'm not in anyway built for speed.

Of course, talent can only take you so far, which is why I liked the concept of writing practice. It's all about pushing your boundaries, and writing solely to improve your technique without any consideration for whether or not what results will be publishable. It's about giving yourself the leeway to make mistakes and not have it matter to your ego.

Then there's tenacity. You need to be able to pick yourself back up again after every stumble and keep on moving towards your goal. The study suggested that it took 10 years of working hard and practising to get really great at something. And that is really what this challenge is about for me. It's not so much about the word count as the sustained, regular attempts to write every. single. day.

What do you think? Is there such a thing as natural talent? Is it that important?

Word count - 938

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Day 33 - Romanticising Sexual Assault

When does a strong, masculine Alpha-male hero become a sexual offender?

I just started reading The Rogue's Disgraced Lady by Carole Mortimer. Sebastian, the 'rogue' from the title, has decided that he wants to seduce a beautiful widow who is rumoured to have killed her husband. He makes it abundantly clear that he has no further intentions than sex, and in fact he has only ever seen her once from across a room. The lady in question, Juliet, attends a house party he is at. So what does he do?

He arranges to be given the room next to hers - and there is an adjoining balcony. A few minutes after being introduced to Juliet, she makes it quite clear she is not interested in a fling with him. Undaunted, Sebastian continues to make overtly sexual comments to her and later enters her room uninvited through the balcony and refuses to leave when requested. The next day, he says he will only stop pestering her if she goes for a drive with him. She reluctantly agrees, and when he AGAIN makes uninvited, unwelcome advances and refuses to stop when she becomes distressed she knees him and walks off.

To this point, Juliet has given Sebastian absolutely no indication she is interested in him at all.

That evening, at a party, Sebastian stands behind Juliet on the balcony while she is watching the evening's entertainment and unbuttons her dress, kissing her down her back. She asks him to stop and he begins digitally stimulating her until she changes her mind and becomes aroused.

He makes it clear she should not move because everyone will see her dress is undone and she will be ruined. She is upset that she has no choice, but then (she asks herself) does she really want one?

Is that romance? Or is that sexual assault?

I'm not against sex in romance novels. I'm not against rough sex or BDSM in romance novels. I am against the  disempowerment of women through the trivialisation of sexual assault. The Rape Crisis Centre defines sexual assault thus:
Rape/sexual assault is not about passion or sexual desire. It is the use of power and control by one person over another person using sexual means.
Your alpha male characters can be strong, even dominating, while still engaging in consensual sexual intercourse. Look at Han Solo - he is standing with Princess Leia in the corridor. He is the overwhelming physical presence, but at every point she has a choice. And she is able to use that to leave, knowing that he will not break into her room and continue to force his presence upon her.

In fact, I'd argue that a part of the role of the hero in romance is to engage and seduce the reader as well as the heroine. I personally find it hard to connect with a hero who has so much trouble taking no for an answer that he just takes what he wants regardless of what her feelings may be. I mean, EVEN if you said that her deeply buried inner desire for Sebastian was enough to make in consensual, he had no knowledge of it. Her desire, or lack of it, didn't feature into his decision. And that is enough to take away his hero status for me.

I'll finish with a passage from A Daring Passion by Rosemary Rogers, where a girl masquerading as a highwayman is picked up by a man in a carriage who, realising she is a girl, claims her as his mistress, ignoring her pleas to be allowed to leave:

"," she breathed. 
 A thin, cruel smile curved his lips as he lowered his head to stroke his cheek over her curls.
"Your first lesson, meu amor, is that you never, ever tell me no," he said in a low, rasping voice. "A mistress is always pleased to accommodate her lover, no matter what his request."
Raine was wise enough not to struggle against his hold. When you were cornered by a dangerous predator you did not continue to bait him. 
She trembled even as she struggled to deny the sensations already coursing through her body. 
 "I will be no man's slave." 
He merely laughed as he tugged open the cloak and his arms encircled her waist.
"You belong to me, Raine Wimbourne (...) There is nowhere you can run, nowhere you can hide that I would not find you."  

In disgust, word count - 0

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Day 32 - Low Blood Sugars

Just for a change, hungry, tired and grumpy instead of just tired and grumpy.

Word count - 97

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Day 31 - End of Month One and Podcast Goodness

"On your deathbed, are you going to be proud of the novel you wrote? Or are you going to be proud that you watched The Office several times?"

Today, I didn't play Final Fantasy XIII. I wrote. What did you do today?

That was a major point that came out of the I Should Be Writing podcast I listened to while I wrote. It was good to see that other people came out of WorldCon having had the same epiphany that I had. You DO have time to be a writer. You just have to want it really, really badly.

Actually, this was the first podcast I had ever listened to and I was really happy with it. Perhaps some of that has to do with how much I love listening to Paul Cornell speak. He spoke about how realistic and ruthlessly honest feedback is really important if you want to improve your writing: "You need to find people around you who won't just say 'That's great'.", and about how rejection can make you stronger; "You become a better writer from being punched."
(That last comment was a metaphor and you shouldn't take this as Cornell-blessed advice to go punching your writers group to 'help them out')

So it's also the end of the first month of my challenge, and I am behind by quite a long way. I have 335 days left, and 964,834 words left, which comes out to 2,880 words per day. In percentage terms, I'm meant to be achieving 8.34% of my goal each month, and this month I've only reached 3.51%.

I say 'only', but if I keep going at 3.5% a month, I would reach over 400,000 words by the end of the year. That's the equivalent of 5 first draft category romances. At the moment, each percentage point is a celebration.

And honestly, if you're going to be 5% behind in your goal, you want it to be at the beginning! Still lots of time to catch up ^_^

Word count - 2,904

Monday, October 4, 2010

Days 29 and 30 - The Future Trap

On day 29, my word count was 0. And I know why. I spent a couple of hours looking at agents, weighing up different blogs and trying to decide whether:

(a) it was worth getting an agent, and
(b) if there were any out there that might legitimately like my work.

That's a trap.

All agents talk about the need to have polished your manuscript, to have something to give them that is the very best you can do. How can I write with that kind of pressure? Everything I thought of writing sounded stupid, crass and trite so I just didn't write anything.

Of course, I know they're right. But I'm just not up to that phase yet. What they are really saying is "Please don't send us your first draft", and I still need to, well, FINISH a first draft.

As a sort of salve, I went and spent a bit of time on the Nano forums, where any written word that takes you towards completion of your imperfect first draft is a good one. I love everything about Nano. The sense of community, the way it makes me focus on completing one manuscript and not jump around all over the place like I so often tend to do. Mostly I love the fact that they tell me to be forgiving of myself for not being an amazing writer at the beginning of my career.

If I write it, I can edit it. If I try to write it perfectly, freak out and don't write anything at all, I have nothing.

Word count - 3,523

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Day 28 - Culture Shock (Off Topic)

Are America and Australia really that much alike in terms of culture? 

I've been reading several American blogs recently, and more and more I find myself falling in a hole I didn't even realise was there. 

To be fair though, perhaps I should have known. 

KFC came out with an ad aimed at the Australian cricket market. It showed an Australian surrounded by Jamaican fans, and they all got together over yummy chicken. I didn't even know there was a stereotype that Jamaican's liked chicken, but it was enough for a group of US citizens to protest the ad. KFC pulled it, which I think was cowardly. There is nothing racist in it. It was about how, while we might take different sides in cricket matches, we can all agree the food is good. Specifically, hopefully, their food.

But then, I was also a little bewildered over why a group of guys dressing up as the Jackson 5 was racist. After all, Tracey Jordan dressed as a white woman on 30Rock. What's the big deal? 

Maybe it's something you just don't get unless you live there. 

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that there isn't a race problem in Australia, just that we define racism differently. 

Anywho, that's what I've been thinking over the past day instead of writing. 

Word count - 0 (but 5 hours of Final Fantasy XIII)

EDIT - I meant to include this link which tells you more about the KFC thing if you're interested. 

Friday, October 1, 2010

Day 27 - Following the Yellow Brick Road

I've been lost for days because I didn't like what I had to write next. I'd written myself into a corner where the only way out that I could see was cross-dressing as a nun, which even in the dead of night sounds silly so I would be loathe to expose it to the cold light of day.

My amazing husband listened to me vent and suggested that I take a step back in the story, go back to the juncture where the story started drifting and try taking it in another direction. It's worked amazingly well. My characters, being chased by the bad guys, elude capture and then decide, not to go to the local nunnery and steal habits, but instead to go straight to the docks, with my heroine in her nightgown. Basically I've cut out a boring clothes shopping detour and found my highway back to the plot. Huzzah!

Word count - 2,070

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Exciting news!

National Novel Writing Month is a challenge. It dares writers to consign their inner editors to the back of the cupboard for an entire month and just write. 30 days, 50,000 words. It is a fun, fast-paced ride with thousands of other writers.

And I'm the Municipal Liaison for my area! So my October and November will consist of helping organise write-ins, convincing people to join up and generally doing anything I can to help the writers in my area get over that magical 50,000 word line.

Bring on November!

Day 26 - Seriously, how is this so hard?!?

Tired, grumpy.

Word count - 0

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Day 25 - Pwned by the Wave

I can't write romance with a heavy heart.

Word count - 0

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Day 24 - Riding the Wave

Man, I LOVE days like today. My wonderful, amazing husband took our son as soon as he got home from work, telling me to get my ass into the computer room and start writing. He can't wait for me to start getting published so I'll stop bitching about how I'd rather be a writer than work in an office ^_^

I had a little trouble getting started, but as soon as I got going there was no stopping me! I had no idea where I was going with the plot, but it all just followed on so naturally that I just kept on going. That buzz is what keeps drawing me back into writing. Some nights, it doesn't matter how good a writer you are. You just want to see what happens next in the story.

In fact, I'm sorry I have to go to bed!

*happy dance*

Word Count - 5,353

Monday, September 27, 2010

Day 22 and 23 - Tantrums

I have a two year old, but sometimes I'm worse than he is.

[Segue] I read once that athletes who participate in the Olympics tend to suffer from a form of depression afterwards. Especially if they have done really well by winning a gold medal or setting a record time. The theory is that they have worked so hard to achieve something, that when it's accomplished they feel a sense of loss of purpose. Was that it? Was it worth it? Was there a point to it all?

Something similar happens to me every time I enter a competition or submit a manuscript. I work so hard in the lead up to it, editing and double checking - not to mention the writing - that when I've finally sent it in I feel a bit down. Well, actually, a lot down. I can't help but wonder whether I'm not just wasting my time frivolously attempting to be a novelist when I could, say, take a second job working nights and help my family pay off our debts faster.

Last night I went to go write, and I just couldn't do it. I would look at the screen and just hate every word I wrote. In reality, I wrote about 100 words, wondered why they weren't all genius and then deleted them all. So I had a tantrum at how crap I was and went to bed at 8.30.

Hopefully one day I will be able to have the "Why do you bother? You're crap." thoughts and just keep writing in spite of them. At present, I just have to treat them like the flu. Debilitating, but after a couple of days you'll get back on your feet.

I wish there was a Lemsip for writer's block.

Word count - effectively 0.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Day 21 - Got my entry in!

I didn't do any writing this evening because I was too busy re-checking my STALI entry for the Romance Writers of Australia competition. But I got it and I am so happy!

Yesterday I mentioned that I felt very uncomfortable letting my friends read my work. For the competition at least 6 people are going to read my work, and they're going to be a lot more critical than my friends (presumably). So I kind of freaked out and at about 9 when my son was FINALLY asleep I decided I wasn't going to enter because it was a waste of money and I'd never get anywhere. Then I cheered up a little and decided that it was better to have entered and lost than to never have entered at all.

Word count - 0 (but I have a full day on Sunday so hopefully I'll make up some of the deficit then!)

Friday, September 24, 2010

Day 20 - To those about to edit, we salute you.

I smoke most when someone is reading my writing. It's a nervous habit. I'm long past the days where even the mildest form of criticism would reduce me to tears and "I'm crap, I'm never writing again", but it's still bloody hard to let anyone else read my work.

The Romance Writers of Australia competition entries are due tomorrow. I had grand plans to put in five entries in total, but I've cut back down to two because I only really have two that are good enough at present. Tonight I recruited a couple of beta readers (thanks Eirlys and Phrancq!) and sent my babies off to school, hoping that they didn't come back with a tattoo or a drug habit.

It's terrifying have to give up control of something that you've worked so hard on, but I'm very lucky in having very good proof readers. I'd rather feel a little sad at my own inadequacies than miss out on a great opportunity because I keep forgetting whether the main character is Stephen or Steven.

So here's to the wonderful editors, beta readers, friends and loved ones who give up their time to help us all improve as writers. Without you we'd be always running from our lions, instead of turning to face them, sword in hand.

Word Count - 1,128

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Day 19 - Damn you, Tim Roth

Um.. soo.... *cough* Well, you see Lie to Me came on right after Gruen Transfer and, well...

Word Count - 33

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Day 18 - My Day Off

Ahhhh... rest and relaxation....

Word Count - 0

Monday, September 20, 2010

Day 17 - 2 Million Women Can't Be Wrong?

There are hundreds of books that tell you how to write a novel. It's like weight loss, every book makes you the promise "It's easy, all you have to do is..." They all lie. It's not easy. It's not going to be easy even if you follow their plan step by step and never falter. It's going to be even harder if you try their plan, like another one better, follow that one for a week and then decide you're better off with what's behind Door 3.

I read and loved 'Novelist's Boot Camp' by Todd A Stone. "It's easy," the book promises you, "all you need is hard work, dedication and lots of planning." I love that kind of honesty. Yes, it's easy, as long as you work hard at it constantly for months. I found the concept of thorough planning seductive. Know what you're going to write and then write it? Sounds awesome!

The problem for me is that I am not an architect, I'm an explorer. I planned out my story in full - and then found that I had lost all urge to write it. What was the point? I had already told myself that story. I wrote it anyway and it is literally the worst writing I have ever done. In contrast, I went back and looked at my Nanowrimo novel from last year. It wasn't going to win a Pulitzer, but it was exciting and readable.

To quote Buddha -
Believe nothing on the faith of traditions, 
even though they have been held in honor
for many generations and in diverse places. 
Do not believe a thing because many people speak of it. 
Do not believe on the faith of the sages of the past. 
Do not believe what you yourself have imagined, 
persuading yourself that a God inspires you.
Believe nothing on the sole authority of your masters and priests. 
After examination, believe what you yourself have tested 
and found to be reasonable, and conform your conduct thereto.

Damn right. I have found, after testing, that I write better with no idea of where I'm going with a story. I have a vague idea of what some of the challenges might be, but even then that can change with a sentence. The sudden appearance of the Duke of Wellington has just completely changed where I thought my Regency spy romance novel was going. But for a lot of writers, structure is what sees them through.

So read what writers have to say on how to write a novel, but don't be overawed by high concepts or big names. Believe what you yourself have tested and found to be reasonable, and write your novel thereto.

Word Count - 1,001

Day 16 - The Slow Road of Fandom

When I was 20, what I wanted more than anything else was to write for the Star Trek ToS novels. Leaving aside what that aspiration says about my 20-year-old self, it was always a futile goal as I had absolutely no comprehension of how to even get in contact with the people who hired writers for that kind of thing.

Worldcon, that wonderful mecca of nerddom, has enlightened me! One of the panellists mentioned that she got to write for a franchise by writing awesome fan fiction that got noticed. Other people were telling me that a lot of the Dr Who script writers used to write Dr Who fan-fics. This all got me nostalgic to try writing something and so I've started a Star Trek story. I probably won't put it up anywhere, it's just for fun.

But that's what writing's all about, right?

Word Count - 675

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Day 15 - Nights of the Round Table

I love role playing. No, don't get all in the gutter. Not like that. Every week a group of friends and I get together and we play a role playing game called 'Fate'. This week, part of my usual crowd was in Germany and so my friend Greg ran a single session game about a group of writers who are given one night to come up with an alternate final episode to a crap TV series that is about to be given the axe.

Normally writing is a very solitary occupation for me. I come up with the idea, flesh it out, think of characters, do the writing. It was fascinating to attempt to come up with an excellent plot in a group setting. I was a little terrified that it would be 'writing by committee' where the lowest common denominator would automatically trump more out there ideas, but as our mystery/romance series set 10 years in the future, starring a kick-ass film noir detective, a cyborg with a heart of gold and a lesbian dwarf cop came together, I started to really get interested in how all our separate plot lines were going to come mesh.

All in all, I think group writing is something I would like to try more of, especially for scripts. I'm getting together a group of people who bounce well off each other to try and write a short film script together.

Best line of the night:

(As the cyborg love interest, reprogrammed to be evil, turns to shoot the main character)
Love? Love? Does... not...compute...

Word Count - 2,041

Day 12 - 14 - Resting Up

Three days later - my arm feels a little better. I've had a cold, so I haven't even been using the computer after work, I've just been reading romance novels and getting to bed early.

Still, it's taken four full days of no writing for my arm to start feeling anything like better. I'm just going to take it easy for a while and not push it, so probably no huge word counts coming out, but hopefully slow and steady will see me getting at least some runs on the board.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Day 11 - Going Down in a Blaze of Glory

Imagine this. You've worked your whole life to get where you are, and you've made it. Finally, after years of training and tryouts, you've been picked for a major league team. The fans love you, you've won their team a spot in the finals.

The night before the big game you're celebrating, it's the start of your amazing career. And then, out of nowhere, a car swerves into yours. All you see is the headlights, there's no time to react. Your car flips over twice before smashing into a tree.

In the hospital, the doctor tells you he's managed to save your arm, but you'll never play again. "But Doc, the big game is tomorrow!" He looks you straight in the eye. "Son, I can strap up your arm so you can play, but chances are that if you put it under that much pressure you'll lose it entirely."

The choice is yours. Do you go for the glory, knowing that you'll never be able to use that hand again? Or do you go back to your small country town and take a job teaching kids your sport, knowing you'll always be able to play, just not at the same level?

Which one is it?

A few years ago I developed RSI. Each night, after I finish work and drive my son and husband home, I have been sitting down at the computer and typing, trying to realise my goal of 1,000,000 words in a year. The day before yesterday my hand was hurting. Yesterday my hand was swollen and my back hurt. Today I'm having trouble gripping things like pens. Even typing this hurts.

So - do I say "Damn the arm, my grand goal is more important" or do I take the time to heal up, knowing it might mean blowing the big game?

Which one is it?

Word Count - 0

Day 10 - The Crying Game

Everyone wants some kind of success. Whether they define it as an Oscar or a family or a giant boat, everyone has to have something that they want to achieve in life. Even if it's just reaching the age of 80. Otherwise, what is the point?

I just read The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch. For him, success was being able to leave behind a legacy. Something that would tell his children exactly the kind of person he was and make them feel like they grew up knowing him. But it got me thinking. Sure, Randy managed to achieve his success by being himself, but for many others 'being yourself' is simply not enough. They need to be bigger, brighter, more vibrant. Can you imagine how tiring it must be to keep that up?

In the end, pretending to be something you're not can only lead to disappointment. I often wish that my humour as as naturally bizarre as my friend Greg, or that I was as easygoing as my little sisters. The first step to finding any success in life is to begin by finding out who you are, otherwise you might wake up to find that you've been chasing someone else's goal all along.

No deep point to that, just mulling things over sleepily in my head.

Word Count rocked the Kasbah at 2,902.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Day 9 - The airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow

Writing a modern setting is easy. Writing a setting in your own country is even easier. What do the houses look like? You live in one and you see plenty more everyday! How do they get from A to B? Car, public transport - the usual! How should they keep in contact? What, you mean if their iphone breaks?

Now go back a couple of hundred years. At first it doesn't seem so bad. You've read a lot of books from the era, and even more books set in the era. But what about the little things? What were the separation and divorce laws? When did gas-lighting and indoor plumbing become common? How much money is a lot? How fast do horses travel and how often did you have to rest them, and for how long? Would your character really have been aware of how to prevent conception using any method other than abstinence?

Writing historical romance, little things keep popping up at me that I had never even considered before. Presumably people wouldn't have used the word 'sadistic' before the writing of the Marquis de Sade (who apparently wasn't even a Marquis but a Count). Did the word 'evolution' have the same widespread usage before Charles Darwin? Little things we do and think everyday are so influenced by the thousands of years it has taken us to get to this point that we use language in our books that can be completely anachronistic. Some words couldn't have been used back then because they hadn't been conceived of yet, or because they had a different meaning.

If you want your historical fiction to be more than modern day people in fancy clothes, a writer really needs to think hard about what their characters are doing and saying. And sometimes this means your writing time is going to be eaten up by research.

(Pst, Julia! Was that just a really long-winded way of justifying why you haven't written much today?)

Why, yes. Yes it was.

Word Count: 1,727

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Day 8 - Ooh, something shiny!

When I told my husband I was going to write every day, he asked me whether I wanted him to be the bad cop and make sure I didn't get distracted by Facebook, Twitter, my email, YouTube etc by changing all my passwords. 

I did think about it. After all, lots of writers give the advice that you should make sure your writing time is free of distractions. If you want to make a living off writing, they say, it has to be your job. It's a solitary job, but block out your precious writing time and sit down and write to the exclusion of all else. It may be the fact that I have ADD, but that just isn't me. I love interacting with people, reading what they're doing and responding. It makes me happy, and I write better when I'm happy. 

So yes, it may take me longer to write the same amount of words, but the quality of my work is better. And working full-time and writing part-time leaves me with little enough time to catch up with my friends as it is. I suppose for any writer the best motto is temet nosce - know thyself. Take the time to find out what works for you as a writer and your writing time is bound to be happier and more productive as a result. 

Speaking of productivity, today's word count was 3,097! I finally cracked the 1%, huzzah!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Day 7 - Week 1 Review

What I love most about writing is that it's great for getting the housework done. So my score card for Day 7 was  1,085 words, an hour spent looking for a photo for a friend's assignment and a cleaner kitchen.

So, in the history of great challenges, this perhaps hasn't been the greatest first week ever.

Total Words - 8,712
Percentage of Goal - 0.87%

Apparently I now have 358 days to go, raising my required average per day to 2,768-ish. I'm not so concerned yet. If I can keep raising my general weekly average, and have the occasional really good day (my good days during NaNoWriMo tend to be about 10 to 15 thousand when I'm completely stressed out at the end ^_^) I should be sweet.

Now I just have to stop procrastinating writing this post and go do some writing for my day 8...

Friday, September 10, 2010

Day 6 - My Castle in the Clouds

Often I get this vision in my head. It's the perfect plot, crystal clear and shimmering with intelligence and depth. Unfortunately it's also as brittle as crystal. The second I try and put it down on paper it shatters and just falls flat. I had this excellent idea today (well, I thought it was excellent in the rush of the moment) for this story about a woman in an internment camp who is killed because of bureaucratic error. In my head, it was fantastic. The second I started writing it, it was crap - really so terrible that to make it work I would have to ditch everything I wrote on it and start again. And now that the heat of the moment has cooled, I'm not even sure it's worth it any more.

Any other writers, artists, photographers out there have the same experience? I'd love to hear which clouds of yours became fog.

I got some good writing done today to even out the crud, so that was all right. Today's count ended up coming in at 2,783 words. Tomorrow I expect I'll be able to do even better because my husband is working so I won't be tempted to go out and waste spend time talking to him.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Day 4 - The Car Ride to Eternity

Today I drove back from Melbourne to Canberra via Bendigo. This wasn't as terrible as it could have been. My toddler was so delighted to see me again that he was happy to just talk about what he'd done (which seemed to consist of "played with Grandma" and "fed horseys" and "watched Toy Story") and then play with his stuffed hippo Yes-No and eat sandwiches.

The lack of tantrums was good, because from 3pm all the adults had their ears glued to the radio trying to work out if Australia had a government yet.

We finally got home at about 8, and after driving hitchhiker Greg back to his luxurious 70s-styled pad I was so buggered that I got out only about 290 words. The funny thing is I'm kind of proud of that because really I didn't want to do anything except mock the Knight Rider remakes and then sleep.

It DOES mean that I have some catching up to do. I start my new job tomorrow, and I'm hoping that there's some writing time I can squeeze in on my lunch break.

One thing that's bothering me - did people in Regency England use contractions?

Monday, September 6, 2010

Day 3 - But why is all the Con gone?

Today was the last day of Aussiecon, a fact I greeted with both relief and a little sadness. My holiday is over, it will be months before I see my Perthy friends again, but at the same time I miss my son terribly and I am very much looking forward to getting home and getting a good night's sleep.

On the writing side of things, I had an amazing day! Today I wrote 2,982 words of a historical romance that is perhaps a little more confronting than some of the others that I'm writing. I'm aiming for some realism, tempered of course by the romantic fantasy elements that any really good romance novel has.

Next stop, writing in Canberra!

Day 2 - Romance Writers of Australia and the Hugos

Another day at the Con. This evening I felt too tired to go to the Hugo awards so I just stayed in my hotel room and followed it on Twitter. Congratulations to all the award winners! I thought it was pretty funny that Australia can't even vote in a Hugo award winner - the novel award was a split between 'The City and the City' by China Mieville and 'The Windup Girl' by Paolo Bacigalupi. There was some talk that there would be talks with the independents to see if they could form a winner. ^_^

In other news, I found out today that I am now a fully fledged member of Romance Writers of Australia. I love writing romance, and I was pretty stoked to get my membership number and logon. I found an anthology being put together by publishers Ticonderoga that is looking for submissions on the theme of Australian Vampires, so I spent a bit of time today working on a story I might submit to that. Today's word count was 1014 words, taking me to .15% of my goal. Yay!

Another busy Con day tomorrow! Last one before we have to head back to reality and, hopefully, some writing time that isn't in the middle of the night.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Day 1 and The Numbers Game

Attending cons takes a hell of a lot out of you. You're always thinking. moving, talking, planning, catching up, lunching, drinking, laughing, listening - and at the end of it you just want to curl up in your comfy hotel bed and get some much needed rest before you do it all again tomorrow! Despite everything, I managed to get 556 words done after the gathering in our room broke up.

I've always been interested in maths as it applies to my actual every day existence. How much leave will have I have saved up before I go on holiday? What ratio works best for gaming time to reading time? So I pulled out the trusty old calculator and had a look at some of the maths of my year-long challenge.

Calculator - 500-odd words equates to 0.05% of your total goal.

Me - Oh, okay, well - I need less that 1% a day, right? So that might not actually be too bad...

Calculator - 1% is 10,000 words.

Me - Umm....

Calculator - With 365 days in a year, you need to be making 2,739.72602 words per day.

Me - So 500 is a little short of that then? No, wait, really? Almost 3,000 words per day?!?

Calculator - Yup. And seeing as you only made 556 on you first day, you now have to make 2,745.72527 words per day. You'd better stop mucking about with me and get back to writing, don't you think?

Me - Shut up. Stupid calculator.

The enormity of what I've undertaken has just descended on me. Let's hope the terror-inspired adrenaline makes me type faster.