I had an amazingly productive week last week. It turns out all I need to have happen in order for me to get things done is:
a) have a medical treatment that means I feel fine but can’t be around people because I am slightly radioactive, and
b) send my son to his father’s place interstate for a week (see a, above).
I had my expensive tablet on Tuesday of last week and went home to my silent house. There, I spent all day continuing to work on my edits for Lucid Dreaming, finishing them by dinnertime. (If you need an editor for an indie project, I can strongly recommend Lauren K. McKellar.)
The next day, I cracked open my work in progress, the fantasy inspired by Ancient Greece, which I’m sure I’ve mentioned here before. I was only a few chapters from the end, so I wrote … and wrote … and wrote… By the weekend, when I collected my son, I had 12k words down, with only a couple thousand left needed to finish the book.
I wrote those couple thousand on Monday night this week.
If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook, you’ll have seen me getting all giddy about it. Because although the draft is — like all first drafts — as rough as guts, and there are a couple of niggling plot holes I have to fix before I do anything else, it’s DONE! And that is the best feeling, because you can’t edit nothing. And because I am a super-slow writer, and the fact I’ve managed to finish five novels is just OMG wow, you guys.
I started this project in October last year, around the same time Isla’s Inheritance came out. It was always a challenging project for me, because I’ve only ever written urban fantasy before, and I found fantasy a lot more difficult due to the world-building required. (That’s why I put off writing it for over a year.) But I attribute more of the delay to the fact I released two books after I started drafting — editing and promotion are time-consuming — and wrote two novellas for different projects as well.
The book doesn’t yet have a name; it’s working title was (wait for it) “Greek Fantasy”. I am a freaking legend at naming things! It’s currently 92k words, making it the longest first draft I’ve ever done.
The plan from here is to proofread Lucid Dreaming so I can give it to the formatter, and then I will read over Greek Fantasy and tidy it up for my critique partners. And then I will start the sequel to Lucid Dreaming, which also doesn’t have a name yet.
Today I’m over at Aussie Owned and Read, talking about writing prompts – two-to-three-sentence ideas to get your imagination firing and your fingers flying over the keyboard. (Or your pen waggling, if that’s more your thing.) Please drop by , say hi, and join in the conversation! 🙂
As I blogged about a couple of months ago, I’m a big Pinterest user. I have almost 2000 pins, and Pinterest has started suggesting pins I might like based on my boards. I think it might also be based on what I’ve pinned recently, which can end up in a spiral of me pinning what they suggest, so they suggest more of it … but since most of that is either Doctor Who or Firefly, I don’t mind too much. 😉
One of my boards is on writing. Originally it was just funny writing quotes, including motivational posters, but recently I’ve expanded the definition to include the occasional inspirational quote.
But most of what Pinterest suggests for this particular board are actually writing prompts, which got me to…
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This week I’ve been on a long-anticipated mini writing retreat. Only I didn’t stay in a house by the beach, or in a rainforest cabin, but in my own home. I took this week off work, which meant that because of the public holiday on Monday I had four days where my son was at school and I could write in peace and quiet.
And it was basically the best week ever.
For a start, I got to drop the boy off for class every day. Usually he goes to before-school care because I work full time and, although he loves it, we’ve both really enjoyed me being able to walk him up to the playground where they do the morning “meet and greet”. We’ve gotten there early every day so I could get a carpark, and even though it’s been below freezing as often as not he’s enjoyed showing me around the place, playing games while I watch, and insisting I listen to the announcements every morning. (I think so I have to suffer as much as he does?)
Another awesome thing is that, the one time I was exhausted after a writing stint, I was able to have a nap before I picked him up. And I also got to read in peace and quiet.
But the best part was all the wording that happened. I wrote over 9000 words during the past four days (I’m hoping to sneak in another thousand on the weekend, because … round numbers.) Given I usually manage 2000 at best in a week, I’m over the moon about that. My current WIP has been in progress since October last year, so I’m mad keen to get it finished.
I’m not quite there. But I’m close. So close. I should be able to knock it off in the next few weeks.
And then there will be celebrating. Oh yes.
The only sad thing about all this, of course, is that I’m back at work next week, which means it’s back to my usual snail’s pace. So if someone could see their way clear to paying me to write full time, that’d be awesome! [INSERT PLEA FOR PEOPLE TO BUY AND/OR REVIEW MY BOOKS HERE KTHXBAI]
For those of you reading this who are writers, have you ever been on a writing retreat, genuine or otherwise? Was it as awesome as mine?
Before I finish, in case you missed it, last Tuesday I was at Aussie Owned and Read, talking about ellipses and semicolons. It was really interesting, I promise! Check it out.
Today’s guest post is by the fabulous Lauren K. McKellar, who is one of my favourite contemporary authors. If you think that’s a big call, go read one of her books and see for yourself! — Cass
Like many authors, I love books. I was that kid who’d read in the car on long holiday trips – hell, I’d read at the bus stop when I was two minutes early on the trip to school! For as long as I can remember I’ve loved to read, read, read!
The same could be said for writing. I wrote my first novel at age ten, and I filled up three 520-page exercise books with my hand-written story about a group of teenagers who were bullying my protagonist – and then she found out they were witches!
Since then, I’ve definitely progressed. Obviously I type primarily on a keyboard now, because who has time for handwriting and then transcribing? I stopped writing fiction for approximately ten years, and then returned to it about three years ago. I did NaNoWriMo, and boy, did I learn so much. I learnt how no first draft, second draft, third draft, hell, often no fourth draft is ever going to be good enough – you need to work to be good at this craft.
I learnt all about beta reading, and things such as good story and character arc, and the importance of growth. I drafted a few stories, and one was even picked up by a publisher, which was fabulous, but I think my big light-bulb moment came after reading a lot of NA books – think Tamara Webber, Colleen Hoover, Abbi Glines … it was like I suddenly found direction. I wanted to make people feel things when I put pen to paper. And that’s when I wrote The Problem With Crazy.
It has certainly gotten easier as time has gone on, although I’ll admit, writing a series was a little tricky for me and I found it to be somewhat difficult, especially since Eleven Weeks takes place at the same time as The Problem With Crazy. There was a lot of fact checking going on!
Now, I wouldn’t go back for anything! While I took some time off writing last year (to get married and change jobs) this year I am back in action, and have written two books in the last three months. Here’s hoping to many more over the course of the next eleven!
About the Crazy in Love series
The Crazy in Love series consists of three titles: The Problem With Crazy, Eleven Weeks and The Problem With Heartache.
The Problem With Crazy
Lauren K. McKellar is an author and editor. Her debut novel, Finding Home, was released through Escape Publishing on October 1, 2013, and her second release, NA Contemporary Romance The Problem With Crazy, is self-published, and is available now. She loves books that evoke emotion, and hope hers make you feel.
Lauren lives by the beach in Australia with her husband and their two dogs. Most of the time, all three of them are well behaved.
I’m halfway through drafting a historical fantasy inspired by Ancient Greece. I’ve had this idea in my head for two years — since before I wrote either Lucid Dreaming or Melpomene’s Daughter — and I’d dedicated a lot of daydreaming hours to it. I mean a lot. So I knew the story pretty well.
Or at least, I thought I did until this week, when I had a bit of a crisis.
I’ve done all the setup. My plot notes got me to where I’m at, and they just sort of … stopped. It was basically:
- the characters do something cool
- there’s a big battle with the bad guy
- the end
IT WAS A PLOTTER’S NIGHTMARE.
I lamented this to a friend of mine. Peter is my alpha reader. He doesn’t provide advice on the “girly bits”. (I think they make him roll his eyes.) But what he does do is tell me when he thinks the villains aren’t being villainous enough, or when they don’t seem to have considered an obvious flaw in their bad guy plan.
When I was struggling with the length of Lucid Dreaming — it was on track to being around twenty thousand words too short — Peter was the one who said, “Well, if I were that bad guy in that situation, this is what I would do.” (So when that book comes out later this year, you know who to blame for one of the plot twists. Just btw.)
So if I’d have thought about it, I’d have realised what his answer would be to my whinge: take it back to the bad guy. What’s his story? What is he trying to do while the characters are trying to foil him? I hadn’t really considered it, because the bad guy in this story is a bound demon. He’s sort of … static. It’s not like he can wander around. But, even bound, he is driving some of the plot. I just had to figure out how. And what.
I sat down on Friday and wrote out the backstory from the demon’s point of view. I brainstormed what the implications were as a result of that, and then detailed what he wanted to happen next. Of course, I already knew a lot of this, but writing seven pages of notes really clarified things for me.
As a result of all this villainous brainstorming, I came up with a new and exciting plot twist, and figured out what the “something cool” is that the characters need to do. I’ve got a road map. Of course, I still have to write it out and, characters being characters, we’ll no doubt take some detours. But at least I know roughly what the journey will be.
There’s nothing more frustrating to me as a reader than a book where the main characters have no agency, where they spend all their time being reactive. Maybe as a result of that, I’d gone too far the other way with this story; I knew I wanted my characters to be driving the plot, but I’d forgotten about the inevitable pushback that should come from the bad guy driving his own plot in the other direction.
Because although my good guys might not agree, it’s no fun when the bad guys are a total pushover. Amirite?
I had a moment of personal clarity the other day.
I’ve often thought that I was pretty Zen about my position in the writing world. I don’t have an agent or a publishing contract with a big press, but I don’t lie awake at night comparing myself to others who do have those things. If I did, then I’d have to look no further for angst than Jay Kristoff, who I’ve known for more than a decade. He’s been very successful with his Lotus War trilogy, and was able to quit work to write fulltime (basically every writer’s dream ever) after he signed the contract for Illuminae. Another good friend of mine, Stacey Nash, has a three-book deal (yay!) with a Harper Collins digital imprint. (And one of her books came out a few days ago.)
The thing is, I’m genuinely happy for these people, both of whom are entirely deserving. I don’t even feel a twinge of jealousy — I actually find it inspirational. Back when I was at uni, I had a very dour lecturer who told all the wannabe writers in the room that, as Australians, we’d never ever be able to quit work to write fulltime (unless we wrote romance).
I’d like to be able to rub Jay’s success in her face. Maybe with a copy of Endsinger, which is 600 pages and rather heavy. 😉
But then I realised when I was chatting to someone a few days ago that there is one thing that I am really jealous about. If I dwell on it, it actually makes me a little depressed. It’s not the end result of the book deal and the agent that triggers this reaction me.
It’s the speed at which some people write.
I’m a slow drafter, although I’m getting better. Isla’s Inheritance took over a year to draft; I was averaging maybe 2000 words a month and, because it was the first book I wrote, I was still feeling my way through the process. That means I wrote a couple of chapters that were ultimated scrapped (sob). With Isla’s Oath, I doubled my word goal, but it still took the better part of a year. With my most recent manuscripts, Melpomene’s Daughter and Lucid Dreaming, I set myself a goal of 2000 words a week and finished the first drafts in around seven months. These were also much cleaner drafts than my debut was, meaning there was less work to do in the editing stages.
Still, that’s just a first draft. Looking at all the reading and re-reading, and re-re-reading that happens during the editing process, it’s more like a year for me to produce something polished. And by comparison, Chuck Wendig – who is a fulltime writer – writes 2000 words a day.
When I see people who are releasing two or three books a year, the envy is strong in this one. I’ve got three books coming out in 2015, but that’s because Isla’s Inheritance and Isla’s Oath were done before I signed with TMP. I definitely won’t be maintaining the “several books a year” schedule after 2015.
It’s even more sobering when I see articles and posts by indie authors who talk about how you need to release at least two books a year to maintain momentum, keep your fans keen. I try to do the things “they” say, but this one’s beyond me. There’s not a lot I can do to write faster than I am now. I work thirty-five hours a week and I’m a single mother, which means the only times I get to write are after my son goes to bed, or occasionally on the weekend if I decide to let him have a “lazy day” in front of the TV or on the Wii. (I feel guilty when I do that, but a wise friend once told me that it’s important to let your kids see you pursue your goals.)
The other factor in my jealousy is that I have other book ideas I’d love to be working on. I went through my plot bunny notebook the other day, and there were ideas in there for four novels, two novellas (both for my Tammy Calder pen name) and a short story. One of the novel ideas is actually plotted out, down to character details; the rest are in the embryonic stage but could get there with a little bit of time and energy.
It should be said that I’m happy for others who are able to publish more than one book a year. Delighted. Being crazy jealous that they can do it doesn’t make me less pleased for them! And I know that the mere fact of having written a book — more than one — and then seeing it published it is a massive deal. I’m proud of what I’ve achieved to date and look forward to doing more of the same.
Thinking about it, I suppose jealousy can actually be a good thing. It’s a kick up the backside, a goad to action. And even though I’m not sure what else I can do to increase my productivity, it does at least keep me thinking about ideas to do so. It’s also an awesome spur to get my butt in the chair to write when I do have the opportunity.
So that’s my confession. I found my green-eyed monster: it was down the back of the couch this whole time!
Also, I realise this post is a bit of a ramble. It’s more me thinking aloud (well, on screen) than anything else. But I thought putting this out there might help other writers who feel the same way I do.
Some of you do feel this way, right?
Top Ten Tuesday is a bookish meme where you can link up with other bloggers, write about books, and make lists. It’s perfect! And yes, I know it’s barely Tuesday anymore in Australia as this post goes live, because I’m running late. Disorganised? Me?
Today’s theme is: “Top Ten Things I Like/Dislike When It Comes To Romances In Books.” I’ve gone for a little of column A and a little of column B… And not ten, because I have trouble committing. :p
Characters who are friends first. There’s no doubt that the sizzling attraction of lust-at-first-sight is a thing, but I love the slow build of a relationship that turns from friendship to romance. Traditionally this is written as one person realising before the other. Then awkwardness often ensues. But still, I like the basic idea.
The realistically developed romance. This is tied into the point above, but it applies regardless of whether there’s an existing friendship. I’m not saying that sometimes people don’t jump straight into the sack together (that’s basically a new adult trope!), but I like it when the development of the romance happens over a period of time.
Diversity in relationships. I haven’t read much GLBT fiction so far, but what I’ve read I’ve really liked. I want to read more.
Insta-love. I know I said I like lust-at-first-sight, but love-at-first-sight? No. Nuh uh. I’ve very occasionally seen it done well, but only in instances where some supernatural element — reincarnation, say — is at play. I get really grouchy when two sensible-seeming characters decide that they are destined to be together forever after one date. Ugh.
Broody, asshole men* . You know the trope: he’s a prick to her, either because he’s caught up in his own thing or he’s “trying to drive her away for her own good”. I HATE THAT AS A PLOTLINE. It’s so patronising! I’d prefer to see a man who is willing to fess up about whatever the problem is and let the female lead decide what she’s willing to tolerate.
* I realise this may sound sexist. But the truth is that I can’t recall ever seeing the roles reversed in this situation, with the woman driving the man away for his own good, but maybe I’m missing something.Plots that rely on characters not communicating. I hate it when characters don’t speak their mind when everything suggests that they should, including their own personality. I once threw a book against a wall because the husband commented that his wife must really like the father of the baby she just had, and she said yes (trying to be coy and meaning it was him). He assumed she’d had an affair, because his question was in the third person. And she didn’t correct him, even though he was standing right there. I still get mad about that.
Relationships fixing brooding, asshole men*. Fifty Shades of Grey. Enough said.
*And women. But, again, it’s usually men. Written by women writers, which I find baffling.
Well, that ended on a crude note. Thanks very much, Missy!
What would you add to my list? What books would you recommend, or not recommend, based on it? 🙂
This is a great, well-thought-out post by Melbourne writer Jay Kristoff about the characters of Firefly. He mounts a pretty compelling argument that the crew of Serenity – particularly Mal, Zoe and Jayne – are the villains of the piece, rather than the plucky heroes.
The post is worth a read, because it’s a great example of the idea “every character thinks they are the hero”. Joss Whedon is the master at creating the sympathetic bad guy. The folks in Dollhouse – except for the dolls themselves – are almost all villains too. Not to mention Doctor Horrible!
So. This started as an idle tweet a few days back and devolved into a drunken conversation in which me and a buddy both proved we’ve spent waaaaaaaay too much time watching Firefly. And I’ll preface this waaaaaaay too long blog post by stressing that I lurrrrrrrve the Firefly series and Serenity movie. I love them in the pants. Were I unwed, I would take my Collector’s Edition Boxed Set in a manly fashion.
I genuinely believe Firefly is the best thing Mr Whedon has ever given us, up against some stiff competition. So I don’t want anyone thinking I’m a Whedon hater or this comes from a place of anything but love for the dude’s work. I’m just a nerd who likes to spitball about this stuff. And while, like many of you, I’ve got nothing for lurrrrve for Firefly and the crew of…
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Warning: this is a long post. I have my rantypants on.
So there was a(nother) scandal in the YA world this week. An author going by the pen name of Stacey Jay — I gather she writes romance too, under another name — set up a Kickstarter project to try and fund the second book in her YA series. She apparently published her first book traditionally, but the sales weren’t enough to make the publisher want to go ahead with the series. However, they were enough that she could make a viable go of the sequel if she self-published it.
So she set up a Kickstarter, attempting to raise enough money to cover the costs of a cover artist, editing, layout, etc. As part of that, she also included the cost of her time to write the book. She did this because writing is her sole source of income, and because if she was going to take time out from other paying projects to write the sequel, she’d need to be able to feed her kids. You can see the Kickstarter here.
This started a bit of a storm on Twitter. I didn’t see it myself at the time, but I’m told that there was some discussion about the struture of the Kickstarter rewards, some about the idea of wages vs advances vs preorders, some on whether Kickstarter is the program to use at all, and some about the ethics of asking for the cost of living as part of the price of writing a book.
Regardless of the intent behind some of the discussion (I spoke to one person who said it was mostly a discussion about the system), some of it was vitriolic (“who does she think she is?!”), and Stacey Jay took it as an attack. She cancelled the Kickstarter. Her blog post went viral, and a lot of big names latched onto that last point of discussion, about writers being fairly remunerated for their work. Chuck Wendig and Laura Lam blogged about it. Maggie Stiefvater retweeted the blog with a comment saying she agreed 100%.
Then Chuck Wendig tweeted something I’d seen others tweet, although not in the same words:
He was accused of sarcastically subtweeting a group of women, and of being sexist.
This left me scratching my head, because I hadn’t been aware that the bulk of the discussion about the Kickstarter had been by women. I suppose if I’d considered it, I would have realised, because most YA authors are women. But until then, it didn’t seem to have been a factor.
Still, the subject of authors being paid (in money, not “exposure”) isn’t exactly a women’s issue, so the gender makeup of the two sides of the debate shouldn’t be a barrier to others taking part in a discussion arising from it. The fact that the bulk of the discussion was on one issue, rather than the full spectrum of the original discussion … well, that’s just how conversations work. They don’t always go the way we want them to, especially online.
Sidenote: The claim that Chuck Wendig has a big megaphone to broadcast with because he is a man is undermined by the fact that Maggie Stiefvater — who has almost twice as many Twitter followers — said the same thing. I’m not saying that his white male status hasn’t helped him along the way in his career, because there’s no doubt that privilege shortens your odds in the “luck” part of the success equation, but I’d suggest hard work, clever marketing and talent play big role in his success too. And Chuck is the first person to admit he has received “hetronormative white dude” advantages. His self-awareness earns him mad props in my eyes.
Anyway, yesterday, Stacey Jay tweeted the following.
She’s been doxxed.
(If you’re not familiar with the term, it’s when someone hacks or does intensive research on a target and then publishes their personal details online. Wiki has a page defining it.)
I saw her tweets this morning, my time, and wanted to Hulksmash something. I feel sick. Really ill, and so bad for Stacey Jay that it hurts. Because this isn’t about the pros and cons of asking for money to cover your bills anymore, or whether Patreon is better than Kickstarter, or whether a $20 reward including promo material was poor form. This is about someone’s privacy being violated.
Regardless of what you think of authors using Kickstarter to fund writing a book, we can all agree that doxxing someone is a dick move, yes?
To be clear, I don’t think for a second that the person behind the doxxing was one of those involved in the original discussion. No doubt some “hacktivist” shit-stirrer saw the scandal and decided to make a name for themselves in the cyber community by targeting Stacey Jay.
And this is where I think sexism has played a part, moreso than in the original tall poppy syndrome or the commentary around it. Because doxxing someone contains an implicit threat. I know where you live. It’s been used a lot by the less savoury side of the GamerGate scandal, to try and shut up those on the opposite side. Usually, it must be said, it’s used to target women.
I hope Stacey Jay reports the doxxing to the police and they are able to find the perpetrator — although I’m not optimistic about that. I hope she can find some peace after all this. I even hope that she reactivates the Kickstarter to take advantage of the publicity all this has caused, although given the doxxing I doubt she will. If I were her, I wouldn’t.
And the truth is that I’m scared to post this, because I’m a female on social media, and I’m afraid of drawing the wrong sort of attention. Of having people leave vindictive negative reviews on my book, or of being doxxed myself. Because it has happened to others.
But seeing others doxxed and being cowed by that makes you collateral damage from the original attack. It’s completely messed up. This is what #YesAllWomen is about.
And that is my rant.