Thursday, July 28, 2011

Plotting is tricky (Also, awards! Yay!)

I think I might finally be getting the hang of this plotting thing. Except now my wall looks like this:

And there is more to come. Still, at least it's out in the open instead of stewing inside my head where it would have got lost amid all those things that lurk in there, like old episodes of True Blood, gingerbread recipes, dreams about being a train robber, and trying to remember peoples' names.

In happy - yay! - news, Brit over at Pages and Stardust has given me a blog award. Thanks, Brit!

The goal of the award is to spotlight up and coming bloggers who currently have less than 200 followers. The rules of the award are:

1. Thank the giver and link back to the blogger who gave it to you.
2. Reveal your top 5 picks and let them know by leaving a comment on their blog.
3. Copy and paste the award on your blog.
4. Have faith that your followers will spread the love to other bloggers.
5. And most of all - have bloggity-blog fun!

So guys, if you haven't already, please check out:

1. Magpie at Magpie Writes. This is a fun blog! Check it out!

2. LG at Bards and Prophets, because we're going to haunt a Portuguese bookshop together.

3. Hektor over at After Troy. Seriously, there is always an interesting and informative discussion going on over there!

4. Miss Cole at Miss Cole Seeks Publisher. It's funny stuff, and inspiring as well!

5. Girl Friday at Reading, Writing and Ribaldry, and not just because we share a love of alcohol. No, there are other reasons too. Really!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Suitable Poetry

No time to post today -- busy, busy, busy.

If only there were some way to fit more poetry into my hectic lifestyle:

What are you all up to in your hectic lives?

(This clip was from A Bit of Fry and Laurie. There is a heap of their stuff on YouTube. Check it out!) 

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Hitting My Mental Block

So, thirty-odd thousand words into the yet-as-untitled YA spec fic thingy that I’m writing with my sister, and I’ve hit a mental block. I say I, because Kath doesn’t write on weekends - apparently at some point children ought to come first. Who knew?

Anyhoo, I have hit a mental block. It looks like this:

My mental block smells like petrol and desperation.
Also, it is screaming these things at me:

This is a stupid idea!

You should go back and start again and completely change the setting! And the characters! And the plot! 

No, you should print this whole thing out and symbolically burn it page by page under the light of the full moon!

You should go and work on something else, something fresh, something shiny and exciting! Because that would be fun! Can't we do something fun? C'mon, you know you want to!

Stuff it! Go and watch TV!

And, as a pantser, this is the point where I would shove this manuscript in my Too Hard Basket, and start something else. But I am trying to become a reformed pantser, and I am trying to work out what this mental block is actually saying. I think it might be this:

You have stalled. Don’t panic. Back it up, and try again.

Something in this scene is not working, but that does not invalidate everything you’ve already written.

If you can’t get over this block, go around it. Then come back later and reinvestigate. This is only a first draft.

Do not use this as an excuse to quit.

Baby. Bathwater. Know the difference.

Note to self: do not throw out the shiny pink thing.

This time I will not go with my first instincts. This time I will try something different -- actually attempting to solve the problem. And who knows, it might even work! 

What do you do when you hit a mental block? 

Friday, July 22, 2011

Go to the Principal's office!

Okay, so apparently hassling my sister into writing a novel with me has given her some crazy ideas about asking for favours in return. Quid pro quo, bitch, she may have been thinking. Or maybe not. She’s generally a less nasty person than I am. Anyhoo, Kath and another friend, both of them high school English teachers, had the great idea that while I’m on leave I should go in and talk to their classes about writing.

After I’d stopped laughing, I realised they were serious. And I am a little freaked out. While I’m always happy to discuss writing with people, I’m not sure I’m even remotely qualified to instruct. And while I’m sure it would be an absolute pleasure to talk to the students who are interested, what about the rest of the class? You know, the ninety-five percent of them who'd rather be doing something else?

I can’t talk to your class, Kath, I said, desperately looking for an escape clause, what if they ask me what I’ve written?

You don’t have to talk about that book, she said, referring to my definitely-for-adults-only venture. You can talk about the writing process, and about working towards publication.

It’s a short story unit, I countered, I don’t do short stories.

You’re more qualified to talk about writing than I am, she said.

Not anymore, I pointed out to my co-author, but she wasn’t buying it.

So I think I might have accidentally agreed to go and talk to some high school kids about writing. Unless I admit the truth: I haven’t given a talk to a group since uni, and it scares the bejesus out of me.

But, since I’m currently attempting YA, how stupid would it be not to take the chance to get some feedback from the target group? Hello potential new beta readers!

Crap. I think I might actually do this.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Share the hate

Check out this brilliant blogfest over at Tessa's Blurb. Not only can you win stuff, but you can also share the hate! I'm so entering this -- I'm tired of sharing the love, and it's about time my angry bunny MC had a say.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


Inspiration is a weird thing, and you find it in the weirdest places. And then you take it to the weirdest places. 

A few weeks ago I saw a kid in the shopping centre. He was about 17, slightly scruffy, caught somewhere between an emo and a punk, and still growing into his limbs. A bit gangly, a bit awkward, and hiding it all underneath a scowl and some eyeliner. 

And I liked him. He was interesting, that kid. He looked angry and vulnerable at the same time. And I know nothing else about him, so I made it up. I've used that kid as a template for my current main character. I've given him a buzz cut, a bad attitude, and a nervous habit of always looking at his watch. Always checking to see how much time has passed, always counting down the seconds, and always waiting for the other shoe to drop. 

So a quick glimpse of a kid hanging around outside the supermarket, and the story built itself from there. And now it's a story that is a hundred years and a million miles away from my local shopping centre, because there's nowhere that your inspiration, coupled with imagination, won't take you. You just have to learn how to go with it.

Where do you find your inspiration?

Join in the Inspiration Blogfest today at My Inner Fairy.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Swearing in YA: How much is too much?

I am a swearer. Is that a word? No reason it shouldn't be. The point is, I swear. A lot of this has to do with my day job, where I have become conditioned to language my mother doesn't approve of. Yes, f-words drop out of my mouth with wild abandon. 

I have some limits, though. I don't approve of the c-word, although, as I once told a colleague: "I don't consider my day complete unless I've been called a c*nt at least once." Also, I come from a nation of swearers. It's not exactly a proud cultural tradition, but it's a cultural tradition nonetheless. 

Anyway, I'd like to throw out this question: How much swearing is appropriate in a YA novel? 

So far I'm averaging an f-word per page, and I'm worried it might be too much. It's first person though, and my protagonist isn't the sort of guy to censor his own thoughts. And I think his voice, despite the profanities, is actually quite compelling. 

Here's the background: The protagonist is male, 17, an angry little bunny, and is in a military-type job. I think in this case the profanity is almost mandatory. More than that, I think it's genuine. When's the last time you heard a 17 year old say "gosh"? 

On the flip side, of course, when's the last time you heard a 17 year old effing and blinding and actually took notice of what he had to say behind the swearing? 

Gah. It makes my head hurt. And it makes my mother want to wash my mouth out. 

On a lighter note, I am guest posting on Friday at the awesome Wicked & Tricksy. I'd love it if you could head over and say hello! 

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Let the Great Experiment Begin!

I am a pantser. This means that I sometimes really struggle with transforming an idea into anything resembling a finished draft. I get distracted by Shiny New Ideas, and exchange them as often as Hugh Heffner exchanges his women. I do prefer my Shiny New Ideas to be at least 90% organic material, however.

Anyway, the other week I had a really great Shiny New Idea. It started off as a trashy romance, but it always had more potential than that. There was something underneath, something unexpected that came through in the narrator’s voice that demanded more attention than that. It was far more angry and sarcastic and vulnerable than a romantic character needed. It had Potential. This, I thought, will be better as dystopian YA spec fic.

But, I thought ten minutes later when the inspirational glow had faded, I’ll need to do it properly. No more pantsing. No more rushing. If you like this character so much, treat him with some respect.

I needed help. I needed someone methodical enough to hold me back before I dived in, made a mess, and then decided it was too much bother in the first place. I needed the sort of person who makes lists. I needed the sort of person who makes lists of what lists she needs to make. Really.

I needed my big sister Kath.

Me and Kath. A long time ago.*
Kath isn’t a writer, but I think she can be. She’s an avid reader, she’s got a great imagination, she’s a better speller than I am, and she’s a high school English teacher -- I’m already expecting her to hook us up with some beta readers in the right age group. I ran this by her expecting rejection.

Startlingly, she agreed. Maybe I caught her at a weak moment, but that doesn’t matter. She’s in now!

So far she’s read my sample chapters, liked them, and offered some useful criticism. I like the non-linear narrative, she wrote in the margin. I thought, Oh, is that what it’s called? Cheers. I’ve sent her home with a CD  of appropriate scene-setting music, some character sheets to fill out, and a careless mention of “Oh, and if you want to outline the plot, that would be awesome.”

Our real test will come in a few days when I actually force her to put pen to paper, but I think she’s up for it. And, in the meantime, discussing every step with another person has forced me to slow down the out-of-control-trolley-car-with-no-brakes-and-people-screaming-going-down-a-hill that is my usual style of writing. I mean, it’s a hell of a ride, but it always ends in carnage.

I’ll let you know how it goes. In the meantime, in the words of the illustrious Tobias Funke: Let the great experiment begin!

* This was the only photo I could find where I wasn't scowling. Or where I hadn't just given myself a haircut. 

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Titles: How Do You Come Up With Good Ones?

Everything I write has a working title. Most of them are named after the setting, the main character, or, if I'm being really creative have titles like "The One with the Demon in it". Because I need to save the files on my computer under something, right? I always do this on the understanding that later on I will come back and give my WIP a decent title, and that it's more important to worry about plot and characters at this stage in the game. But, for some reason, I really struggle with titles. 

And, of course, the title is the first thing that will capture a reader's attention, right? It doesn't matter how weird and scary and unsettling that story is, if it's called "The One with the Demon in it" it's not going to inspire a lot of confidence in the rest of my writing ability. 

Here are some brilliant titles from some books on my shelf: 

I Have A Bed Made of Buttermilk Pancakes 
Electric Jesus Corpse
Death and the Running Patterer 
twenty-six lies/one truth
In Cuba I Was A German Shepherd 
The City of Dreaming Books
Remembering Babylon

And all of those titles, at one point, caught my attention in a book shop. They stood out. They interested me enough to flick through a few pages and decide to spend my money. And that's what a title should do. It's the first point of contact with a potential reader. A title should be special. 

Over to you! How do you come up with a killer title? 

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Massive Genre Shift

Okay, so those of you who read my blog know my (literally) dirty secret: I’m getting a book published in July**, under a pseudonym, that could be called a romance. But won’t be. It’s actually smut. And I’m okay with that. Apart from the fits of giggling. 


So I’ve got a few ideas for other romances that I might work on, including one that made it as far as 56000 words before it suddenly occurred to me: This will work so much better as dystopian YA spec fic.

And this feels Wrong. Yep, you read it: Wrong with a capital W.

Because, although it will work better as dystopian YA spec fic -- hell, what wouldn’t? -- I’m a little bit concerned that I won’t be able to entirely erase its murky origins. I mean, it’s all very well to lower the characters' ages, to adapt their voices and to tone down the romance, but it still feels Wrong.

And I think it's because however much I change it, however much it evolves, a part of me will always know exactly what happened in the shower. And how much fun it was.

** Holy hell! I've just realised that it's July NOW! Prepare for incoming giggling fit!


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