Sunday, December 27, 2009

The writing process part three - phew

A short update: I have been brave and I have been pleased with my bravery. I've thrown out the over-writing and put in some explanations and I'm very pleased to report that Fleance and Rachel and Rosie are doing fine.

Thank God!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

The writing process - painful part two

I have been a teacher for over twenty years. I love being a teacher. But, I am used to strict deadlines ("junior reports to form teachers by 9am on the 5th", "NCEA results loaded into ClassRoom Manager no later than the 17th" - kinda stuff).

So, I have a deadline: manuscript to publishers on or before the 1st of March. Oh, and 120,000 words.

The problem is, I'm writing to a word count and deadline even though I know that a lot of what I'm writing is cringingly over-written because I dread deleting a word because it will reduce my word count.

Today, I read the first 45,000 words of Bloodlines. It's trucking along with some really good bits but my-oh-my- my some of what I've written is puke.

I needed to find his voice. Fleance that is so I picked up Banquo's Son and flicked it open. I just began to read.


Thank goodness for that boy. The message to me? Shut up Tania and just tell the story. In other words, I have felt the burden of trying to write a sequel so that I've anxiously written a stuff which actually is overwritten. There’s great intelligence in there but, please, author, go away.

Note to self: day after Boxing day - cut the crap. Get the boy into battle; deal with the rebels; deal with the abductors; deal with the love problem. Don't worry about whether they sat in a carriage or a wagon at this stage - just that they were moving!

I am a novice when it comes to writing historical fiction (despite the many hours I have spent researching this period) So, I will (as my hubby exhorts) tells the bloddy story and then come back and fill in the historical details. I agree with him that the story is timeless so let’s get the boy dealing with his issues…

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The writing process

Actually, there isn't a set formula. One has to work it out on ones own. Before Banquo's Son, I'd never written: a historical fiction, more than 60,000 per book, a series.

So, here I am. Writing book two in the Banquo's Son trilogy and, unlike the lovely Diana Gabaldon, I don't have three years but three months to go from 42,000 words to 120,000.

As I said in my previous post, each of the key players is about to head into some pretty crappy stuff so I have taken stock and decided to go back to the beginning and do some serious editing. This will enable me to send the first third to my editor, agent and the babes for their response.

I've spent today doing a lot of work for the trilogy and no writing. Finding out such things as the rise of the plow and the three year cycle of agriculture and the attitude of the church and the movement of peoples around Britain and Europe. I don't know why we keep thinking these guys were backward (well, you may not have but I kinda did). They were amazing in their water mills and weaving and technology and community spirit and organisation of the people and education.

Okay, no flush toilets and not very good medicial understanding but, hey, my friend who had his leg amputated on Tuesday still suffered misdiagnosis on Thursday when, eventually, it was discovered he had collapsed lower lungs. Even in this advanced time, medical people get it wrong. It is not an exact science. Therefore, I give myself permission to give Rachel special understanding of the way the body works. Perhaps she is a healer (in the biblical sense). I can live with that.

I will endeavour, in the next few weeks, to upload some snippets from Book Two.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Bloodlines: setting the story straight

I've finished Echo in the Bone and loved it (and spent too many small hours reading it) and did notice that there was a lot of padding from past history and story - to remind us(?) or to fill in time. Anyway, I was left wanting more cos there is always more but, for Bloodlines, I'm not doing what I call a JK or a Diana.

I want my story to tell a story and be complete in itself. Bloodlines should satisfy you without you having to know the before but if you want more I can give you more.

History is a tenacious beast and open to interpretation. So, if I don't satisfy your particular fetish about 11th Century goings on, I'm sorry. But, I'd be mighty pleased if you flew to Dunedin so that we could chew the fat a while *grin*

I am writing a story about the power of hearts which strive to do the right thing and, at the same time, try to avoid the pain of life. 11th C or 21st C - duh - it's pretty much the same thing.

My problem is satisfying the purists who want history to be as it and those who wonder about how they think it might in the current way we look at history.

My argument is: Be kind. Embrace difference. Do not be so quick to judge something you may not understand.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Bloodlines - reading and writing

I am thoroughly enjoying having the time to [what's the word?] just wallow in Diana Gabaldon's latest. (Have chest infection so up since 1am to keep from coughing up my intestines). What is she doing that I think so great? She says in her acknowledgments about her editors putting up with the bits but the bits have come together nicely. They are the stories of: Claire, Jamie, Ian, Bree, Roger, William (and other minor but not insignificant characters). Well done her.

Gabaldon (like Claire) loves each and every character and I delight in Claire's delight or Ian's or William’s or Brianna's when a less than perfect man (it's usually a man) has had a story of woe and is then on the road to better things. Such is her strength as a story teller. Even the mad bastard and his wife who tried to kill William and the Hunters during the night.

This author is incredibly gifted and I am in awe and aspire to be as good.

The medical stuff interests me highly because of Rachel's calling but the sex stuff between Jamie and Claire (I shade my eyes - I dinna wanna ken - see?)

As to Bloodlines, these are the stories I am writing: Rachel, Fleance, Rosie, the stranger (aoooohhhh), Scotland actually. And, maybe I'll add Jethro and Blair in the mix.

While Gabaldon has lots of information available in terms of healing, I have very little so that I can only say such things like 'She placed a steaming poultice on the wound' whereas the former would provide us with all the names of the herbs and spices.

Also, three of the characters come from the 20th century so have foreknowledge. None of my characters have this and so I am shackled.

As to the weather, I enjoy reading her description of fog and swamp and storm and rain. She's great at it and I'm glad I live in Dunedin which gives me 'four seasons in one day'.

Anyway, I'm a happy camper (despite my chest infection - I think both Claire and Rachel would subscribe to the same prescription as to my treatment: drink water, keep cool, don't cough over anyone!) reading brilliant writing and writing, every paragraph or so, good stuff.

By the way, Vanda Symon, is also skilled with her characterisation. Every person who featured was fully drawn and credible.

Note to the writer self: this is important. A man (any character) comes to your door and this man becomes your neigbour (in the biblical sense). Give him home and hearth.


Now, I am back to the soggy ruins of outcrops and heart-broken youngins. (sigh)

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Banquo's Son Trilogy - digging in the seeds

I've had a wonderful few days writing and enjoying getting acquainted with characters I used to know well (Rosie) and characters whom I didn't know so well. Also enjoying thinking about the hard questions about life, love and the way the world works.

What I've written is 'Shitty First Draft' stuff but the bones are there and I'm currently happy with the trajectory.

On Monday, I went into Marbecks here in Dunedin (a new store: cafe, music, books, dvds) and remarked to the manager I was pleased to see Banquo's Son on the Best Sellers table. He blanched and then said, 'You live here? You're the author?'

'Yes,' I said. 'That's me.'

'I thought you were just another international author. Should I shift the books to the New Zealand section?'

'No,' I said. 'Leave it as it is. The publishers clearly got it right in not pigeonholing me.

Now, if we could just get the rest of the world to stop trying to put me and the books in a cubby hole, we might get traction.

Highlight for Tuesday: wandering through Farmers Dept store and one of my ex students beaming: I'm at chapter nine and loving it. It's sooooo good.

I did good with this one and am thankful to my publisher (Vicki) and my agent (Josh) and my students and Fleur for helping me to make the whole thing better.

But, part of me just wishes that it could have been (could be) easier.

All the readers say this is a great story. Here, the blog review of a librian from Central Districts:

'I reviewed this book a little while ago and now put it in my top 10 because it is a brilliant read for people from ages 12 to ...whenever. It was entertaining, well written and inspired me to go looking for more information about the history of Scotland. Tania Roxborogh has written a masterpiece.'

I came across this comment from a librarian’s blog (she read over 400 books this year and had been asked to name her top ten. Ours was number 7.)

I think her comments pretty much sum up what people are feeling about the book.

So, I am not Witi and I'm not Joy or Margaret but I'm getting lovely emails from people around the world wanting more of my books.

I think I'm doing okay.

Now, back to the rain and burned out remains of a wee village in Scotland (11th Century of course - go Blair and Rosie)

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Wise words

Today, I got post from the NZSA and, at the back (of a very worthy newsletter) was a collection of quotes. This one struck me as being incredibly relevant to my 'writing attitude' at the moment:

"I assumed the burden of a profession, which is to write even when you don't want to, don't much like what you are writing, and aren't writing particularly well." Agatha Christie 1977

I was a school today (with no students) being taught in the first part of the morning about the language of the new curriculum and later my school's plan to make information available to students 24/7 (more helpful for parents, I suspect, whose kids don't let them know what is going on at school) and then, while others went off to the staff lunch (which I did not attend for very understandable reasons) I went to Rhubarb and pondered the following:

In Bloodlines, what will be Rosie's story? What motivates her to stay single? Is there pressure from her parents to marry? Is she given knowledge which comes from beyond the corporal?

In terms of the process of this whole story, Fleance came first and then Rosie. After, came Duncan and then Rachel but, because of what I'm writing, Rachel is more my best friend than Rosie (though I love Rosie). Rachel my best friend cos she’s so calm and wise. Attributes so necessary in this world.

I feel like I've been away from a friend for a while and need a catch up so I've written these questions (and more) to get me thinking about the next step.

I have a daughter the same age as Rosie. On the one hand, she is still a child in that I have to remind her to brush her teeth and not answer back to her father but on the other hand, she is the most amazing adult. Last night she sang two solos at the Dunedin Town Hall. She is more world travelled than me but she still can't keep her room clean.

Like Rosie, she loves a boy (and we love him too) but both sets of parents wring their hands at such young and intense love. (BTW she has given me permission to say such things - such is her nature and maturity)

So, to Rosie who is beautiful and kind and caring but merchant class. Versus Fleance, um, King of Scotland?

Houston, we have a problem.

Ya think?

Saturday, December 5, 2009


I'm going to spend the summer blogging more about Bloodlines than Banquo's Son although I will still update with news and reviews.

This time last year, I'd written about 9,000 words of Banquo's Son and had just signed my contract with Penguin. Today, I've already written 37,000 words of Bloodlines and I'm not marking national exams so I am hopeful I will be able to devote more time to writing.

Banquo's Son had, as its main focus, the individual concerns of Fleance. Bloodlines takes into account more of the political landscape of the time - fictionalised, of course but I still need to ensure that it is credible so there's still a lot of reading and research needed.

Today, I'm about to head into battle once more and, once we see where that leads, I'll take a break and go to the movies to see A Time Traveller's Wife.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

recent reviews from two different folk

My friend, mentor and fellow writer gave me honest feedback after reading Banquo' Son. This is what she said:

My honest –to-goodness opinion of Banquo’s son is

1) a page turner (I know other people have said that, but.. I wanted to know what happened to the characters –

2) I liked seeing the story from the view points of the different characters. I liked the comparisons and contrasts of Rosie and Rachel ( great character questions there)

3) A lot happens – nice and racy and eventful

4) Ties in so well with the Banquo story – so clever, although probably no need to know the Macbeth story.

5) The prophecies – again, so cleverly interwoven into the story so that all came across realistically (if that’s the right word)

6) And at the end I still wanted to know more – so just as well there is a sequel or two!

7) I couldn’t see why one of the reviewers said the language wasn’t right. I thought it fitted it fine – no jarring moments, no clangers, no out-of-character words at all.

8) The events and characterisation of the ‘known’ Macbeth characters and what happened to them after Macbeth – were all so plausible!
The teenage angst stuff –will he/won’t he…. Also very realistic

9) I felt ‘informed ‘ about the historical context – nicely woven into the ‘love’ story and the history surrounding Fleance’s predicament

10) And [deleted to avoid spoiler!]’s death – (someone had to die) was quite fitting. Didn’t upset me at all – and so nicely done.

11) If I had a constructive criticism (which I don’t) … make the sequel darker!
And if it is any indication we have 2 copies at school and both have been out from the day they arrived and there is a waiting list!

Jeannie was a secondary school English teacher and HOD for many years plus time as deputy principal, is the mother of two daughters and a fantastic crime writer herself. Jeannie is a youthful women in her fifties.

The other review came toward me with a huge grin on her face. Ellen is 13 and an avid reader and very good writer herself. 'Mrs Roxborogh,' she said, beaming. 'I've just finished Banquo's Son and I think it was the most amazing book I've ever read.'

How many authors are lucky enough to have their readers milling about them and coming up with gems like this?