Tuesday, September 27, 2011

writing in progress

Thought I would stop by long enough to show you a bit of what happens as it happens.

Below is a cut and past of a paragraph with the changes (the first words in italics are the original.)

Too tired/weary to speak, they looked at each other and in Blair’s face/expression, Fleance saw what he had been thinking/a mirror of his thoughts: none/not many have come this way lately/in at least a season. This tiny/small valley/glen was overgrown/untended; wild in nature and in humanity. Cains dotted the paddocks where grain should have swayed or sheep grazed. Their horses walked on, their hooves making deathly and hollow sounds against an unresponsive path.

I type quickly and delete and change just as quickly. Sometimes, if I'm on a roll, I insert something like [more here] or [name cliff] or [whosever's name] and highlight it yellow so that it is easy to spot when I go back for a second go.

You may not agree with my changes. Hell, I may not agree with my changes tomorrow or next week but this is a wee window into how I write.

Yesterday, Ruby, one of my Y12 students asked: how do you write a book? I can't even write 300 words.
(My seniors are completing writing assessments at the moment).

Today I said to her: if I were a runner, I would run. A lot. And I would be able to run and run and be good at it. It would have taken me practice.

I don't run any more but I do write. A lot. Every day. And, I think, I am good at it.

Ok, the horses (and Blair and Fleance) are knackered so I better get back so they can untack, brush the horses down, make camp and retire for the night before a BIG EVENT.

BTW if you want to know context - this bit is about three quarters of the way through.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

magic, medicine and the medieval

I have spent this past week reading a variety of works (paper and digital) on the attitude toward those suspected of witchcraft, the reactions to such attitudes, the 'world' view as well as various illness and plagues. I've done much in the past in terms of research with regard to medieval medicine but I had a particular focus for Birthright.

A character who was briefly mentioned in Bloodlines and who I had always intended turning up in Birthright has now found her legitimate reason for entry into this story (and, no, she's not one of the witches!). This came about because of time (see previous post) and me asking the 'how?' or 'why?' or 'what if?' questions about her.

I did a test run by a couple of 'the babes' today and got the thumbs up from them.

As to the babes, it's been a funny year for me and them with regard to this trilogy: I don't teach them this year, they are seniors and terribly, terribly busy and three of them are no longer at the school. Also, I've been too shy to show them what I've written because I know that they will be very honest and I don't feel confident in myself at the moment.

However, before the world gets to see Birthright, all the babes will get their hands on a copy of the first draft at the same time as my publisher and my agent. Then, I shall run away and hide under the bed while I wait for all of their (totally justified and respected) responses. Oh, and the eldest gets to read through it before even then - even harsher critiquing.

I miss them. I miss others also who I used to talk to all the time about these characters. Not having that constant (usually daily) discussion has slowed down my mojo a bit. But then, it's been better to be slower because I have dug deeper and not rushed and therefore not overlooked so many potentialities.

This week, therefore, has been invigorating what with the grant and catching up with some of the girls and putting two and two and then four and six together that I am so ready for my weekend away.

Bring on solitude, Naseby and a countryside plagued with disease and evil!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Wealth for writers


Time is a precious commodity. Especially when there isn't enough of it to go around.

I don't have much time to dust or garden and exercise (I know; I'm a slack writer).

Yesterday I found out that I have been awarded a writing grant from Creative NZ which will give me time: time to spend hours and hours needed to bang this last book into shape. I could pay for someone to come in and dust or garden or pay one of my girls to haul me out to write but, nope, not happening. I'm running away.

I've already booked my accommodation in Naseby to go to as a retreat where I will be free from domestics and distractions (including the internet because it takes quite an effort to connect up there - 2000ft above Stress level is Naseby;s logo). My plan is to write, walk, read, write, eat, write, walk, read, write, write. I will be on my own and free to get up at 2am if a scene grabs me and not feel bad about waking up the whanau (and be able to take a nana nap later that day).

I feel so utterly bestowed to have been given this lifeline - it is as if the gods have gone: oi, you, TK. How's about we throw down an extra ten hours in every day for the next two months - just for you? Cos we think you're worth it.

How did I celebrate? I bought chocolate for my students and running shoes for my eldest (yes, I get the irony). And, I planned my time off.

And, as to my plans for the next wee while - writing is it and reading.

What do I plan to read? Well, last week I moaned about a less than positive reading experience. This week I'm metaphorically banging my head on the desk because I'm reading Geraldine Brooks first novel: Year of Wonders. It. Is. Stunning! May I warmly recommend it to you: set in 1666....

Her style of writing is very different from mine: I'm sparse; she's opulent without being overwrought. I'm trying to move along action at the moment; she's showing me it's okay just to slow down and smell the hydrangeas.

Tomorrow, during my school's writing club get together, I'm going to focus on word choice because I have been so uplifted and replenished by Geraldine's writing, I have a craving for tasty words.

Six weeks till deadline (when the manuscript is due at the publishers). It feels like it does ten days out from a production - potential, chaos, exhaustion, excitement.

It will be (and always is) alright on the night.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

I've been reading and....

I've noticed a couple of things:
1) just cos they are so called modern-must-read-classics and just because they are written by best-selling writers don't make 'em perfect reads and
2) makes me itching to get back to my own writing.

Let me elaborate:
I picked up a book which came very highly recommended. An historical tome. Set at the time I'm writing. The narrative style is driving me NUTS. It reminds me of the narrative voice over from the Disney Movie Sleeping Beauty. It is distracting. I want to yell at the story-teller to shut up; stop telling me what the character is thinking and feeling and believing and just SHOW ME! Sigh. That book is now weighing down a stack of papers on my desk.

The second book I picked up is a lot easier to read and there is no narrative intrusion but the author is doing a weird thing by switching into the mind/POV of non-main character characters. But, the story is interesting as are the characters so I'm persevering with this one.

I bend over backwards to avoid doing the above and I'm glad I do. I don't want to hold my readers at arm's length by my intrusions and I do want my readers to stay with one character at a time. My skill as a writer has a long long way to go but I'm determined to keep learning and keep improving.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

killing off characters

One of the advantages (and there are only a few let me tell you) of procrastinating over this final book is that the characters and their situations become more interesting without my meddling and then I can see further use for them - especially the ones which are destined to shuffle off their mortal coils.

I had been feeling somewhat aggrieved that one of my characters was going to kick the bucket so to speak but am pleased to announce that this particular one lives for a good many more chapters than was first intended. In fact, the action before and at his/her demise is butt-kicking, nail-biting edge-of-your-seat kind of stuff.

seven weeks to dealing and counting.....