jennygordon: (Default)
2016-01-01 02:43 pm

WELCOME TO THE HALLS OF DREAMING

Thanks for stopping by. I'm Jenny Gordon and I write magical fiction for adults, both old and young. You can find out more about me and my writing by clicking on the 'Quick Links' on the left. This journal is a space for my ponderings about writing and books. You can friend me, or just lurk if you prefer. Either way, I'd love to have your company and hear from you along the way.
jennygordon: (Froud - Green Woman)
2015-04-10 06:14 am
Entry tags:

The 50-Word Vignette Challenge

50-Word Vignette #31

Prompt: I Want

The shaman casts bird-bones and mistletoe
And frowns at their pattern.

Is it the seven-year king,
Or the seven-tined stag?

The harvest failed, and the rains came too soon,
So the land wants something for sure.

She casts again, and the voice speaks at last:
'I want you,' it says.



Anybody else like to join in and write their own? Just post it in the comments. All welcome.
jennygordon: (Froud - Green Man)
2015-04-08 09:04 am

Deep Thought and Other Ways to Spend One's Time

Remember a couple of weeks back, I said that once I'd fixed a couple of things in the first half of MoulderingBook, I wanted to crack on with writing the rest, adding, "As ever, all terms and conditions are subject to change at the sniff of a writerly whim."?

Yeah, that second part.

Having fixed those couple of things over two weeks ago, I found myself still twitchy and uncertain about the story, so I've been spent the time since doing a lot of thinking about why that might be. And I've come to two main conclusions.

Firstly, the balance between the two main strands of the story isn't right. The more I've worked with one, the more I've realised I want to focus on that aspect even more, which means paring the other one right back to redress the balance.

And that led to a long thought process about which aspects of the pared-back strand I need to retain in order for the overall story to work, and how to reshape them to good effect.

The second conclusion I reached was that I haven't gone far enough down the secondary-worldbuilding road. I've said before that MoulderingBook is set in an historical time-that-never-was, with a Gothic and Steampunkish flavour, but what I've realised is that I've been hedging this aspect as I want to avoid the book becoming overly fantastical. I still do. I like my fantasy settings to have their roots firmly anchored in history, or at least in historical possibility.

So I thought some more, and from out of nowhere, the worldbuilding elements I want to work with dropped neatly into place, and opened up lots of lovely doors to possibility. It's such fun.

It all means I've got a significant amount of reworking, reordering and set-dressing to do, but I'm feeling much better about the whole thing. Much more like I'm heading in the right direction. Hurrah!
jennygordon: (Great Grey Heron)
2015-04-03 06:09 am
Entry tags:

The 50-Word Vignette Challenge

My offering this week grew from the same rootstock as #27. What can I say? The theme is an obsession of mine ...


50-Word Vignette #30

Prompt: Sleep

Songlines stretch out across the land.
I sense them all,
And I understand what our ancestors understood;
Feel the pulse of the earth,
And know why they honoured it
With cairns and circles and mounds.

But then I wake, and the knowledge fades.
The power in the land sleeps on.



Anybody else like to join in and write their own? Just post it in the comments. All welcome.
jennygordon: (Blue Butterfly)
2015-03-27 06:06 am
Entry tags:

The 50-Word Vignette Challenge

50-Word Vignette #29

Prompt: Pilgrimage

'But it was such a long walk, and you with your arthritic knees.'

'A pilgrimage down memory lane with you is never too far to go. And look on the bright side: if this new cafe was still our kissing gate, we couldn't stop off for tea and sticky buns.'



Anybody else like to join in and write their own? Just post it in the comments. All welcome.
jennygordon: (Tortoiseshell Butterfly (purple))
2015-03-25 08:08 am

Reasons Not to be Writing

Has anyone else been keeping up with events around this week's reinterment of King Richard III? I've been immensely moved by the everything that's been going on, and by the care and thought that's gone into honouring our last Plantagenet king. The scale of the crowds that turned out on Sunday to watch the cortege pass through Leicester was incredible. I love the fact that one of Richard's descendants (whose DNA was key in proving Richard's identity) is a carpenter, and has made Richard's coffin. Whatever your take on Richard (and we can't ever prove absolutely whether he was responsible for the murder of the princes in the tower), it's an astonishing piece of history that's taking place right now.

Lost-and-found kings aside, I've spent the past few days tidying up MoulderingBook. I've written the new chapter I realised I needed before the mid-point. Turns out it is just the one chapter, instead of the two I suspected, as I've managed to say everything I need to at this point in a single scene. I then typed that up and decided to print out the first half of the book, so I have it readily to hand once I embark on what comes next.

And of course, once I had a printed out copy before me, I realised something I need to fix in chapter one, which has a knock-on effect in Chapter Five. It always amuses me how seeing our stories in a different format can kick-start us into recognising issues we haven't before. So anyway, I fixed that, and planned to have a session of note-making to flesh out where I go from here.

However, Life had other plans, which turned out to be very good reasons for not getting around to the note-making session. The first of those plans was a spur-of-the-moment haircut, and the second, reconnecting with a friend I lost touch with 20 years ago, And that brings me back to where I started with this post, because it was thanks to Richard III, and another spur-of-the-moment decision, that we're back in contact. I sometimes love the circularity of history.
jennygordon: (Froud - Green Woman)
2015-03-21 07:14 am

A Gift

*Disclaimer: The gift mentioned in the title isn't one I'm about to offer you — sorry.*

And before I tell you what the gift actually is, I should explain that I'm cheating — sorry again — as I'm writing this yesterday and scheduling the post for Saturday as I don't want to double-post on Friday. (Confused? Great. Job done).

Er-hem.

So anyway, the gift. I mentioned earlier this week that I've realised I need to write a couple of new chapters/scenes before I hit the events of my mid-point, including another interaction (or two) between a couple of key characters. I've been pondering the shape of these scenes over the past few days, waiting for them to grow in my imagination, and on Thursday night as I lay in bed, they not only grew, they blossomed like the hawthorn blossoming at the end of my road.

Not only that, it turns out the gift is like a pass-the-parcel kind of gift (not the kind where none of the outer layers contain anything other than more layers; the kind that nice parents make where there's a little gift within each layer). See, these scenes emerged from the mist of my imagination with some really quite nice character development in them; particularly of the significant secondary character I was going on about a while back who I wasn't happy with. Turns out he likes drawing — who knew? No-one apparently until last night.

'So?' I hear you say, 'He likes drawing. What's the big deal?'

I suspect it's a far bigger deal than even I realised. The more I think about it, the more I can see that it's a pivotal aspect of his character, and of his character arc.

In conclusion and summary, turns out my brain-parts are continuing to work very nicely, thank you.

All I have to do now is write the scenes.
jennygordon: (Rossetti - Veronica Veronese)
2015-03-20 06:06 am
Entry tags:

The 50-Word Vignette Challenge

50-Word Vignette #28

Prompt: The Apology

From her bed, she watches the birds and listens to neighbours busily about their lives. Knitting set aside; hands shake too badly for now. Novel abandoned on the coverlet, for the words won't stay still. Practising patience, she sends out her apology for all the things she cannot do today.


Anybody else like to join in and write their own? Just post it in the comments. All welcome.
jennygordon: (Tortoiseshell Butterfly (purple))
2015-03-18 07:37 am

Working Brainparts and Other Achievements

I've spent a good chunk of the past four days typing up the remaining chapters of MoulderingBook I'd handwritten — around 18K words in total, which takes me to the 40K overall total, which equates to more-or-less the mid-point of the book.

My fingers are now very tired.

I say it brings me more-or-less to the mid-point, because actually my mid-point should hit at 45K, which was a slight problem until my brain kicked in and I realised I need to write an extra couple of chapters prior to the mid-point so I can:

a) include another interaction between key characters, to develop their relationship and its arc, and

b) enhance my MC's strop to make it more pronounced, and hence make the contrast with what happens at the mid-point more effective.

Love it when my brain works.

I didn't do too much fiddling as I typed all that up, and I think the plan from here is to get writing, writing, writing again while the first 40K is fresh in my head. I'm feeling a need to get the story down on paper where I can see it clearly. Then I can spot where it needs work, and go back to tackle editing and rewriting further down the line.

That's the plan, anyway.

As ever, all terms and conditions are subject to change at the sniff of a writerly whim.
jennygordon: (Froud - Green Man)
2015-03-13 06:00 am
Entry tags:

The 50-Word Vignette Challenge

50-Word Vignette #27

Prompt: Earliest Memory

My feet remember this path, this land. Something inside me stirs and reaches for memory so old I know it doesn't belong to me; it rouses in my blood and bones, in my soul, speaking to me from the deep past of this sacred place. I have been here before ...


Anybody else like to join in and write their own? Just post it in the comments. All welcome.
jennygordon: (Star Gazer Lily)
2015-03-12 08:04 am
Entry tags:

The Clock is Ticking

Yesterday, I mentioned that one of the changes I've made to MoulderingBook is to introduce a ticking clock to the story arc, and [livejournal.com profile] windancer asked if I could say a bit more about it, so here I am.

So, definitions seem a good place to start. Or at least definitions as I understand them (not trying to teach anyone to suck eggs here!) In the context of a novel/film/story of any kind, a ticking clock is a writerly device that's essential to the success of the story. It's connected to, and enhances, the stakes of the story (what is at stake if the hero doesn't succeed), and provides an element of tension in the overall story arc (if the hero doesn't succeed by a certain point, X awful thing will happen). I say it's essential (and I realise there are exceptions to every rule) because without a ticking clock, a story might drift along pleasantly enough, but it lacks the element of compulsion that keeps a reader turning pages.

There are lots of kinds of ticking clock, and degrees of subtlety to which they can be employed. Some involve a literal clock — can the hero figure out how to divert the tidal wave in the 12 hours before it hits New York; Will the hero win the girl before she emigrates to Australia at the end of the month? Others are subtle and implied — will the heroine learn what caused her mother's breakdown before history repeats and she falls prey herself? Can the chocolatier win over the villagers with her confectionery before the straight-laced curate turns them all against her? Sometimes, the clock ticks away subtley over a very long time — will Pip grow up into a well-rounded young man before Miss Havisham's malign influence corrupts him?

Whether big and dramatic, or more subtle, the ticking clock serves the same purpose of setting a deadline for the main story arc, and ratcheting up the tension and urgency in the story. Often, something unexpected happens along the way to shorten the deadline further and pile on more pressure.

Now, that's all very well and good. I understand the device and recognise it in films and novels alike, but I've always been really bad at employing it to full advantage myself. I kind of forget about it. Or at least, I neglect to employ it effectively enough, which means my stories tend to just ... drift.

When I realised I was falling into the same trap with MoulderingBook, it was an important moment for me, because the story arc needs a very specific ticking clock in order to have maximum impact. The clock was already kind of present in the culmination of the story, but what I needed to do was pinpoint it and signpost it much more clearly throughout.

The specific trigger for my realisation was two-fold. Firstly, I've been re-reading Maggie Stiefvater's excellent "Shiver" trilogy, each book of which has a ticking clock that is different from the others, but which builds on those in its predecessor books. Secondly, I had a conversation with a friend about a compluter game she enjoys playing in which her character has to solve a mystery, but also — and this is what caught my interest — she has been wrongly accused of a crime to which that mystery relates, and the cops are on her trail. Can she solve the mystery and prove her innocence before the cops catch up with her? A nice ticking clock, which adds an urgency to the quest.

So, what I'm doing with MoulderingBook is seeding the ground of the first third of the story with initial 'ticks' of the clock. Then, having set my scene, I'm going to specify what my ticking clock is — X will happen if my heroine doesn't find a way to do Y before the villagers realise what's going on.

Tick tick.

So there you have it, [livejournal.com profile] windancer, for what it's worth. I hope my ramblings have been interesting/useful/at least spelled correctly. And thanks for getting my brain working; it's been fun.
jennygordon: (Rossetti - Veronica Veronese)
2015-03-11 10:26 am

Clambering Over the Wall

A couple of weeks back, I hit a wall with MoulderingBook. Well, kind of a wall. And to be fair, it wasn't wholly unexpected, since I usually get stuck at a similar stage of the Exploratory Draft of all my books. It's as though, no matter how much advance planning I do, there are certain things about a story that only come clear once I'm actually writing the thing.

It's apparently part of my "process"!

After wearing my pondering hat for a while (it's purple and fluffy), I realised I might not be facing so dramatic a reworking as I initially thought (phew!), and I've spent the last few days rewriting the first 20K words.

While I thought my main issue lay with one of my significant secondary characters, it actually turns out the sticking points are more scattershot than that. So, I've:

  • tweaked with the plot, and

  • added a ticking clock to introduce a sense of urgency

  • enhanced traits in some characters, and

  • rethought some character motivations, including

  • adding a new element to my MC, which makes her more proactive

  • introduced more paranoia and Gothic-ness to the setting more widely, and

  • generally given everything a bit of a spit and polish.

It's been such fun. In fact, this is officially the Most Fun Book I've ever written. In the past, I've tended to write rather heavy, woeful tales, full of angst and anguish. While MoulderingBook certainly has its share, the entire tone of the story is different, and it's a joy to play with.

Right, onward with typing up the next 20K hand-written words, which will take me more-or-less to the half-way point of the book. Then I'll see how the view looks from those lofty heights.
jennygordon: (Magpie)
2015-03-07 11:06 am
Entry tags:

Something Wonderful

Something rather wonderful happened to me today.

Remember a couple of weeks back, I was bewailing the demise of my favourite notebooks, and mentioned that I'd written to the company who made them with a plea to reinstate them?

Well, this morning, my lovely Postlady (who wears shorts and bare legs no matter the weather) knocked at the door, bearing a large parcel. I got very excited and told her the story, then dashed indoors to open it.

IMG_3630

Inside, was a very sweet letter from the Notebook-Buyer-In-Chief, thanking me for my letter and informing me that they have decided to continue making the notebooks in question. They won't hit the shops in the Autumn, but hopefully the enclosed gift would tide me over until then.

The gift?
IMG_3631

IMG_3633

I know!

Eight of my lovely sparkly notebooks!

Look at them all. Aren't they perfect? There are even silver and gold ones, which I haven't seen before.

How exciting is that?!

I'm all blissed out in notebook heaven.

What great customer service. I'm utterly delighted. It's so kind of the lady who took the time to reply to me so quickly.

It's made my day. Made my week, in fact!

Now all I have to do is fill them with my stories (oh, the hardship - lol!)
jennygordon: (Clematis)
2015-03-06 06:53 am
Entry tags:

The 50-Word Vignette Challenge

I have to apologise for my vignette this week. A huge wave of purple prose crashed over me and swept me away almost entirely. I'll try to claw my way back to something a little less indulgent next week ...


50-Word Vignette #26

Prompt: Pleasure

Pleasure is the wine-kissed spill of terror-song;
the bow of straining throat;
the mirror-pools of wide-wide eyes.

Pleasure is knowledge blossoming in those eyes;
the flutter of the heart that longs to tell;
the ash-and-charcoal bitterness it never shall.

Pleasure is the taste of him as I drink my fill.



Anybody else like to join in and write their own? Just post it in the comments. All welcome.
jennygordon: (Blue Butterfly)
2015-02-27 06:45 am
Entry tags:

The 50-Word Vignette Challenge

For some reason the central image in my offering this week flared in my mind the moment I read the words of the prompt. I'm still not sure what my character means by what she tells her earth-bound companion. Perhaps one day I'll be wise enough to understand ...


50-Word Vignette #25

Prompt: It's Out There

Clifftop, tip-toe balancing, arms spread like wings.

"Wait," he called. "There's still time — "

She shook her head. "Too late. Can't you see?"

Confusion weighed him to the earth as she tip-tip-toed and tipped from the cliff.

"You never did understand." Her words bore her up and away. "It's out there — "



Anybody else like to join in and write their own? Just post it in the comments. All welcome.
jennygordon: (Tortoiseshell Butterfly (purple))
2015-02-26 06:40 am

Thursday Question

So, here's a poser for you.

In MoulderingBook, my MC badly wants to have killed her father. I badly want her to have killed her father.

If she did kill him, it was prior to the beginning of the story, and isn't central to the story's premise or plot — although there would obviously be a ripple-effect on her if she did. She has the motivation to do so, and it's kind of understandable that she might, given her reasons and the kind of person she is. Which is to say, she's a liar and a manipulator and an all-round charismatic stinker, but do I make her a murderer as well?

After all, this is a YA book. Albeit an upper-end YA story. As I've explained before, it's a Gothic, Poe-esque story set in a historical period that never really was, with sort-of Steampunk nuances, and Addams Family undertones. It's a fun sort of nasty, dark little romp.

I think I've worked out what I'm going to do, but I'm curious to hear your views. And it doesn't matter whether you're familiar with YA fiction or not I'm still interested.

So what do you reckon? Did she, or didn't she?
jennygordon: (Froud - Wood Woman)
2015-02-23 10:15 am

Being Nimble and Other Motivational Tools

Hell and damnation! My story decided to become another story. Which is to say, when I sat down to write yesterday, the pieces started shifting around before my very eyes and I discovered that the story arc I envisaged at the planning stage isn't the arc the story wants anymore.

It actually took me a while to knuckle down to writing yesterday, as the ghost of stuckness was whispering at me from the outset. I'm at the Messy Middle of MoulderingBook. It's a stage I often get stuck at — a stage a lot of writers often get stuck at — and indeed, stuck I've got. I employed a few of my unsticking tools and squeezed out another 2K words, but then the sticky-stuckness caught up with me again, so I sat back for a ponder.

And that's when it came to me.

I've been uncomfortable for a while with one of my significant secondary characters.

"You want me to do what?" he keeps asking, eyeing me sceptically at every turn.

Yesterday, I think I realised why.

His actions don't need to alter significantly, but what does need to change is a key aspect of his motivation. And that has a scattershot impact on the rest of the story, which ultimately means I need to rethink the shape of the story from this point forward, and dramatically reconsider the ending.

So yes, hell and damnation!

Except it kind of isn't, because this is all part of the joy of discovery when it comes to writing. Not to mention one of the reasons why I find it so crucial to be nimble in my approach. It's also why it's impossible for me to tightly outline in advance; the nature of my brain is that the story changes and evolves as I write it and get to know the characters in a way that's impossible for me in advance.

It's kind of thrilling for the story and characters to be digging their heels in like this, as it means I've reached the point where they are strong enough to think for themselves. There are times when it's important to rein them in and remind them who's boss, but I suspect this isn't one of them. Stuckness doesn't happen without good reason, so I need to pay attention.

Once upon a long time ago, I would have given up, wailing that it's too hard.

It is hard, but MoulderingBook is fun and worth fighting for, and I'm not such a wimp these days.

What I need now is a good long brainstorming session, a flash or two of inspiration, and a nice big bar of chocolate.
jennygordon: (Great Grey Heron)
2015-02-20 06:39 am
Entry tags:

The 50-Word Vignette Challenge

With a nod to [livejournal.com profile] readthisandweep, our very own patented mercrone ....


50-Word Vignette #24

Prompt: Defiant

Waves kissed the rocks, ivory lace on death-black glass.

"That went well,' Mercrone said.

Mermaid flicked her tail and laughed. "Did you see what they named her?" she asked.

"She lived up to it for a while too,' Mercrone replied as the bowsprit sank from sight with a furious hiss.



Anybody else like to join in and write their own? Just post it in the comments. All welcome.
jennygordon: (Froud - Green Woman)
2015-02-19 06:10 am

The Evolution of an Exploratory Draft

Tricksy, slippery things, Exploratory Drafts!

When I picked up MoulderingBook on Tuesday, I had written several pages by the time I realised I was writing in first person, present tense.

So what? you ask.

Well, see, the rest of it is in first person, past tense.

I found myself wondering, if my subconscious has me writing this thing in first person, present tense — and it's so natural I don't even realise my mistake — then maybe that's because the whole story wants to be written in first person, present after all.

I tinkered with a few bits and the more I fiddled, the more convinced I grew.

Rats and double rats!

I'm going to ponder it for a while longer before doing anything drastic, and even if I do decide that I need to switch the tense, I'm not going to bother reworking the 20K I've already typed up until I come to work on the next version (i.e. once I have a complete Exploratory Draft). I must forge ahead or risk becoming mired.

It's irritating, but hey-ho, that's what Exploratory Drafts are for. It's kind of fascinating how they sometimes romp off and make their own decisions.