jennygordon: (Skywatcher)
I recently came across this wonderful article by Robin LaFevers on "The Writer Unboxed" website. It send me fizzing with enthusiasm, stirring memories of the days when I used to create scrapbooks and mood boards for my books, and do Tarot card readings for my characters. While I still collect inspiring images, I’m far less disciplined than I used to be about collating them in any form, because creating things like mood boards started to feel like taking time away from writing.

However, as Robin LaFevers rightly points out, such creative play isn’t fancy procrastination. Rather, it feeds the creative process. I love the different approaches she shares in her article. So inspiring!

As I read, I found myself jolting out of the rut of my current habits and acquired perceptions of time-wasting. In fact, I remembered my old novel-related scrapbooks with such excitement that I dug one out. It was one of several I compiled as inspirational reference for the original ShadowNovel and DancingNovel books. Simply leafing through it got me buzzing over the stories and their world all over again. Here are a couple of the page spreads:

Scrapbook 2

Scrapbook 1

In fact, I’m so enthused about the idea of rediscovering creative play that I’ve resolved to put together a mood board when I begin serious work on the reimagined version of ShadowNovel. (Soonish, soonish, I hope! SeaNovel rewrites permitting!) I also have an idea for a kind of illustrated travelogue, using extracts from the original novels to help me get back into the world. I'm so itching to get cracking with it that it's hard to concentrate on poor SeaNovel! Willpower, Jenny, Willpower!

I thoroughly recommend you take five minutes to read the article. If you do, I hope it inspires you as much as it has me.

I’d love to hear if any of you use "creative play" as a part of your writing process. If so, what form does it take?
jennygordon: (Clock)
So, remember back in the summer while SeaNovel was pickling between drafts, I took a tentative peek at an old fantasy novel of mine - DancingNovel - with a view to reworking it as a Young Adult story?

Well, turns out it wasn't as simple as that - what ever is?!

See DancingNovel, in its original form, was actually a sequel to another nasty, dark adult fantasy. Book One was indeed very nasty and dark, and I had no interest in revisiting it in any form. But - oh yes, you knew there was going to be a but (insert your own joke!) - but, the more I noodled with DancingNovel, the more it began to suspect that if I was going to return to the world of those books, then I needed to revisit Book One first to do the overarching story justice.

Since the beginning of August, I've been immersed in the latest draft of SeaNovel, but all the time, this new project has been simmering quietly at the back of my mind, releasing the occassional delicious smell, like a slow-cooking casserole. And now that SeaNovel is out with my beta readers (*gulp*), it's finally time for me to turn my attention to the pot and discover what has been cooking.

Hmmm ... a castle on a cliff; a stroppy fosterling; ancient voices, and ... oh ... a beautiful amber bead.

Uh oh. Looks like my next project isn't gonig to be DancingNovel at all. Nope. That clever voice at the back of my brain cupboard was right. If I'm returning to the world of DancingNovel, then I need to begin at the beginning and rewrite Book One first.

No leap-frogging allowed!

So, Book One it is.

If I was going to be reworking it in its original adult form, I'd call it NastyDarkNovel. But I'm not - so there! I'm going to be pulling the whole thing apart to find the less nasty and dark YA novel at its heart. And I can sense it in there somewhere.

So, let's just call it ... ShadowNovel. Hurrah!

Excited? Me?

Oh hell, yeah!

Intimidated? Er, yep, that too ...
jennygordon: (Red Admiral)

Author Laini Taylor has a lovely term for the first draft of a novel; she calls it the Exploratory Draft, likening it to the map you draw when you’re first dumped into the middle of a jungle and have to hack and slash your way to the other side, across rivers and ravines, bogs and snake pits, surviving panther attack and altercations with the natives. By the time you finally reach the other side, you’ll have a sweaty, crumpled piece of paper clutched in your hand that doesn’t look like much of anything, but which will help you find your way a bit better next time you tackle that jungle. You know enough to avoid the snake pit, and to take trade goods for the natives.

My first pass through DancingNovel is very much feeling like map-making. To date, having overcome The Fear I talked about earlier, I’ve made storming progress, picking apart and sticking back together around 35K words, bringing me to roughly the third-way mark.

Since mid-June!

I know!

My map is messy and albeit unintelligible in parts, but it’s helping me to see the underlying stratigraphy of my metaphorical jungle. I have something resembling a framework, though it’s slow in the construction – only a handful of chapters ahead at a time – but I’m definitely developing clearer idea of what I want to do with the plot and the characters.

There’s still a long way to go in terms of developing the story and the players, not to mention the wordage, but I’m feeling pretty good about it so far.

It’s hard, for sure, but it’s such fun too. I’m finding myself living half in the world of the book all the time; I can’t stop thinking about it.

Perhaps the one thing I’m most pleased about is that, so far, I’m managing to go with the flow of the sketching, putting that rough map together without too much angsting about the specifics, and without getting stuck making the language perfect. Those aspects will come later. For now, I want to cut myself a path to the other side; I can go back and clear up the mess later.

And you know, setting it down in writing like this is a little scary, because this is so NOT like my usual novel-writing process. Maybe it’s because I’m working with a novel that already exists, albeit in a different form, as opposed to creating it from scratch. I don’t know. What I do know is that I don’t want to analyse the process too much, because it seems to be working for me for now.

Onwards, I say. Hand me my compass and machete, Stanley!

jennygordon: (Hermit)




Okay, I confess: I’m afraid of my own book!

I simply have SO MUCH material for it. There’s let me see:

  • The original, adult version of DancingNovel
  • The adult novel that preceded it
  • Two lever arch files of notes, images and inspiration
  • Multiple notebooks

Don’t get me wrong, I’m loving being back in the world of DancingNovel, and I’m having immense fun, not to mention the fact that it’s great – obviously – to have such a mass of material. But at the moment, I keep wondering how the hell I’m going to get to grips with it all and find a new framework within it for the new YA version of DancingNovel.

My approach to date has been methodical and organised (coloured pens and index tags), but the more I do, the more intimidated I am by the scale of the world I created. Oh, sure, there are those, “I am a genius,” moments along the way, but right now, I think that genius version of me is living in a parallel universe, because all this current version of me can do is clutch at her hair and wail!

Maybe I need to toss the methodical approach out the window and simply immerse myself in the world, start writing and see what happens.

But see, right now, even that thought scares the bejesus out of me. Where do I start? What do I toss? What about that lovely bit of backstory, that gorgeous detail of mythology?

What about other writers of fantasy out there – hell, what about all you lovely writers out there, because surely whether we’re creating secondary worlds or not, all writers are working with a created world to some degree. And all writers have to control their material. So ... how do you?

Any and all thoughts welcome! Thanks!

jennygordon: (Gargoyle)
A while back, when I was re-reading the two old Nasty Dark Adult fantasies and pondering the possibility of picking up DancingNovel again, the ever-gorgeous [livejournal.com profile] bogwitch64 said this:

"You could consider them "textbooks" for the REAL book you write in this world. Think about it--you've already detailed the world, created characters, and even gave them either backstory or storyline that you can use to create something with that old enthusiasm and love combined with your experience and skills."

Her suggestion really set my writerly brain on fire (thanks Terri!), so that's exactly the approach I'm using at this early planning stage of DancingNovel. I'm currently re-reading the original text, brand-sparkly-new felt pens in hand, using different colours to mark up different aspects. For example, each viewpoint character's sections are marked in a different colour, as are references to the world's history, geography, mythology, culture, religion, etc. And in a sexy new notebook, I'm keeping track of plot threads I want to keep, ideas of how I might develop them, new elements to introduce.

Which all sounds very organised, I'm sure ...

Now, let me be clear here: this is the first time I've attempted to take one novel and turn it into something-so-completely else (as opposed to an in-depth revision). Yep, I like a challenge, and man, is this ever a challenge! At the moment, I'm running around in multi-coloured felt pen circles, wondering where on earth I begin unravelling this epic word opus, so I can start tossing out the bits I no longer want.

So far, I have two, possibly three, female viewpoint characters:

One thinks she's strong, but is actually not.

Another thinks she's weak, but is actually really strong.

And the (potential) third is just plain bonkers!

As for the rest, well, all bets are off as far as my next steps go. Now, where did I put that purple pen ... ?
jennygordon: (Peacock Butterfly)
So, you know how I finished the first complete draft of SeaNovel last Thursday (yay!)? Well, I've locked it away safely, and I won't look at it again for at least a month while I'm getting a new pair of eyes so scrutinise it with. The plan was to chill out for the rest of my time off work. But, you know, it's mostly been raining, so I can't easily go out, and a girl can only sit around reading for so many hours a day before her back starts complaining, and I've caught up with all the housework and some of the other jobs that have been on hold while I wrote the final chapters, and ... well ... see, I'm just so damned excited about my next project that I simply had to take a peak at it.

Also, these pens arrived the other day. I'll need them for the preparatory work on the new project. They're so sexy, they were absolutely screaming to be used, and who am I to refuse them?

I've been keeping a mental lid on the next project for some weeks now, since deciding that, yes, there's no avoiding it, I'm way too excited about the possibilities to pass up on this one, and the fizzy pressure has been building to explosion point.

So, okay, I've started fiddling with it.

With what, you may ask. (well, you might be asking) ...

With this. From hereon in, I'll be referring to it as "DancingNovel".

That's right, I've decided to haul Nasty Dark Adult Fantasy out of the attic and to have a go at reworking some of the elements into a Young Adult/Crossover novel.

Wow, just typing those words sends a tingly Sparklestorm right through me.

Downtime between novels? Phoey!

DancingNovel here I come ....
jennygordon: (Hermit)

A while ago, I posted about the two HUGE dark fantasy tomes I write way back when. I talked about the vastness of my world-building and the unwieldy dimensions of the two novels. And reading them really was like eating a great big bar of dark chocolate all in one sitting – WAY WAY TOO MUCH!!!!

The trouble is, whenever I think about those novels, I remember all the time and energy and love I put into writing them. I remember all the things I learned about writing in the process. And I remember characters who were fun to write, juicy plotlines, vivid settings, and I wonder if I have to retire them to the archive after all.

Every time I have this thought process, it cycles back around to the same two questions:

  1. If my work is picked up for publication, are these the stories I want to be my first books?
  2. Do I want to return to that world, those characters, those plots again, 4 years after I left them behind?

The answer in both cases is a resounding NO!!

However, there’s a little corner of my brain that’s still reluctant to let them go entirely, and I’ve recently found myself wondering what if ....

Specifically, what if I were to extract certain characters, certain plot threads and rewrite them in another form.

A Young Adult form, for instance.

I can see a way in which it might work, and I can feel a seed of excitement at the prospect.

Not now, obviously, since I’m still deeply immersed in SeaNovel, but maybe ... perhaps ... one day ...

So, I’m intrigued. What are your thoughts on resurrecting old work, or parts thereof? Does there come a time when you simply need to let it go and move on to something new, or are there arguments for sometimes having another stab at it?

jennygordon: (Gargoyle)

Between 2002 and early-2008, I was writing novels in a dark fantasy series. I wrote two of them, and vast great unsalable things they were too, weighing in at 208K and 184K a-piece. And the later wasn’t even finished!

They were the second and third novels I wrote (I blogged about the first one here)

Agents and editors said some nice things about the first of these dark fantasy novels (which I had on submission for a time), but ultimately, they were no-goers, which contributed to me making the difficult decision to leave the sequel where it stood and turn my energies to writing something else instead. After all, what’s the point in writing a sequel if the first book is never going to get picked up? Unless you’re writing purely for your own enjoyment, that is.

And it was a hard decision to make, because I loved the world of those novels; it was made up of so many disparate elements that had been haunting and fascinating me for a very long time, and they came together into a world and a story that was uniquely mine. I have two lever arch files full of world-building images and notes, cuttings and articles. It was a fully-rounded world, with maps, history, really ancient history, mythology, you name it. Everything was there, all worked out. And I had SUCH FUN doing it.

Now, you may recall that I’ve recently printed up my old novels through Lulu, with a view to revisiting them for fun, and this week, I’ve been reading those two dark fantasy novels in all their glorious angst and complex world.

And man! Are they hard-going!!!!

It’s partly due to the fact that I was still learning my craft that they’re full of so much exposition, but it’s also because of all that world-building I did, and wanted to share.

It’s a rich, vibrant world to be sure, but did I really need to write so much of it into the stories?

Um ... I’m thinking .... NO!!!!! FOR HEAVEN'S SAKE, NO!!!!!

There’s a balance to strike between having a fully-realised setting for your novel (be it high fantasy or literary fiction), and the amount of detail you share with a reader to conjure that world for them. And indeed, how you share those details.

Even though I had to give up on my re-reading of those novels because they were so dense even I was struggling, I’ll always have a massive soft-spot for them. I love that world, and the time I spent creating it and writing stories set in it was truly formative to my writing life. I learned so much along the way of writing and re-writing those novels (each one exists in many versions). I’m proud of the world I created, of my cast of characters, and the sprawling, multi-layered plot they weave through.

HOWEVER ...

... it doesn’t mean to say that they’re of publishable quality, or that I’ll ever read the damned things in their entirety again!

But still, I’m proud of them.

jennygordon: (Gargoyle)

Hmm, well, bolstered the support and encouragement of all of my lovely LJ friends, I’ve just finished the “ego-on-hold” re-read of my very first completed novel, and, as threatened, I thought I’d share.  

ToD was completed in 2002. It was primarily an exercise in proving to myself that I could write at novel length (previously, I’d only written short stories). And man, I certainly chucked myself in at the deep end as it was written in first person for one vp character, and third person for the other (there was a reason for doing so), as well as including a number of short fairytales/myths/folktales. According to my PC, I haven’t opened the file since 2005. 

I thought I’d throw down a few of the things I discovered about it: 

  • It’s over-wordy and too purple – I’ve definitely learned to be more frugal in my writing, not to mention reining in my tendency for purple prose!
  • There’s too much internalisation on the part of the main viewpoint characters – I hadn’t yet learned more elegant ways of conveying what characters are thinking and feeling.
  • While it’s there and has some interesting ideas and nice twiddy bits, the plot is a little thin. Definitely more a book of ideas. I still find I have to work at achieving the balance between ‘ideas’ and crafting an effective plot.
  • Pacing. Hmmm .... what pacing?! I think the mechanics of pacing is one of the most important things we need to grasp as writers, and it’s certainly an aspect of my writing of which I’m mindful.
  • Interestingly, my “voice” is present, even as far back as this first novel; I guess it was evolving over the course of my short story writing career.
  • While some of the secondary characters are rather flat, the main characters are mostly interesting and engaging.
  • Equally so the dialogue, though there isn’t enough of it, as I was inclined to use long tracts of exposition instead of dialogue and interaction. 

And you know what? Most surprising of all is the fact that I found myself pondering reworking it, or elements of it, which is something I NEVEREVER anticipated. Although it was written as an adult novel, I can see possibilities for it as a Young Adult story. If I do decide to re-work it at some point, it will certainly need a major overhaul, and a complete re-imagining of one of the main vp characters, but the possibility is definitely there on a back-burner. 

All in all, it’s been a mighty interesting exercise, and I guess I’ve discovered that I definitely HAVE made progress with my writing – PHEW! Hopefully it’s a sign of that progress that I understand why ToD doesn’t work in its current form, but can see ways in which its strengths could be made to work in a different form. 

I wonder what the next re-read holds in store ...

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