jennygordon: (Froud - Green Man)
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: (Skywatcher)
Ideas for stories are always wafting through my head. I jot them down in my beloved Moleskine in case they want to come out and play at a later date. Some of those ideas have been around for a long time, and show up on a semi-regular basis, sometimes with increasing insistence.

It's one such idea that's back to whisper at me at the moment.

It's not a plot bunny (i.e. something that's going to distract me from MoulderingBook). It's ... a surfacing. A seedling that's ready to germinate and reach for the light.

In other words, I think it may be the rousing of the project I'll be working on once I'm done with MoulderingBook.

I have a number of semi-ideas for possible projects on a backburner, but this one seems to want to jostle to the front of the queue.

I love the sense of all these ideas simmering away inside me, bubble-popping to the top of the cauldron from time to time, then sinking back into the stew for a while longer. Some end up stuck to the bottom of the pot and never evolve into anything more. Others may require a notebook of their own at some point ...
jennygordon: (Star Gazer Lily)
Yesterday, I reached the 20K words stage of MoulderingBook. I also reached the end of the sparkly purple notebook I'm currently writing it in. I wallowed in the satisfaction of flicking through page after page of my words, re-reading some here and there, and I smiled and smiled and smiled.

I thought of the oft-cited Neil Gaiman quote, "Writing is flying in dreams. When you remember. When you can. When it works."

And then I remembered that it was only two months ago that I was tiptoeing fearfully back into my writing journey after an enforced year-long absence, and wondering if I still could.

I look at that sparkly purple notebook, full to the brim with my new story, and I know that I can.

I am complete once more.
jennygordon: (Froud - Wood Woman)
Yep, it's true. Over the past few weeks, I've been dead disciplined and have stuck to my vow not to embark on writing the new version of MoulderingBook before I have a comprehensive Story Plan (the term I like to use to describe a document which incorporates my Plot Outline, character and setting notes, and other related ephemera). It's twenty close-typed page long, and feels like a sturdy roadmap.

I reached the point where I was itching to get writing, but I forced myself to pause and consider whether it really was time, or if I was falling into my old bad habit of racing ahead too soon. The Story Plan was in good shape, with only a couple of sections at the end looking rather thin, which I reckon is okay, as some things only become clear once you're travelled the journey with your characters. And then my MC decided to get very chatty, and made my decision for me.

So, a couple of days ago, I sat down in my Nook with my pen and sparkly purple notebook (crucial piece of equipment), and began.

Yesterday, I wrote for almost five hours, and by then my fingers were so sore I could barely hold the pen.

I now have almost six thousand words. I'm rather pleased with them. I'd been trying to figure out my MC's voice, but it seems she's found it herself, and I think it's spot on. Of course, a critical eye might tell me it's all Giant Pants, which is why I'm keeping it all to myself for now.

New Year, New Moon, New Start. It makes me very happy indeed.
jennygordon: (Skywatcher)
After a busy few days, I'm a bit flumped today, so this is just a fly-by post to rejoice in what I've achieved with MoulderingBook over the past two days.

Taking on board all the advice you guys so kindly shared with me last week (*group hug*), along with the 'key' [livejournal.com profile] readthisandweep donated to the cause (*blows kisses*), I wrote and wrote and wrote reams of notes in my notebook. Wrote, in fact, until I was so excited by the new path I see before me for MoulderingBook that I had to spend some time at my computer translating those notes into some sort of shape.

So, I now have thirteen close-typed pages of what I'm thinking of as 'My Story Plan'.

This is nothing new in terms of 'process'; I often begin a project with a bundle of notes like this. What is new is what I'll be doing next.

What I won't be doing is dashing off on a wave of enthusiasm to begin writing the story in its new shape.

Instead, I shall be returning to my notes and brainstorming lots more. Filling in the gaps in the plot; fleshing out existing plot points; thinking about character, and all in all, DOING MORE at this stage before the actual writing begins.

(It's useful for me to set it out like that as it helps get it into my brain that I'M NOT STARTING TO WRITE THE STORY YET!) Er-hem.

Thanks for listening (and sorry about the shouting!)
jennygordon: (Roe Deer fawn)
I realised last night that I wrote around six thousand words of AutumnBook over a four-day period last weekend.

Anyone would think I'm NaNo-ing (I'm not)!

There are few things in life more delicious than seeing a notebook filling up with pages and pages of self-crafted wordage. I'll try not to let it go to my head.

*Blissful sigh*
jennygordon: (Froud - Green Woman)
"Writing is flying in dreams. When you remember. When you can. When it works. It's that easy."  — Neil Gaiman

It's true. It's so very true.

At the weekend, I turned off technology, locked my door, and settled down with notebook and pen.

And I wrote.

I have no idea if it's any good, and that really doesn't matter anyway.

I wrote.

Pages and pages.

For hours.

And now, once I've hung my washing out, I'm going to go and do some more.
jennygordon: (Froud)
So, for various reasons (some of them out of my control, some of them not-so-much) I've been in a bit of a grump with Writer Jenny recently. The necessary hiatus from writing over the past year has roused all those Doubting Demons and the Pesky Piskies of Procrastination have me pinned in a corner.

So this weekend, with gritted teeth and grim determination, I'm going to stand up and faced the lot of them. I will write, dammit. And if I end up producing a steaming pile, then so be it!

It's been a year since you've written properly, for goodness sake, I tell myself. You're bound to be out of practice. Give yourself a break!

I spent some constructive time at work this morning (when I should have been doing other things — shhh!) re-reading posts and pieces by other writers who have inspired and encouraged me in the past, including this line by Laini Taylor:

"You write to discover the story."

And that led me on a train of thought which ended up at this old blog post of mine, and it's subsequent discussion among us. I read with particular interest something [livejournal.com profile] bogwitch64 (who I miss seeing around these parts) said:

"My "outline," when I do one, is what a lot of people would consider the first draft. I end up with about 30K words of a story told in a stream of consciousness sort of thing. I imagine it's much like someone's NaNo. But I don't say that's draft one. It's the outline I work from--but my first draft is actually much cleaner for it."

I replied at the time that it was an approach I may try at some point, and I wonder if that time has come.

See, in the dozen-odd handwritten pages of AutumnBook I have managed to produce, I've increasingly found myself writing the scenes which shine the brightest, rather than writing sequentially, necessarily. Maybe [livejournal.com profile] bogwitch64's approach would lend me a hand: chunks of freewriting, interspersed with notes and comments to myself. It'll be like writing with a friend nearby to chat with as I tentatively find my way and regain some of my writerly confidence.

And maybe some time spent freewriting would lend me a hand, since one of the problems I've been having with the story is that, while I have a shiny idea, and a rough outline, I can't hear the voice of my MC yet. It's going to be written in first person, so finding that voice is crucial. Perhaps some nice, unstructured freewriting ambling would help me discover her.

*SIgh*. More than anything else, I just need to sit down for some decent chunks of time and get the hell on with it!
jennygordon: (Froud - Green Man)
A couple of weeks back, I wrote about how I was wandering in the Word Forest, exploring. I'm now newly emerged, twigs and burrs caught up in my tangled hair, jeans all grubby, blackberry stains around my mouth. But in my fist, I'm clutching an outline for what I'm calling AutumnBook. The outline is pretty grubby too, but it's definitely an outline of sorts, which surprises me a little in a pleasant sort of way.

I've realised that, although I'm always open to new methods, my approach at the beginning of a project tends to follow more or less the same course:

  • I catch sight of a bright, shiny idea. This is often a location, a character or two, and a vague premise. I'm often inspired by an actual image (visuals are important to me)

  • I jot some notes, polishing the idea until it makes a kind of sense

  • I collect a few inspirational images (Pinterest is my scrapbook of choice these days)

  • I start writing, usually throwing down around 5K words to find my way into the story, figure out a bit about the main character(s) and their voice, work out whether first or third person, past or present, works best (this is always open to negotiation further down the line)

  • Throughout, I continue jotting notes until my notebook becomes too unwieldy to be helpful. That's when I hit the PC to type up an outline.

The outline helps me see the shape of the thing and where the gaps are; it brings a bit of structure to my whirlwind of notes. I need some structure at this stage, otherwise I know I'll go rambling wildly off course. Writing the story tends to cease while I'm getting my thoughts into some kind of order.

Mind you, I don't really think of the thing I end up with as an outline. It's more of a map for when I plunge back into the forest; a tool to help me figure out where I go from here.

Right, where did I put my waterproofs and sandwiches? I'm going back in ...
jennygordon: (Froud - Green Woman)
This morning, I went on an adventure. From my new home, it's a fifteen minute walk to a beautiful country park (and thence to the open countryside beyond). This morning, for the first time, I walked that walk, though it took me twenty minutes because I took several wrong turns — but hey, wrong turns are all a part of having an adventure. I arrived, and that's the important thing.

And this is what I arrived at:

IMG_3243

I met these guys:


And these guys, who were making a right racket:


And befriended more new Dreaming Trees than I thought possible, but you'll have to wait for another time to see those photos.

Now, I'm finally sitting at my PC, writing a proper blog post, with a box of chocolates to hand, and this album playing softly in the background (seriously check it out; it's gorgeous!) I say 'finally' because life has been seven shades of crazy for me over the past many months, some of the shades difficult, some frustrating, but all, ultimately, to the good. Because now here I am in my very own home. While I'm sure life will discover some new challenge to throw my way, the trials and mayhem of house-buying are over, which means I can tiptoe into the dusty corner of the attic and rouse Writer Jenny from her slumbers. It's been so long since I've written ... well, anything ... that I'm most certainly feeling the fear, which is why I'm devoting the next two days before I go back to work to writing. No distractions. No chores. No excuses!

A couple of months back, I started work on FallingBook, and although, by necessity, I've had to tuck her away for a while, thoughts of her have hovered on the periphery of life's chaos, eagerly awaiting the return of my attention. I read this post by Kristin Cashore a while back, and decided it was a technique that might prove useful for me, so a few days ago, I made my own version:

Planning Board

(For those of you who are interested, it's good thick curtain fabric, hemmed, and with a bamboo cane threaded through the top. Rubber bands at either end prevent the string it's hanging from rucking the fabric. The three ribbons you can see divide the board into Blake Snyder's four acts. Each 'scene card' is pinned on, so it's all easily re-jiggable)

The plotting cards are rough, but they're enough to give me a scaffolding for the story. Since the story already exists in old versions of the novel, it's been a matter of working through it and figuring out which scenes are core to the telling. When I last worked on the cards, I discovered I had a gaping hole in Act Three, yet with the distance of two months, I've thought again, played around with the ordering, added a pinch here, a tuck there, and I think the framework is pretty much ... there.

All I need to do now is face the fear and get writing ...
jennygordon: (Froud - Wood Woman)
Now don't get me wrong, I'm not saying I subscribe entirely and wholeheartedly to everything Mr Snyder says in 'Save the Cat'. However, as well as proving immensely useful in matters of loglines, his advice on planning out a project on notecards stuck to a board, which is gridded according to the four acts he proposes, also showed me a thing or two.

A mighty useful thing or two.

Initially, I only glanced through the chapter in question, and dismissed it, being congenitally adverse to tying down a story so specifically in advance. But then, I found myself reconsidering, in a 'what the hell?' kind of way. I duly dug out a pack of three-by-fives and set to work. Some time later, I set out the cards within the four proposed acts, and it was instantly clear to me where the gaps are in my story.

I already knew from re-reading the 2010 MS of FallingBook that I had a lengthy set-up (Act One, if you like), a goodly chunk of Act Two, and a decent Finale and Closing Image, but then ... oh, yes, but then ... Where was the rest? In my eagerness to reach that Finale, I had forgotten to build the other components necessary to telling a satisfying story.

So, while I was already aware of the gaping holes in the 2010 MS, Mr Snyder's exercise of laying out each scene in act order has given me a far clearer idea of precisely where those holes are.

I still won't be notecarding the whole thing in advance. I'm a Plotter with Pantser tendencies, as I certainly need to have an element of freedom remaining to me beyond the planning stage. If I nail everything down too precisely, my enthusiasm for actually writing the thing fizzles and fades.

Just goes to show how dangerous it can be to dismiss something out of hand without at least trying it for size.
jennygordon: (Froud - Green Woman)
I think my new project has made itself known.

Well, I say, '"new", and it's not exactly; it's a novel I completed some years ago that's come back to whisper to me. I've been reading through the manuscript this weekend, and have fallen in love with the story all over again.

Some writers talk about their 'Heart Book', which is to say the story that is closest to their heart. Personally, I've always believed that whichever book I was currently working on was closest to my heart, but I now think I was wrong. I think this is my true 'Heart Book'. We've had a long history together, this story and I. The idea first came to me back in 1998 as a short story, which went on to win first prize in a competition, and was published in a slightly amended form some years later. (The eagle-eyed among you will be able to track it down here on my blog/website if you follow the breadcrumb trail).

I knew from the first that there was a novel behind the short story, and made numerous attempts to write it over the years, each more successful than the last as my skills as a writer developed. Finally, in 2010, I completed the novel in a form I was mostly happy with. I received some interest from agents, but ultimately the book went the way of all my others. Which is to say, I lost interest in it and abandoned it as I moved on to my next project.

But now it's back. Four years down the line, the story has decided it's not done with me. Or I'm not done with it.

It's an Adult/New Adult tale, so rather different from the Young Adult stories I've been writing for the past four years. I've spent the last few days reading it through and frantically jotting notes. I can see so many ways in which it can be improved. So many failings in the structure that I need to address. So many possibilities. It's thrilling and frightening and heart-racingly exciting. Just like falling in love.
jennygordon: (Water Lily)
So, yes. Um. I'm back. Feeling ... oddly shy and trepidatious, actually. It's weird. Having failed utterly to keep up with all you lovely people over the last few of months, I've spent the last hour dropping in on some of you find out where life's tide has carried you.

As for me. Well, life's tide has washed me up on a new shore, in a fresh chapter of my life. Having just gone through two of life's Most Stressful Happenings™ in one big lump, I'm floundering a little as I splash around in the wet, shifting sand in an attempt to find my footing.

The creative part of my brain has largely been hibernating. It's had to. I've needed the organising, analytical part to be firing on all cylinders, so there hasn't been room for anything else. Then, last week, after living in my new home for only a matter of days, I woke one morning from an astonishingly lucid dream which presented me with the premise for a story. It was as though Creative Jenny had woken up in a rush.

I'm still busy with all the necessities of relocating to a new town 50 miles from the old, so I haven't had time to do much with the idea ...

... Now see, there I go again ... because the truth is I'm scared to sit down and write. It's been so long. What if I can't do it? I can't even figure out how to start, for goodness' sake. What if I'm utter rubbish? What if ...? What if ...? There are all these little insecurities niggling away at me.

Then, last night it came to me that if so much about my life has changed in a relatively short space of time, then there's one thing that hasn't. The core of who I am remains the same, and intrinsic to that core is my creative soul. Returning to writing after this necessary break is nerve-wracking. I have no idea what will happen, or even how to begin. But begin I shall. Rejoining the ever-shrinking world of LJ feels like a good place to start. I have no idea where the writing will take me. No idea, indeed, of what this new chapter of my life will hold. I will be open to it all, and see what comes.
jennygordon: (Peacock Butterfly)
Hmmm, so I had a couple of thoughts about MaybeBook yesterday.

First, I realised that I've been missing an element important to the mood I want to create, and that element (pun intended) is the appropriate weather. The idea for the story arrived complete with the time of year it's set, but the weather at that time of year doesn't particularly necessitate the right atmospheric weather. This was a problem, as the time of year isn't really moveable for other reasons. Then, like Tom being wanged over the head with a saucepan by Jerry, it hit me. River mist! Hurrah!

And the other thing I was pondering yesterday is the fact that three strands of my plot involve either reconciling, or solving the mystery of, events that took place in the past, and which have relevance to the current situation. This raised the thorny issue of how to deal with a story in which significant amounts of backstory will be necessary. And then, as if the interwebs were reading my mind, this was posted on The Writer Unboxed. It's given me all sorts of interesting food for thought (you have to read past the introductory waffle in the first paragraphs before you get onto the issue at hand, i.e. backstory, and the pitfalls, perils and possiblities thereof. (Love me some alliteration!)

So, much writerly thinking of thoughts at the moment.
jennygordon: (Clematis)
Something I've realised while at the early planning stages of MaybeBook is the importance of place in my stories. For me, the setting of a story needs to be bound up with the plot, each reflecting the other. 'Wuthering Heights' is a classic example of how place and plot are intrinsically linked. You can't imagine Cathy and Heathcliff playing out their wild and terrible passion against any backdrop other than the bleak moors with its torrid weather that so perfectly mirrors the emotional heart of the novel.

Now, while that's an extreme example, I often find that the books which resonate most for me are those in which the setting and the weather have specifically been chosen to echo and support and enhance the plot.

Reading Susan Cooper's 'The Dark is Rising' sequence has reminded me of this. Who could conceive of those books about old magic and the timeless battle between Light and Dark being played our anywhere other than the ancient places of Britain? Equally, the descriptions of the Alaskan wilderness with all of its harsh beauty perfectly enhances the beauty and the cruelty of life depicted in Eowyn Ivey's 'The Snow Child', while the English Fens are the perfect setting for Franny Billingsley's dark fairytale, 'Chime'. Indeed, for all those examples, the stories and their themes are born out of the landscapes in which they are set.

In the same way, a twisty, turny mystery might benefit from being set in an old city, full of narrow alleys and blocked-up doorways, where the setting enhances the red herrings and paranoia of the plot. Or the claustrophobia of a broken-down old house might underscore the breakdown of the relationshpis of those living in it.

Not every story needs such obvious links to its seting as a tool to enhance the plot. Indeed, direct contrasts between the two might work just as well. Indeed, too obvious a link might end up being cliched, and I'm inherently cliche-adverse!

That said, setting is certainly one of the first aspects of story that floats to the surface of the caudron when I'm brewing a new story. It's often as thought the elements of story and setting have already come together in my subconscious, so they arrive in tandem. Then, it's for me to figure out the ways in which one will complement the other. In fact, if the setting isn't clear when I set out, I'll have trouble making progress until I've found the right one. The one that will add to the plot, and, come to think of it, will add to aspects of the characters too. Like the way Heathcliff could have been shaped from a piece of the dark, brooding, dangerous moor. We are, after all, products of our environment (sorry, cliche!)

What about you, how important is the right setting for you in your writing/reading?
jennygordon: (Naiad)
It's been a tricky couple of months writing-wise. First, a long-anticipated book project died on me. Then another entirely unexpected one rose from the ashes. I've swung between delight and doubt as I slowly gathered my plot and got to know my characters, and then ...

...and then ...

...Four days ago, I started writing the story. Or rather, I began channeling my MC. Her voice has become increasingly insistent over the past week or so, and it turns out she simply couldn't wait any longer to begin telling me her story. I held her off for an extra half-hour on Saturday while I got the notebook I'm writing the tale in ready to go by decorating the cover so it looks how it should for MaybeBook. See, here it is ...

MaybeBook Notebook 1

And then ... wheeeeeeee ... I was off.

I'm very deliberately thinking of this as my Exploratory Draft and paying heed to one of the many lessons I learned over the two years of working on SeaNovel, which is to give myself permission to intersperse the prose with post-it notes to myself. These will act as place-holders; reminders that I need to go back and figure out a particular aspect of the setting, or what my MC calls her father, for example. Rather than getting bogged down with such things as I used to, I jot the note and continue with my flow.

It's a looseness I haven't worked with before, but I'm hoping it'll help with my tendency to get stuck over details at a stage when I need to be bushwacking my way forward with the story.

I so love these early days of a new story. I set out with trepidation and hope and excitement. Anything and everything is possible. I know there will be thorny tangles and marshy mires and other frivolously alliterative metaphors along the way, but right now, nothing scares me. It's just fun, fun, fun.

In The Now

Nov. 14th, 2013 09:50 am
jennygordon: (Skywatcher)
So, I'm wondering whether first person present is the best tense to use for MaybeBook. It's not a voice I've written a novel in before. First person, yes, but never first person present (outside of short stories). Yet the raw immediacy of it, and the intimate, inward gaze, feels right for MaybeBook.

It's odd, several of my novels have started in first person, past tense, but have subsequently evolved into third person, past, at some point along the way. I think it's because that's my comfort-zone, and first person can sometimes be too restrictive. But while third person, past, has worked for other books, perhaps it's time to branch out, stretch myself, challenge myself to try out a different approach.

I came across this quote by Shannon Hale the other day:

"The rewrites are a struggle right now. Sometimes I wish writing a book could just be easy for me at last. But when I think about it practically, I'm glad it's a struggle. I am (as usual) attempting to write a book that's too hard for me. I'm telling a story I'm not smart enough to tell. The risk of failure is huge. But I prefer it this way. I'm forced to learn, forced to smarten myself up, forced to wrestle. And if it works, then I'll have written something that is better than I am."

Hale's words resound with me. If first person, present, doesn't work for MaybeBook, then hey, never mind. But I think I have to at least try. The mood of MaybeBook requires an intimate voice, and a narrow viewpoint. And if it does work, if I stretch myself and wrestle and learn, then that's all to the good.

Maybe I should give it a try ...

Another maybe for MaybeBook ...

I imagine most of us have a comfort zone tense and viewpoint. I'm a firm believer that we should use what best suits the story, but what about you?
jennygordon: (Skywatcher)
*Princess Irulan from the film version of Frank Herbert's 'Dune'

Following yesterday's post about the seeds of inspiration, I found myself thinking more about being at the start of a writing project. Despite the fact that pretty much everyone on LJ seems to have vanished, so I'm probably talking to myself, I thought I'd spill some of my pondering here.

At the beginning of any writing project, whether novel or short story, I only ever have a scattering of pieces: a half-glimpsed setting, a fledgeling character ot two, maybe a vague idea of a significant scene. Sometimes, those pieces are barely-there, ghostly things. At other times, one or more are clearer and more certain of themselves. But what I always, always have — well, it's two things really, each inextricably bound to the other — are the talismaic image that was the original spark, and the feeling, the mood, that image inspires in me, and which I in turn want to create in the story I will write. (Whether I succeed or not is another matter).

For past novels, there's been a painting by Brian Froud, and the sense of dark and dangerous addiction. For another, it was an antique postcard of a stately home, long since destroyed, that I've had since I was a little girl, and the poignant sense of loss and bittersweet yearing for the lives that once played out there.

For SeaNovel, it wasn't a tangible image in that way; rather, it was an image and my related feelings conjured from all the pieces of sea-drenched memories that nestle in my soul.

And for MaybeBook? Well, that would be telling, and I'm far too superstitious to reveal anything at so early a stage of a story. But I will say that this time, it was a mood, an atmosphere, that came to me first. The talismanic images quickly coalesced around it.

What about you? Is there a pattern in the way those first seeds of a story come to you? Is it the plot? A character who walks up and starts chatting? A subject you burn to explore? Or, like me, is it a single, bright image pulsing with emotive power?
jennygordon: (Clematis)
So, last time I shared some holiday snaps and showed you my outdoor holiday writing nook. Today, I thought I'd tell you a bit about how the writing went while I was away.

Well ... Glastonbury proved to be the inspirational haven I hoped it would, and I made all kinds of tentative, but definitely constructive, in-roads to ShadowNovel.

Most tangibly, I spent a blissful afternoon with scissors and glue and my collection of inspirational images, creating a scrapbook. The main point of this was so help immerse myself in the world of ShadowNovel, and as well as being huge fun, I really did lose myself in it and start to get a clearer sense of the place.

An added bonus was that the wonderful cottage I stayed in was supplied with a collection of CDs, among which I discovered three which proved absolutely perfect for conjuring the mood of the book. I got them on order as soon as I arrived home. They're by artists I haven't heard of before, and it felt incredibly serendipitous that they should be there at the cottage all ready and waiting for me.

Going away with only the pictures and a handful of notes proved immensely helpful, and I've returned home with an outline plan of how to approach the first section of ShadowNovel. Saying more than that feels like I might jinx it, so I'm going to be all mysterious about it instead, and say nothing more for now.

It's really, really early days, but my enthusiasm for ShadowNovel is fizzing, and it's all feeling a little less intimidating that it did before I went away.

Yesterday, I even threw down 1,000 words of story. It's not the first 1,000 words of the book, although it is the first 1,000 words of one viewpoint character. It felt like the right time for me to start exploring, so into the forest I went, sturdy books laced tight and pith helmet firmly clamped to my head (because every explorer needs one of those, right?)

I'd forgotten how much I love this early, exploratory part of a new project. Everything is fresh and bright and so thrillingly full of possibility. There are so many new things to see and try that I hardly know where to begin. But begin I have, and it feels mighty fine.
jennygordon: (Hermit)
In response to my last post, [livejournal.com profile] readthisandweepsaid, "I'm tempted to ask what would be so wrong about working with what went before? ShadowNovel must still feel good enough otherwise you wouldn't be revisiting it. Because you are revisiting an old story, it sounds as if you may perhaps be reshaping as much as re-imagining."

She's not the only person to ask, so I thought I'd say a little bit about my approach to my new project here (for those of you who might be interested in that sort of thing).

ShadowNovel certainly does still feel good enough for me to want to revisit it, or at least the core of it does. However, the project will very much be a "reimagining", as opposed to a "reshaping" (although you could argue that we're debating semantics here!) for a number of reasons:

1. the original novel was written for an adult audience, and includes some ... er-hem ... rather adult themes and scenes. The reimagining will be for a YA audience, which means thinking about it in a different way, and reworking it appropriately.

2. the original was a mighty 207K words long, and since I want to reimagine it for a YA audience, I'll be aiming for 120K tops, which means rethinking some of the story elements.

3. I completed the original something like eight years ago, and in the intervening time, I've lived some, and I've acquired shinier writing tools, which means I want to step back from the original and approach it a-fresh.

4. But moreover, last summer, I played around with the original text to see how a reshaping might work, and frankly, it felt like cheating. Like a half-measure. And ShadowNovel deserves better than that.

All of which means I'll be doing a lot of thinking about:

  • which story elements should stay in a YA novel of 120K words
  • how to tighten those story elements
  • which new story elements I need to work up
  • how the character arcs might work more effectively
  • how to make the world more cohesive, bearing in mind the shorter w/c

To that end, I've put away the original novel and its many books of accompanying notes, as I've been feeling increasingly burdened by them. The important stuff from the original is in my head, and all the old notes just muddy the picture. As [livejournal.com profile] edgyauthorcomments in my last post, speaking from experience, "The old stuff can become too much of a crutch sometimes, and often not for the better."

It's a big challenge, for sure, and I'm pretty intimidated by it. It's about finding the YA novel within the adult one. The question I keep returning to is: What is the heart of this story? What do I need to focus on? Once I have that in my sights, everything else is negotiable.

So you see, that's why it's a "reimagining", not a "reshaping".

BTW, thanks for asking, [livejournal.com profile] readthisandweep, and thanks for reading my waffle all those of you who do. Thinking in writing like this helps to concrete things in my own mind, so it's immensely helpful.

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jennygordon

January 2016

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