jennygordon: (Tortoiseshell Butterfly (purple))
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.

A Gift

Mar. 21st, 2015 07:14 am
jennygordon: (Froud - Green Woman)
*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: (Tortoiseshell Butterfly (purple))
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: (Rossetti - Veronica Veronese)
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: (Froud - Wood Woman)
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: (Froud - Green Woman)
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.
jennygordon: (Froud - Wood Woman)
I think I've taken a wrong turn in MoulderingBook (formerly known as AutumnBook).

I found myself too early to depart for work yesterday morning, so I plunked myself down on the stairs and used the spare ten minutes to think about MoulderingBook, and the next scene I would be writing. I'd been feeling a little squirmy about it, the way I do when something's not quite right, and I realised as I sat there on the stairs that I may have mis-stepped.

Um ... quite significantly.

The problem has to do with the focus of the book, I think. I'm around 18K into an envisaged 90K story, and I've yet to introduce a key element (a particular house and its family). Which is fine to an extent, because that house and the family are the mystery the MC has to encounter, become involved in, and then solve, and there's ground to lay before she arrives at that point. Hence the 18K words to date have been concerned with the MC's arrival in the nearby village, and discovery of 'something weird' about the place, and introduction of significant village characters.

Part of my plan was that she would befriend a group of local youths, who would tell her what the older generation are too afraid to speak of, which will lead to her entering the Main Mystery Story.

However. Hmm. However.

I'm now wondering if I should shift my focus and concentrate less on the MC befriending the local youths, and devote more space, and from an earlier stage, to the significant house and its family. Also, there are a goodly number of members of that family, and I don't want to overburden my story with lots more characters if the local youths would be better relegated to more secondary roles.

The more I think about it, the more it feels like I'm right. Moreover, I can't just write forward from this point, merrily pretending all is well and that I'll fix it in the next pass, because my brain doesn't work like that. Besides, the alteration in focus is too significant.

Which means ... yep ... rewriting those 18K words at this stage.

Rats!

I find comfort in the fact that I'm not alone. Maggie Stiefvater refers to the 10-15K words stretch as "The Slow Realisation that You Did Indeed Write Crap Phase". I'm not feeling that my 15K words are crap, or not entirely at least. However, I think I'm at what Maggie calls "The Rematch Phase", which is to say the point at which I need to revisit, rework and rearrange the first 0-15K words.

Yeah, I think I'm due a rematch.
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 ...

Delighted!

Jun. 25th, 2014 02:52 pm
jennygordon: (Tortoiseshell Butterfly (purple))
I have just spent a glorious few days working on FallingBook.

Yep, you read that right - I've been writing! (*crowd goes wild*)

In fact, I've had something of a mega-writing run, having reworked something over ten thousand words of FallingBook during this four-day window. Excuse me while I type that again ... more than TEN THOUSAND WORDS!

My word count is already up to 18K, although that's mostly illusion at this early stage. Still, it's heartening to cross-check with Blake Snyder's Beat Sheet and note that I'm hitting all the beats pretty much dead on so far, which means my instinct about the new shape of the story is playing me true.

I've been playing around with the opening Act of the book. This has meant rewriting some of the existing early chapters, and rejigging material from elsewhere in the 2010 MS to move it to the early part of the book instead. It's all very rough and first-drafty. In fact, I'm thinking of this as a 'Zero Draft', mainly because there's something liberating about the term. I know, I know, the games we play with ourselves!

Ten thousand words sounds — and is — a lot, but beginnings have always been the easiest part of any story of me; it's when I reach the middle section that I start to stall out. More than anything, what I'm doing is creating the scaffolding for the work to come. I know the story like it's my own life story (although it's absolutely not!) Getting under the skin of the characters again is like meeting up with dear friends I haven't seen for a long time. Messed up, extremely difficult friends, some of them, but friends all the same.

It's so much fun!
jennygordon: (Froud)
Thanks everyone for your feedback on my fledgling logline. I have duly scrumpled it up and tossed it in the circular filing cabinet!

Which is to say, I went back to the drawing-board last night to have a good hard ponder (see avatar!)

This is the first time I've written a logline up front (or in fact a synopsis of any kind or length). Normally, my 'process' is to get some planning done, with particular reference to my final destination. (I've learned that if I don't have a pretty clear idea about how the book ends, it'll fizzle out and fade at some point along the way). Then I write, write, write.

FallingBook, however, seems to want me to approach it differently, largely because it's a reworking of an existing MS. Also, for certain Life Reasons, I have limited time and energy at the moment, so am not able to indulge in delicious swathes of writing. So, bite-sized exercises such as writing the logline are very useful.

Useful in lots of ways, as it turns out.

As I mentioned last time, Blake Snyder advocates writing the logline before you write anything else, and I can see the sense in doing so. In figuring out the key elements of the logline — who is it about? what are they struggling against? what are the stakes? what do they need to do? — it reveals where the gaps are in the story. This is immensely helpful, as it means I can fix things at this early stage, instead of realising it 100 pages and 1000 hours down the line, swearing a lot, and plunging into the Writerly Doldrums.

Specifically for me, it has raised the question of who or what my antagonist is. Who or what is the MC struggling against?

At the outset, I was pretty certain her estranged daughter filled the role. And to some extent, she does. However, when [livejournal.com profile] authorwithin pointed out that my stakes in the logline aren't high enough, it made me rethink my position. And what I've realised is that the daughter isn't the antagonist at all. I've gone full circle and arrived back at the point where I started 15 years ago when I wrote the short story on which the novel is based. Intriguingly (for me, at least) the antagonist doesn't appear in person until well into the book, and then it's in flashback form. We don't meet the antagonist in actuality until the closing chapters. It reminded me of this helpful little piece by Donald Maas.

Such fun, this novel-creation business!
jennygordon: (Froud)
Thanks everyone for your feedback on my fledgling logline. I have duly scrumpled it up and tossed it in the circular filing cabinet!

Which is to say, I went back to the drawing-board last night to have a good hard ponder (see avatar!)

This is the first time I've written a logline up front (or in fact a synopsis of any kind or length). Normally, my 'process' is to get some planning done, with particular reference to my final destination. (I've learned that if I don't have a pretty clear idea about how the book ends, It'll fizzle out and fade at some point along the way). Then I write, write, write.

FallingBook, however, seems to want me to approach it differently, largely because it's a reworking of an existing MS. Also, for certain Life Reasons, I have limited time and energy at the moment, so am not able to indulge in delicious swathes of writing. So, bite-sized exercises such as writing the logline are very useful.

Useful in lots of ways, as it turns out.

As I mentioned last time, Blake Snyder advocates writing the logline before you write anything else, and I can see the sense in doing so. In figuring out the key elements of the logline — who is it about? what are they struggling against? what are the stakes? what do they need to do? — it reveals where the gaps are in the story. This is immensely helpful, as it means I can fix things at this early stage, instead of realising it 100 pages and 1000 hours down the line, swearing a lot, and plunging into the Writerly Doldrums.

Specifically for me, it has raised the question of who or what my antagonist is. Who or what is the MC struggling against?

At the outset, I was pretty certain her estranged daughter filled the role. And to some extent, she does. However, when authorwithin pointed out that my stakes in the logline aren't high enough, it made me rethink my position. And what I've realised is that the daughter isn't the antagonist at all. I've gone full circle and arrived back at the point where I started 15 years ago when I wrote the short story on which the novel is based. Ingriguingly (for me, at least) the antagonist doesn't appear in person until well into the book, and then it's in flashback form. We don't meet the antagonist in actuality until the closing chapters. It reminded me of this helpful little piece by Donald Maas.

Such fun, this novel-creation business!
jennygordon: (Rossetti - Veronica Veronese)
I've spent an interesting few days pondering and playing with FallingBook. I think I may have resolved the quandary of the opening (i.e. how to avoid the whole dream thing without losing the elements that I feel still work). Following the advice of you wise folks out there, I'm not dwelling on it overmuch at the moment.

The trouble with reworking an old MS is that there's the temptation to simply polish it up, rather than dismantle it down to the bones and then rebuild. What I'm doing at the moment is playing. I've made a rough first pass of the opening chapter, reworking it without the dream element, and I've revised the second chapter. These two chapters feel pretty much established to me, in terms of the order of events and the set-up. They work as establishing chapters. Everything beyond them is negotiable, which is why I felt the need to get the foundations laid by reworking those first, before I return to plotting and planning.

That said, in actuality, absolutely everything remains negotiable at this stage. It needs to be, otherwise I might be blind to other opportunities.

I have options, and that's the important thing.

The other important thing is that I spend time re-rooting myself in the story, the world, and the mood of FallingBook. To that end, I've just re-read "Angels Dance and Angels Die", by Patricia Butler (subtitled, "The Tragic Romance of Pamela and Jim Morrison.") I could explain why that particular book is great inspirational background for me, but that would be giving too much away ....

More than anything, it's simply wonderful to be falling all over again for FallingBook ...
jennygordon: (Magpie)
Thank you everyone who dropped by to offer your wise words and thoughts about dream openings in novels. I can't tell you how wonderful it is to be able to bounce ideas and quandaries off a circle of friends like that. You're all fantastic. Here, have some fairy flowers:

IMG_3072

Aren't they pretty? They're a new discovery of mine.

In other news, I had to go to Oxford for work the other day. Once my meeting was finished, I had some time to kill before my train home, so I swung by the Ashmolean Museum to inhale a few Pre-Raphaelite pictures. And then, down in the shop ....

... I found A, who is a character in FallingBook. While I've long had pretty clear images in my head of what the other main characters look like, somehow A has always eluded me. But no longer. There he was on this postcard:

Samuel Palmer

Such a modern image isn't it? But in fact, it's a self-portrait of artist Samuel Palmer (1805-1881). I couldn't believe it. There I was perusing the postcards, and there he was.

Love it when that happens.
jennygordon: (Magpie)
Thank you everyone who dropped by to offer your wise words and thoughts about dream openings in novels. I can't tell you how wonderful it is to be able to bounce ideas and quandaries off a circle of friends like that. You're all fantastic. Here, have some fairy flowers:

IMG_3072

Aren't they pretty? They're a new discovery of mine.

In other news, I had to go to Oxford for work the other day. Once my meeting was finished, I had some time to kill before my train home, so I swung by the Ashmolean Museum to inhale a few Pre-Raphaelite pictures. And then, down in the shop ....

... I found A, who is a character in FallingBook. While I've long had pretty clear images in my head of what the other main characters look like, somehow A has always eluded me. But no longer. There he was on this postcard:
 
Samuel Palmer

Such a modern image isn't it? But in fact, it's a self-portrait of artist Samuel Palmer (1805-1881). I couldn't believe it. There I was perusing the postcards, and there he was.

Love it when that happens.




jennygordon: (Clematis)
So, I have a question for you guys.

Currently, FallingBook opens with a dream.

Which is a big cliched no-no.

It's not the kind of set-up where I reveal that 'Ha! It was all a dream!' in the next chapter. It's more a premonition combined with a flashback in the form of a dream, which sets up the question of M's sanity and mindset, along with what she wants and what she fears. I make it clear in the first couple of lines that she's dreaming and she knows she's dreaming, so I'm not playing tricks with the reader.

The trouble is, I'm having trouble thinking up another way to open the book with the sort of mood and questions I want to establish at the outset. The dream solution in its current form ticks all the boxes nicely. On the other hand, I desperately don't want to be Cliched No-no Girl.

So, I thought I would ask you guys for your thoughts/views/words of wisdom about books that open with a dream, and how you feel about such books.

Thanks in advance.
jennygordon: (Blue Butterfly)
Yesterday, I spent a fun few hours with FallingBook. In my eagerness to begin, I leapfrogged the 'planning' part (just for the day), and decided to have a play with the first chapter, which belongs to M in the present time. In the 2010 MS (the most recent version of the book), she's written in first person, past tense, but I've more-or-less completely decided that I want to switch her to third person, past tense. Same with F (whose story is also in the present time). Twenty-years-ago M will remain in first person, for the power and immediacy of that voice. It'll take too long to explain why, but this feels right for the balance of the story.

Well, okay, I'll explain a bit.

*Look away now if this sort of thing bores the pants off you!*

See, the book I'm currently reading (which is a wonderful romp) is written in first person, past tense. But it would lose nothing at all if it were simply switched to third person, without altering anything else. See, the first person voice isn't distinctive enough to make any difference to the telling. It's simply 'I said,' instead of 'she said.' To me, that's a waste of a first person voice, which should be distinctive in its language choice and vehicles of expression. You should be very much inside that character's head and persona. The 2010 MS suffers from more or less the same thing, with the exception that I was mindful of the language choices I made for each first person voice.

So why not work harder on my first person voices? Well, using third person provides a nice distance from the characters which suits the story for the two threads told in the present, contrasting nicely with the immediacy of twenty-years-ago M's first person. And also, switching to third person gives me freedom for narrative flourishes I wouldn't be able to indulge in were I to stick to first person.

Ask me again next week, and I'll probably have changed my mind again!

*Okay, boring technical part over.*

So anyway, there I was, happily transposing from the old MS into a shiny new document, and you know what struck me?

Man, I used to be wordy. Stupidly wordy. Honestly, I went on ... and on ... and on. So much so that I've reduced the chunk I worked on by almost half without breaking sweat.

It just goes to show how far I've come in the four years since that MS was completed. A lot of that progress, I put down to the fact that I have spent those 4 years writing Young Adult fiction. By their nature, YA novels tend to be considerably shorter than adult ones. You need to be concise and economical with your wordage. It's been a valuable lesson for me.

Plus, it's heartening to revisit something I wrote as relatively recently as 4 years ago, and see the undoubted progress my writing has made since then. Hopefully it'll aid in finding my way with this new version of FallingBook.
jennygordon: (Froud)
One of the head-scratchings I've been puzzling over with regards to FallingBook is whose story it actually is.

Well, I say I've been puzzling over it, and it's really not such a big puzzle: it's M's story. The thing that's puzzling me - and has puzzled me all along about how to go about telling her story - is how best to do it. See, currently, the story is told by M as a young woman (20 years before), M in the present, and her daughter, F, also in the present. It makes sense to me that all three voices should be there in the telling, but at the moment, in terms of word count, present F and present M are about equal, with 20-years-ago M weighing in with by far the greatest word countage.

This is definitely skewed. I need to weight it far more in favour of M in the present. But how? How to do that, without losing the important aspects of the story that F and 20-years-ago M bring to it?

Hmmm ... more head-scratching required, I think. Much more.
jennygordon: (Great Grey Heron)
Turns out I lied to [livejournal.com profile] readthisandweep last week when I told her I didn't think I'd be turning to plotting tools, such as Blake Snyder's 'Save the Cat' worksheet, or this one, which proved very useful when I was writing SeaNovel. Almost as soon as I told her that I think the structure of FallingBook is already there in the old MS version, I started to laugh at myself and my delusion. It was soon very clear to me that using plotting tools was precisely my next step with this project.

As a result, I've spent extremely valuable time over the last couple of days with my beloved EXCEL, creating a spreadsheet which sets out the stages of a novel's structure, then alongside those a chapter-by-chapter breakdown of the old MS, ticking off where each of the stages appears, where they're strong enough, where they need further work, not to mention ... er ... where they don't exist at all!

I can't tell you what a useful exercise it's been. (Well, I can, and am). Truly, it's going to be a great starting point for working out where I go with the new version of FallingBook. My next step is to transpose the notes I jotted whilst reading through the MS next to each chapter summary, then to start playing around with the content so I can see what works of the old MS and what doesn't. It's enormously satisfying seeing it all set out on a spreadsheet. EXCEL really is a brilliant place for planning in this way.

So, this is me eating my words (nom, nom, nom, gulp) and sending some beautiful wisteria by way of apology for my fib - it smells heavenly too.

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.
jennygordon: (Water Lily)
I commented in my previous post that releasing unedited, drafty-first-draft pieces of writing into the world (as the Merry Sisters did on their shared writing blog) is a brave thing. Not something I'd ever dare ... Then I remembered that I did.

Once.

It was in response to one of the prompts the Sisters posted, inviting their blog readers to compose their own piece, inspired by this classic image:

large_dulac_princess_pea_p

I've just dug it out and re-read it, and it made me laugh, so I thought I'd share, since I don't imagine any of you have seen it before. Here's the original post.

And here's a copy of the story in case you can't be bothered to flick back to the original:

The Princess and the Pea

Ouch, damnit.  There’s nothing I hate more than breaking in a new mattress, and I’ve got twenty of the bastards to deal with here.  Now where the hell did I put my chocolates?  Ah, there they are.  Just as well they didn’t fall off – it’s quite a drop from up here, and they did insist on taking away the ladder.  Afraid I’d hurt myself, bless them.  You know, normally I’d be reading a chapter or two before settling down for the night, if it wasn’t for that drop.  Trouble is, the cord from the bedside lamp won’t stretch far enough and, well, have you ever seen a bedside table with twenty-foot long legs?

Seems crazy, doesn’t it?  I mean, why deny myself one of my few night-time pleasures (yes, and we’re not going to discuss that here, okay?)  The trouble is, the stupid, pea-brain prince did demand that I undergo this ridiculous test, just to be sure I’m the genuine article.  To be honest, I blame his mother.  I mean, you should see the sourpuss face on her, and the make-up.  Jeez.  Talk about plastering over the cracks.  I reckon the local DIY store must do alright by her.  And really, I’m not all that sure I want her for a mother-in-law anyway.  Nice of her to provide the chocolates, I will say that for her, although I bet she’s hoping they’ll bring me out in spots.

Ow.  I can’t tell you how uncomfortable this is.  Honestly, it’s like having whacking great boulders planted under you.  I don’t know how I’m going to get a wink of sleep.  Even after that delightful good-night kiss I wheedled out of the prince.

‘Just in case I do turn out to be the right one,’ I told him, stretching extravagantly so he’d get a good look at the low-cut neckline of my nightie.  ‘After all, we need there to be some chemistry too, don’t we?’

He really didn’t take too much persuading, which is why I think it’s his mother who’s the one behind this stupid plan to test each prospective girlfriend.  Princey was even sly enough to send her away with the guard for another blanket because I might get cold.  No points for guessing where his gaze was fixed to give him that idea.

Anyway, it was sweet of him because it meant we had the most delicious moment or two alone together.

Sad to say there was no chemistry at all.

Ouch.

Still, it gave me time to do the necessary.

I just wish I’d managed to pack him between the layers of mattresses a bit better, but I didn’t have long, and I had to wipe up the blood before his mother came back as well.

‘Gone away to sulk, probably,’ I told her when she wondered what had happened to her darling boy.

Foolish boy, more like.  Doesn’t he know that all girls are real princesses?

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jennygordon

January 2016

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