Interview by a kindred spirit

When an opportunity to be interviewed comes along take it. That’s my advice as a retired journalist, who enjoyed interviewing people, and now as a fledgling novelist, when fantasy writer Ailsa Abraham kindly approached me. While I’m talking about Ailsa, I recommend that you all explore her inspiring blog with more than a few uplifting insights into the pagan world plus writing.  Over to you Ailsa:

Everyone always starts these “guest spots” by saying how thrilled they are etc. etc. but today I really AM delighted because my guest today is someone with whom I think I have a lot in common. We’ll see, shall we?………………… READ ON

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Disintegrating Characters

PhotonQ-Homer' s Evolution Theory

How should a novel’s characters evolve? Should one create the characters before the plot or as the story unfolds? Do you do sketches before writing your novel?

My first novel, Spiral of Hooves, began life as a rough outline back in 2000, but went through various versions, with characters changing their names, motives, roles, and in some cases ceasing to exist. Other writers in my novel writing group tried to suggest improvements, which I attempted to integrate into my evolving patchwork of plot and counterplot. Thirteen years later and I am taking on board the comments from my US e-book publisher’s editors. And I need to check the voice of some of my characters and their motives.

Time to check my character sketches. Except the 2000 versions are sketchy, if they even exist; probably on dusty floppy discs. But it seems that they only evolved in my head, not as updated notes. Bad move.

English: Spiral made of Floppy discs

English: Spiral made of Floppy discs (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So now I am producing new sketches and timelines as I check through the current manuscript. In most cases no old sketch exists so the page is blank, although I have an unfolding story to refer to, plus the scribbles in my head. Reminds me of writing character profiles in English Literature classes at school. Oh, and I need to create a timeline that matches the manuscript or at least shows where I have made errors.

Sounds like I’ve written my first novel in fits and starts, using multiple maps and asking the way from friendly faces that sent me via their favourite attractions. Just the basics to guide me so I must be a Pantser.

And here I am claiming to be a plotter. However I confess that almost all subsequent novels, now in various draft stages, have been plotted: detailed character sketches, timelines, scene by scene OR chapter by chapter outlines, and even research notes. But never set in stone, so when the first draft pours out, the unexpected and inspirational can happen. And my characters are often the ones driving the plots.

But which is best for characters sake? Pantser or Plotter? Will my plotted novels suffer the same fate as my first novel and spiral out of control, character sketches disintegrating as the timeline fractures?

Perhaps I need to upgrade my sketches more often, as the story evolves and the characters mature – like wine rather than cheese, I hope.

What do you do? What are your words of wisdom?

Creative Chinese Character Art

Creative Chinese Character Art (Photo credit: sinosplice)

Beyond the Monotony

A foggy evening 01

A foggy evening 01 (Photo credit: AnneCN)

What would you do after three months of editing?

Variety is the spice of life they say, but how do you achieve it? Stop editing and write? Switch projects? What happens if you have five draft novels all needing editing and two new plots pounding at your mind?

Most sensible writers seem to blend the editing and writing successfully, judging by their Blogs and their Facebook posts. But living with MS makes that hard. If I work at the revision then I no longer have the energy to do anything more than chill out. Which is why it has just taken me three months to complete the third revision of my 97k novel Wyrm Bait. Yesterday I sent it off to my editor for detailed analysis; also sent it to four beta readers for their thoughts.

Some time ago, I would have switched into writing mode and produced another draft novel, which is why there are so many lurking around, waiting to be edited. Heading the queue is that blast from my past, my first novel Spiral of Hooves. It’s been with the editors for the US ebook publishers – one English, one American – and is due back any day.

Decision made, therefore: I have to revise that next, addressing their input = another month or so of editing.

You Want Me To Go Down Where?!

You Want Me To Go Down Where?! (Photo credit: tobym)

Do I scream? It’s a change of setting, characters, plot and of problems to be addressed. But it’s still editing – NOT writing.

But editing is part of the writing process, the experts tell us. I need to learn to love the revision stage. The short cut of editing as I write is a gag on my creative flow. I prefer to plot carefully, write freely, and edit gradually. Except three times five novels = 15 months of editing. But total revision for each novel is far longer, which cuts out the creation. Doesn’t it?

However no new novels won’t work, not if I want to satisfy my urge to create and my potential readers urge for new words. When Spiral of Hooves sells, the readers should want the sequel, but it’s not written.

One source of new material has been NaNoWriMo in November and I have heard rumours of a June challenge as well. Is that the solution? NaNoWriMo has produced two first drafts: The Last Leaf (2011) and Wyrm Blood (2012). One took a month but the other was almost three to first draft completion. Even have two ideas in plotting process; if I can decide which one comes first in the penning order. Probably Tortuous Terrain the sequel to Spiral of Hooves. However Seeking A Knife is more alive in my mind. Decisions, decisions.

Image representing Facebook as depicted in Cru...

Image via CrunchBase

Need more time. Maths not looking good. Something needs to give. But what? Social media? Emails? Gaming? All cut to a minimum and part of my survival plan, whether to maintain contact or to chill and reward myself.

One solution is to blog rather than create new novels. Still writing and far faster, requiring quick editing. Revert to short stories and simplify my inspiration. Even novellas not novels. All ideas to be swept along in the tide of editing. And high tide is approaching. With MS lurking to dash the plans with exhaustion and pain.

So what do you do? What advise can you give the Silver Scribbler?