News Worth Sharing

InsecureWritersSupportGroup2   For the first three of my monthly posts in the Insecure Writers Support Group I expressed my insecurities, concerns and general fears about my writing. Today I want to be positive as our monthly posts are also supposed to be offering encouragement. There are usually some excellent words of wisdom out there. I’m only number 207 among 320 other great bloggers. If you click here there are links to all of them and you can visit as many as you want. After months of prevarication, I have drafted my first newsletter and taken the first step on the MailChimp route – and I don’t regret it. This won’t be a MailChimp Guide since there are excellent ones available, like Jeri Walker-Bickett’s post “How to use MailChimp – From Sign-up To Send”. All I’m attempting to do today is to explain why I decided to go down the newsletter path and what I hope to find. Letter writing was not something that came easily to me, whether writing Thank You letters as a child, or staying in touch with friends as I grew older. However, during my career as an equestrian journalist I produced a 12-24 page quarterly newsletter for a carriage driving club. An interesting challenge as I had to master design software and PDF production. So no excuse when it comes to a simple one page newsletter in MailChimp.

Dick Lane and his team of Lipizzaners at Brighton Driving Trials

Dick Lane and his team of Lipizzaners at Brighton Driving Trials

The design options are more basic than Publisher but I can see the potential to offer readers the following – in no particular order:

  1. Links to recent Blog posts
  2. Updates on published novels, like “Spiral of Hooves”
  3. Research thoughts and Links relating to my Worlds & Work In Progress
  4. Books read, reading and recommended
  5. Interviews with authors I follow
  6. News about my current writing projects
  7. Other people’s Tweets, Blogs and thoughts that have inspired me

Most of these don’t make interesting blog posts and yet they can be very useful to followers, when phrased right. The Gossamer Wings Newsletter will allow me to keep in touch better with you… better than sporadic posts that give a snapshot of my life. I want to make this work and I believe that having a newsletter is part of the way forward, not just for me but also for other authors. What would you expect to see in my newsletter? Would you be interested in receiving a copy? How often would you want to be sent one?

It might take a week or two perfecting a newsletter that is worthy of being sent but, if you are interested, please sign up below. [I tried adding a Widget to the site but it seems that MailChimp and WordPress haven’t sorted out a compatible code.]

But I have now found the solution and you can sign up here: http://eepurl.com/V3mq5

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My Main Character

Snowdon Night ~ by Juanita Clarke

Snowdon Night ~ by Juanita Clarke

This is one of those blog themes doing the rounds and it was Ailsa Abraham, after blogging about her Main character, that asked for volunteers as so many of us had already taken part. 🙂 I was hesitant to step forward but Facebook writer friend David W Robinson encouraged me to have a go  – although I had to confess that it might be another means to put off my outstanding editing. In fact that’s been outstanding for eleven months.

First I should say that David is the opposite of me, as a visit to his ‘My Writing Process’ post at http://www.dwrob.com/2014/05/my-writing-process/ should make clear. He’s also a very prolific writer and one of the awesome Crooked Cat authors, which is in contrast to my single novel in print. Or can I count all those magazine and newspaper articles… guess not.

However, we share a passion for crime, even if his novels see the world outside his productive mind. Please check out his site and enjoy his writing.

Beyond the words ‘sporadic’ and ‘erratic’ there is a pattern to my writing. At specific times of the year, mainly during November and NaNoWriMo, I focus on getting a first draft down on paper. I usually aim to plot this novel out in detail during previous months, leaving room for the characters to introduce their own direction to the tale. Sometimes I manage to fit the draft for another novel into a year, and write that in the same way – outline and fast first draft.

That means that it’s tough to choose a main character, especially as I’ve also been working on the various shorts set in my “Gossamer Flames” world.

Enough prevaricating, time to talk about about My Main Character. But I need to answer the ‘set questions’ about the draft most likely to be read by my devoted fans 😉 – “Fates Maelstrom”.

Snowdonia ~ Juanita Clarke

Snowdonia ~ Juanita Clarke

1. What is the name of your character? Is he/she fictional or a historic person?

Although there are two POVs in “Fates Maelstrom”, the plot revolves around Twyla Locke, a fictional young woman in her last year of college in North Wales. Although she is a creation of my imagination, I am sure that I have taken some traits from people I know.

2. When and where is the story set?

Set in or just before the present. In the first draft of “Fates Maelstrom” the story was set predominantly in and around the fictional village of Hawktrewen on the edge of Dartmoor, with some climactic scenes around Lake Como in Italy. However, I am relocating the Dartmoor scenes to Snowdonia where I now live. The setting plays a key role as the story unfolds, with ancient standing stones and 18th century follies as well as natural landscape weaving into the plot, along with the rich legends of the area.

3. What should we know about him/her?

Twyla was just a baby when her parents died in a boating accident on Lake Como, so she has been brought up by her mother’s sister Ruby Horn in the Romani community of Horn’s Furrow, which has earned a place in the village, despite prejudices about ‘travellers’. However, her father was born into the local English landowning family, the Lockes, themselves seen as interlopers by the native Welsh.

4. What is the main conflict? What messes up his/her life?

The murder of Twyla’s grandfather Aubrey Locke exposes the deceptions that lie behind the prejudices of a divided village. Twyla becomes the prime suspect not only because she is seen as a ‘typical gypsy’ but because there are witnesses to her being at the murder scene at the right time. Either someone is impersonating her, or she has a split personality. The latter becoming more likely as she suffers blackouts, and fears that she is becoming like her ancestor Mad Geffron Locke, whose spirit haunts her. American journalist, Brogan Keyes gives her an alibi but his relationship with her cousin Yazzi Locke arouses her suspicions and drives her closer to a breakdown. .

5. What is the personal goal of the character?

Before she was accused of murder, Twyla was aiming to obtain her degree and help her aunt Ruby with the horticultural business that keeps the Romani community thriving. However, beyond clearing her name, Twyla now needs to ensure that Horn’s Furrow survives the threat to its existence that is caused by the death of Aubrey Locke. Also, are her health problems a sign that she is going mad? Or has someone framed her for murder?

6. Is there a working title for this novel, and can we read more about it?

The working title is “Fates Maelstrom” and I will keep my followers informed of its progress on this website. When I have revised the first draft to reflect the new setting of Snowdonia, I will probably add another page, as I did with “Spiral of Hooves” and “Gossamer Flames”.

7. When can we expect the book to be published?

I have to work around my health problems, and my inclination to distract myself, so it will probably be some time in 2015… and that will also depend on a publisher.

Anyway, whatever I do to prevaricate, you all know what I intend to work on – as well as the “Gossamer Flames” shorts. Suppose that means that I have no excuse now. Tomorrow I must start on revising something – or maybe next week.

Please can I also ask for volunteers to take on the “My Main Character” torch – thanks and good scribbling.

My Writing Process

20131020-183840

This is one of those blog memes doing the rounds and it was Facebook writer friend David W Robinson who encouraged me to have a go  – although I had to confess that it might be another means to put off my outstanding edit. In fact that’s been outstanding for eleven months.

First I should say that David is the opposite of me, as a visit to his ‘My Writing Process’ post at http://www.dwrob.com/2014/05/my-writing-process/ should make clear. He’s also a very prolific writer and one of the awesome Crooked Cat authors, which is in contrast to my single novel in print. Or can I count all those magazine and newspaper articles… guess not.

However, we share a passion for crime even if his see daylight beyond his eyes. Please check out his site and enjoy his writing.

Enough prevaricating, time to confess about My Writing Process.

Beyond the words ‘sporadic’ and ‘erratic’ there is a pattern. At specific times of the year, mainly during November and NaNoWriMo, I focus on getting a first draft down on paper. I usually aim to plot this novel out in detail during previous months, leaving room for the characters to introduce their own direction to the tale. Sometimes I manage to fit the draft for another novel into a year, and write that in the same way – outline and fast first draft.

However, this process has left me with five unfinished novels, including the one that I class as “the outstanding edit” – ‘Wyrm Bait’. I wrote the first draft in July 2011 and I revised it in 2012 using a cut & past approach = printed version, lots of colour pens, cards, shuffling and slicing. When I was satisfied with the third draft of ‘Wyrm Bait’, I sent it to some professional editors – Hyland & Byrne – and received some very constructive comments, suggestions and line-by-line changes. That was in June and I still need to start on the next revision using their material.

That means there’s no writing process there, although I have completed another NaNo draft and various shorts set in my Gossamer Flamesl world. Somehow re-writing and editing shorts is easier to face than a whole novel. Too many distractions standing in my way like emails, reading other blogs, social media, not to mention moving house.

Yet, if I take a step back and look at this all carefully, I can see a pattern. Rather than work in large chunks of text or time, I choose smaller slivers to focus on – small specific targets, like short stories.

And what is a novel but a series of carefully crafted scenes, with twists, turns and threads weaving them together. Maybe dividing it up that way, pacing myself, will become my re-writing process.

So I have no excuse now. Tomorrow I must start on revising ‘Wyrm Bait’ – or maybe next week.

spiral2

 

 

Eight Headless Chickens

headless-chickens

It was a good end to 2013 with my first book published and the first draft of the sequel written, but January has been eight chaotic days, running around like the headless cliché… sorry, I mean chicken.

As I said in my non-resolution, Baiting the Bull, I had simplified my plans for 2014, aiming for just a small step each day. In a way that worked, but my mind still wants to veer off down different tracks.

Is that because it knows that I am playing mind games? I can’t hide the potential workload from myself, not when it mocks me each day. I sit at the computer and know what is going on, however hard I try to shut the demands off.

There are at least eight demanding chickens that I cannot hide from.

Cover credit: Danielle Sands

Cover credit: Danielle Sands

  1. Spiral of Hooves: the novel won’t sell itself so I need to promote it, without spamming the world.
  2. Wyrm Bait: the second novel I wrote, which has been professionally edited. But I’m finding it hard to tackle a rewrite.
  3. Gossamer Steel: a collection of short stories that links to Wyrm Bait. Where my passion is at the moment. Also have a linked novella, The Last Leaf, my 2011 NaNoWriMo win that needs editing.
  4. Challenges: 100 k in 100 days and My 500 Words. These give me the daily challenge to write – as in 3 – but not to edit. Will suffer when 7 takes over.
  5. Reading Blogs and other Social Media: finding enough time to give these justice is nigh impossible, and yet I need to connect with other people out there. That includes all the amazing IWSG folk.
  6. Reading novels on Kindle &/or paper: a writer needs to read, if only for pleasure. But sadly, as a slow reader, I have difficulty reading on a Kindle but that’s how I buy my books. Quicker reader the old fashioned, un-ecological way.
  7. Packing for our move to Wales next month: in less than eight weeks we are moving to Harlech. Boxes are taking over our lives, and the other details must be sorted. Writing will get harder.
  8. Gaming: something had to suffer and this is it. Some would say good riddance to this waste of valuable time. But it is crucial escapism, especially when you are trapped by a wheelchair. It is also the inspiration behind 2 & 3.

I need to focus myself back on the basic steps forward, and stop letting the headless syndrome affect me. I just need to identify the priorities. Without a head, this chicken can’t cross the road and get to the other side.

What do you think, dear reader? What’s the best way to cross the road?

***

InsecureWritersSupportGroup2

This is my first posting of 2014 for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group This is when we release our fears to the world – or offer encouragement to those who are feeling neurotic. If you’d like to join us, click on the tab above and sign up. We post the first Wednesday of every month. Visit at least a dozen new blogs and leave a comment. Your words might be the encouragement someone needs.

The awesome co-hosts today are Bob Milne, River Fairchild, Julie Dao, and Sarah Foster!  Many thanks to you all for your time and effort towards making all IWSG members feel welcome.

mike-the-headless-chicken1

And for those interested in Headless Chickens, visit:

http://www.coloradoguy.com/mike-the-headless-chicken/fruita.htm

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)