storytimewithbuffy

Posts Tagged ‘Writing’

On Character Interviews and Family Relationships

In My Writing on November 13, 2013 at 8:00 pm
My family members have asked that I not post their pictures on the internet so here's a picture of the Celestial Turtle Pond in Wilmington. We went there as a family on a day trip once.

My family members have asked that I not post their pictures on the internet so here’s a picture of the Celestial Turtle Pond in Wilmington, NC. We went there as a family on a day trip once and I was bemused by this bit of randomness.

Hello there! As you may know from a previous post, I’m editing my first manuscript. It’s slow going as I’ve decided to interview all of my characters about things that happen within each chapter. This is a really great way of filling in the oh-so many plot holes that will inevitably occur in your writing. As I reread my manuscript after letting it marinate for about a year, I often found myself wondering “why the heck would he/she do that??”. I honestly don’t remember what was going on in my head at the time. I’m sure I had reasons for some of the things I wrote, but I really wish that I could remember them.

If you don’t know why your characters are acting a certain way, it’s best to ask them. And yes, I realise how ridiculous that sounds, but it’s a really cool way to get to know them. You’d be surprised about the ideas you can come up with if you pretend that they are real people. We’ll see how it all works out in the rewrite.

But man oh man! It is time consuming! I’m working on my cast in Chapter One now that I’ve filled in the plot holes of my Prologue.

Yes, people. I had plot holes in my Prologue.

Anyway, it’s going pretty well. Slowly, but I’m happy with my results.

My writing has been slowed down somewhat by some personal things that are going on in my life (that I don’t really want to go into). My confidence was knocked and I wasn’t feeling very good about myself.

What does a girl do when she’s in this situation? Obviously, she emails her mom.

I must say that I am so fortunate to have amazingly supportive family members. My parents are fantastic. I’ve always been fiercely independent and I’m sure that sometimes makes them think that I don’t need them, but it definitely isn’t the case. We live over 6000 miles away from each other and I’m not always the best with constant communication, but their moral support is crucial to my happiness. I also got really lucky with my in-laws. My father-in-law and his partner are also very supportive of me and my husband. How many people can boast having great parents AND in-laws?

Anyway, my mom’s reply to my email was rounded out with this:

I love you lots & think you’re great!!!  What more do you need?!?!?  🙂

And then I got a further email that said this:

I meant to tell you…I’ve been reading your blog & you are a wonderful writer!!   I guess I’ve not read a lot of your writing before but am enjoying!!  I love you!!

She pretty much made my day. I even teared up a little bit. I’m not lying. My mom reads my blog. She and I have very different tastes in books, yet she reads my blog. And thinks that I’m a wonderful writer. I can’t even begin to tell you how much that means to me.

I realise this post is all over the place, but I really felt like writing what was on my mind tonight.

I hope you have  a great evening. If you can, go call your mom.

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The Thrill of Editing One’s Work

In My Writing on November 3, 2013 at 9:59 am
My manuscript.

My manuscript.

Hello there! I would like to start this post by saying, yes, I changed my blog theme. I know that it’s a bit jarring when one changes the look of one’s blog but it had to be done. I’ve recently come upon a few blogs with the same theme as mine. I know that there are a limited amount of free Word Press themes and that it’s bound to happen, but it somehow leaves me feeling somewhat less special. I think I’m actually following one of the people so I felt that it was time to change. I don’t want to be distracted from someone’s content by such a niggling little thing. Also, I really like this theme as it makes much better use of the space. We’ll see how it goes. I like to change things up from time to time.

Anyway, today I’m going to talk about my writing. You might remember from one of my posts that I am going to start working on revising a novel that I finished last year. I sent it off to a competition back in December and haven’t touched it since then. And then, all of a sudden, the urge came upon me to dust off the latest draft (Draft 5, that is) and see if I can make it readable. When that urge hits, as my writerly friends will know, it just cannot be ignored.

I’m not sure what your editing process is like, but I must have paper. I write things out long-hand and then type them up. I print out my draft and then scribble scrabble all over it and then add the changes to my Word document. It’s just the way I roll. The words flow from my brain, down the right side of my neck and shoulder and then all the way down my arm, past my fingers and into the pen which then puts it on the paper. Screens intimidate my words. They flee to the farthest reaches of my person and will not be coaxed to where they’re meant to be. I’ve tried so many times. Sometimes I even write my blog posts out on paper before committing them to technology. Usually those are my best and most well-thought out posts. (If this one sucks, I blame it on technology and the fact that the words are shooting from my brain to splat onto the screen in real time.)

Therefore, I needed my novel printed out so that I can work on it. I contacted this lovely company in Essex called Acors Press that we use for our printing needs at work and they have printed my manuscript for me. I would like to give them a little shout out here because I love them so much. I work in London and as you can imagine, people can be quite cold and distant in the city. I can’t remember how I happened upon this company, but a few years ago we needed something printed and I found them because they had the best rates. But they’re also the loveliest people. They are so friendly and their work is of the highest quality. If you are in England and need a manuscript printed out please do consider them. They are super nice and that makes a huge difference.

So, I received my manuscript in the post on shiny, high-quality paper and I had to show it to anyone who would look because it was fantastic to see it printed out like that. I felt like I was showing people my new baby. They oohed and aahhed appropriately.

And then I started reading it and realised why I didn’t win the competition. Oh my days…

That’s ok, though. I’ve got a plan. I’m going through chapter by chapter with a notebook in hand and writing down questions for myself to answer. For example, in one chapter I’ve got a character who isn’t good at lying. One of the other characters says so. Then a few chapters later, he can lie effortlessly. Also for each chapter, I’m making a list of characters who feature in that chapter and I’m going to re-interview them.

This is something that I really love doing. As you may know from earlier posts, character development is really important to me. I want to read about characters who seem like real people. Some authors are able to do this really well and some aren’t. I once read some advice from someone about interviewing characters to see what they’re really like. It sounds really silly and a bit mental, but it works really well. You probably won’t use the stuff that you get from the interview but it will help you to get a better sense for what they’re like and you’ll be able to convey that in your story a lot better. I interviewed my characters back when I first started editing the first draft, but the story has changed so much since that draft and as I’m reading draft 5, I’m finding a lot of character inconsistencies. It will be time-consuming, but I want to get it right so I’m willing to put in the time.

Another thing for my notebook is that I’ll have a list of items that the characters have in each chapter as well as key points to remember from the chapter. ie. So-and-so isn’t a good liar. One of my characters produced a rope from Lord-knows-where in chapter 10 or something. It was pretty interesting (and jarring) that he produced this thing out of thin air.

So, yes, this is going to be a painstaking process, but I think that it will be worth it to finally have this thing finished. After 3 years. It will probably be 4 years before I fully finish it. Oh dear… I need to wrap up this blog post and get editing!

Getting the Lead Out

In My Writing on October 27, 2013 at 9:06 am

As October comes to an end, many of you are gearing up to begin National Novel Writing Month. Although I won’t be joining in on the mad scribbling, I’ll be participating indirectly. Sort of. But maybe not really. You see, I participated back in 2010 (and won with 50,006 words. woo!). I worked for the next two years to edit the fruits of my labour, which was quite a task.

50,006 words!

50,006 words!

NaNoWriMo is a heady and intense experience and I’m so glad that I did it. It got me into the habit of writing every day and I’ve been more disciplined with my writing since then. However, the problem with scribbling your entire novel with your internal editor switched off is that it can be massively difficult to go back over it once November ends and make something coherent out of it. Hence, the two years.

Last December, I finished it up and sent it off to a competition (that I didn’t win, by the way). I had worked on my story so much that I was pretty sick of it by then. Once I sent it off, I started working on ideas for the novel I’m working on now. I’ve been researching, outlining and dabbling in writing the actual story during 2013.

But all of a sudden, a switch has been flipped. All of a sudden I want to go over my first story. After all, I have 88k words just sitting there not doing anything. I would really like to try to get it published. So, last night I started reading it again with a view to cleaning it up and filling in any potential plot holes so that I can send it off to literary agencies/publishers.

Let me stop you before anyone mentions self-publishing. This isn’t a path I’m interested in at the moment. Perhaps in the future, if I don’t have luck with publishers. We’ll see how I feel about it then. For now, it’s not an avenue I’d like to travel.

As I was reading my story last night I kept thinking that it was ok. There were times when it actually felt like I was reading a novel. That’s probably a good thing.

The problem is that no one else has read it. Ever. Not even the hubs. I’m not sure if the people I submitted it to read it as I wasn’t sent any confirmation that they had even received it. This means that I have absolutely no idea as to its readability.

Once I’ve read it and let my husband read it, I’ll be looking for beta readers so if you think you’d be interested in that kind of thing please keep it in the back of your mind. (I’m not quite ready for anyone else to read it just yet.)

It’s actually terrifying to think of people reading my book, which is silly because books are meant to be read. However, I suffer from self-doubt in a big way. Sometimes it’s almost crippling. Why on earth would I think that anyone would want to read what I’ve written? It probably isn’t very good. Who do I think I am, trying to foist my work on an unsuspecting public?

You get the idea.

These are hurdles I’m trying to get over. (Although I’d be much happier if I could just effortlessly walk around them…)

Anyway, I shall continue reading my work today and I’ll let you know how it goes. I definitely think that it’s time for this story to come out of hiding and I finally feel ready to tackle it. I’m going to do my best to put myself out there even though I’d rather hug my precious pages to myself and hide under the covers.

On a completely different note, last night my husband came home from work with a present for me. Behold!

Reimagined in glorious iambic pentameter.

Reimagined in glorious iambic pentameter.

This is exactly why I married him. I’ve only read up to page 36 so far, but oh, the giggles! Obviously, this book is best read if you have seen (and liked) Star Wars. That’s all I’ll say for now. I’ll be doing a blog post on this book once I’ve finished it.

It makes me chuckle to think of the looks I’ll be getting when I read this on the tube tomorrow! I’m sure I’ll be giggling all the way to work.

Deadlines and Stationery

In My Writing on September 25, 2013 at 9:14 pm

Hello there!

Apologies for my absence, my blogging friends. I’ve had a busy week. My office has moved, so I’ve been super busy at work. I’m also still getting used to the new office. It’s nice, but it is in a different part of the city (although very close to the old office) but I’ve had to find a new route into work. It’s a bit refreshing as it feels like I’ve got a new job. A change of scenery is a good thing.

I was also away for the weekend.

All of this means that I haven’t really had much time to read. Quelle horreur! Therefore I have no books to talk to you about.

I have, however, managed to make some time to write. It’s difficult because I have to get up earlier to get to the new office, which means that getting up half an hour earlier means that I would have to get up an hour earlier if I want to write. I’m not a morning person so please be assured that this feat of will-power and self-discipline is just not possible. I’ve promised myself that I will absolutely make time in the evenings for my writing. So far, so good. (Except tonight because I’m writing this post. Look, people. I’m not a machine!)

In the spirit of encouraging myself to work harder and make more time for my writing, I’ve decided that I need some goals. Obviously, that means that I’ve had to pay a visit to the stationery shop.

Is that not obvious? Hmmmm… It will be once you get a look at this baby:

Writing Diary

 

Yes, I bought a new diary. It’s a weekly diary which allows me to make weekly goals and each day I write an entry about what I wrote that day. I’m not going to show you a picture of that just yet because I just got it yesterday and I don’t want you to be underwhelmed.

Anyway, on to my writing. I’ve been rewriting my Chapter 1 for ages. I wasn’t very happy with the ending of it so I’ve written alternate endings in order to see what will work the best. I think that I’ve got it now. It will still need a bit of editing as I’m really trying to hone my style. I also tend to scrimp on description so I’m working on that as well. It would seem that people aren’t able to see the things in my head unless I put them ALL on paper.

My protagonist is a young girl and my husband pointed out that a kid that age wouldn’t phrase things the way that I do. Apparently, I like big words and my writing tends to be a bit formal. He made quite a few interesting and helpful points that I’m trying to incorporate into my work. I think that I’m just about ready to move on to Chapter 2 now.

At some point I’m going to read my work out loud. I always feel pretty silly doing it at first, but it’s really helpful, especially with dialogue. Reading it out loud is the best way to make sure it flows.

I’m quite excited about my story and would like to work on it more that I do. (Darn that full time job!) I’ll have to content myself with chipping away at it a bit at a time. I’ll be interested to see how well I can stick to my deadlines. I’m going to do my best!

What about you? Do you set deadlines? Do you edit as you go or do you write now and edit later?

The Aquarian Guide to African Mythology

In Book Reviews on July 17, 2013 at 6:00 am

The Aquarian Guide to African Mythology

Aquarian Press 1990

Guess what. I’m writing a novel. This is my first time writing a blog post about it, but now you know. As you can probably guess from the title, my story is going to be based on African mythology. Some of you may already know this, but I love reading mythology. I love stories of fantastic creatures and larger-than-life heroes. I’ve read a few retellings and have been inspired to try my hand at it.

As you can imagine, it’s pretty daunting.

Africa has so many different cultures, languages and stories. Where does one start? Well, my story isn’t actually going to take place in Africa. I’m going to create my own world with similar regions, biomes and creatures as there are in Africa. I’m going to populate it with spirits, cannibals, witches, gods, goddesses, kings, queens, heroes and villains. To my intense delight, I found that Amazons are also represented in African mythology. I didn’t want to represent (or offend) only one culture, so I’ve decided to do a mish-mash and take as many of the interesting things that I could find to create my story.

When I came up with this idea, I was completely ignorant of African mythology.  We’re not exposed to it in the west, which is a shame because it’s fascinating. This book was an excellent place to start. It’s sort of an encyclopaedia as the various topics are listed in alphabetical order but it sparked so many ideas. I still have a lot of research to do but this was fantastic for dipping my toes into the mythology.

I’ve gotten as far as creating my main characters and I have a basic idea of how I want the story to go. I’ve already got a beginning and an end, so that’s a pretty good start. I’ve been working on my outline and researching as I go along.

I’m not sure I’d recommend this book unless you’re reading with a mind towards research, unless you enjoy reading reference books for fun (which I could totally understand because I do) but it’s a great way to attain a basic grasp of African mythology.

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