Monday, 9 July 2012

Touching base

Remember that shiny new blog plan? Remember when I screwed it up in less than a month?
Basically I got really depressed and really exhausted and could not be enthusiastic about anything if I tried, so I didn't.
Today should be a book review but it isn't it's a touch base because that's what I want to do. 

Now some of you will remember The List, my YA about a girl on the quest for the perfect boy. The last time I worked on it was November, it's about 35K and I've only a few more scenes planned to add in before first edits.

Currently it's being ignored in favour of The Koalas, my sci-fi story about flesh eating koalas. It's about 42K and almost done with first edits ( just two new scenes to add in). I'm hoping to finish the scenes and start second edits in August.

I'm not giving up on The List, I'm just working on The Koalas more right now and I'll probably go back to it while The Koalas is out for beta reading.

So that's where my works are at, how about yours? Just started? Deep in edits? Looking for an agent?

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Book review: Code Name Verity

I know today is Tuesday but I spent yesterday writing so had no time to blog. Today though you're getting a book review.

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

When I saw this sitting on top of a library shelf something about it seemed familiar, as if I'd heard about it but not paid much attention. So I picked it up along with Judith Kerr's "When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit." which created an unintended theme to my recent reading. 

Code Name Verity is written basically as two journals. The first by Verity herself who is writing the story of her friend Maddie as a sort of confession while being held prisoner in German occupied France. The second is Maddie writing her own journal from where Verity's writings end.
And that is about all I can say without completely spoiling the book. That's not because it's badly written and full of cliches, it's because it is so well written and so well thought out that even the tiniest hint of what goes on will spoil the thrill of it all. I could compare it to a famous film that uses the same sort of techniques but even that gives too much away. What I will say is that you'll want a paper copy of this, and you'll probably want to read it more than once to see exactly how well Wein has pieced her story together.

Essentially Code Name Verity is about the friendship that arises during the Second World War between two young women from vastly different backgrounds, and the lengths they will go to protect each other. It's a thrilling ride with heartache, a lot of heartache, some laughter and some rather gory bits. I really enjoyed it, more so than I thought I would enjoy a book that spends half it's time focused on a prisoner being tortured into betraying her country. I definitely think it's worth a read if you enjoy strong female leads, historical fiction or even just a piece of very well written literature.

Monday, 11 June 2012

The new blog schedule and why it's happening.

After a lot of thought and staring at possible blogging time tables and reading this excellent blog post on slow blogging I have reached a conclusion.

When I look around at the blogs I follow, all the people trying to be writers, all the ones with agents trying to get published and all the published ones, do you know who tends to post the most? The unpublished, unagented wannabes. I don't know, maybe it's different if you move away from YA writers because YA writers feel the need to be all hip with the modern media or something. Maybe we feel that if we just write enough blog posts we'll somehow show prospective agents/editors/buyers of books that we are someone worth reading, that we have what it takes to make it.
But is that really the message coming across?
Are you sure what your really saying isn't "I have too much time on my hands so here is yet another short blog post on a strange topic just to remind you all I can write things down"?

Look at it this way, if I spend less than 10 minutes on a blog post of about 300 words am I going to have written anything worth your time to read? What if I spend and hour on 1000 words? Or, as I did not so long ago, 4 hours on 1667 words? The chances are the longer I spend thinking about, writing and editing a post the better it will be. However this takes time, time I could spend writing the next New York Times Best Seller. 

So, I spend 4 hours a day, 3 days a week writing well thought out, beautifully written blog posts. What have I achieved? 3 blog posts very few people will read and 12 hours of writing time not spent on my WIP. That's not really going to progress me far down the road to authordom is it? However, what if I take those 12 hours. I use 1 every 3 days to read well written blogs that will teach me something or give me something to think about like the one I linked earlier. What if I use 1, 2 hours at the most touching base with other bloggers, commenting on their blogs and replying to their comments on mine. What if I use just 1 hour a week to post a quick update here, or a writing challenge, or a book review of a book I honestly think the world must read. It's 6 hours out of my writing time each week but it'll do a whole lot more for me than publishing reams and reams that no one will ever want to read.

And what, you may ask, does this mean for this blog, for the posts I will write, for the schedule that on Friday seemed so important. The honest answer is this: I don't know. I still want to write my blog, I still want to do monthly challenges and book reviews and silly little things. But I don't want to burn up my writing time trying to think of the next great post and then writing it. So here, in a rough, probably going to change, form is what the schedule is going to look like:

1st Monday of the month: Writing challenge - recap from last month, post/link some favorites, post the next one.
2nd Monday of the month: Books - review if I have one, wish list, general book talk.
3rd Monday of the month: Touch base - where my writing is at, current problems, possible teasers.
4th Monday of the month: Unknown - could be thoughts on a topic, commendation of another blog, a revisit to old projects or something else entirely.
5th Monday of the month: These are rare so I might use them to answer questions (real or made up) about me, my writing, writing in general, how to fit through a tennis raquet, whatever.

It's an odd kind of schedule but given how often I'm wide awake at 4am I can probably come up with a lot of the ideas then rather than just when I sit down to write it up which will save writing time. Yes I realize that by this I should be giving you a book review but I'm not, this is a 4th Monday kind of post instead. We'll just shuffle things around a bit this month and I'll give you a book review next week instead.

Thursday, 7 June 2012

A schedule me think will be a clever plan.

Some of you may remember back to a time when I did writing challenges and book reviews and teasers and such. Well, I'm thinking of getting back to that.

Probably slowly at first, probably with some kind of posting schedule too. See I think the problem is that I don't really know 'what' to post about but I'm still trying to post so I end up not posting. You follow? So maybe a schedule with set things to post on would help.

The only question is... what to start with. The writing challenges were easiest but work better with audience participation of which this blog has little to none. Book reviews might work but I'm only finishing one every month at the moment, not the 3 or 4 a week of before, unless you want reviews of baby books. What about something new and exciting? Then I'd have to think of what.
any suggestions?

I've put a reminder into my phone to blog on Monday. Guess I'll just have to see what I feel like posting when they day comes and go from there but hopefully whatever I post will be a weekly thing from now on. Or as weekly as I can manage.

Monday, 28 May 2012


So a lot of you may know about an annual event NaNoWriMo in it's traditional November, write 50k words in 30 days madness. But where you aware they also do the same thing in both June and August?

CampNaNoWriMo; it's all the fun of NaNo but with the summer sun shining down instead of the drizzly rain of November.* Instead of a large regional forum you can opt in (or out) of a Cabin with just you and 3-5 others, you can select to be with those sharing your age range, your genre, specific campers or a surprise mixture. and of course, because you could be mixed in with writers from all across the world 'write-ins' are not part of Camp unless you know enough writers locally to organise your own.

CampNaNoWriMo debuted last year is still quite new this year, there may be some kinks in the system to work through as more people join in the fun but just like it's older sibling in November it promises to be just as crazy, just as challenging and just as good at eating up your time (or making your house super clean as you procrastinate and fight writer's block). If you're a student with nothing to do over the summer or a stay-at-home mum who's tiny one is starting to give her more time to herself, or even if you work really hard full time and just want to add even more too it; I recommend at least giving Camp a go. If nothing else you will meet a few more writers and maybe make a few more friends than you had before the month.

So, why a long and rambling blog post on the event I signed up for weeks ago with only 3 days before it starts? Simple, it starts in 3 days and I have no idea if I can manage the word count that is needed (1667 words a day at least) around the baby. He is, right now, playing in his gym with his octopus toy but that won't last for ever (and from the damp patch at his leg I sense a nappy has leaked and a complete change of clothes may be on the cards for the near future). I have 24 in a day to try to write 1667 words. It sounds so simple but baby takes up a huge amount of time and it depends on his mood if he naps in his cot or only in my arms, if he'll play on his own or needs constant stimulation from me. And then there is the housework. We were away for most of last week so have piles of laundry, dirty dishes and other cleaning crying out to be done. Though if anyone thinks I'm cleaning that bathroom they can think again; the woodworm we were told was dead is very much alive and crawling all over the floor.

Crawling things and babies aside, thanks to the tiny netbook I may even be able to write in bed during those 4am feeds when he refuses to go back to sleep. Or on car journeys to visit relatives or do a bit of shopping. Or on Saturday mornings when I can convince the husband to take baby. Or Tuesday mornings when baby and I can go to the local church coffee morning and baby gets handed about and I can sit and type (and chat) while he socialises with the old people. Husband suggests I write on the toilet but 1) that's gross and 2) I'm never in there for long enough.

Of course, in a bid to make things a bit easier I'm being a rebel this year and going to continue working on the crazy koala story from November. It's still needing lots of work is now looking like it'll be a rather entertaining novel with at least one possibly two follow on novels. It's fun to write even if I only have a vague idea of where the story is going and no idea how to make what I think is the ending happen.

Because it gets asked a lot, allow me to explain about the koalas. Two years ago at a NaNoWriMo kick-off party we played a game called 'Pimp my plot'. Where you wrote a brief few lines on what you're story was going to be and passed it around for people to add to. There were about 20 of us there so that's a lot of pages to read and write on. One of the guys sitting near me suggested just writing the same thing on everyone's paper whether it made sense or not. For some reason I choose to add flesh eating koalas to almost every story that passed my way (A cry of "not more bloody koalas" was heard at the other end of the room later followed by "Needs more koalas." from me). It was a tad hilarious with just a touch of annoying (how big a touch depended on whether or not you cared about what had been added to your plot). Roll forward to the next year and another kick-off party where the same game was played and I was specifically warned not to add flesh eating koalas to any story line. I obeyed but only just**. Instead I wrote my brief plot as "Flesh eating koalas invade Edinburgh zoo." The plot I got back was hilarious.
Now, last year I was also being a rebel and had planned to continue working on The List and doing a few short stories throughout. However, a friend was writing her NaNo by hand and I came up with the idea that for every day she hit target I would write 1000 words of this koala story. She did really well to start with and by the time she gave up I was to engrossed in the story to stop so the whole thing was padded out and slowly became an actual novel. Every so often I'd get stuck over a name but the wonderful people in our regional chat room were always happy to supply and a lot of their user names and suggestions are scattered through the story (I may need to do something about that if I get it published). It has flesh eating koalas, shape-shifters, a strange robotic squirrel, a human boy that's not a human boy, an alien scientists running experiments on elderly humans, exploding snails, an exploding space dock and some very bad jokes. It's a lot of fun really though how I'm ever going to be able to give it to my in-laws I've no idea, I don't think it's really their kind of book.
Since then the same friend who helped start this koala madness has become a facebook friend and a lot of her status updates are written with abbreviations of websites in them or just seem to be written in code. Rather than ask what she's talking about I have been pretending she's living a secret double life as an inter-galactic space trader (mainly slaves but a side line in exploding snails and other dangerous cargo). So she is going to be the inspiration behind one of the characters of the next book which will be about llamas. Of course I first have to finish this koala story, edit it, beta it etc. etc. I'll get there in the end. Hopefully.

I think the biggest challenge will be using the time I get productively. Facebook, emails and the like are all going to eat into my time if I'm not very strict about getting the writing done. Of course not giving up just because baby is teething and screaming for comfort will also be an issue. I've already had to write part of this balancing a baby and his teether on my lap at the same time, not very easy I can tell you. But do-able. Just. I think the thing most likely to stop me will be the baby and him needing me. Given this has taken 2 hours to write so far, most done with him on my lap feeding or being comforted you'd think this would be easy but  it's the fact I've spent half an hour with him screaming in pain which could be an issue. One thing I'm sure of is that finishing Camp is no where near as important as making sure he's happy and meals and housework happen normally. I'd rather write 10 words a day and have a happy baby and a happy husband than write 2000 words a day with a screaming child and depressed and stressed husband. Priorities, you know?

Now that I've droned on and on and on about Camp and my plans and every other bit of nonsense in my head, let me finish by asking if you plan to do Camp. If so, what are you working on? If not, why not? I may well do this again tomorrow but you're very much welcome to ignore it as it will probably just be more inane ramblings of little importance.

While writing this batch of 1667 words I had to contend with 1 nappy change with change of clothes, 4 feeds, 1 morning nap (during which I had breakfast and got washed and dressed), 1 poo filled nappy, 2 issue with a lot of baby sick plus a change of clothes for both of us (and one for the couch), 1 screaming session because growing teeth hurts, 1 interruption by the mailman, another short nap, 1 photo shoot and a lot of writer's block. It's taken a little over four and a half hours to do and no housework has been done and it's now after 2pm and to hot to move off the couch. Oh well.

*Weather statement may not be valid in all areas.
** I did add some exploding snails and a platypus that foretold doom but both totally fitted into the already established plots. Honest.