WHY RHYTHM AND PACE ARE JUST AS IMPORTANT AS CHARACTER. THE RISE AND FALL OF A NOVEL.

Haute Tension

Haute Tension (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Tap, tipetty, tap, tippetty, tap, go my feet along to my favorite songs on the MP3 player. Easy as pie, my head hears the beat and my feet they automatically know what to do. Oh dear fates now I am singing along and I have a voice that the local foxes and tomcat would be proud of.

When it involves music, its instinctive, you hear the beat and something in you knows what to do, connects on that cellular level that we are all instinctively looking for when we write. Music moves us, and we don’t have to do a thing……

Writing is different, it takes a lot of shitty firsts just to get the language right and once we’ve completed that and it’s readable we then look to structure. How long is this bad boy? Do I really need 120,000 words to say this or could I use fifty grand instead?

Where do I show? Start as close to the end as possible you say okay, “The End”, doesn’t seem that effective, begging your pardon. Use a hook for every paragraph? Are you fecking kidding me?

Okay, now I am exhausted reading it, so that doesn’t work.

This is my nemesis now, the rise and fall. I am not writing a thriller. So having my characters fall from one calamity to the next every paragraph doesn’t quite suit, I want drama and tension to come through, but I don’t want to manufacture nasty stuff to happen just because everyone tells you that you must have your character in deep doo-doo all the time. I am not sure it’s right.

Tension,is what I am trying to create and then resolution and then further tension, my novel should rise and fall like the ocean, sweeping the reader along with it. Disaster, then climax then build again. I want it believable and musical. I want my readers emotions to travel with them on the journey and whilst some of this is achieved by likeability and hateability of the central characters. A lot of this will happen via the structure and flow.

My perfect reader will be on a journey with my characters towards realisation. Not all my characters make it. In fact many that start the journey will fall and their friends and family will be irrevocably altered by their loss. Some for good and some for ill.

It’s creating that wave-like structure that I am finding the most challenging (along with everything else.) I seem to either have too much happening or too little, it’s such a fine balance.

I’d welcome suggestions from others who’ve struggled with the topic of pacing?

Are there any great craft books, you know of that deal essentially with this topic rather than anything else?

Why it is not so hot to find out you’re a plotter 6,000 words from “The End”

Scrivener (software)

Scrivener (software) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Oh dear, TTWI has just gone and done it again. I was six thousand words give or take some dialogue away from writing those two little words  “the end”. When my inner editor thought it would be a great idea, no, the best idea ever to have a look at the structure. Maybe even do some cork-boarding on Scrivener.

 

This was not a good idea, in fact in the history of bright ideas I’ve had recently this is in the bottom two.

 

I’ve just cut my darling to shreds, so we’ve gone from 73,456 words to 32,245 words in my still unfinished novel. It gets worse. I have to do some research and some plotting as well. The story in its original form wasn’t working, happy coincidences abounded and I hate these in other work. Person A just happens to be in the right place at the right time to intersect with Person B y’know the sort of stuff. My geography was all over the place and even worse people’s names were changing? How did I manage that?

 

So the current state of play is that I have a still unfinished novel…..

 

The upside to this is that the novel is one I’m happy with and I guess being happy and content with the 32,000 words I’ve got is better than having a steaming pile of finished.

 

There’s some real work to do. As easy as it would be to throw the net-book in a drawer and cry myself to sleep, it’s not happening. I always knew this was gonna be hard. Probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done and that’s okay.

 

40,000 to go….

 

I’m doing it. I am not giving up!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MY ATTEMPT TO BALANCE THE FORCE. WRITING AND WORKING.

Book cover, The Loyalty Effect (revised editio...

Book cover, The Loyalty Effect (revised edition) by Fred Reichheld (Harvard Business School Press, 2001) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I worked out a couple of months ago that to have any chance of achieving my dreams within writing. Something was going to have to give.Working 60 hours each week and trying to focus the rest of any time that I am not asleep with creativity and be present in my marriage and life was becoming impossible.

So I put my best foot forward and accepted some requests I’d had from other companies to go to interviews.

I didn’t apply for any of these new jobs, they came looking for me and now that I am two interviews away (two separate positions) from a new role with more time for writing I am really nervous.

I know that the move is the right thing and that in the long-term, I’ll have far more time to focus on my Book, the disadvantage is that with any new role comes those first six months where you are picking up a new culture and learning intensively every day. Long term I’m good but short-term it’s just as tough.

Back to the loyalty piece then. During this process I was also approached by a direct competitor of the company I work for with an offer for a role with a significant pay rise. Not just a couple of hundred extra a month. MUCH MORE.

I went along to the interviews because the company had a real refreshing out look on the work life balance and believes that productive people are those who are well rested and well-adjusted and not comatose with overwork. They had a leave early policy on a Friday and is very flexible in this regard.

I got through to the fourth stage, did all the psychometric tests, the logical truth tests, Yada, Yada. They asked for all my package details the night before the last interview. They wanted to make me an offer I would never be able to turn down. The only thing I needed to do was show up and barring swearing, arriving naked or killing someone I was good for this role.

I couldn’t do it, first thing in the morning I removed myself from the process. I know it sounds nuts but I don’t want to leave the current company on bad terms and it would’ve been bad terms. Frogmarched to the door, leaving, car, phone and laptop. I’ve seen it happen to others. The other two jobs I am still in the running for, whilst a similar role (better money) aren’t for direct competitors and whilst they’re never going to be happy about me leaving (for any reason) I wouldn’t have the bad terms hanging over me.

The Managing Director of the company wanted a chat about why I’d withdrawn and I explained my reasons to him. He didn’t get it. He was shocked that I would put some form of emotional attachment (loyalty) to my current employer above my own needs. He explained he’d done something similar and yes, it had been a distressing process to go to a competitor but he’d never looked back.

I just can’t do that…. I’ve never left a single company on bad terms and I am not about to start now.

Am I nuts? Is loyalty dead in the workplace?

Fiction, mine – From the book first draft.

The Queen fingers the fine brocade drapes hanging from the windows in her private reception room. Beautiful – if illegal, the embroidery created by slave children their fingers the only ones capable of creating such finery. The Chantry had a fit when they were first displayed. Of course, she said she’d found the fabric and felt that such suffering and sacrifice should be displayed, that not to comment on such awfulness would be a betrayal of the tiny hands that made it. A reminder that suffering was taking place.

The reception room is beautiful and decadent. The finest Cherrywoods, Ashes and Elms make every stick of furniture. Everything adorned with ivory inlays and great clawed carved feet touching the boards. Her fathers house shield is above the fireplace, a castle and a great horned stag stands at the top of a hill. In the old tongue, a motto “Strong in Faith and War” curls on a golden scroll at the bottom.

Her quarters are seperate to the Kings, a necessity it was said as she was such a light sleeper and the King often worked late. His quarters just down the hall should she wish to join him which is seldom these days. The reception room was added so she can work on all her many charitable chantry projects without interruption. He still loved her the idiot. How easy these fragile men are to manipulate.

The Queen sighs and seats herself at the central desk. Her willful son has gone into the City with the Royal Guard, the Prince will have his way. He is singular in his purpose and she is proud of his strength and lack of mercy. He will need to be strong for the journey ahead.

A small cough catches her attention and without raising her head,

“So, spectre what have you found out?” She shuffles through some of the parchments, she does not need to look up to see the grey hooded man standing in front of her. It is not an appointed time for a visit.

“The hermit wants to bring the plans forward Mistress, the King still lives. The hermit has given his word. It is time for you to keep yours. If you still wish the crown”

“I asked you a question” Her face is tight,

“Very well, your Son killed the beggar and then beat the boy half to death. Houses Passery, Clando, Jiant, and Fontain are all involved as witnesses and they all beat the boy.”

She rubs at her temple, she suspected as much Varkand had been difficult and sullen. “Thank you Spectre, this information is most useful.” Her face composed, she pauses stroking a gold letter opener. She cuts her finger and the coppery taste as she licks the wound thrills her. “Have you passed on this information to the Hermit?”

“No Queen, This information came to me but an hour ago. I have yet to report back.”

“So my problem remains. How am I to kill a well guarded King with a Physicka such as Lord Ranaya.”

The man shrugs, “That is not the Orders problem, mistress. You must find a way to ease him off the throne and into the beyond. The Hermit is not known for his patience and could become fractious if left too long.”

The Queen rises from the table and walks slowly towards the hooded figure. Grasping the hood in both hands she throws it back, the handsome man grins broadly. He places his hands at her waist and pulls her close before nuzzling into her neck.

“Is the door locked?” she asks.

“No” he replies, roughly lifting her from her feet and backing her towards the desk. He kisses her tenderly and begins to kneel as his kisses lead past the top of the bodice and down towards her belly. These dalliances have been fun, she’s enjoyed the Spectre these past months.

“Ohh yes, that’s so nice.” She croons, the letter opener concealed in her sleeve and as he lowers his head and begins to lift her skirts, it slithers into her hand. There have been so many assassination attempts, her fighting off an attacker will make calling for martial law when the King is dead far easier. Witnesses are for fools.

She grips the letter opener and raises her arm, the Spectre busy with her skirts, there is an opening at the shoulder on his leather breastplate under the soft grey fabric of the robe. She tenses the muscles in her arms and brings the letter opener down. He is ready for her, a dagger is in his hand and she topples backwards over the desk.

Jumping to her feet, her stance accomplished from years of sword training as a child in her fathers yard. The Spectre looks at his dagger, it glints dangerously and is twice the size of the gold letter opener held tightly in her fist.

“Did you think me so stupid? That dress is coming off and I’ll be getting what I’m due. I always thought your pleasure sounded false. I prefer my women quiet and subservient. Silent and dead should be jus’ fine.”

The secret to writing and the reason why this is Awesome!

Writing

Writing (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Do you want to know a little secret? Come closer and I’ll tell you. Now, are you sitting comfortably, got a drink? Go on, go get one, your favorite tipple or a hot chocolate, I’ll wait…

You all set? Great,

Ready, Set, Here it comes……..

“Writing isn’t easy.”

Phew, I said it. Did you think I was going to give you the secret sword of wordsmithing? Do you think that there is some sort of magic bean that instantly transforms you into a genius who wee’s excellence? Or perhaps one ring that rules them….. Sorry got carried away there.

We all wish there was and we’ve all seen the sales patter..

“Sign up for my webcast where I show how you can write a bestseller with next to no effort on your part…” and all for just 500 fat ones… Ohh PURLEASE

Ever thought that if you could just…… find the magic keyword that opens the door to blockbusterville closely accompanied by the six figure publishing contract (where we don’t have to market or speak to people), that everything will be okay? It won’t.

Success in life is about persistence and luck. You have to keep at it and be ready when luck comes knocking. But before luck can pull up at the welcome mat (you are not naked are you? Good Gracious, put something on… No not the jogging bottoms.) you are there prepped and ready for it. So here’s my reason/s why it’s great that writing is so hard.

1. If it was easy everyone would be doing it….

If writing a novel or writing in general was a cake walk then everybody would do it. I know that at times it may seem that everyone IS doing it but they’re not. It’s just the writers resources and blogs where you have hung out. Most people don’t do it or can’t do it and that’s just great for you and me. Less writers, less competition – mwah, ha, ha, ha….. I am stroking a cat, she is long haired but she definitely does not have a diamond collar.

2. If it was easy everyone would finish it…..

Most people never finish. There are hundreds and thousands of dusty manuscripts and half written poems or short stories lining drawers everywhere. If you’re gonna do this writering you have to finish. A half-written story is a broken promise. Now you are not the sort of person who breaks a promise are you? Good. I thought not. (Please in the name of all that walks and crawls do not let this be me…. 9,600 and a full stop to go.)

3. If it was easy everyone would do it well….

Yes, I know a lot of poorly written and unbelievably dire books are out there. If everyone did this well, how would you and I distinguish ourselves against the rest of them? It’s  our error free original wonderful creative voice that makes us special. We don’t just ship, see point 2, we ship rainbows and cream cakes and the smell of grass after summer rain.

So yes this writing is hard and it takes time, persistence, sweat, tears, anger, frustration and love to create.  But that is why the fact that we are writers and we write is AWESOME.

Comments, as always are welcome.

Are you a writing Screw-Up? Five things I learned the Hard Way.

English: Opening logo to the Star Wars films

English: Opening logo to the Star Wars films (Photo credit: Wikipedia) A story that should have flopped.

We all secretly wish to write award-winning, book/article/blog selling perfect prose, the minute we lay our fingers on the keyboard and we all are slightly disappointed with our first drafts, when it turns out they are less than perfect. We may all understand that “crappiness” is part of the process but that doesn’t mean we have to like it.

There are five distinct screw-ups I’ve made that have taught me how to get better at this writering and I’d love to hear from you about what you’ve sucked at and how it’s helped you improve. So, here’s my Top Five.

1. OBSESSION WITH W.I.P. TO THE EXCLUSION OF ALL ELSE

I have been guilty of putting my writing ahead of absolutely everything and become obsessive about it to the point of a detriment to my day job (the one that pays the bills) and my personal relationships. This sucks and has not made me a better writer. Nothing, not even this writing means you should stop interacting with life at least some of the time. Don’t look at me like that, writing appeals to the loner in all of us, but without life experiences our writing is in 2D, it’s thin and lacks authenticity.

2. NOT PUTTING THE EFFORT IN

Okay, this is where I go the other way and hang out on social media and try to loosely prove to myself that “building a platform” is more important than the W.I.P. What is a Platform anyway? I’m not an oil-rig worker, I’m a writer! I’m a complete idiot when it comes to building authentic relationships via social media and that’s the new BUZZ message? Communicate, make friends and be real. But in  150 characters or less.

Or then there’s Procrastination which sounds like a disease and has the same ravaging effects. Whilst cutting yourself some slack is a good idea, there are times when you just have to sit down, suck it up and string sentences together.

3. PANTSER OR PLOTTER?

I am a Plotter who Pantses. I am now only about 10,000 words away from the end of the first novel and I am going to have to go back and plot and cut and re-draft. The second book will be fully plotted out before I start. It’s easier in the long-term and I’ve noticed a butt-kicking awesome lift in my productivity when I have a clear idea of where the work is going. A structure allows me to take the work in a different direction. A plan doesn’t restrict, it frees my creativity. Currently I have a lot more work to do because I didn’t do this the first time.

Whether you are a Plotter or a Pantser, just accept it and move on. Plotters don’t understand Pantsers and Pantsers don’t understand Plotters. We are two seperate sides of the Force. Of course I now realise that Pantsing is the DARK SIDE…..

4. REPETITIVE WORDS

There are lots of turns of phrase and words that as a new writer you are going to find a lot of in your work. I’ve listed mine in an earlier post. We all struggle to move our writing on. I thoroughly recommend creating a list of those words you overuse and then searching them out in your prose. Don’t remove every instance where you use them, as there will be occasions where they are completely correct and fit. Again we are back to the word balance…

5. THINKING ABOUT MY AUDIENCE

There will always be room for great stories and I need to accept the fact that all the storylines have already been taken. I don’t think there will ever not be a place for writing about all the great archetypes in our world. Yes, things do go through a cycle and you may find for a decade darker style fiction where everyone dies and there are no happy endings are in vogue, the next decade happy endings, hope and redemption win out in the light. My best example of this is Star Wars, a tale of heroes that became a major success in the same decade that gave us Scarface and Taxi Driver. Some stories will always “just” work.

Write what you want to write and stay true to yourself. Although some more fiction for grown ups and not teenage girls would be nice. Just saying.

COMMENTS, AS ALWAYS WELCOME. May the force be with you…..