Sunday, 29 April 2012

The Importance of Being Thoughtful

I've managed to do a little editing of the latter chapters of Hide and See, although it's far from complete.  A lot of the things I need to change are so small and nit-picky that I'm finding it difficult to motivate myself.  I'm not trying to excuse myself - I really should stop being such a child and do what I'm supposed to be doing - but that's the way it is right now.

Instead, what my brain has chosen to focus on is Book 2.  I've not started writing it yet - I have at least stuck to my resolution of not charging straight in without planning - but it's taking up a good portion of my creative process nonetheless.

So if I'm not writing, what I am doing?

I'm thinking.  Yes, that sounds very woolly, again like the child I undoubtedly am making up excuses as to why she hasn't done the set work yet (Because I was thinking, Miss).  And yet not only am I finding this process fun, it also feels very useful.

You see, I thought I had quite a lot of Book 2 roughly planned out in my head.  It turns out, however, that I've only really got a clear idea for around the first quarter of the book (if that).  I'd been focusing so much on small details and specific scenes, that I realised that I hadn't figured out the whole journey.

This is why I'm very glad I decided not to start writing until I've got a clear plan.  I don't want a repeat of Book 1.  I want my novel to be heading somewhere right from the start.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Thinking about Book Two

My ideas about my expected productivity for the rest of the Easter Holidays proved to be a little too optimistic.  While I did get on to Chapter 11 on the Friday, I ended up fighting with it for over a week.  But at last, it is done, along with Chapters 12-14, which were much more co-operative over the weekend.

So that's the first third done, though it feels like it's taken an age.  I still have a few little tweaks to do on the latter two-thirds but for the most part, this latest draft of Hide and See is done.  I should probably be getting those little tweaks done as soon as possible, but thoughts about book two just refuse to leave me alone.

There are lots of small scenes or conversations which keep popping into my head and while this is very exciting, I don't want to make the same mistake as I did when I first started Hide and See.  I just sort of charged ahead with it, not planning until I was well into the book.  This is probably why I've had to re-write the first third so extensively.  It felt so directionless because I didn't really know where I was going when I wrote it.

I've never been someone who plans a huge amount - the idea of wall-charts and massive timelines sounds appealing to me but I'd never have the patience to do it properly.  All I ever do it start off with an approximate flow-chart of the plot, then divide it up into chapters in a table.  This, of course, changes several times before I finish the first draft (usually due to my inability to stop waffling), but it does at least provide a loose framework to go with.

My new-book-resolution is therefore to plan from the beginning.  To get that vague plot in my head and down on paper before I sit down to write book two properly.  I'll keep jotting down those snippets of action and dialogue, but Chapter 1 can't start until I know where it's going.

That's what I'm telling myself anyway.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

The Magicians' Guild by Trudi Canavan

I had high hopes for Trudi Canavan's The Magicians' Guild (the first in the Black Magician trilogy).  I'd read the prequel (actually written after) last August on holiday and was very impressed with it.  In face, my reaction on reading the first page was more like a sigh of relief.  The excellent standard of writing felt frankly glorious after months of reading increasingly tedious, clich├ęd-filled Primary World fantasy novels for my dissertation.

But it is a dangerous thing, I think, to start a new book and expect great things.  This may sound very pessimistic but, hey, I reckon pessimism's great: you're either always right or pleasantly surprised!

Fortunately, my rare flash of optimistic expectation was not regretted.  Right from the first sentence, Canavan's way with words was just as delightful as I'd remembered and there were times when I really didn't want to put the book down.  This was despite the fact that I was at the time sightseeing in Somerset and really should have been concentrating on other things.

The story follows Sonea, a young girl living in the slums of the city of Imardin.  In a moment of anger against the upper class magicians, she uses magic herself, something neither she nor the magicians would ever have thought possible.

I liked how the story was told from multiple perspectives, particularly the contrast between Sonea and the magician Lord Rothen.  It was interesting how the same action could be interpreted in two drastically different ways according to the character's prejudices and points of view.

In my experience, most Secondary World fantasy novels tend to be plot-driven.  The Magicians' Guild, it seems to me, is not.  The development and motivations of the characters take centre stage, and the events move around them.

This is perhaps why the action felt rather slow to me.  Not that I was ever bored, but it wasn't exactly a bare-knuckle ride of daring battles and perilous quests.  In a way, it reminded me of The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss, in that not a great deal actually happens and yet I didn't mind because the writing was so good.  From a writer of less skill, I might have got to the end and thought 'is that it?'

Even if I hadn't known beforehand, I never would have mistaken the ending to be that of a stand-alone novel.  It doesn't end on a cliffhanger, but nonetheless screams out for a sequel.  Sonea's story has only just begun and I for one would like to see what happens next.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Writing Joy

Last week, I sorted out a fairly substantial chunk of my room.  I cleared out a couple of cupboards, got rid of a lot of stuff I didn't need (including over a dozen handbags) and managed to empty a shelf of several very dusty ornaments.  This shelf is now gloriously adorned with books, making me very happy.  There are still other cupboards and mounds of things on my floor to take care of, but I do at least feel like I've made some progress.

So, at the end of last week, I felt like I'd achieved something on that front but on my writing.... nada.  This made for a very grumpy dinosaur, frustrated at the fact that - despite not being at work - there just never seemed to be enough time to do everything.

Fortunately, last Tuesday came.  Ah, last Tuesday, how lovely you were!  I devoted the entire day to writing, and managed to produce two chapters to a standard that I am currently pretty pleased with (although will no doubt hate in a couple of months when I read it back).

I can't even begin to describe what a joy it was to be able to spend the day writing.  I came down for lunch, with the first chapter done, prancing around like a loon, on a writing-induced high, much to the bemusement of my mother.  The same thing happened at dinner, after I'd completed the second one.

I'd been feeling pretty despondent about the writing thing for the past week or so (probably down to the simple formula of 'no writing'='grumpiness') and it was such a relief to feel that happiness again.  It made me feel like this was the thing that I really wanted to do with my life.  And while I know that I'll have to have a less joy-inducing occupation at the same time (should I ever decide to actually become a grown-up), I don't think I could ever give the writing thing up.  Even if no-one wants to publish it.

I'm hoping to get another chunk done tomorrow.  I have four chapters to go (plus a little tweaking of some later bits) and then this draft will be finished!  I'm rather excited by the idea because it means I'll be able to start book two!  Yipee!