Getting started… Again

After months of revisions, I’ve finally started something new.

I’ve been mulling over ideas and doing bits and pieces of writing and research, but something clicked over the weekend and I’m ready to dive in for real. I can’t really describe the difference between ‘trying to start’ and ‘starting’ (for me) but it usually involves a character talking (and refusing to shut up until I start typing). This time it’s more of a feeling and a strong sense of setting.

It can be hard getting started on a new project. There are so many decisions to make: which form will best suit the story, which POV to use, which tense, and what tone should it be? Everything is nebulous and changeable. I’m taking some comfort from my realisation that practically everything I write at this stage will be cut or rewritten and nothing is set in blancmange, let alone stone. Still, it can be a little overwhelming, so I’ve gone back to basics and am taking it ‘bird by bird’.

I’ve also printed out the famous E.L. Doctorow quote and put it above my screen to remind me that it’s okay that I never know the whole story when I begin; that I’m not alone in that particular lunacy.

‘Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.’

So, I’m heading back to my tried-and-tested method; 1000 words a day, every single day.

If you’re in the same boat, gearing up for NaNoWriMo or are struggling to find the will to write, Holly Black has some excellent advice here. Good luck to us all!

Bea magazine

Have you discovered Bea Magazine yet?

A women’s ‘magazine’ that doesn’t tell you you’re not pretty enough or thin enough or that your toenails aren’t white enough or that you should feel ashamed if you eat cereal for dinner. We’re about acceptance, sharing, anti-bitching, intelligence, all sorts of culture, truth-telling, mutual support, celebrating success and keeping it real.

When I’m not staring at the computer with a glazed expression and/or drinking tea, I’m busy being a domestic goddess* and I’m now writing about thrift, housekeeping, cooking, and eco-living for Bea.

If you want to hear about my adventures with vinegar, my steam mop (the love that dare not speak its name) or 1001 things to do with chickpeas (not the actual title, but now I want to write that), then make with the clickies.

*Not really.

On geekery

My daughter got taken shopping last week by her aunt and uncle as a birthday treat. She is twelve and shopping-as-fun is a very new concept. She’s at that wonderful (and sometimes scary) stage of working out who she is, what she likes, and how she wants to reflect that identity to the rest of the world through her choice of clothes, books and music. You know, that tricky stage that lasts until – what – your forties? (I’m thirty-five and still feel seventeen half the time – don’t ask me).

She came home sporting a necklace made from scrabble tiles that spelled the word ‘geek’. I’m so proud (all those Vlogbrothers videos I showed her have obviously sunk in). Mainly, though, I’m excited for her. I’m excited by her enthusiasm and developing interests and, whatever those turn out to be, I just want her to have them. To be passionate about and engaged with the world.

Understandably, my daughter’s necklace confused her nana slightly and I garbled an explanation, saying something about reclaiming the word and how it couldn’t be an insult if you fundamentally disagreed with the idea that to be intelligent, interested and enthusiastic was a bad thing.

The poster (pictured above) sums it up. It’s available for pre-order  from DFTBA Records for $12.

Friday Five: Wunderlist, books and do-goodery

Goodness, it’s Friday already.

1. I love this by Nathan Bransford (ex-literary agent turned author). It’s the publishing process in GIF form. Very funny.

2. I saw this on Twitter (via Chris Addison, I think) and it’s a great (and hassle-free) bit of do-goodery. Mothers and children who have escaped domestic abuse and are spending Christmas in a refuge are likely to have fled their homes in a hurry leaving even the essentials behind. You can provide a gift for a child who would otherwise have nothing on Christmas day.

3. Laini Taylor’s follow up to Daughter of Smoke and Bone is out next month (8th November in the UK). It’s called Days of Blood and Starlight and I can’t wait!

4. (And 5. It’s that good).

I’m a list kind of girl (can’t you tell?!) and have always kept to-do lists on scrappy bits of paper and in notebooks. However, all that has now changed. Keris wrote about Wunderlist – a brilliant (and free) cross-platform application earlier in the week and I’m very, very grateful.

I’m in love. It has a neat and attractive interface, is simple to use, and it syncs between your devices so you can keep your list updated on your phone, Mac, PC, netbook, tablet, whatever.  You can have as many different lists as your organised little heart desires, swapping tasks easily between them. You can also click to view only the tasks for that day (or week), safe in the knowledge that you’re not going to forget anything because it’s in your ‘master list’. Oh, my stars; I feel faint.

Also, and fellow list-makers will understand this, it executes a pleasing ‘strikethrough’ when you tick something off and stores  it at the bottom of the screen under ‘completed tasks’.

In all seriousness, I’ve been more organised and productive in the last couple of days than I’ve been all month. I’ve even remembered to post my Friday Five!*

*Okay, Friday Four. Nobody’s perfect.

How to rewrite

I’ve edited stuff professionally (non-fiction), been an active member of a critique group for many years, and completed a post-grad in creative writing, but I’m still very much a novice when it comes to rewriting. In fact, I think this book is the first one I have properly rewritten and not just edited.

The main thing I’ve learned (so far) is this: rewriting is not for wimps.

I always thought that rewriting was my favourite part because I loved making klutsy sentences into smooth ones. I enjoyed spotting inconsistencies and repeated words and broken metaphors, but the fact is I was confusing editing with rewriting.

Here’s what I think I know now: your first draft is Not A Book.

I thought I knew this before, but I was still holding onto the idea that I could somehow ‘spoil’ the book at the rewriting stage and that held me back from making big changes. I completely agreed with Laini Taylor on revising when she said:

Be clear-eyed and honest, and be brave. Open your mind to new ideas and new ways to make your story better. It’s never too late to make a bold change.

But I didn’t really get it. Not until I did it myself.

Now I think that the best way to think of your first draft is not as a pile of clay to be moulded but as a wide clearing in a forest after a storm. The clearing is surrounded by lightning-struck trees and boulders that have been tossed about by powerful winds. It’s filled with scattered branches, twigs and leaves. In short, it is a scene of destruction.

Rewriting is like gathering all that fallen wood and building it into a pyramid. Laying the big branches as structure and filling in the gaps with little branches and twigs, and throwing away all the wood that is too green or the wrong shape.

And, sometimes, rewriting means looking at your beautifully crafted pyre and setting fire to the whole lot.

As I said, it’s not for wimps.

[Image credit:]