Wednesday, January 27, 2010

POV-Slippage, and why it's actually kind of good.

I wasn't entirely fair to POV-slippage yesterday (Christine calls it Head Hopping, which I think is a great phrase). I feel it can serve an important function.

This isn't to suggest that it should stay in a finished novel. It should be mercilessly killed in the edit.

But I think that in some cases, it can be helpful.

Take this example from my WIP. This is a first draft and most of it will be cut. You will notice, as per this post, tea is consumed during the making of this scene ;)

Stephen brought Rosie back to his digs after they saw the doctor – his landlady went out every Monday to visit her sister, so the house was empty. Rosie thanked whatever saint was looking down on her for her good luck, then she looked down at her body and remembered just how little good luck she was having lately.
As Stephen poured a cup of tea, Rosie started to cry in earnest.
“Come here,” Stephen said, and he moved to the couch to sit beside her. He cradled her head on his shoulder and patted her hair gently and wondered if he should give in to his impulse to kiss her or if it would make things worse.
She extracted herself from his shoulder and wiped her eyes roughly with heels of her hands, dragging the skin so roughly that she left a trail of tiny wrinkles fanning down her cheekbones. “Where would I have to go? Is it like the laundries?” Rosie had heard of the laundries from Cora, who had probably heard of them from some contact in a mad old lady underground movement.

I see two problems there. First, very obviously, we shouldn't know about Stephen's impulse to kiss her. Rosie doesn't know, so we shouldn't, because we're in her head (he's right, by the way. It would have made things worse if he'd kissed her. Just so y'all know). So when I'm editing, that line will be cut out.

The second problem is a little more subtle. I'm not sure I can get away with Rosie wiping her eyes and leaving the trail of wrinkles. She can't see them.

That said, she also doesn't see herself standing up, opening car doors, and blotting away milk moustaches. She still does these things. Should she do any of them?

I think that if I extract the bit of head-hopping/POV-slippage that takes place, I may get away with the wrinkles. We'll see once I've done it.

Anyway, that isn't the point of this post. The point is that these slips can be useful for a writer.

I feel it's important to Stephen's character that his instinct in this situation is to kiss Rosie, but he doesn't. He knows he's a little out of his depth, he wants to make it better, his only impulse is less than useless and he has just enough sense not to act on it. It's good that I know this before I cut out the line - it helps me to know his character better.

This isn't the place for me to use that knowledge, but I'm sure it will come in useful somewhere, right? :)

Monday, January 25, 2010

Darlings and Killings

Nicola Morgan has a good post today about points of view in fiction.

I'm terrible for what Nicola calls POV-slippage. In my first drafts, I constantly do things like this:

Rosie couldn't believe he could be so misguided.
'Well, I think you're wrong, Billy.' said Rosie. She sipped her tea. 'I think you're dead wrong, actually.'
Billy watched her. 'Why?' he asked, and waited.

We're in Rosie's head here, so how do we know that Billy is watching her, or waiting? She can know that he's looking at her, and that he's stopped talking, but can she really know he's watching (which is a much more passive verb than looking)? How does she know he's waiting and not just pausing like he was in a Harold Pinter play?

Rosie can disclose a certain amount of this - she could notice him watching. The problem is that the alternative is clunky and easy to over-use.

'Well, I think you're wrong, Billy.' Rosie said. She sipped her tea. 'I think you're dead wrong, actually.'
She felt Billy watching her. 'Why?' he asked. She felt sure he was waiting for her to say more.

Also not good. The logical conclusion of that strategy is something like this:

Rosie thought Billy was probably enjoying his tea. She imagined he must be reflecting on how delicate the cups were compared to his work-calloused fingers, and she supposed he might feel awkward, out of place. Was he the kind of man whose inner-monologue would include details about how she looked, how she smelled? She wondered if he was noticing the clarity of her blue eyes, the sheen on her hair. Would he mention the faint whiff of perfume she was sure he had caught as she sat down?

At which point the reader would like to choke Rosie. And probably me. Who's world-view is that self-absorbed? If you know the answer, don't tell me.

Sometimes it's very tempting to shoehorn in contrasting viewpoints. Especially, I find, when writing about a single character for a long time. As a writer (but not as a reader), after a few chapters in a character's head, I would like to know if the people around her think she's an unholy pain in the neck. Rosie goes for tea, and I want the person across the table to get a chance to speak - if nothing else, to let me play with a new perspective on Rosie.

But that leads to POV-slippage. Billy watching and waiting, one or two lines here or there that are in the wrong voice. A big no-no, very jarring to read.

The alternative - forcing the POV character to carry all the exposition and contemplate things that no sane person would contemplate, just to get those things in there - is potentially even uglier.

So what's the answer?

Faulkner was right. Kill your darlings.

There is a line in my WIP that I really didn't want to cut. My POV character is crying and the person who is holding her notices she smells of rainwater and fresh sweat. But I was in the wrong head, so it had to go.

The worst thing about choosing a point of view, whatever one it happens to be, is that you have to sacrifice bits of writing - sometimes bits you really like - just to keep within it.

Painful. But less painful to read than POV-slippage.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Taking Leave of my Census

I have a new addiction, guys, and this one is a bit shameful.

I've become obsessed with the online, super-shiny, digitised Irish National Census for 1911.

Since I have very few Irish commenters on here (I like to pretend I have lots of quiet readers out there, and perhaps some of them are Irish. . .), I don't know why I'm sharing it. It's of limited interest to anyone who isn't a Hibernophile, but I'm having fun with it.

You bookish folks might be interested in Oliver St. John Gogarty's return, where he forgets that he's married. Here's Sean O'Casey, his return written in Irish, in the proper old script, so it's difficult to read. Joyce's da, John Stanislaus Joyce, was living with two of Joyce's sisters while the man himself was in Trieste. And here's Yeats, staying in a hotel with Lady Gregory just opposite Trinity College. There is a short article here on literary life in Dublin in 1911.

I found my grandmother, the one I never met, aged 11 months old, entered on her parents' census return.

I discovered that the first flat I ever rented with friends (in an old Georgian conversion in the south of Dublin city) was occupied by a large Jewish family, as was half of the street. That part of Dublin has quite a rich Jewish history and heritage, which I've always wanted to read more about, and that connection has just made it much more personal.



And the tenuous link to writing that will justify this post appearing on my books-and-writing blog? Erm. It's a good resource for character names, I suppose. Will that do? :)

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Journeys, Destinations and Other Metaphors

My birthday is coming up in a couple of weeks (turns out my birthday isn't far from Christine's, should anyone want to pop over and say happy birthday to her!).

Traditionally a time of reflection, taking stock, goal setting.

A birthday six weeks after Christmas can make a person lazy. You make all your resolutions and by the time the next Big Taking Stock moment rolls around, it's acceptable not to have started working on things. It's only been a few weeks, I've been busy, I'll start soon, it's only February. I feel if my birthday fell a month later, it would be a more effective nudge back towards my goals.

And I'd be a Pisces. For better or for worse.

Anyway, effective or not, birthdays always make me think. Am I where I imagined I would be at this age? (Is anyone ever where they imagined they would be, at any time, though?)

I wanted to be published younger, but a very smart friend once said to me that it's not important to be published young, it's important to be published well.

Another very smart friend told me a few months ago (I like to start my birthday angst early so I can get a good run at it) that if you insist on setting too many goals that you must attain by a certain age, you'll look back on your life and realise you spent a lot of time in your basement alone trying to deliver a certain quantity of achievement, and not enough time living. Another fair point.

But still.

It would be lovely if I had been hyper-productive when I was younger and had gotten published years ago. But I wasn't, and I didn't. I've always written in conjunction with a day job (good training, since the statistics say I probably always will. . .) I didn't commit myself seriously to a single project until I was 24. I've taken my first project slowly, I've been derailed a few times, and I may never write fecking historical fiction ever again. Ahem.

That being said, this is my journey. These are the lessons I've had to learn. And I'm not about to start wishing away journey time and saying that I want to be published in the morning, if not sooner. I want to be published, sure, but I want to be ready for the reality of the career that follows it if and when it happens. I want to have made some mistakes and learned some lessons.

And I'm willing to wait until the time is right for me, regardless of how old I happen to be.

Remind me about this when I'm querying, guys. Seriously.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Dropbox

I'm on an enforced writing break at the moment due to life getting in the way. I'm currently moving house and free time is at a premium.

However, I have been introduced to something very useful that I want to share with everyone I can think of - Dropbox.com. Further info here.

Dropbox is a web storage service, which allows you to sync files. I regularly use three different computers, each with a different operating system (Ubuntu netbook remix, Mac OSX Tiger and Windows XP, for any techies among you, and please note that the last one is not voluntary. Nothing against Windows users at all, I just prefer the Mac/Ubuntu interface). This also means I use two different kinds of word processing programs so I need to remember to have the latest version of my novel on a disk key, and in two formats as well.

Yeah. Because I'll totally remember that. Obviously :)

Anyhoo, I now have a trusty Dropbox account with my novel in it, which can be downloaded from anywhere and has useful sync capabilities which I have not yet investigated fully.

Plus, it's free and you get 2GB of storage. My entire novel is less than 200kb so it will take me a long time to fill that. Right now it feels like a challenge.

/end plug

Monday, January 18, 2010

A Rosie By Any Other Name

Hannah Moskowitz's post got me thinking about character names.

And I've been reading a lot of Alice Hoffman books lately (I yield to no one in my love for Alice Hoffman's writing,
Boston Globe debacle or not). Hoffman seems to choose great character names. I'm currently re-reading Here On Earth, which is a modern retelling of Wuthering Heights. I love Wuthering Heights, and Hoffman handles the material brilliantly. She keeps the family structures and the relationships, but by moving the setting to a strange small town in New England, she turns the story into something new. This isn't an isolated rural outpost on the moors, where Cathy and Heathcliff's only contact with the world was peeking through the windows of Thrushcross Grange. Here, husbands can arrive unexpectedly from California. There is a high school that has dances. And to get to Logan Airport in Boston, you just ask Ken Helm to drop you there in his truck. But insane passions and requited love that really ought to be unrequited still rule over all.

The names seem especially well chosen. The Catherine Earnshaw character, who doesn't die young but lives to share main-character duty with her daughter, is called March (short for Marcheline, which she hates). It suits her perfectly, somehow. Her daughter is named Gwen (Gwen Cooper, actually, which sent my inner Torchwood fan into squeals of delight), which also works- it's old-fashioned, classic, and seems all wrong for the rebellious, moody Gwen we meet at the start of the novel. By the middle, Gwen has grown into her name, and it works.

My own main character, as you may know, is called Rosie. To me, the name Rosie sounds like an upturned nose, and it suits Rosie, who answers back. She isn't a Rose. She could never be a Rose. I was also a little restricted in choosing character names for my WIP - in Ireland in 1920s, when most of my characters were born, children were overwhelmingly named after Catholic saints or members of their family, so I needed something either saintly or traditional. Rosie seemed to work, although it wouldn't have been an especially Catholic name at that time, simply because the name Rose is so old that her parents may have chosen it for any number of reasons.

It is difficult to get names exactly right. Several placeholder names in my novel have stuck and become part of the character and now I can't get rid of them.

How do you choose names for your characters? Even picked the wrong one? What's the best name you ever came up with?

Friday, January 15, 2010

Heartsong

From a post by Nicola Morgan at How Publishing Really Works:

Now, I am wholly well. I put that down to having repaired my bruised soul. In the dark days, a clever medical person told me we need heartsong in our lives and that the key to health was finding my heartsong. When he said that, I knew what he meant and where I needed to find it. That’s why I spend time blogging for talented, hard-working, non-delusional writers: because if you have that same need for heartsong, I understand.

It seems to be a very happy time in blogland. Nicola is posting about her happy ending and I came over all ain't-writing-great yesterday. Must be something in the air over this corner of Western Europe.

But the end of Nicola's post got me thinking. Asking 'What's your heartsong?' is quite personal, given that this is a blog, but please understand I'm not asking because I want people to post back and tell me. I'm asking so that we all take a bit of time to think about it, as often as we can, and make sure we have enough of it - or that, in some cases, we're doing enough to get it.

So, in the spirit, disclaimers disclaimed, what's yours?

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Filthy Lucre

WRITING UPDATE: I have a strategy. That's the same as doing work, right? ;)

Natalie Whipple is doing a Q&A on her blog at the moment that's worth reading. One poster asked her about the financial side of writing - specifically, when a writer can reasonably expect to make money from writing, insofar as a writer can expect anything beyond repetitive strain injury and bitten fingernails.

Her response is sobering and probably accurate (not that I would know). It takes a long time. You can't bank on it. You can't keep your minimum-wage low-stress job and tell yourself the advance on your first novel will buy your first house.

I live in one of the best countries in the world for creative artists as we have massive tax exemptions, so an Irish-resident writer sees more of their pitiful windfalls than most. We're a lucky bunch, even if our former Taoiseach is exploiting this rather a lot.

Once someone's name is in the public arena, there is a perception that they're wealthy. The reality TV generation are changing that somewhat, but my old creative writing teacher Claire Hennessy joked once that the first question everyone asks a writer is 'Are you rich?', and it's fairly widely known among aspiring writers that this isn't a shortcut to easy street. Even so, I think we would all secretly like to believe it will happen for us.

But that isn't why we're here, and every blog post I read about the financial realities of a writing career (and there are lots out there) reminds me of that. I do occasionally fantasise that I'll be one of the few who can write full-time someday. I'm only human :)

It all comes back to one thing, though - we do this because we want to. We're not here for the money, the glory, the fact it's easy. We're here because we want to be. It's not always fun, and sometimes we do have to switch off the instant messaging software, the mobile phone and the TV, turn down invitations from people we love and resign ourselves to an evening shuttling between the couch and kettle. Some of us aren't lucky enough to have evenings to set aside (I have no kids and work regular hours in one job), but we dig notebooks out of our bags in the doctor's surgery, or on our lunch breaks, or on the train. And yes, I am deliberately saying 'we' even for the statements that don't apply to me, because we're all in this together. We're all on the same path.

And we'd do well to remember this when we can't make ourselves write, when we wonder why we're adding an extra ball to the things we're juggling, and when we work out what a six figure advance is when you deduct everything that needs deducting.

No one made us do this. We're here because we want to be. And not everyone gets lucky enough to say that about something in their lives.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Pants and Seats Thereof

Janice Hardy has a brilliant post this morning about her writing process. It's impressively structured and organised, so if you're like me (I am the Queen of the Seat of the Pants) I recommend you read it more for editing advice than writing advice.

My method is to spew at the page and then chip away the bits that aren't book - an unnecessarily painful method, actually, for someone with separation issues ['Noooo - my darling paragraph. I cannot bear to let you go! I know you deal with my protagonist buying milk and are written entirely in the passive voice, but that is no stop to true codependency!'].

Janice's post is going to be very helpful with my chipping process. And if you're less seat-of-pantsy than I am, it will definitely help your writing.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Let It Snow

The picture on the left shows a park in Dublin that I love. That patch of outlined white snow in the middle is a lake that has frozen over. Further up, there were some people playing on the ice, but you can't see them in this picture. Cold weather this dramatic (and pretty) is very rare in Ireland. We're usually rainy and temperate - especially Dublin, which is right on the coast. Our last snow was in February 2009, and I can't remember before that. It may have been 2001.

I've been driving everyone I know crazy for the last few days. I can't stop telling people that when we're old, this cold snap is one of the things we'll remember. I even joined a Facebook group called 'When I'm Old, I'll Talk About The Great Winter of 2009/2010' or something to that effect. Self-parody is the best kind :)

For other reasons this week, I was already thinking about memories. And when I imagine the kind of life I want to look back on, I tend to think of big things. I want to see Japan. I want to see the Pacific Ocean. I want to climb a mountain.

And sometimes, to make myself feel better about all the things I haven't done yet, I list the things that I have done. I've had a giggling fit on a high speed train from Brussels to Cologne. I've seen Westminster Abbey, and the first time I saw that was one of those Big Moments, even though it doesn't sound that impressive. I've walked along the Thames at night as the lights came on. I was in Prague twenty years to the day after Communism fell. I was in New York three months after 9/11 (the only time I've ever been to America, as it happens), and I had tea in the Algonquin Hotel under a painting of the Round Table Group. I have sprinted around the British Museum (and I mean sprinted) five minutes before they closed, trying to photograph the Mildenhall Treasure, the Rosetta Stone and the Parthenon Sculptures. I'll remember all those things when I'm old, too.

But they are big things, in a way. They all involved purchasing plane tickets for a start, so they're experiences that are restricted to people who can afford plane tickets.

The snow this week has reminded me that there are other memorable things. Life isn't just about those things that sound impressive in a blog post. It's about going walking in the first snow you've seen in years. It's about the night you went to your first writers' group meeting when there was a total weather warning in effect. Or going hillwalking the Saturday before you started a new job, or the last coffee you had in your local cafe before it closed down, or the first film you saw in your favourite cinema. Knowing what the Grand Canal looks like frozen over, and how in summer, when the light is soft enough, it seems to roll like a bayou and I like to sit by it and read books set in the Deep South. These are the little moments. No plane tickets. No world events.

We should all take time to appreciate the things that make up our lives, every day. But I know I don't. It takes two weeks of snow to make me stop and look around, and start storing up memories.

That wouldn't be a bad writing exercise, actually. Take a few minutes and list the big moments in your life, the marriages and births and deaths and first kisses and amazing holidays. Then list the small ones. I'll remember that, next time I'm stuck.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Introducing . . . The Master Document!

No, it isn't the crappest ever Doctor Who villain.

It is the latest step on my writing journey.

Kinda.

My novel exists in about twenty different files on my laptop (also backed up on my netbook and a disk key, before anyone worries). And at the inaugural meeting of the writers' group I'm in, I did a momentous thing. I opened a single document, entitled Rosie_ALL_FirstDraft1. One of my two timelines is now all in a single document. I'm doing a rough line-edit as I try to figure out if my chapter divisions are in the right place, and where I should fade back into the present day timeline. As it's heavier on reading than writing, it's good for my injured wrist.

As we are still talking about a first draft here, it isn't very final. All of the material in aforesaid file will have to go through all kinds of rewrites and drafts and restructures and tears and weeping and gnashing of teeth.

But it's starting to look like it might be a book, once I chip away all the parts that aren't book.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Another Nathan Bransford Contest!

Nathan Bransford has another contest running on his blog to celebrate the publication of The Secret Year by Jennifer Hubbard.

Entrants have to write a diary entry or a letter of 500 words in length or less, written in the voice of a teenager. And post it in the comments of the blog post about the contest.

I posted an extract from something I wrote once for a writing exercise. Luckily I already had something because typing is not my friend at the moment.

Just for fun, here it is:

Oh God. On the way to class today, Kayla said, like it was no big deal “By the way, I'm refusing to sit with you in English class ever again until you sit next to Jack at least once. You have to talk to him eventually. Sitting beside him in class is a safe way to start.”
“That's a brilliant plan,” I said, “but there's one thing you forgot.”
“What's that?”
“I won't do it.”
“I thought you'd say that. Hence the blackmail.”
I was about to protest but she went “Quick, here he comes! He's gone in on his own. Go! And don't think too much!”
I went.
Jack was sitting hunched over his book, wearing a navy hoodie and jeans, and he had on that wooden bead necklace thing he wears sometimes. I could see it creeping out of his collar at the back of his neck.
I coughed to get his attention, which didn't work. This is because no one is ever surprised when someone coughs, so they never look around.
“Hi, Jack. Do you mind if I sit down? Am I disturbing you?” I said, nodding at the book.
“Edie, hi, sit down, no.”
Yes, that is actually word-for-word what he said.
“Did you have a good weekend?” he asked me. He definitely started the weekend conversation, which may or may not imply he gives a passing crap about what I did.
“Grand. Went into town, that's about it. How was yours?”
“Good. I was at a party on Saturday in a mate's gaff.”
At this point, my brain was doing this:
Oh my God he was at a party - I'll bet there were girls there. He probably got off with someone. I bet he's supposed to call her at lunchtime today. Maybe if I can get him to have lunch with me he won't get a chance to call her - or at least he'll fuck up the call because I'll be there and it'll put her off. I bet the bitch is blonde and thinner than me. I've never even been to a party because I didn't have any friends where I used to live and my mates here are so not the partying kind. And it's not that I don't like my new friends but I feel crap about them all of a sudden, I wish they were different. How am I going to meet the kind of people who have house parties so I can go to their parties and then mention them casually to Jack?
But I held it together on the outside and talked to him about what he was reading – it was The Great Gatsby so I could bluff about it.

I feel bad that when Jack mentioned that he'd been to a party, I had such disloyal thoughts about my new friends, especially since Kayla was the only reason Jack and I were even speaking. It's not like I was serious, though. Well, not for very long.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Stupid Minor Setback!

WRITING UPDATE: See below!

On the way to work this morning, I slipped on some ice. Dublin is currently in the middle of one of the coldest winters in forty years. The same cold snap gave us an almost-white Christmas (virtually every day but Christmas Day was snowy or frosty) and is responsible for the magical snowfall on New Year's Eve. It has now put me in a wrist-splint, which should spark many poetic thoughts about roses having thorns and nothing being perfect and how every wonderful moment in your life somehow messes up something for someone else, but frankly my overriding thought on the subject is currently "OW!"

Well, it's a bit less polite than that.

I slipped halfway to the bus stop and landed on my right hand. And yes, I'm right-handed. I'm actually very right-handed, because I broke my left elbow when I was a kid and never got into the habit of using my left hand quite so much once it healed.

So I'm off work for a week, and my dominant hand is strapped up so I can't write for long periods (typing this entry took a while!). This would be less bad if a friend of mine hadn't updated her Facebook with news that she has attained a word count in several months that almost equals mine . . . which took almost two years. And usually when things like that happen, I throw myself into writing. Which I can't do at the moment!

All very annoying. But then, learning not to compare myself to other writers is one of those big lessons I have to learn (actually, replace 'writers' with 'people' and it's still true). It would have been rather nice to learn it without an injured tendon in my wrist, but such is life!

Anyway, all this is to explain why my blog posts are about to get either less frequent or shorter. My money's on shorter, as I can still read provided I use my right hand to rest the book and turn pages with my left. Sitting in Accident and Emergency for an hour helped me hone this skill quite well :)

Oh, and also, my upcoming first writing group meeting? For me, it's Editing Group, for One Month Only! :)

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Links

No post so far today (but I may be buying books later, so watch this space. E-gloating is the best kind), but I do have some fun links.

Karen Kennedy has a wonderful story about her grandmother over at her blog, which I think everyone should read (and thanks to Janet Reid, everyone probably will).

And the BBC have a list of 100 things we didn't know this time last year, which is good fun.

EDITED TO ADD: Ooops, how could I forget an uplifting thought for new writers from Jane Smith and Jamie Ford (who has been on my to-read list for aaages)?

Friday, January 1, 2010

A Year in Review

So, 2009, then.

Much of the good stuff about 2009 is mentioned here in my Thanksgiving post, but as that post is very writing-related (I know, I blog about writing, it would tend to be), I'm going to reproduce the last bit of the post here:

And then there's the personal stuff - family, friends, loved ones, home, Dublin, tea, music, knitting, the fact I haven't wrapped any of the three cars I drive regularly around anything solid (yet), the fact London is still reassuringly there across the Irish sea, all full of bookshops and museums and cafes and red buses, material comforts, and too many other things to name.


There's a lovely extract from a short piece of writing by Sarah Rees Brennan that I want to reproduce here, because I was thinking of it on New Year's Eve, when it snowed in Dublin and the place seemed magical. This comes from a short story that Sarah posted for free on her website, because she is great, and it's set in the same universe as her debut novel, The Demon's Lexicon, which is also great.

It might all turn out okay. Marie hoped so. And if it didn’t, that was almost okay, too.

Because I lived until today, Marie thought, I saw magic, fell in love in a lift, danced with my best friend under breaking glass, heard mermaids singing, played music in a river, and if that was all, it would be enough.

But it wasn’t all. She was going to live to see more tomorrow.

[from The Arundel Tomb, by Sarah Rees Brennan]


I don't think I've done any of the things Marie has done (and she's only just started college in that extract so she's younger than me, just to rub it in. . . but then she knows cool magicians who summon demons and my friends, while wonderful, are a little deficient in that regard). But I could write my own list, if I was Marie.

2009 wasn't great. But there were good moments in there, and I hope that as I look back on them, I'll feel they were enough.

****

Anyway, that's the happy stuff out of the way. Now I get to be all miserable and wallow-y! YAY! I love blogging. It can be so self-indulgent :)

But yeah, writing. I have very mixed feelings about my Writing Year in 2009.

I missed a major deadline that I set for myself, and felt utterly crap about it. The aforesaid friends can testify to this. I was not a happy bunny in the last week of July when it became obvious I wouldn't make it.

I did learn some valuable lessons in the process, though.

1. Writing historical fiction makes it difficult to set deadlines because research can rear its ugly head at any time.

2. I don't know that I will ever write historical-bloody-fiction ever a-bloody-gain.

3. If I set deadlines that are too lenient and non-specific, I won't keep to them. 'I'll give myself til July to finish this book, that's almost a year' equals, in my head, 'I have aaaaages to finish. Play time!' Something like 'I will have this section done by the end of the month', or 'I will write a little every day this week' works a lot better for me.

4. Equally, if I set a deadline that's too harsh, I freak out and do nothing.

Valuable lessons, and ones that will probably carry me through my writing life for a long time. Especially that second one. But learning them wasn't nice.

I had hoped to finish this novel five months ago, but I have to admit now that the deadline wasn't realistic given everything else that was going on. I'm not finished the novel, I'm still working (and looking for that notebook!). But I can see the finish line from here and 2010 will be the year I cross it. I hope to cross it while I'm still 25, actually, but we'll see how that goes.

But moving away from the nuts-and-bolts of writing (yes, the important stuff, let's just leave that for a moment because it's inconvenient. . . ), there were some good developments in 2009. I managed to corral several writers I know and form a writers' group that has its first meeting in less than a week, and I started a blog, and I learned a lot.

As a writing year, it could be worse. I have hopes that 2010 will be better, but it couldn't be without the lessons I learned about writing in 2009. I'm not saying all that I could about that, because I'm not done with the novel yet and I know it has a lot more to teach me, and I'll post about all that stuff when I'm finished.

Wow, that was a long post. It was written after very little sleep, so please excuse me if it's not the most coherent post I've ever made!

Courtney Milan is a Genius

I was planning a lovely Year-In-Review post today (it's a public holiday and I have no plans, so it may happen yet) but I have to interrupt my usual blog topics to share something very funny.

Courtney Milan has had feedback from some potential readers, saying they feel uncomfortable reading romance novels with sexy covers at work, or on the bus, or anywhere they can be seen. She suggests a solution.

On a related note, I once read (in a guidebook about London, of all possible places - see, kids, it pays to read widely) about a game that some people play - 'what's the most scandalous book you dare to read on the Tube?' I think the winner was The Sexual Life of Catherine M, by Catherine Millet (never read it, can't comment). I'm not hardcore enough for that game yet. I still worry about what people think of me when I read YA fiction in public (not cool fantasy stuff, which is fine, but those teen novels about Issues with Boys and Identity Formation that I love so much). I just tell myself that people who see me reading those books probably assume I'm about 16 and therefore the right age for them.

C'mon, guys, I'll be 26 in a few weeks. Leave me with my precious illusions. Denial can take a person a long way. Just read Courtney's post if you don't believe me!