Grey skies

I normally like grey skies.  In Queensland, traditionally, grey skies are a summer thing, part of suffocating humidity, zithering cicadas and, well, summer.

It’s winter, and it’s been raining for four days. 

What the hell, winter.  This is Queensland!  Winter is a time for sapphire skies and crisp, clear days and being outside without being burned to a crisp.

I object to this miserable cold weather.  We left Perth to get away from this morass, though as my husband reminded me, at least there’s no wind.

Enough!  I call Shenanigans.  Bring back a proper subtropical winter, please.  I need some blue skies.

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Writing, revising and linkiness

I’ve written 18k of short storyness in the last 2 weeks, and then embarked on a mad 2-day revision spree.  My brain is fairly toasted at the moment, so I thought I would point you in the direction of a few good links while my grey matter still cowers at the base of my skull.

I’m a fan of Alexandra Solokoff for her brilliant writing advice, especially her attitude; writing is HARD WORK.  Today she talks about The Bash-Through Draft (aka draft zero).

Then when I start to write a first draft I just bash through it from beginning to end. It’s the most grueling part of writing a book  (the suspense writer Mary Higgins Clark called it “clawing through a mountain of concrete with my bare hands…”) and takes the longest, but writing the whole thing out, even in the most sketchy way, from start to finish, is the best way I know to actually guarantee that I will finish a book or a script.

Thanks, Alex, I needed to hear that today.  Coming back from a revision frenzy always leaves me reaching for perfection instead of progress.

In terms of revision though, now is a good time to talk about Weasel Words.  I can’t remember who coined the phrase, but Weasel Words are the weak points in our prose; the superfluous words that contribute nothing to the story.

From Vision: Ten Quick Fixes to Improve Your Fiction.

From Fantasy Faction: Ready to Submit?  Check Again…

And from Jennifer M Eaton: It.  I Really Hate It.

As an example, this weekend I revised a 9.9k story down to 8.5k by eradicating all the weasel words from the manuscript.  How did I lose 1.8k words?  Because you don’t just delete the weasel word.  You have to look at the paragraph around it, consider the impact and what you need to change.  Often you will find that a weasel word marks a weak passage that lacked strong action, strong emotion or impact, or in fact any relevance to the story.

Check out the links, then go hunting.  You will be amazed at the difference in your prose.

Snippet share

Tianzi Mountain or Heaven’s Son Mountain

I’m having a lot of fun with my current novella.  It’s high fantasy, something I haven’t written in many years.  It’s a story about forgiveness, and pain, and finding courage again.  The story location was inspired by the beautiful Tianzi Mountains in China (pictured).

I’ve also been having a lot of fun putting together images related to the novella on Pinterest.  If you’re on Pinterest, let me know!

This is the beginning of the second scene.

The first time I knew I would marry Kamon I was carrying a baby to the sacred pool. It was Usimi I carried in my arms, the first child I would bless alone after I had sent my mother’s bones to the forest below.

The baby’s family surrounded me in a chattering crowd, so I did not notice when he began to follow. At the ropeway platform I turned to speak to the baby’s mother and I saw him. He perched in a tree that clung to the side of the rock, hanging out over the gap.

He was looking straight at me.

I turned away, pretended I hadn’t seen him, but I could feel his gaze on the back of my neck. I knew he was married already, to the beautiful Siri. On the pretense of settling the child I glanced his way again. He met my gaze, possessiveness in his eyes. His arrogance stirred something inside me.

I turned away from the throng and stepped to the edge of the platform. I held the baby securely against me and raised one arm.

The wind came at my bidding and lifted me up and over the gap. There were gasps and shrieks and then a cheer as I landed on the other side, the babe secure in my arms.

I turned and met Kamon’s stare openly. I remember his lips curving up in a smile. The wind tore down upon us, dancing around the crowd, whipping hair and clothes about. I stood unmoved in the disturbance, my eyes on Kamon.

If he wanted me, I would not be an easy prize.

Feel free to post a snippet of your own, either in the comments or on your own blog, and tell us a little about what you are working on.

Project 2012: It’s June

Somewhere near Esk in the Sunshine Coast hinterland.

I’m a pretty organised person.  I like to plan things out so I know exactly what I’m doing when.  I’ve got a full time job, a child and an addiction to Diablo 3.  There is no such thing as spare time.

I planned out this year from January to December with the ultimate goal of submitting my first novel in January 2013 while also completing the first draft of a new novel.

How’s it going, I hear you ask?

Well, you might as well say I planned to drive to Melbourne and ended up in Darwin.

Okay, so it’s not that bad.  But the original road map has flown out the window.  The novel I wanted to work on turned out to be not strong enough to be worth it.  So I put that away and decided to work a completed novella up to submission status.  That, I’m pleased to say, is coming along well.  I’m 3/4 of the way through the second pass.

In the meantime, I finished an 8k short that had been languishing on my heard drive for 5 years.  I completed a 10k short that I want to submit to Extreme Planets anthology.  I’m 3.5k into a novella for Crossed Genre’s Winter Well anthology.

I can’t help it, I just love short stories.

But while I’ve been doing this, I have also been thinking about my next novel draft, and I have one in my sights.  Writing starts 1st July.

So while I’m nowhere near where I planned to be, I’m not upset.  I’ve revised my plan and kept moving forward.  I’ve been writing and revising the whole time (except for 2 weeks where I angsted over some words that were really giving me trouble).

I could have thrown my hands in the air and given up.  I could have let the failure of that first novel send me into a spiral of writer’s block.

But I have learned three important things from writing and selling short stories.

  1. Not every story will work, no matter what you do to it.
  2. New ideas will always come along, demanding to be written.
  3. If you keep writing and learning and improving, you will sell stories.

I am not at all upset that this year didn’t fit in with my big plan.  Because I still have that big plan.  The end date has just blown out a little.  And in the meantime I have explored new stories and learned more about the craft of writing and revision.

Never let a wrong turn make you miserable.  You never know what you might see along the way.  Just keep driving.

Your turn: how has the first half of the year gone for you?  Have you lost your way?  Are you still driving?

Cutting hurts

We are cutting down trees today.

My heart is hammering and I feel sick.

I love trees, but unfortunately the person who planted these trees didn’t think before they planted.  One is under the powerlines.  One hovers over the power and phone lines into the house.  One is right up against a window.

So they have to go.  But I hate doing it.  I hate destroying something so beautiful.

I console myself with the thought that as soon as they are gone I will plant more, in the right place this time. Trees carefully chosen for height and shape and location.  Trees that will glow with beauty, attract birds and bees, form a shelter for fauna and privacy for us.

I console myself with this and try not to cry while the trees come down.

Okay, so maybe I cried a bit.

But they had to come down.  Sometimes you make hard decisions, and then you grieve, and then you pick yourself up and move forward.

In life, and in writing.