#WIP Marathon — January!

Last report word count:

When last I left my WIP, SAPPHIRA RISING, I was at about 20k, with a load of backstory and character arcs written out on top of that…

Current word count:

…but, somehow, despite feeling not *fabulous* about my progress in January — you know, berating myself for too many breaks, too many internet black-holes, not enough consistent daily habits — I somehow managed to get the WIP up to a whopping 59,988!

If this t-shirt would suit you like it would me (though I did a film degree, not English. Sentiment’s the same!) …


… then to help you out 😉 that means I somehow got almost 40k done in January! WOOHOO! Not including all the other stuff I wrote that WASN’T this WIP.

WIP Issues This Month:

I’ve been away from this WIP for since early summer, busy on other manuscripts and online writing classes. I realized the truth in something Delilah Dawson said in her LitReactor class on world building back in Nov/Dec. As I mentioned last month, she said she sees first drafts as carrying hot laundry from the dryer. You need to hold all of it tightly and walk as fast as you can. If you drop stuff, you have to go back and find it. If you go too slow, it gets cold.

I loved this analogy, but this month, I recognised its applicability. I let this WIP go cold, and as a result, had to work really hard to find any spark in it. I should have written it when the idea first came, but my writing brain was occupied by other stuff. I’m not 100% back in love with the original idea, but at least after January, I can say I’m rolling out the words again, and maybe a *new* spark for me — for this story — will ignite.

And as for first drafts, these two recent tweets spoke to my soul. Maybe you can relate, too:

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That’s the best way I’ve ever seen to summarise first drafts:

“Here’s the worst version of this scene I could write. Moving on.”

That should be my aim. In fact, I want to write that on a Post-It and stick it to my monitor whenever I’m first-drafting.

Four things I learned this month in writing:

Apart from the above, there’s also everything I read in Elizabeth Gilbert’s rad book, BIG MAGIC. Walk, do not run, to your nearest bookstore or Amazon and buy this book. I’ve never read EAT, PRAY, LOVE nor anything else by her. But this book picked me up from a dark place and put me on my feet. And each time negative thoughts have encroached on my flow, I’ve gone back to highlighted passages. I went to a café and copied all the best bits into the back of my daily planner, so they’re there, with me, all the time. Reminding me.

One of my favourites:

“The ones who stand at the gates of our dreams are not automatons. They are just people. They are just like us. There is no neat template that can ever predict what will capture any one person’s imagination, or when; you just have to reach them at the right moment. But since the moment is unknowable, you must maximise your chances. Play the odds. Put yourself forward in stubborn cheer, and then do it again and again and again.”

(emphasis mine).

What distracted me this month while writing:

David Bowie. Alan Rickman. The days we learned of the deaths of these two wonderful artists, I felt physically hit by a wave of loss. I’m writing a very belated blog post about this that I’ve not put up yet. That was an extremely emotional week, especially given of course that I didn’t know either personally, and I can’t begin to imagine what their families and loved ones are going through now. I’m just another fan and appreciator of all they did. But wow. I hadn’t expected the impact.

On the bright side, I dove into Bowie’s music and Rickman’s work with renewed love, and am inspired more than ever.

Gylly Beach, Falmouth, Cornwall
Sunrise on Gylly Beach, Falmouth, Cornwall

On another bright note, I then went to Falmouth, Cornwall for another writing retreat for five entire days. (I know, right? I’m trying to enjoy it while I can). I got a lot of thinking, reading, and writing done, so while this could have been a major distraction, the weather was decent enough that I got out for seaside walks but didn’t sit lost in people-watching all day. I actually sat in my closet of a hotel room most of the time, pounding away at the keyboard.

Goal for next month:

I’d hoped to get 50k written in my WIP during January, but since I got almost 40k + a few thousand on two separate stories, plus my first completed short story ever (4k) through a 2-week Lit Reactor class with Richard Thomas on short story mechanics, I’m absolutely thrilled with my progress so far in 2016. Praise God.

So for February, I’d like to finish my WIP first draft, and finish the edits on my last MS that I thought were long done. But no. An adverb hunt led from one thing to another. It’s amazing how in love you can grow with the adverbs that have been in your story since the beginning. You feel like they’re part of the DNA. I’m here to say, THEY ARE NOT. CUT. Cut the ones you don’t need! I’m leaving in a few that I think are integral to the tone, mostly in dialogue. I don’t think you need to cut them all, but just try it. Cut out an adverb you’ve been clinging to for months, and then re-read the entire paragraph, and come back and tell me it doesn’t sound cleaner, neater, more elegant. 🙂

Last 250 words:

This is so very first-drafty. But I haven’t done it in awhile, so here’s something.

“Fretting doesn’t suit you, Charon,” came Galen’s voice from the tank. “And it’s unnecessarily. It’s my fault. I told you people on Staffa were after me. I stole tech from Staffa when Arthur was still alive. He required help with a project, and that was the easiest source for the parts he needed. I got them, but not before being ID’ed, and banned from entering this sector. They only discovered it was me four years ago, but when they did, they had my commanding officer inject me with tracer fluid.”

“So if you flew in this sector, an alert would go up. Great. But why the hell did this affect Sapphira just now? What’s going on?” Jericho stood and leaned over the tank, glaring down at Galen’s face.

Galen sounded like he might shrug if he was attached to a body. “I went rogue, shortly after.”

“I can understand why,” said Charon.

“But why Sapphira?”

“I suspect those on Staffa raised an energy field when the tracer fluid set off alarm bells. The timing of the field raising must have coincided with your download of my memories back into my brain. This set off a reaction, like static electricity, only much more powerful, and as Sapphira was touching me . . .” His voice trailed off. “Also, you’ll find this cruiser is unable to pass out of the field.”

“Lovely,” muttered Jericho. “We’ll see about that.” He pulled up a chair to the comm panel and Charon got out of his way. “I’ll see what I can do. Charon, see if you can get that tracer fluid out of Galen’s head. We need to get the hell out of here before his old friends lock on.”

If you’re writing, I hope you have a fabulous and productive February 🙂 The days are getting longer! Hooray!

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Writing Retreats

Back in January (which, somehow, both feels like last week and about 6 months ago), the Scotsman went on a snowboarding excursion (I was originally going to go, and ended up not going, which worked out in my favor in more ways than one :), so while he was away I figured I’d be super productive AND have fun. I planned a mini-writing getaway to Cornwall.

Pendennis Point
Pendennis Point

I did a film degree at Falmouth University (when it was still University College Falmouth), and those 3+ years are legendary in my mind. Whenever I visit now, I’m infused with the same anything-can-happen mentality I had when I was at uni. Maybe because it was my third attempt at finishing a degree, maybe because it was my first year living in the UK, and most definitely because for the first time in my life, I worked my butt off and was genuinely HAPPY about it. Whatever the magical combination or alignment of planets, I feel like it still lingers when I visit. So for me, it’s the perfect writing retreat destination.

Gyllyngvase Beach
Gyllyngvase Beach

Ignoring the fact that I do NOT work in film, I don’t regret a day of that degree (okay… maybe ONE day, but that’s another story 😉 because I got to research things I love, learn about different cultures and perspectives and theories, and most importantly, surround myself in storytelling. (Not to mention the amazing people and memories).

I booked four nights in a hotel on the beach. On the 4.5-hour train ride down alone I wrote about 5k. Every sunrise I did a 4-mile run along the coast (which I do NOT do where we currently live because there’s nowhere remotely pretty nearby), and soaked in the pool and sauna in the evening, but during the day, I took my laptop on a writing tour of Penryn and Falmouth and wrote over 30k. In 4.5 days. And I didn’t go home and delete it all (MONSTER WIN!).

I realise not everyone can get away from home for 1 day, let alone 4.5 by the sea, but the change of scenery is what’s most important. I work in my home office most of the time, and somedays, even changing CHAIRS makes a noticeable difference.

It wasn’t even that I didn’t have distractions — there were loads. I still know people in Falmouth and met up with some of them. I wanted to go in all the shops and could’ve spent the day at Gylly Beach just staring at the horizon. Reflecting on why it worked, I’ve concluded that:

a) It wasn’t a place I’d never been, therefore there was no urge to go off adventuring and explore EVERYTHING. Yes, I could’ve just walked around for 5 days and been content, but if it had been somewhere new to me, I would’ve done that without hesitating.

b) …and at the same time, it holds a place in my heart, good memories, though I was mostly surrounded by strangers, so I was able to tuck into the corner of a cafe or restaurant I knew, but eavesdrop and even partake in conversation, and all the familiar sights mixed with the unfamiliar, and made it refreshing without being overwhelming.

One afternoon, I sat in a Penryn cafe and listened to locals converse about everything under the sun and I LOVED it. They were so friendly and inquisitive and open, and while I didn’t get as much writing accomplished there when I had my headphones off, what I heard fed my head. Nothing of what they said or did ended up in my draft; it was simply being outside of my daily settings, and even outside of somewhere I can physically GET to on a daily basis.

Even if your writing retreat is just part of a day (and I realise, even one whole day, or one whole afternoon can be very pricey both time and money-wise), I highly recommend finding a way to make it work. The ideas flew out of me. It wasn’t about not being distracted; it was about having new distractions.

Over the past year, for awhile I was going to a coffee shop in a nearby town where we used to live, and writing there. It’s only a 20-minute drive yet it takes me out of my regularly scheduled program. I need to get back to that.

Have you gone on a writing retreat, big or small? What works for you? I’d love to hear about it. I need to stock up on some ideas for other ways to swing it 🙂


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#WIPMarathon 12: January

Hello! You may have noticed my blog theme has changed. My old background decided to go offline and I’ve not had time to customise this new theme, but it works for now.

View from Gyllyngvase Beach, Falmouth, Cornwall, Monday sunrise. <3


So our first WIP Marathon check-in for 2015 is here and it’s been my most productive month in awhile — my most non-NaNo month I should say.

I just returned from a 5-day writing getaway in Falmouth, Cornwall (where I went to uni) and it was such a refreshing and invigorating time that I’m pretty much sold on the idea of trying to do it a few times a year. I’ll post about how it went and writing holidays in general in a day or so.

On to WIP Marathon!

Last report word count:


Current report WC:


Yes, that means I wrote 32,495 words in January!! This is truly AMAZING and I hope I can keep this up, given how sluggish parts of 2014 were. This year is off to a fabulous start!

This WIP is an adult fantasy, the bulk of which was drafted during NaNo. My goal at the end of December was to finish the first draft in January. I got a shedload written in Falmouth, but yesterday, the last day of January, I managed a whopping 8,889 words in one 24-hour period.

I took plenty of breaks, went to the gym, watched several Sex & the City eps with dinner, and kept coming back to it and somehow, got my climax scene written. It helped that I had a list of beats and all the revelations that had to come out in the end. I somehow write better when I get up every 30 minutes and do something else for 5-10 minutes in between.

WIP Issues This Month:

I struggled with the last scene. I spent all Saturday trying to write it but it didn’t want to come, and I think it was because I was trying to force it in a setting I didn’t know and couldn’t picture well. It felt nowhere near as spectacular as it could be. So I changed the setting, and the characters found their voices in it a lot easier.

Four things I learned this month while writing:

1) If a scene isn’t flowing, take a muse break. Watch TV, a film, get some exercise, read a book. Or do what I did and change the setting.

2) I can’t begin to list all the things I’ve learned from rereading Susan Sipal’s fantastic A WRITER’S GUIDE TO HARRY POTTER. If you’re an HP fan, check it out. It uses endless examples of how JKR made HP so addictive and believable and rich.

3) Revelatory dialogue at a chapter’s end can be a good thing. A sudden and surprising piece of info coming out of a character’s mouth can focus in on the character and their secrets, and build suspense for the next scene (if done properly, of course). Someone recently told me this doesn’t work, but I just read MAKE A SCENE by Jordan Rosenfeld and she addresses this exact technique. And her explanation made more sense to me than the other person’s argument 😉

4) Regarding internalisation/inner dialogue: Instead of telling readers what the character is thinking, show it. Sounds simply put that way, but read this amazing post by the always awesome Janice Hardy. I really struggle with falling back on internalisation has a bad habit, and this really clarified it for me. I’m finally become hyper-aware of when my POV character is dithering over an action rather than just TAKING it.

What distracted me this month while writing:

I had writing and life issues in general because I jacked my back over Christmas — possibly just prolonged bad posture at the computer, or a dodgy yoga pose, or something. I saw an osteopath and physio TWICE each. It’s nothing major, I just need to keep up with stretches and get up every half hour. But when it’s bothering me, it feels like the back of my right leg, from my butt down to my foot, is really cold. Not to the touch, but inside. Very unpleasant and ridiculously hard to concentrate when it’s happening, but when I’m running or walking, I don’t seem to notice it. Going to keep up the osteo visits and hopefully get it sorted out.

Goal for next month:

One complete read-through and first revision of this WIP done, and hopefully have sent it off to some CPs/betas by then.

Last 200 words:

I’m going to hold off on this, given that my last scene was . . .  well, my last scene. But next month when I’ve done a round of revisions, I’ll be happier to share something then 🙂

Hope it was a productive month for all my fellow WIPMarathoners, and I’ll be posting soon about my writing holiday experiences, and how I managed to write 14k+ in one week (when I’ve been a snail for most of the year).

Happy February!


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A month of NaNo followed by a Long-Expected (reason to) Party.

The Eden Project at night; the site of my engagement 🙂

So I didn’t blog at all in November, but I did a lot of writing. I completed NaNo (woohoo!!) but only just. Two weeks in the middle of the month were incredibly busy despite still not having a job. Three friends from university and I had been planning for months to meet up in London in a flat we rented for three nights. Three of us hadn’t seen in each other since graduation in June 2010, and I’d seen one of them a few times, so it was fantastic to catch up, see the sights, walk the too-early Christmas German markets and the Christmas fair in Hyde Park. We had a blast! Unfortunately, I knew I’d get no writing done in those three days, but I managed to catch up in the last three days of the month.

And the most awesome part of NaNo this year? I think it could easily be a GREAT novel. I actually feel really good about the ideas that are starting to flow, and I’m finding the more I write, the more I flow. Duh! Sounds simple, but sometimes it’s so much harder to START than it is to keep going. Starting truly is the hardest part, because your brain has time to find excuses. But I truly believe what I recently (re)-read: “If you really want to do something, you’ll find a way. If you don’t, you’ll find an excuse.”

I find plenty of excuses because I think that looking for full-time employment and not finding it for so long can lead to procrastination like you’d never believe. When you’re in a job, you try to cram so much more into your spare time. Or, I imagine, when you know you’re free to write full-time from home, then you just get down to it. But when, like me, you’re currently stuck in the position of needing an income and struggling to even get an interview, you’re then feeling guilty about writing, replying to emails, following writing blogs and social media, or doing ANYTHING apart from job hunting. It’s an awful cycle, but I am confident I’ll escape it soon, one way or another.

And the long-expected (reason to) party? The first weekend in December, my partner and I had planned to drive down to Cornwall for two nights just for a pre-Christmas weekend away from the madness. We visited Falmouth, where I lived for three years and went to uni, and we were blessed with an awesome sunny day.

Yes, this used to be my running route. Gorgeous Falmouth.

We spent the day walking up and down the high street with me snapping photos of everything that brought back good memories, ran into some friends, and got excited to plan a springtime visit back to Cornwall to do some proper coastal walks.

But the most EXCITING news came the night before; we went to the Eden Project which I’d been to once, years ago, but this time it was after dark (2-for-1!) and at Christmas time, so there was an ice skating rink (again, 2-for-1!) and Christmas lights, and it was much emptier than I expected so it felt like a nice, quiet evening to ourselves. Inside the Rainforest biome, my partner got down on one knee and proposed to me with the most beautiful ring I’ve ever seen. 🙂 It was the happiest moment of my life for sure, and I am so thankful my life brought me through all the twisty paths it has to get me to that moment, with that person. He’s made me happier than I ever imagined. Things do work out, and things happen for a reason.

So it’s already been the best Christmas ever 🙂 Lots of planning ahead for 2012, but most important is a job for me. I keep fantasising an agent will come along and see my brilliance (haha) and I’ll be able to write full-time from home (or really, HAVE to write full-time from home) to fulfill my giant book deal 😉 But I’m looking every day, in the hopes I find something that will use my degree and skills and be interesting to boot. Persistence, eh?

So I learned, or was reminded, this November, that if you really, REALLY want something, you’ll find a way. It’s been a slow lesson, but over the last 18 months since graduation, the thing I keep coming back to is writing. It’s what I want more than *anything* for my path in life, and I am willing to work hard at it, though sometimes it can be really difficult. I got fantastic feedback from being part of Authoress‘s Baker’s Dozen contest, and I’m going to keep on truckin’. I found excuses as to why I didn’t want to do A, B, or C like other people I graduated with are doing, but writing has been in my heart since I was old enough to listen to stories that were read to me. So my 2012 New Year’s Resolution (starting now, because it’s never too early) is to have confidence in myself, not take “no” for an answer, and just work, work, work so I can be proud and see results. No more excuses!! That’s my 2012 mantra.


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