Jilly: Wonderful Wintersnight

I haven’t forgotten about the Annual Christmas Week Short Story Challenge. My holiday offering needs another 48 hours to marinade followed by a few days in the slow cooker. It should be ready by next Sunday. Hopefully it will be worth the wait 🙂 .

Today, instead, I’d like to celebrate my favorite day of the whole year.

I’m a grinch about Christmas and I find it difficult to stay awake long enough to welcome the New Year, but the winter solstice is important to me. Today, 22ndDecember, is the shortest day and longest night of the year, at least for those of us in the northern hemisphere.

I don’t suffer ill health in the winter months as some people do, but I’m sensitive to changes in daylight, and at some subliminal level I respond to trends and momentum. Once my subconscious notices that every day is a little lighter and longer than the one before, I start to feel energized and empowered and creative. Almost superhuman. It doesn’t matter that we’re still in winter, that the weather may be grim and the nights will be longer than the days for another three months.

I’ve learned over the years that this is my best time. I typically get ever more inspired and enthusiastic until May or June, sometimes right up to the summer solstice. Then I’m done. My Girls take a vacay for the summer and spend the fall on housekeeping and closing out projects.

Which means if I want to get the next Elan Intrigues book done, there’s no time to waste. I need a discovery draft done by the end of spring. Tomorrow I’m planning to warm up with the Short Story Challenge and then I’ll use that momentum to roll on into 2020 and Daire’s story.

Of course I’ll take the time to celebrate Christmas and the New Year, but as far as I’m concerned the best day of the year is today. Right here, right now.

Happy Wintersnight, everyone! Nothing but good times ahead 🙂 .

Are you a seasonal creature? Do you have a favorite day or time of the year?

Elizabeth: Back to Basics – Starting a “New” Story

Stories Yet To Be WrittenA few weeks ago I mentioned that I was trying to decide wether to keep plugging away on the current manuscripts I have in process or to call it a day and get on with my (writing) life.

The part of me that felt I was trapped in revision paralysis was all for “let’s build a bonfire / I’ll get the matches.”  The part of me that never stopped reading a book partway through (until Madame Bovary), was more “quitter, quitter, quitter.”

A conundrum, indeed.

Fortunately, I think I’ve come up with a solution that pleases no one combines the two options.  I’m taking one of my three manuscripts and starting it all over from scratch.

Sounds like fun, right?  No?  Well, it was Jilly’s idea. Continue reading

Kay: New Dogs, Old Tricks

Can you read the caption? “Andrina Wood at the console of a BTM computer. Tabacus: The Magazine of the British Tabulating Company, August 1958.” The photo was republished on the Twitter account of Mar Hicks, a professor and historian of technology. Many of the vintage photos I’ve seen show women at computer consoles working with a legal pad or paper notebook.

I’ve started a new book. For lack of any better ideas, I went back to a project I last worked on in about 2006—the adventures of my genius computer hacker and the FBI agent who arrested her.

I wrote two books of these characters before I switched to lighter storylines—there’s just something about your hero sending your heroine to prison that tends to get dark pretty fast. And it’s hard to write genius, too, if you’re not genius yourself. Using Sheldon Cooper as a role model, especially for a female character, has its limitations.

The reception I got for these books after I’d finished them was lukewarm. The first book is about stealing an election, a topic that every agent and editor I talked to said would be stale in months. And we all know how that turned out.

Continue reading

Elizabeth: NaNo Progress Report – A Big Hot Mess

Cue the trumpets, toss the confetti, and raise your glass, it’s time to celebrate the rapidly approaching end of NaNo.

About an hour ago I typed my two favorite words – “The End” – and uploaded my final word count and manuscript for validation.  As a NaNo “winner”, I have the lovely graphic you see over to the left and a 50,007 word manuscript that can best be described as “a big hot mess.”

My NaNo got off to a slow start this year (I may have slept through a few writing sessions), and there have been a few days with less than stellar word counts, but being off work last week gave me a chance to really focus on writing and get a large number of words on the page that can probably best be described as “quantity” rather than “quality.”  There are most certainly plot holes you could drive a truck through, and it’s littered with notes like “something needs to happen here,” but the draft is done.

Yay!

Once the excitement of finishing the draft cools, it’s time to think about what to do next. Continue reading

Elizabeth: NaNo Progress Report – The Sagging Middle

No, I don’t mean the after-effect of holiday eating or what happens when the elastic in your gym shorts breaks, I’m talking about what happens right about now during the month of NaNo.

We’re at the mid-way point; probably the most challenging time of the whole month.  The initial excitement of the first week, when stories were fresh and new tends to fade about now and be replaced by daily word counts that are a little more challenging to hit and creative ideas that are a little harder to come by.

For some – those whose stories are rolling right along – this can be an exciting part of the process where the germ of a story idea has taken root and grown into something even better than first imagined.  For others, this can be the time when what started out as a great idea now looks like a tangled mess with no discernible resolution.  You may have written yourself into a corner, or noticed you don’t actually have any solid conflict, or realized that 10,000 words ago your story took and unexpected turn and now you don’t know what’s next.

It can be tempting at this point to read over what you’ve written so far and do a little editing.

Don’t do it. Continue reading

Elizabeth: NaNo Progress Report – Week 1

National Novel Writing Month kicked off just a week ago and, according to the handy graphic on the NaNo website, writers in nearby San Francisco have already written over 4.5 million words.

Multiply that by all the participating writers in all the participating cities around the world and that’s an amazing amount of writing and an amazing number of stories that didn’t even exist a mere week ago.

I’d love to say that my own NaNo experience was off to a stellar start this year, but that would be an extreme work of fiction, and not the good kind.

In reality, as you might guess from the graphic in this post, my NaNo got off to a rather slow start.  Three days of long hours at the day job coupled with at least one evening when I fell asleep in the midst of dinner made hitting the daily 1,667 word count a dream rather than a reality. Continue reading

Jilly: Seeking Playlist Recommendations

Anybody up for a playlist recommendation or two? I’d truly appreciate it. 😉

It’s only two weeks since I posted my plan for the rest of the year, and I’ve already made a significant change. I sent off Alexis Book 1 to be edited, (yay!), but when I sat down to start work on the prequel, I realized that wasn’t the story I wanted to tell…not yet, anyway.

The prequel is the story of Alexis’s parents, Daire and Annis. It explains how Annis ends up running for her life, carrying little more than her unborn child and the most powerful jewel in the history of Caldermor. But, but, but… that story stems directly from Daire’s failure to secure the hand in marriage of a very different woman. All the characters from the debacle are major players in Alexis’s story, and I’ll need a novella to give away next year when I finally hit ‘publish,’ so I decided to write Kiran and Christal’s story now, and (hopefully) let the momentum carry Daire and me into the prequel.

I know where the novella is set (Darrochar, the kingdom adjoining Caldermor). I know how it ends, and I know the main characters. I’ve made a few pages of notes, but I need a playlist to really get my imagination working.

The story so far:

  • One arranged political marriage;
  • One clever, rich, handsome, spoiled princeling who’s too busy having a good time to stand up to his ambitious, power-mad mother;
  • One elegant, clever princess, determined not to waste her life and talents on a golden loser.
  • One scheming, murderous Princess Dowager (the mother-in-law from hell);
  • One plainspoken, upstanding career soldier turned princely bodyguard-slash-advisor who’s wondering what the hell he’s let himself in for.
  • Fighting (physical and metaphorical), in-fighting, hard truths told, harder lessons learned, risking all, expecting to lose all and (spoiler alert!) somehow the good guys emerge triumphant.

I’ll add to the list as I build up the story, but here’s my first stab at a few tunes: Continue reading

Elizabeth: Characters and Christmas

2008-xmas-dsc_0498As I mentioned in last week’s post, I spent a few days recently at the Happiest Place on Earth (Disneyland), taking a digital break and doing a little mental refresh.  The weather was good, the fireworks were spectacular, and it was great to disconnect for a little while.  Now that I’m back and the holiday decorations are up (mostly), it’s time to work on my manuscript.

Though I don’t have a daily word goal this month like I did in November, I’m trying to follow Jilly’s advice and to make sure my story doesn’t get lost in the holiday / year-end crush.

Right now I’m focusing on getting to know my characters a little better. Continue reading

Elizabeth: NaNoWriMo Reality Check

Critical NaNoWriMo writing supplies

Critical NaNoWriMo writing supplies (note they are all still unopened)

So it’s down to the last week or so in the annual writing extravaganza known as NaNoWiMo and things are not looking good here in the Fortress of Writing.

I had high hopes for this year; due in part to last year’s success, but sadly, that hope was misplaced.  While there were some external circumstances that I couldn’t really have foreseen, my biggest stumbling block was inadequate preparation.

Last year I started November 1st with conflict boxes, clearly defined characters, and an outline for my story.  I had a fairly good idea what needed to happen in the beginning, middle, and end, so I didn’t have to spend a lot of time wondering what should happen next.  Even better, since I knew where I was heading, it was fairly easy to jump around and work on whatever scene had my attention at the time, rather than having to write sequentially in order to uncover the story.  I wrote late at night, in the dark, and spent very little time looking back over what I had written.

Naturally, since that worked so well last year I did something completely different this year.  (In hindsight, not my best decision.) Continue reading

Michaeline: Lois McMaster Bujold Answers Three (Okay, Four) Questions about the Writing Process

penrics-mission-cover-2016-11-book-three-bujold

Today, we’ve got a short interview with Lois McMaster Bujold about the writing process. Just in time for National Novel Writing Month’s first weekend! Lois writes the thrilling tales of the Vorkosigan family, the Wide Green World, and the World of the Five Gods. This week, the third story about Penric in the W5G came out: Penric’s Mission was published on November 2, 2016. (Announcement on her Goodreads blog, here.) Lois is a master of speculative fiction, and her liberal use of romance in these genres makes her worlds rich and real. Grab a cyber beverage from the Eight Ladies Writing fridge, and pull up a seat!

MD: So, National Novel Writing Month is basically about creating a first draft of at least 50,000 words. What’s your favorite thing about writing the first draft?

LMB: Finishing it. (-:

Starting it runs a close second, true. Then, probably, those moments when a sticky knot gets suddenly undone by some neat idea or inspiration that I didn’t have — often couldn’t have had — earlier. Continue reading