Elizabeth: NaNo Countdown – 4 Weeks To Go

The kids are back in school, holiday merchandise is popping up at the local stores, and my heater at home came on for the first time this season.

Do you know what that means?

Right, National Novel Writing Month is almost here.  For those of you who are not familiar with NaNoWriMo (NaNo for short), it’s a month where writers around the world do their best to get 1,667 words on the page every day in the month of November, resulting in a 50,000 word manuscript by December 1st.

It’s fun and exciting and motivating and challenging and, frankly, hard as all get out.

It’s also a great way to focus on a writing project and get some words on the page.  Of course, not everyone has a creative muse who responds well to that kind of pressure, but as I found out in 2015, mine seems to be okay with the idea.  Something about the accountability and not wanting to be left behind when others reach their target word counts is just the motivation I need to move from “thinking” about story to actually writing it down.

Last year was a bust, for reasons outside of my control, but I’m looking forward to November this time around (and not just because there will be Halloween candy right beforehand).  I’ve already decided on the story I’ll be writing, a contemporary romance with the working title A Change of Heart.  The story is the second book in the series that I started with my 2015 NaNo story, Second Chances.

In order give myself the best chance of success this time around I’m doing a fair amount of pre-work.  It worked well for me in 2015, so it makes sense to do it again.

This week my focus is on:  Outlining Continue reading

Jilly: Season of Fruitfulness, 2017

It’s October already. How did that happen? What do you absolutely, definitely, non-negotiably intend to get done before the end of the year?

I’m not one for new year’s resolutions, but I do like to end the year with a feeling that I’ve achieved something, finished something, made some progress. So I usually take stock around now, at the beginning of the fourth quarter, and set myself some objectives for the next three months.

Continue reading

Kay: On the Road with Journey Novels

A view of Highgate Cemetery

Today I’m in London, visiting Jilly, and we will go (or have gone) to Highgate Cemetery, a place I’ve always wanted to see. George Eliot is buried here, as well as Christina Rossetti, Radclyffe Hall, Douglas Adams (author of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy), Karl Marx, George Michael, and 170,000 other famous and not-so-famous people.

I’ll be gone for more than three weeks—after I leave here, I go to Italy where I’ll meet up with another friend in Bologna and then take a bus trip around the country. I’m looking forward to it all—brainstorming with Jilly in addition to doing fun stuff—and then seeing the high spots of Italy, a country I’ve never been to.

I think travel is good for people. Continue reading

Michaeline: Lois McMaster Bujold and Three Questions about Writing “Penric’s Fox”

Exciting August news, all! Lois McMaster Bujold came out with a new Penric novella on August 8, 2017! Hang onto your time-travelling imagination caps: “Penric’s Fox” is actually book three, following “Penric and the Shaman” by about nine months, and before “Penric’s Mission” (NB: as of 2017 08 08. Your mileage and chronometer may vary).

"Penric's Fox" title cover with a castle, a fox and a ghostly young woman in elegant medieval robes.

“Penric’s Fox” follows further adventures of Learned Penric, court sorceror for the princess-archdivine. It’s about 37,400 words, so if you read “Penric’s Demon” and “Penric and the Shaman” as well, you’ll have a good chunk of fantasy to enjoy this weekend! Follow it up with the older Penric in “Penric’s Mission” and “Mira’s Last Dance”. (Image courtesy of Lois McMaster Bujold)

“Whaaa?” Not to worry — all the stories can stand on their own, and who is going to quibble when we have the chance to see Penric in action again?

So, go. Make a liter of  something seasonal and delicious, find your favorite reading pillow, and download the book. When you’re done, come back here and see what Lois has to say about the process of writing things.

EMD: I suppose the first question is why did you write a follow-up to “Penric and the Shaman” (the second Penric novella) and not a follow-up to “Mira’s Last Dance”? I mean, I’m grateful for whatever you’ve got, but it is a question that comes up.

LMB: This was the story that wanted to be written first. I am considering a follow-up to “Mira”, yes, but those ideas were not ripe at the beginning of this year (2017), and then the key idea that this story was awaiting suddenly slotted in, so.

The delay proved to be, as is often the case, good for the other set of ideas as well, as a few more have joined that collection since January that I could not have foreseen. For me, a story in the process of assembling itself is like a box of loose objects rattling around aimlessly, till some connecting idea drops in and things suddenly get interesting. (Note that some of those pieces may also prove to be wrong ones, like two jigsaw puzzles mixed together. Sorting those out can also take some time.) Trust me, stories only look inevitable in retrospect.

Some of the ideas for “Penric’s Fox” had been kicking around ever since I was developing backstory prior to starting what became “Penric’s Mission”, but they weren’t necessarily stories yet. The seven years I jumped over to get to Penric at age 30 were full of experiences that were important to him but not necessarily story-like, though I needed to know roughly what they were before I could write him at that later stage. It was basically the same sort of task as developing any new character’s backstory before starting them off on a tale for the first time, even though the reader will never see most of it.

I should also note that one of the developments in the tale came from watching the family of foxes that denned under my garden shed earlier this year, not something I could have anticipated. There’s nothing like Continue reading

Jilly: Hands Off

How do you handle enforced inactivity? Do you have any tips for making the most of it?

I’m more than happy to spend a few days on the sofa with my TBR pile, or working on a puzzle, or soaking in a tub of bubbles, as long as the downtime is my choice. It might be a long-scheduled holiday or a spontaneous mini-break because I’m feeling shattered—either is fine, so long as the break isn’t forced on me. When that happens, I’m not good at making the best of it.

I had a fabulous time in Orlando with Jeanne, Kay, Elizabeth, Michille and Kat. I loved brainstorming, especially playing the Damon Suede game of choosing a verb to describe each of our main characters (see Elizabeth’s post for more about this invaluable trick). I attended a few excellent workshops, heard a brilliant keynote speech from Susan Wiggs, posed for an author photo, made new friends, had a great discussion about Alexis with Jeanne’s editor, listened to a hilarious Q&A from Ilona Andrews, Gordon Andrews and Jeanine Frost, and returned to the UK tired but inspired.

After a couple of good nights’ sleep I was feeling refreshed and raring to get to work—and I couldn’t, because I’ve somehow tweaked my shoulder and it hurts like hell when I write or type. It’s my own stupid fault. Continue reading

Kay: Revising Made Easy (Thanks, Cover Design!)

What do you think? Too much type? Script too hard to read? Would you check it out?

This cover seems to have all the elements, but it looks pretty amateurish. Would you pick it up?

This week I temporarily set aside the revisions on my WIP to focus on another aspect of my “self-publishing journey”— creating covers for the three completed novellas languishing on my hard drive. In other, more accurate, words, my life force has been sucked out of me by the heinous graphics software program InDesign because I’m too cheap to hire a cover designer.

My word, how I hate that program, which is entirely because I’m so ignorant about it. I had to use it at my last day job seven years ago, and then only in a very limited capacity. Seven years and who knows how many updates later, InDesign might as well be string theory, genome analysis, and astronomical map projections rolled into one. It is very complicated.

I decided to tackle it again because the revisions on my WIP have slowed to a crawl. Continue reading

Jilly: Tips for Creative Problem Solving

What do you do when you’re chewing on a problem, any problem, and you can’t seem to find your way to an answer?

I’m just back from a routine trip to visit my mum in Derbyshire. The return journey involves a minimum of six hours driving, closer to eight hours this weekend. It almost always results in some brainwave, useful insight about my WIP, or some other problem if Real Life is getting in the way of my writing.

I don’t consciously use my driving time to problem solve—I try to keep my eyes on the road and my wits about me—but somehow when my surface concentration is fully occupied watching the traffic, the deeper levels of my mind feel free to work on knottier problems.

I write sequentially, which means that I use each scene I write to provide the impetus for the next one. The good thing about my process is that the story grows organically. The downside is that when I hit a problem, I grind to a halt and spin my wheels. I can’t move forward until I resolve it.

Over the last few years I’ve tried various tactics to rescue myself when I get stuck. Here are a selection of the ones which work best for me, though your mileage may vary. Continue reading