Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Inevitable Plot Challenges in the Novel - Just get on with it...

I produced a couple of thousand words of Strachan's Attic yesterday. I've been distracted over the past few weeks, what with the new laptop and all the fast, fast browsing now available to me. There were so many blogs and web pages I'd avoided because they took so long to open. People had told me it could be like this. Instant access!

So I re-did my website, downloaded more music and fiddled around with my Playlists, set up Google Chrome, which is a very convenient little program, and cleverly avoided writing the love scene that was inevitable in Chapter Eight.

Well, I took a deep breath, and just got on with it yesterday. It's all done and consummated now. I'm feeling much better about getting to the next stage of the book, now that particular delicate bit is over. Of course, there'll be more face-offs, but I'll be able to deal with those now that this new aspect of my characters' relationship has been established.

I want to remind you that parts of Strachan's Attic are set in the 1940s. Sex was obviously alive and well, but approached in a more conservative way than it is today, at least in my secondary heroine's world. This was tricky to write about, because the very language of sex was different, as far as I know. I based this conclusion on old film, books, family anecdotes, and instinct, while also acknowledging the censorship of the era.

In writing about World War II, delving into the suffering, awed by the undefeated spirit of that time, I can feel emotionally raw. I went to bed quite exhausted last night, but there was also relief that I'd finally dealt with one of the more demanding episodes of the novel.

This leads me to admit that Hafan Deg is taking a back seat in my daily life. I'm somewhat ashamed that I've barely been following this novel's journey. I've had no further rejections and it did occur to me that it's been some time since I sent off my early queries. They probably need follow-up, but I'm not sure I'll do that. The way I see it, if the agent is interested, she'll get back to me eventually. If she's not, she'll get around to telling me that at some point - or perhaps she'll tell me nothing at all. There is also a distinct possibility that one or two of the queries simply got lost en route, deleted accidentally. I can live with all of this. I'll send out more queries this week, all the same. If the magic number could be as high as 100, I'm way behind.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Our Stuff Is Our History - Not Clutter

I intended to write this weekend, but I didn't. Things just kept popping up, and I put it off. You've probably all read Dorothy Parker's quip: "Writing is the art of applying the ass to the seat." I'm afraid no such application occurred.

Over the years, I've travelled overseas a lot. I don't mean flying visits, or three-week vacations - I mean MOVES. My kids are scattered around the globe, and I need to be near each of them at times, but I was doing this when they were still living at home, and dragged them, and assorted pets, with me. In fact, their living globally is the result of my own wanderings, so I can't blame them for being geographically inconvenient.

However, I have things that I must always take with me. Some of it is beloved furniture that I can't part with. Most of it is just plain stuff. You know, those little bags of memorabilia you can't quite part with, little ornaments the kids made in school, gifts (that you might not have chosen yourself) from friends and family, wonderful collectibles you found on yet another antique market expedition. And, of course, the essential book collection.

I've pared this all down several times (especially the books), restricting myself to a certain number of boxes, but somehow the number increases again after each move (I've even replaced some of the books I'd parted with). I still have unpacked boxes here, because my place is small and there's just nowhere to display everything.

This weekend, instead of writing, I busied myself going through these stored boxes and firmly removing things I thought I could relinquish, once and for all. A couple of empty boxes were set up to receive these, and I bubble-wrapped each item. My friend up the road had offered to sell them on his stall at a local spring fair next month. I felt quite good as the boxes filled up. This was on Saturday.

Yesterday I realized I hadn't done a list of the items for my friend. I took notepaper and pen, and unwrapped everything to begin the list. Like a badly-written mystery, you already know where this is going, right? I decided to keep everything. How could I give up the dear little brass bell I found at that shop in Bristol; the sweet crystal candle holders that a friend had no further use for; the silver cruet set which is no longer my style, but is so pretty; the brass bits and bobs; the small silver tray; the pretty bottles; the wooden boxes; the vintage tins; the this and the thats I've had for so long? I just couldn't.

Once more, I packed them up and stored the box away. Later I told my friend, who laughed at me, but who understood because he's a collector too. The difference is: he has this regular sale of his collectibles, and makes good money at it. I just can't bear the idea of someone haggling over a price for something that's given me so much pleasure.

It's a weakness in me, I know, and friends and family ridicule me about it, but these things represent my life. They are not clutter. They are evidence of where I've been and what I've done. They are my history.

Environmentalists encourage us to live lightly on the Earth, and I pride myself on doing this most of the time. My boxes beg to differ. If I must keep them, Green philosophy or not, I really need a bigger place to live.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Writers' Blogs, The Ebb and Flow of Interest

There's a measurable ebb and flow in the amount of interest in blogs, I've noticed. At first, I thought it was just me, that I was somehow not sparking enough interest with my postings. But then I realized that I don't read all my favorite blogs each day, either. I might catch up with them later on in the week, or miss them entirely because I was involved in other things, as a lot of us are. So ALL bloggers, on the whole, must see this reflected in the number of hits they receive. Ebbing and flowing with no discernible cause... I apologize to my favorites, but I know we're all guilty of this. It's not YOU. It's ME.

My art page always does well. I've decided that this is because it's mainly about pictures, not requiring huge concentration, not asking for analyses, discussion, or any deep thought. It simply requires you to look. And people do. They know when they open the page that I'm not going to be demanding anything of them, other than perhaps linking to the artist I'm featuring. I certainly don't say very much, nor expect much back. Perhaps this is the ideal blog. We've all become so scattered in our thinking, our interests, degree of concentration, that we often long for something easy to look at.

Well, it stands to reason that a writing blog is never going to be easy. We Blogging Writers are always complaining about something, that the writing is going badly, that we received another rejection, whatever - just plain feeling sorry for ourselves. Sometimes we're enthusiastic, and - very occasionally - ecstatic. As the enthusiasm and ecstasy is less evident most days, this would indicate a rather serious read.

I always liked this bit of reality from The Writer's Chapbook:
Reader: "Miss Moore, your poetry is very difficult to read."
Marianne Moore: "It is very difficult to write."

I try not to put too much of my private day-to-day life into my blogs, not because I'm secretive or fear exposure of some hitherto-unknown weakness, but because this was meant to be about writing. One day, I might consider a social chit-chat blog, but not yet. If I take off again for Parts Unknown, I'll tell you where I am, and what I'm doing, but that's about it. After all, you read my blog for glimpses into the writing life, don't you? Does it really interest you to know when my washing machine breaks down, or when my cat wipes his bottom on my rug?

I'd be interested to know what you DO expect here.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Artists Who Are Writers - Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee

I've been spending rather a lot of time on my art sites, tidying them up, improving them where I can. I'm a bit ashamed to admit to this, but I originally promised you that I would devote myself more or less exclusively to the writing here. Now I find that light-hearted painting imp is trying to oust the more serious writing muse. For the first time in months, I'm thinking about doing a little something in acrylics on a fresh, new canvas...

This made me wonder about all of you out there (and there are many) who suffer from the same sort of split-creativity personality. I'm always impressed when I find others with the same dual-drives, and we seem drawn together, I've noticed. How do you deal with it? From my art blog, I see how you're all either producing art and talking about the writing, or vice-versa, and I wonder how much of a problem it becomes for you at times, this little battle of the Creative Urges.

For me, once I get over the guilt thing, I think I might get down to a bit of painting soon. It's been over six months since I last finished one, and my various online portfolios seem almost archival. But first I have to convince myself that I can do two things at the same time, more or less. My writing takes up about four hours a day - when I'm in-flow, a little longer - but this still leaves plenty of time for painting. I simply have to learn, once and for all, how to switch off one for the other, on a regular basis.

This is not like switching off the 9-5 Business Work Mode button - that's so indelibly ensconced in the other side of the brain, I don't even consider it, and it's a pleasure to stay away from it. But these two are like identical twins, fighting for dominance, trying to share the same brain circuits, I guess. I wonder if anyone has ever put those little electrodes on someone to see if this is valid.

Anyway, I refuse to use my painting again as an avoidance technique for the writing, as I've done in the past. I've been given two life passions (in fact, there are more - but I won't go into that here) and I should appreciate them. Of course, the painting imp is very light-hearted, bright and easy-going, while the writing muse is more conservative, more sensible, and takes life more seriously. I suppose it makes sense that I need them both in my life.

Back in November, when I started this writing blog, I vowed I wouldn't let the art blog spill over into it, and I've tried to do that. But it's hard, because I'm not cleanly divided between the two. So today I present myself as the split-personality I am, and I am unapologetic.

Let me me know how you deal with this. How difficult is it for you?

 

Monday, April 20, 2009

J.G. Ballard, Margaret Drabble, and Writers' Memories.

J.G. Ballard died on Thursday. The only thing of his I've read is the close-to- autobiographical Empire of the Sun, which is one of my all-time favorite books. Strange that he didn't write of his childhood memories in China until he was over fifty, when most writers would deal with such huge early upheaval in first novels. I've read nothing else by Ballard - for instance, Crash - knowing that his sense of the macabre would be too much for me to handle, but the book relating his formative years in China haunts me still.


My favorite writer is Margaret Drabble, and I've read every novel she's written. Knowing how difficult writing is for us all - trying not to be repetitive with phrasing, with descriptions, with single words, within ONE book, let alone if we're writing a second or third book - you'll appreciate her present dilemma. She believes she must stop writing because she now can't be sure she's not repeating herself. Ms. Drabble is not yet seventy, and has crammed a literary bounty into fifty of those years, but she's certainly too young to be finished. But I do understand how she feels.

When we write, it can be as irritating as all get-out having to go back (or use "Search") to check each time we feel we've already used that phrase, that precise description of a setting sun, whatever. Usually our hunch is right. There it is, more or less identically-worded, back in Chapter Five.

One of the oddities in writing is that you do so much of it away from the computer - while you're housecleaning, or in the shower, and so on. Many times I've thought of some brilliant bit that simply must go into the book, and eventually sat down to include it in the appropriate spot and - not really a surprise - it's already there; the idea was already incorporated when I thought it was sparkling and new. This is not a symptom of a failing mind (I'm pretty sure), but an indication of the constant perfection we look for when we write. Only that exact coupling of words will do right here .

Now imagine that you've written some eighteen novels (along with short stories, essays, and a ton of non-fiction) over the last forty odd years, and keep in mind that personal computers have only been around for about twenty. How on earth do you keep track of a delicious literary snippet you wrote in Novel Six, or Eight?

Which brings me back to Ms. Drabble. Oh, how I sympathize with her, brilliant and inexhaustible wordsmith that she is. If I can't remember a detail in my book from a month ago, how can she after decades?

Go ahead and take a break from it, Ms. Drabble, I say. You'll be back.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Uh-oh...It's REALLY Spring!

Being a writer is very easy, really, in the winter. We're more or less house-bound in this neck of the woods (Ontario) for many months, creeping out only for groceries, and, with daylight so short, tend to spend time comfortably cosy in front of the computer. (In the olden days, it would have been the fireplace.) I know - I know - I should learn to ski, to toboggan, whatever. Not me. I think winter is beautiful - but from the inside, looking out. But I did say "easy" for the winter writer, and, of course, it never is, but we manage to immerse ourselves in it, and at times it flows comfortably, and we are away in our own imaginary - and probably warmer - worlds.

However, at this time of the year, with bright sunshine outside, and folks strolling by (who are they all?), it's very difficult to spend time at my NEW laptop. (I so love my new laptop.) I know I can take it anywhere, but I won't. What kind of Northerner would I be if I sat in a park somewhere writing on such a beautiful day? So I guess Strachan's Attic will become a night time pursuit now, but you must remember that night time is now much shorter. Hmm, I'll certainly try hard to be good. It's really only the first weeks of Glorious Spring that I feel drawn to be outside, if I recall. Later, when we've all come to take it for granted, I'll be back inside some of the time.

Meanwhile, there will be Spring Fairs, Yard Sales, our Farmers' Market, plunges in my friend's hot tub (which I don't appreciate in the middle of the winter, although she does...), lunches on a dock somewhere, and all those other wonderful things to lure a writer away from the work.

I promise I will do my best. That's all any of us can do, after all.

Take care, and have a warm, warm weekend. Leave the laptop at home.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

This and That...and Sarahbeth Purcell

There's no point in beating about the bush - I've been goofing off. I bought a new laptop to play with, installed programs, tinkered about with it, love it. This techy stuff took ages (because I'm constantly learning), but was huge fun for me. My old computer came with me from Australia, suitably re-electrified when I arrived, but it's a bit sad these days, and was due for replacement. You have no idea how difficult it's been for me at times, with the poor old thing regularly freezing up on me, and I don't think I complained to you about it once.

There's always a certain amount of guilt involved in replacing things that aren't quite broken, for me, at least. I've always been very Green about everything I buy, and resist new for the sake of new. I wear things for years, and really do have shoes and bags that are older than my next door neighbor, but I do this with style, and not in a Bohemian way. Whenever possible, I buy things like coffee makers at the charity shop. This really isn't anything to do with cheapness - it's all about recycling, treating household objects almost as if they have feelings. If I see something there that's as good as anything in the mall, I'll buy it, regardless of its previously loved condition. And I can't bear to see my friends tossing things out. The truth is, I usually rescue the poor rejected item, assuming it's salvageable. That's me. Fairly low-maintenance.

But not when it comes to travel. See, this is where that saved money goes, and I'm not Green there at all. I don't own a car, have been vegetarian most of my life, and certainly tread more lightly on this Earth than your average carnivorous motorist. I figure air travel is my one big sin. But I can't help it. When the bug arrives, I must feed it. Even as I write this, I'm thankful for my cats, who restrict my travels somewhat. Not completely, though. If the bug gets really bad (and I believe the first signs of reinfection appeared again this week), I'll just look at them and say, "Sorry, guys. It's time for the really big pet carrier again." Baby is a veteran, having come with me from Oz, but I'm not sure how Jeevesie will feel about it. But he's a tough old moggie, and I figure he can handle it.

Along with playing with my laptop, I've been messing around with web design. I've done a rather nice one for a fellow artist, which spurred me to seriously tweak my own. This has taken two days, but the results are satisfying. Clean, uncluttered, and takes little time to open - a must for a website, right? (You should go check it out - I'm quite proud of the new version.)

I did manage to send out three more agent queries, bringing my Pendings to 15, 2 Partials, and 6 Rejections. I'm in my philosophical mood again, now that I'm over That Agent Who Doesn't Read.

I've done no further Strachan writing, because I'm still researching, mulling over it, and trying to face the inevitable love scene that's in the next chapter. I've been giving it a lot of thought, this final consummation of the relationship between Celia and Alex, and I can't quite decide how to deal with it. It will come, probably at an odd hour, and then the word count should spike again. (Interesting imagery.)

I've found a wonderful writer's page that I want to share with you. I have no idea how I came across her, but she really spoke to me, and I found myself totally drawn into her world, both fictional and real. Sarahbeth Purcell is a published writer (see her page at Amazon) but I highly recommend you read her blog postings, especially One through Nine, entitled "The Great American Novel". These are her journals, not her fiction, a beautifully worded description of her writing aspirations and her own long journey to publication. Her postings are brave and unstinting, worthy of publication in themselves. It's not often that a new writer totally amazes me, but she does. Young, with a difficult history, she knows she's flawed - but a flawed writer always has the most to say. To have lived a perfect life is to have nothing of real interest to write about, I think. We write to understand our own foibles, even to salve our deepest wounds, don't we? Writing helps us to laugh at them, cry over them - to address them once and for all. All writing is healing, isn't it? And if it's selflessly written, it's healing for the reader as well. Thank you, Sarahbeth.

I'll see you Friday.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Querying All Agents, Not Assistants. Still In Battle Mode.

Thanks to all of you who made comments or sent emails about that infuriating critique. Your input - quite varied, in fact - is so appreciated.

My last comment was from Jane, who points out that some agents do use readers (usually ex-editors) because they, themselves, are too busy. Oh, and what's all this about being too busy, anyway? If I was so offhand about my work, I'd be fired. My clients hire me, and don't expect me to outsource, unless I specify that right from the start. In future, if and when I receive a request for a Full submission, I'm going to ask if they'll be reading it themselves, or I'll decline the invitation. And I mean that. If I am to be rejected, I want it to be done by the best in the business. A good, respectful, agent.

To recap, the agent in question asked for the book because the first three chapters 'intrigued' (an agent's rather over-used word for 'mildly interested') him, and then admitted, with the rejection, that he farmed it out because he didn't think he could appreciate this piece of women's fiction because of his male sensibilities. Yet he clearly said in his profile that he wanted - among other things - women's fiction. As most agents (from what I've seen) are women, how on earth would we ever get male-oriented fiction published, based on this attitude?

Last, by the unprofessional approach of his reader, this was NOT an ex-editor. Someone noted that this particular agent mentioned in his blog that he uses his assistant as a reader. I certainly didn't know that, although I know it's common. It's bad enough that assistants are often responsible for rejecting initial queries, but it's outrageous if they influence the fate of a full manuscript. When we go looking for the best agent, we sure as hell aren't going to be satisfied with the best assistant.

It all comes back to a lack of respect for the writer, I think. No matter how many things I read in defence of agents' attitudes and practices, my gut reaction to a lot of the tweets and blogs I see is that we are rather expendable. There are just so many of us, sweating away at our craft, anxiously checking our emails, wondering sometimes if it's all worth it. We are a dime-a-dozen.

Of course, not all agents are self-centred - there are some charming ones out there - but I believe a lot are. It shows up in their profiles at the beginning of the research. Some are highly informative and very specific about what they want exactly, clear with their submission guidelines, friendly and encouraging, assuring us that they read all queries. Others are a bit vague about their true genres, rather dictatorial in their guidelines, and then casually mention, "...if you don't hear from us, consider us not interested." This is rude. In business, no one should be so cavalier about personal correspondence. The writer's query is usually a carefully researched, patiently composed and thoughtful piece of writing, geared to that one agent. We deserve more than to have to sit around waiting to see WHO gets back to us. They should ALL get back to us, and an auto-response, which I don't find offensive, must take only one or two clicks of the keyboard.

Naturally, as I'm supremely obstinate, I'm still sending out queries for poor derided Hafan Deg. Stats today are: 12 Pending, 2 Partials, 6 Rejections. There'll undoubtedly be a lot more rejections before this battle is over.

I doubt anyone with any particular power will see this blog, but if they do I could end up on some 'Automatic Reject' list. I've heard that kind of thing happens, too. Ho Hum. It's already happening. I'm one of those dime-a-dozen unpublished writers, after all.

Goodness, on re-reading this, I do hope you don't think I'm feeling bitter. On the contrary, I found this all rather stimulating. In the end, let's face it, we could just self-publish. But we enjoy the engagement, the front lines, don't we? My spear's still at the ready...

Monday, April 6, 2009

Soul-Destroying Critique? Think Again! Boadicea is Back!


Well, I got a response on that full manuscript. It was rejected. This means I'm now free to continue with my agent queries. That's exciting in itself.

Hafan Deg is different. I know that. It's not everyone's cup of tea, and I wasn't expecting it to be picked up by this agent because I felt it was too soon in my querying journey. Like an apprenticeship, the process should take a long time, I thought, and the very first Full request was unlikely to be successful. We expect that from all that we've read online, and I was totally prepared for the usual brief note advising that this manuscript didn't suit this particular agent - "is not for me at this time...", "not able to give it the energy it deserves...", "not a reflection on the quality of the work itself, but...", and so on. Along the way, I figured I might be lucky enough to hear from people who would generously tell me constructively - why my book wasn't right for them, perhaps even suggesting a bit of re-writing. And, after I'd winced, and licked my wounds, I would weigh this up, and decide whether I had the tenacity to do it once again. But first an agent has to read it.

Hafan Deg is neither high adventure, nor exciting romance; it has no fantasy (other than the heroine's own mental creations); and I never expected it would make the top 10 list at the NYTimes. My protagonist is flawed, of course, deeply scarred by life and now searching for some kind of meaning, but she meets no villains on her journey, and uncovers no evil plots. Frankly, she's not for everyone in today's publishing world of adrenaline-rush-seeking, smart and sassy people. Karen's story is a quiet, introspective little read.

But - oh, my deflated ego - no one warned me about destructive criticism.

For, along with the polite rejection, I received the most scathing, hateful and soul-destroying critique from a "reader" hired by the agent in question. The agent apologized for forwarding it to me, but felt it might be useful(!) and frankly admitted he didn't read the full manuscript himself (because he is a man, and the book is geared to women), relying instead on a trusted reader to give a thumbs up on the manuscript. No such approval forthcoming, he rejected the book. This, despite the fact that the first three chapters (which he had read) intrigued him.

I'm not going into huge detail about what was said in this critique, which went on forever, but there wasn't a single word of encouragement, only negativity upon negativity. Were I just starting out as a writer, it would certainly make me think twice about continuing the craft. Being more seasoned, and less fragile - well, slightly less - I finally recognized this critique for what it is - a poorly-written, distinctly juvenile and very unprofessional tirade.

THis person simply hated my book
. Just as you and I have strong likes and dislikes in reading matter, she has hers. But she was PAID to read it. It was her job. It didn't mean she had to like it. In fact, it was my heroine who generated the hatred. How strange is that? How is it possible for a fictional non-villain to create such nastiness? Perhaps my book has even more hidden depths to it than I thought. If my story bored this reader at times, it certainly isn't worth despising, surely. If it is poorly written, then the focus should be there. But the acid comments were mainly directed at the heroine ... as if she really existed and was getting away with too much. Throwing in a good job to pursue a dream? Trying to reclaim her lost youth? Sleeping with a younger man? Drinking rather too much wine? Smoking pot? Well, really! What next?

Was there anything here that could help me re-structure a book to suit this reader? Hardly, because it's inoperable according to her comments. Should I cast this worthless piece of fiction aside? Hell, no! Donate it to the next SubmissionFail group? No way, Babe! Had the critique given me something of substance to work with, I'd have welcomed it. But all I'm left with is bewilderment. And my stubborn streak.

A supportive (and well-published) writer suggested I take three days to have a good weep and then get back into the fray. I can't do the weeping thing; I've wept too many tears throughout my life over more serious things and I'm fresh out. But, as things stand, consider this posting my Call To Arms. I am, once again, Boadicea with spear at the ready. I'm usually very placid, but when I do 'Mad As Hell' I do it very, very well...

To summarize: I believe my "reader" is of Puritan leaning, extremely young, probably an unpublished and frustrated writer, who isn't getting much sex. Being paid to read is cool, but having to read stuff you hate is a bummer, and it's obviously wearing her down.

There, now I feel a lot better. And Boadicea needs a coffee...

I have nothing else to offer here today, except that I must get back to querying all those nice agents who read manuscripts themselves. I'll pass on their comments, too, if they're not auto-replies, so we can see the other, useful, side of the coin. I doubt I'll ever see anything quite this rude again. But - if I do - I'll tell you about it. You know I will. You need to know what Nasties are lying in wait out there. You need to be prepared for it. Go get your spear...

"I am strong. I am invincible. I am Woman..."

Friday, April 3, 2009

Breaks From Blogs = Clear Heads For Writing

If you are in Query mode, you'll probably appreciate more advice on the process. Bookends, LLC, did a nice posting a couple of weeks ago that you might have missed, on how not to sound in your query letter.

As I put this link up, let me explain, as a possible matter of interest, that I'm avoiding advice online for a bit, which is why that post is a couple of weeks old. There is so much information, some of it discordant, and after a while it becomes something of a babble. I need to keep a clear head to write, and I'm pretty sure you do, too. This is why we "take time off from the writing" isn't it? But I'm not so sure that's really the answer. I think we need to take time off from the incessant information. Just as we feel refreshed when we don't watch the news every day, not opening every informational link is rejuvenating, too. Well, that's where I stand, anyway. Feel free to take a break from this blog, too.

Looks as if we're in for a book-reading-under-the-covers, gray and wet weekend, with even snow forecast for the next few days. I am staying positive, because it can't last for ever. (But, even as I say that, I remind myself that I must stop watching documentaries where they outline almost as bleak a scenario.) Of course, this could also be a good writing weekend. I've had such a lazy week, and I really should get back to it.

I'll wander up to the post office today to see if my laptop has arrived. No mail delivery here, in this sleepy place, so I keep anxiously bugging the people behind the counter. I'll get blown around, and thoroughly soaked, but it's a laptop! I have never owned a laptop. I really will be able to sit in the middle of a meadow and write, if I want. I can write on buses, on planes, on ships. I can write anywhere at all, just as long as I remember the batteries only last for around four hours. How terrible to be passionately approaching some vital point in the chapter - when the laptop bows out. Must keep in-flow creativity short; must limit my muse's mutterings; must nip rampant prosifying in the bud...

Enough random waffling today. Have a cosy, crocusey sort of weekend. They're out there somewhere.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Do Not Disturb the Manuscript, and Character Keeper

By my word count, you'll see (if you're at all interested) that I've done no writing over the last few days. The weekend seemed to set me up for some real life (some might say 'mindless') time. I've pottered; I've grocery-shopped; played with the cats; read a whole magazine without the usual half-hearted page-flipping; and watched rather too much BBC, especially this morning - G20 conference stuff, and all that (which wasn't quite as mindless as the other activities).

So Strachan's Attic is having a little rest. It's quietly taking a break from me, resting on its laurels, relishing its downtime. I don't intend to disturb it for at least another couple of days.

However, I have been web browsing. I found a particularly nice blog about the writing process that is (unlike mine) full of energy and verve. My own postings gently prattle on, as yours do from time to time. But this girl has so much stuff on her site, refreshingly new to my eyes. For instance, she has a posting on the Launch Party - that get-together to announce your published brilliance to the world and sell more books. I've never come across this subject in a writer's blog before, although it's possible it was there, way down in the archives which I didn't take time to open. Please have a look at Need2bpublished. I think you'll like it.

Another site is Magical Words - a friendly and unfussy little spot with various subscribers voicing the sorts of things that writers want to hear about. They're offering CharacterKeeper, a little (free) program for keeping your characters firmly in check, recording their peculiarities, their ages, histories and so on. My earlier characters often confounded me later in the work when I suddenly found I needed to know when they were born, what their sister's name is - and I hadn't noted it anywhere , because, at the time, their story was fully developed inside my brain...silly place to store it. So then I spent ages scrolling back to the page where I thought the little rascally character first emerged.

I've downloaded the program, anyway, and will try it out. (You'll find it in Magical Word's right sidebar.) It has to be an improvement on my present method. Oh, and the Digital Post-Its program just doesn't do it for me.

My 3-chapter link to Hafan Deg is back here again. Apparently, much as we welcome it - even believed it - few agents open links to online MS. Certainly I haven't seen any evidence of their visits unless they scout under an alias.