December 31, 2009

The year in books (4th anniversary edition)

When you're onto a good thing, stick to it, so once again, to wrap up the year, we shall talk about books.

Reviewing my reading list for the year, it's sitting at about 125 or so new books this year. So down a little from last year (though I know I've missed some along the line...). I've done more craft this year which has probably eaten into the reading time but also once again, at the end of the year (and particularly while I'm deep in writing and revising my own book) I've been re-reading.

This year I've been reading more e-books though I do get frustrated with the iPhone as an e-Reader. It's just that little bit too small plus, I find that when I buy books not in the eReader format and use Stanza to put them on my iPhone, things tend to go a little haywire with the formatting which distracts me. I also find it easier to forget I'm in the middle of a book when it's on the iPhone and not physically lying around to remind me. I've been quite ADD with my books this year, rarely reading only one at a time. I'm not sure why, just that it's been harder to find books that really absorb me (or else there has been too much noise in the head to really relax into them). But I will continue to read e-books and am hoping the format wars, the ridiculous geographic restrictions and other annoyances (like Amazon's ridiculous higher pricing for international Kindle books) resolve themselves and that someone releases the iPod of e-Readers (the long-rumoured Apple tablet perhap?)

This year, I've also started listening to more audiobooks, which I talked a bit about here. Most of which still holds true, only more so. I still haven't listened to a new to me story on audiobook as they are so much slower than my natural reading speed and I still prefer male narrators due to the doing voices thing. And I'm still very picky about narrators in general. So audiobooks add to my re-read list but aren't boosting the new book list.

I think I've probably read a bit more non-fiction this year (but don't always include those in the list). I continue to re-read ad infinitum. I'd imagine my total books for the year would remain around 300 or so.

So what were my favourite new books this year?

Uglies - Scott Westerfeld - I'm somewhat late to the party on this series but glommed it all down quickly. I'm looking forward to reading Leviathan, to get his take on steampunk and going back and reading more of his backlist.

She's Got It Bad - Sarah Mayberry - A Blaze with a bad girl heroine and a bad boy hero with somewhat tortured pasts. Hot and emotional, Sarah continues to deliver. I'm going to have to try her Special Editions too.

Revealed: A Prince and a Pregnancy - Kelly Hunter - who yes, is a friend but I truly adore her books and think anyone who likes witty, sexy contemporaries will adore them too. The first book in this duo (Exposed: Misbehaving with the Magnate) is pretty damn good too.

Start Me Up - Victoria Dahl - Speaking of hot contemporaries, this was a great read and I'm looking forward to number three.

Soulless - Gail Carriger - Fun, steampunk romance with a wonderful heroine and a fabulous vampire fashionplate sidekick.

A Duke of Her Own - Eloisa James - A lovely ending to her Desperate Duchesses series. I'm looking forward to her new fractured fairytales very much.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society - Mary Ann Shaffer - Slightly off the beaten track for me but I was intrigued by the name and then loved the book. Have pimped it out to quite a few others already. Sadly Mary Ann passed away just before the book was published : (

Fledgling - Sharon Lee and Steve Miller - Having followed along as they did their first draft live on the web (brave stuff), it was fascinating to read the final product. If you've never read Lee and Miller, they write wonderful romantic space opera and have several new books coming out next year, so hasten to a book store and start at the beginning of their Liaden books (which is Local Custom, chronologically in the Liaden verse or I believe Agent of Change in order of writing).

Corambis - Sarah Monette - The last in the Doctrine of Labyrinths series and another great book. Can't wait to see what she does next.

Chalice - Robin McKinley - Robin is one of my auto-buy authors who writes intriguing and varying fantasy.

Vision in White - Nora Roberts - Nora rarely fails to deliver and this start to a quartet set around four friends who plan weddings was great with a lovely lovely hero.

Coraline - Neil Gaiman - Neil is a genius, what can we say. Somehow I missed seeing this at the movies but will get the dvd asap. I've actually read quite a bit of YA this year and lots of it was great.

A Cousinly Connexion - Sheila Simonson - Traditional regency in the style of Georgette Heyer. A lot of the trad regencies that are no longer published by the big houses are being re-released in e-books, so yay for that!

Since the Surrender - Julie Anne Long - I have a feeling I am going to adore all the Eversea books. Chase is not quite Colin but he's pretty damn close. Mysteries, comedy, old flames, secret societies and puppets...what more do you need in a historical romance? July feels like too long to wait for I Kissed An Earl.

Flesh Circus - Lilith Saintcrow - Her Jill Kismet series is getting better and better. It may lack a Japhrimel but Saul has his own appeal. Plus there's the deliciously wrong Perry and a brilliant world to compensate.

Magic Strikes - Ilona Andrews - Another urban fantasy season that keeps getting better (and keeps ratcheting up the ST between Kate and Cullen so lets hope Ilona takes pity on us soon!). On The Edge was also a good read.

I'm not going to talk about my re-reads much. Those following along should be able to guess my favourite authors by now (if you guessed something like Jennifer Crusie, Lois McMaster Bujold, Terry Pratchett, Sharon Lee & Steve Miller, Eloisa James, Kelly Hunter, Julie Anne Long, Barbara O'Neal/Samuel, Nora Roberts, Robin McKinley etc you'd be doing well). I know some people don't re-read but I love curling up with a well-loved book and letting it seduce me all over again. Great new books are wonderful but great favourite books are like great old be treasured.

I wish you many of both sorts in your 2010 reading!

The year to be

Continuing what do I want to focus on in 2010?

1. Writing. In which my goals are to write two books, to play around with some shorter form stuff to see if I can write short stories or novellas (given the novels seem to keep getting longer and longer) and keep the biz side from interfering with the writing.

2. To get healthier. This means sorting out the sore shoulder and before, during and after that process, doing what exercise I can. Before, I think that means doing my elliptical, my Nia tapes with modified arms and some pilates at home and taking the pills and icing it afterwards. During and after is to be determined based on the diagnosis. It also means eating healthier which is mainly a matter of planning and organisation.

3. Feed the well. Keep doing what I have been doing with the craft and other stuff.

4. Get organised. 2009 has felt like a year of routines slipping away and stuff not quite getting done at times. I'm a Virgo, I like lists and notes and checking stuff off to-do lists. But I don't have a good system right now for keeping it all organised. I have notes in my iCal, to-dos and goals in various notebooks and stuff in my head that gets remembered at random moments when the brain decides to cough up. I need something to co-ordinate it all and given that I seem to be increasingly outsourcing brain space to my iPhone and computer, I'm looking at technology tools.

I've started using Tumblr to capture images etc that take my fancy but that's more a muse thing (the electronic equivalent of my old habit of ripping pictures out of magazines). I've just got an Evernote account with a view to using it to capture all the stuff I currently capture in bookmarks and jotted notes and, once I get a scanner, backing up my writing notebooks electronically.

I do have a to-do type program on my iPhone but it's not exactly what I want so the other thing I'm looking at is Things. Which will sync with my iPhone and my iCal and hopefully allow me to dump stuff out of my head and remember where I dumped it more easily. I'm going to download the trial version of Things tomorrow and buy the iPhone app and see what happens from there (you know, some of the more expensive iPhone apps should have trial versions too!).

So that's my plan. I guess in twelve months we'll see how I've done. The big dream remains, as always, to sell a book but that I can't control other than by doing the best I can with my writing. Still, I hope the publishing stars align this year!

How about you, oh great interwebs, who's got plans and dreams for the tenth year of the century?

The year that was

2009 has been an interesting year. I have no idea how it went by so fast but maybe that was because it was interesting.

This time last year I made resolutions and now, inevitably, I'm thinking about what I want to achieve in 2010.

Last year the resolutions were something like lose weight, keep the exercise routine going, write two books, stay off caffeine when I can, do things that make me happy and have fun.

So how did all of that go?

Well, on the things that make Mel happy front I did quite well. I did a lot of sewing, rediscovered knitting and crochet, took some non writing related classes, took a non writing related holiday (though with a fellow writer so there was writing talk *g*) and dropped another day in the day job. Friends has babies (and I was there when one of them arrived), friends hit the NYT list, the family was relatively healthy and many good books were read.

On the stay off caffeine, well, there were ups and down. I have pretty much accepted that there are times in my life when I'm going to be on the caffeine. I have for most of the year been off it or only having a cup of green tea or two a day. There have been times when I've been drinking coke (or even now and then coke zero because, I'm sorry but coke works on the caffeine front but does little for the operation-make-butt-smaller). Balance, people. I know I sleep better off the caffeine but sometimes something's got to give. I need to work on learning to love green tea more and slanting the balance in that direction but whatever.

On the exercise front, things started well and slid into what can only be described as a big fat heap. From January to April I was doing heaps of cardio, doing my pilates and doing Nia. April or May sometime I got sick and work got busy and things started to slide. And I started to notice that my shoulder was pulling up sore after Nia and pilates classes but not too sore so I ignored it (note to self, don't ignore it!)
Then I dropped a day at work which happened to be the day of my regular pilates class and my Nia class was put on hiatus and the shoulder started getting sorer even without exercising and hmmm, here we are feeling unfit and flabby and waiting to find out whether the shoulder needs surgery. Bah humbug to that.

On the writing, that too was interesting. Trying to sell a book is never an easy proposition. Trying to sell a book in a major economic downturn is an even less easy proposition. Some stuff happened. Some work stuff happened and for a lot of the year the writing was slow and kind of torturous (though, I did keep trying to write) because I was letting the stuff mess with my head. Now sometimes the writing will be slow and torturous but the thing is, for me, I try and treat this as a job. I have an agent and she is out there trying to sell my books and has been doing so for some time now without being paid a cent so far, so I need to produce books for her to sell. Which means I have to focus on the writing part and stop worrying about the stuff part (which, for a virgo, is kind of like saying 'stop breathing').

Writing the books and making them as good as I can is what I can control and is the fun part. I don't think for a second that I've found the perfect solution to keeping that in mind and I know there will be "Mel freaks out" slow and torturous times again but hopefully I can pull myself out of them faster now. I'm happy to say that I did finish one book this year (because at times that felt unlikely). A book that was a bit different again to what I'd been writing but it seems to have been worth the grief it gave me because my agent loves it and I'm doing the final polish write now so it can make its way out into the world in January. At which point I will be doing the mental equivalent of sticking my fingers in the ears and saying "la, la, la, I can't hear you to the publishing worries" and writing the next book. Because for me, one book a year is too slow and I'm much happier when I'm producing.

So, for my benefit (and maybe for anyone else who it might work for), a reminder of what worked:

1. Writing sprints for the first draft (and for character free writing and for synopsis sketching). Write or Die is a godsend and Dr Wicked would be deserving of the Nobel Writers Sanity prize if there was such a thing. I need to do quick and dirty first drafts and just get out of my own damn way. Writing sprints let me do this. I can, indeed, focus on nothing but the writing for fifteen minute or twenty minute chunks and produce and shut the nagging voices of publishing doom and the internal editor out for that time. Write or Die might be my new writing motto.

2. Giving myself the time to do the other stuff the muse like. Playing with the pretty fabrics and yarns. Watching a series of Grey's Anatomy if that's what the muse wants (and man, I just now realised that I've been obsessed with Grey's for the last month because my hero is a healer and McDreamy is my favourite hot doctor *headdesk*...quick on the uptake, not).

3. Writing every day (or six days a week at least). Keep the fingers moving and the momentum eventually comes. Of course, when it comes time to revise "writing" includes thinking about the book, talking about the book to crit partners and noodling about the book in notebooks.

And now, cos this is getting long, let's put the actual 2010 resolutions in another post.

December 28, 2009

More please

Ten years later

Blogger tells me this is my 600th post so I thought I'd do a end of decade retrospective (given that I generally do my year of books wrap up post on New Years Eve).

It's hard to believe that it's the end of the decade (and yes, I know, technically it's not but we're moving into double digit years in the century so let's not quibble). I can remember being at a New Year's Eve party at the end of 1999, everyone joking about whether the lights would still be working after midnight. Thankfully Y2K didn't bring down civilisation so here we are ten years later.

funny pictures of cats with captions
see more Lolcats and funny pictures

So what's happened in ten years?

Ten years ago:

I didn't own a house (I was living in a share house with three male room mates...yeesh).

I hadn't ever written a whole book (finished my first in 2001 and have finished, um, quite a few since then). I did a little bit of writing but didn't really believe I'd ever be a writer.

I therefore didn't have an agent and had never had a rejection (or even submitted anything).

I did own a mobile phone. It only made phone calls. No pictures, no texts, no colour screen, no email or the forty zillion things my iPhone can do. Lots of my friends didn't have mobiles.

I had veeeerrrry slow dial-up internet. Used predominantly for email as surfing took forever. Most of my friends didn't have a computer at home.

My computer had 5mb of RAM. I can't remember the hard drive size but I'm guessing way less than 1Gb.

I didn't know most of the people I now count as close friends (particularly my crit buddies and other writing buds).

Only two of my friends had children. Most of them weren't even married. And I'd never been a bridesmaid.

My grandparents were still alive. I miss them.

I'd never seen a baby being born.

I'd never been to a writing conference or won a writing award.

I'd never made a quilt. Or knitted a pair of socks.

I did have the orange cat and the grey cat.

DVDs didn't exist (laser discs were around but VCR was king).

I didn't know ANY published authors.

I didn't have a blog, or a facebook account or twitter. Blogs probably existed in some form but facebook and twitter and the like definitely did not.

I didn't have an iPod. I had a cd walkman. My computer didn't have a cd burner. It used floppy disks.

No-one had an "i"anything.

I'd never read an ebook though I had bought books online (but I'd imagine only from

I'd never done pilates or Nia.

I had the same chiropractor as I do now.

I had less grey hairs (possibly none).

I'm not sure if I wore glasses. If I did, it was less than now lol

My parents weren't retired.

My camera used film.

My car had a cassette player. And no air conditioning.

I worked full time. Hardly anyone at work worked part-time back then.

I had the same microwave I have now but not sure I can say that for many other appliances (given I just today threw my ancient popcorn maker away after dropping it).

I didn't worry about terrorism.

I wore lipstick not lipgloss.

I didn't own a hair straightener.

I didn't have any sort of backup for my computer other than putting stuff on floppy disks. USB didn't exist.

I hadn't driven a sports car. I still haven't. Maybe this decade...

I was a Buffy fan. I still am.

No-one spoke lolz.

My age had a 2 as the first number (yikes!)

I had the same number of tattoos as I do now. One day this will change.

I knew less about myself and the world then than I know now but I'm not sure I feel terribly different now to how I did then. Happier which is good. But not necessarily older (except when I catch myself thinking "young folks these days" type thoughts lol).

Life has changed a lot in ten years but mostly for the better. How about you? What's happened in the last ten years that makes it seem like 2000 was a whole different world?

December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas everyone! However you spend this day and whatever your beliefs, I hope that today is great one and that 2010 is fabulous!

The robin above isn't exactly evocative of Aussie Christmas (though they are forecasting a cool day where I am - which is just fine with me because cool weather is better for eating yummy food and drinking yummy win than 40 degrees Celsius in the shade) but he was too cute to resist!

December 23, 2009

Five favourites

Heidi blogged about her five favourite books, so I'm taking up the challenge to pick mine. I will admit this caused much whining in my brain, so I might have to sneak a couple of honourable mentions at the end of the list. But here we go...five favourite books:

!. Sunshine by Robin McKinley

I'll confess, I was late to the party with this book and with Robin McKinley in general. I wandered past Sunshine on the shelf, picked it up, read the blurb and put it down again before one day I just thought "what the heck, let's buy it". And fell instantly in love. It's a near perfect alt-earth quasi post apocalyptic urban fantasy romance. With food to die for, a hero to die for and a heroine to cheer for. And a world that feels endlessly deep, which is one of my tests for great world building. I don't know quite what makes me love it so much but I have read it at least ten times and I only first bought it in 2007. It's a favourite travelling book because I know it will hold my attention through long boring trips. And a favourite comfort read for that same reason. Everyone who likes fantasy, food or just damn good books should read it.

2. Welcome to Temptation - Jennifer Crusie

My favourite contemporary romance. A book I discovered not long after I started trying to write romance myself. The book that made me think "I want to write like THAT". Funny, intelligent and sexy. Crusie does perfectly structured, perfectly wonderful gems of books. Go forth and seek them out.

3. A Civil Campaign - Lois McMaster Bujold

I agree with Heidi, this is my favourite Bujold (though Memory, Mirror Dance, The Curse of Chalion and A Paladin of Souls are very high on the list as well). But like Heidi said this is Austen in space with one of the most engaging heroes in fiction making a complete hash of falling in love for real. Bujold's writing is wonderful, she does characterisation like nobody else and there's real heart and soul and honour in her books (though she is cursed with some terrible covers for the Vorkosigan books, so just ignore them and dive in!)

4. Witches Abroad - Terry Pratchett

Again, like Heidi, I could put all of Terry Pratchett's books here but I will confess than in the depths of my heart, I love the witches best and Granny Weatherwax most of all. Witches Abroad is a story about the power of stories and good and evil and Granny meeting her match plus funny and witty and thoughtful like all of Terry's books. (The next runners up would be Thief of Time, A Hat Full of Sky, Reaper Man and Feet of Clay).

5. Anne of Green Gable - L.M. Montgomery

I loved the Anne books growing up and I still re-read them once a year. Anne, smart, in love with books and stories, dreamy and passionate is a heroine after my own heart (plus she has that wonderful red hair which sadly I do not. Nor do I have Gilbert Blythe). These books are like a slice of history though there is real joy and sorrow in them too, particularly as Anne gets older. And one day I'm determined to go to Prince Edward Island in Canada just to see where Anne's world is.

And, forthwith, some honourable mentions

Mr. Impossible - Loretta Chase (my favourite historical romance...if you've never read Loretta, run to a bookstore now, though she too displeased the cover fairies somewhere along the way).

Kushiel's Dart - Jacqueline Carey (breathtakingly lush writing, dark, sexy, political fantasy)

Queen of the Shadows - Anne Bishop (more dark, sexy though also funny fantasy in one of my all time favourite worlds)

Scout's Progess - Sharon Lee & Steve Miller (or maybe Conflict of Honors...wonderful romantic space opera, also like Austen in space though in a quite different way to Bujold)

Working for the Devil - Lilith Saintcrow (brilliant futuristic/alt earth urban fantasy with a difficult heroine and a superb hero).

It Had to Be You - Susan Elizabeth Phillips (my other favourite contemporary romance writer. I read this book from a library in university I think and looked for it for years but had the wrong author in my head...then one day I was browsing somewhere and there it was and I fell in love with SEP all over again).

Melusine - Sarah Monette (more wonderful dark fantasy).

December 20, 2009

Examining no

While I'm still thinking about revisions, here's some thoughts on feedback and critiquing. I think feedback and critiquing are vital as long as they come at the right part of the process for you (which is something you need to work out). These days I need to do the first draft and have that solid feel for the story before I get much feedback other than brainstorming when I'm stuck or else it can throw my writing off. I need to get my version of the story down before I can let other voices into my head about it.

But once I'm through that first draft I know that fresh eyes will see things in the story that I never can and help it grow stronger (plus catch all those annoying typos and inconsistencies that stay in no matter how many times I read the darn thing *g*)

However being critiqued is never a pain free process for most people. Partly because when you first get any negative (for want of a better term, ie something needs fixing) feedback, the instinctive reaction of most people is "no no no, my book is just fine, I made it pretty, why don't they like it, wah, no no no, I'm going to go and eat worms and take up stamp collecting". Or something like that depending on your maturity level, your current hormonal state and what else is happening in life generally. Sometimes feedback is like water off a ducks back, sometimes it will sting more than you expected or wanted it too.

This is human nature. You've worked hard and now someone is telling you that, for them, all your hard work hasn't quite delivered. Most people naturally get defensive in this situation (it's essentially a mini-rejection or might be an actual rejection depending on who it's coming from....) Which is why it's a good idea to just listen or read and then sit on negative feedback until that initial defensiveness goes away and the rational part of the brain takes over and remembers that "this bit didn't work" doesn't mean "your book sucks, you're a hack and you're ugly too". This is why lots of writing workshops etc insist that the person being critiqued can't talk during a critique.

It's fine to have that initial reaction but it's not fine to stay at that level of reaction. You can vent about it (in private) or sulk (in private) or whine (in private) but eventually you have to put on the big girl pants and move past the defensive and detach the emotion so you can look at the work and evaluate the comments rationally so you can make your book better. It's also why, as a critiquer, you need to give positive and negative feedback and think about how you phrase feedback.

When you get feedback of the "this didn't quite work" or "have you thought about X" variety, I think there are four main categories of reactions, two positive, two negative. First the positive:

1. "Yes!! That's brilliant, why didn't I think of that?, I love my crit buddies because they are geniuses and deserve medals and chocolate." These are the comments that you just instinctively know are right for your story, that give you insight into something that was eluding you or give you a piece that's missing or just make something better. Take this feedback and run with it and tell the person who gave it to you that they are pretty and shiny and give them Tim Tams.

2. "Yes. Damn, I was hoping no-one would notice that." This is the reluctant-but-you-knew-it-was-coming yes when someone calls you on something that didn't quite work or where you haven't quite gone deep enough etc. Those bits that you kind of vaguely know in your gut aren't quite working but that you ignore for now in the hope that you're wrong. You're not and you've just been told. So you're going to have to run with these too.

Then we come to the no's. No is trickier.

1. "Hell, no!" This might be the opposite of "Yes, that's brilliant" ie something you know just isn't right for the story you're writing (which is fine, it's your story and it's your job to make the 'hell, no' call so you don't get pulled off track or break it) or it might be your initial instinctive defensive reaction. You need to wait a bit and see if it morphs from 'hell, no" to either of the yes versions (which it might just do). How long that takes depends on your process. It might also morph to the second sort of no...

2. "No, because..." This is the one to really pay attention to. If your reaction is no, z can't happen because x, y or w or no, A wouldn't do that, because of B and C, then you need to stop and think. It's great that you know why the feedback or suggested fix isn't right for your story but it's not so great that your reader didn't understand why. So you need to look at it again. Is stuff in your head that's not on the page? Have you not made a motivation clear? Did you do something confusing that gave them the wrong impression? Most of the time, no because means you need to go back and do a bit more work to clarify. Not always. Sometimes whoever is critting for you just doesn't click with your story or wants it to be a certain way and you may have everything in place you need for it to work your way and they'll still argue for a different way.

No because is a gift because it spotlights where you need to do work and often gives you insight into the story. I know I'm often surprised by a "no because x" because I hadn't consciously thought about the x part before but it pops up from the subconscious right when it's needed. This is true for me in brainstorming too. It's my "no, that's not quite it" reactions to people's suggestions that often guide me to the right solution. The no becauses are what I most often want to talk about with my crit buddies to explore why my view of something hasn't gotten across to them and how to make it work.

So there you go. Most importantly, regardless of how you feel about the feedback you received, you thank the person and appreciate the time they've taken. Time away from their own writing or lives to read your scene or chapter or book. Time they've spent trying to help you and your story. That's an awesome thing to do and why great crit partners should be treasured (mine all rock, btw : ) ) and fed chocolate or whatever they prefer regularly.

December 18, 2009

Revising a soundtrack

I've posted before about soundtracks but after my last post, thought it might be interesting to look at how my soundtrack changes with subsequent drafts.

My first pass at the soundtrack is fairly instinctual, I grab stuff out of iTunes and put it in some sort of order. Things get added or dropped and re-arranged as the draft progresses.

This is what my draft one soundtrack looked like for Lily's book.

1. Delicate - Damien Rice
2. (You Want to) Make a Memory - Bon Jovi
3. Be Bad - Lowrider
4. Elephant Love Medley - Moulin Rouge soundtrack
5. Joey - Concrete Blonde
6. Syrup & Honey - Duffy
7. Almost Lover - A Fine Frenzy (this was added during the process!)
8. Angels - John Farnham
9. On Your Shore - Enya
10. Nothing Else Matters - Metallica (this was added)
11. Your Song - Moulin Rouge soundtrack
12. Up to the Mountain - Patty Griffin
13. Miss Sarajevo - George Michael
14. The Closest Thing to Crazy - Katie Melua
15. Who Wants to Live Forever - David Garrett (this was also added)
16. Criminal - Gotan Project
17. Crazy - Icehouse
18. If This Is It - Newton Faulkner (added)
19. Same Mistake - James Blunt
20. Heal the Pain - George Michael
21. Llorando - Angelo Badlamenti (Mulholland Drive soundtrack)
22. Night and Day - John Barrowman (De-Lovely soundtrack)
23. Gravity - John Mayer
24. Inquisition Symphony - Apocalyptica (added)
25. Tragedy - Brandi Carlile (added)
26. Two Gods - Attrition (added)
27. Sex On Fire - Kings of Leon
28. Red - Daniel Merriweather (this was the last song I added)
29. Beyond the Call - John Farnham

There were a couple of others early on that got deleted because they weren't working but I can't remember what they are. I use the soundtrack slightly differently for each book and this one was lots of listening to one particular song on repeat for various scenes (probably because I was doing lots of Write or Die sprints and one song on repeat seems to work better for sprinting right now) though I did listen to the whole thing as well.

To do draft two, I then cut the list down to the songs I was using most or felt really fit the book well. And re-ordered them.

Draft two looks like this:

1. Same Mistake - James Blunt
2. Be Bad - Lowrider
3. Elephant Love Medley - Moulin Rouge soundtrack
4. Crazy - Icehouse
5. Nothing Else Matters - Metallica
6. Circus - Britney Spears (new, and oh god, I am sick of this song. Lily loves it though, no idea why)
7. If This Is It - Newton Faulkner
8. Two Gods - Attrition
9. Who Wants To Live Forever - David Garrett
10. Tragedy - Brandi Carlile
11. Water And A Flame - Daniel Merriweather (new)
12. Red - Daniel Merriweather
13. Pleasure and Pain - The Divinyls (new)
14. Angels - John Farnham

Oh and there was some E.S Posthumus used for a fight scene that I never added in.

I'm currently contemplating draft 3. At this point, I think Water and a Flame will go, Almost Lover might go. Superman by Bon Jovi will be added. I might re-instate Beyond the Call. And I possibly need some more instrumental/evocative of the world music though I have no idea what that is. We'll see what the girls want as we get into it. At least it's not the same five Dixie Chicks songs ad inifinitum like my Witch Book *g*

Making it shiny

Comments are starting to come back from crit partners and betas so my mind is turning back to the book. I'll get Miriam's comments later today but she's given it the tick of approval (not that the tick of approval means no more work needed lol).

So work on draft three will begin soon. For me the process goes something like this:

Draft 1 - write version of book that is way short (about 75% of what it should be) and full of people talking and severely lacking in setting and description etc. Early in this process do a collage and a soundtrack.

Revision pass 1 (to get to draft two) - read draft 1 and make notes to self about stuff that is missing, stuff that doesn't make sense, threads that need to be picked up etc and many comments along the lines of "expand" "what the heck are these people wearing" and "setting please". Start thinking about solutions to some of these problems. Then I generally cut down the soundtrack and maybe add a few new songs to it and perhaps fiddle with the collage or make another one if I need to though I didn't do that this time. If there's structural stuff I want to do (ie shift stuff around or make major story line changes or fix pacing etc) or if I don't quite feel I've got a handle on the book, I write a synopsis because that helps me see it a little more clearly. Then I get to work putting a lot of stuff in, circling back to layer stuff, cleaning up the language and getting it to the point where I'm not ashamed to let people see it. I prefer to revise fast but it takes as long as it will take.

Draft 2 goes to my agent and my crit buddies (either in full or bits) and any other beta readers. While they read, I chew my fingernails, become convinced the book is terrible and that my agent will sack me and try and distract myself by working on other stuff. The back brain also goes to work on the things that I think are still not quite right with the book.

The next revision pass depends on what the comments are and what my thoughts are. There might be structural things, there might be just polishing and tightening, there might be worldbuilding to solidify or subplots to tweak. I have my views on what the book needs right now and I'm waiting to see what else the readers see that I just can't. So while I wait, now that I have some comments, I'm going to do some revision prep:

1. Do the first draft of the synopsis and a scene outline. This gets the "what happens" back in my head and shows me the POV balance and timeline.

2. Play with the soundtrack some more. The muse is still happy with the collage, so apparently I nailed that early on this time.

3. Do some braindumping/free writing about the comments and my concerns to see what turns up.

4. Whatever else the muse tells me to (look for images, watch certain films or tv shows.

5. Possibly bore people who gave me comments with questions and discussions.

Then I'll do the next pass (and probably start to hate the book again and whine a lot) and it will go back to Miriam. Hopefully she won't want another pass but you never know. If she does then, it'll be lather, rinse, repeat until I get it right.

December 13, 2009

Quote of the day

"In the midst of the process of writing, inspiration falls through one's brain in tiny, continuous drops as well as in tidal waves. Word size, paragraph size, scene size and up. You just have to be ready with the bucket. My bucket generally takes the form of a three-ring notebook and a No. 2 pencil."

Lois McMaster Bujold. You can read the whole thing here.

December 12, 2009

Cooking tip of the day

If you're going to make popcorn...and just say, you're going to make popcorn with some sort of coating that requires shaking the popcorn and coating in a sealed container to coat it, it's a good idea to make sure the lid of the container is on properly before you commence the shaking process. Unless of course, you want your kitchen floor to enjoy a significant portion of your tasty tasty popcorn*.

Just sayin'. As a service to you all. And I'm sure the champagne consumed before the popcorn making had nothing at all to do with my discovery. Nothing at all....

*Party popcorn from Nigella Express if you're wondering. Tis tasty. And not too evil (especially if you air pop the popcorn rather than cooking in oil). And easy.

December 05, 2009

Post book brain

Finishing a book does strange things to your brain.

I tend to write the ends of books fast and prefer, where possible, to revise fairly fast too (though there are multiple passes at this).

For the first draft the endgame speed comes from the part where I finally see the shape of the ending, how everything is going to come together and I just want to get it down on the page. It's like the weight of the whole story gathers in my brain and kind of pushes (which will sound weird to anyone who doesn't write...the closest analogy I have, having seen two babies born, is that you get to a point where you've just got to push and get through to the end and you really don't have any choice in the matter). I often know the very final scene early in a book but, being a pantser, have little clue about how I'll end up at that point. For my revisions, I need to hold the whole story in my head and look at it from various angles and stitch together more firmly. And having that same sense of the weight of the whole book needs a certain kind of focus that works best if I can do it fast while I can sort of sense all the connections.

My process has changed over time and with changing from writing 240 page to 400 page books. My first drafts are shorter and that makes the revision that much more work. I wrote 90 new pages in two weeks for this revision plus made multiple changes to every single one of the original 338 or so I had at the end of draft one. Yesterday I wrote for close to ten hours to finish the second draft. And then I wrote for a few more hours on another wip because sometimes the writing just can't come to a full stop immediately.

And today I have post book brain, where I'm coming off the adrenalin jag of all that focus and pushing myself to write. My brain has a space in it where the book used to be and it feels like everything else is shifting around to settle back to where it belongs. It's hard to concentrate on any one thing for more than thirty minutes or so. I want to nap but can't quite relax enough. I want to write something new but also don't want to let this story go entirely because I know in another few weeks I'll have comments from my agent and crit buddies and will need to plunge back into it for round three. Plus there's the inevitable "oh my god is anyone going to like this or is it completely terrible" writer paranoia while I wait for said comments *g*.

It's a combination of satisfaction of being done (and of having actually finished a book this year after struggling to write at times and writing less than I would usually), of being tired, of not entirely wanting to relax and take a few days off because the writing is working again and writer paranoia imagines that it could just vamoose once more and of not being sure what to work on next anyway. It's frustration with feeling this way even though I know it happens every time I finish a draft. It's not helped right now by the fact that my exercise options are somewhat hamstrung by my dodgy shoulder. But tomorrow I shall do something to move the butt or the whole process is just going to take that much longer.

It's hard to explain how something that's almost entirely a mental exercise can leave you feeling so steamrollered.

I wonder if this is what bands feel like when they finish a tour? Probably fifty times worse because writers at least, don't have the crowd high to come down from as well (distracts self with somewhat amusing mental image of the writer in glamourous faded trackies and t-shirt typing on stage while the audience screams).

Anyway, that's as coherent as I get today and for the non-writers, don't feel bad when your writer buddies zone out, stumble around and forget minor details like the outside world when they've just finished a book, it's not you, it's them and post book brain.

December 04, 2009

Done - take two

Let there be rejoicing for the endless revision is done and duly sent to my agent and crit buddies for comments. After which there'll undoubtedly be another pass but let's not talk about that right now.

Right now there is only the righteous joy of done-ness and a distinct urge to sleep for a day or so.

Final page count: 426 (making it officially my longest book ever by one measly page) and just under 90 pages added in the revision (I am coming to accept my write-short, grow in revision process but the volume of growth still startles me...when I wrote shorter stuff, 90 pages was a third of the book!)

I am now declaring a few writing free days and then I shall play with something new...possibly the crazy cinderella story but who knows?

Now all I need to be able to figure out why twitter doesn't like this blog's feed and complete happiness would be mine *g*

November 24, 2009


As it's getting hotter down under, I though there might some folks out there who would appreciate this.

This has been my fave breakfast for a few months now and I'm sure it will be even more appreciated in warm weather (and if it's cold where you are, you can nuke it for a little bit to have it warm apparently!)

Mel's Bircher Muesli (adapted from a Weight Watcher recipe somewhere)
2 serves (you do the math for more)

1/2 cup natural yoghurt (I use low fat, choose your poison)
1 small apple or half a large apple, peeled and grated (I prefer a sweeter apple like Golden Delicious or Royal Gala or Sundowners. If you like things a bit tangier, use a Granny Smith)
3/4 cup uncooked rolled oats
5/8 cup apple juice
1/2 cup fresh or frozen fruit (berries or whatever you like)


Some slivered almonds (or other nuts and seeds of your choice but remember, the more of these, the higher the calorie count, again your choice. Ditto chopped dried fruit)
Ground cinnamon (I love cinnamon and put lots in. You could use nutmeg or mixed spice I guess if you wanted).
Splash of lemon juice (I don't usually do this as I've never had an issue with the apple browning)

If using frozen fruit, then simply put everything in a an airtight container, mix it all together, seal it and whack it in the fridge overnight. It keeps fine for two days, I've never tried keeping it longer than that. It will be a bit watery but just stir before serving. (NB if you add any dried fruit you might want to add a little more yoghurt or juice for more moisture either when serving or initially).

If using fresh fruit, then mix everything else together in the airtight container and refrigerate over night and then serve with the fresh fruit on top.

Yummers as Bertie and Oliver would say. Also, pretty darn healthy!

Over there

Blogging over at Nobody Writes It Better today about suspension of disbelief....come check it out!

In other news, revision continues, book gets longer and hopefully better. I hope I'm close to half way in actual final page count now or this will offically be the longest book I've ever written!

November 22, 2009

Up the hill

Well, I've gotten through four chapters of revision this weekend. Detailed layering and re-writing revision. Plus lots of language tweaking seeing this is not a modern time setting. Slow work, so I'm happy with four chapters. Each chapter has grown though not yet enough to compensate from the sudden loss of page count when I discovered the formatting had borked and I only had 24 lines per page. Sadness.

Still, there are definitely whole new scenes to be added and I've been adding four or five pages a scene just in the layering and tweaking, so the final page count will be at least 400. All good and on track to send off to the lovely Miriam next month.

Sadly today's rain put paid to my plan for more gardening though niggly shoulder is probably grateful for that fact given it's decided to suddenly return to the realms of niggliness after a couple of weeks of seeming to progress on the mending front.

Nothing else of note to report. If you want to hear about the Sashiko class go the crafty blog. Tonight it's the excitement of dinner, dishes and then some telly before back to the day job tomorrow. Could've done with the four day weekend this weekend but I'll just have to wait until next week for that one.

November 20, 2009

I got nothin'

Not the most scintillating week. It can be summed up as hot and busy with a side of the return of Mel's stupid allergy that makes her itch. Phooey.

However, we have plunged into the joy (oh hear the sarcasm) of revising and so far have staggered through the first six chapters. So about a third down. I want to get this book to Miriam by mid December at the latest and the rest of the book needs a lot more work than what I've done so far, so it's head down and type type type for the next few weeks.

Tomorrow morning though, I'll be doing this as a bit of a mental break. So hopefully that will fire up the girls!

November 14, 2009

A few hours later

Well, we have partial WIKTORY over the lavender behemoth.

It is pruned, if somewhat inelegantly.

Which only leaves the problem of what to do with the pruned bits which have somehow expanded to take up about five times more space than they did on the bushes.....

I could fill up my green waste bin about six weeks in a row with this little lot. Hmm, wonder if I know anyone with a mulcher.....then there'll only be the fun of getting out of my backyard thanks to the design genius who designed a backyard with no entrance except for THROUGH THE FRAKKING HOUSE!

And now I must go shower to stop as much of the itching as possible. As well as being allergic to mould there's some nasty sticky weed thing with little burrs in my grass that scratches you to let the mould in even better. We hates it, stupid weedses.

PS. Trust me, this counts as exercise for the day.


2009 has been a year of feeling like there are too many balls in the air and not many of them staying up there very long.

Writing has been up and down but seems to be smoothing out again (knock wood, cross fingers). Crafting has been mostly up which is good but kind of added another ball to the mix.

Exercise has been a downhill slide all year. I did pretty well until about April then got sick but was still managing pilates and Nia mostly (and got sick again on my holiday in August when I was going to reboot everything). Then I changed my work days so my group pilates day didn't work any more and my Nia class got cancelled so the last few months have been very sporadic on the exercise front. My pants do not thank me for this, so we're starting operation reverse the trend this weekend. Yes, it's hot but I have an elliptical and an air conditioner, so I'm going to start again with baby steps (sigh, I wish I could find the way to keep my mental exercise switch on!).

Last night I went to dinner at a friend's and we ate outside in their little backyard under the trees and it was lovely. And I came home and looked at my own little backyard which is currently a wilderness of long grass, overgrown flowerbeds and a giant lavender bush (the lavender has thrived at least) that is attempting to eat my clothes line and decided it was time to do something about that too. Last summer it was too damn hot to garden and it's hot this weekend too but I'm going to at least do a bit in the cooler parts of the days so I can then get a little man to come in and slash/mow the grass and clean my gutters. I don't have the money to do what I really want to do with the space right now but I figure I can at least reclaim it so I can have an umbrella and sit outside now and then. Plus, gardening burns calories! The orange cat won't be happy to lose his "I'm a tiger" long grass to stalk through but bad luck. So to keep me on the straight and narrow, I shall report back on progress on both goals

PS Not kidding about the lavender bush....

I keep expecting it to start saying "Feed me, Seymour...." but I have secateurs and am prepared to use them!

November 08, 2009


No, that's not the noise one's brain makes just after finishing a book (that's more like zzzzzzzzzzzschnfargl), but today I found out that one of my photos has been included in Schmap's guide to Brisbane.

Check it out.

Mine's the pic of the lighthouse on the right. See, you never know what can happen on the big wide internets.

November 07, 2009


Numfar (well, mostly me but Numfar in my mind) is doing the dance of joy. Because we can hereby declare draft zero done! Woot!

Those of you reading along will no that it's been a long sloggy writing year for me and there were times where I felt like I'd never finish another book. So to anyone feeling like that, I say, hang in there, keep writing, do whatever else you can to feed the muse and the words will turn up one day!

Progress - Lily

New pages - Twelve
Intriguing things - The ending made me cry. In a good way.
Annoyances - Can't be annoyed because it's DONE!
Linear/non-linear - Linear
Music - Angels - John Farnham
Location - Write or Die and Think.
Taking care of Mel - Soon to do exercises.
Muse food - Sewing. About to nap/read. Then dinner with the lovely lulus.

PS Doesn't that progress meter look nice at 100%? Excuse me while I stare at it awhile. And not as short as the last draft zero though I have a feeling it has a lot of growing to do yet. But that's a worry for another day : )

November 06, 2009

Almost there

Good writing day today. 23 pages in about two hours of writing (aka four half hour Write or Die sprints). I only have some sketchy bits about aftermath and then the final scene (which I've kind of had in my head all along) to write. So this baby might be done with tomorrow barring life intervening or that final scene turning out to be way longer than I think it is.

Fingers crossed!

Progress - Lily

New pages - Twenty three
Intriguing things - Final confrontations going a whole 'nother way.
Annoyances - Can't really type more today.
Linear/non-linear - Linear
Music - Soundtrack
Location - Write or Die and Think.
Taking care of Mel - Walk. Stretching after this.
Muse food - Nap. Burn Notice.

November 05, 2009

Anyone gotta spare arm or two?

First of all a big WOOT! to the fabulous Keri, because her latest book is gonna be number six on the NYT next week. Let there be rejoicing throughout the land!!!

Hopefully I might have some rejoicing of my own in a few more days...closing in on this draft now. Right now it's tempting to pull out the caffeine and power through but I shall be sensible Mel. My shoulder and hands won't thank me if I push it too much.

Progress - Lily

New pages - Eleven
Intriguing things - Sometimes you gotta ask for help. And 'fess up your deep dark secrets.
Annoyances - Minimal
Linear/non-linear - Linear
Music - Soundtrack
Location - Write or Die and Think.
Taking care of Mel - Physio.
Muse food - Soon there will be Glee. And sleep

November 04, 2009

The light at the end of the tunnel might not be a train after all

To misquote Josh Lyman horribly "I think we've got the big mo, baby".
Passed the three hundred mark tonight. And I basically know what happens for the rest of the book. About four big scenes and some mopping up. So if I do the big push over the weekend, I might just be able to finish it (fingers crossed, knock wood, throw salt etc etc etc). It will need a lot of work in the revision but hallelujah, it looks like I might just finish a book this year after all. Given it's been a long hard winter of discontent writing wise for much of this year, all I can say is WOOT and all praise to the great god Letitsuk!!!! (and again cross fingers, knock wood, turn widdershins three times etc etc etc so as not to jinx oneself.)

Progress - Lily

New pages - Thirteen
Intriguing things - Angry sex
Annoyances - Minimal
Linear/non-linear - Non
Music - Kings of Leon
Location - Write or Die and Think.
Taking care of Mel - Chiro. And soon blissful back stretches
Muse food - Not much so far. Need some TV or a good book

November 03, 2009

Closing in

La book is approaching the three hundred page mark. Traditionally this is about the point where things pick up speed and I get to the end fairly quickly. I'd like to be done by the middle of the month, so fingers crossed.

But for tonight, I'm done and given it's back to the day job tomorrow after a lovely five day weekend it's off to bed before I lose all willpower and give in and watch Private Practice instead of recording it.

Progress - Lily

New pages - Eleven
Intriguing things - Villain attacks
Annoyances - Minimal
Linear/non-linear - Linear
Music - Soundtrack
Location - Write or Die and Think.
Taking care of Mel - Physio.
Muse food - Lazy lunching, lazing around in general apart from writing pages

November 02, 2009

Drive by updating

Nice lazy Monday. Wrote pages, went to see Whip It (fun move and those roller derby girls are very cool if somewhat nuts lol), napped, wrote more and then new Big Bang and Star Trek. What more could you want?

Progress - Lily

New pages - Eleven
Intriguing things - Failed plans
Annoyances - Minimal
Linear/non-linear - Non-linear
Music - Soundtrack
Location - Write or Die and Think.
Taking care of Mel - Nap. Physio.
Muse food - Whip It and Star Trek

October 30, 2009


Despite spending most of the day prepping for my class tomorrow, I managed nine pages. Didn't end up watching Glee last night due to wrestling with Linux trying to get Write or Die up and running on my Acer netbook. I was eventually successful but it took awhile. Doesn't help that I really don't know much about using Linux and my recollection of doing things the old DOS style way is sketchy at best. Thank goodness for Mr. Google and wiser heads than mine who have already solved the problem and shared it with the internet.

No idea how many pages it will take to get to the end of this book. By my count there's got to be at least two more sex scenes, some plotting and planning scenes, some targeted violence, a failed assassination attempt, more plotting and planning, a final confrontation and then mopping up the aftermath....but for now I shall believe my progress bar that says I'm about three quarters through.

Progress - Lily

New pages - Nine (Write or Die continues to be a page count boon)
Intriguing things - Moles
Annoyances - Drafty drafty drafty. Talking heads about. But only to be expected when mainly writing in word sprints
Linear/non-linear - Non-linear
Music - Crazy by Icehouse.
Location - Write or Die and Think.
Taking care of Mel - Nap. Soon to be physio/stretching
Muse food - Sewing, soon the delayed Glee and Burn Notice

October 29, 2009


Yay, it is the end of the day job week and a lovely lovely five day weekend looms (which, naturally, means I woke up with scratchy throat this morning but I shall take drugs and ignore that...too much to do!).

Have obtained new prescription sunnies (after optomoterist frakked up the prescription on the first attempt), hallelujah. Have sewn and written post work so now I get to sack out on the couch with glee (and Glee).

Progress - Lily

New pages - Five (and hmmh, six yesterday I think)
Intriguing things - And lo, there is really really nearly sex in this book. Or at least half a sex scene and then the aftermath written. Will ahve to jump back for the rest of the um, beforemath *g* another day after I've worked out how I want it to go.
Annoyances - Sore throat
Linear/non-linear - Non-linear
Music - Soundtrack.
Location - Write or Die and Think. I may yet write odes to Write or Die
Taking care of Mel - Stretching, physio exercises.
Muse food - Sewing, library and now, Glee.

October 26, 2009

And the progress report

Before I fall asleep on the couch....

Progress - Lily

New pages - Seven
Intriguing things - And lo, there may yet be sex in this book
Annoyances - Monday night tireds
Linear/non-linear - Non-linear
Music - Soundtrack. Though one repeated song at a time.
Location - Write or Die and Think.
Taking care of Mel - Stretching, physio exercises. Early night methinks
Muse food - Library, Big Bang, more soundtrack tinkering

For those about to Nano

I’m not doing Nanowrimo this year. The current wip is going well and (hopefully) has less than 50k to go anyway. To do a true nano I’d have to change horses midstream so to speak which I don’t want to do.

But I have done Nano successfully a couple of times in the past, so I thought I’d talk about some of the things that helped me do it. There lots of advice about pre-planning and plotting, wording up friends and family and meals/housework etc out there on the internet (for a start, there’s Heidi’s posts), so I won’t talk about that. Instead I’ll talk about how to get the 50,000 words you need (or at least how I did it).

I’m not a plotter, so each time I did Nano I just started with a soundtrack and a vague idea for a book. These days I’d probably have a collage and also have done a bit more thinking about the plot and the big turning points as my process is a bit different. Do whatever prep you need to do.

Being a Virgo and an accountant in the day job, I worked out that 50k/30 days is 1666 words a day, so I set that as my daily goal. For me, that’s one and a half to two hours of solid writing a day. My normal word count goal on my day job days is 1000 words or so, so it’s an extra 45 mins to an hour of writing time I need to find. You need to work out how many words an hour you can write comfortably and figure out your time from then.

I took the slow and steady approach (ie I could stop if I wanted to after 1666 words rather than pushing on for hours a day to get to 50k as fast as possible) but there were quite a few days I wrote extra (which gives you a buffer for the unforeseen I’m-exhausted/my-relatives-have-dropped-in/the-dogs/cats/kids-are-sick days). Other folks go hell for leather, so pick one based on how much time you have/can write per day.

So how do you sit down and produce day in/day out?

1. Don’t let the internal editor slow you down. Write fast and don’t look back. Nano is about getting a dirty draft out, not something polished and beautiful.

2. In order not to let the internal editor slow you down, tools that don’t let you edit too much are invaluable. I had an Alphasmart when I nano’d, which is brilliant, but because I also need to type on an ergonomic keyboard most of the time, I also used to make my window in Word smaller so I couldn’t see so many lines of type. These days I’d also use something like Dr Wicked’s Write or Die (I just bought the desktop version but there’s a free online one too…desktop is probably safer when you’re trying to avoid the glittering call of the internet to get words out). It’s amazing what a difference this makes. My average speed using Word the normal way is 4-6 pages an hour. With an alphie/Write or Die or a minimised page I get closer to 8-10 pages an hour. That’s a big time difference!

3. Turn off the internet and shut down any other programs you don’t need open. If you have a Mac, consider using using an app like Think (or Scrivener's full screen) that makes your desktop blank apart from the program you have open.

4. No, really turn off the internet. Check your mail/twitter etc once an hour or so for just a few minutes (use a kitchen timer) while you stretch/drink/pee.

5. Tape your favourite TV shows and use them as rewards along the way.

6. Use a kitchen timer and do word sprints where you type without stopping (as far as possible for 15 minutes etc). Or do word wars with a friend where you email at the start with how many words you want to do in a set period of time and then email at the end to report back (Write or Die desktop even has functionality for this).

7. Use friends for encouragement and support but don’t get sucked into too much time in the nano forums etc (at least not until you’ve hit word goal for the day, see 3 & 4).

8. Try and have a few different methods of writing available to you. When you get bored and/or stuck, change to a different computer, a different wordprocessor, a different location. Even write by hand (though this requires extra time to re-key which is not necessarily ideal, so if you do it, just do it for a short time until things flow again). On my computer I have Word, Pages, Scrivener and Write or Die as options. I also have a netbook and my alphie. A change of scenery often seems to fool the muse into going to work. If you don’t have multiple options then change your font, the size of the page, the background colour, the page layout etc so it feels different.

9. If you don’t have a writing ritual (like playing your soundtrack or lighting a candle or sitting in a certain chair) already, try and develop one to help trigger the words.

10. Go with whatever weirdnesses of plot and story come up. Let the muse have fun. If you get stuck, jump ahead to another bit (or jump back and insert another scene). Just keep typing.

11. Make sure you stretch and look after your hands/back/neck and eyes. Crippling yourself is not a good plan!

12. Invent the deskchair timelock release seatbelt and strap yourself in!

I use all of the above, well, not 12, in my daily writing anyway to get me around humps and doldrums and stuck bits anyway. Some of them will work for you and some won’t. Nano will teach you things about your process and your abilities.

I learned that I could quite happily write 1000 words a day but day in and day out, seven days a week for a month, 1666-2000 is pushing it for me. I can big word counts for the last week or two of a book but a month is too long. My hands get sore and the muse gets drained. Each time I’ve done Nano, I haven’t written or even been able to revise and edit much at all during December and early January. I need that recuperation time, which for me is a bit counterproductive and is the main reason I haven’t Nano’d for a few years. I also learned that I’m quite happy to pants. Some people will learn that they can’t and they have to stop and fiddle and tweak and edit as they go. Which might mean they can’t write 50k in a month. Or they might be super fast and be able to.

I learned I can write 50k (and a reasonably coherent 50k) in a month if I have to. This stood me in good stead when I got a full request from an online synopsis pitch session. None of that book was written but because I knew I could, I just knuckled down and wrote it in a month and had it on the editor’s desk in less than two from the request. In that case, it did help that I’d done the synopsis in advance and thought about the plot more than I usually would.

Anyway, that’s all I know about Nano-ing. All or some or none may work for you. For those of you about to partake, have fun! May your ninja pirate were-monkey epics be awesome and your fingers nimble! And don’t overdose on the coke and chips and m&m’s as writing fuel or you’ll spend the next few months doing WorkYourNanoButtOffMo (sadly, a lesson learned the hard way in my first nano thanks to lime doritos).

October 25, 2009

Three days down.

Busy weekend. But yay, met the writing goal despite it. Plus did friend's 40th birthday party (a surprise party that was a suprise), japanese bathhouse, sewing prep for class next week and lots of other running around.

Looking forward to relaxing on the couch for a bit (and very much looking forward to upcoming five day weekend!)

I've now hit the two thirds mark for draft word count...let's hope this book is true to form and the last third is relatively speedy!

Progress - Lily

New pages - Five (plus six on Friday) (so yay, met the weekend goal!)
Intriguing things - Evil vamp is evil
Annoyances - Not enough time to write this weekend
Linear/non-linear - Non-linear
Music - Soundtrack. Though one repeated song at a time.
Location - Friday - Word and Think at desk. Today Write or Die desktop (which is cool).
Taking care of Mel - Stretching, physio exercises.
Muse food - Sewing, soundtrack tinkering

October 22, 2009


Mel: *picks up new foam roller#, put on floor"
Orange cat: *raises head with interest*
Mel: *lies down on foam roller to commence back stretch and relax*
Orange cat: Ooo, you are on the floor, I know what that means
Mel: No, you don't.
Orange cat: Yes, I do. It means you want to pat me. *jumps down off couch, walks across Mel*
Mel: Oof. Get off!
Orange cat: But you want to pat me or else why would you lie on the floor down here with me?
Mel: I am trying to relax
Orange cat: You need to pat me. It's relaxing! *butts hand with head*
Mel: My hands are supposed to be relaxed too
Orange cat: *Butts hand with head. Nibbles fingers*
Mel: *Gives in and scritches*
Orange cat: Told you
Mel: Go away now. *breathes deep, tries to relax*
Orange cat: Bored now. *wanders around to other side* Ooh shiny, another hand. Pet me.
Mel: No.
Orange cat: *applies sandpaper tongue* See, I cleaned your fingers. Now pet me!
Mel: Still no
Orange cat: *nibbles*
Mel: Oh for Pete's sake. *scritches*
Orange cat: Heh heh heh
Alarm goes off, signalling end of stretch time
Mel: *Rolls off roller, attempts to enjoy stretched back with fur in face*
Orange cat: See, I told you pets are relaxing!
Mel: *mutters* And they wonder why I have tense muscles.

Aaaaannnnndd, scene.

Progress - Lily

New pages - Four
Intriguing things - More secrets
Annoyances - Perhaps the orange cat?
Linear/non-linear - Linear
Music - Soundtrack. Though one repeated song at a time.
Location - Word and Think at desk.
Taking care of Mel - Stretching, physio exercises. Relative healthy eating
Muse food - About to apply Glee and popcorn

# for those of you who write and don't know what a foam roller is, I can thoroughly recommend one. I've done this stretch for ages in pilates but the physio suggested it would be better to do it every day. Basically a foam roller is one of these (you want the long, fully round one), which you can get at physio/pilates supplies. To do this stretch, you lie down on the thing, with it running up your spine, head just on one end. It will be a bit uncomfortable at first but then all those tight muscles along the width of your back start to loosen (er, thoracic extension, I think?) and melt. At the end, you roll off the roller and lie flat and enjoy the weird yet strangely delightful feeling that your back is completely flat to the floor and made of floppy. Is lovely. Not the cheapest thing in the world but well worth it for us keyboard slaves.

October 19, 2009

It's only half past the point of no return

Well, it's been a pretty productive four day weekend here at Casa Mel (with interlude at Casa Mel's folks). Writing has happened. Visiting folks has happened. Doing errands has happened. Quasi organisation for the coming work week has happened. The book seems to be hitting its stride (cross fingers, throw salt over right shoulder, turn three times widdershins etc) so hopefully I can keep the pages coming over the next two relatively busy weeks. Then I might be able to Nano the ending. I won't need to do 50k and it's not a pure nano if you've already started but whatever.

Otherwise, I've been listening to Outlander on audiobook (which makes me wander around the house talking in a bad scottish accent and asking the orange cat if he kens just how silly he is, aye), watching Pink on DVD (which has inspired me to want to get fit again and therefore look forward to the inevitable pain at the physio tomorrow - one of the things stopping me doing much exercise lately apart from general slackerness is the fact my shoulder hurts after pilates or Nia), trying on wedding dresses (which is weird when you're not the bride in question but they didn't have the frock in her size in store) and, as of today, enjoying a lovely sunny day.

What's everyone else been up to?

Progress - Lily

New pages - Fourteen
Intriguing things - Secrets and more secrets and cool vampire scientist.
Annoyances - Oh the heads they do talk. Setting, exposition, actions? Who needs these?
Linear/non-linear - Linear
Music - Soundtrack. Though one repeated song at a time.
Location - Word and Think at desk.
Taking care of Mel - Booked physio to sort out shoulder. Slept in. Sushi for lunch (yum). Shall make healthy banana muffins after tea for healthy work snacks.
Muse food - Pink watching (though hmm, she's more muse food for the werewolves). Taking pictures of the sunny sky and plane trails (what do you call those, the track of smoke or whatever it is a plane leave behind across the sky?)

Blogging at Nobody Writes It Better

Hey all, I'm blogging over at Nobody Writes It Better today. I'm interviewing Keri Arthur (writer and buddy extraordinaire) and she's giving away a signed copy of Full Moon Rising to one lucky commentor, so come on over!

October 16, 2009

Happiness is a good writing day

This morning I woke up thinking "you know, if I could do 14 pages today, then I'd hit 200". Tomorrow and Sunday are going to be busy so I also knew that it's doubtful I'll get much writing done either day. As an added bonus, as I was lying there, still half asleep, the muse coughed up a few scene snippets. Bits of dialogue, an idea how to twist a relationship and a few pieces slipping into place.

So Friday was officially declared the day of the big writing push. I figured I could do fourteen pages in three hour or so sessions. But given things have been slow and sloggy writing-wise most of this year, I wasn't entirely sure that I'd hit fourteen pages at all. Luckily though, everything behaved itself and the words decided to come. And keep coming. I usually don't have days where I go much over 12 pages until the last 80 or so pages of the book but today proved an exception.

Happy writer, if somewhat tired. Now just have to work out how to keep the words coming.

Progress - Lily

New pages - Twenty one
Intriguing things - Mean Fae, bitchy heroine, and finally a kiss!
Annoyances - Very drafty but at this point I could care less
Linear/non-linear - Linear
Music - Soundtrack. Though one repeated song at a time.
Location - Word and Think at desk after work.
Taking care of Mel - Chiro. Nap. Nice bolognese on the stove for dinner.
Muse food - Well last night it was burn notice and glee and gabaldon and look where that got me. Tonight, who knows, though I'm definitely having a celebratory drink and maybe stare at that hero pic some more.

October 15, 2009

Where's my trash can?

My neck hurts, my shoulder hurts (and how the heck do you hurt your left shoulder as a righty anyway), it's cold. Whine whine whine. Call me Oscar.

But at least pages have been achieved.

Progress - Lily

New pages - Five
Intriguing things - Mean Fae
Annoyances - Plot gone all meandering. And characters trying to talk with Scottish speech patterns because I've been listening to Outlander on audiobook LOL
Linear/non-linear - Linear
Music - Soundtrack.
Location - At work at lunch, Word and Think at desk after work.
Taking care of Mel - Took drugs for sore neck and shoulder. Am about to apply a dose of Glee.
Muse food - Glee. Then who knows.

To cheer everyone up, let's see if I can post that hero pic now...

There, that's better *g*

October 13, 2009

The top of the hill

Ta-da I have reached the half-way point (well, figured as halfway in my average first draft page count)! Hopefully it's all downhill and picking up speed from here to the end.

Progress - Lily

New pages - Seven
Intriguing things - More magic
Annoyances - all very talky at the moment
Linear/non-linear - Linear
Music - Soundtrack for the evening session
Location - At work at lunch, Word and Think at desk after work.
Taking care of Mel - Ate Bircher Muesli for brekky.
Muse food - NCIS later. Big Bang Theory now for geek giggles. There may have been some hero image googling *g*

I'd share but blogger doesn't want to let me upload a pic right'll just have to imagine.

NB I am in denial about the fact that I don't actually seem to be at the halfway point in the book. la la la, fingers in ears, I can't hear you. Mel, queen of denial lives.

October 12, 2009

Every little bit helps

Despite tired brain and slight headache from new glasses, did a bit of a word sprint after dinner and came up with some pages.

Progress - Lily

New pages - Four
Intriguing things - Worldbuilding
Annoyances - Too tired to write more
Linear/non-linear - Linear (sort of, slight back track)
Music - Soundtrack
Location - Word and Think at desk.
Taking care of Mel - Hmmm, made bircher muesli for next few days brekkies
Muse food - Top Gear. Have new JR Ward in house. And Burn Notice

October 11, 2009

While we're talking about noises

Ha, all that soundtrack stuff has reminded me that I wanted to blog about audiobooks.

Because I generally like listening to something while I drive or sit on the train or knit or sew etc and it isn't always music I'm in the mood for, earlier this year, I decided to try some audio books. Prior to this, my experience with audiobooks was listening to the Lord of the Rings during long family car trips (a set of way too many cassette tapes at the time), listening to a friend's book on audio because I won it (okay but I found the aussie accent weird for some reason) and listening to Neil Gaiman reading The Graveyard Book - I would listen to Neil read The Telephone Book with pleasure because he has a lovely lovely voice and reads aloud beautifully - via the videos he had of him doing readings on the web (I just listened while sewing or doing other thing rather than watched). In fact, it was the Graveyard Book that inspired me to try out some other audio books.

I decided that I'd go the route because you get the books slightly cheaper (audio books are expensive! particularly in Aussie dollars) and you can download straight to iTunes with no faffing around. Of course, you do still have to put up with mucho annoying geographic restrictions occasionally but geographic restrictions are another blog topic all together.

When I set out on this venture I knew the following about myself:

1. There was no way I wanted abridged audiobooks (fie on skipping parts of the story)
2. It was doubtful I would like fiction books that I'd never read before on audio because I would be getting the story way too slow for a first time given I'm a speedy reader. (I re-read favourite books heaps anyway, so listening to them was no different to me and hey, I'm happy to give my money to my fave authors)
3. Well, there wasn't really a third.

So I went out and bought some books by authors I loved that I had already read (so far Gaiman, Pratchett, Bujold and Gabaldon) and have been listening to them. (Note, in true Virgo and accountant fashion, I've gone for nice long books because you get more hours of audio for the same price (well, audible credits anyway) *g*).

Things I have learned since I started listening to audiobooks

1. The voice of the person reading is key. I have clicked on the samples for some books I have loved and known in five seconds that the voice of the reader would drive me completely up the wall. It's that rhythm thing again. So sorry, I am very, very picky on reader voice.

2. I do like audiobooks though sometimes the slower pace does drive me a little nutty. Still, having someone tell me a story while I do something mundane is nice.

3. I was right to choose books I know and like and authors I can trust because the slower pace makes writing quirks and weirdnesses stand out more to me (much like I pick writing quirks and continuity weirdnesses when I watch series on TV on DVD), so if you added bad writing, the iPod would hit the wall so to speak. Also, I like having my idea of the characters fixed in my head before someone else's voice messes around with them even though it's the same words. (I'm the same way with movie adaptations of books. Most of them drive me batty because they don't match up with the vision in my head. For the same reason I'm very meh on book trailers and pretty "oh no, no, no" on the concept of a vook but that's just me. On the flip side, I usually don't mind reading TV/movie tie-in novelisations for things I've seen if the writer gets the voice right because the sound and vision in my head will match with the book).

4. I can put up with things being pronounced differently to how I heard them in my head (given I read a lot of fantasy, this is a high likelihood with audio books. I guess the author gives the pronunciations he or she has in their head for the readers to use (at least, I hope they do) but those pronunciations do not always match up with the *correct* ; ) pronunciations in my head but it is annoying when different pronunciations are used within the same book. I'm listening to Outlander/Cross Stitch at the moment and there's a couple of gaelic words and names that are somewhat fluid and it jerks me out of the story.

5. I sometimes wish that that would use male and female readers for key characters but appreciate this is unlikely (and I'd probably find one of the two annoying lol). Given this doesn't happen I have a slight preference for male readers as for some reason a male voice doing a female doesn't jolt me as much as a female voice doing a male (ie Jamie Fraser in my head sounds way different to how he is read by Davina Porter lol).

So overall, I think I will keep listening to old faves on audio but I don't think audiobooks will ever replace reading for myself.

So what about the rest of you? Who listens to audiobooks? Who are some of your favourite readers? I'm open to recommendations.

PS, when it comes to audiobooks, it will pay to shop around and in some cases, it's just not worth it. For example, some of the Harry Potter books are priced at around $100 aussie for the audiobook (both on iTunes and Amazon). For that much, I want Stephen Fry to come to my house and read me the damn thing personally. I could buy the dvd and the book and still have lots of change from $100. Sheesh. I'm all for a paying a fair price for someone's hard work and creativity but this is one of those times where you have to say "and they wonder why people will pirate". I can accept an audiobook being more than a paper book because they are long and they have to pay the readers etc but 3 or more times the price (probably 10 times the US paperback price) is a rip-off!!!