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*