Time to make a plan

For the last few weeks I’ve been drifting. I was stuck between writing projects. I couldn’t work out what I wanted to focus on and I felt lost. It’s time to pick a direction and start walking.

I haven’t heard anything from Bloody Scotland so I’m going to assume that they don’t want the story I pitched for Pitch Perfect. Frankly that’s a relief because I didn’t feel ready to finish it. For now Project Cecil can stay on the shelf.

I’ve decided that this year’s NaNoWriMo first draft will be of a story I’m calling Project Academy. It’s another attempt to write some YA (young adult) fiction so I’ll have something that I can share with my kids. I’ve already done most of the pre-November work on this story.

That means that I have until the start of November to work on something else. So I’m going back to Project Kindness, my tale of sexy spies and Celtic gods. I’m sure my beta readers will be delighted*.

I’m aware that for most of my readers this doesn’t really count as a plan. None of this is moving my ‘career’ along. It’s not going to solve any of my real life problems. I admit that I have no idea how to have a ‘career’ and that most of my real life problems are insoluble. I do have the beginnings of a plan for a small part of my real life problems but that is a post for another day.

 

*That was probably sarcasm.

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Pitching blues

This year’s Bloody Scotland is bearing down on us. There’s a pitch competition that I’d like to try but I’m having trouble working out which novel to pitch.

Until recently I would have assumed that I’d have to pitch a finished novel but that doesn’t seem to be hugely important for the competition. That’s confusing to me since every published author’s top piece of advice is “Finish your shit”.

For this competition I have to write a 100 word pitch and submit that and if they’re interested I get to pitch in person in front of actual publishers and agents and a paying crowd. The live pitch will be in late September at the Bloody Scotland festival. It’s dedicated to crime writing so the publishers and agents will be looking for crime/detective/mystery fiction.

I have to decide which novel I want to pitch because that’s the novel I should be focusing on just now. Let me describe them for you.

Firstly there’s the one I’ll call Project Kindness. It’s the one that’s closest to finished. Close enough that I could have a complete 3rd draft to show anyone who was interested by the end of September. However it’s a supernatural spy thriller. There are some murders and there is a mystery but it’s not what they’re looking for.

Secondly there’s the one I’ll call Project Cecil. It’s the furthest from being finished and I don’t really feel ready to work on it. However it’s the closest to the kind of novel they want. It’s a modern epistolary novel told through emails, chat logs and blogs. It follows a group of friends as they investigate the disappearance and murder of a mutual friend and eventually come to realise that one of them did it. I think I could do a killer pitch of it but it’s the one I feel least able to finish.

Thirdly there’s the one I’ll call Project Dingo. It’s about half done. It’s the funniest. It’s set in 2012 and it’s about a locked room mystery that nobody wants to solve. It’s the closest to a traditional mystery novel in structure but it has witches and other weirdness in it that might make it a harder sell at Bloody Scotland.

I can’t make up my mind. I feel like I should pick Project Cecil because it’s the one they’re most likely to want. But I don’t want to work on it. I’m not ready yet. Then I want to stubbonrly pick Project Kindness because ‘Finish your Shit’ and because it’s the one I’ve been working on recently and it’s in my head. But then I want to pick Project Dingo because it’s the balanced one.

I don’t know how to make up my mind. Suggestions are welcome in the comments.

And if you have enjoyed this indecision you could show your appreciation by buying me a coffee with Ko-Fi.

Lessons from NaNoWriMo 2017

Every year I write a first draft in November and every year I try to learn something new while doing it. This year’s first draft was a straightish crime novel with the working title Project Cecil. The name doesn’t mean anything I just had to call it something and one thing I’ve learned in previous years is that I suck at titles.

This year’s big lesson is that I can write a novel without relying on fantasy, science fiction, or the supernatural. I’m just not entirely sure I want to. It’s really too early to tell if the story is any good. That wasn’t the point. A first draft doesn’t have to be good, it just has to be written. But I am starting to question the logic of writing it.

I wrote a straight crime novel because a friend challenged me to write it. She challenged me because my attempts to get an agent or a publisher are hampered by the kind of stories I normally write. It’s not that they’re bad it’s just that they’re hard to market because they don’t fit easily into any single genre. My friend suggested that if I could write a regular crime novel I would have more chance of getting an agent or publisher interested and once I have something published I might have more luck with my weirder books.

My friend might be right. But I’m starting to think about the long game. My ultimate aim isn’t to get a single book published or even to get paid for a couple of manuscripts. My aim is a career as a writer and to do that I need to concentrate on the books I actually want to write. I like the story I’ve been telling but it’s not representative of most of the stories that I want to tell.

Of course it might still be worth taking this novel to Bloody Scotland next year and pitching it. Even if it doesn’t lead to the career I want it might at least lead to enough money to pay to self publish the other stories well enough to build a career that way.

This doesn’t mean I regret this experiment though. I’ve met some interesting characters while writing this story and I think I’ll probably come back to them at some point and finish telling their stories properly.

Playlist Track 9 and 10

Track 9 is another song that makes me think about co-dependency but now with a heavy side order of loss and regret. If you’ve never seen the video then I recommend stopping what you’re doing and watching. It’s beautiful and poignant.

 

Track 10 is more about loss and regret and about how sometimes a brief happiness can make seem like a cruel lie when the misery returns.

 

These two songs take me into the state of mind of my little group of amature detectives. They’ve all felt a terrible loss they’re each one striving to be strong for the others. They’re each living with a gaping hole where someone they cared about used to be.

Why not tell me in the comments about the sort of music that helps you when you’re writing? Does it help you to concentrate, or help you visualise a scene, or does it create a mood. And if you don’t like music what do you like? Silence? Ambient noise? Podcasts?

All the Playlist posts.

My personal NaNoWriMo update

The good news is that I’m ahead of where I need to be. The bad news is that my plot isn’t a plot it’s a series of scenes that happen to my characters and which I may, at some point, be able to wrangle into a coherent narrative.

I have finally found this year’s Plot Ninja*. It turned out to be the deeply creepy personal blog written by my killer. So the one thing I can always write about is delusions of an untreated erotomaniac? What does that say about me?

The Fife region that I’m the Municipal Liaison for is doing really well this year. The group are supporting each other both online and in person. Fife is in the global top 50 for average word counts. That can only happen because everyone writing in the region is pushing hard and even when people fall behind they haven’t stopped writing.

Allow me to share my favourite bit of writing so far:

“I wasn’t going to apologise to Archie. He gave night vision goggles to a teenager. Creeping round the house at night is about the least worst thing I could have done with them. He’s just lucky I wasn’t stalking cute boys and girls with them,” said Maggie

Don’t you just love Maggie from that line alone?  No? Maybe it’s just me.

Good luck to all my followers who are writing this month. May your characters be loquacious and co-operative and may your Plot Ninjas be less creepy than mine.

 

*A Plot Ninja is the thing you write about when you’re completely out of ideas but you need to keep writing to keep your momentum up. So named because in one of the early years of NaNoWriMo one of the participants would just have their characters attacked by ninjas whenever they ran out of plot.

Playlist track 7

This one inspires more character development every time I listen to it. In part it’s a song about disability and co-dependance which are major themes in the story.

Like most songs by the Correspondents the lyrics seem both personal and specific. Their songs tend to get stuck in my head and send my imagination in all kinds of directions.

If you’re writing and you’re devoid of inspiration just look at a bunch of their videos on YouTube and if the music and the lyrics don’t get you going the visuals will.

For more of this go to the Playlist Page

Playlist: Track 5 and 6

Brace yourselves. Lots of video links in this one.

These two tracks go together, not just because the title combination and the swerve from folk rock to trashy pop pleases me but because these are both squad songs. In the real world no crime is ever solved by a single person, though it sometimes seems like that. That’s even more true in my story where each character has only small pieces of a puzzle that they have to assemble together.

Track 5

This is the darker of the two. My characters are in bad places mentally. They’re dealing with the loss of a friend but also with their own problems of physical and mental disability.

Track 6

No I’m not going to defend this choice. It’s my playlist. Fuck you. Fight me.

But seriously. This song is on here because it’s defiant and fun and because it reminds me of this song.

Bonus Track

This is a Tumblr track. I only know it exists because of my Tumblr friends (the RL friends who introduced me to Tumblr and the people I only know through Tumblr). My characters all have Tumblr blogs. Some of the novel is going to be taken directly from their blogs. We’ll get to see events through their eyes and in their own words.

The Project Cecil Playlist Page.

Playlist: Track 4

This track relates to another character with a traumatic experience of near death by drowning. This character however has developed a much more twisted relationship with water.

This character was much younger when they nearly drowned and the memory has mixed with hazy memories of watching The Little Mermaid while recovering and led them to romanticise the experience.

The song reminds me of the way that mermaids and sirens are used as symbols of dangerous women and their deadly attractions by a culture that pathologizes female desire. It’s also very chilled out which handy for a NaNoWriMo playlist.

Playlist page.

Playlist: Track 2

This is another great song to go on any writing playlist, though probably only during the first draft. I think of it as the unofficial anthem of NaNoWriMo.

This is the only song on the playlist that’s there to make the act of writing easier. Everything else is about setting or plot or character. This one is just to remind me that writing the first draft is the fun part. And it is. For the most part. It’s everything that comes after that’s painful

For more information: Playlist page.

Playlist: Track 1

This is the sound of my opening scene. The last moment in the story where my characters still think that order still holds sway. This is the music that’s playing when the person who’s going to be the leader of my little group of sleuths finds out that something bad has happened to someone that she cares about.

This is a great song to have on any writing playlist because it’s like musical prozac.

When i’ve been down at my lowest ebb – and that is pretty fucking low – I have found myself self medicating with this song using the 24 hour version. That’s not a typo. That’s a link to a 24 hour long version of the video though the page is a bit buggy at the moment so here’s a link to a YouTube playlist of it.

For more information about what’s happening in here see this post and this page.