Once again the weekend beckons, and this week is the last of #NaNoWriMo.This year, I am chuffed to say, I have written my 50k words already, rah! Trying to keep the momentum up till the end of the month but I am getting pretty tired.
Fox in the Snare is now at about 50k words and it’s about to all get busy in the Valley again, though I am sad as one of my characters who was supposed to have a happy ending has messed up and now is having a premature one instead. Sadly, it makes a lot more sense to the general narrative arc this way, but there is a certain amount of snivelling into the keyboard happening in his scenes. Damned awkward characters! I liked this one too. But sometimes there is an inexorable pull in a certain direction and if you resist it, it shows, and jolts the reader out of the moment. Besides, usually when there is that tidal movement going on, it’s a kind of balanced evolution towards a goal which will ultimately work better than anything I had in mind. Which is all quite irritating (don’t look at me, I just hold the pen!) (all right, tap the keyboard!).
So come the end of November I will drop tools on Fox and get on with the Christmas shorts which are in the works. The first is The Locket, which is a short story from the world of On Dark Shores, but set some twenty years before that story, when Nereia was a child living in luxury with her parents. The second is The Holly & the Ivy, which is a standalone sequel to A Sprig of Holly. Hoping to have Wesley Souza do another of his beautiful covers for that one!
And in the meantime, Christmas Lites 6 is due out any minute, and there will be a cover reveal for that due with the breakdown of how the picture was made again (because I love that bit of the process best). Wesley has done another fabulous job on there, so I can’t wait to show it to you!
So, busy busy, eh?
In the meantime Flight from Shantar is currently pinned under the scalpel of editor #1, fellow novelist and talented playwright Julia Lee Dean. I asked her to tell us a little bit about what she’s up to at the minute (though not too much about all the bacon sarnies she’s had to cut out of the book… again…!)
writer – editor – teacher
A quick glance at the kitchen clock tells me it is nearly 12:40pm, German time. I am at home, in Bad Godesberg, a suburb of Bonn and, so far it’s been a good day. I was awake at 6am this morning which was useful because it means I did my 15 pages of editing for J.A Clement before I launched into my main task of the day; 20 university exam papers to mark. You see, I am not only a novelist and editor, since my move to Germany in 2014 I have been working as an English teacher in and around Bonn. The trick with exam marking is rather similar to that of proof-editing; don’t try and do it all at once. A little bit at a time guarantees a closer attention to detail and avoids tunnel-vision. I must admit, exam marking isn’t my favourite thing but it does allow me to work from home which means I can sit, as I am now, with curlers in my hair and look forward to a meal that I have not been carrying in my bag since before dawn.
However, while the exams I mark are only mildly annotated, the novel I am editing is bristling with comments; observations about descriptions and characters designed to give the author something to think about with a view to development or amendment rather than direct instructions (I can only suggest, I cannot be not the authority on someone else’s novel). Occasionally I edit the text itself; typos of course and grammar when I think another tense works better. Since setting up shop as an English-language teacher, I seem to have become rather more sensitive to grammar. Again, it’s all using the “this is my opinion, feel free to ignore” approach that J. A. Clement and I agreed when we were at university, editing each other’s poems. Online editing (tracked changes) makes that so much easier! As I write that, I am rather aware that when I had my novel edited, I chose hardcopy and really loved it. I prefer to work from hardcopy but I must admit that online is much more environmentally friendly.
I have just taken up my current novel after rather a long break. Well, not a break exactly, more a prolonged period of not-getting-very-much done. Over the last two years, I have worked very hard to establish myself as an English teacher and make enough money to be able to pay rent without sacrificing my social life. So far so good. However, my own novel writing has suffered quite a bit. It’s just taken off again over the last few weeks – I do find NaNoWriMo a helpful motivator – but it’s still caught in between the need for gainful employment and the rather demanding (three times a week with homework each time!) German course I finally managed to squeeze into my schedule in August this year. Still, I must admit I do consider myself pretty lucky. Nowadays I enter an office only to teach English and, considering how much I used to hate being in an office, this is an incredible boon.
I am, however, very excited about my new novel. It is the sequel to my first novel, And I Shall Be Healed. That book followed the experiences of a young Army Chaplain on the Western Front during the First World War. The sequel, Lost & Won picks up the story five years later and takes Leo and his wife through the 1920s and 1930s, an era of incredible – and sometimes harrowing – change. Up until a few weeks ago, my writing was sporadic to say the least. However, joining NaNoWriMo gave me the impetus to finally type up the novel so far (I write longhand in the first instance) and, since then, the new material has been flowing fairly steadily from my pen. I must admit I do find the research task ahead a little daunting but right now I’m just enjoying feeling my way around my characters. Some already familiar but growing older and adapting to experience, and others quite new. I do not consider myself to suffer from writers’ block. When the words won’t come I go and do something else, grateful for what I know will be a temporary release. So far this year I have taken three exams in music theory, set up The Bonn Writers’ Club to give myself and others pure, unadulterated time to write (we meet in a café once – two times a month and just work on whatever we’re working on) and I even managed to acquire a certificate in Foundation Journalism from the NCTJ so, hopefully, I will be able to ease off some of the teaching in favour of more editing and writing work.
If the writing goes on at the current rate, I shall have a good bit done by Christmas. For those who are looking for an editor, I am taking bookings from January 2017. An average novel (c 86k words) should take a month at most. Articles and academic stuff is usually a lot quicker. If you’re interested and want more information, have a look at my website. On the “Novelist” you’ll be able to have a look at the reviews my novel attracted and, if there’s anything else you want to know, just contact me through the site or at firstname.lastname@example.org
For now, keep writing. If the writing’s not happening, read something!
Thanks for that, Julia.
Having read her first book I Shall Be Healed, I gave copies to my Mum, Dad and mother-in-law, all of whom loved it (and in my Dad’s case you have to bear in mind that he didn’t read much). It is a quietly melancholic book, very understated and consequently very effective – if you like the slow development of characters, I can heartily recommend it.
She has edited all of my stories (I think all?) and I can tell you she’s pretty easy to work with. If you’re after a thoughtful and perceptive editor who suggests rather than demands, look no further! Moreover, she has a great grasp of characters and plot holes – certainly she’s saved me from a couple of howlers (and we’re even still on speaking terms…) Heheheheh.
So that’s it for me this week, peeps. Hoping to bring you a cover reveal next week, so watch this space. If you’re still working on Wrimo, keep at it! You’re on the home stretch now. If you need harassment of an encouraging nature, add me and I will cheer you on from the sidelines…
In the meantime, don’t forget there’s still time to get your freebie copies of The Last Dragon and The Scarred Artisan from Instafreebie – and watch this space as there may be an amusing Christmas short going up there too, under the name of Trial by Christmas Pudding, no less. A comic historical cowboy romance? Don’t mind if I do….
Have a good weekend, all, and catch you on the upside.