Sometimes you need a writing bully

This week, despite being exhausted and cranky and strongly inclined to keep playing Portal 2, I wrote 2800 words.  This is entirely thanks to Amie Kaufman, who BULLIED me into WRITING instead of PLAYING by, um, using words on Twitter.  BUT THEY WERE GOOD WORDS!  Unlike the 2800 words I wrote, which could do with some fine-turning.

Also achieved this week:

  • Flush with the success of having finished chapter 4, I hit Scrivener’s compile button and sent the draft to two friends who were keen to see what I was writing, and who I trusted to be kind to its basic first drafty-ness.
  • Then I realised all the things that were wrong with those four chapters, including some essential background facts which are obvious to me, but which I somehow forgot to explain to the reader.  The plan for this weekend is to go back and sort that out, along with adding an important supporting character who really should be introduced early on, and generally fine-tuning.
  • I did some research on agents who represent YA and MG fiction in Australia.  Which is totally premature and self-indulgent, except that I’ve noticed that a lot of local authors are represented by overseas agents, which led me to suspect (correctly, I think) that it’s a very small field in Australia.  And if I’m going to be trying to sell this to an international agent, I’d like to know sooner rather than later so I don’t run mad with unexplained Australianisms.
  • (I threw in gratuitous Colin Thiele and Ruth Park references anyway, because I had a scene that required the protagonist, Olivia, to seek out books from her childhood, books that were already old when she discovered them.  And The Sun on the Stubble and Playing Beatie Bow are Australian YA classics that pre-date my birth, but were hugely popular with the readers in the class when I was about ten.)
  • I finished chapter 5!  It’s running a little short, but I can’t see a way to make it longer without adding a lot of unnecessary waffle.  But, looking out my rough outline, that means I’ve written a third of a book!

My goal for the next week is to come up with an outline for the next third of the book.  In my fifteen years of writing fan fiction, a constant problem I’ve had is that I’m not great at pacing.  Set up?  Easy!  Endings?  Writing them is like pulling teeth, but I know how they should go.  All the bits in the middle?  Um…

So I need to do some work on the events that will take Olivia from where she is now to where I need her to be in five chapters’ time, while also keeping track of day to day school life (NAPLAN testing!) and the Inevitable Sports-Related Sub-plot.

(I had intended to thumb my nose at Enid Blyton by giving Olivia my own hatred of sports.  But to my surprise, she turned out to be a runner and a swimmer, although for reasons to do with her recent history she’s out of practice and slightly ambivalent.  So there you have it.  On the other hand, dorm-mate Alice did pick up my feelings about sports — and then some — and all without warning in the middle of a chapter, so there’s some editing to come.  And in an ideal world, where I write a whole book, the second will be about Alice.  And not sports.)

My other goal for next week is to keep reading.  I’ve been inundated with books this week — first I went to the library, “just to return some things”, and naturally walked out with four books.  And then the parcels started coming.  Apparently I spent quite a lot of money at Book Depository and Amazon a couple of weeks ago, and now my bookshelves are groaning.  Which is wonderful!  But also a bit intimidating.  And that’s without my discovery that the Naughtiest Girl books are available on Kindle now, and those were the very first boarding school novels I ever read!

Needed: Time Turner.

Blogging about writing is not writing

But it is a handy way to procrastinate when you’re having one of those terrible Everything I Write Is Awful And How Does Characterisation Even Work And I Have This Weird Feeling This Whole Scene Is Coming, Like, A Chapter Too Soon.

750 words have been added to The Draft.  I’m aiming for 1000 before I go to bed, or better yet, a speed of productivity that will see a chapter completed.

I’ve taken a break to blog because this is an achievement!  Not only have words been written, but they’ve come after I put in 7.62 hours at the day job and read a few chapters of A Storm of Swords.  (Okay, re-read a few chapters.  It’s amazing how much more fun A Song of Ice and Fire is when you realise Stannis is essentially hilarious.)

I’ve also taken a break to blog because I really do have a nasty suspicion that something is going wrong with the pacing.  Something needs to happen before this scene can happen, and I don’t know what it is.

It’s moments like these that I wonder if this ever happens to people who outline.  I know where the story is going, and I have a rough idea of which major events need to take place in what order, but a subplot has reared its head.

(I really regret to say that this is the mental image I have of said subplot.  Sorry.)

Moving gif of a newborn Alien, ie, a chestburster, wearing a boater.

Usually I don’t start formally outlining until I’ve written about a third of the story.  I mean, yes, I have an idea when I start, but I don’t get to know the characters until I’ve written them for a while, and that’s when I begin to understand how the plot will come together.  Maaaaaaaaaaaaybe I should give this whole “early outline” thing a go.

Then, of course, there’s the problem of depicting a schoolyard bullying incident that doesn’t read like a very bad after school special.  I’ve spent a lot of time lately remembering what it was like to be 12 (horrible!) and how my classmates interacted with each other.  But, of course, I’ve spent a lot of time firmly repressing those memories, so it’s difficult to tell the difference between an accurate memory and a reconstruction.

Not that accuracy matters!  I’m writing fiction, after all.  But verisimilitude is important, and one thing I remember very clearly from adolescence is that kids are the most vicious critics of all.

I wonder if an unexpected zombie attack might fill in the space between the previous chapter and this one?  One of those short, over-in-2500-words-and-no-one-ever-speaks-of-it-again zombie attacks.  Like a 24 hour stomach flu, only with more decapitations.

ETA:  1040 words, and I found a solution to the pacing problem.  EPIC WIN.