Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Malicious Intent by Kathryn Fox

Check out my review of Kathryn Fox's first novel in the Dr Anya Crichton series in my Aussie blog over at the Australian Crime Fiction site - here.

The Open Road

Back in early October, I set myself the goal of completing the first draft of my novel by 19 December. That day is under 48 hours away and I am not yet in sight of the end, but I still feel pretty happy with what I've achieved recently:
  • Winner of National Novel Writing Month - joining the thousands who completed 50,000 words in the month of November.

  • Developed a much more structured and disciplined writing practice.

  • Passed 200,000 words on my first draft.

Two hundred thousand words is a hell of a lot of writing (and waffle) and by my calculations, that makes me 80% of the way there. I'm expecting the last twenty percent to be completed quite quickly, anticipating that rush at the end that many authors talk about, when everything starts to come together, when the finish line is in sight and where I will be bounding out of bed in the mornings into my study, eager to keep cracking on with it. I haven't reached that stage yet, but I have caught glimpses of it, especially as I am now thinking a lot more about how to end this book.

Mark Billingham uses the analogy of driving through fog when talking about writing and plotting a book. He knows his destination but doesn't know how he will get there. He can only see into the fog as far as the reach of the headlights. The rest is unknown.

My approach to writing is similar, although, for this first novel, I do have a map. The fog is still there but I know pretty much the route I am taking. However, I still find the writing difficult. To take the analogy one step further, firing myself up to sit down and start typing is like starting a car engine on a cold morning, taking numerous attempts before it roars to life. Even with a map, the first few miles are sluggish, as if I know where I am going but I am stuck in slow moving traffic. I become bored and distracted and wonder whether it's worth making the trip at all. Then I see a gap in the traffic and I take it and end up on an empty freeway, with nothing hindering my progress, not even fog. I step on the accelerator and push the car to its limits, speeding along that empty road. That is the moment I really enjoy and I hope, as I approach the end of my journey, that the speed and exhilaration continues.

In other news, Borders booksellers in America have signed a deal with pubilsher HarperStudio that no longer allows the retailer to return unsold books back to the publisher. My first thought was that retailers would order a lot less books and steer clear from unknown and untested authors in order to reduce the risk of being stuck with unwanted stock. This would be bad news for authors all round. Sandra Ruttan, however, takes a more optimistic and informed view here.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

It's Over But The Writing Continues . . .

Fifty thousand words and thirty days later: NaNoWriMo - done.

It was an immense challenge, but I surprised myself with my commitment and planning, ensuring that I kept up the word count, meeting and exceeding my daily quota of words on a regular basis. I also proved to myself that a regular writing schedule can be squeezed around a full time job, which has always been a big hurdle for me. In addition, not only did I develop some good writing habits, I took a big step forward towards finishing the first draft on my novel.

The writing doesn't stop there, though. I still have my target of finishing this first draft before dawn on the 19 December. The challenge is to keep the momentum going without the fun of a contest or without that feeling of camaraderie with other writers that is experienced during NaNoWriMo.

I'm doing it a little different for December too. I'm not aiming for the same word count each day because I don't want to rush the intricacies of the final quarter of the book. Instead, I have a goal of 90 minutes of writing a day. The first few days of December made me quite proud; despite a busy schedule at work, I met my 90 minute goal and exceeded 2,000 words in each sitting. The rest of the week has been a debacle due to increasing work commitments; no time spent on writing. Some catching up is required but I feel confident that I can do that over the next two weeks.

NaNoWriMo was a very beneficial experience and I learned a lot - as I suspect everybody participating did - so congrats to everyone else who took part - well done! Looking forward to next November.

Elsewhere on the planet, news of the Harrogate 2009 lineup has been published and for me, the highlight is the attendance of George Pelecanos. He would have to be one of my favourite authors, if not the favourite. His novels are a pleasure to read and are super cool. He is such a great guy too. The last time he was at Harrogate, he gave some inspiring words of advice that helped me kick start my novel and get over the fear of tackling such a big project. That advice was given to the general audience, so I hope I'll be able to sneak in a five minute chat with him at the bar next July, one on one. Quite an exciting prospect.

I'm not alone here: the ladies, especially those on Mark Billingham's forum, have their own reasons for getting excited about Mr Pelecanos's attendance: