Tuesday, 27 May 2014

What's Up Pussycat?

So I have been a busy little beaver lately. My freelance work is coming slowly but steadily and I have no complaints there, although there is the faint whispering in my mind that I really need to get a website up and running as well as a Facebook page sorted out. That’s something I did begin to do but I never finished so it’s on my To Do list. There’s a lot on my To Do list really. I also wish that I did have a little bit more business coming my way but I suppose that’s the perils of only using one website and not having my own form of advertising.

My planning the Autharium Project (as I am temporarily calling the book I am creating for That Blog Series) is coming along well. I pretty much have the outline done, now I just need to expand the chapter outlines a little, or at least the scene sketches. More importantly I need to actually create my characters. Right now there are only two that I know that I need but they have no name, no personality and no backstory. So basically they are just words in an outline as opposed to real people. I’ve also been thinking about titles. I hate titles, like to the bottom of my soul. It’s why this blog doesn’t have the best name (I will change it one day I promise) and why so many of my Works in Progress have generic explanatory titles that don’t really grab your attention. It needs to grab your attention if I’m to have any hope of getting people to read it. I will be writing the next post that will go on the Autharium blog and this time I will, hopefully, put a version of it up on here too.
The planning came a lot easier than I expected. I can see what happens when and how I can keep the tension up and then let it down again. I also, finally, managed to apply the three act structure to my outlines at last. It’s something I’ve avoided in the past, I didn’t want to restrict my writing or do what everyone else does. Now I’ve actually used it though I can see how it is in fact very, very helpful. I can see where the tension is, how the stakes get higher and higher until it all comes crumbling down. I haven’t followed it exactly (I’ve not got to that point quite yet) but it’s there and the arcs are there and I’m definitely going to use it again. I also plan to do a proper post about it in more detail at a later date too (if I remember).

Don’t think that I’ve forgotten about the One Freelancer’s Journey series either. I’m hard at work on that and should have another post up about it soon. Right now I’m just mulling over some of the content and try to work out ways of phrasing it without making it seem as though I’m lecturing. Writing on blogs, not novels or stories, is something that I find a little tricky, I will admit. I want to get the tone right, I want to keep it casual, but when I start talking about something or explaining something to you all I can’t help but slip into lecture mode and I hate it. I Hate It!

I also want to quickly catch you up on what’s been happening with my WiPs, specifically Love Complications (which will be renamed eventually) and Feral Diaries 1 (which will also be renamed).
The notes for revision on LC are complete. Now I’m working out what needs to go where, the time frame and what new scenes need to be added. It needs a lot of work and I need to actually put in some sort of three act structure. Most of all I need to stop letting it read as though it was written by a teenage girl (which it was) and instead make it read as though it were written for a teenage girl (which it was). The characters need to be rounded out and I need to stop my main character from being such a Mary Sue! Yes, that’s right, I wrote a Mary Sue. In fact it was a little bit of a wish fulfilment novel for me at the time, having everything happen right, just how I wished my life could be. Of course that doesn’t make for good reading so it needs to be shaken up, torn to pieces and reassembled into something shiny and new. And the Mary Sue needs to be burned and destroyed.
Feral Diaries (whose title also needs to be changed), meanwhile is not coming along so well. I’ve been making my notes, I’ve actually gotten quite far in with them, almost halfway. But then I looked back and noticed that in the earlier notes I had been actually outlining the new scenes that I needed to add to the story. I hadn’t been doing that for a while. So I need to go back and do that for the other chapters and it’s starting to feel a little one step forward, two steps back. BUT! It’s not all bad news. A friend of mine, wanting to procrastinate, decided to mess around with some 3D imagining software that she loves to use and actually created an amazing cover for me. I’ll show it to you another day although you could always check out my twitter feed and see for yourself.

But for now, it’s back to the grindstone, I have a few chapters to write for work and then it’s on to transcribing my planning notes for the Autharium Project. Do you have any ideas for what to do with the Mary Sue? Have you ever written a Mary Sue? Do you want me to get on with the Freelancer’s Journey Series? Or would you rather I shut up and share a bit more about Feral Diaries?

Let me know in the comments, I love hearing from you.

Friday, 16 May 2014

Of Pipe-dreams and Practice

Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about attending Savannah College of Art and Design (or SCAD for short). I’ve always wanted to go to art school, ever since I started doing art for my A-levels. I love to draw and I’d love to study at a place solely dedicated to drawing. The thing is though that it’s a bit of a long shot. Not only is there the whole applying and hoping that my art is good enough (which I doubt but we’ll get to that shortly) thing, but there is also the matter of the cost. The total fees for just one year of study are more than I owe in student loans, which is a butt load. It’s an amount that I have very little hope of ever saving up although I’m not doing too badly with savings. I’d feel bad, spending that much on further education, especially four years worth of education, when there are so many other things I could and should spend it on. Like a house, or paying off my student loans, or any number of other things that I can’t think of right now. There’s a very low possibility of me ever earning enough to afford it and as each year passes, despite the desire to attend still being there, the likelihood falls lower and lower. In a nutshell, it’s a pipe dream.

Then there’s the matter of my ability in general. I love drawing but I don’t draw enough. One of the reasons is that I can never get what I’m seeing in my mind down on paper properly. And there is one key reason for this. Practice. I do not practice drawing. I seem to expect it to instantly come out perfect, exactly how I want it to without trying. Sometimes I wish there was a magical print button that simply put what was in my head down on paper without me even trying. But that is wrong. I need to practice, I should practice. Practice is what helps you get better. It has worked with my writing, the more that I write the better that my writing becomes (or at least it seems to at any rate, I’ll let someone else be the judge of that). So I came to a decision.

Just because I can’t go to art school doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t try to get better. Just like with my writing I need to figure out some form of programme of study to improve my drawing ability, to get it to where I want to be. I’ll need to look at the various syllabi of art colleges around the world, see how they build up their teaching over time and figure out my own version based on that. More importantly I need to get over the idea that everything I draw will be perfect straight away. It is going to be flawed, there are going to be glaring errors and when I look back at those drawings I am going to hate them. But that’s what improvement is all about. Practice makes perfect is a cliché saying for a reason, it’s true. To an extent anyway.

I think that’s what a lot of first time writers don’t realise. You cannot just expect things to come out exactly how you want them to right from the beginning (unless you’re a crazy genius savant or incredibly gifted). You have to work for them, learn about them, practice them and all the time you’ll get better. It’s the 10,000 hour rule, the idea that in order to consider yourself a master, or at least adept, at your craft you need to put in at least 10,000 hours of work before you are seriously any good. I don’t say this to put people off trying to write. I’m just stating a fact. Sure you can put a book out there, paint a picture or play an instrument without the 10,000 hours but it won’t be as good as it could be if you put those 10,000 hours in.

That’s the wonderful thing about life though. You don’t get a one shot only kind of thing. You can try and fail and try and fail as many times as you want. No one looks down on someone for trying, as long as they keep the rest of their life in some form of order (ie paying bills and not becoming a drug addicted mess). You have to strike on, keep going. Refusing to give up on your dream can earn you a lot of respect (unless it’s a crazy dream like living on the moon. Then you need to rethink) and show your loved ones, particularly the ones who are doubting you, exactly how determined you are. In fact it could earn you a lot of support from places you least expected it. And if the failures keep coming maybe it’s time to practice a little more, study a little more and learn from the successes out there.

So I return to practicing my craft, practicing writing and practicing my art. Once I know how to art that is. It’s been a while since I had any kind of formal training so my brain’s a little dusty. And maybe one day soon, I will get to go to SCAD and be an art student. Or I might finally get a book out there, a whole series of books, and people will know my name. But at the moment I’m focusing on the now and less on the future.

What are your big dreams? How do you practice for your dream? Let me know in the comments.

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

An Old Story Revisited

For most of the last week or so, asides from working on projects for clients (which have incidentally suddenly piled on to the point where I’m wondering what the heck is going on), I have been editing a little story I wrote when I was about 16/17. It’s your typical young adult, angst filled romance and at the time I thought it was awesome! I even tried to turn it into a comic for a while but something just didn’t feel right, it didn’t hold my attention. 
Now though I’m just looking at it and I’m just thinking


Apparently I really hated using any form of dialogue tags. I’m serious. My dialogue reads something a little like this (and yes, this is an actual excerpt)
“You know behind the glasses he’s really quite cute, I’d date him if it weren’t for the weird clothes,”
“Seriously? He’s a nice person, you’d get on with him, at least I think you might. You’d be able to do a makeover on him, I’m sure he’d agree. We could do it together on Saturday or something,”
“You know I might ask him to the Ball, I’m sure he hasn’t got a date yet. I might talk to him next week. I still need to find some money for my dress,”
Do you see what I mean? There are in fact two people speaking there, not one and they zip between topics like nobody’s business. I know that I usually try to write dialogue realistically, or at least as realistically as I can get without including a bunch of umm-ing and ahh-ing, but this is just taking the mickey. And yes, I had clearly forgotten that there was a reason that the full stop exists.

The dialogue isn’t the worst of it though. The story zips along, things happen so quickly that it’s hard to keep track, characters appear and disappear with no explanation other than that it is convenient. It is the worst kind of wish fulfilment there is. I am in fact ashamed to say that I did indeed imagine myself as the main character when I wrote it. I just wrote the kind of story that I wished was happening to me. There’s two cute guys, a tonne of friends, a hockey tournament in which there’s only one match... I could go on and on.

When I first started rereading this story I almost decided to throw it away. But then I realised that I couldn’t. This was the first story I ever finished, the first story I thought that maybe I could publish in fact. Now I realise that it’s a foolish idea, at least with the way it is at the moment. Every single page has markings on it. And I did those with a big red sharpie. And I’m not joking either. I mean, EVERY.

See all the pages!!
I’ve made pages and pages of notes for changes that I need to make. There are entire scenes that span a single page that I need to expand. I need to create proper timelines and flesh out my characters some more. Heck I need to put in the sub-plots. Here’s an interesting thing though. There are sub-plots there already, some potentially very good ones. But I was too young and inexperienced to really know what they were there for, all I remember is that it felt right to include them. I just didn’t do anything with them.

So that’s my new project for now. I’m putting aside the Feral Diaries, the Geniania novels, the other smaller projects and I’m going to focus on this. I’m going to rewrite that story I wrote 8 years ago (yes, that’s a clue to how old I am, virtual cookies for anyone who guesses right in the comments) and try to make it shine. After all, if I can make this pile of rubbish shine then there is a lot of hope for other works that I’ve struggled with.

Oh and yes, that column on writing and publishing a novel from start to finish is still going ahead. Keep an eye on the Autharium blog next Tuesday to see my very first post.