Wednesday, 28 November 2012

NaNoWriMo Week 4 Snippet - The End is Nigh

This week has been challenging.  Work has been frantic, the weekend saw three birthday parties and this week has been eaten up in a morass of party organisation for my own baby's party. I've baked cakes, made party boxes, shopped, created 20 lollipop octopi complete with pipe cleaner legs and googly eyes.  I've made my daughter a mermaid headdress.

Have I written?

Nae mucho.

DAMN!  This was going to be my storming past the finish line week. Now I'll be lucky if I scrape in at the end.  Still, all is not lost.  I just need to rack up 2K or so and I'm there.  Wish me luck.

However I have written something.  I've taken my hero and heroine off to Ireland, to Inishmore, the island she was born on. It's fair to see she's having a difficult time.  Still flying by the seat of my pants I'm not 100% sure where I'm going with this.  Bear with me.

CC image by Alliecouture on flickr - Inishmore


Come, they whispered. Join us.  Forward Tara.
In Piper’s vision she hadn’t been scared.  Here, she was gripped by a terror so pure it turned her insides to fractured ice and locked her limbs stiff. 
She awaits
Leave me alone, she cried in her head, trying to grip onto reality by concentrating on what was there and real, the cold stone against her shoulder, the wind clawing at her hood, the damp earth beneath her knees. 
Forward Tara.
The air grew darker.  All she could see was them, crowding her, pressing in, eyes like dark fire flickering in the night, gaping caverns where mouths should be. 
He shook her shoulder.  “Hey you. Is anyone in there?” His touch was warm, solid and human.  Instinctively, she turned towards him, a moth seeking the warmth of a flame, feral as an animal.  He was flesh and bone, salt and life and she wanted his touch with a hunger that tore through her stomach.
She had forgotten he would be seeing a monster.  

Friday, 23 November 2012

Your Writing Haven

Some people write in coffee shops
Some people write in studies
Some people write all hermit-like
Some people write with buddies
I write best when squashed up on the number 45
I'll finish NaNoWriMo on a 45 bus ride

I kind of find it interesting where people choose to write.  When I used to read about people having their special spaces, their writing havens, I'd feel really intimidated.  My lack of a Room Of My Own seemed to stick a post it note on my forehead saying NOT A PROPER WRITER.

Writers have music.

Writers have excel sheets.

Writers have studies.

We have a study in our house.  It had two desks, one for me, one for my husband.  My desk looks a bit like the bastard child of Mount Everest and a Filing Cabinet.  It's piled high with paper and bits of crap.  Camera kit too.  And it faces a wall.

Assuredly, this is not my special space.

Libraries too can be good but often don't work.  Coffee shops likewise.  I always feel like the barista is wishing me away from hogging their much needed tables.  In fact if I use any place too often, it feels to inspire.

No, the place I write best is in transit.  During this NaNoWriMo my best and most inspired writing has been on the 30 minute bus ride between my daughter's school and my place of work. Previously, my best writing has been away on a Mother's Day spa weekend.  Yep, I was the only fluffy bathrobed face masked maiden with a netbook tapping away the final chapters of a historical romance.

And the best place of all?  Trains.  I LOVE writing on trains.  Damn it, I love WORKING on trains.  If I had my way, I'd be like Trotsky, zipping around the place on tracks with the countryside flashing by whilst I channel Agatha Christie and Alfred Hitchcock and the countless other authors who have immortalised the romance of the railtrack.

It's surely no coincidence that Harry Potter is whisked away on the Hogwarts Express.

Trains and buses.  Let's get moving, baby.

So you can keep your Starbucks and your oak panelled libraries.  I'm buying me a £1.40 bus ticket to the NaNoWriMo finish line.  And when I write that worldwide bestseller, I'll be writing the sequel on the Orient Express.*

*in between drinking champagne cocktails and solving murders.

Photo by Gerhard Suster

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

NaNoWriMo Week 3: Hello Tara

Week three of NaNoWriMo dawns and the scores on the doors are as follows:

40,150 words
1,368 paragraphs
76 pages
6 key characters introduced
2 demons
3 murders (one may or may not be a murder)
2 bottles of whisky drunk (by my heroine, not by me)
1 flashback experienced

My plot has stumbled completely off piste and I'm bored of London, so I'm sending my characters off to Ireland to see what mischief might befall them there.  Another demon attack?  A wise woman's prophecy?  A relative from the grave? 

Who knows?

Not me, that's for sure.  So before I go full steam ahead and set up Pantsers Anonymous self help group for other failed plotters, it's time to share my week 3 snippet. Please bear in mind this is the raw, unedited first draft and be kind.  

You've met Devlin, my male protagonist angsting about his kissing technique.

You've met Rat, my secondary character who was threatening to steal the show.

I thought that it was only fair that Tara, my heroine, gets a shot at the limelight.  Here she is talking to Devlin in the middle of a cemetery, which is of course where you go for calm if you're beset by dead people and have just found out you might be a banshee.  

Extract from Banshee

In the fading light she couldn’t read his expression.  He leaned against the lion’s plinth, his arms crossed and nodded at the noble white face. “This guy guard you did he?”
“Something like that.” 
“You need a tame lion if you’re going to make it on the streets,” Devlin observed. “How did you make it?  Get from being a street kid to running a shop?  Neither of you look like you ever slept rough.”
It was amazing what a veneer of respectability could hide. Nights so cold her knuckles turned red raw and her teeth chattered in her head.  Nights of sleeplessness, desperately trying to guard their meagre belongings, scraps of blanket and pockets of food.  Nights spent eluding the watchers, the people who tried to touch them and seduce them with opiates and amphetamines.  Sean had been such a pretty boy.  Forcibly she cleared her head of memory.  She had become good at compartmentalising. 
Have I made it?”
“Your brother has a property empire from Canary Wharf through to Welwyn Garden City and I’m thinking the pair of you are not yet thirty.  He must have cash coming out of his ears.”
She shrugged. “That’s Sean.  He probably keeps it stuffed in a sock under his pillow and loaded with gravel.”
The corner of his mouth lifted. “Probably the best place for it these days. You still haven’t answered my question.” 

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

NaNoWriMo Soundtrack: Music to Dream by

Lovely Artemis, a magical Twitter friend shared a wonderful track with me today.  Perfect timing because I've been musing on what my NaNoWriMo soundtrack should be.

This isn't writing music, it's inspiring music. I need silence to write (not helpful with a small child watching My Little Pony by my side).  But music can help me get into my flow state (thanks to Ruth Long and Daniel Swensen AKA Surly Muse for teaching me about this) and to get ready to write. 

When I heard this, I knew this was the song to help me get into my heroine's POV.  It's a piano demo by the mystical and musical Stevie Nicks and utterly haunting - highly suitable for a banshee.  Receiving the gift of music is so special.  I love having my musical horizons expanded. 

More sound track suggestions are welcomed.  But first, over to Stevie...

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

NaNoWriMo Week 2 - introducing Rat

This week has seen a bit of a crisis in my NaNoWriMo 2012 adventure.  It's not the word count, that's fine.  It's not finding writing time, I'm squeezing that in. 
It's Minor Character Takeover. 
This is a nightmare phenomenon I've experience before.  That insidious feeling that a secondary character is more intriguing, more exciting and generally has more about them than the main character. 



But regardless, I soldier.  

Anyway, seeing as how I'm somewhat fascinated by her, I thought you might want to meet her too.  So here's this week's NaNoWriMo extract... introducing Rat.

Introducing Rat

An alley cut between two pubs, choked with bins and refuse. Glancing around her, she turned down, picking her way gracefully through upturned boxes and beer crates. It stank down here, a medley of rank beer and rotting food. She didn’t mind.  Smells masked a person as much as darkness and in the stark light of morning she’d take that.  It was darker down here anyway, the light blocked by the Victorian frontages.  A cat yowled ahead of her, skittering up to perch on the drainpipe where it paused to like its paw in a pretence of unconcern.  That made her laugh. The cat would show no fear any more than she would. In old times people would’ve thought it was a familiar, a devil incarnate. They were sisters, she and the cat.  People thought she was a devil too.

She wasn’t. She just worked for him.

Softly, she scratched at a cellar door, a hatch at the base of the wall built to roll beer barrels into the cellars. She heard a bolt being scraped back and the trapdoor pushed open just wide enough to allow a girl inside - or a cat. She dropped inside, soft footed but panic flared in her blood when it shut. She didn’t know her escape route.  You should always know how to get out.

The room had no windows, only a narrow strip of thick opaque glass at pavement, so grimy it did no more than emit the faintest drizzle of light.  You’d need a torch down here, or better still a light switch.  The girl had neither.  She stood feeling the darkness lap round her, making herself stay calm. Nothing killed you faster than panic. 

“It’s done,” she said. 

Monday, 12 November 2012

If Music Be the Food of Writing... Play On

My dearest Ruth Long is a big fan of music and writing, so much so that she launched the Friday Night Write over at Sweet Banana Ink, for people who are aurally inspired to put pen to paper.

I see them all over the place, people's writing soundtracks. There's even a little box to fill in on the NaNoWriMo website called "favorite novelling music".  What did I write? 


That's right. I find music distracting. If I'm humming along to a tune, I'm not hearing my characters voice. Until today.

I work in an open plan office, a busy, noisy open plan office.  Usually it's noisy because I am making noise, being the noisiest noise maker in the village, but today I was keeping schtum because I had writing to do.  Sadly, being at the office, this wasn't novel writing but speech writing and proposal writing and reporting writing. 

So I decided to play some music.

Here's what I forget about music: it's instantly transformative. It can take you from fidgety, distracted and uninspired to blood pumping, angels in your ears and in the zone within two bars of the right melody.  One blast of Aretha Franklin's O Happy Day and I had a rousing, emotional speech slapped down.

Oh yeah. 

Which brings me back to NaNoWriMo.  Not having a soundtrack for your NaNoWriMo novel feels a bit like failing to name a baby.  So I'm making one. 

I don't yet have songs for my characters or for individual scenes, but I'm working up to that.  I've just got a tune for the key conflict and this is it.  Love will Tear Us Apart by Joy Division.  What could be better for a girl from Manchester?  Think dark streets and lashing rain, tortured hearts and forboding. Enjoy! 


The other thing that inspired me to plunge into musical madness was reading up about Synesthesia after stumbling across it on the fantastic NaNoWriMo Adopt-An-Illness forum (well worth a look!) - it's an absolutely fascinating phenomenon!

Are you a synesthete?  

Thursday, 8 November 2012

First kiss blues... a hero's woes

One week into #NaNoWriMo and astonishingly, I think I am ON TRACK.  A few things have helped with this:

  • Knowing my characters really well
  • Bothering to spend an evening trying to map out a rough sort of plot (even pantsers need a roadmap)
  • The cheerleaders, wordmongerers and sprinters of #NaNoWriMo land. 
I love you people. Really, I do. You make me laugh and most importantly, write. *squishy great big hug to the world* 

So to celebrate a successful week 1, here is an extract from my WIP Banshee. This is brand new stuff - a big departure from the original way I'd mapped my protagonists' relationship developing. It's also unedited. Be kind!

In this scene Devlin kisses Tara, but her reaction isn't quite what he was hoping for:

(gratuitous Richard Armitage picture)

    For one wonderful moment she responded, her mouth feverish. Then she tensed. He felt her rejection the split second it froze her body.  His stomach sank like lead.  Insensitive, cack-handed bastard.  Instantly, he stepped back letting space get between them, his chest rising and falling with the shudder of his breaths. She stared at him blindly, as though seeing someone else, somewhere else.
    Tara?  Are you okay?”
    Her pale hair clung around her face, she was milk white, her eyes huge and shadowed.  She blinked.  “I’m sorry,” she said. 
    “Jesus don’t be sorry, I never should have-”
    “I’m sorry, I need to go.”  She slipped past him out of the door as he stood dumbfounded. 
    “Wait. Wait a minute.  Where can you go?  At least let me call you a cab?”
    She glanced at him and her expression reminded him of a wild creature trapped in a cage. “I need to go.”
    “Fuck. Fine, let me take you home.  Is there someone I can call?”
    “He’s here.  He’s already here.”
    “My broth-”
    Before she finished the word the doorbell rang. 

    Wednesday, 7 November 2012

    Walk Outside and Look Up

    Every now and then I feel restless, irritable and discontented.

    I am so far from being mindful, I don't know how to keep still.  I don't want to go to the playpark with my daughter.  I want to talk, fast, to strategise.  In short, my mind is full of work and business. I've lost the ability to just be. 

    That was me today.  And of course I felt guilty.  Because I was walking up the hill with my little daughter and  her company is precious but I was missing it in a haze of restlessness and discontent. 

    And then I looked up.

    Sky by Powellizer

    And I saw the sky.  And it reminded me that I don't look up very often. In fact, most often, I'm looking down at a square of illuminated screen a few inches from my nose. At phones. At computers.  

    But when I looked up and saw the vastness of the sky the world seemed bigger and full of limitless opportunity.  The clouds were racing and it reminded me that everything changes, that you are never truly trapped or limited unless you limit yourself. 

    Joy welled up and I shared it with my daughter, showed her the racing clouds and the movement of the sky.  Our whole walk home was transformed. 

    Argyll Peninsula by Meg McNulty aka ME 

    So whether you've got your head stuck in NaNoWriMo, you're stressed with work or tired from being woken in the night, I'm asking you to step outside of your house for one minute and look up.  Look through the trees.  Look at the sunset or the vast white arc of a winter sky.  Look at the storm clouds or the bright disc of the sun.  

    And just... 

    Monday, 5 November 2012

    YES! By Jove I GET it (the love scene, that is)

    It's NaNoWriMo.  And I'm a NaNo-Rebel.  That means I'm using NaNoWriMo as an excuse not to start a brand new book entirely from scratch but to re-start a book from scratch using characters I've already developed.  

    The plot is new. 

    The backstory is new.

    The characters have been redeveloped. 

    The writing is new, in the main. I've been able to use bits and bobs of some scenes I've written before, but because everything else is different, no scene has been dropped right in.  It just wouldn't work.  

    What's most different about it? 

    The first love scene.

    By Taylorpad212

    My travails with writing love scenes have oft been documented throughout this blog.  How to be precise without being icky. How to be emotional without being vague. How to make the love scene character driven.  How to make it move the plot along.

    Writing a love scene is complicated. 

    But by Jove, in this NaNoWriMo I've got it.  My heroine Tara is starting from a more challenging past than before. She has battled with various psychotic episodes, lived on the streets and been in abusive situations.  She has never experienced physical affection and she is scared of it.

    When she ends up spending the night in Devlin O'Connor's flat, Tara is tempted and terrifying by an attraction to Devlin. It's been an unusual night.  Nothing is as it usually is.  What will she do?

    When I first wrote this scene, Tara didn't have the backstory she has now.  She knew she was a banshee and she was battling to control her banshee powers.  She had a terrible fear of letting go.  Devlin on the other hand was self conscious about his scars and had a great dislike of liars.  The latter seemed a bit thin, as far as conflict goes.

    My first attempt at writing a love scene for Tara and Devlin was a classic carried-away-against-their-better-judgement steam fest.  It never felt quite right.  Would Tara really be that confident?

    No.  She wouldn't.

    Re-writing Banshee for NaNoWriMo has allowed me to reinvent the how and why Devlin and Tara come together. In the new story, Devlin recognises that Tara is terrified and refuses to touch her.  She is able to touch him, tentatively, and that is a massive breakthrough for her.

    That's it.  Yet it's more powerful than all the steam in the earlier version put together.

    • Character Driven
    • Appeals to all the Senses. 
    • Moves the Plot along. 

    My check list for all love scenes from henceforth.

    Get it?

    Got it.