Sunday, 29 June 2014

June Recommended Reads

Please note that this post contains affiliate links which does not alter the cost of the books, but simply means that I will earn a small commission should you decide to buy the books through these links.

Pathfinder by Orson Scott Card

Putting his controversial beliefs aside, Orson Scott Card tells a fascinating story. He combines sci-fi and fantasy seamlessly and he allows the reader to put 2 and 2 together to discover the story themselves. Rich characters with abilities that I haven't ever read about before; intriguing conflict including time travel and how it might work - a seriously good story to settle down with and get lost in. I'm looking forward to reading Ruins, the sequel.

Writing in Overdrive by Jim Denney


EXCELLENT! It is chockablock full of tips and techniques and fascinating anecdotes. It's to-the-point, giving valuable information quickly and briefly that can be put to good use right away. I particularly enjoyed reading the writing challenge at the end - and I will be setting myself that challenge. Maybe during Round 3 of ROW80...

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

This got off to a slow start and I almost set it aside but I'm so glad that I didn't in the end, because the story really took off from about Chapter Seven. Now that I've finished the book I can see why Rothfuss structured the story the way he did - it's a story within a story - and it sets things up for the conflict in the framing story's present that I imagine will make much more of an appearance in future books. The ending of this book also had a twist I didn't expect.

A very entertaining read, and I'm so glad that I read it through to the end.

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Contemplating Achievements and Making New Goals

Image by George Hodan at
This is the end of Round 3. Time to look back over my achievements and look forward to the goals for the next Round. I started Round 2 at the last minute and without setting any concrete goals (!!!) so this will be an interesting exercise!

  1. Started revising my fast drafted first draft of TWB;
  2. Wrote the beginnings of four flash fiction pieces;
  3. Read several writing craft books which prompted some brainstorming for the revision;
  4. Learned how important it is not to view an unsatisfactory first draft as a whole and toss it into a dusty corner. Each first draft is made up of parts and some of those parts, be they scenes or images or plot points, are well-worth saving for subsequent re-writes;
  5. Created a love list to remind me why this story is so important to me and to help me stay motivated;
  6. Created a playlist for my heroine's Mask and Identity
  7. Started a new non-fiction project designed to help time-challenged writers start and finish a wip - more on that in the next Round!;
  8. Worked with an illustrator to produce a design that motivates me by reminding me that writing can still happen in short sessions of 15 minutes or so;
  9. Didn't give up on my writing when the whole family came down sick and I fell into a short moment of despair;
  10. Monitored my writing habits and discovered that I DO write daily even if it's not always on the wip I'm revising. I prepare blog posts, comment on other blogs, write down notes, work on other story ideas, journal, and so on;
  11. Started a new writing habit, my version of Julia Cameron's Morning Pages. I write for 15 minutes in my writing journal about anything writing-related;
  12. Created a checklist worksheet (just today in fact) to help me with the revision of TWB. I've triaged the scene index cards and the checklist will help me to see where I need to add more scenes to round out the story;
Goals for Round 3:
  • I'd like to get my blog for writing-challenged writers up and running and post to it once a week (in addition to posting here for ROW80);
  • I'd like to finalise all the scene index cards my story is going to need for the second draft;
  • I'd like to finish the four flash fiction that I started this Round;
And I'll leave it at that. Between now and the start of Round 3 I may have more goals I'd like to add, but these are a good place to begin.

Please check out the other ROW80 blogs here.

Have you settled on your goals for the next Round? And for anyone not taking part in ROW80, how do you plan goals, or do you plan goals at all?

Friday, 20 June 2014

Index Card Terror, Identity, Masks & Music

Image by George Hodan courtesy of
In his comment on my last post, my fellow ROW80 writer, John Holton, reminded me of a project I was working on a couple of weeks ago. Briefly, I was setting myself the challenge of finding a way for time-challenged people - particularly mothers because this is the perspective I'm coming from - getting a novella or novel completed in 15-minute writing sessions throughout a busy day.

Sunday, 15 June 2014

On Being a Writer

Image by Karen Arnold at
Writers work alone, but they can't do it alone. Writers need support. (Read: I need help.)

In order to turn away from the world and focus on my writing, I need to know that the life I'm leaving outside my writing space will still be there when I come back to it; intact and everyone in it safe. Maybe it's just me, and some of the other ROW80 writer-mothers can chime in on this, but I worry that if I'm not around, Things Will Happen Which I Did Not Foresee And Therefore Could Not Take Measures To Guard Against.

Sunday, 8 June 2014

ROW80 update #2 for June

Image courtesy of
This is going to be a very short post. I'm slap-bang in the middle of a viral infection which has affected me, my husband and our little guy. Happily, Little Guy is bouncing back very quickly. It's good to know he has a very healthy immune system. Mine, on the other hand, is not bouncing back nearly as quickly. I'm alternating between feeling hot and cold. My ears, nose and throat ache. My bones feel hollow. I have very little energy, and only Nurofen is helping with the agonising task of swallowing and speaking around the gravel in my throat. The homeopathics I got on Friday have helped me turn the corner, and I should be feeling a bit more like myself very soon.

Goals for last week

  1. Comment on 3 ROW80 blogs at least; commented on five or six if I remember correctly
  2. Finish at least 2 of the flash fics; Er, no. Nada.
  3. Get started on phase 3 of the revision a la Susan Dennard's Revision Guide. No. <sigh>

Unplanned Achievements

  1. I read several writing craft books, and bought two. Writing in Overdrive: Write Faster, Write Freely, Write Brilliantly by Jim Denney and 2k to 10k: Writing Faster, Writing Better, and Writing More of What You Love by Rachel Aaron; I already own Write Your Novel From The Middle: A New Approach for Plotters, Pantsers and Everyone in Between by James Scott Bell;
  2. I monitored my writing habits and discovered, to my surprise, that I actually DO write every day. Even when I'm sick. However, I do not work on the same project every day. Some days, journalling is all I'm good for. Other days, my mind is teeming over with ideas for one or other of the current WsIP and I write them down. Some days, I'll prepare a blog post. Or leave comments on other blogs. Some days I want to actually WRITE write - you know, work on a piece of fiction (which up until now is the only thing I've considered proper writing);
  3. I've worked on a writing project which is still in the conceptual stages so I won't say much about it for now. It was inspired by my blog post last week (on writing advice) and the comments I received - thank you all once again! - and it just caught fire in my imagination. Of all the writing-related activities, I worked on this the most.

Goals for next week

  1. Comment on three other ROW80 blogs;
  2. Write the Mirror Moment for my revision-in-progress (RIP? Eeek);
  3. Create a badge for the writing project;
  4. Finish one of the flash fictions (I know Holly's course specifies working on 5 flash fics at once, but I really do not feel up to that right now, so if I set myself a target of one, and reach it, I'll be happy).
And, as always, be sure to check out the other ROW80 blogs. :)

Sunday, 1 June 2014

Flash Fiction, Life & Resistance

One of my goals for this week was to write some flash fiction. I am happy to report that I got started on not just one but FOUR flash fiction pieces.

May Book Recommendations

Please note that this post contains affiliate links which does not alter the cost of the books, but simply means that I will earn a small commission should you decide to buy the books through these links.

(Kindle ebook only) The Story Within Plotting Guide for Novelists by Alicia Rasley

This wonderful little ebook made me think about how I had set up my story (the one that's at the start of the second draft stage). Had I just grafted exciting elements onto the story instead of looking for the exciting elements that already existed within the story? Because, for one thing, the way I had the story set up was going to make it much harder to establish genre, something writers need to do within the first fifty pages.

"Instead of looking for excitement, novelty, innovation on the outside, find it inside the story."

Rasley's approach is particularly suited to pantsers or writers who tend more towards pantsing than plotting - "I'm not going to give you schemas of external structure or plot grids or even hard and fast rules for developing a story". Instead, she promises that writers will learn about structure organically.

A superb writer's guide that I highly recommend, especially if you're more of a pantser than a plotter.

Drawing on the Power of Resonance in Writing by David Farland

If you love writing, if you love words, if you love learning more about how other writers (particularlyTolkien) wrote and why they did it the way they did, then this book is going to please you. I read it in one go, I just couldn't put it down. It's not a long book, but it's a joy to read.

"So dig deep into your own personal experiences, but also learn to tap into cultural phenomenon - into myths, religion, global politics, major motion pictures and books, and even internet memes in order to establish resonance. Draw from the whole of your life, and from the rest of the world."

(David Farland, by the way, was Stephanie Meyer's and Brandon Sanderson's teacher!)

The Edge of the Water by Elizabeth George

I loved this book. George writes internal character arcs and relationship conflicts like no one else I know. I loved the characters, the pacing, the dialogues.

This book in the series features a mystery, some teenage sleuths and a story with a paranormal twist.

I always enjoy Elizabeth George's novels, both this YA series and her Inspector Lynley books. This book  is a keeper.

Million Dollar Outlines by David Farland

For someone who doesn't consider herself a plotter, this would appear to be strange reading material, but if Stephanie Meyer and Brandon Sanderson were taught by David Farland, then I want to be taught by him, too!

I haven't yet finished this book but I've learned so much in just the first two or three chapters. For instance, in the section on Finding Themes in Your Tale: "Every story is an argument." (WOAH. Seems obvious to me now, but I'd never considered genre fiction from that angle before.)

And this: "...a far more interesting villain is one who is faced with moral choices, who struggles with them, and does not always do what is evil. He sometimes shows mercy. He sometimes is benevolent. But in the end, when faced with his biggest challenge of all, he falls. In other words, your story should not start with a villain, but should grow a villain."

And his take on the purpose and power of stories and the "principles to writing a formed story" resonated deeply with me.

So, briefly, I've read a number of things in the first few chapters that I've not encountered anywhere else, to my recollection, or, if I did, it's only now that these ideas are sinking in and taking hold. (Because sometimes you need to hear something more than once for it to make sense.)

Definitely a keeper on my bookshelf and a book I'll dip into before every session to get me in writing mode.