Tuesday, 29 December 2009

It's that time of year again...

Oh 2009, how shall we judge you?

Annoyingly, I am something of an optimist and normally reluctant to judge a year based on perhaps the last six months or so; if that were not the case, I would merrily tell 2009 to take a running jump off a prickly cliff. But I’m always looking for the silver lining in the dark clouds (or the smarties in the dog turd) so I shy away from condemning it completely. It’s time to look, perhaps, at what I hoped to do in 2009 and what I actually did, as awkward and slightly embarrassing as it may be:

By the end of this year I wanted to have finished Bad Apple Bone, written an entirely new novel, and a novella during November (which would also be finished).

What I actually did: Well, I did finish Bad Apple Bone (when was that? May? I think it may even have been on Star Wars day…), which was a major achievement I suppose, after two years writing the bugger. It was my first book, and my first real attempt at writing anything, and remains the truest thing I have written, I think.

I did start writing an entirely new book, A Boy of Blood and Clay, and even got 61,000 words into it, but made the rather silly error of mistaking research for planning, and found myself halfway through the book with only the slightest inkling of what was happening. Plus, I really loathed one of the main characters, and wanted to kill her off. Except she was already dead. Oh.
So that book remains at rest currently, “composting” as my favourite art tutor would put it. And the NaNoWriMo novella? Well that little bugger turned into an actual full length book, full of dirt and ooze and I’m-Not-Even-Sure-What-Happens-Next mystery, which made it brilliant fun to write, even as it grows in scope by the minute and I have no chance of finishing it this year.

In conclusion then, I have one finished novel, and two unfinished full length books; not exactly where I wanted to be, but, I have to look the bright side (or the Skittles in the dog plop); this year I have written, not including finishing Bad Apple Bone or any short stories that popped into existence, around 120,000 words. And I can’t really complain about that.

2010 will be the year I learn to give up my time properly to this fabulous craft, and start treating it like I really intend other people to read it some day. This year is The Year of Writing Dangerously.

Monday, 7 December 2009

On winning NaNoWriMo and then failing for a bit.

I did it!

Which you probably all know by now. It's been a week after all, and goodness know I think I posted about it pretty much everywhere when I finished. I actually got to 50,000 words on the Sunday, mainly because I didn't want to leave the vital last couple of thousand words for the last couple of hours and partly because we were going out on Monday night. There was much rejoicing, and like last year, a sense of extreme tiredness.

As I predicted, Ink for Thieves isn't anywhere near actually being finished, and is in fact only about halfway through. This is okay. It turned out that the story had a direction it wanted to go in and I was unable to stop it, or even steer it vaguely back onto the path I had originally expected. I think most writers will recognise this lack of control; normally it means things are going well, believe it or not.

In a similar vein, a friend of mine has been ribbing me lately on my choice of name for my main character, Guido Foss. He rightly pointed out that a) it's a man's name, b) it's a bit silly, and c) it's slang for a thug in certain parts of the world. This is all true, and I've no idea where the name really came from (unless it's because that was my favourite Samurai Pizza Cat). It came to me randomly one day and stuck, even though I knew the main character was female, and the truth of the matter is... I've no more control over what the character is called than I have over where the story is going- I'm currently writing a very long section, for example, that I had no inkling was in the book at all when I started it. As often with these things, I was still considering whether or not I should include it at all when I realised I was already writing the bloody thing! Stories are sneaky like that.

Guido Foss is now Guido Foss to me, no matter how ludicrous the name. At 50,000 words in, I just can't change stuff that is so established, because in the end, the important thing is that I get the story out; the bumps and kinks in the road can be sorted out later. NaNoWriMo creates an odd situation really, because it encourages you to put up pieces of your writing while you're still working on them, and normally during the writing process you wouldn't do that.

In short, I'm following the story where it will take me, whether that means silly names or unexpected diversions in the desert. The polishing comes later. :)