Welcome to the Dragon's Pen, the blog of an aspiring kiwi author ... chatting about reading, writing, querying and publishing

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Books, Books, and More Books

I dropped in at our little local library this evening and ransacked the YA section. I found a stack of authors I have never read before, mostly fantasy, and brought home a small mountain!

I decided I really need to drop myself in a few good YA fantasy novels. Live them. Breathe them. Eat them? Write them!

I am excited about delving into a few new worlds. Experiencing new tastes and sights and sounds, new sensations and mentally-visual feasts. Sigh. The joys of a great read...

I'll post my thoughts on each one as I finish with it.

Happy writing - Happy reading to you all.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Half Done Draft

Whoop! Whoop!

The picometer hit 50% tonight.


The SFD is half done. We are half way there. The glass is half full.

I've written 150 pages in under 2 months. Not bad.

Of course it is all very rough. Most of it hasn't even had an informal edit yet. Still that is nothing to sneeze at.

So, to celebrate I think I'll curl up with a coffee, some chocolate and a book.

Books I am reading for research and inspiration:

Eragon by Christopher Paolini (again!)

The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien

Bulfinch's Mythology

Arthurian Legends by Marie Trevelyn

King Arthur and his Knights by Stuart Campbell

Celtic Myths and Legends by T.W. Rolleston

Ah, yes! That should keep me out of mischief for a while.

Query Letters and Book Proposals

I found this little gem at BubbleCow when I was wandering aimlessly about on the net tonight.

I'm struggling with the whole query-letter-and-synopsis-thingy at the moment. I'm trying to write it as I write the novel, the theory being that while I am full immersed in the book I will be able to easily capture the essence of the story.

Honestly, I'm not sure if it is working!

I'm finding all the conflicting ideas about how exactly a query letter should (or should not) be laid out and what should come in where very confusing.

I mean, does it really matter if the hook of my novel comes first or my reasons for approaching the agent/publisher. Will I really be penalised for getting the order wrong here?

Personally I doubt agents are quite that anal. So long as I can hook them with the unique power of my story I should be right, right?

But then, that is a chore in itself, isn't it?

How can I capture the magic of my story in one or two short paragraphs without it sounding like any other fantasy (in a made up country in jeopardy from within, inhabited by fantastical creatures).

After all there are other stories out there about princesses who save the day, other stories with magic and shapeshifters and dryads and centaurs and ... well, maybe not collosus. Sure my creatures are different, but how does one capture that uniqueness in one or two short paragraphs?

Needless to say, it's a work in progress.

Note to self: STOP banging your head against the desk - I'm getting a headache!

Thus ends my rant for today...

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Blog Update

I'm added a few things to the blog.

I've added a label list. Hopefully this will make it a little bit easier to find what might interest you here.


I've added "reaction" boxes. These appear at the bottom of each post, so if you don't want to leave a message but you'd like to let me know what you thought of my post you can click on one of the boxes to let me know. :D

Creating the World

Writer Unboxed has an awesome post today about creating a fantastical world and the questions to ask yourself as you embark on this journey.

I am in absolute agreement.

The world in which your story is set must be as real and as vivid as the characters themselves. If the world isn't believable the rest of your story will fail to capture the epic feel that makes a compelling fantasy story.

Your reader wants to live and breathe your fantastical world. After all this is why we read fantasy: To escape into an alternative world, an alternative reality.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Creating Fantastic Fantasy

One of the fun things about writing fantasy is the fact that it is, well, fantasy! You get to make stuff up. Anything can happen because it is your world, your people, your creatures and your mythology. I love that!

The catch, of course, is that if you are going to make stuff up and fiddle with mythology, re-shaping and moulding it to a shape you want, it has to be convincing. It has to be believable. You have to persuade your reader to BELIEVE. That's the trick.

I've managed to add a 1000 words to the MS this morning. This evening I'm doing a bit of research - researching mythology - what fun. Dryads in particular. Yes, I have dryads in my book. Sexy, mysterious and environmentally friendly. What more could you ask for?

The fun bit is creating my own kind of dryad. There are many similar though slightly different takes on what dryads are like, depending on your ethnicity and the mythological religious relevance of the creatures. Celtic, Roman, Greek or Japanese, they all have a nature or wood faerie or deity, a dryad-like quality.

This leaves the fantasy writer (int this case moi) free to take and leave what I want, shaping and sculpting my own Meliai into the creatures my story needs them to be.

What will they look like? What will they be like? What will they wear? What powers will they possess? What beliefs will they have about the human world, will they be sympathetic or indifferent?

Wikipedia refers to Dryads as nymphs of the trees.

In Greek mythology there was a definite hierarchy amongst the many Gods. Below the highest gods were a class of entities known as the demigods and unlike the gods the demigods were mortal in the extent that they could die or be killed. The dryads fall into this class in particular. The dryads were the lovely wood nymphs or forest nymphs. These were beautiful and carefree maiden spirits who lived in the wooded areas and gamboled about while protecting the trees and creatures in their domain. Dryads are very peaceful and usually known to be very shy.
(Hat tip to dryads.net)

On another interesting note they were always women (an point which I plan to exploit) and in England often referred to as the "Green Lady".

So, all in all a productive day. Now I have to get back to writing.

And so do you!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Recharge your Creative Batteries

Andrea has some great advice about keeping your creative tank full and pampering your subconcious. If yours needs some loving care go sneak a peek, then take her advice and start recharging your batteries.

Congrats are in order. Sue once again cleaned up at the Dunedin Writer's Workshop's final competition for the year. Clever girl!

The MS is chugging along nicely at just under 30,000 words and I started working on the query letter and synopsis for it this morning.

How are you going with your writing this week?

Now I'm off to follow some of Andrea's wise advice and have a nap (working late tonight).

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Red Ink

Well, the MS in chugging along nicely. I'm about a 1/3 of the way through now and sitting on close to 27,000 words. I'm really pleased with how it's going.

Sue came round today and read most of it. She was engrossed (mostly) while I sat there trying not to chew my nails to the quick. It is totally different to anything I have ever written before - fast paced, mythical adventure. She loved it which was really exciting.

But I'm tired after writing really hard out for two days so I haven't added to it today, instead I've noted the next steps of the journey so I know exactly where they (the characters) are going and what is going to happen at each stage. I can relax now. I know what is going to happen next.

In other news, my dear husband managed to get our printer (which never seems to want to go when I ask it at the mo) to spit out the first five chapters of my Princess MS. This afternoon I got out my inky red pen (my editorial scalpel) and began slicing ugly "over written" and "authorial" type bits out of it. I'm having a blast! It felt so good.

I think my kids thought I was slightly nuts as I shouted; "Got ya." "Oh, that's terrible!" "I can't believe that was in there!" "How could I have missed that?" and other such things as I wielded my pen like a sword, slashing wildly at the page.

Still it amazes me that I've edited this MS no less that 10 x and still it needs so much work.
It is awful!!!!

Well, it's not that bad - but really how do we miss so much?

I can happily say I have learned so much (hat tip to Nicola Morgan and Natalie Whipple for their wonderful blogs) and my writing has improved phenomenally - the spelling not so much - over the last few years and in leaps and bounds over the last 6 months, if I do say so myself. Now I'm SEEING much more clearly when it comes to tightening up my work and cutting out the fat.

The improvement is quite evident when I compare my two MSs.

PRINCESS OF THE PIGSTY (historical fiction) is quite pudgy and warm and cozy (and "over written"!), where my YA fantasy is trim, sharp and fast paced.

I always loved Jane Austen's books. Jane Eyre and The Scarlett Pimpernel and Anne of Greengables were among my favourite books and my voice echoed this older style of writing. Of course, it is harder to sell the more literary, lovely wordy prose these days.
My Princess MS feels a little like these.
My YA is nothing like this!

It's an interesting experience to be a writer of two such contrasting pieces of fiction. Apparently, so I've read, this isn't an uncommon experience in new writers trying to find their voice.

So now what I am wondering is, do I want to submit PRINCESS OF THE PIGSTY to be published first? Is this the book I want to build my brand on? Is this how I want to "come out"?
I'm not sure. Perhaps I should let my YA fantasy lead the way.

Advice anyone?

Have you ever change genre or writing style? Tell us about it.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Where Rainbow's End

No writing of the MS thus far today.

After church this morning I picked up a book Sue had recommended to me. She reckoned it was one of those "impossible to put down once you start" books. She told me, in great excitement, I might add, that it was written entirely as emails and letters between the characters. Well, I was mildly intrigued, it sounded like an interesting concept. AND written by the woman who wrote PS. I LOVE YOU. I really liked that movie so I agreed to give the book a look. Ever since then she has been pestering me about whether or not I had started reading it yet. Talk about nagging!

So, anyway, I started reading it today. The childrens novel I had tried to read had failed to grab me and I was looking for something else to sink my teeth into, so I picked up ROSIE DUNNE (sometimes entitled Where Rainbows End) by Cecelia Ahern and began to read.

Well, I have to confess I was hooked from the first page.

To Alex
My birthday is on Tuesday not Wednesday. You cant bring sandy to the party because mum says so. She is a smelly dog.
From Rosie

To Rosie
I do not care wot your stupid mum says sandy wants to come.
Form Alex

To Alex
My mum is not stupid you are. You are not aloud to bring the dog. She will brust the baloons.
From Rosie

I just had to keep reading. I was in love with the characters already. I am now almost half way through and totally hooked. I just have to know what happens. (Sue wouldnt tell me)

Cecelia is truly gifted. The story flows so effortlessly. You know the characters, their quirks, their flaws, their passions, their issues, and yet you only experience their world through their own words and what they share with each other in their letters, emails and instant messages. It is witty, delightful, charming, frustrating, heart breaking and romantic, it has it all.

I am loving it and I am sure you will enjoy it too, if you have not read it already.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Writer Constipation?

It has been four days since I blogged last so I thought it was time for an update.

I have been working, fighting off the cold that hit me mid week, and trying to write my MS which for some reason has been a real struggle over the last week. I knew where I wanted to go but I've had writer's-constipation (if there is such a thing) and it has been a real battle to get the words on the page. Even a small section seemed to take all night to write. Totally frustrating!

I don't know about you, but I do a lot of my brain storming and get a lot of my inspiration in my semi-conscious state before I sleep or when I first wake. It's then that my characters often "visit" me. (Sounds totally loopy doesn't it?) However this hasn't been happening much recently, what with me having to get up at 6am for work and falling into bed totally exhausted at the end of the day and instantly falling asleep, I haven't been having my usual "dream time."

This morning was the first Saturday I have been able to lie in and be lazy for a while and I made the most of it. When I finally got up I was bursting with excitement and desperate to write. In spite of constant interruptions and noise from my children, I have managed to write a couple of chapters and the end scene of the book thus far today. Needless to say, I'm reasonably pleased.

In other news, a wonderful author friend of mine got back to me with some feedback on my children's novel. She was very encouraging and honest. (I love when people are honest.) And pointed out that while she thought my book was good she didn't think it was 100% ready to be submitted as I sometimes had "overwriting" and "author intrusion." (Whoops!)

Well, the over writing is no surprise. I am a little too fond of the odd adverb or two and I love to describe things (sometimes with a little too much enthusiasm). So it's back to the editing board to attack it with my editorial scalpel. (Maa haa haa haa!)

Still if this is the worst thing she had to say about the MS then I'm over the moon ... it could have been so much worse. She could have said, "Sorry love it ain't never gonna happen for you. You just can't write to save yer self!" But she didn't, she had much, much nicer things to say.

If you are worried you might have issues with over writing and want to know what to look out for so you can nip it in the bud in your own MS, Nicola Morgan has an awesomely helpful post here on the subject. (Yes, I'm now inventing "ly" words. Perhaps there is no help for me.)

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Foreshadowing and my unofficial Nanowritmo

Rachelle Gardner has a great post on her blog today about foreshadowing vs. telegraphing. While I recognised the concepts she is talking about instantly, I have never heard these terms before. She has some great insights so go here to check it out.

Everyone seems to be talking about Nanowritmo (or whatever its called) at the mo and while I am not officially taking part I've read so much about it now that I thought it might be fun to see how much I can actually get written in one month. I doubt I will make 50,000 words but why not aim for the stars? I might surprise myself.

Of course, I'll have to lock my inner editor in a box and throw away the key if I'm to have a hope of getting close to the goal. I make no secret of the fact I am a compulsive writer, what is less well known is that I'm also have a terribly compulsive inner-editor.

To turn it off I have to gag it, truss it up and stuff it in a dark cupboard. My first teenage attempts an novel writing were never completed, not only because they were pretty dreadful, but because my inner-editor had a habit of getting totally out of control and taking over the whole thing. (She really is terribly bossy and a bit snarky at times.) I'm a bit older now though, a bit wiser and I'm learning to tell her to shut up and wait her turn. Here hoping that she can patiently wait out the whole month.

On an exciting note, if I can make it to 50,000 words my SFD will be done and we can all share a nice drink and some chocolate to celebrate. :D

What is your best ever word count for a month?
Will you join me in my writing challenge?

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Picograph: Look! Look!

You may, or may not, have noticed that I now have a nice picograph in my side bar. That's the thing telling you my progress on my YA MS. Look! 28% done!

I have been enviously eying these little gems on other authors blogs for a while now, but it wasn't until I happened to stumble upon Andrea's blog (a fellow NZ writer) and her generous link pointing me in the right direction, that I found these little beauties.

Now I'm passing it on. You can find info on how to embed your own picograph here.

I should admit that this way my first time fiddling with html code and though the instructions were easy to follow I did need a little help from my very patient husband to untangle the exact way to present the code. Oh, and if you are a blogspot blogger like me, you'll need the html/Java script gadget.

Happy picographing everyone!