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

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Writer's Retreat

It's true I haven't blogged in a while. Why? Well, to be honest I didn't really have anything interesting to say and I've been busy WRITING.

As I sit here typing this it's Sunday night. This afternoon I returned from a delightful and insanely productive weekend away with my writing buddy. We took the weekend out to escape the 'real world' and indulge in a writer's retreat.

We packed up and left home about 10am on Friday, drove to a little cottage by the sea, settled in and got straight to work. No interruptions (apart from calls of nature), unlimited coffee and great company. Bliss!

What did I achieve?

I wrote 8,500 words this weekend.

No kidding! You did read that right. Eight thousand, five hundred words.

Moreover, we hashed out the ending of my WIP and I now know how it's going to come together. I knew the ending in general terms - they get to the fortress and rescue the prince - but I really had no definite details as to HOW of earth they were going to pull it off.

So now that's sorted (no spoilers) and I know what I'm doing. Trust me it'll be Awesome!

I'm ecstatic about my progress. The end is well and truly in sight. I should finish up the draft at the end of this week. Squeeee!

As you can see I'm a total fan of the writer's retreat. Get away and write (Pen's orders)!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Have a laugh - you've earned it!

The lovely author T. K Roxborogh posted a link to this skit by Mitchell and Web the other day.

It truly made me laugh out loud and I just have to share it with you all.

So if you need a giggle to brighten you day, check this out!

Ok ... not this.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Do you have a Genius?

Hear best selling author of Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert, talk about nurturing your creativity and discuss our expectation of writers and other artists.

This is really inspirational and encouraging.

Have a great day!

Update on my YA Fantasy's Progress

This is Bear, my shapeshifter, in his griffin form. Isn't he beautiful?

The writing of my YA novel is progressing nicely.

It seems the draft is going to be a wee bit longer than my conservative estimate of 70,000 words. If you have been watching my progress you'll see I reached 66,000 words today. Which is, of course, Awesome! but we aren't finished yet.

I still have about 8 -10 short chapters to go or about 60 pages, at a rough guess.

Still the end is in sight. YAY! Yay! Yay!

Of course, with the completion of one manuscript the question "what next?" does raise its ugly head.

First, a celebration might be in order! :)

Then I have a couple of short stories to write for an upcoming competition and a play to script. None of which should take long.

I'm thinking, I should probably drag out the MS of my historical fiction and finish editing it too (maybe).

But really the important question is "what am I going to WRITE next?"

I wondered about the gothic romance I started writing at the beginning of the year, but I'm worried that, because it is such a different genre, when I come back to write the next book in my fantasy series the voice/feel will be wrong. Does that make sense?

My gut feeling is to keep going with the fantasy thing, but will it get tired? Will I get fantasy-ed out? (yes, I know that's not a real word :P)

So, what do you think?
What should I do next?

Have your vote. I'm keen to hear your thoughts.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Merlin and the Muse

As I'm sure I've mentioned elsewhere I'm a bit of a nut when it comes to myth and legends, especially ones from the cultures of early Britain about King Arthur's court. You know ... Arthur Pendragon, Merlin the magician, the sword in the stone, Lady Guinevere, the knights of the round table, Sir Lancelot, the Lady of the Lake, etc, etc...

You don't know? Then I'm afraid I'll have to punch you in the nose!

Sorry. I have frustration issues. I named one of my daughters Guinevere and I get so ... saddened ... by people who ask me where her name comes from and then look at me with a totally blank expression when I explain. They have absolutely no idea who Arthur is!

But I digress.

Anyway, I'm finding the Merlin/Arthurian legends hugely inspiring for the YA fantasy novel I'm writing. I think my Muse is a little smitten.

I've read the translations of the Mabinogion, The Green Knight, Sir Gawaine and the Pearl and The History of the Kings of Britain (which isn't really a history at all). I've got Bulfinch's The Age of Chivalry, Marie Trevelyan's Arthurian Legends (a Welsh history) and John Matthew's The Arthurian Tradition. But I thought it might be fun to read some of the more recent literature about these two paragons of our oral history.

I've just finished reading Mary Stewart's fantasy novel The Crystal Cave (1970). It's an oldie, but a goodie. She has basically taken the threads of Merlin's story as written by Geoffrey of Monmouth (He's no historian, but I love his "history") and worked it into a novel length masterpiece.

One thing that did strike me in this book was other than Merlin (Myrddin Emrys) having the power of Sight, he had no other magical abilities of any kind. I guess this made him more realistic, more human, but to be honest I'd not expected that. Perhaps, I've been watching too much of Merlin, the TV series.

The Crystal Cave is the kind of book so well written the words melt away until only the story exists before your eyes. So if you like early British historical/legends I suggest you hunt down a copy.

I've just started reading Merlin by Stephen R. Lawhead (the second book in The Pendragon Cycle). I'm only a few chapters in and so far so good.

What I'd love is some recommendations of adult or YA novels about Merlin or Arthur that I can sink my teeth into. So, please, let me know of any you've stumbled across any in your reading adventures.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Something New

Over the next wee while I'll be adding a few pages to the blog so it'll be more than just a blog and more like a website. All in the name of "the aspiring author's platform."

You'll be able to access these pages via the links in the bar just below the blog's beautiful Dragon's Pen header.

There will be a page about ME and others will be added as needed or as I have books published. (Dreams are free!)

Thursday, March 4, 2010

How Podgy is my Writing?

As I promised earlier today, I put my own work through the Writer's Diet assessment program.

I took a 300 word sample from the first page(s) of my novel and assessed it, first manually and then electronically at the Writer's Diet website - just to make sure I hadn't missed anything.

You can do the same by going here.

Now my first pages have been edited not only by me, but also by my beta readers, so if not perfect this is at least a fairly spruced section of my work.

My score for this section was Lean on all points. (Much to my surprise!) Writer's Diet also gave me an overall score of Lean and a Lean rating on all points. As you can imagine, I was very chuffed with that.

So, out of curiosity, I wondered how badly a random section of my work would rate.

I chose a piece from around page 60. This has only been briefly edited by me and my writing buddy. No serious re-writes or beta-reader critiques here.

My electonic score for this section was overall Fit and Trim. Everything scored Lean except Waste Words which got a Needs Toning. Too many "it" and "that" happening in the dialogue at this point.

So, I submitted another sample from even later in the novel, around page 150.

The electronic score was overall Fit and Trim with Ad-dictions (Be-verbs) and Prepositional Podge creating a bit of extra fab. Not enough to be unsightly though.

I'm pretty pleased with my scores.

Now, I'm tempted to take a piece of my previous MS and test it. Given how much my writing has improved of late, I think it'll be carrying quite a bit more weight.

This whole diet thing is really quite addictive.

Go give it a whirl yourself. I'd love to hear how you score.

Does your writing need to go on good Diet?

Is your writing bloated?

Is it overwritten and podgy?

Is it dull and lifeless ... or just plain boring?

Do you want to tighten your work and give it more vim-and-verm?

If you answered yes to any (or all!) of these questions Helen Sword's THE WRITER'S DIET might be just the book you need.

The Writer's Diet is a practical hands-on guide to diagnosing whether or not your writing is in need of a jolly good work out and trim.

Depending on your results your work will score as Lean, Fit and Trim, Needs Toning, Flabby or Heart attack territory. :D

Step 1: Take a piece of your writing - something you have edited and polished already - of either 100 or 300 words.

Step 2: Assess for Verbal Verve.
This involves hunting out the weak or passive verbs such as: am, is, are, was, were, be, been.

Step 3: Assess for Noun Density.
This checks for abstract nouns, "especially those pirated from verbs and adjectives."

Step 4: Assess for Prepositional Podge.
This seeks out the little-bitty often unnecessary words that like to creep into our work. Such as: Of, for, in, by, from, with, at, in, on, past, after, up, down, into, of, along, through, until, across, beneath, etc, etc. The trick is not to eliminate them all but to limit them. Collaborating them with colourful -ing verbs, active verbs and concrete imagery.

Step 5: Assess for Ad-dictions.
This digs up all those weedy adverbs and adjectives. But before you throw up your arms in horror and hack out every ad- word in your novel, STOP! Consider each one carefully. Could you do without it? Would another word create a clearer more concrete picture?

Step 6: Assess for Waste Words.
This looks at how frequently you're using it, this, that, there.
This is important because these little words often "congregate together, sucking weak verbs, abstract nouns and prepositional phases into there orbit."

Step 7: If your work is diagnosed as needing a bit a TLC and trim or perhaps (heaven forbid) some serious liposuction, now is the time a start editing.

For each of these steps Helen provides helpful exercises to practice writing healthy prose. She gives good examples from work of both fiction and non-fiction writers showing what to look for and how to correct or re-write sentences to give you tighter, more active, writing.

So whether you write novels, short stories, articles or academic prose this little book is sure to help you add some pizazz to your work.

You can visit The Writer's Diet website here.

A lecturer at Auckland University, Dr. Helen Sword is an experienced writer, editor and teacher.

Keep watching this space as I'll be posting the results of a piece of my own work here shortly.