Miss Alexandrina

The thinking-space of a not-quite novelist


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Why a Writing Hiatus Is So Painful

I’m taking a writing hiatus. This would be due to the importance of my studies for my final year of my undergraduate anyway – but it’s also due to another reason. I’ve hit a massive writing slump.

I should have expected it, what with my dissertation taking up most of my non-contact time; but where I’d planned to query in January February, I know WTCB has instead to go through a massive upheaval, and I don’t know where to start.

I’m afraid. Afraid of tearing it to pieces and gluing those pieces onto a new board. Afraid of the emotional and mental work I’ll have to do to recover it. Afraid of the time I’ll lose, and afraid of being back at square one.

Yet, I am back at square one with most of my novels. Let me count them – five. I think. Five I like in need of editing beyond a first or second draft. It took me so long to get to a queryable stage with one novel (and that turned out to be false hope), how long will it take with a second novel?

So, for now, before I drive myself crazy, I’m taking a writing break.

The thing is, I don’t want to have to stop writing. I find it incredibly therapeutic, even when characters and scenes frustrate me. However, I want to be able to look back on my work and feel proud, the way I would having finished a first draft.

But I’m not. Each book I read and the more research I do, the less confident I feel in my own work and my own style. I’ll never be as good as these, says one voice in my mind. Another chimes in, You call this tension? Your characters resolve debates as readily as infants change moods. The chances of me ever being successful are so slim, and part of me would give up were it not for the fact that I don’t want to throw away all the effort and characters and ideas I’ve had for so long. What a waste that would be.

I love Phillip and Aidelle’s world, and I definitely want to at least self-publish the almanac that I have detailing the timeframe of the three epochs featured in the Time, Stopped Trilogy, but I can’t deal with having poor writing at the moment. I think, were it not for my endlessly encouraging CP, Lillian M Woodall, I would’ve trunked the novel by now. Even the Steampunk world of Alexander and Cathy inspires me, but it’s not viable for me to meet them every night. By the time I’ve finished revising for the day, rested my mind, had dinner and settled in for the evening, I’ve been far too tired to concentrate on my editing.

Yes, it hurts. A writer should never have to abandon their families and their stories pressing through their mind – but then, I wonder if the resulting craft will even be worth it. I give so much to my writing, and sometimes I wonder if that’s too much…even though it’s not been enough.

That’s why a writing hiatus is so painful. It is is full of possibilities whilst drowning them with the silence. It’s putting the writer first at the expense of the characters. It’s breaking from the daily visits into the centre of one’s mind.

And, yet, I always wonder if it’s worth it.


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Photo of the Week: Biscuits

My Instagram picture for today. As part of my reading challenge for this year, I’ve been trying to read more often, and I took the extra day we were given (leap year, woo!) to read a couple of chapters of A Conspiracy of Alchemists (long overdue reading), and I’m getting back into this Steampunk, and it’s giving me ideas for editing ‘H’.

Also with some snacks for today. Lotus biscuits. Would you believe these are vegan? Yum!

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On Originality

(Or, its existence, which if is, is scarce)

What makes your novel unique?

They say it a lot, as if originality is a rite of passage a novel must go through. Chances are, though, not much. We all know the problem the modern writer faces: of writing the novel of our heart only to find that someone’s got there first or got their ‘big break’ with something so similar to yours.

It is devastating.

Recently, I was watching an old Doctor Who – The Time of Angels, in fact – for River Song kicks, when The Doctor mentioned the phrase ‘time energy’. Time-energy. What rather ravels the threads of my novel. Of the trilogy.

What’s more, there was a crack in time and people disappeared from memory.

‘Hang on,’ I said to myself, ‘wasn’t that the premise of my novel, the first draft of which I wrote five years ago…? Three before Doctor Who used it.’

It happens, and it’s a ruddy pain.

So, what’s a budding author to do? Well, for starters, consider the differences. Don’t get hung up on those similarities that must indeed stick out for you. My novel is set in an alternat/ive timeline, not the future. There is no one in Doctor Who who is trying to harvest the time-energy; it is purely wild. And, though, I mean my time-energy is wild, unpredictable, and partly antagonist, it can also be tangible when it wants to be.

It’s an entity, yo.

For others in a similar position to me – don’t give up! Don’t abandon your projects simply because there are others on the market with similar faces to yours.

That’s my advice, in any case. Make your novel yours, not anyone else’s.

Further, look with respect to those books and films and materials that are similar to yours. They help, they train – and you can support those who keep your genre and ideas thriving.

I wouldn’t even say the issue is genre-related; romance novels, for instance, still fall under the issue of the same plot, over and over. But, of course, a novel or fictitious story is not made solely of plot. For romance, it’s a little simpler to focus on the personality and quirks of your characters, but for science-fiction fantasy you could also give interesting traits that a reader wouldn’t suspect.

Don’t stick to stereotypes. That’s what the unoriginal is made of. I personally like subverting the tropes.

The writing, too, is the glamorous essence of reading a new novel. Voice. Imagery. Style. Those aren’t just buzzwords. And, unfortunately, voice is not something we can ever put words to so precisely. It’s the communication between the writer and their characters – a dash of each to the recipe that crafts the tone, vocabulary, even syntax of the story. 

The way a story is told can change anything. Make us forget what was similar.

It’s an unfortunate situation, I know – more than anyone, so it feels with my passion in temporal science, when every inciting incident is of people disappearing from time – but for writers facing this same problem, all I can say is that, though your story might not be the most original, you can paint something new with your characters and settings.

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A Vignette from the Costellos

Sometimes I wonder what would happen if I just wrote to relax with characters I know.

This was the result.

Victorian Steampunk THE BRASS BEE Pill Case Or Trinket Box http://www.etsy.com/listing/51310832/victorian-steampunk-the-brass-bee-pill:

She’d written three times in as many days.

Gabiee twisted the letter between her finger and thumb until it had rolled into a tube she’d easily hide up her sleeve.

Asif on cue – and an ominous cue at that – the grandfather clock in the atrium struck. She unearthed the chain from around her neck – from it dangled a pocket-watch, battered but carefully strung. A gift from her husband, and from his father to him. Seven exactly. Home-coming, in so many words.

“What is it that gentleman normally say when they return from the town?” echoed a voice through the atrium.

“Friedrich,” she called. They’d recently okayed a renovation of the blue room into the atrium and Gabiee’s voice travelled even when she couldn’t move more than a waddle.

Cara Spousa,” he boomed, storming through the open-plan house as he did.

Gabiee swallowed. A moment later, her husband swanned into the blue room, and Gabiee collapsed onto the chair.  The letter slipped into her silk sleeve.

“You’re home—”

“In time. For once,” he interrupted with more than a hint of condescension.

A smile slipped her over lips. Gabiee coyly murmured. “I was not about to say that.”

His eyes floated across the desk. Papers – his, mostly – lay adrift the desk, with the stray book or two she’d sneaked it when borrowing the firm back of his arm-chair, and curls of parchment. One had been torn, by her own fingers mere minutes ago, and it was the more restless of the papers.

The tear lay like a crack across the wood. He’d notice it.

Gabiee edged closer to her husband, and skimmed a hand over his chest.

“But you are home, sir, and that I appreciate. I was about to give order for dinner, though I might craft of my own a dessert for us. You would like that?”

Their eyes met, strong, piercing, warm. Oh, so warm that Gabiee filled with tingles from her toes to the tips of her ears. Before any thought had even verbally stretched between them, Freidrich leant in. His hot breath, tinged with tobacco, danced over her lips, before it was joined by his tongue and lips. Gabiee stretched onto her tiptoes and kissed him in return. This was almost relief.

The kiss had only left her lips when Freidrich’s expression darkened. His hand scrabbled, searched up and down her arm. Then, he stopped.

Gabiee’s cheeks burnt. She prayed he’d decided she had nothing to hide, rather than that he’d uncovered exactly what it was.

Their fingers met. Gabiee thought he was pulling away—but the rough bristle of parchment between her middle and index finger made her blood freeze for a second. An ache ripplied through her belly, and Gabiee drew her eyes up her husband.

“Gabiee…” His tone had already darkened, his jaw had already hardened. “Give me the letter, wife.”

She squeezed her chubby fingers closer over the slip of a message. He’d prise it from her without any effort – so why did he ask?

Gabiee protested, “It’s not her fau—”

“Damn it, stop defending her. Give me the letter.”

Wilting, Gabiee released the scroll from her fingertips, and folded her arms over her distended belly. He might demand words of her, but he’d never demand anything of her child.

A quick Google search found me an image of Gabiee’s dress. I like it.

As proof of my lack of time, I haven’t actually had the time to finish off this extract, so I will get back to this vignette next week. Have a lovely rest of your weekend.:)


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Beautiful People: The Resolutions Edition

Hello, blogosphere.:) Today, I’m linking up with Cait and Sky’s beautiful monthly linkup Beautiful People. And this month it’s about the authors – new year, new goals (supposedly). So I guess that makes me a Beautiful Person.

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  1. What were your writing achievements last year?

I culled and rewrote so many darhlings… I got some industry interest in my novel. I gave two talks to my creative writing group: one about blogging – the other about tradition publishing and querying. I wrote a 16,000-word short contemporary romance. I wrote about 6,000 words of a Steampunk novella. I wrote about 45,000 words and completed a Steampunk novella for Camp NaNo July, then edited some of it.

I did a lot of research.

  1. Tell us about your top priority writing project for this year.

Editing, I think. Editing my novel. Editing my novella. Doing some subbing. Tell you? Okay, the premise of my novella, codenamed ASB303:

It’s 1870 and Lady Summer is two months away from completing her MA dissertation study of a brain, kept animated by a jar of its neural fluid. When she stumbles upon an activating tesla MRI machine during some of her night-research, however, Summer is shocked to find her brain hooked up to it. And worse—the monster that forms from it, threatening to destroy the Psychobiology department’s reputation, the lives of the many university students in campus over autumn, and Summer’s precious brain dissertation.

  1. List 5 areas you’d like to work the hardest to improve this year.

Spend more focused editing time. Listen to more science TED talks/podcasts instead of watching YouTube. Stick to, and be inspired by, a motivational star-chart. Work on more compelling character motivations in scenes, chapters, and arcs. Work on improving first- and early-draft pacing.

  1. Are you participating in any writing challenges?

I’ll do Camp NaNoWriMo in July like I do every year, but I don’t have a specific plan just yet. I have several book ideas, but I’m not pushing them out into the open until I actually have time to write. So I’m not sure which yet I’m going to focus on, whether novel or novella, fantasy or contemporary.

  1. What’s your critique partner/beta reader situation like and do you have plans to expand this year?

I always have plans to expand, but, when it comes to Critique Partners, my eyes are bigger than my stomach. That is, I took on two new Critique Partners last year and managed to crit some of their stuff without editing my own to send to them; and vice versa. Adding to that, that I neglected my first CP (who got a two-book deal last year!), I’ve decided that I can’t take on any others without neglecting one (or more) arm of what I already have.

  1. Do you have plans to read any writer-related books this year? Or are there specific books you want to read for research?

No, I don’t yet have any plans to read any writing/skill books. I’ve got a couple of Linguistics books and articles to read for uni research, as I will have expectantly for the next three months alongside my textbooks.

  1. Pick one character you want to get to know better, and how are you going to achieve this?

I’d love to learn more about the MC of my novel’s family, Mr. and Mrs. Masters and their two elder daughters and son. I’ve extensively explored the family history of my other MC/the love interest, but this is because the Costellos’ money makes them more inclined to scandal and foul behaviour. Their morals are twisted by societal success and boasting. Plus, they are more crooked by nature than the Masters who are only seeking to elevate their daughters into better society. The irony!

How do I plan to go about it? Vignettes and scenes. And quite a bit of daydreaming. That always works.

  1. Do you plan to edit or query, and what’s your plan of attack?

I am currently editing my main novel and going through the rounds with it already, and, although I don’t expect to get my quota in every month with my uni expectations, I hope to continue working on it with similar rhythm. On the other hand, I have a little pile of books waiting to be edited – my YA contemporary murder mystery; my Steampunk novella (which is chapter-by-chapter slowly going through my Beta).

  1. Toni Morrison once said, “If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”  What are the books that you want to see more of, and what “holes” do you think need filling in the literary world?

Ooh, difficult question. Love that quote, though. I guess I’d like to see more unusual/fantasy university-set fiction. I mean, I’m biased because the aforementioned Steampunk novella is a fantasy set in a fictitious English university town, cogs and all. I have no objection to the boarding school novel, but we always see those, with their narrow halls and fixed staff-set, and we rarely see the insides of universities, where it takes one 30 minutes to get from lecture to lecture and one gets lost in a single building. Or only for contemporary romance.

  1. What do you hope to have achieved by the end of 2016?

It’s really difficult to say at this stage. Well, no, it’s not, but few of my current wishlist achievements are writing/work related: graduate with a good grade, get healthy, spend a good summer with my darling partner, start post-graduate plans – whatever they end up being. Oh, and write something, read more, and get an agent.

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A motivational star-chart (example from November).

That’s me done, then. Now I’m off to read some others in the linky. *waves and skips off*


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Winter Reading (Again)

I’m hoping, or at least trying, to read a bit more over my winter break. I guess I’m averaging a chapter a day, but with the amount of different books I want to read… And since I clearly don’t talk about reading enough on this blog, I’m gonna look at that.

So, what am I currently reading?

I love the edit I've done on this photo. Magic, indeed!

A DARKER SHADE OF MAGIC by V E Schwab. I’m currently half way through this novel, and I have mixed feelings at the moment. I don’t feel like much is actually happening, but I like the writing. I want to keep reading, so something is going right:)

A CONSPIRACY OF ALCHEMISTS. Liesel Schwartz. I will keep reading this one! It’s just not been on the top of my reading priorities, so I’m hoping to use the winter break to get through it.

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I lost my copy of THE LABOURS OF HERCULES, by Agatha Christie, for a bit, which means I am behind on that one, but I’ve got it back now, and intend to get back to thundering through this, a la my love of Christie. It’s an easy read.

I’ve started reading the novel Five Nights At Freddy’s: The Silver Eyes by Scott Cawthon, who created the game series which inspired this book, and Kira Breed-Wrisley. Always a mystery/horror fan, I am eager to unravel the plot of this novel. Obviously, it’ll be a change from the games, but that’s what I’m looking forward to, the POV and the unique story.

It’s an ambitious list, in terms of numbers.

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