Tell Me About Your WIPs

On Twitter, @writer_gem frequently posts interesting writing-related questions that I rarely find the time to answer. A while back she tweeted a positivity thread about WIP which I couldn’t stop thinking about — below are my answers about Darksight. ​Let me know yours! 

1. What are your three favourite things about your MC(s)?
Maeve is both vulnerable and strong: she’s no superhero, but she confronts problems head-on. She’s determined, which gets her into all sorts of trouble but adds to the fun. And unlike novels were being supernatural is over-glamorised, Maeve desperately wants to be normal, and I respect her for that.

Lewis is loyal to his ideals, fighting for what he believes in. He’s an enigma; every time I write about him I discover something new. And he’s just generally badass, although I won’t say why. :-)

2. What are your three favourite things about the premise of your WIP?
Darksight is set in contemporary London; this is the first novel I’m writing set in my home, and it’s fun to explore the places I know through the eyes of a story. I also like the range of issues it’s trying to explore, including religion, racism, broken families, financial difficulties, and my favourite problem: love. Lastly, I love that there are so many more stories to tell in this universe — I have to fight to keep myself from getting distracted!

3. Ctrl + F these words in your WIP and post your favourite sentences (can be any variation of these words): Power, fire, tree, fresh, love
I’m surprised all five words existed in my WIP!

Kay sensed it immediately, tasting the word’s power, its secrets.

The creature opened its mouth as if to inhale the boy’s strangled scream, and the carriage was all of a sudden brighter, illuminated by the fire in its throat.

The wind was rising, the trees tall specters against the sky.

The wooden surface was freshly scrubbed, and for once didn’t smell of cigarettes.

When she left, I became a priest, because I knew I would never love again.

4. Pick 1-3 things that are really unique about your WIP.
This was a lot harder than I thought it would be, perhaps because I’m too  close to the work to know. So:

  • Maeve, the protagonist, has a visual impairment that plays a prominent role in the story.
  • How demons are born/created, and more generally the depiction of Heaven and Hell, is very untraditional.
  • I’m writing it! There’s only one of me in the world after all. :-)

5. Do you have any visual art that represents your WIP?  
Yes: check out the trailer video and placeholder cover on this page.

6. What is a line of dialogue by one of your characters that perfectly illustrates their personality?

“When I look at him,” Lewis said, “I see the only man willing to do whatever it takes to fight against evil. Why would I side with anyone else?”

7. What would Young You think if someone put the finished version of this WIP in their hands?
I hope that Young Me would want to read it, and want to write something like it. There are so many books from my childhood that inspired me to write, and I hope this would rank amongst them.

If I knew it was by me? Young Me would realise that slogging through writing all those terrible stories would eventually pay off. (In fact, I wish I could see the writing of Future Me, to encourage me to keep at it when I hit a wall.)

8. What are the ways in which your WIP is feminist/intersectional/generally progressive and badass?
I didn’t actively go about trying to make my WIP progressive, so thinking about this question really surprised me.

  • The heroine is part of an all-female non-traditional family unit. Her mother and grandmother are fierce and independent.
  • A few characters challenge the role of women in existing organised religion, and how women are unable to progress past a certain rank.
  • Female demon hunters. Nuff said.
  • The protagonist is mixed race, living in a multicultural society where there are growing racial tensions.

What about you? Tell me about your WIP.

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6 Lessons Learnt From Writing My Second Novel

Writing Above Ground took four drafts, five different outlines, and several years.

But when I published it I thought: that’s it.

I’ve done it once, so I can do it again — and now that I’ve learnt 6 lessons from my first novel, the second time will be easier. Faster.

I was wrong.

For the last year, I’ve spent hours toiling away at Darksight. It’s the reason why I’ve been rubbish at blogging (and tweeting, and facebooking…). I wanted to finish the novel by August 2015. Then August came around, and I pushed the deadline to December. And now, mid-January, I’m still not done.

Sure, what I found difficult the first time is easier today.

But I’ve stumbled across a whole new can of worms…

So here is a revised list of lessons learnt from writing novels:

Lessons Learnt From Writing My Second Novel

  1. The first time’s the hardest — or is it?
    When writing my first novel, I didn’t know whether I could finish a novel. But I also didn’t have the pressure to outperform my previous work. In some respects, it’s more frustrating now that I know I can do it, yet am struggling regardless.

  2. Perseverance is key — and it’s harder alone
    The webfiction community helped me push on through the first draft of Above Ground, with no time to agonise over each chapter. With Darksight, I’ve opted to write it all offline — and realised how much harder it is without the community support (and pressure to post).

  3. It’ll never be perfect — but when should you stop?
    I rewrote Above Ground countless times, watching my writing style develop, thinking it would be perfect the next time. I have rewritten and edited Darksight much less, mostly because I’ve taken a lot more time to get it right the first time. I’m not sure which method is worse: in either case, I need to remember to let go.

  4. Outline, outline, outline — in moderation
    I pantsed Above Ground. The first draft was a mess, and I swore never to put myself through that again. With Darksight, after the initial splurge I sat down and outlined the entire novel. I tried different outlining techniques and layouts, used index cards and excel sheets, tables in Word and bullet point lists. I have barely had to rewrite or edit, but have I outlined the life out of the story?

  5. You get better at it — kind of
    Plot construction, pacing, character development? I get it. Being able to write a novel quickly without running into writer’s block, whilst juggling work and social commitments? On this front, I still have much to learn.

  6. You never stop learning
    And you’ll always want to be a better writer than you are today. Just don’t forget to look back now and then, and recognise how far you’ve come.

I’ll keep you updated on my progress…

How To Keep A Writer’s Notebook

I’ve previously written about the 7 benefits of keeping a writer’s notebook.

But how do you keep one? Should it be organised or a collection of scribbles? Should you separate prose from outlines, free writes from drafts?

The easiest answer is: do whatever feels right.

But I would argue that you should do whatever will best serve you later on — and that means pinpointing your needs to decide what kind of notebook you need.

A writer’s notebook is a tool; its aim is to help you with your writing. What kind of help do you need?

THE IDEAS NET
Perhaps you simply need a place to collect ideas. A place for quick lines of observation, description, snippets of scenes, character names and inspirational quotes.

There’s no structure to this kind of notebook–and no restrictions. You’ll browse through its contents at a later stage when you’re hungry for inspiration.

THE BRAIN DUMP
Julia Cameron promotes keeping morning pages — writing three stream of consciousness pages every morning to get the juices flowing. You may never use this content anywhere else; the aim is to get into the habit of writing and unblock your creativity.

If you want to increase productivity, this is the kind of notebook for you.

THE ONE-TRACK-MINDED
For Darksight, I’m keeping a project-specific notebook.

The beauty of a project-specific notebook is that is that it keeps me focused. I flip open to a page, and know that I can only write about ONE story. No procrastination allowed.

To keep myself organised, I’ve split the notebook into two halves.

The front half of the notebook contains outlines, character bios and family trees. (I’ve also seen other authors number the pages and leave space for an index, in order to easily find content as it builds up.)

The back half of my notebook is for snippets and scenes: pieces of prose as and when inspiration strikes.

Eventually the two halves will meet, but I love having all of my notes and reference points in the same notebook as my ideas, yet in some way organised too.

NONE OF THE ABOVE?
There are many more types of notebooks, from dream journals to diaries.

What kind of notebook do you keep? There is no right or wrong way – only what works for you and helps your writing.