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  1. #1
    Books of Pellinor alison's Avatar
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    Greetings, earthlings

    I feel inordinately excited that Dag has invited me to have a forum here. And I've been looking at all the intelligent comments the other authors have posted and wondering why they pinched all my best lines...isn't it always the way?

    This is by way of introduction and excuse. I'm in the final fifty pages or so of the third book of the Pellinor series, and believe me, it's eating me alive. I'm looking forward so much to being a human being again and being able to say two sentences without mentioning "The Novel". I think I have a very patient family. Anyway, I am hoping to be more present after I write THE END. Hopefully in a couple of weeks. And then I get onto the editing.

    Editing is actually my favourite part of writing. Am I strange, or do other people feel that way?

    Looking forward to chatting here -

    Alison Croggon

  2. #2
    I AM too a mod! Moderator Rocket Sheep's Avatar
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    Good luck getting to THE END.

    You must know what you're doing when you edit if that's the part you enjoy so much. I hate editing. As I edit I wonder what the hell I was thinking when I wrote that. I send it out for peer review and then when I re-edit it, I wonder what the hell I was thinking when I edited that, and then I get caught in this vicious cycle of reediting and doubt. If I do eventually break out and send it off and someone publishes it, and someone actually reviews it favourably, I wonder what the hell THEY were thinking.

    I like THE END when I put it down and think, I've created something wonderful, before all the critics in my head are let loose on the poor thing.

    Are you a preplotter or do you feel your way through a tale? And how much time do you spend writing?

  3. #3
    Keeper of the Hikari Radthorne's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rocket Sheep
    If I do eventually break out and send it off and someone publishes it, and someone actually reviews it favourably, I wonder what the hell THEY were thinking.

    I like THE END when I put it down and think, I've created something wonderful, before all the critics in my head are let loose on the poor thing.
    Don't let her fool you, Alison. Rocket's writing is tremendous. (So are her self-doubts, but we're working on that).

    And welcome to your own forum!

  4. #4
    Books of Pellinor alison's Avatar
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    Smile

    Thanks, Rocket Sheep - I need luck.

    As for knowing what I'm doing - er hem. That's not exactly true. But I think when I get to the editing phase, I'm not suffering from that terrible fear that I might not, in fact, get to THE END - it's all down, and all I have to do is fix it up. The first draft is where I put all the emotional stuff, which is very important in my books: my characters have fairly complicated emotional lives, and I'm pretty sure that's what I find most exhausting about writing. OK, I'm not going through the same terrible travails, but somehow, in writing them, you have to imaginatively go through what they are, so it can feel true. I know this sounds totally wimpy, but it leaves me feeling quite ragged. I sort of know what George Orwell means when he says that writing a novel is like suffering a long illness.

    When I finish the first draft, the book becomes a series of technical problems, from whether the structure works to whether a particular sentence is as pleasing as it ought to be. And I guess that's kind of the car mechanic in me - I find that kind of problem solving really fascinating. I usually take notes as I'm going through the first draft of details that need to be worked out in a rewrite or where I'm not happy with the writing, and then I'll do a solo rewrite. Then I start working with an editor. I really enjoy that collaboration. In fact, I enjoy the whole feeling that a book is put together by a team of people. The editing relationship is complex and boy, do you need a good editor - someone not in tune with your book can really throw you and affect your confidence. It's happened to me once, and I found it totally traumatic. But mostly I've been lucky enough to work with really good editors, and the books are far better for their input.

    I think self doubt is a crucial part of writing. But when I think about it, I reserve my real black self doubt for my poems. I hope that doesn't mean the novels are complacent.

    When I'm writing a novel, I try to work every day. Novels = time, I guess. I have good days and bad days, like everyone else I expect. I just do the word count thing, and if I reach my word count I stop. I wrote my first fantasy with absolutely no idea what was going to happen next, which I liked, but I planned the next two out, in that I wrote synopses which bear very little relationship to what I've actually written. I was very worried out writing myself into a corner or getting lost in the plot, and I refer back to them now and again when I'm writing. I really like that feeling of something turning up that you hadn't planned or didn't expect, and then having to deal with it!

  5. #5
    Keeper of the Hikari Radthorne's Avatar
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    For me, both the outlining and the editing can be as creative as the writing portion. I use both of those "segments" of the process for dealing with the overall ebb and flow of the book, the arrangement of scenes, determining if the characters' arcs work or not, etc.

    My outlines are fairly complete (I try to know what all the major scenes are for all the characters, and how everything fits together), but it does get adjusted as the book comes along. I'd say that the final book is about 80% close to the outline, and the rest was new stuff that came up on the journey to THE END.

  6. #6
    Books of Pellinor alison's Avatar
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    For me, both the outlining and the editing can be as creative as the writing portion. I use both of those "segments" of the process for dealing with the overall ebb and flow of the book, the arrangement of scenes, determining if the characters' arcs work or not, etc.

    My outlines are fairly complete (I try to know what all the major scenes are for all the characters, and how everything fits together), but it does get adjusted as the book comes along. I'd say that the final book is about 80% close to the outline, and the rest was new stuff that came up on the journey to THE END.
    I agree that outlining and editing are creative tasks. I guess the previsioning is the first taste of what it might be. Mine are very short and schematic, really just to work out the gross structures are. On the whole, new characters just turn up and start talking. Most of them wouldn't be in the outline because I haven't thought of them yet! I wait for the actual writing of the book to see what things are going to be: I really don't know beforehand. So far my outlines are more or less 50 per cent predictive. But a lot of musing on structure actually happens in conversation with my (very patient) husband. I draw shapes on napkins (usually a series of waves, or strange ovals). They don't really mean anything to anyone except me, but strangely I find them quite helpful.

  7. #7
    Keeper of the Hikari Radthorne's Avatar
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    It just goes to show how varied the creative process is among writers! I pretty much have all of the characters figured out in advance, since in general I'm building the story around particular emotions that I want to explore with them. And, as I have two or three plot threads going on at once, I want to keep track of who's where and when to make sure the storylines are all moving along at the same pace to stay in sync. Not to say that I don't create some new folks along the way, as the need arises; but they're the exception rather than the rule for me.

    I can see that we're going to need to create a poll thread over in the Writing forum to find out all the different ways that people do this...

  8. #8
    I AM too a mod! Moderator Rocket Sheep's Avatar
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    I think there's a freshness to characters and plot twists created by the subconscious. I'd hate to think writing was formulatic.

    I'm constantly amazed at how many hours goes into a novel and how dedicated novel writers are... (of course if they write something that doesn't get published they are no longer dedicated, they are obsessive).

    What is your daily word count aim? And do you have to work that around part time or full time employment?

    People here who do Books In A Week or Nanowrimos, might find it interesting to think about trying to keep up your schedule for months on end.

    Whoops, didn't see you there, Rad.

  9. #9
    Books of Pellinor alison's Avatar
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    I'm fascinated by how people work. Actually, all kinds of artists: I used to be a journalist and for some time was interviewing theatre artists -actors, directors &c - and what always interested me most was how they did what they did.

    Some writers have very strange habits. Apparently Malcolm Lowry only wrote standing up at a lectern, and his wife couldn't stay in the house because he goaned all day. Not for me, I'm afraid, though he did write some pretty amazing prose that way...Some people just write in cafes. Many writers I know have fetishes about paper and pens, and Marquez always wrote with a yellow rose on his desk. That was only after he had spent all morning deciding what suit he had to wear (most writers are also terrible procrastinators; my big vice is talking about what I'm doing instead of doing it, like now).

    I can only write novels by doing the word count and sticking to it. I write the count in a little book at the end of each day. It's kind of pathetic, in a way, but it's the only way I can actually make myself do it. I am naturally a fairly impatient person, and it seems to me that novels need, more than anything else, huge reserves of patience. The word count varies depending on what I'm writing. With the Pellinor books, it's been pretty regularly 2000 a day, though once when I got stuck I solved it by doubling my word count; there's another novel I'm writing where the prose is much more dense, and the count for that is 500 words. Sometimes I can do it in a couple of hours, sometimes it takes me all day and I finish at 11pm. As long as I stick to it, the book gets done. The word count technique seems pretty common for novelists. I know Phillip Pulman does 1000 a day.

    You have to be an obsessive to write a novel. Or nuts. Or both. It's hardly a sensible way to spend your time.

    I write full-time, so it's my job. I found it too hard to work around other jobs; and maybe in the end I didn't want to. My husband too is a full-time writer. We get by, but our income is pretty variable. If I were sensible I would have married a CEO or a stockbroker, but noooo...

  10. #10
    Keeper of the Hikari Radthorne's Avatar
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    I actually work by time rather than word count (since I'm working full time and have to squeeze the writing in around it). Rocket had asked me about it in my thread, and I told her that I put in an hour and half before work and then an hour during lunch; whatever I get done in that time is what I get done. It depends on how developed that portion of the story is from my outline. If it's sketchy, some of that time is spent thinking and working out what the scene should be. If I have a clear vision of it, then its just type-type-type. I timed myself once to see how many words I could write when I know where I'm going, and it's pretty much just limited to how fast I can type (which is one key back for every two keys forward...). I can't remember now what I came up with for that word count, though...

    Given no time constraint (i.e weekends), and a clear notion of the scenes, I can write for about 3 - 4 hours straight. I usually only stop when my neck cramps up from not moving; then I take a break and come back for another 2 -3 hours. So I suppose you could call that my natural writing cycle, which I have had to forego in order to cram it into what I can peel away from my "real" job's hours. For the two books I've done so far, each took about 1 1/2 years to produce, start to finish, in terms of working time (the first book being 240,000 words and the second 270,000 words).

  11. #11
    Books of Pellinor alison's Avatar
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    Rad, I really admire you for writing novels _and_ working a full-time job. You must be ferociously disciplined. I know I couldn't do it. I seem to need a lot of time doing nothing, staring into space, playing GameCube (another vice, I'm getting confessional here...what next?), sweeping the floor, tuning my daughter's guitar... Mainly I guess it's about space in your head: I found working a payjob mentally intrusive, though to be honest I also seem to need to be doing several things at once.

  12. #12
    Keeper of the Hikari Radthorne's Avatar
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    Thanks, although at least one recompense I have is that the paying job happens to be at Nintendo (speaking of GameCube) So there are the occasional fringe benefits. Such as when Mario Kart was released, and the company sponsered full-size go-kart races in the parking lot with teams of employees, including tossing bunches of bananas at each other. So it's not always your typical office job...

    But you're right, the job of writing is definitely one where you're working as you're staring out the window. I too need that "thinking" time, to let the bits and pieces of the story gel together. It happens at odd moments, when my brain isn't doing anything else particularly important (in the shower, running on a treadmill, driving...) (Wait, did I say driving? My insurance agent doesn't read these posts, does he?) And then I have to rush to find a piece of paper and jot it all down before I forget it (real soggy when that happens in the shower...)

  13. #13
    GemQuest Moderator Gary Wassner's Avatar
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    Many of us work full time jobs and write novels, Alison. There is nothing much to admire about it. In fact, it makes the writing part so exciting for me that I cherish the job. When I open my laptop to write, I just can't wait. The ideas build up in me all day and then I type with at a mad, frantic pace.

    If I felt like I had to get up each morning and start my day at my computer, I don't believe that I would have that same sense of joy in the moment.

  14. #14
    Books of Pellinor alison's Avatar
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    Long long ago, in a galaxy far far away, when I wrote nothing longer than a page and a half, I worked full time as journalist. Each year I wrote less and less, and when I started coming home and bursting into tears for no reason, I resigned. It caused general consternation ("You're going to dowhat?!") They told me I was throwing away a promising career. Yada yada. I freelanced for a long time and still do the occasional piece here and there. But I really couldn't do it. It made something rot in my brain. I admit that it took me a long time to work out how to work on my own, but I've been doing it for so long now.

    The big difference is that here in Australia it is possible to get Arts Council grants, which can pay you a sort of minumum wage. If I tried to live off the royalties of my poems - well! The idea is laughable.

    So you see, I will continue to admire all those people who manage to work jobs and write, because being able to do so fills me with astonishment. All the same, Nintendo - that's cool.

  15. #15
    Where have I been? Moderator JRMurdock's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gary Wassner
    Many of us work full time jobs and write novels, Alison. There is nothing much to admire about it.
    You're being far too modest, Gary. There is something to admire in the determination a person has just to finish a novel, let alone do it while working a full time job. And those with families just adds to the intrusion on a person's life and the dedication one must have to write.

    Myself, I admire all who do it and hope to one day join the ranks of the published.

    Allison, I didn't go looking too deeply, but did you have 'sample chapters' on your site for reading? I've been picking up most of the books from authors at this site and wanted to see if your work was something I'd like to add to my collection.

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