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Getting into a new WIP

It’s been difficult choosing what project to do at the moment with all the changes in place. Change is hard for me in general: I like to stick to my routines because I know what I’m doing, and if something happens that means I have to alter them even slightly, it can leave my brain completely unfocused for the rest of the day.

That’s why I decided to leave one project for a later time and try something easier. My original project was a YA speculative fiction with many threads weaved into the narrative that I’d have to keep track of, which I knew would drain my energy too much, so after moving away from it I went into full pantser mode (if you don’t know, a pantser is a writer who does little plotting before writing the first draft, so makes things up as they go along, and it’s my preferable way to write) and pulled together several ideas I had written on a sticky note.

I’m now just under 20,000 words into this new work in progress, and as it’s a middle grade book, that equates to  near the half-way mark, and I’m enjoying it. I know there’ll be lots of fixes to make to the beginning when I return to it after it’s finished, but that’s all part of the process. I’m only setting myself the goal of writing 500 words a day as I am having a hard time concentrating, as a lot of people are at the moment, but though it seems like it’ll take forever, I keep reminding myself that I’m not in a rush. I want to enjoy the process and get lost in it as much as when I’m reading a story, so a little bit at a time is plenty. Plus, when I get carried away and write more than that, it feels like a real achievement.

The main thing is that I’m enjoying all the turns it’s taking and how the characters are developing. So I’m sticking to the goal I always have when I write, and that’s to write what I want to read.

I hope telling you this gives you some comfort if you’re also getting stuck with a creative project. Many creatives are having the same difficulties, so you’re not alone. Do what you can, not how much you think you should be doing.

 

P.S the audiobook for my short story collection, When The Bard Came Visiting, is now available. Get it here.

 

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Unofficial Detective’s 2nd book birthday!

If you follow me on Facebook or Twitter, then you probably already know this, but Unofficial Detective, the first book in my Half-Wizard Thordric trilogy, has been out for two years today. And looking back, things have been a little crazy since then.

These past two years have been full of personal struggles, but one thing that’s been a constant throughout, despite lack of time, depression and overall burnout, has been my writing.

[Side note: I’ve written at least one book every year since 2011, and though I had so many manuscripts, I only found my first publisher in 2017.]

Since Unofficial Detective has been out, nearly every book I wrote before then has either been released or is currently under contract for release next year. And the books I’ve written since its release (3 novels, 3 picture book manuscripts, 3 poetry collections – including A Book For Pandora, which came out in February this year) are either awaiting editing/being edited or on submission. Add that to the fact I blog every day at the moment, and even I have to admit it’s a lot of work.

Now, I often forget the sheer amount of effort I’ve put into a project as soon as I move onto the next, and as my focus is usually on what I’m currently working on, it’s been a long time since I’ve looked back and appreciated how far I’ve come. But today I stopped to think about it, and it left me both overwhelmed and immensely proud.

Being a writer has been my dream since I was a little girl, and while it’s true I earn very little from it – for me, earning money from writing has never been the point – I can genuinely say I’ve achieved my dream and will continue living it.

So, I think the note I want to end with is that for any aspiring writers out there wondering if getting published really is attainable, just stick with it. Yes, it probably will be hard and you will feel like quitting completely at some points, but if it’s what you really want, then no one can stop you. And that remains true regardless of whether you’re looking into traditional publishing or self publishing.

books_mine

Lastly, a list of all my published works to date:

Half-Wizard Thordric trilogy

Unofficial Detective

Accidental Archaeologist

Unseasoned Adventurer

 

Stand alone books

The Door Between Worlds

The Origin Stone

 

Poetry

A Book For Pandora

Poetry

Shuffle Huffle

It’s been a while since the spark of my mind

and the images it carves in the grain of my imagination

have wanted to come freely out through my fingertips

and drip into inky life on the page.

Usually, I have to drag them. Wrap my hands around their horns and heave

to get them moving. But of course, that only makes them more stubborn.

I show them pictures of the tumbleweed rolling across my notebook,

pick up handfuls of dry soil

so they can see how barren it’s become.

Guilt-tripping them all the way until they grumble into a slow shuffle

one by one, and cause ink blots everywhere as they do so.

But today they danced out to a waltz,

a festival of colours and gowns and painted masks

because I chose to let them take control of my fingers

and make the shapes they wanted to,

and not force them to bend into mine.

Extracts/ Flash Fiction

Extract from my middle-grade WIP

When we have a sufficient crowd and I’ve warmed them up with my honeyed words, I step aside so pa can begin his first act – a standard card trick which relies on a story to draw them in.

In a deeply sonorous voice – a surprising trick in itself, if you’ve never heard it before – he starts his speech. ‘Once, there was a lonely jester who tried to fit in.’ From his deck, he produces a joker card and displays it for everyone to see, before placing it on the table face down. ‘He wanted to win the hearts of his peers,’ he continues, taking a ten of hearts and placing it face down on top of the joker, ‘but none would take him seriously. So one day, he decided to appeal to the king.’ At this point, he draws the king of diamonds from the deck, shows it, and then replaces it.

‘After being escorted by the guards into the palace and made to wait all day,’ he says, flicking the top face down card over to reveal that it’s no longer the ten of hearts, but a jack of spades, ‘the king finally took his audience.’ Here, he turns the other face down card over, to show the king of diamonds instead of the joker. There are a few claps and appreciative gasps for both expositions, at which point I offer my hat for tips. A few contribute, but not as many as I would like.

‘He said to the jester that if he completed all the tasks he was set, of which there would be three, then the king would grant him a title and have him welcomed at court. The first task was to seek out where his diamond crown had gone.’ Now pa dips into his deck, seemingly at random, and pulls out the ace of diamonds. He keeps it held up as he goes on. ‘And so the jester searched. He found the crown of hearts.’ Pa flicks the card and it turns into the ace of hearts. He does it twice more, pausing each time as he explains, ‘The crown of clubs. Of spades. But no diamond. Fearful that he would fail in his task, he approached the queen and told her of his dilemma.’ He flicks the card a final time, and it turns into the queen of diamonds.

More applause, but I hold off collecting for a few more beats. Wait for it…

‘She laughed, and told him to look where he’d least expect to find it. And so the jester pulled off his own hat,’ he says, grasping his own top hat, taking a breath, and then lifting it, ‘and on his head sat the diamond crown.’

As the crowd lays eyes on the ace of diamonds on pa’s head and applauds more enthusiastically this time, I whip round and gather their offerings. There’s more people joining by the second.

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In case the New Year brings that dastardly task of editing your novel: Kathryn’s Guide to Editing Fiction

Knowing what to do after you’ve *finally* finished the first draft of your manuscript and have mopped up all the blood, sweat and tears that went into it can be a bit of a mystery if you’re new to the game. You know editing comes into it, and you may have heard about beta readers, but what comes first, and more importantly, how do you go get started?

To help with the cacophony of questions littering your head, I’ve made a general guide to help you get going. This is very much based off my own experience, and is not an exhaustive list:

  1. After you’ve written that last word on your manuscript, put the whole thing away somewhere and leave it for a good amount of time (I personally leave it for about three months, but others leave it for longer) and get on with other things. Start a new project; finish any others lurking around; if you’re thinking about publication, research which avenue might be best for you and what that entails; basically, anything to keep your mind stimulated but doesn’t involve that first draft. This is to make sure that when you do eventually go back to it, you can view it with fresh eyes – meaning that plot holes, weak characters or lack of world building will jump out at you and therefore be easier to fix.

 

  1. Don’t focus on spelling or wording on this initial edit. Look at the big picture instead. Are there any holes in your plot? Do your characters feel flat or serve no purpose? Does the story start in the right place, or are the first few chapters unnecessary? What scenes work, and what don’t? If you’re finding it hard to tell if certain points of the story are unnecessary, try removing them and see if it affects the overall plot. If the plot still flows, then those scenes (however beautifully written they are/despite how much you personally love them) have to go. Nothing ruins a good book more that scenes that jar the pacing by adding nothing.

 

  1. Once you’ve fixed the big issues with your manuscript, you can either put it away again, or continue on to the next stage. Again, I personally leave it for a bit because I know I get far too close to my work.

 

  1. Now it’s time to really focus on your characters and world building. Your characters need to feel like real people – give goals and dreams, flaws and bad habits, and don’t hole them up into stereotypes. If they’re from very different backgrounds/circumstances to you, make sure you do your research – not only to make them realistic, but to avoid being insensitive to readers. (If you’re worried about your representation of people from different walks of life to you, you can always hire a sensitivity reader at a later stage.) When working on world building, think about the social structure of each place, use all five senses to describe things and make sure you don’t fall into the pit of info dumping. Also, in dialogues scenes, look out for ‘white room syndrome’, when no description about where or when the scene takes place is included.

 

  1. Next, we get in to the more technical aspects of writing. Tense, point of view and grammar. (If you feel your manuscript is shaping up nicely, you can start looking at spelling, over-use of words and continuity, but I would leave that until last.) It doesn’t matter what point of view you use, or what tense, as long as you keep them consistent throughout the manuscript – unless you have a very good reason not to, like an intentional stylistic change to illustrate a certain point. If you struggle with grammar, there are a lot of helpful books and forums, as well as YouTube guides. (I have a book on grammar that’s actually written for kids, but the language and examples are so clear that it’s the one I go to most.)

 

  1. The stages of editing can get a bit murky here – some writers have to repeat steps until they’re happy and end up with a good number of drafts, others breeze right through and end up with relatively few. However, whether you’ve done a lot of back and forth on your work or not, this part is important. Read your work aloud. I’ll say it again: READ YOUR WORK ALOUD. From start to finish, until you’re sick of the sound of your own voice. This is so you can clearly see problems with sentence structure, missing words, typos, continuity, repetitive description and all that jazz (as readers we’re always pleased to spot others’ mistakes, but are far less pleased as writers if someone kindly points them out in our own work).

 

  1. Finally, when you are happy with your manuscript and can’t find anything else to work on, it’s time to send your work to beta readers. These can be other writers, friends, family or simply people you know love to read. What is important to note, however, is that it’s far more helpful to send your work to readers who readily consume books in that genre than ones who have never read/rarely read within your genre, as the feedback you receive will be more relevant. When you do receive feedback, look for trends in what people are saying. If eight people say a scene isn’t working, then it’s probably wise to take another look and see if it truly does need revising. If one beta reader hates a character but the others love them/make no comment, then perhaps that’s just their personal taste. Consider all feedback, but remember that it is still your work, so you have the final decision on what to change.

 

So there you have it. Where you take your work from there is completely up to you. Whether you opt for traditional publishing, self-publishing or somewhere in-between (be absolutely sure you don’t head down the path of vanity publishing – an old but good rule on how to tell a vanity publisher from a real one is that money should always flow to the author, not away) make sure you do your research.

Extracts/ Flash Fiction

Extract from my latest MG, ‘Wings in a Wounded Sky’

Her parents had never uttered even the hint of a roar in her lifetime, even when another Ogg came by to demand why they were missing from that year’s summer gathering. They’d simply explained their reasons and invited him into their nest hole, which, as most Oggs thought they could go anywhere, invited or not, only served to enrage him more.  He’d roared at them, spouting about disrespecting Ogg etiquette, and raged off.

It hadn’t been that long ago, really. Only a few weeks before her parents had fallen ill. She rested her head against the mottled bark of an extremely old Okke tree, wishing more than ever that they hadn’t gone, when Silver popped up in front of her, orange eyes ablaze.

‘Why are you hiding, stupid? The sisters are worried sick,’ she snapped, letting curls of smoke trail from the corners of her mouth. Rae could see scratches on her arms and face, which was surprising, because she’d been sure the Fae boy hadn’t fought back.

‘They’re scared of me. I can’t face them knowing that,’ Rae replied, avoiding her gaze and picking at a piece of loose bark.

‘You are an idiot. Yes, they were scared of you, the same as I was when you roared, but it was only because we didn’t know you could do that. You took us by surprise, that’s all. We know you’re far too soft to actually hurt anyone…and if you hadn’t stopped me, I might have broken that boy’s wings off.’ There was reluctance in her voice, but also shame. ‘Come back with us. Then we can find out together why that blue-eyed slime is here, and why his people took my parents.’

Rae took a deep breath, and stepped out from behind the trees so that the Rosycheeks could see her. They cried out and ran up to her, embracing her warmly, before heading back to the cottage. There, they found the Fae boy by the pond with Nymphy, in deep conversation. As they approached, Nymphy gave a nod and disappeared into the water, warping out of sight.

‘Where’s she going?’ Silver asked, rushing forwards. ‘What have you sent her to do, slime?’ she said, pressing her face close to his so that he coughed on the lingering coils of smoke escaping her mouth.

‘I didn’t send her anywhere,’ the boy said quietly, stepping back. ‘I told her about something, and she went to see if she could have a look at it.’

Poetry

Finish line

It struck me as rain from a light cloud

hit by the silvery rays of the moon.

A month later, it had solidified

to become blocks of crystal

that I neatly began shaping into

the foundations of a wall.

Three months after that, the wall

stood the same height as me.

Then it overtook me,

and grew into a cliff

I was struggling to climb.

The more I tried,

the further I slipped.

But determination is a strong summon,

and when I took a moment

to combine it with time,

the cliff melted

and showed me the shining words within.

Poetry

A tide of turning

The ink spills onto the page and becomes a river.

Tributaries branch out across several notepads,

soaking through outlines and spider diagrams,

manuscript versions one, two, three, four

final. Final Final. Final Final point one…

The river becomes so large it leaks into the ocean,

where a single bound volume

labelled DICTIONARY

floats to the top, raising its head

like a whale, defined on page 1894.

Extracts/ Flash Fiction, Uncategorized

A little taste of my WIP (which features ogres, dragon-people, fae and many other creatures)

‘What…is all this?’ Max said, tentatively picking one of the hair-wrapped parcels up. He rubbed it against his trousers, trying to get as much dust off it as he could.

‘It’s blue,’ Rae said, examining the neat strands. ‘Gwind, it’s just like yours. It’s exactly the same colour.’

‘You think it’s Fae hair?’ Max asked her. ‘I suppose if it was used to protect whatever is underneath, then that would make sense.’

‘I’ve never heard of it being used for that before,’ Gwind said, ‘but as Silver discovered, there might have once been more uses for it than we think. Perhaps we should unwrap them? Though it looks as if that would take even longer than rearranging the books upstairs. I can’t even see where the ends are.’

‘I could just burn through it,’ Silver said, and before they could stop her, she spat a tiny flame at a parcel by her feet. It touched the hair, fizzling for a moment, and then went out. ‘That’s strange. Our flames should be able to burn through anything.’

‘Let me try,’ Max said, and took out his knife, attempting to cut through the hair. Despite pressing down hard, the blade simply glided over it. ‘Some hair you people have,’ he said to Gwind, failing to keep the awe from his voice.