Nearly there!


OK, apologies again for the word count… but seriously, I’m almost there! Got up this morning at 5:20 despite having a rough night last night with a sick sproglet. I almost didn’t get up, but the excitement of making progress (that feels like actual forward movement instead of treading water) got me up.

Some observations (I’m going to need to refer to this later when I’m bogged down in the re-write and not feeling enthusiastic):

  • the enthusiasm ratcheting up is directly proportionate to the distance to the end (inversely proportionate? bigger enthusiasm, smaller distance? OK, inversely). I seriously need to get better at creating small goals to smash so I can feel like this all the time.
  • there’s nothing wrong with “WOOHOO”ing about even the littlest goal. In fact, I reckon you should go crazy when you hit anything you’ve had to work towards.
  • although I have always considered myself a night person, I think I’m getting more done and feeling happier during the day, on the days when I get up early. It really has taken me a long time to get this.
  • Even though I really want to just bullet point to the end and then write “THE END” some part of me thinks it’s really important to write actual scenes. Yesterday morning I really struggled, and wound up writing just in my ‘project diary’, and then made a screed of bullet pointed lists. This morning I junked them all (well, chucked them in the diary, out of the manuscript) and just got to work on the current scene.
  • A little every day seriously does keep the wheels oiled. Some days it’s over 1,000 words, but other days it’s much less. A goal of 5k words per week at least keeps me honest. The NaNoWriMo approach (50k in a month) is a little too intense; there’s no room for the slow days, or the days when you’d rather nut something out. That said, I would like to try doing NaNo when I’m in that boggy middle part of a book, just to get out the other side a lot faster.
  • I’m really not good at writing big battle scenes. But rather than feeling intimidated I’m just going to write it – just pretend I’m blocking it out – and then go study books that do it better (not hard – ha!). Look at the language they use, everything. Sentence length, sentence construction, even sum up the action. Break it down and look at how I can use the information to make mine roll a bit better. It’s ok for something to be really not-good in the first run, as long as you have a plan towards making it better.
  • Blogging can keep you honest too. Even just posting the odd update here makes me feel like I need to keep going. Who wants to write about “that novel I couldn’t finish but still found time to blag about for months on end”?
  • Writing group tonight – got to fly!

Progress, ho!


Wow, just looking at this wordcount makes me feel good. I’m in the final approach to the end of the novel, which is a totally crazy feeling. I write, and then hit my target, and want to keep going. This downhill ride is totally making up for the uphill slog – all of the times this year and last year where I just sat at my laptop, going wha?

Regardless of how it reads, and how much doctoring I know the second draft is going to require, right now I don’t even care – I’m seriously elated!

Today at the cafe with Mark, I was re-reading an older passage, trying to get myself into the zone of a particular character’s story thread. All of a sudden, my brain just started filling in all of these blanks – things I’d been wondering about, basically ever since I started the story. I’d just been holding the questions sort of loosely in my head, and for some reason, today of all days was the day when my brain came to the party.

Do other people’s brains work like this? It’s seriously a trust thing, and so hard to do – to trust that you’ll eventually figure out the answers to the questions you’ve got when you first start writing. But at the same time it’s a great illustration of the fact that you don’t have to know everything when you start, even though it sometimes feels like you ought to.

Ever since I woke up early on Thursday to write (at 4:45 – Leila crawled into bed with us, and for a while I just sat there thinking about what I’d need to set up some colour processing for a batch of films I’ve got downstairs – yeah, random – and then just decided to get up and write) I’ve felt this real buzz about what I’m doing. It’s not even about the writing per se, but more about getting myself on a roll, working myself up to the point where I really am writing every day, enjoying writing every day, and looking forward to it – and as a result feeling like I’m making some real progress.

Instead of beating myself up every day for not writing.

And now, weirdly, because I’m on this strange roll, I don’t even really mind those days when – for whatever reason – I can’t write. I’ve set some pretty modest goals for the rest of this book – 5,000 words a week – and so I know I can hit them. It’s feeling good when I hit them. And then odds are that I’ll just keep going. And if I don’t, then it’s no big deal either.

This is probably really obvious to most of you, but I can be a bit slow when it comes to these things. Small achievable goals is what everyone says helps you win the race. We get a zap of happiness when we achieve a goal, and as someone told me once, we get more excited about our work when we get closer to the goal. So a win-win there.

Plus, it’s sunny today. Birds everywhere today – tui, big fat keruru (wood pigeons), sparrows, blackbirds, waxeyes. Everything is blooming, and I suspect my own sap is rising with the warmer weather. This sunday we “spring forward” with daylight savings.

Onward, ho!



I recently came across the ebook “Writing 101: Build a Blogging Habit” by the editors, and thought I’d give it a shot. First up? A bit of freewriting – 20 minutes, to be exact, with the added rimshot of putting the freewriting up on your blog. Ulp!

Freewriting’s something I’m pretty comfortable doing; I found Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way back in the 90s and rapidly became a devoted morning-pager. I wrote morning pages at my parents’ house in Taupo, in various scuzzy flats in Wellington, further scuzzy flats in Dublin (and some nicer ones in Delft and Den Haag), and back to Wellington. I’m not quite at the height of notebooks (hip-height?) that Natalie Goldberg reached while she was writing Writing Down the Bones, but I do have a serious stack that, to be honest, I really don’t know what to do with!

Screeds of notebooks is a bit of an issue of mine – I don’t really enjoy going back through these, either. They’re different from my diary. These are Nicholson Baker-esque daily check-ins. Some are good, some are terrible (talking about the Coldplay album that I listened to at the time – seriously, what was I thinking?), and so many of them are just filler and padding to get to the end of side three. Maybe I should have stuck to smaller notebooks, but the ones I invariably went for were the shitty A4, narrow-ruled, school books that everyone buys from the Warehouse or Warehouse Stationery here in New Zealand. I hate these notebooks. But they’re pretty much all you can get over here.

I can’t bring myself to throw them away, either. I have a thing about recording moments, remembering every little thing. I’ll have to remember to save the last ten years of my life to just re-read it all. Future self: I apologise.

Ok, enough looking back. Freewriting is at its most tasty when you look at the little details all around you. (God, what wank.) The house is a complete mess today, and it just seems to pile up and pile up. Leila has become a genius at changing her clothes, up to four times a day, and leaving everything in large piles around the house. Our dining table is covered in puzzles, books, my knitting, my laptop, my camera, socks to darn, a deck of tarot cards, some photos I need to copy on to the laptop, various newspapers and flyers, a necklace, a box of chocolates, an empty Chromecast audio box that steve got for his birthday (with a chromecast inside it at the time), my diary, some headphones, a music box, and Ursula Le Guin’s Worlds of Exile and Illusion. It’s a fucking mess.

The kitchen is just as amazing, but I won’t go there. No-one likes to read about dirty dishes. We need to have someone over for dinner, so we can get our shit together and tidy up. But inevitably we get to the end of the day and the last thing I really feel like doing is tidying. I need to though.

Leila’s watching Dora the Explorer. I hate that show so much. When she finishes though, I’m going to put some music on and do some quick “music tidying.”

This is not the picture of myself I was hoping to project for my blog. Then again, I suspect those of you who have been around for a while won’t be all that surprised. I am not a housekeeper. Sorry.

Still overcast today, and some drizzle too. I guess that’s spring for you. Sorry about the number of posts recently that have been about the weather. It’s just been sort of intense lately. Laundry in, laundry out. Everyone in New Zealand uses washing lines – unless you really don’t have room for one. Ours is a culture of hanging things out. It’s not considered eco-friendly or radical. We just all hang out laundry. It’s a wonder our clothes last so long with our harsh sunlight down here.

Wellington is good for laundry too – it’s pretty rare that a day won’t cover it off, even in winter. The wind is just that good. Mind you, you need to make sure you really secure your pegs if you don’t want your knickers to go flying over to your neighbour’s place. I have lost a few articles of clothing that way, but never underwear.

I washed most of the sea-facing windows the other day – the ones off the kitchen and the deck – but all of the windows that face the other way, plus the bedroom ones, all need doing. I have one of those long things on a pole that looks a little like a soundman’s boom, plus a squeegee that you attach to the pole once you’ve soaped the window up. I just need to brace myself for the job. It’s one of those things that once you get everything set up, you just have to take a breath and do the whole house. And I’m not quite there yet, even though we could use it, after the last winter.

more rain

rainy bush

More rain today. That’s a picture of some of the bush we see from our living room window. A wet day, and the little ’un at kindy. I met my new writing friend Mark at our local cafe, and we wrote for a few hours. We both write in completely different ways, totally different genres and approaches, but it is really cool to meet someone who wants to write as much as you do, and who finds the experience of writing across from another person inspiring and motivating.

So – I got some work done. :) More to do later – perhaps after pizza and movie night, which we’re starting to do regularly at home, even though most of the time we wind up watching Frozen or something similar. Last week, though, I got to sneak in an old favourite of mine, The Sword in the Stone. Neither Steve nor Leila had seen it before, so it was cool seeing it again with them. I’d forgotten how scary the moat pike is though, when Wart’s been turned into a minnow! Poor Leila – she only just got through that scene.

Puy lentils in a shallot vinaigrette for lunch today, with mixed salad, tomato, olives, big capers, and some chopped up Noble cheese. Rather good. I’m a big fan of lentils. :D I’m trying to really up my greens and non-meat protein uptake these days, but that’s pretty much as far as I go on diet fixations.

I’m currently reading Nemesis Games by James SA Corey (fifth in the Expanse series), and far out, am I really enjoying these books. OK, there was the one with the naff scientist that was just SO IRRITATING (which number? title? Can’t remember, I think I’ve blocked it) but Bobbie Draper is my #1 favourite character, followed up by Amos, and so this fifth book wins big time on that front. Naomi has got some personality in this one too, instead of being defined by her hair and the fact that she can do calculations really fast. So a win there too. Plus there’s something so conversational about the tone of these books – they just sweep you away, in spite of yourself (especially when you are reading about simpering xenobiologists), and I find myself rushing through the endings, desperate to find out what happens next.

School holidays start up in just over a week, and I’m a bit worried about all of these nice writing habits that I’ve been able to get going. I won’t be able to meet Gina & Mark on Mondays at the cafe to write, and those hours I’ve been enjoying (such a luxury) when Moo is at kindy will be gone, for two weeks! I am planning on biting the bullet for these two weeks and doing my very best to go to bed really early, and get up early (4:30) and fit my writing in there. I just don’t see not writing for two weeks as an option – not when I’m at the final third of the book.

After that, I’m considering putting it aside for a month or two, and starting up some new projects, before I come back to it for the bush-whacking. Tossing up ideas for some novellas (I rather like the idea of something short-ish), and I’m quite keen to have a go at the outlining approach that’s detailed in Take off Your Pants! by Libbie Hawker. I’m not really one for mega-outlining, but I also like the idea of challenging myself to try something new for the next piece of writing.

blustery weather

Over the last couple of days we’ve had a huge drop in temperature. Loads of rain. Hail (or as Leila calls it, “ice rain”). Gusting wind. Even thunder. All very usual for spring (the first of September’s officially the first day of spring), but odd when considered with the insanely warm August we had, long days and weeks of sun, still-cold-in-the-shadows but summery all the same.

This weather now, well it’s bitter. Brutal. Curtains are all closed tight in non-essential rooms; the indoor cat spends her time either in bed (under the covers) or wedged under one of the radiators in the lounge. The child, on the other hand, is still insisting on wanting bare arms, and bare legs, and beautiful dresses, because that’s what princesses wear, don’t you know.

I never went through a princess phase as a child, so this part of things is very strange to me. I never know if I should just go with it or try and gently steer her elsewhere. I’m going with it, but can’t help cringe at how insidious it all is. Unless of course it’s all just a phase and something else will be cool tomorrow. Probably something worse.

When I was little I wanted to be Laura Ingalls. Anne Shirley. Dorothy Gayle. (And Ozma too.) But I do remember all the Disneys (and have a bit of an encyclopaediac knowledge of so much of the tv I watched as a kid – and I did watch heaps), so maybe when I was really little Cinderella and her ilk were just as captivating.

(Here comes another downpour – bucketing down on the roof with a roar. I wonder about the little birds outside, the waxeyes and sparrows, and the friendly grey-footed seagull who I feed daily but who I haven’t seen since this bad weather started. I also wonder about the wee’uns at kindy. Are they wrapped up warm? Or wandering about with bare arms?)

The novel progresses. I am around the 75,000 word mark, and although I am on the speeding crest of the wave I’m still proceeding more cautiously than I would like. Odd things are happening there, in novel-land, and I am sure that once I’ve finished the hatchet will have to come out. The first thing on my mind will be the shape. And the desire for a spine to peg things along. But later, later. For now, it’s still the stock-take. Figuring out what’s in that box over there, blowing dust off things, opening drawers and seeing what parts we have to make a story out of. I am still very unhappy with dialogue, and can’t wait to get out my needle-nosed pliers to pluck and then the scalpel to perform the delicate-work. But other things please me, so I suppose it’s par for the course, for a first draft.

It feels good to be working on it though, and with Leila currently going to kindy three days a week I’m now able to predict a bit of a routine, and book in hours to write. It has taken a long time to get to this point. We have a writer’s group here in Eastbourne, a few of us at similar points in our writing lives (with one leaping ahead but giving us all encouragement), and it’s brilliant to meet up to write at our local cafe, and watch our stories live, and grow.

I’ve been reading a lot, too. 32 books so far this year, which is good for me. Some trash, some classics, and some in the middle. Stand-outs so far have been several by Tanith Lee (Biting the Sun, The Silver Metal Lover, Night’s Master and Cruel Pink), Helen Macdonald’s H is for Hawk, I Am Legend by Richard Matheson, my friend Mark Brewer’s book Regan’s Reach, The Expanse series by James S.A. Corey, The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness, and Persuasion by Jane Austen. I’ve wanted to read Persuasion for a good long while now, and found it quite satisfying. I’m really drawn to sensible characters, these days.

Here and Now