flash fiction

Day ?

Towards the end of last year, I don’t even know the date but I think it was early December, my mum called and said she had just been diagnosed with breast cancer that had spread to her bones. During the weeks of stress and travelling back and forth that followed (she lives four hours away), I didn’t write anything. She is now having treatment and doing well, but obviously it was a big stress when she was first diagnosed and that was my priority rather than writing.

Then there was Christmas, and then school holidays with the kids home, and to cut a long story short I haven’t written anything for a couple of months now.

I’ve decided to go back to uni this year, and that starts in a couple of weeks. I got nearly halfway through the first draft of my novel last year but now I’m not sure when I will find the time to continue. I don’t want to abandon it, but I am not sure how I am going to prioritise my time this year.

Day 128

I’ve been struggling a bit with a big fight scene and stalled for a couple of days. So this afternoon I just wrote a summary of what needed to happen and any other ideas I had, around 350 words, and now I’ve cleared the way to move forward. I’ll write that scene later. Despite not doing “proper” writing, it was actually very useful and I found a role for my main character who previously had been more of a spectator.

This exciting fight scene was originally going to be the prologue for my novel, one of the few scenes I actually wrote when I first had the idea for this book. Now it happens around a quarter of the way through. Hopefully by then you’ll know the characters well enough to care about what happens to them. It’s quite pivotal to the story and I hope that eventually I will write it well. It’s kind of amazing to me how much it’s changed since it’s first incarnation, but that was more than three years ago. The people in the scene have the same names, but who they are is actually quite different. How they’ve come to this point has changed everything.

It’s the 7th of November, NaNoWriMo month. Of course I didn’t want to start a new novel for it, but I had planned to use it to inspire me to write every day. Hasn’t worked. Still, I’m doing much better these past couple of weeks than the two months before that.

Day 120

Yesterday morning I woke at dawn with the realisation that my magic system had a serious flaw. But I’ve got it sorted.

My writing continues very patchy. I just noticed on this blog that two months ago I had around 20,000 words. This morning I had 25,000 (and then added 1,500 to that). Only 5,000 words in two months! Much worse than I thought. 20,000 words in the first two months, 5,000 words in the second two. Urg. That period included several weeks of sickness and also school holidays, but still. Way behind where I wanted to be. I’m only managing a one-hour writing session two or three times a week on the good weeks.

Today I went to the National Arboretum which has magnificent views and had a good writing session. Got to keep that up.

Day 85

It’s been 3 weeks since I’ve written anything. My last couple of posts mentioned that I was feeling sick, well that degenerated into a nasty flu that went on for a total of 5 weeks. When my head was stuffed with snot, I just couldn’t write coherently. But this past week I’ve been fine, just struggling to get back into it. I haven’t found time, or made time, or made it a priority.

On the weekend we had a long car trip and I discussed some plot and character issues with my husband, who is a great sounding-board. He came up with an interesting backstory for one of my minor characters, and it helped me to know what I was going to write next. But it still took to today (Wednesday) to even write down notes about that, and not actually any “writing”. But I opened my laptop, and that is a good thing.

Days 47-56

These posts are getting further and further apart!

I’ve only just got over the stomach flu that started in my previous post. I continued to write throughout the past week and a half with some good days and some bad days. I’m up to around 20,000 words which is a fifth of a book! Go me!

One day I was feeling unwell and headachy but I forced myself to sit down and write anyway. I only managed around 200 words in half an hour but was still pleased that I had done something – consistency is the key. The next morning I realised that what I had written was just all wrong and had to basically be deleted. Oh well. I still think making myself write on as many days as possible is important.

My protagonist was trying to rescue other captives and opened a locked door only to find, whoops, wrong door, baddies behind it. She only opened that door because of the bolt on it that made her think there were prisoners behind it. It only occurred to me the next day – so if it wasn’t prisoners, why were these bad guys behind a bolted door? Had to change it, lucky after all that it was only a few paragraphs work.

I love when I have a little epiphany, even if it seems obvious in hindsight. Like, I need a storm in chapter three, when my heroes escape from captivity. It was just going to be natural, a coincidence that it happened when it did. And then I realised that I have mages on both sides who can manipulate weather! So now I’ve got a storm, just when I want it, as a consequence of a magic battle instead of just random weather.  Awesome!

Yesterday I was walking home after dropping the kids at school and passed a friend/neighbour who asked if I was writing that morning. She asked if she could come over and write with me, of course I said yes. It is a good motivator to get writing if you have someone next to you doing the same, you can’t skive off and play computer games. So I got a good bit done in a hour and a half. It was a bit weird though. I offered a cup of tea, expecting to chat maybe first, but she wanted to get straight into it. I was at the kitchen table and she sat on the lounge-room floor. She seemed to be tapping away at the keyboard at an amazing rate. Whenever I stopped to think for a moment, I felt rather guilty because she was going so fast. (She was journaling, not writing fiction.) And she didn’t like the music on; not that she objected or anything, I asked and there was polite back and forth about who didn’t mind the most etc. But she was my guest so I turned it off. But I like background music. In short, like many things in life, having a writing date had good points and bad points. I’d be happy to do it again. 

I haven’t gone to a café or the library for a while now because it is winter and I’ve been sick and I just didn’t want to go out into the cold and miserable weather. It was easier to stay home. But only a week until spring so I’ll probably start getting out more again soon.

Days 39-46

Trucking along well last week then I got quite sick for a couple of days and didn’t write. But the time wasn’t totally wasted. While slumping around the house or lying in bed, I spent a lot of time thinking about the upcoming big scene, even though I didn’t have the energy to actually write it.

Then yesterday, a Saturday, my family went out and I stayed home because I still wasn’t completely well. After mooching around all morning in a lonely sort of way, I watched a comedy skit show on TV that really perked up my mood. It’s a bit ironic, because the scene I wanted to write was dramatic and violent and sad, but laughing for half an hour really gave me the energy to write.

I left the TV on and spent nearly three hours – by far my longest session – writing the end of Chapter Two and the start of Chapter Three. Because I’d been thinking about it, I pretty much knew exactly what I wanted to say. Because I was still tired and sick and watching TV at the same time (mainly a marathon session of X-factor, a reality singing competition very similar to, say Australian/American Idol), I wrote very slowly. About 1800 words in just under three hours.

Despite the slow word rate, I am very happy with the session. I only stopped when my shoulder started to ache – I have RSI issues which is why I don’t have a full-time desk job any more – but I got the planned material written. And next I have another big scene to write, so that is exciting.

Getting started on this novel was really hard. You have to introduce characters and your world without being boring, and somehow get them started on the path to adventure. I’m sure when I go back and edit, that first chapter will need the most work. But now that the actual “story” is happening, it is going well.

Days 35-38

It’s been a great writing week. I already talked about Monday; it’s now Friday and I’ve written every day.

On Tuesday I went back to the café for another 1400 or so words. On Wednesday the weather was miserable and I decided to try again to write at home as that was most convenient, and finally I was able to make that work. Another hour and a half with a similar result of about 1400 words. I think I was floundering around a lot right at the start so that any extra difficulty made it impossible to write, but now I am well into Chapter Two with a good idea of where I am going so it takes a bit more to derail me.

Speaking of which, on Thursday I was feeling very out of sorts and mooched around a lot in a cranky sort of way. I finally gave writing half an hour in the afternoon and added a couple of hundred words, inserted here and there.

Today I stayed home yet again (well below freezing weather during the night and still too cold to enjoy leaving the house in the morning), sat down with my laptop more or less first thing after getting the kids off to school, another 1107 words in 90 mins.

So I have proved to myself I can do it, I can write whether in the “perfect” café, or a quiet library, or at home (as long as I am here alone). Now I need to work on getting in more than 90 mins in each session. My original plan was 2-3 hours a day so I am not up to that yet. But I am really happy that I have written every day this week, even when I was grumpy and didn’t want to and didn’t get a lot done. Consistency is everything.

The story is progressing well. Unexpected side-plots keep emerging and I have to make sure I don’t give them more attention than the main story. But I get very interested in this person or that person.

I haven’t decided yet who will die in the first big crisis. It might be a literal case of “murder your darlings”. Some people already have a role planned for later, but other characters are place-holders at the moment, waiting to have their lives developed. I have to make myself (and the reader) involved enough to care when they die, otherwise they might as well not exist in the first place.

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