Tuesday, 30 November 2010

50,000 words in 30 days? No problem!

I typed the final words to bring my story of The Last Sin Eater over 50,000 words this afternoon. It's a great feeling to know you've written so much on one subject, regardless of how good or bad that may turn out to be once you go back through it, becauseit proves that you can stick with a story for more than a few hours at a time.

Of course, the story isn't finished yet. Over the last few days I've thought of several places where the story should change direction, and looking back over some of what I've written, I can see a lot of places where I've just been world building or writing character profiles rather than moving the story on.

But the bones of the story are in place. I now know my characters really well, I know their world and their situations, and even if it's not all down on paper yet, I know where I want them to end up.

At the start of November quite a lot of people - and a lot of those were in creative writing forums on the OU website - said they didn't see what use NaNoWriMo was. They complained that you couldn't possibly write a good novel in one month, and that it was a waste of time.

Those people, I can't help but feel, have not grasped what NaNoWriMo is about.

It's morning pages gone into overdrive; it's an outflowing of creativity every day; it's getting a draft of a story down on paper that might otherwise have languished in your imagination for years; and it's a challenge to be overcome so you can look back and say, "well look at that, maybe I could write a book after all".

And there is nothing useless or un-worthwhile about that at all.

Monday, 22 November 2010

A quick update

I feel really bad for not having updated in the last couple of weeks, so I'm very sorry about that. I've been really busy with NaNoWriMo and with my creative writing course, and life in general has been busy as well.

The Sin Eater story is going reasonably well, although I feel that I haven't concentrated enough on the practice itself yet. Parts of the story I feel quite happy with, like a scene I wrote where Richard is having a panic attack over what he has done and his brother John is trying to calm him down and find out exactly what has happened. I'm happy with the character of the vicar as well, who is a secondary character but has some quite important scenes with Richard.

Richard's wife Ann, however, isn't coming out as well formed. I can't seem to decide if she accepts what has happened or if she's angry, and some of the things she has done will need fixing later. I can't imagine any nice Victorian woman laying into a respected doctor in a church at a funeral, even if he did suggest that her parenting skills weren't as good as they could have been.

I also keep tripping up over Victorian customs. I want it to be as well researched as possible, but obviously this is a work of fiction and not an historical text book. The funeral arrangements seem to have been very extravagant, but then that gives me scope to decide how much of that the Munslows would have had. Periods of mourning are something I have to remember as well, and trying to work out the timeline properly is still giving me a few problems.

That aside though, I'm enjoying the trip into Victorian England and I think, as a general rule, it's going well... Only 12,000 words to go!

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Wow! Just... wow!

I had to share another cover design with you this evening. This, my friends, was created as part of the official NaNoWriMo 30 Covers, 30 Days project, where a whole host of incredibly talented professional designers pick one participant each to make a cover design for.

I got the email about it from the NaNo office at the end of October, but I didn't want to say anything because it was just that my title had been suggested and would be put in a pool for the designers to choose from:
We loved your title and synopsis. If you give us the okay, we'll send them to the designer team, and the designers may use them to create a cover design for your novel-in-progress (we say “may” because we’re sending the designers a few options to choose from).

These designers are donating their design time for this project to NaNoWriMo, so this is totally free of charge to you. You're under no obligation to do anything with the cover once you get it. In fact, the covers that the design team creates for the "30 Covers, 30 Days" program are not intended for commercial use. The covers will all be web-resolution images that will not be large enough for use as printed book covers. Think of it as a one-of-a-kind of NaNoWriMo souvenir that you can post on your Novel Info page, your blog, or website.
And so, without further comment from me, this is my cover as designed by the amazing Evan Gaffney.

"First of all I thought the synopsis was terrific, and I knew it would provide an opportunity to pore over old photographs, one of the great perks of working on book covers. The idea was to evoke spirit photography, in which the "ghost" of a loved one would be superimposed on an image in the darkroom. The little orbs were meant to suggest floating germs, as ineffable as the ghosts of their victims...

"This particular image, frame included, was in my files, and I'm glad I stepped away from the computer to rediscover it. The little glowing circles were added in InDesign--no lens flare involved, although I see the similarity. I must thank my dear studiomate for suggesting Archer for the title."

-- Evan Gaffney

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

The Sin Eater's family

Crisis over! I've tracked down some of the notes I'd got on the Munslows and I've managed to piece together the family tree again, so the only thing I can't find is the outline of the plot. Fortunately I can remember most of what I was planning, and it was always likely to change a bit when I came to put it down on paper anyway.

I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I was planning to visit the church at Ratlinghope, Shropshire, where Richard is buried. The weather was beautiful that weekend, so I did manage to get out there, and after driving round in circles for a bit I found the church.

The grave has been recently restored by the church, but it is still difficult to make out the words carved on three of the four sides of the monument. The church was very helpful with extra information though, and they'd even printed a leaflet about Richard and his family, along with the inscriptions from the grave.

The main problem now is going to be not getting confused between all the family members who share names. There are two Richards, two James', two Marys (although one is Mary Ann) and two Anns (although one might possibly have been called Annie). At various points in the timeline there are also three Elizabeths, three Georges and three Thomas' - two of whom are around for most of the story!

Monday, 1 November 2010

How not to start NaNoWriMo...

My NaNoWriMo warm up - writing 750 words every day throughout October - was a success, and as a result the website rewarded me with this very natty turquoise horse badge for keeping going through the month. I've said it before and I'll say it again, this is a great site to motivate you to write.

So what have I been writing? Well I sat down to start my story this morning and realised I couldn't find any of the notes I'd made. I'd collected information from Richard Munslow's family tree, about the practice of sin eating, a rough plot outline, the inscriptions on the grave at Ratlinghope, and various bits and pieces about Victorian life, and I couldn't find any of it.

I tried to read the inscriptions again on pictures on the internet, but they're just not good enough quality to be able to read anything. I did take pictures of the grave when I visited it, but I can't find the lead to get them off my camera and on to the computer.

I did find the family tree again, which I'd printed out, but now I'm confused as to whether a young Richard Munslow is the sin eater's son or nephew. If he's the son he must be a twin with Elizabeth, but she doesn't appear on the census when he does, and if he's a nephew then I've managed to lose one of the sin eater's seven children.

After all of these problems I did manage to get down to writing a few scenes where I didn't need to know all of the missing details, and I'm still hoping to have 5,000 words written by the end of the day (I've got 3,000 at the moment). Hopefully my notes will turn up on a memory stick or my PC...