Opposite of writer’s block

I don’t know what to call it other than the opposite of writer’s block. I don’t necessarily have a flow of idea, but the storyline if filling out. I think that if I could make the time to dedicate a solid 3-5 hours of writing, that I could make some serious headway. I sat down this evening to write and I had filled four pages in no time.

I have finished chapter 6, which is pretty short and I wrote a few notes of what to cover in chapter 7 and even some notes for chapter 8. This is good. This is good I tell myself. I just need to make the time to write. I am doing well of keeping on track. I’m still making my 10 pages per week.

This is the hard part of having a full-time job and writing in the evenings. But I better not count my chickens too soon because the scary slow period could kick in at any time. For now, I will enjoy the flow while it lasts and will try to write whenever I have a free moment.

If you have a full-time job and are writing on the side, do you write in the early mornings or in the late evenings? How do you make the uninterrupted time to write?

Progress so far:

  • 54 pages
  • Planned out chapter 7, just need to write it now.

Research shows:

I need to find a pen name and I need to find one now! Any potential readers need to have someone they can identify with. They will never remember “An Author’s Log”. Readers need your name so they can easily find your work. I have a pen name that I’ve been mulling over for a few weeks now. I think I’m just to nervous to fully commit to it yet.

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Milestone #1: 50 pages written

I did it! I wrote 50 pages. I’m now on chapter 6. The progress is moving forward. Not as fast as it could be going but, writing quickly isn’t the point. At the beginning of chapter 6, I found that I also want to jump a few weeks in time. For the moment I have noted 2 weeks of time, but I might increase it because 2 weeks seems to short to justify jumping over it.

One thing I will really have to work on when going over draft 1 will be the timeline. I want the book to take place over one full year, but I can’t possibly write every day of the protagonists’ life. So I have to figure out a systematic way to play with time.

Have you written a story or a novel that required an “unwritten” time lapse? If yes, how did you do it? It you write “two weeks later”? Any suggestions are very welcome.

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Book Review: Silver Wedding – By Maeve Binchy

Maeve Binchy, the Queen of Characters, has done it again with Silver Wedding; writing every character in such a way that the reader is immediately planted in the character’s shoes.

In nearly every book I’ve read by Binchy, she has multiple characters that the reader gets to know well. In Silver Wedding, the reader is given eight pairs of shoes to fit into.  Divided into chapters, each character has a very unique life in various places, but in the end they all come together for the Silver Wedding in London.

Anna is the eldest daughter of Desmond and Deirdre Doyle who are celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary. The Doyle’s are planning more than celebrating, as their marriage isn’t full of love as some might be. Anna who unhappily works at a bookstore because her boyfriend, Joe Ashe is unemployed and she needed stability.

Anna’s brother Brendan, living over in the west of Ireland, will be of no help in planning the anniversary and neither will her young sister Helen who is struggling to be accepting into the convent where lives.

Desmond Doyle working as a Special Projects Manager for Palazzo Foods started the grocery chain with his friend Frank Quigley

Father Hurley, the priest who married Desmond and Deirdre Doyle in a shotgun wedding also living in Ireland is invited to the celebration.

Maureen, Deirdre’s maid of honor and old flame of Frank Quigley has the sad situation of dealing with her mother’s recent death and another surprise she discovers as she sorts through her mother’s papers.

Frank Quigley, married to Italian Renata Palazzo, daughter of his boss finds himself in a long-term affair with Joy East, the Palazzo company’s designer.

Reading about each character in a chapter was intriguing. It let the reader fully immerse in the character and learn about who they really were. Each character had its own life with their job, their worries and the connection to Desmond and Deirdre Doyle.

The difficult part was keeping track of each character. Since each chapter was so in-depth with each character, it made it harder to remember everything about the character in the previous chapter, especially when you put the book down for a day or two. It was more like eight short stories, which were brought together in a ninth short story at the end.

In addition to keeping track of all the main characters there was:

  1. Joe Ashe, Anna’s boyfriend
  2. Janet, Joe’s ex-wife
  3. Ken Green a friendly customer in the bookshop Anna worked at
  4. Uncle Vincent whom Brenden was living with in Ireland on the farm
  5. Grannie O’Hagan (grandmother to Anna, Brenden and Helen)
  6. Grandpa Doyle, former landowner of the farm in Ireland
  7. Sister Brigid, head of the convent Helen was staying at
  8. Sister Nessa, working with young mothers
  9. Sister Maureen, working to rehabilitate ex-prisoners
  10. Sister Joan
  11. Yvonne, young mother
  12. Simon, baby boy
  13. Mr. Suresh Patel, owner of a corner shop
  14. Marigold, Australian trainee, assistant to Desmond Doyle
  15. Renata Palazzo, Frank Quigley’s wife
  16. Carlo Palazzo, father of Renata Palazzo
  17. Gregory, Father Hurley’s nephew
  18. Laure Hurley, Father Hurley’s sister
  19. Alan Black, Laura’s husband
  20. Sophie Barry, Maureen’s mother
  21. Bernard James Barry, Maureen’s father
  22. Flora Jones, Bernard’s second wife
  23. Mr. White, Sophie’s solicitor
  24. Walter, male friend of Maureen
  25. Eileen O’Hagan, Deirdre’s mother
  26. Kevin O’Hagan, Deirdre’s father
  27. Joy East, Palazzo company’s designer
  28. David, man who desires Joy East
  29. Barbara, Jack, Gerard, friends of Granny O’Hagan
  30. Tony, Granny O’Hagan’s boyfriend

In addition to the eight characters who are the focus, there are an additional 30 characters mentioned throughout the book. I may have missed a few, but this brings the counted total to 38 characters. It was hard to keep track of each person and how they fit in at the end.

This book has a table of contents at the front, but a family tree and character web may also have been helpful. Binchy could have aided the reader just a little more when she started a new chapter and referred to a character she already mentioned by giving a small reminder of who they were or only referring to the minor characters instead of naming them.

Silver Wedding brings everyone together again in the end, but it is advisable to read the book from start to finish in one sitting or at least without taking too many breaks. With all the characters, this book requires careful attention.

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Getting ahead of myself

While working on chapter 4, I found that I wanted to skip ahead and start writing parts of the next chapter. I’m not sure why this happened. I knew good parts were going to be written later so maybe I just wanted to skip right to them and start writing from there. I did it twice.

I wrote a paragraph or two for chapter 5 and then I stopped myself and went back to finish chapter 4. After I finished chapter 4 and was working on chapter 5, I skipped ahead again and wrote the introductory paragraph for chapter 6.

I think I’m getting a little ahead of myself, but when you’re on a role you’re on a role right? Maybe what happened was that I got ideas for the next chapters while I was writing the current chapter. I don’t think this is a bad thing.

Luckily the pages are getting filled. I wrote non-stop for about an hour maybe an hour and a half and it feels like I’ve been working for many hours. I also scrolled back and find that I only wrote a few pages even though it feels like I have written at least 10.

I guess this is what you call being “in the zone.” I tuned everything out and kept going even if there were noises from the street or other things that could be distracting I got a good chunk of writing time in.

Progress so far:

  • 47 pages
  • working on chapter 5

I feel like hitting page 50 will be a milestone. I’m not sure why, but it feels like a good point to be proud of.

When you were writing your first novel, when was your milestone? If you are writing your first novel, what do you think your milestone will be?

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Writing one piece at a time?

Having just finished reading a book with so many characters, I’m starting to pay more attention to how many characters I’m introducing in my novel. There are two characters: the parents of the protagonist, who need to play an important role in the novel. So I don’t think they are extraneous at the moment, but I have the feeling that the last three pages I wrote with them included didn’t move the story forward very much. There was one important revelation and two smaller points. I think that it contributed to the plot and gives the reader deeper insight to the protagonist, but the dialogue isn’t riveting. To be frank, its pretty boring.

With all the research I’ve been doing its hard to remember where I read something, but I think it was Marian Keyes who said something along the lines of: if you are having fun writing the novel, surely your readers will have fun reading it. I am enjoying writing, not just the fact that words are actually starting to fill up quite a few pages, but I like the feeling of typing and thinking about what could happen next.

Maybe draft one is writing the plot. In draft two, I could work on further developing the characters and maybe making the writing a little more dynamic and tighter. Right now I’m sure there are lots of extraneous words, dialogues and probably even whole scenes. So before I start back tracking again and starting to fine tune, I will keep going.

Progress so far:

  • 40 pages
  • My Step 1: write the plot.
  • Planned Step 2: revise the manuscript with fine tuning the writing and working on character development. (I’m not sure if I can do this simultaneously, so the character development might become step 3).

I wonder if this is a good approach? Should novice writers concentrate on one thing at a time? Or should they work slower, but on everything at one time?

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Book Review: The Other Side of the Story – Marian Keyes

The Other Side of the Story is the first book by Marian Keyes that I have read. Her style is real, fresh and pointed. There were quite a few times I found myself laughing out loud and many times where I was smiling and clutching the book in anticipation of what would happen next.

This is a story with three sides: there is Gemma, the woman whose best friend stole her boyfriend, Lily, the woman who stole Gemma’s boyfriend, and Jojo, the literary agent in the is the middle-women between the two.

The book begins with Gemma, the hardworking party planner who looks after her elderly mother after her father leaves for a younger woman. The first 90 pages of Gemma’s side of the story is a little depressive, but this is just the prelude to how the web of the three women connects.

Jojo, the fabulous and red-lipstick wearing literary agent is sleeping with her boss, Mark Avery, and is the agent for Lily’s book.

Lily is a sweet-natured girl who wrote ‘Mimi’s Remedies’ to cheer herself up after she was mugged. Her boyfriend, Anton, and father of her child, Ema, gets her book published, which provides some unforeseen large income for their scarce earnings.

After leaving Gemma in Ireland, to move to London, Anton meets Lily. Gemma asks Lily, who also moved to London, to meet Anton to keep an eye on him to see if he met any other woman. Little did Gemma know that Anton’s next woman would be Lily.

What jumped out to me in particular, was Keyes’ use of sound. Although she was using words to describe the sounds, I could hear them. For example: “if she was in a film, a sax would play mournful, sexy notes whenever she appeared. She was gorgeous” and “each breath I took echoed loud and slow as if I was scuba diving.” This is a clever tool, which makes the experiences of the characters seem even more real.

Keyes includes email messages to tell some of the main action at the beginning of the book, which is refreshing and the change of medium makes the book more captivating.

She also has very detailed characters and she also uses this to incorporate other interesting formats of writing into the book. For example, Gemma lists her options (from a to e, for example), and this makes sense for her character who is a list maker by profession.

These writing techniques allow Keyes more room to develop her characters, change the visual layout of the text and give the readers a greater experience. Everything in the book is needed to tell the story. There is no extraneous text or sub-plots. Keyes divides the story up into sections by character. Each character lives her own life and the reader is thrown into each woman’s life a few chapters at a time. Keyes keeps the reader guessing as to which character she will come back to next.

The book focuses on the challenges faced by each of the women. Gemma with the challenge of taking care of her mother after the family trauma, while trying to get a gripe on her love life after Anton leaves her and gets together with her best friend. Jojo must figure out how to make partner at her agency while sleeping with the manager partner. Lily struggles to find peace and happiness after being unexpectedly hit with life altering events: being mugged and “stealing” her best friend’s boyfriend. In the end, all of the women are able to find their own solutions.

I enjoyed reading this book as an entire experience; from hearing the sounds of the action, seeing the email format and learning about each character and their side of the story. I will definitely be reading more from Marian Keyes.

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Chapter 4 is underway

I have kept going, writing one day at a time. Its true what other writers say, it takes discipline. I’ve been trying to write in the evenings which was been going ok so far. Its a bit more difficult when I have classes in the evenings after work but somehow, the pages are being written.

Progress so far:

  • 38 pages
  • Chapter 4 has a good start. A good start meaning a few pages written.

I’ve been doing some research and I found a few more useful websites which I’ve added to the “Links” page. They give some very good writing tips. I will definitely have to review these when I go through my first or maybe second review/re-write.

I think the first 38 pages are ok. I’m getting the story on “paper” (on screen), but I think I’m still missing that “flare”. I haven’t found the page turning, gripping element yet. Its a story, but its not an amazingly entertaining story…yet!

What is you story’s flare? Is the the main character? Is it the plot? Is there a mystery? Please do tell.

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