Friday, 31 December 2010

What I've Learnt in 2010

It’s been an eventful year for me. In writing, it’s been a very eventful year. I’m one novel away from finishing the Resistance series and I've finished writing my second series Shifters, which currently awaits editing.

Since it’s 2010, I thought I’d share ten things I’ve learnt to do with writing, editing and publishing this year.

1. How to properly structure a manuscript. I’ve learnt the importance of keeping chapters roughly the same length, how to format dialogue and paragraphs, as well as how to include different elements in my plot. It doesn’t sound like much, but compared to my abandoned project from 2008-2009, I’ve learnt a great amount.

2. Outlining is not a restriction. Using outlines does not restrict my creativity. It organises my creativity, meaning I have a more cohesive plot and a better idea of where my novel is going before I sit down to write it. I couldn’t keep writing aimlessly without a sure heading. I don’t ever start anything without some sort of outline. My next novel has been planned so meticulously I would have cried out in horror last year – now, it’s made me even more excited to write it. I have so many scenes and ideas for it; all that’s left is to put it on the page. I can’t wait.

3. Researching and timelines will always help. No matter how much time they might take away from writing, they help make my novel seem real. I can put my own story into context, and I can be sure that my readers will be able to as well. That’s worth the time spent away from my MS.

4. Practice makes perfect. There’s been a lot of trial and error. I’ve had to write a lot of scenes to see that they needed to change. I’ve had to write manuscript upon manuscript to see how my writing needs to develop and to discover the true extent of my characters and their actions. The time I’ve spent writing has all gone towards developing my writing skills. My first drafts aren’t quite as terrible as they were at the beginning of 2010. I will always have editing to do - I know and accept this. But that doesn’t mean it won’t be just a little bit easier the more I learn from my mistakes.

5. Editing is not my enemy. Before the start of this year, I feared editing. It was a horrible point I never wanted to approach. Going into the editing cave was a terrifying experience. But it was only when I couldn’t see the light which had been blinding me outside that I realised editing is a fun experience. It is separate from writing, but it’s still an enjoyable part of the process for me. The backspace button is my friend, and editing is another part of the ride. I plan to enjoy it to the fullest.

6. Writing often wins over sleep. There have been many nights where I’ve had a to make a choice over writing and sleep, and until recently it was hard to remember a time when sleep won. I want to get to the end of the scene or chapter so I can sleep happily. A few tired nights are nothing I can’t handle. In fact, I like watching the hours tick away while I’m writing. Though I'll make sure to listen to my body when I need to sleep, I know how ridiculously fun writing into the midnight hours is won't change next year.

7. I know how to get to where I want to be. I know the process of how to get published. I'm thinking about querying, agents, editors, and the entire process all the time. Obviously, I won’t be ready to experience it this year. Maybe this time next year I won’t be repeating those words.

8. I’m no longer writing just for fun. Writing is still incredibly fun for me. But this isn’t something I'll come back to every once in a while. This is what I want to do. Someday, I want to get to the place where I can write all day and know that in the future it’ll be on the shelves for people to read. Every little bit of progress I make is working towards something now. I’m going to make every part count.

9. Time and money will come into play. I have invested a significant amount of time into my writing. I had to in order to achieve the amount I did this year. I’ve set aside so many hours for writing, editing, plotting and thinking over scenes. I’m becoming even better at managing my time to get all this done. It’s a balancing act, and right now, I’m feeling pretty steady on the tightrope. Money has also come into play in the form of reams of paper to print my MSs, printer ink, ridiculously over-priced folders, and red biros which have an awful habit of running out during my paper edits. Still, you get what you give. Any time or money I spent towards this will be given back some day.

10. How to get more involved with the writing community. I love my blog. I love Twitter. But most of all, I love speaking to all of you. Sharing our experiences, the things we’ve been through, plot ideas and our passion for writing. I’ve found so much support in the writing community which I would have never expected; it’s yet another thing which continues to motivate me. Thank you, all of you reading this right now. You have no idea how much you’ve helped.

I’d love to hear what you’ve learnt this year. I hope you all have a great new year, and I’ll see you on the other side of 2011.

Monday, 27 December 2010


My hypothesis on writing versus sleep is usually that writing wins hands down. The same applies for editing. I put my writing needs before my human needs, and I know it’s pointless trying to go to sleep because I won’t be happy if I haven’t completed the scene or chapter I wanted to finish.

Yesterday was the exception. I wasn’t sure what it was, but I was in a different mood. It wasn’t that I didn’t feel particularly creative or energetic – I wrote a short story and got a load of work done – I just didn’t feel like editing. I stared at my MS, desperately trying to edit one of my favourite scenes in the novel, all the while fighting the feeling that something wasn’t right. Eventually, I made myself shut it down and didn’t come back to it that day.

I was worried that night. I was worried something was wrong with the scene. I couldn’t quite place what, whether it was sentence structure, dialogue, overall tone ... I was stuck. I simply couldn’t place my finger on it. I stepped away from it, and after a good night’s sleep, I woke up today feeling refreshed.

All the worries that had been on my mind had disappeared. I tackled the scene easily, and I was surprised to find that everything worked. There was no problem which had been nagging at me yesterday. The only problem had been me. I wasn’t in the right mindset for editing, and because I wasn’t, any chance I had of doing a decent job went out the window. Days where I’m not in the right mindset are rare, but I have them. Writing is no exception. Some days, you can only step back from the project and hope to tackle it tomorrow.

I’ve done a lot of work today, and I know I wouldn’t have gotten anywhere near this much done yesterday; it would have been an uphill struggle. Putting off editing for one day didn’t kill me. Actually, it helped. Maybe it was just my mind forcing me to get other tasks finished. Either way, I’ve had a productive few days, and I’m happy with what I’ve achieved.

Getting a fresh start can make all the difference. Whether it’s choosing sleep over writing for once, waiting a few extra days to do those revisions, or even using the new year to start another project – it can really refresh you. Some days, creativity is harder to find than others. The trick is knowing when to search for it and when it let it build for a while. Breaks are your friend, no matter how horrifying it may be to walk away for a time.

I’ve finished editing Part Two in RW, and I’m onto Part Three. It’ll be great to get the third draft underneath my belt, so I can polish it up one final time and send it to my test readers. Then I have an incredibly nervous wait with the thought of their criticisms and what they’ll think of my characters. Hopefully, I’m on the right track. Wish me luck!

Friday, 24 December 2010


I’ve been MIA recently from the blogosphere and Twitter, which trust me, was done begrudgingly. For the past week or so I’ve been fighting an awful chest infection. Although it was one of the worst cases of illness I’ve had the horror of experiencing – at the worst possible time – I did manage to take a few small things from it.

The Christmas holidays mean I have a block of free time, which is unusual for me. I had been looking forward to my holidays for weeks simply because it would give me chance to sit down, finish my third draft, hopefully get more (if not all) of my side project tucked away before new year and it would allow me to get more work done.

Then came the chest infection.

I’m the type of person who likes to strive for perfection in things I care about. My writing is probably the one thing where this matters the most. I take pride in my work. So to be presented with the option of not being able to get my work done to a good standard because of my illness was an awful thought for me.

I honestly tried. I made myself sit down and do some work. In the earlier stages of my chest infection, I managed to get the entirety of Part One edited. I had hoped to get a readable draft of RW done for my test readers before January came around, and I was hopeful that I would get it done – I’d even put my side project on hold to try and focus on editing. But as I began to feel worse, it became even more of a struggle to edit. I would force myself to open up my MS on my computer, edit around a page, then become incredibly frustrated with myself when I had to shut it down and go back to bed because I was coughing so much I thought I was about to be sick. This happened quite a few times, and after every attempt I only became angrier with myself.

I’m generally a determined person. If I need to get something done, I’ll put things aside, make the time if I have to, and get it done. But these weren’t general conditions. I was ill, and by stressing myself out about not being able to write and edit, I was making things worse.

Soon I had to admit to myself I couldn’t fight this illness on my own, and that I couldn’t get anything done to a decent standard until I wasn’t as ill. After a few days on antibiotics and making myself rest up in bed, I began to feel well enough to come back to writing. It was only when I was in this better state of mind that I realised I had gone against my own rule – know your limits.

I should have had the sense to know while I was fighting an illness my usual limits of what I could and couldn’t do didn’t apply. I should have been more flexible. Another reason I was frustrated with myself was due to the bad timing of the infection. Christmas is the one time of year where it’s a given that you can relax with friends and family. Watching films in bed at Christmas isn’t something anybody would criticise me for, even without being ill. It’s a season of peace and relaxation, and here I was being furious with myself for trying to completely go against this when my body couldn’t take it in the first place.

I finally realised that this chest infection was my body’s way of telling me to slow down and take it easy for once. I never stop. Apart from my writing and the few new good friends I’ve gained this year, I’ve had a bad 2010. It was a year that went from bad to worse, and instead of looking at my chest infection as a sign that I should finally let myself breathe after running around non-stop all year, I tried even harder to push myself. In a way, I don’t blame my body for getting ill. Everybody has their limits. That it took a chest infection for me to realise what mine are isn’t something to be proud of.

That I realised eventually what they were is.

I’m feeling better now. I’m still coughing, but now it doesn’t leave me breathless, sick, or worrying I’m about to puncture a lung with the strain. I can enjoy writing again. Yesterday, I did a few chapters on my side project, and today I’ve achieved over ten thousand words. I’ll get back on track sooner or later with editing. All I’m concerned about now is getting healthier, enjoying the holiday season, and cutting myself some slack for dealing with a bad year like this and still having the determination to go on.

I hope you have a happy holidays, and if you don’t continue reading the next part of this blog, then I’ll see you all after Christmas.


Jessica Lei tagged me in the Versatile Blogger award, and seeing as I didn’t feel up to doing it when she originally posted it – no matter how much I wanted to – I thought I would do it now. To keep it short, I won’t tag anybody, but feel free to do this yourselves.

Basically, you explain seven things you want to share about yourself. Here’s mine:

1. I’m torn between which publishing path to take. I have two options. Either, I want to become an editor at a publishing house, or I want to be on the other side of it writing my own books. It’s always been my dream to publish my own novels, ever since I was a kid. But I love the thought of working with authors and watching a book do well. I want to be a part of that team, and being involved with publishing all-day every-day seems like a stressful and completely wonderful dream. I still haven’t completely decided on which route I want to take, or whether I can find some way to do both.

2. As you might have guessed from the post above, I tend to aim high. I can’t imagine settling for the average. I hate average. I always think I can push myself further and that I can be even better. I’m always striving for what I think I can achieve, and even if other people don’t understand it, I’ll keep my motivation no matter what.

3. I’ve been training in Shotokan Karate for six years now. I’m a First Dan black belt, and by the end of next year, hopefully I’ll have reached my Second Dan (which is the second level in karate. The highest you can get to in my association is Tenth Dan).

4. I overthink things far too much. In the past, I've even managed to irritate people with how much I overanalyse things. In the past year or two I’ve gotten better at not being so analytical and critical of everything I do and say. The amount of confidence I’ve gained recently has helped that. Instead, I put my efforts into thinking about less neurotic things, such as scenes and details for my novels.

5. Sometimes, I worry that I spend far too much time thinking about my characters. I love writing and my novels so much, but I can’t afford to revolve my life around it quite yet. When I’m finally at that place when I can say writing is my career, then I’ll give in to it.

6. I’ve almost written five novels this year. I worked on the majority of RW the latter part of 2009, and finished it up in February (I still remember the exact date and day I finished it). Apart from that, all my other novels have been completed this year. My side project has a very good chance of being finished before January if I continue at the pace I’m going recently. Next year I’m only going to finish my final novel in the Resistance series, then I’ll spend the year editing. I’m thrilled at both prospects.

7. It borders scary how insanely enthusiastic I am for my novels and characters. When I speak to my writing partner about my projects, I genuinely think she worries about how excited and happy I am over them. But she’s been amazing support this entire year, and I’ve never regretted confiding in her about my projects and the worlds I create in my spare time.

Those were probably longer than they were meant to be, and I probably shouldn’t have revolved them most of them around writing; I hope that tells you more about me Jessica, and everybody else who was curious to find out.

Have a great holiday, and I’ll be back soon!

Saturday, 18 December 2010


Perspective is an interesting thing. If you’re writing in first person or personalised third person, it’s easy to only see the story from your MC’s view. You consider other characters’ point of view and their reactions, but it's not until recently that I've realised how limited this can be.

There have been so many times during editing where I’ve thought of another scene or additional information I would love to include, but because it is about my MC or separate from my MC’s story, I can’t always include it. While scenes like this can be annoying to think of – as you can’t give any context to the reader, only yourself – it is good for adding in details and as a basis for major/minor characters which may have otherwise been left out.

To treat myself after working so hard to get my second draft finished, which included a lot of rewriting, chopping and changing scenes, I’m currently writing something connected but different. It’s RW rewritten – in the perspective of another character. Not only this, but the major character whose POV I’m writing is male rather than female like my protagonist. It was an idea which kept bugging me during editing; I kept thinking of what he would think about during a certain scene or secret conversations my MC couldn’t be party to.

I thought it would be harder to write than it is. Actually, it's one of the easiest things I've ever written. Probably because I don't have to think too much about plot line - I've already created it. All I have to do is add in a few extra scenes and rewrite some conversations from his perspective, which has been incredibly fun to do. But I’ve learnt so much more about my characters this past week whilst writing. Not just the character I’m writing in – I’m writing it in first person like RW – but other minor characters I may not have focused on as much before. I can’t believe how much I’m discovering about them that I never knew! It seems crazy to only be finding this out now, seeing as my next project I want to tackle is the third and final novel in the series.

This will only make editing the second novel in the series easier. I'll have a better idea of their motivation, and I'll be more considerate to other characters' thoughts. I retweeted Therese Walsh the other day, saying ‘even at this late stage, my characters keep surprising me. I love that’. It’s true! My characters never fail to surprise me with the things they throw at me, and I don’t think I’ll ever stop being grateful for it. This is yet another thing I'm thrilled to discover.

Considering another perspective in your story can expand a novel so much. Even if this side project might never be read, it’s still going to let me express so much more of who my characters are and it’ll be easier as I know them better than before. What started as a reward has turned into an incredibly helpful writing tool. I’m not saying I’ll rewrite my first novel from my other series (I’m not even going to think about that, otherwise I’ll end up writing it!), but it will definitely be something to consider for any future editing.

I might do another post on how writing male voice has been for me instead of female soon. It came up on Jessica Lei’s blog, and I definitely have more to say on it. Any thoughts on this, or male perspective vs. female?

Monday, 13 December 2010

Methods, Schedules and Rules

All writers have methods to motivate themselves. Some people have daily word counts. Others are strict about getting words onto a page regardless of how many there are. I personally like to have deadlines.

Keeping on track with your writing and editing makes you feel good. There’s nothing like the feeling of completing a chapter, scene or even draft – which I happened to do yesterday, hence the day late post – after working so hard to get there. You get what you give, and if you put the effort and time into it, you’ll always get it back out again in some shape or form.

No matter what works for you, there are always some general rules I try to stick by.

Work in a way which works for you. Don’t tie yourself down to a schedule you know you can’t keep, because you’ll only disappoint yourself by trying to attain something that’s impossible. If 1000 words a day is too hard, lower it to something that’s more suitable. The important thing isn’t how fast it’s written, only that it is. Sparing a few hundred words a day won’t kill you. Stressing yourself out about word count won’t kill you either, but it will get you down, and your disappointment will translate in your writing. Know your limits.

Recognise progress when it’s made. If you’ve reached something you’ve been aiming for, celebrate it! However small or insignificant, recognise that you have achieved something with the time you’ve put in, even if it’s only as small as fixing a scene that didn’t quite fit, or tackling a chapter you were terrified to attempt. Any achievement goes towards your overall goal; give yourself some credit. Treat yourself. The reward might even give you the motivation to keep going towards the next target.

Don’t regret life getting in the way. Life tends to throw us obstacles. As writers, we have to try and scale these as much as possible. Sometimes, this simply can’t happen. Things crop up which can’t be ignored, and your daily writing goal might suffer for it. Never get caught up in guilt with circumstances you cannot control. Even if you can control them, don’t ever feel bad for dealing with something which needed to be done. Balance your priorities. By all means try to write, but if you can’t, don’t beat yourself up over it. Only move on and try again tomorrow.

Finally, take pride in your achievements. You see that word document filled with words and scenes and  ideas? You’ve made them all. Look back at that manuscript – no matter what state its in – and smile. It’s something to be proud of. It’s yours. No matter what happens, that will never change.

I hope these helped in some small way. I'd love to hear what your writing methods are, and how you motivate yourself to achieve them.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

The Importance of Social Networking

Recently, a friend and I were speaking about the importance of social networking for anybody looking to gain access to the publishing industry, and I thought I would blog about why it is so important.

Firstly, it gets your name into the real world. If you have a blog, there is officially some way other writers and other people can connect to you without knowing you personally. They can see your opinions; your tastes; your style; all without ever having to read your work or speak to you directly. You create a sense of who you are. In creative writing, this is especially good for your own skills. A reader wants to identify with a character and their personality. Blogging uses exactly the same technique, only for you personally rather than somebody you’ve created.

Secondly, you create connections. You begin to speak with other writers, gain advice from agents, editors, authors and writers you may follow about publishing and the journey towards it. Everything I know about publishing has mostly been taken from people I follow. They’ve blogged, I’ve read it, and found out more about the industry. This is invaluable for anybody trying to break into publishing, as not only do you have a chance to read about it, you can ask the blogger about it. You won’t ever get the same opportunity by reading a guide on publishing. But you have plenty of chance on the blogosphere.

Thirdly, there’s promotion and planning. If you reach the stage where your writing is being published and thrown into the world, people want a way to contact you. A high percentage of fans, agents and editors follow or write some sort of blog. Having this to connect you with them is something you can’t afford not to have. Somebody may only be looking at your blog by chance. It’s the only time you have to show your writing, speak about projects and give a sense of who you are. It’s rare, but there have been cases where agents have contacted people based on their blogs. Consider this, and realise how silly it would be not to maintain some sort of blog with this possibility.

I could go on and on about the reasons why it's important. And there are so many ways you can get connected even after you’ve created a blog.

Twitter has gained an incredible amount of popularity in the last few years. As well as members of the publishing industry, there are writers who you can relate to, and who may be going through the same process. Speaking to other people about similar processes is never a bad thing. You can bounce off each other, and create great friends in the process. Also, through accounts such as @AdviceToWriters, @WritersDigest and @PublishersWkly to name a few, you can be linked straight away to helpful articles and quotes. The list of genuinely helpful tweeters is endless. And Twitter is another way to get your name into the world.

One other way to promote yourself is through comments. While it is invaluable to read blog posts, it’s also worth your time to comment. It’s how people find each other. If you comment on somebody’s blog and a reader likes what you say, they might decide to look at your blog. If they like what they see there, you may have gained another follower, simply by commenting on somebody else’s blog. It happens all the time. I’ve found an incredible amount of bloggers through this process. Comments and discussion is a wonderful thing to take part in, as it allows subtle self-promotion without any required effort other than speaking on a topic.

All these methods are so simple, and yet they are so incredibly valuable to writers. Social networking can be the starting point to your career. In the end, publishing revolves around getting your name into the world. That is what every writer aspiring to publishing wants – an opportunity to see their name in print. Blogging and social networking is simply an extension of this. Don’t disregard or overlook it; it could become a great help in the future.

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Don't Fall Through Plot Holes

Anyone who participated in NaNoWriMo is probably familiar with plot holes. When you're writing a first draft, it’s easy to get lost in the writing - so much that you forget irrelevant details like continuity, time, place or setting. Sometimes they’re cracks in an otherwise stable manuscript. And sometimes, they are massive gaping holes that could potentially ruin your entire story.

At some point in their life, most writers will have stumbled upon a plot hole in their own work. We’re all human, and mistakes are easily made. The thing you have to master is filling them when they’re there and learning from your mistakes.

Smaller plot holes are much easier to manage. They may only require a change in wording, or a slight adaption of the setting, dialogue etc., and everything will run along smoothly. If you continuously get errors like these, problems can start occurring. Nobody wants a holey manuscript. A reader wants the novel to make sense. They want to bring a sense of realism to it, no matter if it’s set in Middle Earth or West London. If they see a gaping plot hole, they might not let it pass so quickly.

Like everything, there are exceptions to this rule. I read a hilarious blog post a few days ago about plot holes in famous films which are generally disregarded. But never fall into the trap of thinking you are the exception to the rule. No writer is ever an exception until they prove themselves to be one. And even then, don’t make it the norm. Conventions are there for a reason.

However, we then come to the other side of the spectrum: big plot holes. Holes you’ve unthinkingly woven into your manuscript with details so finite and intertwined you can’t see their flaws until you are looking at it as a whole. The best thing is to catch them quick. If you realise a plot hole whilst your writing, it’s a lot easier to go back and change it then and there so it won’t ruin the rest of the novel, rather than continuing and leaving it to editing. If you do, there may be a lot more work on your hands.

If worst comes to worst, and it’s only during editing you realise a massive plot hole, take a step back and think. Is there a solution? An exchange that could be made to replace the plot hole with something that makes sense? If there is, get out your metaphorical needle and start picking out the woven plot hole strings. Once you’ve extracted them, go back and fill in the blanks – making a note of what needs to be changed beforehand, obviously.

Then we come to the hole so big your entire MS might fall through it. If you are unlucky enough to experience this type of plot hole, take a big step back and re-evaulate. Question everything. Are you sure there is no way it can be fixed? Are you sure there is no logical solution to join one end of the plot to the other? If you are, don’t abandon ship. Anything can be salvaged – you just have to look for enough raw materials. A rewrite can be beneficial. Not only will you be able to sew up that pesky plot hole, but you’ll also be able to combat any other smaller problems you’ve found. Keep repeating the word ‘before’? Make sure you learn for the rewrite. Overuse of commas, semi-colons and one word sentences? Make sure you avoid them for the rewrite. While rewriting can be a pain, it can also have the potential to save a novel that was otherwise sinking, and refine your own writing. You have to fall down to get back up again. And if you’re entering the world of publishing, you’ll soon learn writers fall down a lot.

So the next time you come to a plot hole, no matter what size, remember to take stock and see what can be done. If you’re planning major changes, make sure to outline so you have a handle on what is being done and how everything is being solved. It keeps things much tidier, and will save a lot of trouble in the future.

Touching on the subject of falling down and rejection, Natalie Whipple has shared her story on the other side of the publishing this week, and it’s been an incredible read. If you want to read, scroll down to ‘What Happens When It IS You’ and the follow up post ‘What I’ve Learned From Being On Submission’. They’re definitely worth reading, and I'd recommend her blog to anybody.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

NaNoWriMo End and Why Struggling Through Works

I’m sorry this post is late. Anybody who follows my Twitter (@SWKiaraGolding) will know I’ve been ill recently, and apart from editing, I haven’t been doing much work.

NaNoWriMo has officially ended! How did everybody’s NaNo’s go? I have to admit, my NaNo turned into editing RW before my December deadline. I couldn’t focus on my project whilst my mind was still caught up in thoughts of other characters and a completely different world. The change from writing to editing was something that needed to happen, and I’m glad it did – this month has been very well spent.

Like writing, I've quickly found out that struggling through editing works. An example of this is yesterday morning. I was ill enough not to go into work, and I was exhausted. But I knew if I didn’t spend some of my miraculous free time editing I would kick myself for it later. Begrudgingly, despite my illness, I turned on the computer, got out my paper edits and brought up the redrafted version. For the first few pages, it was a struggle.

I kept going to different internet tabs, made several cups of tea, ate plenty of food, and slowly worked away for a while. Then something changed. I became eager for editing. I wanted to continue; I wanted to finish the chapter and move onto the next one. By the end of the day, I had edited two and a half chapters thoroughly and hit the half way point on my computer edits. For an effort that had begun unwillingly, I was incredibly pleased with the amount I managed to get done.

Occasionally, struggling through works. You can find the motivation – you just have to be willing to look for it. So even when the next word you write is a humungous effort, or every sentence you delete weighs you down: keep going. Don’t stop. Simply try, and see where you end up.

It might be somewhere you least expected to be.