Hot Key Unlocked

The State of the Thing

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There were a number of reasons that I started to keep this blog:

  1. To practice this writing thing as often as possible; to give me an outlet where I didn’t need to concentrate on characterisation or plots.
  2. To record and document my progress towards getting published, as a history for me and any other aspiring author.
  3. To motivate myself by transforming each rejection from a personal slight into a mere statistic.

Recently, I’ve been busy.

“That’s no excuse. Writers write. You can’t publish a blank sheet of paper.”

I know. I know. I know.

But I have been busy. And I’ve still been fairly productive in the writing department, so shut your face.

I’ve now had a soul destroying 29 rejections for “The Clockwork Butterfly” and 3 submissions have timed out following an email asking me to assume the worst after a period of time. The last rejection I got was 10 days ago and so I’m beginning to assume the worst for the rest of them as well seeing as though the longest one has been out there for 91 days now…

The status of submissions for "The Clockwork Butterfly". Notice how much procrastination has been involved automatically working out the little subtables and graph at the bottom...
The status of submissions for “The Clockwork Butterfly”. Notice how much procrastination has been involved automatically working out the little subtables and graph at the bottom…

Still. Nevermind. I’ve almost got Charlie’s Worries to a point where I can start submitting it, so I’ll be able to go through the whole heart rending process again.  (It really helps that it’s only about 30,000 words long, rather than 150,000)

I entered Hot Key Unlocked and managed to write about 2,000 relevant words, following the brief laid out by the rules of the competition. Although I’d been thinking a lot about the plot I only put fingers to keyboard on the Sunday it had to be submitted. Of course, I knew I wouldn’t win. I’ve never written anything sexy or spicy before and found it hard to find the balance I wanted. In the end, though, I was pleased with what I produced and as the days went by I’d fooled myself into thinking that I might win.

I didn’t.

And I was disproportionately disappointed by this. After a day or so, after realising that I’d actually entered it to test my focus, rather than become the new Barbara Cartland (or more probably Dame Sally Markham) , I got things back into perspective and saw it for what it was: a good exercise and excellent writing practice.

Next up is NaNoWriMo  and I’ve got a nicely absurd idea for this. I need to remember that this is another exercise to work my writing muscle and not necessarily an attempt to create a novel fit for publication. I want to try and have fun with it.

So, by the end of November I should be ready to start my next project “The Motley Life of Edison Swift”

Undisciplined Writing

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For me, one of the hardest things about writing a story is keeping the plot under control.

Most authors seem to be able to construct a nice, orderly line which connects each scene and pushes the plot sensibly towards its resolution. When I try to do it, I feel like I’m wrestling with an uncooperative python. Whole new characters and concepts erupt from the page like pirates, hijacking my meticulously planned narrative and steering it wildly off course.

“Aha! Simon-lad! You weren’t be expectin’ a dragon to raise its head there now, were ye?” This literary usurper even has a pirate voice.

“No. Of course not. There aren’t any dragons in this story. It’s about an accountant.”

“There be dragons now! Deal with it, landlubber.”

This can be fun and I know it’s led to some good ideas – I sometimes feel like I’m discovering the story for the first time, rather than distilling the thoughts that have been clogging me up all day.

But it means that I don’t tell the exact story that I set out to tell.

I tried to write “The Clockwork Butterfly” as a simple, linear (although obviously incredibly exciting) fantasy story. Six years later it turns out that it includes a massively complex time travelling paradox (and Vikings and vuryl and the Carnival Umbretico) that will require at least seven more huge tomes to explain. It certainly, to my mind, makes the novel richer and more interesting, but it bears only passing resemblance to what I imagined when I started.

“Charlie’s Worries” seems to be taking a similar diversion at the moment too. I was thinking about this problem yesterday morning and I decided that I would use the upcoming NaNoWriMo to exercise my focussing muscle. After a few moments thought though I realised that this wouldn’t be appropriate really. NaNoWriMo celebrates the wild flights of fancy that come and encourages the writer to be as free as possible. It would be counter-productive to impose any self-imposed constraints.

So I shrugged and forgot about it for a bit.

Later, while trying to match various agents with their twitter accounts, I came across a link to Hot Key Unlocked. A writing competition sort of thing? A competition where I’m given a strict outline to work to? A competition that is absolutely what I would not usually write?

This is surely too much of a coincidence. This is the perfect opportunity to test my focus. To write the first 2,000 words of a 20,000 word novella about romance and love and sexy stuff will test me to the limit.

It’s got to be submitted by 13th October. So I’m going to give it a go.