The not so Weird and Wonderful

You know when you do something and you feel it’s a little… “out there”?

That is; “out there in the world of slightly strange, but still on the right side of socially acceptable”.

This action makes perfect sense to you. Compete, beautiful, beaming sense. And the thing is, you don’t want someone to tell you that it’s perfectly normal; nay, rational. Because somehow, the world thinking it’s weird (and we do know what the world thinks) makes it special. It’s special in its weirdness.

But then, like a wet leaf blown into your face on a windy day (it has happened) you tell someone  about this little morsel of prised weirdness. And they nod, finding it reasonable.

Poo. Reasonable is boring. Not the work of an eccentric closet-genius.

How disappointing.

Basically, I did something that makes perfect sense.  It really isn’t that singular…I wish it was!

All I did was pop all writing files onto a hard drive and then restored my Dell laptop to factory settings.

I installed only Microsoft Word, the rest of Office got left out. I rearranged the start menu, pinned word to the taskbar, then returned my writing files and placed them in optimal places. Voila!

Dedicated writing laptop.

It is beautiful. And not that weird right? Especially since it’s not my sole computer.

But I don’t feel fully complete.

I want to go further. You see, factory settings=a lot of things already installed. So that you can turn on your new laptop, maybe install Microsoft Office, and behold! Ready to go. Ready to go to do a bunch of very basic things. So that people like me, who don’t use their laptops to hack nasa, who only work on Windows (unless it’s a mac, though sometimes even then), can actually use it.

That’s all well and good.

Or at least it was. I bought my laptop for writing. I bought my netbook for writing too. And they both got a little cluttered. In fact, they came cluttered. Filled with things I don’t need. At least not on two.

So how much can I remove? At what point it the laptop crippled? See, I don’t want constant updates. I don’t want to download and install this, that, and the other. I don’t want a hundred processes happening or dozens of programs. I know I sound like an old lady, but I’m craving a little simplicity here. Isolated simplicity; I can do all non-writing things on the Mac or the netbook.

How far can I go? Is it even possible to remove something your laptop really needs?

Wouldn’t it be glorious to open your laptop and be sucked into your writing world? Firstly because you want to be there, but secondly because, really, there is nowhere else to go.

I have decided that it would indeed beglorious.

So if anyone can advise me about further laptop clear-outs, go wild!

And if anyone has done something to aid their writing that actually is weird and wonderful, do share!

 

 

 

How not to edit

Turn on the tv

Stare at nothing

Prepare to do something

Do tiny plaits in your hair

Do more tiny plaits in your hair

Walk aimlessly around the kitchen singing

Empty and pack the dishwasher as slowly as possible

Take a magnifying mirror and study your face

-be horrified

Stare at social networking sites

Look up cheap shitty news

Nap

Think about doing what you’re supposed to be editing

Ponder why you’re not doing it

Philosophise

Eat

Make tea

Organise things

Look up the health benefits of coconut oil

But then!

I actually edited.

See, I enjoy editing really. It’s just, it takes me a while to get started. Once I start though, I’m in for the long haul. It’s 2.30am. What’s left of my early night is ever-decreasing, and the dark circles will not thank me for this.

Now you might think that this short blog is a cheat, thrown up quickly to satisfy my daily quota. You’d be wrong.

It took an embarrassingly long time to get that wordle picture there. But I had to have it. It’s proof of my editing you see.

Also, there seem to be words in there that I don’t recall typing…curiouser and curiouser!

When is ‘good enough’ good enough?

Perfectionism. The cliche ‘bad quality’ you say because you secretly think it’s a good thing.

It’s not.

I want to be perfect. I want to do everything perfectly, all the time, without any help.

The quest for perfection is like a bottomless pit. If you step too close to the edge, look too long and hard at it, you might fall in, never to be seen or heard from again.

It’s less than productive.

For things like blogs, I write them, glance over them quickly, then squeeze my eyes shut, back away from the pit, and click ‘Publish’. Then I quell the useless fretting over all the little imperfections I sent out into cyberspace and move on.

But for books, it’s infinitely trickier.

I don’t want them to be perfect in the way I want everything to be perfect. They’re not things I can simply let go off, wearing their imperfections like badges saying ‘I could care’.

Learning to accept that ‘good enough’ is good enough and to let go has been a long journey. Only when I look back do I see that I’ve taken it.

The road doesn’t reach all the way to my books though.

I want them to be perfect. Full stop. Period. End of line.

Focusing on the first book, the question is: Can I make it perfect myself?

Well? Can I?

I’m already in the pit with it. Do I battle on?

Or should I climb out, make it ‘good enough’, and get on with it? Send it to an editor. Get help. I mean, telling the story in the best way possible is what’s important. Not my pride in doing it alone.

But what if I don’t need a professional editor? I’ll never reach perfect, I don’t think, but what if ‘good enough’ is good enough?

The solution is simple. Try for perfect. Accept good enough. Send to agents. Get form rejects. Weep (kidding :P). Then get a professional edit.

Jolly good!

Expect maybe the accepting good enough part, but let’s not get bogged down…

So, about the deadline. What happened is…

I’m sticking to it, no excuses!

Chapter two is done. I used something I had written before. It was one of those moment when you suspect you have had a master plan all along. I do actually…*evil laugh* It had to be edited and trimmed and added-to, but that’s to be expected.

Also, I was wrong when I said I and to write chapters two and three. Chapter three is done.

So…The book is complete. Again. Hopefully for good this time.

Scissors! Come hither! It’s time to edit.

 

 

 

 

A cover letter! Eep!

Normally I would keep this to myself. I’d let my computer eat it, and it would sit in its belly. It would be regurgitated now and then, to be examined and tweaked, but ultimately it would be left there.

Did I just make my cover letters sound like vomit?

Why yes, yes I did.

My problem with cover letters is that I could write five different ones, telling *gasp!* showing different things, and I’d think they were all relevant.

How do you know what to include and what to leave out?

There are many ways to cut your way down to the best stuff. Here’s what I did.

I had a poke around this blog. http://queryshark.blogspot.com/It’s by a New York Literary Agent, and it’s where queries (cover letters) are sent to die and be reborn as better and brighter versions of their past selves.

I forgot about my book. Forgot that it is, in fact, over 100k words. Forgot the ins and outs, the secondary characters, the back-stories and the sub-plots. What’s left, the core that never fades from your mind, the fundamental part that you CAN’T forget, that’s what goes in the letter.

I focused on my main character. She is the point of my book. Every time I’m asked what it’s about, I’m tempted to say ‘It’s about Ara’.

I left out as many names as possible. The name of the country, the name of the main city, the name of the sanctuary, gone gone gone. Three names feature in the letter; the main character, the source of the conflict, and the ‘enemy’-the person ‘what’s at stake’ is tied to.

I thought ‘what am I trying to say’ and then I said it.

I wrote the letter the way I wrote the book; being bold and starting sentences with ‘but’ or ‘and’, single-word sentences, single-line paragraphs…It’s a taster of your writing; it should be polished, but not shined up so much that it doesn’t sound like you.

Does it do my book, my story, my main character justice? No idea.

Here it is…

Dear Agent

In a rebel sanctuary, hidden among thousands of creaking trees, Ara spearheads the fight against Kry Maladin; the country’s ruler.

The sanctuary is filled with people she snatched out of Kry’s crushing hands; people he wanted to work for him, people he’d make do what he wanted. Now those people watch her with frosty eyes and whisper about her when she shouldn’t be able to hear them. Ara isn’t like them, and even though she hides it, they know she’s different. Dangerous.

What they don’t know is that she’s the reason they were rescued; that she pitted her speed and strength against Kry’s defences so they could be saved. And no one in the sanctuary knows that she does it because, years ago, Kry’s crushing hands snatched her, and held on tight until she escaped.

On the two-year anniversary of her escape, Risk, Kry’s son, is brought to the sanctuary. And Risk, whose voice grips her heart, whose eyes arrest her breath and send phantom pains sweeping through her, came willingly.

He wants to join their fight. The council that runs the sanctuary, and resents Ara’s power, is eager to accept him.

A few words about the part he played in her past could keep him out forever. But Ara won’t speak about it. She won’t even think about it. And so he is allowed to stay.

When Risk discovers that Ara carries out rescue missions almost entirely alone, he is adamant that she have help. He doesn’t know the extent of her abilities; she didn’t have them before. He only knows what his father would do to her if he caught her again.

Ara knows too.

But help would be a hindrance; no one can keep up with her. Help could mean her return to the past. Still, she says nothing to stop it.

The council jump on the chance to dilute her control and she is forced to accept a team of rebels; a team which includes Risk.

When a rescue mission she wanted to do alone goes wrong, Ara stays back to hold off Kry’s soldiers so the team can escape. She’s hit with darts of a paralysing drug made just for her, and falls back into Kry’s hands.

ARA is the first book in a science-fiction series, and is complete at 108k words.

Thank you for your consideration.

Roisin Anna Murphy

Onwards!

Changes come to me naturally. So much so that I wouldn’t call them changes. They’re more like progressions.

So, I’ve progressed.

For the last few years, the last eight years now that I’m thinking about, I’ve hated having things I had to do. Homework, assignments, projects; anything I wasn’t choosing to do. I didn’t like having to go anywhere either; school, collage, work. When it was in my power I often chose not to go (I went to work, I’m not that bad…ahem…)

I LOVED skipping days.

Staying at home, drinking tea, reading, painting, watching movies or episodes of a show in a row, in later years writing; it was bliss. I’d sip hot chocolate in a cafe and watch everyone who wasn’t ignoring the world walk by. I let the world move forward without me. I sat back and watched it go. I smiled and waved and laughed to myself.

Since leaving collage, and you can imagine collage and I didn’t get on too well, I’ve had the freedom I cravedl. And I have done things; things like writing books and singing in concerts and spending summers by the beach. Not a lot by any means, but it is precisely how I wanted to live.

I didn’t give myself goals with deadlines attached. I didn’t give myself anything I HAD to do. I did what I wanted, and somehow things got done that way.

Now I’m moving on from that.

Luckily I know what I want to do with my life. The main thing at least. If I didn’t know, I’d be a sad leaf on the wind instead of a happy one.

I want to write books, forever. And now it’s time for goals to that end.

But first, let me tell you the books I have so far.

A science fiction series: About Ara, a genetically advanced rebel, and Risk, the son of the man she’s fighting.

(One-liners are not my forte. You’ve got to tip-toe between secrets you don’t want to reveal and make it sound awesome at the same time. I fail.)

First book- 108k words. Finished (as in it has an ending) and edited. People have read it. I have to write new chapters two and three, rewrite two scenes, read it out loud and edit again.

Second book- The main document has 78k words, I think. Two documents have to be added, one is around 20k, the other around 30. All pieces have been read by my sisters, and read out loud and edited by me.

Third book- An assortment of scenes I couldn’t wait to write.

Prequel-Six chapters.

(You may have noticed my lack of titles. It’s a problem…this post by a fellow writer helped- http://www.imranwrites.com/2011/12/12/whats-in-a-title/)

Notebooks-About an immortal witch who decides to experience school

30k words.

The Dragon Blades (That’s a working title, is it just me or does it sound a bit shit?) –About…Um, ask again later. 

I mean, I know what it’s about. But I don’t know clearly enough to squish into a few words.

15k words.

That’s all!

So. Now that I’m charging forward, these things need deadlines and the likes, right? Right.

You may have noticed I didn’t do the whole float-through-life thing by half.

I don’t half do things.

So, goals have to be big and deadlines have to be near-impossible to meet.

This all sounds a bit new-year-resolution-ish, doesn’t it? It’s not. I’m not trying to get a head start and promises made to oneself and broken. I don’t pay enough attention to time to line things up like that. And if you wanted to do something, why would you wait until a new year? I mean, the earth’s orbit doesn’t really have a finish line and a new start.

Anyway!

The Goal.

(DUN DUN DUN)

My goal is to have the first book in the series complete, perfect, and ready to send out by the 3rd of January. Why the third? I like the number three.

‘Ready to send out’ includes the dreaded synopsis, the cover letter, and a pitch to round things off.

On the 3rd, and I’m nervous just thinking about it, I’m going to send it to three agents.

I’m taking this three thing too far I think…

But seven is my other favorite number, and there aren’t all that many agents taking sci-fi to begin with!

I was planning on waiting until the whole series was done so I’d be in complete control up until the end. But let’s face it, the process takes years anyway. And with my new-found desire to charge forward, the books will be done within…six months? A year?…I’m a deadline rookie, best not get ahead of myself.

And I’m going to blog about this venture at least three times a week everyday.

…I think I’ve lost it!

Authority

Everybody wants to be in control. Not evil-moustache-stroking control-the world, but over themselves; their time, happiness, success,  thoughts, bodies, their everything.

Instead of taking control and wielding it, it’s relinquished. It’s given away.

Time is surrendered with a martyr’s sigh to the million things you have to do.

Happiness slips into the hands of another.

Success is sealed into an envelope and sent away with crossed fingers.

Thoughts are thrown to the wind, to be tossed about by whichever gust takes them.

Bodies are laid at the feet of sickness, injury, addiction, laziness.

The idea of holding onto authority is on my mind for a few reasons. The one I’m going to share with you is to do with sending my book out.

I’ve decided to look for an agent simply because I want to. I think my books are good enough. They’re books I’d love to read. And so I’d like other people to read them.

I’ve said before that I’m not writing to be published, and I hold to that. If a prophet appeared before me and told me I’d never get published, I’d write anyway…with all the freedom that comes with knowing I am, in fact, writing in a bubble and it is one hundred percent for me.

When I think about my story excitement stirs. My mind opens out so it can hold the world, my world. The scale of it is a little daunting, but when calmness settles it’s a perfect fit. It’s somewhere even I can get lost in sometimes.

When I think about my books I’m the sound of a knife-sharpener against a blade, I’m the quiet focus before a fight, I’m the child on a bed of grass who owns the castles in the sky. I’m everything I can be.

So what if I fail?

What if the belief in my books, in myself, gets sealed into an envelope along with the carefully crafted pages carrying my streams of words and is sent away? And what if a sea of rejections comes back?

The thing is, I don’t usually relinquish control. I’m selfish, self-centred, self-absorbed, and entirely under my own authority. My time is my own, I give it when I choose to. I hold my own happiness. I’m in charge of my own success. I let my thoughts blow where they will; luckily they deal with dark places quickly.  As for my body, I’m pretty lucky there too. But maybe it’s not luck, maybe it’s authority. It’s like a circle; when you’re in control of something, you don’t need to enforce it.

I’m going to hold on to this powerful thing called self-belief, and ask again- so what if I fail? I’ve created a world. I’ve created characters who will stay with me for a very long time, possibly forever. I’ve already succeeded.

Natural writer

I’m not a natural writer.

Writing is not my ‘talent’. I didn’t make up stories as a child. I didn’t thrive in English class. I didn’t notice the words in books.

So how is it I’m nearly finished my second book?

I’m a natural imaginer.

Ideas are tenacious. Have you ever tried to ignore an idea? They don’t like it, let me tell you. They poke at you. They sneak up on other thoughts. They grow in the corners of your mind. And one way or another, they’re going to get out.

When ideas build up into scenes you’re really screwed.

So one night I had a fully formed scene in my head. At first I imaged it out like a scene from a movie. Then, I imagined it out in words.

I opened my eyes to my dark bedroom. I had to write the words. I had to save them, preserve them. If I didn’t they’d slip away.

I turned on my reading light.

The wooden floor was cold when I got out of bed. I didn’t care. I went to my wardrobe and pulled out an A5 notebook I had made years before.

To be honest, I’ve not idea how I made it.

Pen.

Sketching pencils aplenty. But a pen? I had to search. I was getting irritated. My masterful words would fade into oblivion for the want of a pen. Things were bad.

Meltdown averted, I located a humble plastic ballpoint. It was in a dust bunny under my bed.

Anyway.

I sprawled out, half my face mushed into my pillow, and wrote the scene with a reckless-writing-abandon I now long for. With the scene finished, I went to sleep happy.

And I woke up excited.

That first scene was finished, but I forgot to shout ‘CUT’ to its characters.

That was twenty-nine months ago. Since then there hasn’t been a single night where my imagination rested.

And I have little choice but to write.