Behind the Glass | Writing | Pen to Paper

pen to paperI’ve called this blog post pen to paper, although it should more correctly be called fingers to keys.

I’m not sure how long it took me to write the first draft of GBG. It began in 2010. I started and stopped. Changed things and rewrote. Doubted myself and wanted to throw it all away. Wrote for hours on end with nothing but coffee to fuel me. Sat at the edge of the swimming pool while my daughter took lessons, and diligently tapped away on my laptop. Then, I just left it discarded on my computer, convinced it was terrible. Finally, a couple of years later, I plucked up the courage to show it to a few people and they kind of liked it. It was enough encouragement for me to plunge myself back into the story again and make the changes I had dreamed up, as well as alterations based on the feedback I received. I wanted to be a writer, and I knew there was no other way to accomplish that other than to write.

coffeeWhile writing GBS, I was more organised. I started at the beginning and wrote until the end. I typed the first word on 21st October 2014, took a six week break during the Christmas holidays, and typed the last word of the first draft on 17th March 2015. Since I wrote on the days I didn’t work and my children were at school, which was two days a week, and I had 5 hours to write on each of those days, I’m guestimating that it took me 150 hours.

I drank at least four, sometimes more, cups of coffee on each of those days, resulting in GBS being fuelled by a minimum of 120 cups of coffee.

The first draft was 106,320 words, which meant I wrote at approximately 709 words per hour, which is approximately 12 words per minute. (Sorry, my mathematical tendencies are coming out a little.) Sounds rather slow, doesn’t it? But it’s not just typing. It’s thinking of what to write. Sometimes the words poured out of me, and other times I sat and stared at the screen, wondering where my motivation had gone. I forced myself to write on those days. It is easier to edit something you have already written, than to start from scratch. Or, even if you write something terrible, it can still lead to inspiration of how the scene should have gone.

The plot was kept loose. I wasn’t afraid to change it as I went along. If the alterations meant minor changes to the part of the story I had already written, I would go back and alter it. If it meant a bigger re-write, I would note it in the file I had to record all the ‘to add/to change’ things, and simply keep going.
Next came the editing. And I had a lot to learn. I still have a lot to learn.

The next post will be published on 24th September.

Behind the Glass | Writing | Editing

*If you haven’t read Girl Behind Glass yet, it is currently free in the Kindle store – http://goo.gl/KUGZrA

Behind the Glass | Writing | Organisation

oragnisation

Once I had pondered all the ideas and written them in some form or another, it was time to get organised. I collected the snippets of information and arranged them into different documents, detailing the back stories, physical descriptions, motivations, and plot lines of the various characters, including the Establishment, the Mudders, and the Rebels, because, although they are not characters in themselves, they are still entities which require their own development.

After this had been collated, I started to write the outline or summary. I had tried many times to write a story without an outline or summary, and would often start off with a hiss and a roar, only to fall into despair each time I found myself lost. With firm plot lines in place this could not happen. Even if the so-called writing muse left me, I could still blunder along with the story line, knowing that I could come back and adjust things when I got the writing bug back.

Writing is like a muscle that needs to be worked in order to use it efficiently. At the start of this process, it would take me over an hour to get into my ‘creative mood’. Each time I sat down at the computer, I would re-read something I had written, read something someone else had written, or look at random stuff on the internet, and wait for my muse to strike. Since I only had limited time to write, this process soon drained away all my productivity. But the more I wrote, the less time I needed to delve into the creative mood. Now, I can simply sit down at a computer and start typing. I need very little time to flick that creative switch, and it is purely due to perseverance and determination. I just needed to strengthen my writing muscles.

My outlines were written on a scene by scene basis. Sometimes, I had lots of information on which to set the scene. Other times, I had one line.

Often I would start to plot a scene by writing down exactly what information I wanted to express, which characters I wanted to introduce, background information that needed to be included or implied, and the world building that needed to be explained. Sometimes I wrote more about a scene in the summary than I did it the actual scene. Here are some examples taken directly from my scene summaries.

It could be a feeling or mood I wanted to express: Hungry. Hot. Cold. Tired.

It could be a dialogue line I wanted to use: “. . . the world already has the name Jake Pierce on their lips.”

It could be as simple as this description after she falls from the train in Girl Behind Glass: Waits for people to come and find her. Doesn’t really like her uncle. Gruff and annoying.

Or a line such as this one, which I used in reference to Willow and Bracken in both Girl Behind Glass and Girl Beneath Stars: Shoulder to shoulder but not touching.

It could be more detailed like this explanation of living on the outside in Girl Beneath Stars, which has general ideas, as well as lines which ended up word for word in the finished novel: Hunting rabbits for food. Rabbits are the only source of meat that flourishes on the desolate land. Maybe Devon and Willow out hunting? Show the difference in her. More adapted to outside life. Less squeamish. Flashback to first seeing the rabbit get killed by the kids. Stop just before she is about to skin it and explain how Willow is a little despondent about things. She can see how putting your passion into saving the earth like Jake does while in the protected area is understandable as you develop fondness for your surroundings and they in turn capture your senses with the scent of nostalgia. But not out here. Here it is a dirty world and cruel. There are no fond memories here. There is nothing that breeds the seeds of nostalgia in this landscape. Describe landscape. Makes her wonder if Nuovo was not so bad after all. Out of sight out of mind. If we did not witness nature and its suffering at our hands how could we protest it. It’s easier this way. It is the difference between this rabbit appearing on my plate as delicate drumsticks and the feeling of the grip of the skin as you rip the fur from its back and the relative ease with which you can twist its head from its body. I never knew life outside the dome. Everything was new to me. Living in Nuovo was simpler. Things were done with ease, I guess that’s because things were done for me. Each part of my life was planned or mapped, predetermined based on my past choices.

Once everything was recorded in an orderly fashion in one place, I started to write.

The next post will be published on 17th September.

Behind the Glass | Writing | Pen to Paper

*If you haven’t read Girl Behind Glass yet, it is currently free in the Kindle store – http://goo.gl/KUGZrA

Behind the Glass | Dreaming | The Seed

The seed

Dreaming is the stage when my mind wanders with possibility. Nothing is set. The story is little more than a speck of dust floating through my mind.

While walking down the street, or in the middle of a conversation, random thoughts would pop into my head, so I would pull out my phone and jot them down. I made sure I wrote down everything, because thoughts are often known to enter my head, only to leave again moments later, and I would be left frustrated that I couldn’t remember that amazingly wonderful thought (or at least so it seemed at the time) that simply had to be recorded. But before all this started, before the thoughts could make any sense and be directed toward a specific story, there was a seed. The first idea. The one which sets a story in motion.
In the case of Girl Behind Glass there were two seeds. One that created the relationship between the two main characters, and the other which created the world the stories are set in.

The relationship.

It all started with Willow and Bracken. There was a particular scene which played out in my mind. Specifically, the one between Willow and Bracken after he is brought into the camp at the Protected Area. Things about the scene changed from the original idea, but the core concept remained.

There was a boy who loved a girl.
There was a girl who loved a boy.
He risked everything to find her.
Even though they loved each other, he had become the enemy.
He had red eyes from not blinking.

I wasn’t sure why he didn’t blink, and I didn’t even include it in the first draft, but every time I pictured this scene, his eyes were red. Since I couldn’t get the image out of my head, the redness eventually became a side effect of the serum trials.

Luke wasn’t added into the story until a lot later. There are many love triangles in fiction these days, especially in YA fiction, and I felt tempted to avoid it so not to be categorised as another predictable love triangle, but when it came down to it, I enjoy reading love triangles, and since the story line evolved around these two characters, I decided to go for it.

The world.

My children’s school sent home a message informing parents that all food wrappers were to be removed from school lunches to reduce rubbish and help the environment. Items such as muesli bars would need to be removed from the wrapper, and placed inside a plastic container which could then be washed and reused. This struck me as ridiculous. The rubbish would still exist, it just wouldn’t travel to school, and I hardly saw how the increased use of unnecessary plastic containers, which required washing, would help the environment. My mind started to wander to some of the seemingly silly ways which people try to save the planet. I imagined a world where nature had become so protected that it was to the detriment of the human population. This idea twisted into the Establishment. A collection of companies that ran the domed cities, claiming to be saving the planet, while really, they were stripping it. This is how the world behind the glass was born.

The next post will be published on 20th August.

Behind the Glass | Dreaming | World Building

*If you haven’t read Girl Behind Glass yet, it is currently free in the Kindle store – http://goo.gl/KUGZrA