Every now and then, I decide I need to shake myself up and try harder with my writing. I want to break out of any mold that has begun to form and keep my writing fresh—without losing my voice. I have a group of friends who are only too happy to join me with that.
This week we wrote poems about ourselves where nothing is true. Responses ranged from naughty limericks to teenage-angst free verse, to shape-shifter odes. The next time we meet up, we have to bring along something very different.
Take someone else's poem and use those words (and only those words) to create a vignette that has nothing to do with the original poem.
So far, I've created a table listing all the words and what part of speech they are.
I’ve posted my poem on the Free Stories page.
Below is my table from the poem I’m dissecting.
There’s a family of cross spiders in the back yard. They’ve been there several years now and every year we watch as they lay their eggs and the new generation hatches. Every year the webs expand to accommodate the spiders that remain. Every year the position of the webs change as the oldest generation stops spinning. That space remains vacant until the next season when a new spider moves in and makes it their home.
It’s winter now—what passes for winter in sunny Queensland—and some mornings are crisp and dew-laden. The webs hang like tattered lace between the trees, heavy with dew, and the spiders rest under the overhang of the trees until the day warms enough for them to venture out and repair their traps.
All the webs are separate but interlinked, relying on each other for support, but the spiders usually remain on their own patch. Once a year they come together, meeting in the middle, then separate again to lay eggs and spin cocoons to hold the food for their offspring. It’s a busy couple of months.
Then everything settles again and their sedate, community-but-separate personalities once again come to the fore.
Last time, I stopped fighting what my characters wanted. The romantic interest became the bad guy and the underground leader became the love-lost. I thought I had it all figured out and the writing would flow magically from my fingers onto the page.
Yeah—not so much.
No sooner had Lonnar met up with love-lost than they were separated again. He went willingly with the bad guy because he thought he could be trusted, then nearly died. Of course, he’s the hero and can’t die, so he escaped and has now met up with love-lost again—without the bad guy.
It’s first kiss time.
Of course, it’s not really their first kiss, but it’s the first kiss that Lonnar can remember.
I always get bogged down in this sort of thing. I want to move the story on, find out what’s happening next, so I tend to rush the romantic elements. I forget to put in the emotional connection—the thing most people want to know about when they read romance. That’s when I realise what I’ve written is absolute rubbish and have to do it all again. One kiss that I think should take half a page ends up taking three or four pages to do it properly.
That’s where I’m at this week—writing a kiss. It’s going to take me half the day to get it right. And that’s just the first draft. Of course, it'll need editing later.
Here's the first draft of it:
Joy exploded inside Lonnar, like he’d been floating in limbo and, with that laugh, he now knew where he belonged. He stepped forward and pulled Freeman to him.
“Why does this feel right?” he murmured as his gaze roamed over Freeman’s face. “Why do I feel like you’re the only person I can truly trust?” He brushed the backs of his fingers over Freeman’s smooth cheek. “I don’t even know you.”
Freeman lifted his hands to cup Lonnar’s face. “You know me,” he whispered as he closed the distance between them.
Freeman’s pillowy soft lips pressed against Lonnar’s. He knew this. He knew the thickness of his lips, the way they moved over his, the way his tongue slipped out and tasted, the way he nipped and sucked. Lonnar fell into the familiar sensations, gave himself over to them, allowed nothing but the kiss inside.
Freeman licked into Lonnar’s mouth and the kiss changed from introductory to welcome home.
Pain blossomed in his temples and Lonnar’s forehead pinched, his brows drawing close against it. He nearly pulled out of the kiss, the pain becoming too much to bear, but Freeman pulled him closer until their bodies stood flush against each other. Freeman’s pebbled nipples pressed tantalizingly against Lonnar’s chest. Their thighs slotted together, feet woven, their rapidly hardening cocks nestling into the dip between hip bone and stomach.
The pain bloomed and burst, disappearing as quickly as it began. Lonnar’s groan turned from one of torture to one of extreme pleasure.
It had been too long since he’d had this. Exactly this, with this man. The perfection of it.
I’ve been working on Memory for Loan for quite a while now. The story has changed a lot from it’s inception a few years ago to now, when I’m working solely on it, rather that fitting it in around other projects that felt more important at the time. It’s still evolving.
I’ve written about one third of the story so far and came to yet another dead-end. I have a plan but, while the plan looks good on paper, it doesn’t always work once I start writing scenes.
The change I’ve had to make today is with Milo, Lonnar’s love interest. It wasn’t working. I’d written Milo in because I thought he’d be a good partner for Lonnar, but they just haven’t clicked. They don’t even feel like they could be friends. Milo is coming across, more and more, like the antagonist.
Today, I figured: why fight it.
I’ve made some notes to changed sections in the early chapters so any hint of a true relationship between Milo and Lonnar is shrouded in suspicion. I’ve decided which character is actually better suited to Lonnar as well.
Changing the love interest will mean Milo’s physical appearance will have to change, Freema (the leader of the underground) will have to become Freeman and change his appearance too (as well as his gender). I also have to work out a way to have Freeman appear in the first third of the book. I have some ideas about how to get him onto Lonnar’s ship and what he’s doing there, but I don’t know how to get him off quickly and back to Tolifax before Lonnar meets him in the swamp. I’ll fix that later.
The change is working. Milo writes much more easily as the bad guy, and Lonnar is writing better now I’m not trying to force him into a relationship that’s all wrong for him.
It means editing is going to be an absolute bitch, but that’s par for the course for my books. I had thought forward planning would reduce the editing but my pantser style of writing is stronger than I’d thought.
It’s a good thing I don’t get bogged down in trying to make the story work to the plan, because that never works. I have to keep myself open to change, even major change, for the story to be the best it can be.
Life happened this week. That means there were a whole heap of things that became more urgent than my writing. I haven’t finished all those things yet but I had to stop for a while.
Meanwhile, my head totally lost my story. I’m at a part where my characters are travelling on a world that has high technology but is also a forgotten space. There are a lot of contradictory technologies there. I wanted to find a way of showing that clearly.
The space ships and surveillance technology is easy, but what about older things?
I decided to accomplish two things with one action: some research and some presents for the little ones in my life.
I pulled out a 1953 Singer treadle sewing machine, bought some poplin and I’m sewing. While I do that, I’m thinking about everyday life for the poorest of the population on my planet.
This morning, I’ll make a dress for a little girl; this afternoon, I’ll write.
I spent about an hour yesterday blowing bubbles in the back yard. I had a chainsaw bubbler that was filled with soap. There was enough wind that the bubbles were caught and blown around the entire yard, round and round in a rough spiral. It reminded me a little of the movie “Twister”.
The sun caught the bubbles and my yard was filled with floating, blowing spheres of iridescent blue, pink, green and purple.
It was magical. Like a fairy wonderland.
My mind has been caught on it ever since. At first, I simply enjoyed the experience. Then I enjoyed the memory (I wish I’d got photos). Now, 24 hours later, I’m wondering what kind of creatures would live in a world of iridescent bubbles.
I’m asking myself questions:
I have to stop now. I’m in the middle of writing one of the Tolifax Rising series (The Planet Whisperer) and I can’t let myself get distracted.
I’ll write a few notes, create a new Scrivener file and put it in the Books to be Written folder (there are a lot in there).
With Dragon God with the editor and Memory for Loan moving ahead, I decided I'd earned a reward, so I bought a book: the first paper book I’ve bought in months.
I’d forgotten how nice it is to hold a book, feel the weight of it in my hands. I can turn the pages and put a bookmark in. I can write notes on sticky notes and place them around the edges of the pages, then close the book and look at all my tags.
Then I come across a date I want to check…
and I stab my finger onto the page to bring up the dictionary and Wikipedia…
It’s been a long time since I’ve bought a paper book.
I finally have Dragon God ready to go to the editor. It’s taken me ages to get the music scored properly and the map drawn the way I want it, but it’s all done now. I worked on the map for most of this morning. I could add more detail, but I don’t think it’s necessary. We just need to see where places are in relation to other places.
This evening, I’ll send it all to the editor then wait and see what I have to do to fix it. I can’t wait until I’m at the stage of applying for an ISBN. That’s when publishing this book will become really exciting for me. I love that process.
Dragon God will be my first self-published eBook. I’ve published print books before (for other people), but never eBooks. I have a lot to learn. I’m deliberately not looking at the conversion and publishing process until I know I’m ready for it. I’ll forget everything I learn before I need it if I do.
I’ve also been working on Memory for Loan this week. I’ve spent quite a lot of time watching videos of shuttle re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere. I’ve made the rest of it up, so I hope it hangs together believably. It’ll never fool anyone who knows what they’re talking about but hopefully they’ll forgive any glaring mistakes. I’m going to get my characters actually landed (crashed) before I stop tonight.
I thought I’d finished editing Dragon God and it was ready to send to an editor. I’d worked out the theme, the central idea, the inciting incident, the characters’ motivations and conflicts and made sure they were all consistent. Then a friend of mine casually mentioned some of the things they do while they’re editing, and I thought… shit, I’m nowhere near finished.
That’s where I’ve been the last two weeks. Dragon God has been put through the editing wringers again and come out the other side much stronger. It still needs to go to a professional editor, but I’m much happier with where it is now.
The next step, before sending it to the editor, is to convert the music I’ve composed for one of the legends from .pdf to .jpg, and insert it into the document.
I also need to finish the map. I have the map from Warrior Pledge, but I had to incorporate the eastern side of the continent as well as the Lonely Isles in the south. All I need to do now is to add rivers and towns as well as the major norrgel nests. Then I’ll do some shading to make it look real, and I’ll be good to go.
I might also add a few drawings of sea monsters, just because. I probably don’t need the sea monsters—the next book in the series is set in the desert and to the west—but you never know.
The other exciting thing I’ve been doing with Dragon God is the cover. I finally chose a cover and have it available. I’ll wait until I get a bit closer to publication before making the cover public.
I’m taking today away from Dragon God and I’m going to work on writing new words for my next novel, Memory for Loan. I only have about 15000 words of it so far, but I’ve been working on it for a while. Those 15000 words are in their fourth incarnation. I think the story is beginning to work now so I’ll be able to move forward—just as soon as I crash land on a planet.
I’ve spent most of last couple of weeks working on editing a finished story. I began with a full-day workshop on structural editing. Sometimes, courses I do are presented with so little organisation that I get little out of them. This wasn’t the case with this workshop. The presenter was experienced and professional and knew exactly how to engage an audience with her topic.
Not only that, she provided some really useful, practical lists of things to do when beginning a structural edit. The lists make it all so much easier to identify parts of the story that don’t work and know what to do to fix it.
I’m a pantser. I rarely begin any plotting until I get stuck—usually around chapter 4 or 5. I rarely consider things such as theme or character arcs until I’ve written most of the story and realise it’s not working the way the nebulous images in my head suggested it would. A lot of things I do instinctively. For example, my stories usually have a clear theme, but I don’t recognise it until after I’ve finished the story.
It didn’t really surprise me that structural editing began with all those things I don’t think about until I have to: Theme/essence, central event, major dramatic question.
Those are the things I’ve been thinking about this week. I’ve been asking myself:
Theme: Good vs Evil, True Love Conquers
Central Event: The Lunar Eclipse (from Warrior Pledge)
Dramatic Question: Will Gaelan find and win his Concubine? Will Fisher be able to build a new, peaceful life for himself?
Where to from here?
I’ve been working on a scene map so I’ll finish that. I do scene maps for every book I write but I usually use them to check things such as POV balance, character consistency and emotional depth. I need to take it a step further and check the three major things against the scenes.
That’ll be one of my jobs over the next few weeks.
E E Montgomery
About writing, life, and random thoughts.
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