Elspeth Cooper

Purveyor of fine fantasy adventures

Category: writing (Page 2 of 21)

Grey Chinese dragon on roof

New year news

I gave myself some time off over the holidays. As any writer will tell you, the holidays are an opportunity to get so much writing done, have this manuscript knocked into shape in no time. And then, well, The Holidays happen. There’s late nights and lie-ins and family stuff and all that delicious food won’t eat itself, right?

Anyway, I gave myself a pass, and promised I wouldn’t beat myself up if I didn’t get much done for a couple of weeks. Instead I would use the time to rest, recharge and refocus, so I could come out swinging in 2018.

First up, an update on where things stand with THE DRAGON HOUSE.

The headline figure is 120,000 words (so far) on what I hope is the final draft of the book. This is not the end, because I am re-re-re-x10n-writing the last act after realising I’d made a huge misstep. I thought I could write my way out of them, but it turns out I couldn’t, and I should have stopped trying some time ago. Sometimes it really is better to just accept you’ve goofed, tear it down and start again from a firm foundation.

Speaking of which, this 120k is pretty solid, I think. It’s the result of some tough love from my agent, a lot of work and me being in a better headspace. These last few years have not been great but I’ve said all I want to say about that for now.

So, 120k and moving forward. Beta-readers say it holds together, so all that remains is to take a deep breath, and nail the dismount. Wish me luck.

A note on process and progress

Some authors like to post progress meters or word-count totals for the books they are writing. If this works for them to inform their readers and hold themselves to account as deadlines approach, more power to them. That doesn’t work for me. I don’t like (and instinctively mistrust) raw word count alone as a metric for measuring my own progress.

Regular readers will know that my writing process is best described as organic, even free-range. It’s messy. There’s no formula or road map to get to the end, and the only GPS stands for Gut Plotting System. I tend to find out what my books are about by writing them. I also edit as I go, pruning and filling as needed. As the shape of the story comes into focus, I get a better idea of how much more work is required to adjust the lens, as it were.

Not all of this adjustment equals more words, of course. It might mean I need less, or a bit of both. It’s fluid. I do a lot of writing/editing by feel, which is why a hard, arbitrary figure like 186,048/200,000 is not a meaningful measure of progress to me. Nor is crossing things off lists, much as I like doing that. I’m not even disciplined enough to stick to a drafting schedule, except for the last one, where it counts.

So my writing process is linear, until it’s not. My word and character choices are deliberate, until they become instinctive. I know where I’m going but still surprise myself along the way. And I know that I’m done when I get there, because when it’s ready the work sings.

I never said it was a *good* process, did I?

Featured image © creativecommonsstockphotos | ID 84970466 | Dreamstime Stock Photos

Twenty questions

Image list of 20 questions about the writer

I had great fun answering these twenty questions on Friday.

These 1 like = 1 fact memes circulate on Twitter on an almost daily basis, but this was the first time I’ve taken part in one. Several questions made me think, so I thought the answers deserved a wider audience.

Big thanks to @writer_gem for the original post that kicked it off.

1. Age you started writing

To hear my parents tell it, I started writing about five minutes after I first picked up a pen. It was certainly single digits, 8 or 9.

2. Story that inspired you to write

Parents again – read me Ivanhoe, Gawain & the Green Knight, tales of King Arthur. I think the epic adventure craving took root there.

3. First WIP title

First WIP I can recall didn’t have a title, but it was something medieval & King Arthur-adjacent.

4. First, second or third person?

Third, although I do have some non-genre ideas that are inclining first. I have no idea why.

5. Favourite time of day to write

PM and well into the night. I blame this on 20yrs writing around a full-time job.

6. Favourite place to write

It varies. I have an office with a desk, but I’m doing most writing these days in a squidgy leather armchair with a view of the garden.

7. Most overused word

“Just” is the one I know about. I’m sure there’s others!

8. Most overused punctuation

Semi-colon, probably. I’m also particularly fond of the Oxford comma.

9. Long or short sentences?

I tend naturally to medium, but will consciously change up/down for mood. Too much of the same rhythm is boring to read, imho.

10. Plain or purple prose?

Lilac at the most 😉 I wouldn’t describe my prose as windowpane plain, but I’m not afraid of colourful imagery either.

An open book with ribbon marker

© Ingvald Kaldhussater | ID 514554 | Dreamstime Stock Photos

11. Your first MC

Remember that King Arthur-adjacent story I mentioned? Guillaume de Montrachet was the MC.

12. Favourite trope

The crusty mentor. What can I say, I’m a complete sucker for it.

13. Least favourite trope

The feisty not-like-other-girls Smurfette sidekick who spends 90% of the book hating the hero before twoo wuv happens.

14. Least favourite OC

I have no idea what this one means. Sorry, I’m British.

15. Worst writing habit

You should probably ask my editor, but the thing that drives me nuts is beating my head against a problematic scene for days, instead of recognising what I’m doing and trying a new approach. Too stubborn for my own good sometimes.

16. Weird personal writing quirk

I am incapable of a vomit draft. I have to be fairly happy with each scene before I move on. As a pantser/discovery writer, the act of writing is how I work out the flow & structure of stories. It’s very organic. Possibly not the most efficient process, but it’s mine.

17. Notebook or computer?

Once upon a time it was both notebook & PC, now PC only. Chronic illness has made hand-writing impractical & frustrating, but I miss it.

18. Favourite setting to write

Favourite setting is definitely secondary-world fantasy. Maybe I’ll run out of those sorts of stories eventually; who knows?

19. Biggest writing fear

My biggest writing fear is definitely not being able to finish what I’ve started. That one keeps me awake at nights.

20. Biggest writing hope

My greatest writing hope has already happened: I got to see my books in print. 2nd greatest? Ties in to #19: to finish what I’ve started.

 

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