Elspeth Cooper

Purveyor of fine fantasy adventures

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The latest score

Hey everyone, it’s been a while, eh? Sorry for the radio silence; the last few months have been A Lot and, well, *gestures at 2020 in general*

I thought it was worth doing a post to bring you the latest score on The Dragon House. Not everyone keeps up with my Twitter feed and I’m terrible at updating all my social media in a timely fashion, so here we go.

You will be pleased to know that things are chugging along and The Dragon House has reached the giddy heights (lengths?) of 158k. Gosh. Where will it end up? I’m not sure yet. I had a vague idea of 200k-ish, but there’s a lot of wheels in motion now and to bring them all to an orderly stop in the next 40k might be a big ask, unless I do what my husband jokingly suggests and type “Everybody died. The end.” Expect a chonky book, whatever happens. Whether it ends up as 225k or “Oh lawd he comin'” will depend on the final edit.

Picture of alarm clock

Image courtesy Graeme Weatherston at freedigitalphotos.net

I took a chance last week and re-organised the timeline again because the previous re-org, that I thought had finally fixed it, was falling apart in the third act. I’d arranged the book into four sections by character arc/region/objective, and whilst Parts I and II worked great, III was sketchy and IV was worse. Having one character several days ahead of the rest (if you’ve read The Raven’s Shadow, you know who I mean) and part of the action told on a plane of slow time with the rest in regular time was proving to be . . . you know what? I’m not even going to try to think of an appropriate metaphor. So I’ve put it all back into a straight chronological order, no cute stuff, and we’ll see how that goes.

It does mean the “things that happen to that character” part has had to cede some priority in the narrative to “the rest of the world catches up” part, which I am not happy about, but that’s the result of choices I made in the third book to get the ending I wanted so I have to live with that.  I’ve tried to handle the overlap in a way that maintains some tension, but at this point I have to just concentrate on getting the story told and see what my beta-reader then agent then editor makes of it all.

The re-org turned out to have been a useful exercise, though. Pulling the story apart and putting it back together showed me a couple of places where I need to set some things up in advance of later action, and at least one place where I had to cut. The manuscript is now scattered with digital sticky notes like confetti. I love that feature of my word processor almost as much as I love real sticky notes. At least the glue on the digital ones never gives up.

So that’s the latest. Things are moving along, progress is being made. Stay tuned for further developments!

Love(s) in the time of coronavirus

It’s been a weird few weeks. And hoo boy, it’s been stressful, on a number of levels.

I’m one of those immunocompromised folks who need to be extra careful when there’s bugs going around, thanks to the medication I’m on for my MS. Spouse works in a job where he has to deal with the public, so with the pandemic he’s been terrified of bringing an infection home to me. When the country finally locked down, and he didn’t have to go out to work any more, it actually came as a relief – though the stress didn’t go away, it just shifted to different axes: food, money and OMG are we going to kill each other stuck together like this 24hrs a day.

Strangely, the one thing I haven’t been stressing about has been my writing.

A lot of fellow writers have been finding it hard to work lately. Anxiety, financial insecurity, disruption to routine can do that to someone whose working life, like mine, exists mostly inside their head. Many of them have been saying they seem to have less time now, rather than more, and their ability to work has suffered. (It’s amazing how the life of a storyteller goes like that. Rushed off your feet? Ideas all over the place. Finally have time to write? The Muse has wandered off somewhere sunny and isn’t taking my calls.)

Strangely, the one thing I haven’t been stressing about has been my writing.

I’ve been having the opposite experience. I’m actually Getting Shit Done, words-wise. I made a huge structural decision that I think has finally solved the Timeline From Hell. My rewrites are moving apace, and things are starting to fall into place with a pleasing little tinkly sound that is less like broken glass and more like bells. The script for The Dragon House is even starting to look . . . book-shaped.

And I love it again.

Not gonna lie, it’s been hard sometimes to stay enthused about a project I’ve been unable to get sustained traction on for so long. That’s not the book’s fault; it’s been all me. Me being ill, me not dealing very well with me being ill, me making me being ill be worse by not working around it, and making myself thoroughly miserable in the process. None of which is good for my creativity, it turns out.

But last year’s round of therapy has been good for me, I think. I’ve learned to be kinder to myself, to stop beating myself up for not changing the things that can’t be changed. I’ve learned to rest, and how to walk away and save my energy for fights I can win, instead of wasting it flailing at ones that I was always going to lose.

I guess you could say I’ve learned to love me, too.

Typewritten page repeating LOVE with one word highlighted in red

Free photo 4046832 © Tine Grebenc – Dreamstime.com

This didn’t all happen in some blinding revelatory insight, by the way. It’s been something I’ve gradually woken up to over the last few months. A growing realisation that I feel more at ease with myself now, and that has delivered the greatest boost to my creativity. I’ve had fits and starts of it before, but I probably went at them too hard and they burned out quickly.

This is feeling more sustained. I’ve only had a couple of bad days since mid-March, but instead of trying to push through I’ve acknowledged them as a sign that I need to take a rest, and they’ve passed without the usual trail of despair and exhaustion. Funny how it took someone else telling me something that should have been blatantly bloody obvious for it to stick.

Rushed off your feet? Ideas all over the place. Finally have time to write? The Muse has wandered off somewhere sunny and isn’t taking my calls.

Part of what has helped has been having Spouse at home these last few weeks. The reason for it (the lockdown) is all kinds of awful, but there’s been benefits too. Not just the endless supply of tea (although that is vitally important to the creative process) but for not being alone with all this . . . *gestures around* this. We’ve not got in each other’s way, meals have come to be about more than just shovelling fuel into the furnace and we’re both less tired and grouchy. We haven’t killed each other even a little bit.

I’m sure you can guess what I would say here if it wasn’t TMI 😉

So. The takeaways:

  • I’m writing, quite a lot and quite well
  • THE DRAGON HOUSE wordcount is up to 145k-ish so I’m making significant progress (believe me, just fixing the Timeline From Hell counts as significant with a capital S – it’s been casting a deep, dark shadow over this manuscript for a loooong time)
  • I’m feeling more productive than I have done in ages. I mean, I’ve even written a blog post!

Before y’all get overexcited, I want to sound a note of caution. Things are going well, yes, but this is still too new a development for me to feel confident putting a due date on The Dragon House. It’s only been in the last few days that I’ve felt able to say out loud that that day feels a lot closer than it did.

But I did, and it does, and I wanted to let you all know. More news as it happens.

Featured image: Free photo 9079661 © Timur Anikin – Dreamstime.com

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