Letting go

This isn’t my first attempt at writing Darklight Rest. There’s something about this story that is tempting, intriguing, compelling, and then there’s a big, huge, overwhelming part that’s incredibly hard to grasp. I’ve been on pure Muse territory lately, and it’s like feeling my way forward through the dark, hands outstretched, with no idea where I’ll end up. Most of the times, I’ll find a wall. Change direction, start over, another wall. Sometimes a tiny corridor I can just about squeeze through but by God, the light in those corridors! If this story weren’t so tantalizing, I would have abandoned it half a dozen times by now…

But Mariany’s voices comes through so clearly. When the writing goes well, I don’t have to think at all. It’s like channeling what’s already happening elsewhere, I just need to type it in and later take out the typos. I love writing when it happens in this way. Trouble is, I hardly seem able to write any other way anymore.

It’s a lot to do with my recent changes in lifestyle, I suppose. The past two years have been a rocky journey towards removing from my life as much as possible of what’s bad, boring, heavy, dishonest, not worth my time. Seems my Muse is coming along for the ride, with the result that I’m getting better writing, but also a lot less of it. It takes longer to find the right way, and I don’t have a process for it yet. I guess that’s fine. Life changes, writing changes. And I’m having many more of those brilliant-writing moments than I used to.

I get impatient, though. I want to know the story of these two women who meet in a place without memory. Why are they here? Who were they before they came? Why does one of them die? Yes, I get told this on page one, second paragraph, but my Muse is holding off the revelations for later. It’s like reading a book, not knowing the ending until I write it (I think I’d hate to know the ending in advance, because if I did, what would be the point writing it?). It just takes such time, and I’m usually a fast reader.

Every time I encounter writer’s block, if I want to call it that, there are lessons to be learned from it. I think this time around, the lesson is patience. Letting go, trusting the Muse. It’s true, I have been bad at trusting her for some time now, and yet she’s never let me down. The more I succeed in letting go, the more the words just come to me. It’s just that nowadays, we all get taught so much on how to succeed, how to perform, how to work hard, and you hardly get through any book, course or blog on writing without it telling you that writing is hard work and if you’re just in it for the fun, go find yourself a different hobby. Sad, isn’t it? Because it’s those fun bits I enjoy so much, and since I’ve started looking after myself more, I get plenty of them. But it seems my Muse also demands her resting periods.

You know what, have them. I know we’ll meet when we’re both ready for it.

The dreaded middle

It’s finally here, and knowing that it would come doesn’t make it any easier. Three days before the beginning of NaNoWriMo, I’ve hit the dreaded middle of my novel. The point where I hate all my characters, I don’t know where this story is going, I don’t know how I thought it was a good idea, and I don’t remember why I ever thought I could be a writer. Or that I had anything interesting to say. Incidentally, I still like Naheli’s Sacrifice, but I guess it has to be, then, the only great story I had in me. I’m guessing most writers know this feeling.

The good thing is, this isn’t my first novel, and this isn’t the first time I’ve hit this point in my writing. I was semi-prepared for it, and I have some strategies to pull myself out of it. My logical mind knows that this is a normal part of writing, that I’ve come through it before, and that it’s a matter of persistence and careful examination of the story now. Why did I come to a halt here? What problem is there that my Muse has spotted but I haven’t? Knowing that I’ve been here before, and that this is fixable, will stop me from giving up and throwing this story away.

What I’ve done so far is a read-through of my manuscript so far and a collection of all the story points that seem valuable and important to me. I’ve also found that my main character has reached a point where her initial compelling need won’t carry her anymore, so I need to look at that and figure out how her needs have changed and what she wants right now. These are some starting points. Then of course there’s Holly Lisle’s brilliant writing course How To Think Sideways (I’ll never stop talking about that one), which contains a chapter exactly on this problem, so I’ll be going back to that and reading up on her advice. I know it’s helped me before.

The interesting thing is that a very clear split of Feeling and Thinking occurs here. The first half of a novel, for me, belongs mostly to the feeling part of my brain (although I’m such a structured person that probably a lot of thinking goes into it without me noticing), but this middle is thinking business. Most importantly, it’s now the thinking part’s task to convince the feeling part that we can do this. That it’s okay to stall, to falter, and that we’ll stand up again and see this novel through to the end. That it may take some time, but we’ll find the right path and we’ll turn this story into something we are happy with, even if it takes a long revision.

I kept a writing diary while I wrote Naheli’s Sacrifice, and it’s funny to read in retrospect. Having published Naheli and being so happy with the result, it’s easy to forget that it was a piece of work, too. I wasn’t by far happy all of my writing days. I messed up the ending horribly in the first draft. I had a story in shambles before I went into revision. And some days, I hated the story and Naheli and Thilkhan and their stupid island.

Then I revised it and I ended up loving it.

Keeping a diary like that makes it easier, coming to this point now with Darklight Rest. Once you have pushed your way through one, two, or several novels, you don’t encounter every problem for the first time. Of course there are always new ones, but some are familiar, and even if you don’t have the one-fits-all solution, it’s a comfort to know that you have fixed it before. I’ll fix it this time around, too.

NaNoWriMo starts in three days, and I’ll be ready to write on Tuesday. I don’t know how at the moment, but I will be writing. This part of a novel requires persistence, and that’s something I’m good at. So, off to diagnosing the problem.

Ever hit the middle of a novel and stalled out? Tell me about it!

Learning Dvorak can save your writing

In 2011, I participated in Milwordy, a challenge to write 1,000,000 words in a year. For those of you who know NaNoWriMo, that’s about one and a half times the NaNo amount, every month, for twelve months in a row — so nothing to sneeze at. I had just come out of NaNo 2010 and was so caught up in the rush of writing that I desperately wanted to continue.

I came out of that year with six overly wordy first drafts for novels, several short stories, some journaling, and lots of bits and pieces that never amounted to much. But what a fantastic year I had! I was writing like in a trance, in one big rush, and it was brilliant.

I recently found my writing diary from that year and remembered the big crisis I had in the middle of it. Writing a million words in a year means an average of 2,700+ words a day, every day. Inspiration wasn’t the problem. I had story ideas, I had lots of free time, I loved it. I threw myself in head first and wrote, wrote, wrote. Didn’t talk about anything else but writing, either. I was probably annoying. 😀

Then I noticed the first wrist pains in February. They weren’t bad, nothing to worry about, I took a little break, put on some bandages, and kept writing. Things got worse in March, and I worried a little, but I was too caught up in my writing to think much of it.

In April, the joints of my fingers started to ache. My fingers would grow stiff after a time of writing, and more and more often I’d end up crying at the computer because I had words I wanted to say, and fingers that refused to write them down. But I kept going. I was doing Milwordy and I wasn’t going to drop out early.

I finally had to accept in May that I couldn’t keep going. Whenever I sat down to type, my fingers were on fire, and it got to the point where I couldn’t even pick up my teacup. I had a very bad couple of days, crying and cursing Fate and the world and everything, and then I picked myself up and started doing research.

I’d heard about the Dvorak Simplified Keyboard layout before from my mentor, Holly Lisle. I’d even considered learning it before, but thought it too much effort, especially since I was typing very quickly with Qwerty and couldn’t afford to lose my momentum in the middle of writing.

Well, guess what? I couldn’t afford to lose my hands in the middle of Milwordy! Or writing in general. I knew I wanted to keep writing well beyond 2011, so I had to do something.

I jumped in cold turkey and started typing only Dvorak once my decision was made. The first day, I got 200 words, and they took me two hours. I taped the printed keyboard layout to my screen and never looked at the keys again, because every time I did, my fingers would go automatically to the old layout and throw me. So to find the right keys, I first had to find the correct letter on the print-out and then feel my way to the correct key, and it took ages. I cried a lot during those first days, which is hard to explain to someone who doesn’t write. If you do, you’ll be able to understand: The sentences are there, the scenes are ready in your head, and you sit there struck dumb in front of your screen, unable to get them down.

Learning Dvorak gave me a new kind of respect for mute people. It was a matter of weeks for me to learn to “speak” with my fingers again (and obviously I was able to talk all the time), but I now have a faint idea what it must be like to live with a disability like that. I felt like I had lost my voice, my most important means of communicating with the world.

Things got better eventually. After a couple of weeks my writing speed was up to 20 words a minute and I was doing around 1,000 words a day again. Needless to say I had a LOT of words to catch up to finish Milwordy on time, but — the pain in my fingers and in my wrists was gone. Much of it was due to that initial (forced) resting period, I’m sure, but it’s been years since, and I’ve had long periods of intense, high-word-count writing, and while my wrists still ache occasionally, it’s never been that bad again. My fingers are okay. I got my writing back because I chose to learn Dvorak, and I’m eternally to the creators.

So, is it worth learning? My answer is, it depends. If you’re happy with how much you’re putting out and you’re not experiencing pain (not only in your fingers or wrists — neck, back, and shoulders can all be affected by typing!), you’re fine. It would probably be a waste of time and effort to do this to yourself. If, however, you do have problems, or you plan to be writing a lot more than you have and worry about your health, yes, it’s so worth it. You may also need the actual motivation of a health problem to be able to do this. It’s not a thing you learn quickly and easily while happily going about your business.

How to go about it? There are several excellent websites to help you, but I found the best way for me was just the simplest: Print the layout, tape it to your screen, and “feel” your way to the right keys. This will also at the same teach you to type without looking at the keys, if you aren’t able to do that. I wasn’t, and I learnt it by learning Dvorak.

What about Qwerty, then? Isn’t it troublesome to use computers other than your own? Not at all. Dvorak in a standard keyboard layout in Windows, so it’s a matter of two minutes to set it up (one-time), and then you simply shift between layouts by pressing Alt+Shift. It takes only half a second of your time when you sit down at the computer. So you can use any computer you like and still type Dvorak. If you use multiple languages, like I do, and you need special characters (å, á, ä etc.), I recommend downloading the Dvorak International Custom layout. This, too, is a one-time installation and you can easily switch between layouts.

I’ve heard that there are people who can type both Dvorak and Qwerty, depending on where they are and what they need. I think if you really put your mind to it, it’s possible. I found it unnecessary, so today I use Dvorak for everyhing. I can still type some Qwerty at a reasonable speed (about 40 wpm), but that doesn’t satisfy me, so I don’t really do it.

Incidentally, although it’s said that with Dvorak, your typing speed can go up, I never quite reached my Qwerty speed again. With Dvorak, I do type around 80-100 words per minute, depending on the text, and I’m happy with that. It took me about a year to get up to that speed, and three months to hit 50 words a minute so I could write decently fast again.

I’d love to hear your opinions on this. Have you heard about Dvorak before? Do you use it? What’s your experience?

Please leave a comment below. 🙂

Room for writing

I’m incredibly inspired lately, and very suspicious of it. I know, I know, I ought to be thankful, and I am, but it’s been so long that I felt like this that I keep fearing this rush might end. Though deep down I don’t think so, not right now. I’ve cared better for myself this past year, I’ve tended to my Muse, taken time for my writing, been in closer contact with myself through morning pages, so this isn’t a fluke. That’s just my Old Critic’s voice creeping in, telling me I’m not cut out to be this, a writer.

But while it lasts: It’s fantastic! I am now over 40,000 words into Darklight Rest and still haven’t hit “the middle” where things slam to a sudden stand-still. Even better, I’ve failed twice before trying to write this story, and both times for the same reason (I think): It was too character-based, centered only around Liya and Mariany and ignoring the rest of the people and the immense conflicts that could arise from a setting like that. This time, there are half a dozen other characters who have interacted with Liya as much as or more than Mariany, and I have (gasp!) subplots!

Now, I realize this doesn’t sound very confidence-building, coming from a supposed author. But this is first draft, and first draft is chaotic, and I’m just glad it’s flowing as well as it is. I’ll pick up the pieces in revision, and I know that I can. Revision is a beautiful, powerful process that can turn a real mess into a brilliant story. I’m looking forward to it!

Favourite quote from today’s writing:

Just that the sky over Darklight Rest would never be full of stars. Liya wasn’t even sure that stars existed in this place.

My Muse was really with me this morning. The words just flowed from my fingers, beautiful, easy, right. Those are the moments I write for, and would write for even if I could never earn a cent with my writing (now that I already have, I guess that statement doesn’t work anymore; still true, though).

Another cool thing: I keep having little glimpses of ideas for a prequel to Naheli’s Sacrifice. I thought I was done with this world, but the idea of returning to the island, if only to meet those characters again at a different time in their lives, keeps enticing me. It’s one of those that won’t let go, I think. Right now, I’m thinking a young Dhamikhan, coming to the island for the first time, and a story explaining who he used to be and how he turned out to become the powerful Lord Dhamikhan supervising Naheli’s Sacrifice. If Darklight Rest shouldn’t last me through all of NaNoWriMo, I think I’ll be doing this prequel next. 🙂

Finally: I’m up to six reviews on Amazon now! 😀 During my latest free promotion, I was able to give away exactly 100 copies of the e-book. How great is that?! People all over the world reading (or at least owning) my story! And I can’t wait to put more stories out there. It seems the more room I allow my writing to take, the more my Muse comes out of hiding. I love this!

Progress – Naheli’s Sacrifice

After three weeks of being a published author, here are the facts up to date:

  • I’ve sold three paperback copies of Naheli’s Sacrifice — one to my mother and two to good friends. 🙂
  • I’ve sold eight e-book copies, one of which went to my mum again. 😀 The others were mostly bought by other writers I know via Holly Lisle‘s forum, but I think there are one or two that are unaccounted for, so they may have been actual sales, no telling.
  • I have 900 Kindle pages read via Kindle Unlimited, which makes for two people who read the book completely. Or ten who read a fifth each. 😀
  • I have five reviews on Amazon, two four-star and three five-star ones! Which is fantastic, I think.
  • I’ve been able to give away a total of 51 free copies via Amazon KDP Select, using two of my five free promotion days.
  • I’m doing another free promotion this Sunday.
  • I’m getting really good feedback from people who are reading Naheli’s Sacrifice right now. Better than I’d hoped for, actually, which makes me happy. The story has been described as tragic, stark, beautiful, hopeful, with an ending that might bring a smile — sums it up very nicely, I think!
  • I’ve earned too little money to even pay a tiny bill with it, and sales will very likely go down next months since my friends now all have a copy. 😀 I don’t mind, though. A writer friend just told me it took her six months before the first unsolicited sales started showing up, and I’m fine with that. It’s still grand to see my novel out there and to have the paperback right in my hands!
  • Also a fact: My best friend cried because she was so moved by what I wrote about her in the Acknowledgments. Isn’t that sweet?
  • Last fact: I’m SO going to do NaNoWriMo again this year! My eleventh time. Looking forward to November and 50,000 words on Darklight Rest. 🙂

nanowrimo_2016_webbanner_participant

The 2nd fifth

Writing has been good lately. Great, actually. I’m writing daily and usually getting at least 1,000 words, which I’m putting down to working less so there’s just more energy left for creative work. Teaching children is immensely creative, but it’s also draining. This school year, there’s just more room for stories in my head. 🙂

Darklight Rest is progressing well. I’m in that lovely place of a novel that is after the beginning (which usually consists of a lot of finding my way, my voice, the direction of the story) and the dreaded dragging middle (where I lose my way completely and have no idea what I wanted with this story in the first place). So roughly the second fifth of a new project always flies — characters keep popping up, the setting grows as I need it, witty dialogues and unexpected rules jump up from all directions. I’m enjoying this part of the writing. I sit down every evening and get words almost immediately. Varyan, who was intended to be a side character, is taking much of the stage and being surprisingly loud-mouthed. Not the way I imagined him, but I’m going to let him play for now and see what he’s planning.

I’m starting to like Liya a lot. She has a bit of spine that I want to bring out more, and she says what’s on her mind. She’s still succumbing to Darklight Rest, but I there’s not much she can do at this point.

Mariany, on the other hand, hasn’t made an appearance at all yet, although she was meant to be the second main character. I’m not worried, though. The more backstory and subplot I have, the better. Last time I tried getting this story right, it came out too thin. When there’s too much, I can always cut later. (I cut LOTS out of Naheli, leaving only the bare, stark bones of the real story in the end.)

I’m not sure, however, that this is still going to be the story I’d originally intended. That’s fine, too. My Muse usually comes up with something better during the process, even if that means ditching ALL of my plans, and 99% of my first draft writing. I write fast, so I can shoulder that time loss. The first draft always seems to be like just writing down what the story is really meant to be — what I honestly wanted to tell, beyond all the things that I thought I wanted to tell. It’s pure creativity.

Also, NaNoWriMo is around the corner! It’s my eleventh year, and my third go at Darklight Rest. I have a good feeling this time around, though. I’ll get it done this year. The characters are coming out too strongly to go back into hiding after this.

Finally: I’m celebrating my very first subscriber to my mailing list and three reviews for Naheli’s Sacrifice. 🙂  Moving very slowly here, but steadily. That’s always been the way I work, taking longer time than others to get going, but then staying on the path until I hit my goal. Doesn’t matter if it takes decades; I plan to be around and writing for a while yet!

Darklight Rest & Naheli

It’s really exciting to watch the stats Amazon produces on your published e-books. Apart from being able to see how many copies I sold (three, two of which to family :D) and how many were taken during the free promotion (just over 50 now!), I can see how many pages have been read by readers using Kindle Unlimited. At least, I think that’s what it is — still learning my way around this!

The graph is really interesting and looks like this:

kenp-count

Now, there’s no telling how many people actually share those read pages, but seeing as there are days between those two spikes with no pages read at all, I’m guessing there were only two people. And if that’s correct, it would mean Person A read the entire book (which is about 445 pages) in two days, and Person B read it in one day. Which, although at first glance it may seem sad because there were only two people, is actually great — because it would mean that at least two people found the book interesting enough to read it in just a day or two. 🙂  And I may be totally wrong with this, but I’ll choose to interpret it in this way and be happy about it!

This week I got the print version for Naheli’s Sacrifice done. I am now waiting for my proof copy to make sure it all looks good, and I’m so excited to see it! That must be a special moment, to see the book in actual printed form… well, unless I’ve messed up with the cover and it looks horrible, which might be the case. 😀 I’ll know more hopefully this week when it arrives.

Darklight Rest writing has been good today. I don’t really know where I’m going with this story, other than some vague ideas about Liya and Mariany. But I’m about 20,000 words in and Mariany hasn’t even showed up. Which doesn’t matter, I always tend to write a LOT in first draft and then cut a lot in revision. But I’m inspired and enjoying the writing and also getting some new characters that I like.

Also, I discovered PinInterest! I can’t believe I haven’t used it sooner. I made this collection for Darklight Rest, and it inspires me to no end, especially when, as usual, I get stuck with the setting. 🙂

First review

I really hadn’t expected to receive any reviews at all this early in the process, but today I got one. I still can’t believe it. I don’t know who the person is, which feels really strange, because so far the only people who have read… well, ANY of my writing have been friends, family, or members of online writing groups. It’s a good one, too — not a five-star one, but I’m totally fine with that. The comments are VERY nice and I’m… I don’t know. I’m at a loss for words. I always dreamed about publishing a book, but now is the moment I’m sitting here crying because this… knowing someone, somewhere, read my words and liked them… enough to even post about them… this is what I really wanted. I’d be glad to make a living from my writing some day, but in the end, I don’t care that much about sales. My number one goal, which I set up when I took one of Holly Lisle’s classes, was to reach others with my stories. People I don’t know in person, people across the globe.

And now it’s happened. I think this might be the second happiest moment of my life, my wedding being the first one. 🙂

See review here.

Naheli’s Sacrifice is live!

Oh. My. God.

It’s so much. There’s so much! I don’t know where to start, I don’t know how to catch up, there’s just so much to do and tell and brag about! (This is me grinning here!)

Last week, I finally published Naheli! I ended up settling on Naheli’s Sacrifice for the title, and I’m so proud of the cover. It may not be the final one, because there’s always room for improvement, but I think it’s okay for now, and good enough to be out there. I can’t image Naheli is actually being looked at, being read by people!

Of course, the big crash came already a day or two later. Two copies sold: to my wife and my mother. 😀 I was prepared for that, though, so it’s all right. It takes time to get the book out there, to even get people to realise it exists. This self-publishing business is IMMENSE. There’s so much to learn, there are so many resources out there, and I’m excited and so enjoying the process. Finally I am working on my big dream for real!

But for now, just for today: I’m happy. Naheli is out there, it’s gone to about 20 people for free when I ran a one-day promotion last Sunday, and I’m excited to see if there will be any feedback at all. It feels strange, knowing that the story is there in the hands of people I don’t know. I’m so curious to know them. I want to know what they are like, why they decided to download it, what they usually read. If they are like me or completely different, where in the world they live. So… if you are one of them, one of the 20 people who own Naheli’s story right now… please leave a comment and tell me who you are. I always imagined myself as the kind of writer who would actually talk to her readers. 🙂

The latest days, I’ve worked on putting together a free e-book containing some bits and pieces of notes and pictures I’ve collected during the whole Naheli-creation-process. Amazing, the things I found! Maps that are four years old, things I hardly remembered planning to put into the story. I had time travel planned, of course! 😀  Along with alternate dimensions, dark angels (those still fascinate me — I may go back to them one day), the mainland, a fanatic sect called TRUTH… oh, it was exciting. 🙂 But I do think Naheli’s story turned out better this way.

I’m working steadily on a new project. Will post more about that later. AHHHH, I’m so happy and proud! Talk to me, treasured readers! 🙂

Goodbye, Naheli.

Writing has been good today again. Haven’t been feeling too well otherwise (maybe it’s the strange weather), but the Muse is awake. And she’s happily throwing plans out the window (see previous post).

Meanwhile, I am trying to get my cover for Naheli set up. I haven’t even completely decided on a title yet. My favourite all this time was The Fourth Rule, but it seems Tree of Glass is more popular with my testing writing partners. I also like Naheli’s Sacrifice, which is really what it is all about. But I need to make a decision soon because once I have the manuscript back from my editor, I won’t be able to wait, I think. I’m only weeks away from my very first publication, and I’m impatient now. It’s amazing, seeing it all come together. I’ve worked on this story for a total of four years… and just found my very first notes while cleaning out my wardrobe. It’s funny, seeing the first ideas that sparked this novel. They have little to do with the final product, but that’s the way I’ve always worked. Of course I had time travel planned for the original version. And other dimensions. Oh, and dark-light angels. And shapeshifters. And three groups of religious fanatic on the mainland. … It’s probably a good thing I managed to stick to one storyline in the end.

I’m missing Naheli. When I had finished my final self-edit, I actually grieved for a few days. It was like losing a friend, someone who has accompanied me for a long time. Maybe that’s what stopped me from really getting Naheli out there for so long. Once I do, her story is set in stone, and we won’t be rewriting anymore. Still, it’s time now. I need to take this next step.

Onward to Arrianha. She also has a story that needs to be told.

Best writing song right now: Nova by VNV Nation.