my sophomore effort

After a long time spent sitting on my hands, I’m delighted to announce that my novella, Love at Last Sight, has been accepted for publication in one of the annual holiday anthologies compiled by Carina Press!

This novella, about a wounded infantry officer returning home to Kansas and the woman he left behind there, was my NaNoWriMo project for November 2012. I absolutely fell in love with the characters and the words have never flowed more easily, so I felt extra sensitive about sending this manuscript out into the big bad world to face potential rejection. When I received my acceptance e-mail from the Executive Editor, I actually cried with happiness that my hero and heroine, Chris and Beth, had found their home. I can’t wait to share them with readers, who I hope will be swept up by their story just as thoroughly as I was.

In the meantime, you can read Angela James’s announcement here. Yes, that’s my name!


select all + delete

I’m a huge fan of the NaNoWriMo project (National Novel Writing Month for the uninitiated), wherein one sets a goal to write a novel (defined as 50,000 words) in a month’s time. The original event is held in November, but there are also ‘Camp’ NaNoWriMo months in April, June, and August. These are formatted slightly differently, with the major change being the ability to set one’s own word count goal.

Although I try to always have a daily goal of a thousand words, I hugely enjoy the structure and impetus that participating in NaNoWriMo provides. The novel I wrote during last August’s camp (although admittedly I didn’t finish it during the month) is due for publication in September, and the project I started (and completed!) this past November has just been contracted as well. So I went into this April’s camp with a carefully plotted idea, a 60,000-word goal, and high hopes.

And two weeks and 35,000 words into the challenge, I deleted it all and started over.

By that point I could no longer pretend that the novel was working. My lovingly conceived characters were flat and unsympathetic. Their conflicts were muddled and their relationship had no spark. Worst of all? The novel was boring. It bored me to write it and it bored me to read back over. I made a couple of half-hearted attempts to revise as I went along, but at a certain point I knew I had to do something drastic if this was going to be worth the time I was investing.

I can pinpoint the single thought that made me decide to start over. I was brushing my teeth, of all things, and running through various half-baked ideas for other stories that I might want to start should I abandon my current WIP. None of them were truly firing me up, and I thought back to my poor characters, languishing in Microsoft Word, their intriguing personalities and compelling backstories still unrealized. Then the figurative light bulb switched on: If I don’t love these characters, no one else will.

So it was back to a blank document, but this time with honest, earnest intention. I binned my rigid plot outline and though I’ve salvaged one or two scenes, I’m as good as starting from scratch. This time, however, I’m letting the characters lead the story, thinking only about who they are and not what they need to do and when it needs to happen. After all, they don’t know – why should I? This is a new and slightly terrifying system for me, but so far I think it’s working. I’m so much happier with what I’m creating and, most importantly, I actually look forward to seeing where the story goes.

Will I reach my 60,000-word NaNo goal? Highly doubtful, and even if cumulatively I count everything I’ve written this month (about 40-odd thousand words at this point), it’s moot, as the novel itself is only up to 15,000. I won’t pretend it’s not discouraging to realize that I’ve gone from being more than halfway finished to not even a third of the way through. But I console myself that those 15,000 words are solid, and that’s worth more than 100,000 words that are too boring to read.

(Go on: watch my progress!

sometimes you feel like a nut

The Easter weekend – for which we get two public holidays in the UK – is always a phenomenally productive time for me, writing-wise. With my fiancé and most friends out of town for the holiday, it offers a great excuse to spend the whole day in front of the computer screen, busily tapping away at my latest WIP. Considering my writing always comes easiest between about 11 PM and 2 AM, not having to get up early for work means I can maximize my creative witching hour.

This weekend was no different. The weather was gray and freezing, which alleviated any guilt about spending so many hours indoors, and that the Monday bank holiday coincided with the first day of April’s Camp NaNoWriMo was an extra incentive. I wrote furiously, and accumulated about 5,500 retainable words over three days (which, for my 1k-a-day average, is not a bad result).

This morning, however, as soon as I opened the Word document where I’m drafting the novel, I knew I’d be lucky if I got 30 words today. The story that insisted on being written yesterday has dropped somewhere to the back of my brain, behind work and wedding planning and going to the gym. If I had the time and inclination I could forcibly wrench it back to the front – probably by staring at the screen and plucking out a handful of sentences until my brain shifted gears – but today, I don’t. Today will most likely be a zero word count day. And I’m fine with that, because it’s all part of the process.

Some days characters shout so loudly that any other noise – conversations, television programs – are nothing but an annoying distraction. Other days they’re completely silent, percolating quietly in the background while the next step in their story slowly, slowly takes shape.

Today I’ve taken advantage of the latter to get various other bits of admin finished, because I know that sooner or later the words will be clawing to be written again, and I’ll be unable to focus on anything else. The key is to be at peace with the quiet because you know the noise will return. That’s where I am right now, and I’m trying to enjoy the silence.