Poem • She Who Puts Monsters In Cages

A friend of mine was raped two years ago. She recently waived her anonymity to raise awareness of rape and sexual abuse and to name the beast who committed rape against her. He was recently sentenced to 12 years in prison. 

This poem was inspired by her bravery. 

This is for you, Dominique. 


The room swallows them whole
as they walk behind her,
like pallbearers,
solemn as a church,
hopeful as a sprout taking root.

They sit in front
so as not to see her face.
They know their masks will crack
if they see her crumble,
like a grey cloud bursting its silver dam.

He stares like the dead and the dying do,
straight ahead,
into the the great savana of empty
where he will turn to dust
and personify the nothing of his soul.

She looks where God should be,
hands clasped tight,
eyes ablaze and glassy,
ready to spill
as the gavel strikes and the words ring true.

And she sighs,
slow,
like breath on skin.
And then the sound of a dozen feet,
and the clap of a dozen hands
pull her above the water.

This feeling
is the gaping first breath
after drowning in a sea,
dark,
vast,
and made by the hands of a beast.

She smiles a small smile,
the foreign feel of it lingering on her face
even now
after the wounds that so often bleed anew
have closed.

Still Here, Still Writing • Writing Thoughts

Whew.

It’s been a while.

I haven’t updated this blog in… what, two months? Maybe two and a half? I haven’t really been keeping track, but it’s always been in the back of my mind. What’s stopped me from posting? A couple of things; stress from working two jobs and a total lack of motivation and creativity, but mainly my failure and the embarrassment that tags along with it.

You see, in my last few posts I joyfully announced that I’d soon be finished my first draft of my first novel, in doing so fulfilling a lifelong dream of being an author. Not being a successful author, or an author who even sells a single copy, but an author who has finished writing a book, because that’s what writing a book makes you; it makes you an author. I wanted to be an author before my momentum and motivation came to a stuttering halt, and I’ll still want to be an author after the next inevitable bout of writers’ block too.

Ultimately, it’s down to me. I haven’t finished my novel yet. I let the pressure I put on myself by setting a deadline completely derail me. I lost faith in my plot, in my characters, in my ability as a writer, and the saddest thing is it’s all so damn predictable. I’ve written several posts about it on this very blog; I’ve posted articles on tips to beat writers’ block, how to stay motivated and persevering even if you and everyone else doubts that you can do it. But in the end, it’s you and the keyboard. And sometimes knowing how to beat something isn’t the problem, it’s making yourself do it in spite of your fear of failing.

I have fear, but fear doesn’t control my dream, it just can’t. Completing this is too important to me. I’ve had two months of excuses and feeling sorry for myself and doubting myself more than I ever have before, but now it’s time to roll up my sleeves and get writing again. And the next time this happens, because it probably will, I’ll do the same.

Bottom line: Writing is hard, but nothing worth having ever comes easy.

Timeline Struggles • Writing Thoughts

A few weeks ago I was certain that I’d have a finished draft by the end of February. Well, it’s March now and it’s still not finished, so needless to say I was far too ambitious. I notched my arrow and it flew far past the target. That being said, I’m okay with it. It’s better to do the thing right than do it sloppily in an impressive amount of time.

Although I still have a few scenes to write – tricky ones – the problem for me at the moment is my timeline. I write totally out of order, it’s just something that works best for me. I always endeavour to start out in a linear fashion but to avoid writer’s block I often have to give up on a scene and start a new one to keep my momentum going.

novel timeline

Unfortunately, this tactic leaves me with several different timeline problems.

To give a little information on my book, I have three main characters. Two of them are in totally different social classes but they live in the same country and the other character is a soldier who lives in a neighbouring country. My problem right now is knitting together the different POVs so that they make sense to a reader. The events in the book affect my characters in different ways, but I need to figure out which order the chapters go in before I can call my first draft “finished”.

The timeline is super important, not only to make sure the novel makes sense, but also to create and maintain that all-important page turning tension. It’s a pickle, and it takes a lot more time than you’d think, especially with unfinished scenes.

novel timeline

My plan at the moment is to just finish all the scenes and then summarise them onto cards. Then I’m going to place the cards in a line and move them about as needed. Once I have a narrative I’m happy with, then I’ll put the chapters in the right order. Only then will I consider the first draft finished, so realistically I’m looking at another month of work.

Okay. Plan formulated. Back to writing!

Outlining A Novel And Getting… Somewhere • Writing Thoughts

I’m a pantser. Always have been, and probably always will be. Recently, I’ve taken a more ‘pantser/outliner’ approach, particularly in the last month. What I’ve discovered is that it definitely helps me visualise the big picture a lot better, and I give it the good ol’ college try, but ultimately I go back to old habits.

I’m not saying winging it is a bad thing, it can be a fantastic way for your characters to meander and for you as the author to explore their personalities, but when it comes to putting together a 70k+ novel, you can’t just be a pantser (though I believe Stephen King would disagree with me here).

pantsing author

I’m nearly finished my first draft. I have about 20k left to write (approximately) and with my word goal of 1k per day, I believe I’ll have a wonderfully messy, infuriatingly scattered manuscript ready for editing by the end of the month. However, I’m several weeks away from my deadline and I still don’t have an ending.

Something about picking a path for my characters to walk that leads to the end of the book is terrifying to me. What if I get it wrong? What if I have a solid book up until the last few chapters and I screw it up at the final hour? That’s the kind of thinking that stops any half decent writer from getting anywhere; fear. Useless, taunting fear that offers absolutely no benefits to an aspiring writer. All it does is make you stumble and stall and, for some unlucky souls, it can make you quit.

pantsing author

While I’ve been half-pantsing and half-outlining my novel from almost the very start, but I have a hope that it isn’t too late to get my thoughts together in the form of a clear, concise outline. I have my beginning, my middle and now I just need a solid ending, so that’s my plan for tomorrow. I’m going to sit down with a pen and paper and plot out what’s going to happen to my characters; who’s going to live, who will die and what shocking event is going to happen to bleed into the sequel.

Are you a pantser or an outliner? Which do you prefer and why? Comment below!

So Close To The Finish Line • Writing Thoughts

NaNoWriMo finished over two months ago and I can see the light at the end of the tunnel (finally!), and in case you were wondering, yes, my novel is filled with cliché, overused phrases just like that one. However, the only reason I’ve even gotten this far is because I’ve put the editor in me firmly on the back burner and allowed myself to just write. 

Many authors agree that the magic of writing is in the re-writing, and I couldn’t agree more. I know there are lots of problems with my draft and there will be plenty of things I’ll have to change, polish or re-write entirely, but for now I’m happy just to finish. That is the goal for this next month, and hard as it is sometimes, I do see myself with a full draft by the end of the month. I’m very excited!

It’s now officially the 5th of February so I have approximately 3 weeks left. In saying this, I’m not going to hold a rope at my own throat. If I don’t finish in the next few weeks I’m not going to make myself feel like a failure. I have a planned deadline that I don’t want to go over (and I don’t think I will unless I come down with dreaded writer’s block), but as long as the draft is mostly done by the end of the month, I’ll be happy enough.

This is just an update as to where I’m at with my NaNo novel (honestly I didn’t think I’d get this far). Once I get the first draft polished, I plan on re-reading it and making more changes, then I’ll approach an agent and publishers. After that, I’m going to go back to my initial story (check out my M.A.D. section to find out more about my first attempt at writing a novel) and create a proper outline for it (I think I’ve finally abandoned the ‘pantser’ life). Then for Camp NaNoWriMo I’m going to try for 50k again!

Phew.

That’s the plan. Fingers crossed for me!

Drawing Maps & Growing As A Writer • Inspiration Wall 02

This was a great week for me in terms of writing. Scenes have been flowing better, I’ve plugged a few plot holes and I’m more confident in the path I’ve put my characters on. It’s a win all round! I don’t like to risk jinxing myself but I think I’ll finish my first draft by the end of next month! I’m definitely feeling very positive.

novel writing

Growing as a writer 

I wrote an article last year on ‘author envy’ – that overwhelming feeling of jealousy when you hear that another writer (especially if they’re the same age or younger than you) has not only finished writing their book, but they’re about to get it published. This exact situation happened in my life in the past year; a girl I know worked hard and finished her book and then she got a publishing deal. I couldn’t bring myself to be happy for her, I just couldn’t. All I felt was my undeniable failure in the face of her success.

novel writing

I think this is just something every writer goes through, and it’s nothing to do with the great achievement of the other writer. It really isn’t. It has everything to do with insecurity and feeling like you’re not good enough, like you’re never going to achieve your dream. It’s odd isn’t it? You’d think seeing someone succeeding – someone who is in the same boat as you – would only serve to motivate you more? For me it didn’t.

I was kind of down for a while afterwards, but I pushed on with my writing anyway. I’m so glad I did as I’m now near the finish line and, as a nice bonus, I can now say that I am truly happy for the girl I know who is soon to be a published author. It really is wonderful because, like me, being an author is her dream. You should keep an eye out for her upcoming book called The Space Between which will be published by Little Island. She’s a fabulous, unique writer so I’m sure it will receive rave reviews!

Map making 

Inkarnate.com is a really fun tool to use if you’re planning out a world and you want to get all your visuals down on paper, so to speak. The software allows you to put a basic map together and you can even add things like castles and different types of trees and land (swampy, desert etc.) to personalise it even more. I had a bit of a tinker with it and came up with a fun visual for me to work off of while I’m writing.

I spent approximately 5 minutes on this so it would be infinitely better if I committed real time to it, but it does what I want it to – it allows me to have a good idea of the sizes of the countries in my book and their proximity to each other.

inkarnate world building

Everything is falling into place 

When I first started writing my novel I was worried about the ending. Mainly because I didn’t have one. This is where the ‘fly by the seat of my pants’ style of writing is inspiring. It can take you to a part of your story that you may never have thought of while carefully planning each scene.

When I was a kid I just wrote any old thing that popped into my head. Planning had absolutely no place in my “process”, so to speak. Now I plan a little and wing it a lot, but one isn’t better than the other. They both have their place, and lots of writers prefer different kind of methods.

I’ve never gotten this far in a story before (65+k), so I’m pretty sure that I’ve found my sweet spot. Here’s to many more thousands of words next week!

novel writing

Using Irish culture 

As I mentioned in my first Inspiration Wall, I’ve been looking into my culture more and taking a few elements that I find really beautiful and fascinating to weave them into my story. Some of these things are really small – just details, really – but it’s not just the big, obvious parts of a tale that make it so memorable to the reader. I want to make my story unique.

One of the things I plan on using are ghillies, which are little black Irish dancing shoes that you lace up under the sole. One of my characters dances in an inn and she’ll mention these in one of the scenes. Another thing I plan on including is a rag tree, which you can find in many areas of Ireland. Rag trees are regular trees (usually near a Holy Well) where people with problems or illnesses tie a piece of their clothing/a rag to the tree. It’s said that the problem or sickness will go as the rag rots.

rag tree novel

I loved that Leigh Bardugo included some elements of Russian culture in her Six of Crows duology, as I looked up a lot of the words she used out of interest. It would be fantastic if someone unfamiliar with Irish culture looked up aspects of it because they read my book!

Also, it’s not surprising but I’ve been listening to a lot of Enya this week (LOVE her, she is a national treasure!) and if you’re writing fantasy scenes featuring elves or witches or magic then this music will inspire you. She’s responsible for helping create the stunning LOTR score so, you know, trust me on this one.

 

What gave you inspiration this week? Let me know in the comments below!