Friday, 15 October 2010


Joy! Exultation! Happiness! Similar Satisfying Synonyms!

As I sit here on this dull and gloomy Friday with my mug of tea, my pink, purple and turquoise fingerless gloves on and Katy Perry blasting on my iPod, the first draft of FrostFire is complete!

In the name of full disclosure I must admit that it stinks. It stinks so much I can practically see the squiggles emanating from it, like PigPen in Charlie Brown. But that doesn't matter, because IT IS FINISHED! Now it goes into a nice, neat folder and gets to wait for two weeks to mature, at the end of which I shall be plunged into the deepest depths of darkness (otherwise known as editing) before the book wings its way to the well-organised desk of my editor. Hurrah!

Before I dive head-first into my newly acquired Series One Boxset of The Vampire Diaries (review coming next week, peeps) there are two things to be dealt with. First, I need to repeat my appeal for information from any Japanese blog readers who do not live in Japan. Or do you know someone who fits the bill? Please contact me if so! I really want my portrayal of a teenage Japanese/English girl to be respectful and accurate, but if I can't talk to anyone about it, I'm just going to have to go with my best guess, and I might get things wrong. It'll be too late when the book's written.

Next, a reader email from a very polite young lady called Aimen who asks:

I left my novel for a couple of days since I was falling behind on schoolwork and when I came back to it, I realized that there was a whole chapter where my characterization was completely wacky... So, now I'm wondering: should I go back and improve the characterization (ultimately editing the whole chapter) or should I just keep on writing? With the latter, there is the possibility that the novel might turn out differently. But with the former, there's a chance that I might get discouraged when I realize that more than 5000 words are missing.
Okay, here's what I think. Generally, 90% of the time, if I realise something is wrong in an earlier part of the story I'm working on I LEAVE IT BE. Otherwise I find that I can't stop with that one scene or chapter and I end by completely revising the partial manuscript, which is a complete waste of time because a) I'll have to go back and revise it again later anyway and b) I can fall prey to a serious fit of the mid-book blues, thinking 'this manuscript sucks, nothing turned out the way it was supposed to, I hate it' and then having to give myself pep talks to convince myself not to give up.

So when people ask me this question normally I tell them to take out their notebook (you have a notebook, right? If not, get one, it will change your life) and make a big, red, highlighted note to fix whatever it is LATER and then move on. Usually, having identified that problem area will mean that you write your later scenes with increased knowledge anyway.

However, in this case it seems like you've already re-read your partial manuscript and you haven't burst into tears and decided to just give up forever (which is a good sign) and also, that you've realised you missed out on a crucial element on your story which could have a critical impact on the way the story and characters develop later on. There are definitely times, as a writer, when you go into a scene expecting one thing and the characters and story want Something Else, and that Something Else changes the whole story. I usually try to go with this because it results in a richer and more complex story.

If you really feel as if this scene, written as it is, is going to hold your characters back, and that carrying on with events as they are wouldn't be truthful to them, then it might be better for you to go back, revise it so that the scene 'sings' for you, with all the right emotions in place...and then see how that effects things. It might be that the logical follow-on from the new scene will have little effect on the full book, in which case, carry on. It might be that now you realise this character is really like THIS and the other character would never do THAT, you also realise your original series of story events won't work anymore, in which case you can change them now, before you've written them, and save yourself much stress and many wasted words later on, when you realise you went down the wrong path.

Whichever option you chose though, remember that the most important thing is always to finish your story. You can fix anything in revision - except a blank page.

Hope this was useful, Aimen.

Have a great weekend everyone! *Skips away whistling*


Isabel said...

I'm so glad that you finally finished. Editing isn't much fun, and it's not a piece of cake, but I am sooo excited for this book to come out. Yes, yes, I know it isn't going to be released in the U.S. for a while yet, but I can't help getting all giddy. Have fun with all those books. I'm looking forward to reading what you think of them, even if I'm unfamiliar with some.

Great question, Aimen!
That same issue has aroused within me countless times before, but, like Zoe said, it is best to leave it be until you finish. But, if it is something that is REALLY important to your plot line, sometimes it's good to tweak a few things so that your story still makes sense.

Zoë Marriott said...

Thanks, Isabel. This book should be out spring 2013 in the US, if all goes according to plan - which is a bit of a long wait, so your enthusiasm is definitely appreciated!

Isabel said...

It seems that all the books I am absolutely DIEING to get hold of are not coming out till next year or later. The third book in the Demon King series, "The Gray Wolf Throne", is only coming out in the fall of 2011, Shadows on the Moon is only coming out here in spring 2012, FrostFire is only coming out in the U.S. in spring 2013 (Rrrr), the seventh book in the Faerie Path series is only coming out next year, and who knows when the third in the Prophecy of the Sisters series is coming out. (Another great series, you should check it out)
I can't stand this. What I'd give to be able to lay my greedy hands on any one of these novels.
Nothing to do but keep waiting.
And sign up for that contest in December to win an ARC for Shadows on the Moon.
Maybe, by some miracle, I might just win . . .

Zoë Marriott said...

I feel your pain, Isabel, I really do. I've been craving the next Tamora Pierce book for so long I feel a little bit sick about it. If it was up to me you'd get your hands on everything much sooner! Maybe if I ever become a huge bestseller I'll have the pull to make a difference to this stuff...

Isabel said...

Will you kill me if I say that I have never read a book by Tamora Pierce before?
You seem like a pretty big fan, ever since you were young. Actually, I've been meaning to get around to reading a book by her called Young Warriors, but I keep forgetting to visit the library, and I haven't seen it at Borders, so up till now I still haven't really checked it out. Is it any good? That is, if you've read it. Could you suggest some other books by her to me?

By the way, it seems like your really fond of music, you are always talking about it and listening to it, or is it just me?
If you have any preferences, tell me, cause I love music too and am always looking for new songs to listen to. (For example, right now, music is blasting in my ear, Lady Gaga in fact : ))

Zoë Marriott said...

Well, actually I already did a post about music - you can find it in the archives, probably in June or July.

As for Tamora Pierce, I recommend starting at the beginning and reading the Song of the Lioness Quartet. The books are: Alanna; The First Adventure, In the Hand of the Goddess, The Woman Who Rides Like a Man and Lioness Rampant. Once you've read those you'll be wanting to read more! You can get all the info you need at her website here:

Isabel said...

Thanks Zoe!!

Isabel said...

Wow, I just checked out that post on music. You can seriously WRITE while listening to MUSIC!?!?!!? How do you do that? I'll have to try that, though I doubt I will be able to get down one word with a distraction like that. Yes, music is also very inspiring to me for my writing, but I never listen *and* write at the same time. Okay, what shall I pick . . .
Ah, here I go, 'Yellow' by ColdPlay.
And a particularly emotional scene to write. Oh goody. I am going to go back and laugh at this chapter once I'm done with it. It will turn out so crazy . . .

Zoë Marriott said...

Well, I have to admit that when I get really into what I'm working on the music fades out and I stop hearing it, but I need the music to get into the right mood to begin. Writers seem to be equally divided between people who can't do withour music and people who can't do without silence, but I fall somewhere in the middle.

Isabel said...

Oh. My. Gosh. Far from being distracting, having the music on was actually EXTREMELY helpful. Like you said, I think I only quite realized the song was off after about a minute!!! And then, of course, a just clicked replay. This was so unexpected. I'd never tried it before and so assumed it would be very distracting to have a musical backdrop while writing. I got a lot done, and was very pleased with my work. I wouldn't say this song was THE SONG, but it fit perfectly with the scene I was writing. Oh, you should check it out. Like I said above, it's called 'Yellow' by ColdPlay.
Thanks so much for introducing this new technique to me Zoe. It was so very helpful. : )

Krystle said...

Well, I'm mostly Japanese and I live in Hawai'i (I've been raised by my Japanese grandparents though, haha) where the dominant ethnicity is Asian. But mainland Asians versus Hawai'i based ones are (and I'm making a generalization here) are very different. So it depends. I find that we've got more of the traditional mindset and concepts down a lot more than mainlanders who seem to be white-washed.

bfree15 said...

Bit of a late comment, but I just wanted to say that I think your idea about a Japanese girl living in the UK is very interesting. I think it is a great topic to write about.

Sadly I don’t know any people in that situation but my mother’s parents were Irish who came to live in England. It might not sound like a big thing now but when my mother’s parents moved over here it was soon after the Second World War when the English despised the Irish and they were treated really badly. For my Nan leaving her home country shaped her views and the person she became changing her life forever.
Okay im starting to cloud up now just thinking about it.

Anyway it is a great topic very close to my heart and I am sure you will do it justice whichever angle you take with it.

Zoë Marriott said...

Krystle: Thanks for responding! I've sent you an email full of horribly nosy questions.

Bfree15: Thanks, I'm glad you like it. You see, that kind of experience of living somewhere and belonging in some ways but not really belonging in others is something I'd like to look into, but I want to get my details right, which is why I'm hoping Krystle can help me.

bfree15 said...

Yes, I know what you mean because I think my mum feels that way and I am also kinda torn myself. My mum has grown up in England since she was 5 but now that the only family she has over here are her children she feels lost if that makes sense. It is hard to explain but she has never considered herself English (which she isn’t essentially) even though she can’t remember living in Ireland. Though she was brought up in England all her family are Irish so Ireland is what feels like home. It is all very confusing.

Anyway I’m going to shut up now and just wish you good luck with your project.

Zoë Marriott said...

Thank you! I will need all the luck I can get - I'm going completely out of my comfort zone with my plan for this book so...well, more on the blog about that later!

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