Monday, 31 October 2011

BIG SECRET PROJECT TEASER #4

Hello, Dear Readers! I wish you Happy Monday - as it's a very happy Monday for me. The Scalpel is working again, and tomorrow NaNoWriMo starts and I can get to work on Big Secret Project Book Two. Yippee! I've got so many ideas I've been a little worried my brain might pop.

And so it seems only fitting that I should post a Big Secret Project Book One teaser today. This will probably be the very last one, since I don't want to give all the plot away (it is a Secret Project still, after all). As always, when a book is not officially sold yet, this snippet is subject to change major or minor, or even deletion. So enjoy it while you can - and tell me what you think in the comments!

Click the cut to read more.

Friday, 28 October 2011

GOOD NEWS BAD NEWS

Hello all - I'd love to say 'Happy Friday' but it's more a mixed Friday, really. There is, as the title suggests, good news and bad news.

The good news is that I finished my revision of Big Secret Project Book One late on Wednesday and sent it off to Super Agent. So...the die is cast, as Shakespeare would say. Now I just have to cross my fingers that she loves it as much as I do. And that I'll be able to share information with you about it soon because IT. IS. KILLING. MEEEEEE.

Ahem.

The bad news is that this morning I had a wee accident with The Scalpel, my laptop. And now it's not working at all. I'm typing this on my ancient back-up model and trying to figure out what I'm going to do about that, as the Scalpel is just under a year old and is *is* insured, but then again there's my no claims bonus...ach, boring adult stuff like that.

Anyhow, thanks to everyone for their positive contributions to the Mary Sue discussion following Wednesday's post. I was dreading the comments a little bit, but so far it's all been polite and friendly, which is a relief.

Now I leave you, to brood over my courageous laptop comrade, who has fallen in battle.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

WHAT WOULD MARY SUE DO?

Hello, Dear Readers! Happy Wednesday to you all. I've decided that it's finally time to follow up on my most-read post ever. I have girded my loins, donned my flack jacket, and cautiously boarded the train back to Crazy Town (carrying some sandwiches wrapped in greaseproof paper, and a spare pair of socks, in case of emergency, as all travellers to Crazy Town should).

Yes, Dear Readers. That's right.

Today, we're going to talk about Mary Sue. Again.

Many of you will be aware of the internet firestorm that descended on this blog after I made a post asking reviewers and critics to reconsider their use (and misuse) of the term Mary Sue - but if not, you can find the post, and read the extremely interesting comment trail, here.

In the wake of that post and the response to it, several other authors weighed in on the discussion, with their particular takes on why seeing 'Mary Sue' scattered all over the place like an unwise fashion epidemic (neon leg warmers? Puffball skirts? Mullets?) made their souls die a little. I'm isolating here the responses that particularly struck a chord for me and made me look at this whole debate from a different perspective.

Firstly we had the wonderful Sarah Rees Brennan (who-I-kind-of-want-to-marry-Omg) telling ladies that they are ALLOWED to be both flawed and awesome: in fact, flawsome.

Next Holly Black (Saint-Paul-on-a-pogo-stick-HOLLY-BLACK!) very thoughtfully pointed out that a Mary Sue is only a Mary Sue in fanfic because she's stealing the narrative from the true leading characters. In original fiction, where she IS the leading character, she's just doing what a hero or heroine does.

Then not long ago adult urban fantasy author Seanan McGuire (whose-October-Daye-books-are-literally-on-my-TBR-pile-right-now-holy-crap) made possibly the most telling post of all for me, wherein she teased out an aspect of the situation which I hadn't consciously analysed before: that reviewers are calling Mary Sue on any female character who is sufficiently heroic to actually carry her own story.

When I wrote that original Mary Sue post, obviously I had no idea how much of a landmine I was stepping on in terms of anger and defensiveness from certain readers (which is why I eventually stopped responding to comments and emails on the topic). But at the same time, I also had no idea how much of a groundswell of support there would be from other authors, authors who'd been witnessing this phenomenon themselves and feeling just as disturbed by it as I was. I had no idea, basically, how bloody right I was.

I rant a lot, about a lot of subjects, and I always believe in what I say. But as I saw the response to my Mary Sue post gaining momentum, as I saw more and more women writers admitting how sad and disheartened and hopeless this term made them feel, it began to dawn on me that this wasn't just me ranting about a pet peeve anymore. It wasn't just that Mary Sue was an inaccurate way to criticise female characters, that it was badly defined and contradictory and annoying.

It was that the overuse of Mary Sue was damaging the quality of critical response to original fiction AND encouraging anti-woman sentiment hidden under a thin veneer of concern for Strong Female Characters.

Mary Sue is a lot more important than she first appeared, Dear Readers. Not just in herself, but because she is symptomatic of a much wider problem: how women are treated and represented in our society.

And how is that? Well, to sum it up, let's take a look at this lovely little poster (which I know you've all probably seen before) which puts a series of male comic book characters in the same pose that artists chose for Wonder Woman (with WW herself at the bottom for comparison):




This has been doing the rounds on the internet for months, and we've all had a good laugh about it. Because that's what we socially aware Feminists DO when we're confronted with evidence of the over-sexualisation of women in the media. We laugh about it.

The problem is that it's not really funny.

If any male hero was really drawn posed like that on any page in any mainstream graphic novel, the words 'Ridiculous!' 'Inappropriate!', 'Demeaning!', 'Disgusting!' and most probably 'Gay!' (cringe) would get thrown at it so fast that you'd hear a wave of sonic booms. But female characters continue to be drawn this way. And female actors continue to be posed this way in films and on TV. And female models do the same pose in ads and on the catwalk.

Why? Because its OK for women to look ridiculous and inappropriate, for them to be demeaned and disgusting (and most definitely gay, so long as they're happy to let hetero blokes watch them at it).

In fact, it's more than OK. It's expected. It is REQUIRED. So much so that no one even sees it as demeaning or inappropriate or any of those other emotive words. They just see it as normal. *I* see it as normal. So what if I spend around a quarter of a film averting my eyes from lingering shots of a female actor's rear end, bust, legs and lips, and walk away without being able to remember the character's name? I probably don't even notice because That's Just How Films Are (this is called the Male Gaze and is a topic to be fully explored in another post, Dear Readers).

Basically: Male heroes get to save the world. Female ones get to stand there and look sexy, dammit.

Considering that we're constantly - but constantly - exposed to this worldview, is it any wonder that most of us have trouble clearing enough space in our heads to tackle female characters fairly?

I don't believe all reviewers (especially the female ones!) want to see women characters over-sexualised and treated as nothing more than unthreatening eye candy. But what I do believe is that this bombardment of EmptySexyHotObject images has made it hard for us to see women AS ANYTHING ELSE.

Which is why when female writers produce female characters with depth and agency, they get accused of wish fulfilment.

There's an unconscious assumption that any female protagonist or any important female secondary character written by a woman must necessarily be an idealised author insert/wish fulfilment character. Otherwise no female character would get to tell her own story in her own voice, and have her experiences treated as interesting and worthwhile. That's the real flaw with the term Mary Sue and the way that reviewers are applying it to original fiction. Female characters are not parasites sucking away the limelight that rightfully belongs to their male counterparts. Women do deserve their own stories. Their own voices. Their experiences are interesting and worthwhile.

Female protagonists are being treated like cuckoos in the nest within their own stories.

And the more successful they become, the more female writers are being treated like cuckoos in the nest within their own industry.

Look at this. And some of the comments in this (brilliant) post by Maureen Johnson. Examples of people stating that they want women to stop all this silly writing of theirs, and let men do the job instead. Examples of people stating, without irony, that women need to stop producing these girly books full of girl characters for girls to read because that is somehow stopping BOYS from reading! Let the men write manly books for men because...well, just because! Boys are important! Stuff girls! Who cares if THEY read or not? They're just there to look sexy, dammit!

These are the attitudes and assumptions that all women, and all readers, are fighting against.

I'm not saying that the misuse of the term Mary Sue is responsible for All The Sexism. But it is a really worrying symptom. It's an internet term, mostly used by internet savvy folks - and the Internet is the place where, for my money, a lot of the really smart booktalk happens. This is the place where readers find like-minded networks of friends, where a lot of promising young writers get nurtured. And where you find courageous, honest reviewers who really know the YA category - reviewers whose reviews we NEED because they are willing to put their heads above the parapet and call out misogyny and racism and homophobia and bad writing and abusive fictional boyfriends (all stuff that worries me too)!

Let me make it clear that I love readers. I love reviewers. I love bloggers. I WANT you guys to keep doing your thing. I want to keep on reading reviews of my own work (positive and negative) which teach me useful lessons and help me to develop and improve as writer BECAUSE they are not written for my benefit. I want to be able to click on Amazon or Goodreads or Book Depo and see fifty different reviews of the books I'm thinking about buying from all different perspectives. If you think a character is badly written or developed or unrealistic? I 100% support your right to scream that from the rooftops.

But the unconscious cuckoo-in-the-nest assumption betrayed by the use of Mary Sue as a term to denigrate female characters (and authors!) in original fiction is stealthily poisoning a lot of that healthy, necessary debate about YA books. It's harmful to the young readers we should be encouraging, the young reviewers we should be embracing, and the developing writers we should be supporting online.

Why does it have to be this way, Dear Readers? What do you think?

What would Mary Sue (by which I mean a complex, fully realised, awesome female character) do?

(With thanks to the lovely writers who double-checked this post for me and stopped me from commiting pure Feminist Rage Smash. They know who they are!)

Monday, 24 October 2011

NaNoWriMo: FOR REAL

Thanks to Kaz Mahoney for this logo!
Hello, hello, hello, Dear Readers! As the dread, chilly fingers of Monday once again winkle us out from the over-stuffed, cloudy warmth of the weekend, I bring you some momentous news:

I have signed up for NaNoWriMo!

For those of you who have no idea why I'm typing out apparently random combinations of vowels and consonents, I'll clarify. That's National Novel Writing Month, where writers from all over the world join together in their attempt to write a novel (here defined as a work of fifty thousand words or more) in the month of November. Yes, that's right. 50k in 30 days. Yes, it does sound utterly impossible - we'll come back to that later. In the meantime, here's a link to the official NaNo website.

My participation is provisional on me finishing revisions of Big Secret Project Book One before the end of this month (since the rules of NaNo state that you must work on something new) but I've got my fingers firmly crossed that I'll manage it. Actually, I'm really looking forward to it.

I've never really had much interest in NaNo before. I've seen lots of writers talking about it, including one lovely member of my lovely writer's group, but since every year when it rolled around I was either in the middle of revising something, or writing something else - and I'm not the kind of writer who enjoys working on more than one project at once - I just didn't bother to enquire further. So if I DO manage to get my revisions done in time, this will be my first ever time participating in NaNoWriMo.

Frankly, it's all Twitter's fault. And by Twitter, I mean writer-pal Cat Clarke and blogger-pal Vivienne DaCosta. They were all excited and enabling about it. They made it sound like huge fun instead of a hassle. Before I knew what I was doing, I was signing up.

My NaNo project will be - no huge surprise here - Big Secret Project Book Two! Which is part of the reason I'm looking forward to it because, you see, 50k in 30 days is not as impossible as it sounds.

Firstly, if you write 1666 words (that's about seven handwritten pages for me) per day every day, you'll succeed. Since I try to write about ten pages, or 2000 words per day, between five and six days of the week, and sometimes manage more, that's not out of the realms of sanity.

Secondly, when I was writing Shadows on the Moon, and I took my customary two weeks off before starting the revision process, I got a wild hair and actually wrote 40,000 words off a Twilight spoof novel (yes, yes, I know it's been done - and no, no, you are NEVER going to see it). And that was while I was working thirty hours a week at my soul-destroying office job. So if I can write (on average) 2857 words per day while working in The Pit of Despond (and having my soul destroyed, let's not forget that) surely I can write 1666 per day as a full-time writer while my soul is pink-cheeked and rosy?

And since the first draft of the first book of Big Secret Project is 73,000 words long - and I hope the second book will follow that pattern - 50k would be huge chunk of work done, leaving me lots of extra time for revising it and making it the best it can possibly be.

Here is my brand spanking new NaNoWriMo profile. I shall be updating it with my word count throughout the month of November, if you're interested to see how I'm getting along.

I also have reason to believe that I will be giving you more news about Big Secret Project some time in the near future - so keep your fingers crossed!

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

MY WEEK SO FAR: An illustrated History

Normally, when people say 'A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words', I get really huffy. You know, just on principle. But today...today, I find that I have no words. So pictures will have to do.

As you know, Dear Readers, this week I was intending to start work on revisions of Book One of Big Secret Project. Now, every book is different, and with some books the revision and re-writing before I send the draft to my agent and editor is a dread thing. But Big Secret Project makes me so happy, Dear Readers. It gives me giggles and rainbow sparkles and fluffy unicorn lulz. So when I say that I was eager to begin work on the revisions, I'm understating. In fact, the idea of diving back into my beloved project made me feel like this:

Monday morning came, and as you also know (if you were paying attention) I was unearthed from bed quite early by a distress call from my mother and her ailing computer. But after a few hours of pressing buttons and swearing and burning offerings to the Tech Gods, I got it up and working and was able to return to my own computer and my beloved BSP. And I was pleased:

But then, when my mum came back from work, there was another distress call. Her computer was Doing It Again.


Further fiddling, consultation with a Computer Support Person, and a bucketful of tears later, we came to the realisation that the problem with my mother's beloved laptop was not one that could be fixed by mere human intervention. And the Tech Gods weren't listening. And as the only computer literate person in the immediate vicinity, it was going to be my job to jump in there and do damage control.

Complete system back-up while the thing was still whirring away. Quick research on the cheapest alternative model and an order. Quickly checking and writing down all the passwords for various websites and systems that my mum never bothered to remember because she had the computer set to automatic login. A million tasks presented themselves to me, and took up pretty much the whole day. At the end of it, I staggered away and collapsed in front of the TV, brain dead.

But at least I could get to work tomorrow, right?

WRONG.

In an act of such painfully annoying efficiency that it makes me want to sharpen my teeth with a pencil sharpener and then bite someone, somehow the replacement computer arrived yesterday morning, less than twenty-four hours after I ordered it.

This was the cause of great rejoicing for the aforementioned mother, but not so much for me as it was of course going to be my task to set up this new computer, transfer every single file and folder from the old one to it, download all the freeware (like iTunes, VLC Media Player and various anti-virus and malware programmes) and introduce my mum to scary new features like a power button and power socket in a completely different area than she was used to. In other words? No writing on Tuesday.


But tomorrow! Tomorrow it's all going to be fine, right? Computer crisis averted! Nothing to do but write, write, write!

Er...no. Because just after dinner I got a call from the plumber telling me that he and his crew would be coming around to do fiddly work in my attic in order to make my boiler safe. And anyone who can write with workmen traipsing through the house, demanding cups of tea and making the dog go into a barking fit every twenty seconds is a better man than I am Gunga Din.

My current mood?


That little scree-scree-scree noise you hear? That's me sharpening my fangs after all.

Lesson: do not keep writers from their words. IT MAKES THEM DANGEROUS AND UNSTABLE.

*Chomp*

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

SHADOWS ON THE MOON TRAILER - THE DIRECTOR'S CUT!

Hello, Dear Readers - and happy Wednesday to you all!

Some of you may be aware that late last week the original Shadows on the Moon book trailer reached 1,000 views, which was a cause of great smileyness and joy at Casa Zolah.

Now, I promised back when the trailer was first launched that if this happened, I'd persuade my publisher to let me upload the extended version, which had some extra juicy bits. And I'm very happy to say that they've given me the OK to put it on my personal YouTube Channel.

So here it is! Let me know what you think!


Monday, 10 October 2011

STILL EXPLORING WONDERLAND

Today, I had a blog post about grammar planned. It was going to be thrilling, controversial and epic. But then I woke up and saw something. Something that enraged me so much that it was either post, or explode.

This article. This. It's called No More Adventures in Wonderland and it basically mourns the loss of childlike adventure and enchantment in children's stories, and says that children's and young people's fantasies are being edged out by adult anxieties which writers are apparently projecting into reader's brains.

There's so much I'd like to say about the blatant wrong-headedness of this article.

I'd like to ponder how, in one paragraph, the writer can admit that more children and adults are reading today's YA books together than ever before, and then, in her closing paragraph, state that modern children's and YA novels lack the ability to '[bridge] generational divides'.

I'd like to marvel at how can she can praise J.M. Barry's famously twisted, melancholic Peter Pan, apparently without ever noticing its sinister undertones, and then criticise Harry Potter for its darkness and completely miss the colourful, funny, disgusting, WONDERFUL world that J.K. Rowling created and which fills children (and adults!) the world over with smiles and glee ('Alas! Earwax!').

But mostly, I'm just brain-boggled by the fact that she is apparently seriously suggesting that in a world where Suzanne Collins draws her inspiration to write a book about child warriors from news footage about real life child warriors, today's children's writers should try to find out 'what children [want]' by spending lazy afternoons in boats or public parks with the privileged offspring of the wealthiest five or ten percent of the population.

Because, you see, the privileged offspring of the wealthiest five or ten percent of the population are the children we all ought to be writing for. They're the default setting. They're the 'normal' kids. The kids who've seen darkness - death, poverty, abuse, bullying, illness - in their own lives? Well, they're not anything like the writer of the article, are they? They're not like the kids of anyone she knows. They are outside her experience, just a hazy and troubling smudge on the edges of her awareness which it is so much more comforting to ignore.

So they don't count.

What a shame we can't all go back to that halycon Golden Age of civilisation where J.M Barry and Lewis Carroll cavorted in the warm summer sunlight with pink-cheeked infants - real children - while thousands of other children - you know, the ones who didn't count - languished in poorhouses, orphanages and on the streets and probably never learned to read at all, let alone survived to be adults.

Clearly life held so much more:'...redemptive beauty, cathartic humor and healing magic' back then.

Right.

Friday, 7 October 2011

WORDLE IS TEASING YOU...

Wordle: Barefoot on the Wind

This is the Wordle that I made the other day for a book I intend to write in the future. As you can see, the story has a tentative title of Barefoot on the Wind (some of you may recognise this title and remember it from an unpublished story that sometimes shows up in my writing credits. I've been waiting for a chance to use the title again, since I love it).

This is not Big Secret Project. In fact, it's barely a twinkle in my eye. But I have written a synopsis for it, and on a whim fed that into the website. As always, Wordle did its strange magic and created this, which tells you so many wonderful and intriguing things about the story, I can't even stand it.

Go on! Make some guesses! What do YOU think it's about?

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

AGENT APPRECIATION DAY

Hello, Dear Readers - and welcome to Agent Appreciation Day here on The Zoë-Trope!

Okay, Okay. I know that the actual, official Agent Appreciation Day is December 11th. But I can't wait that long, so you'll just have to put up with this now. Capice?

Not very long ago (just over a year, in fact) Zolah was in a serious quandry. After having been represented by the same agent since 2007 - and her very first published book - she had been forced to part with her former agency, and was now...gulp...unrepresented.

It's a chilly, alone-in-a-spooky-house sort of feeling to be unrepresented in today's market, Dear Readers. Zolah did not like it. At all. And so she went about trying to get herself a new agent. A confession: she had bookmarked the websites of several top notch agents many long months before the events that caused her to split from her first agent. She liked to sit and gaze at them, and sigh longingly. But actually contacting them was a different thing. Frankly, the prospect was so nerve-wracking that she thought she might throw up a little.

Finally, with shaking fingers, she managed to get herself to dial the number of one of the agents whose website she had been gazing at longingly. And lo! The agent was nice! And friendly! And knowlegible! And interested in reading Zolah's published books!

And Zolah was pleased.

But at the same time, she felt a twinge...just a twinge of anxiety. Because, you see, she had just done exactly the same thing that she did the first time she got an agent. She'd contacted only one agent and agreed to an exclusive submission without talking to any others, something that books and the internet had told her was a very silly thing to do. Even though the agent in question was absolutely lovely, Zolah suddenly felt that she'd repeated a pattern of unprofessional behaviour. But it was too late to do anything about it. Right?

Not so. Soon afterwards Zolah was speaking to her editor about her quandry, and her editor - having pointed out to Zolah very gently the unprofessional thing she had done - recommended that Zolah wait until the limit on the exclusivity period of her submission to that first agent (which was only a week), and speak to at least one other, just to make sure she had explored her options. The editor happened to know a wonderful agent who represented many wonderful authors. Why not speak to her and see how it went?

And so, about a week later, Zolah dialled another agent's phone number with cold and trembling fingers. She had already agreed to meet with the first agent, who continued to be lovely and enthusiastic and everything that Zolah could have wanted, and was really only doing this so that she could tell herself - and her editor - that she had been sensible. She was pretty sure this agent wouldn't be interested in her anyway. This agent represented people that Zolah worshipped on bended knee.

The phone rang. The agent answered.

Something magical happened. Something just...clicked. Within five minutes Zolah was giggling helplessly while, on the other end of the phone, the agent laughed too. The pair talked for about half an hour in the most informal, relaxed way. Zolah barely noticed when she stopped shaking and a sense of contentment and rightness crept over her. She agreed to send this second agent some samples of her work, and hung up with a huge grin on her face.

This agent was The One.

Zolah continued to try to be sensible. She met with that first agent she had contacted, and found her just as marvellous as her reputation had painted her. She spoke to The One again and was thrilled to find that The One wanted her as a client. She sat down and made a list of various factors that she ought to consider in her choice and thought very hard.

But deep in her heart, that decision was already made.

A little while later she signed with Nancy Miles of the Miles Stott Children's Literary Agency. Otherwise known as The One. And occasionally Super Agent.

I shall now move out of third person to say that Nancy (The One, Super Agent) and I have been working together very closely in recent weeks. Stressful things have been going on and I've freaked out a few times. And I cannot believe - CANNOT BELIEVE - how lucky I got when she agreed to be my agent. The levels of support and attention my agent - my agent! whee! - has given me have been completely above and beyond the call of duty and have helped to keep me sane somehow through all the ups and downs and the waiting (the endless, endless waiting).

I have it on good authority that The One (Nancy, Super Agent), being a very busy lady, doesn't read this blog. So I'm not really saying all of this for her. I hope she already knows how much I appreciate her anyway. Today is my Agent Appreciation Day. I need to take a moment to say to the world (and God, Buddha, Allah, The Fates, and anyone else who's listening): THANK YOU.

Thank you for getting Super Agent (The One, Nancy) to actually want me as a client, and stick with me through all this, so that I could finally understand those writers who talk about their agents with such love and respect. Thank you for Nancy Miles (Super Agent, The One).

That's all, World. Back to your regularly scheduled shenanigans.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

A VISIT FROM THE MUSES

Hello, my lovelies - I hope you all had a nice weekend? I did. And certainly a productive one.

On Saturday, after I'd done my normal household chores and shopping, I sat down with my notebook and produced a detailed, six page outline, with bullet points, for the scenes I wanted to start on Sunday. The scenes I've been referring to on Twitter as The Big Fat Final Scenes (well, it goes nicely with Big Secret Project, right?).

I did this because I had SO much going on in these final scenes and there were so many ways things could play out, that I really wanted to nail the choices down and block it all out before I started work for real. That way, instead of staring at a blank page and being faced with a million things to decide, I could launch right into the action. Some writers do this with note cards or Post-Its or with clever graphs, but generally when I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed I find the best thing to do is scribble until I feel better.

Which I duly did.

Sunday rolled around, and despite oversleeping and therefore getting up with a headache, I was in my Writing Cave and ready to begin work shortly before nine o'clock. I hoped, with determined optimism, to get about ten handwritten pages completed, which would translate (normally) to something like two thousand words when typed up. A nice chunk of pages that would get me right into the action.

I popped in my favourite Big Secret Project writing playlist (you can find it here) and started writing.
 
Then I wrote some more.

And... a bit more.

My hand started to really hurt. I stopped, ran it under cold water, and then warm, and then cold again. Then I went back to my notebook.

I noticed that my clock said it was lunchtime. After stretching my hand again and wondering why it was hurting so much, I counted the pages I'd written that morning.

It was twenty-one.

Hmmm. That was quite a lot. Around twice what I'd expected to write the whole day. Things were going well. I went off thoughtfully to have some lunch, walk the dog and apply a cooling gel strip to my hand.

When I came back, I went onto Twitter and asked for opinions. I had written twice as much that morning as I expected to. The Muses, who, being capricious and contrary, often make one of their rare visits when a person is already in their Writing Cave scribbling their brains out, seemed to be in my corner. It was possible - JUST possible - that if I kept on like this, I might be able to actually finish my handwritten draft today.

This. Actual. Day.

On the other hand, my first handwritten draft doesn't really count because I still have to type everything up later and revise and re-write and polish it. And my arm and fingers were very sore. And I usually spend the afternoons typing my morning's notes up so that I can get a fresh start the NEXT morning. So...what did everyone think? Should I push on and go for it? Or stop now and start typing up and re-writing?

The vote was unanimous. Push on.

Notebook open again. Fresh pen, since the old one was getting a bit faint and scratchy. Music on. Write.

And write.

And write.

I got to an emotional bit, and started crying. I wrote through the tears.

The tears eventually dried up.

Finally, the words THE END escaped from my pen.

I was looking at the first, very tough, handwritten draft of Book One of Big Secret Project. The book so big and secret that I can't even tell you about it yet.

I still have to do a lot of work on this manuscript. Not just the typing and revising and polishing, but then printing it out, leaving it for a minimum of two weeks, re-reading it and revising and polishing again.

But all the same.

Today, I wrote forty handwritten pages - roughly (it may prove to be slightly more or less, typed up) eight thousand words. Today, I strained my hand and carried on writing even when it hurt so badly I could hardly hold the pen. Today I dripped tears all over everything and swiped them off and kept the words coming. Most of all, today I was happy. Completely and totally happy, joyous and free and in my element in a way that it's almost impossible to explain to anyone who doesn't have something they're passionate about (whether that's writing or reading or painting or singing or baking or running or doing their make-up or making sculptures out of discarded plastic picnic forks) in their life.

This is what being a writer is all about. These enchanted moments when everything goes wrong but it doesn't matter because you want to write more than anything, and you do.

And here, just for kicks, are a couple of shots of the two notebooks that I have filled up writing Book One of Big Secret Project, and in which the enchanted words THE END are scribbled out in blue pen - one of the most beautiful sights a writer can ever see.




And now... onto Book Two. *Grins*
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