Ode to a pen


Pen that died during
the first draft of Submerged

I’ve been writing by hand a lot lately. I find it really good for first drafts, because there’s no going back. I can’t rewrite the same scene over and over (not without giving myself cramp, anyway). I can’t go back and change a character’s name or motivation or emotional state. Sometimes I add a note in the margin, so I know to change it when I type it up. I have no choice but to keep plowing on through that first draft. Because that’s the only way to get it done.

So, I wanted to write a bit of an ode to my ballpoint pen of choice. Oh, pen, how I love thee.

For years I just wrote with whatever I could get hold of. From one extreme (pens that left lumps of ink on the page and my fingertips) to the other (pens that made me write the same letter over and over again, hoping they would eventually leave ink on the page). But no more. I now buy one brand of pen. And they’re my writing pens. They’re not used for grocery lists or birthday cards or signing the kids’ homework books.

I am in love with the Uni Laknock ballpoint from the Mitsubishi Pencil Co. It has a comfy rubber grip and the ink flows smoothly. I like the 1.0mm nib in blue. I can crank out a good 30,000 words without going insane. They’re not super cheap (coming in at around the $4 mark) but so worth it.

I’ve never seen boxes of them, but apparently they do exist and OfficeMax has them, so I might have to check them out. Because I don’t think I’m quitting any time soon.


How I wrote 50K words in a month (part 3)

Okay, so, remember how I posted about writing 50K words in a month over Christmas? Well, that novel (Submerged) is off being read by someone at the moment, and I needed something else to work on while it was away.

I’d had an idea rattling around about 18 months ago for a contemporary, but it had never gone anywhere. I’d started it a couple of times in a couple of different ways but I got a bit bored and stopped.

But since Submerged is paranormal, I thought it would be a good idea to alternate with a contemporary.

Enter Graceless. It’s about a teenage rugby player who has the best night of his life followed by the worst two weeks of his life.


photo credit: aOC1A8861 
via photopin (license)

It also involves 2 things I know pretty much nothing about. Rugby and religion. (There’s also romance, but I’ve got that covered.)

I had a great character urging me to let him loose, and a great concept, but I didn’t really have a plot.

Until I did.

It came to me, I sketched it out, and stewed on it for a week. Then I started writing and didn’t stop for 2 weeks.

Again, I wrote this first, exploratory draft longhand, and I was careful to remember to include the date each time I started, so I have a really good idea of how many words I wrote. (Okay, good but rough. I estimate I get about 200 words on a page.)

And because I find this really interesting, I decided to include it here. I’m actually stunned at how many words I got down at the beginning. My poor children.

Date Word Count Running Total
26/06/16 4400 4400
27/06/16 0 4400
28/06/16 5000 9400
29/06/16 0 9400
30/06/16 1600 11000
01/07/16 0 11000
02/07/16 0 11000
03/07/16 4600 15600
04/07/16 2400 18000
05/07/16 1400 19400
06/07/16 2400 21800
07/07/16 2400 24200
08/07/16 2800 27000
09/07/16 400 27400
10/07/16 3200 30600

So there were a few days when nothing happened, but they were balanced out by the days when a ton of words happened. :)

And here it is in handy graph form:


I’m going to quote myself here (from part 1):

The more I wrote, the more I got to know the characters. Relationships developed. Motivations became clear. … [T]he plot points I’d plotted got a bit fuzzy. But The Plan was still there to guide me.

Man, things were the same this time. The MC’s relationship with his father completely changed (for the better I think). Characters who were wooden placeholders at the beginning developed into 3D people. And the overall plan was still there to guide me.

And now I’m at the point where I ended part 1. The longhand part is done (the whole arc is there, beginning to end) and now I need to type it up.

I’m a bit scared to go back and see what the beginning is like because it feels so far away from the end. But I’m also excited to start the 2nd (expandatory) draft.

I’ll let you know how it goes.


What it’s like to not win an award, or, Where do we go from here?

I may have mentioned my novel Grow was shortlisted for the Storylines Tessa Duder Award. But I didn’t win. That honour went to Gareth Ward and his novel The Sin Chronicles: New Blood. (A steampunk novel set in Victorian England.) I can’t wait to add it to my collection of TD winners.

I didn't get any good photos
of the awards ceremony because I
grabbed the camera without checking
the battery and it was flat.
And my husband was sitting in the
audience in a place where the angle
was all wrong. But here's one of me
at the pub afterwards. I almost
didn't post this photo, because I'm
doing that weird squinty thing with
my eye. But that happens when I smile,
and I'm happy damn it!

I received the email on a Friday afternoon, and upon seeing the subject line I though, “Well, I haven’t won.” Because they’re not going to tell me I’d won via email. I’m pretty sure that would warrant a phone call. But then I read the email and it said I had been shortlisted. SHORTLISTED!!!

I probably should’ve been sad I didn’t win, but I was too damn happy about being shortlisted. It’s very validating to have someone say your novel is pretty good. Especially one I’d been working on (on and off) for seven years. Ack, seven years seems so long. But it’s true. I started this version of Grow in 2008. (Wee nugget of info: The first time I wrote about these characters was way back when I was 16. It was sci-fi then. The genre changed but the core premise didn’t.)

Then I spent the next week having conversations like this:

Me: Hey.
Husband: What’s up?
Me: Shortlist!

Me: Guess what?
Husband: Shortlist?

I decided to go to the Storylines Awards Day, because if I was going to get a certificate I could stick on the fridge next to my kids’ merit awards from school, I was going to get it in person, damn it! I bought a pretty dress, I painted my nails, I woke up with a weird red patch on the tip of my nose because of course I did. (I think fate was reminding me I write YA and I had my own big-pimple-just-in-time-for-an-important-date moment.)

I’m really glad I went. Barbara Else (who was awarded the Margaret Mahy Medal) gave an awesome lecture about her writing. (Gems included balancing self-belief vs self-criticism, and questioning what right one has to write.) (And, of course, when I bumped into her afterwards, I had a total mind blank and couldn’t tell her what really resonated with me.) And it was really touching to see the award winners who were on the verge of tears because their dreams of being published were coming true.

So, I have a MS that’s in pretty good shape, I have kudos and bragging rights from being shortlisted, but I don’t have a published book to direct people to when they ask.

Where do I go from here?

(If you’re a Buffy fan, I hope you’re singing along.)

The only answer is to keep going. I’m close, and all this practice is paying off. And I have to keep putting myself out there. Because I wouldn’t have been shortlisted if I hadn’t believed in myself (and my writing) enough to enter.