Tag Archives: gottakeepwriting

Playing with Voice

So, this came about thanks to a suggestion from Adrian on his blog. I am struggling for voice in my 1920’s necromancy – I just can’t get it to sound right, to feel right; it won’t flow. So he suggested playing around…


“Dash it all, sister,” the young man standing by the door said, perusing the invitation he’d been handed by the postman. “What the devil do you think she wants?”

“It’s a social invite,” a light voice said scornfully. The speaker didn’t appear to be in the room, but the voice came from the young man’s vicinity. “Afternoon tea is a suitably nice affair that you could be invited.”

“Why has she invited me?” The young man ambled over towards the table that filled most of the room and dropped the embossed square onto it. “Afternoon tea! Lord. It sounds a bore.”

“Or she’s just unwisely disposed of someone,” the light voice suggested, “and she wants you to speak to them?”

“Sister!” The young man stood up straighter, his dark brows knitting. “Dash it all, watch your tongue!”

“You have to admit it’s likely. Why else would she invite a necromancer to afternoon tea?”

“I hope you won’t speak that unwisely if I do accept the invite…”

“And you are going to accept,” the light voice said decisively. “It would not do to decline.”

“These teas are such a bore.” The young man flung himself into the nearby chair and kicked one toe at the carpet, which was starting to become threadbare. “I can’t eat, you do all the talking…”

“Well, you can’t decline. It’s an invite from Lady [X].”

The young man stretched out a hand and picked up the invite again. “Tomorrow. Well, I suppose I’d better write back and accept. But it’s going to be a rotten bore.”


There is no good way to get a summons from the mafia, even if it is an invitation to afternoon tea.

The young man stands in the centre of the dusky room, scowling at the square of embossed card he holds in one hand. His dark hair is cropped to his ears, his jacket missing a button, and one sock is in danger of sliding down his calf. The room around suggests that he takes more care with housekeeping than he does with his appearance, but it also bears signs of regular use; worn floorboards around the large table in the centre, a locked cupboard against one wall with inlaid sigils of protection, and an entire wall of bookshelves containing well-thumbed books. In short, the rather worn young man matches his surroundings – although the scowl on his hawk-nosed face does not sit there lightly, and suggests that it is not as well-used as the rest of the man’s features.

“Well.” The light voice drifts into the room. “At least they were polite.”

“They are sending a car for me.” The young man’s lips shape the words almost absently. “They want to make sure I attend.”

“And you’re going to, of course,” the lighter voice says sharply as the young man sighs. “What did you do to come to their notice?”

“Nothing!” The young man casts the parchment at the table and watches as it drifts aimlessly onto the floor instead. “I have never even met Lady [X] or any of her family.” He bends to pick up the sheet. “Do you think she wants my services?”

“It’s a social call,” the lighter voice says thoughtfully.

The young man straightens and drops the invite on the table, catching the corner with one finger as it drifts again. “An invitation to afternoon tea does not exclude her talking business.”

“Then she has disposed of someone, and requires you to speak with them.”

“Sister!” The young man frowned. “I beg you, do not speak in such terms.”


I will be one of the first to admit that my brother is useless in most matters except necromancy, in which he fortunately displays a talent that surpassed – and surpasses – my own. However, in matters of society, etiquette, and – dare I say – the heart, he is something of a fool. The matter of the invitation from Lady [X] was no exception.

He failed to open the invite when handed the envelope from the postman, and instead stood, staring with a most gormless expression on his face, as if the parchment itself would tell him what was contained within.

“Are you not going to open it?” I asked, with some acidity.

He did so, thankfully without further chiding, and we perused the contents. An invitation, by Lady [X], to afternoon tea no less!

“Well, you must attend,” I prompted after a minute of silence.

“What do you think she wants?”

“It is a social invitation,” I snapped at him. My brother’s fancies often take the wildest turns, and I consider it part of my duty to ensure he refrains from daydreaming at inopportune moments. However, on this occasion, I considered that he may have accidentally hit upon a salient point. “She may wish to discuss a matter of business with you while you are there, however.”

“Then why on earth invite me to tea?” My brother sat down gracelessly in one of the chairs surrounding the large table, throwing the invite onto its surface.

“So that she should not be subject to the gossip that would come if she were to invite a mage to the house, and so that she may discuss her affairs with some discretion!” At times I despair of my brother, for he has no sense of social niceties at all, and indeed seems to take pleasure in embarrassing me at every turn with his uncouth behavior.

“So she has had someone killed, and needs me to talk to them.”

“Brother!” I snapped, horrified. “Even if Lady [X] were to consider such a matter, I highly doubt that she would sully her hands with such business!”

“Oh, come off it, sister. You know that she married well, and his money has gone to her ends. Even if you are in ignorance of her business affairs, I am not.”

“I am certainly not,” I snapped, wishing my cheeks would flame to burn out some of the mortification I felt, “but it certainly does not do to discuss it! She is a social paragon and if she heard you speak of such things-”

“I wouldn’t get invitations to afternoon tea,” my brother finished with a certain air of glee. “All right, all right. I just don’t see the point of sugar-coating it, sister. You must be practical. You’re going to be the one doing the talking, anyway.”

“And I consider that a great relief!” I snapped, still mortified. My brother’s silence during public events, and the necessity for me to speak for him, is possibly the only redeeming feature of the whole affair – and, I suspect, the only thing that has saved my brother from social ignominy thus far.


I think the last one is my favourite, although it screams more Regency to me than 1920’s, which is unfortunate as I do feel Regency has rather been done to death. Anyway! I’m going to keep playing, and see where I end up…

Writer’s Block: Going Back To Basics

Well, it’s not exactly writer’s block. It’s a feeling that this novel is not the one I want to write; there isn’t a yet a story I can tell. It’s missing spark. I’d be able to write it, sure, and it’d be ok.

And that’s the problem. I don’t want to write an ok novel. I am not in the business of “meh”, darling!

So. Adrian and I had an informal Cake Club meeting last week, as Sophie is chaotically busy with maps; and we ate too much Yorkshire pudding, talked over Adrian’s (lack of) editing progress, I got all of his gossip…and then we spread my novel out, metaphorically, and played with the pieces.

It’s missing a spark? Then one of the bits needs flipping. Something needs adding. Sure, you might have a lot of the pieces – but something just ain’t quite right.

Adrian was picking apart themes, and we settled on a strand of life/death. So…ghosts? Zombies? One of my second themes is essentially WW1, so can I use that existential dread to wind into the horror and enormous impact that the war had on citizens and soldiers? I’ve also got a nice line in necromancy, so ghosts would work well there.

Another strand was looking at tropes. Zombies have been done to death (hehe) but could they be flipped somehow? What could be taken as a baddy that hasn’t been done in my context? What’s the polar opposite of a Tudor society, and can I incorporate it somehow? What would really scare the people of that society – and us?

And a third strand was thinking about voice. Adrian prefers to look at overall voice – after all, you can twist the same character into many different styles – but I have to start with the characters. I had someone I wanted to write, but…could I change them? What voice do they have? What setting do they fit into?

And actually, I might have something there…

It’s all still ideas at the moment; I’ve got a lot of wool, and I’m going to have to wait until I find a thread I can pull that will let me knit the rest up. This is a frustrating point in writing, as I really do just have to let it settle out! I can’t force the ideas; I have to let them come.

But it certainly gave me things to think about!

How To Organise A Writer

This is in part for my friend Mumbletoes (check out his poetry, by the way!) because he asked how I organise myself as a writer. I told him, and then realised…ok, I’m actually pretty organised. So I figured it would make a good article for here, too!

The aim of all this is to track your writing in whatever way suits you best. These are the methods that work for me – and I’ll give you the disclaimer now that they won’t work for everyone. You need to work out what’s going to suit you and your headspace, and adapt whatever you use to your own ways of working.

So, these are the methods I use to track work in progress, submissions, and my workflow.

Work In Progress

  • Folders in my computer. I have a “Writing” folder, and from there, I organise partly by genre and partly by novel. I have “Shadow Series” and “GreenSky” folders, which contain all the stories for those two sets, but I also have “Short Stories” and “Erotica” folder, which are a mish-mash. It helps me keep everything apart, and means when I’m hunting for the thing I want to work on, I know where it is.
  • Backups. I use Google Drive (which was also very useful when I wanted to work in two places at once, as I was able to work online) and Dropbox. If you don’t have reliable access to the internet and you work out and about, get a mini usb – and seriously, BACK UP YOUR WORK.
  • Trello. I started using Trello as a web design work tool, but it works for everything! There’s different things out there that do similar things – Asana is another – but I’ve found that Trello works for me. The basic idea is that you create lists, and then create cards within those lists – so I have one for short stories, things in editing, finished…and then I can move those cards between lists, add comments and checklists, and add dates. It’s a very customisable system.Trello board with sparkler background


Organising Submissions

  • I have a spreadsheet. Name of the story, genre/world, original submissions call with a link to that page, and then a whole set of “Submitted To, Date, Answer, Date” columns. It means that I can track who I’ve sent the story to, when, and their response – which means that I don’t risk sending the same story to a publication that’s already rejected it, because that would be BAD. I also keep track of any comments – so if anyone rejects a specific story but asks to see more of my work, I note it!
  • I also use my calendar to track submission dates and open periods – so, for example, I found out in the summer that Angry Robot have an open subs period this Nov/Dec (currently ongoing for anyone with a sci-fi or fantasy novel, by the way!) and marked that on my calendar. It means I’ll get notified and actually look at it – whereas I know I would miss it if I put it on my spreadsheet or Trello! That said, I do mark short story calls on Trello with their dates, so again, it’s whatever’s going to work for you.
  • You can also use things like Ralan, Submittable and The Submissions Grinder to track submissions as well as find them – I admit I simply can’t read the formats there so I don’t use them, but if it works for you, go for it.

Organising Files that You’re Submitting

  • Mark your obsolete files. I use “DNU” (do not use) at the start of a file, or have an “archive” folder. It’s for anything that is an obsolete version that I don’t necessarily want to get rid of, I just don’t want to mix it up with my current versions. This is really good if you have a tendency to completely restart projects.
  • Version numbers is useful too – save your file with a v1, v2, final, proofread, sold at the end – whatever’s going to tell you what state that file is in. Having multiple versions of a file is absolutely fine as long as you know which one you’re working on – and how to find that really cool bit that you just deleted, duh!
  • I also mark the sold stories! I’ll usually archive the entire folder (or all copies of that story) just so I don’t see it and get confused, and then sell a previous version of an already-sold story someplace else.

Keeping Track of Progress

  • I use Author WordCount Plugin by Scott Grant, which gives me a little widget on my blog *points to the sidebar*. You put in your project, estimated wordcount and current wordcount, and it draws a nice little line. I’ve also used it for books read and rejections received, and it’s a nice way of seeing your progress – or in this case, lack of.
  • The NaNoWriMo site also has new wordcount goal trackers that you can use to chart your specific projects.
  • I’m sure there are some wordcount apps too…anyone use any good ones?


So, that’s most of my organisation….what do you use? Any tips and tricks to keep everything organised and motivate yourself to write – or read, or do the chores…after all, you can adapt most organising methods to anything else!

Depression, Writing and Week 1 of NaNoWriMo

An update from Day 7…I’m somewhere around 17,000 words, of which about 10,000 were the first day.

Depression is absolutely crippling me at the moment.

This is why I don’t usually try to force writing; every word is like pulling teeth. My head’s full of grey fog, and the story. Just. Will. Not. Come. It won’t flow. The characters are flat, the scenery isn’t there so I can’t describe it, and everything’s just one damn event after another. I don’t care about this story.

And frankly, that sucks. I know I can, and I want to. I loved the story when I was planning, but currently, I’m just not doing it justice. It’s frickin’ difficult to push through the fog long enough to write a couple of sentences, just so I can put something in my wordcount.

I’m taking it day by day – as some days are better, some worse – but I seem to have had a run of bad ones recently. I’m hoping that for one day, the fog might lift and I might be able to write again…

Just struggling at the moment. One step at a time, one day at a time, one sentence at a time. That’s all I can do.

NaNoWriMo 2017: Definitely a first draft

NaNoWriMo participant logoDay…what are we on now? 6? I lost track round about day 1…

Anyway, The Thief & The Seer is definitely a first draft. I’ve already had ideas for redoing the beginning; I’m marking bits in H2s to add in later; and I’ve already got some extra ideas for things I want to add. But a first draft is great! I’m exploring the characters. I’d originally thought the seer was quite a gentle a certain character – now, it turns out she’s got an arrogant edge and is definitely capable of holding her own against the thief. The thief’s child is becoming more of a central character – or at least, it seems to work very well to see a lot of the action through her eyes, as she needs explanations that the reader also needs. And the thief himself seems to have mellowed with age, which is quite nice; he almost did something kind a few paragraphs ago. I might have to let him be sweet occasionally.

Having plotted out the novel is working quite well, too. I had quite a rough outline – “go here, meet this person, do this”…but actually, that works brilliantly for my writing style. So far, I’ve followed the outline, but the gaps have given me enough space to add some extras. There’s only one place so far where I may add more, and that’s because I think it would benefit the plot; otherwise, so far at any rate, I’ve got everything I want in there.

I did crash this week; my daily wordcounts haven’t been great! I spent most of yesterday asleep, and I was exhausted for the rest of it. It’s frustrating when everything catches up with me, and it means I’ve been having mind-fog problems – every sentence is a drag to get out, and nothing flows.  However I’m glad that it doesn’t matter too much; again, the first draft feeling is turning into a blessing! Because I’m exploring, it doesn’t matter that I don’t have much description, or have odd, disjointed conversations. It’ll all come out again when I re-plot and re-write, which is fine.

Anyway, still on track at the moment. We’ll see how the next week goes…