Book Reading – Not Broken

Author copies arrived last week!

I’ve had a very busy few weeks (hence the total lack of information here!) I’m currently very busy with running virtual practical sessions (don’t even ask) and homeschooling along with my usual work, and I’ve also signed a contract with BSB for The Willing, which is due to come out in Feb next year! I’ve got to finish the first draft of that for March-April, and I’m happy with how it’s going. I think I’d like to write a bit more about that in a post of its own, so I’ll save that for next week (hopefully!)

As for Not Broken, it’s due out in March! It’ll be available from BSB from March 1st and from places like Amazon and iBooks from the 15th, I believe, so grab a pre-order if you like! I’m also doing a streamed reading as part of the BSB preview on the 20th of Feb, so if you’d like to join, please sign up here! It’s happening at 5pm Eastern (USA) time – think New York and Florida etc. For UK that’s 10pm, so hopefully that’ll give you some idea. It’s completely free to register, and you can send in questions if you like. I hope to see some of you there!

Marian Keyes masterclass

One of my favourite authors has very kindly offered a 4 week course on novel writing, which is lovely and casual and consists of her answering questions and giving advice on Instagram Live – I’ve been loving it!

Originally tweeted by Marian Keyes (@MarianKeyes) on 18th Jan 2021.

With another major lockdown stretching out into February, I was worried I’d leave my writing behind again, like I did last year. This has been just what I needed to engage my interest, just enough external stimulus to get me writing 500 words a day!

She shared a prompt each day and encouraged us to write 500 words of whatever came to mind, trying not to judge and just let our subconscious take over. I found it incredibly liberating – I was surprised that I actually managed to wrap up a little bit of an arc each time, even though most of the stories were based on original characters that I’ve little interest in expanding in the future.

The most telling of all, and the most energising, was seeing my word count increase each day. I started off cheering myself on to reach the 500 word count, and by the end of this week, I wrote 1000 words without thinking much about it. It feels like something’s been unlocked, and I appreciate this whole exercise so much.

Although we are going to have ‘homework’ for this week, it’s going to be something to do with characterisation rather than prompts, so I’m hoping to ease myself back into writing on The Willing (more on that next week!) I feel so much more positive about my writing aims this year.

Target audience

I’ve been trying to work out what binds my work together and what kind of impact it’ll have on things like target audience and genre categories and so on.

Not Broken is my first novel to come out with Bold Strokes Books (it’s just gone to the printers this week!! Aaahh!!!) and like 3/4 of my books so far, has no magic or fantasy element.

However, looking forward, the vast majority of my 11 WIPs would count as urban fantasy, mostly set in regular life but with a fantastical flavour that serves to intensify trauma or mental health issues which can then be solved (mostly through the power of love because I’m a sappy git).

So if the next book I publish with BSB is an urban fantasy, does that screw around with people’s expectations of me? Does that make me hard to market? What really does tie my stuff together?

Hurt/comfort is a big thing. I don’t know if that’s a term outside of fanfic, but it is my JAM! The thing that really matters to me about a story is people being a little bit broken and finding that their jagged edges can fit together with another broken being. That’s what I hope for myself and everyone, after all.

I guess they’re all about mental health, really. Bring You Home was about grief and dealing with abuse. The Willing is about suicidal ideation and, er, abuse again. Starship Jenna is about dissociative disorders, and is based on my own condition.

I guess the common denominator of my stories is also abuse and dysfunctional families… I’m not sure that’s particularly marketable either!

On Low Word Count Targets

I saw a blog post about Terry Pratchett and how he used to only write 400 words a day, a word count that a lot of people would consider really low, and yet he managed to produce so many wonderful, wonderful books, some of which still give me guidance for how to live my life.

It was incredibly inspiring. Because while, yes, by itself a few hundred words is not much at all, it is something! And when I haven’t written for months on end, or I’ve only managed a few hundred words here and there and felt bad about it, 400 words feels achievable. And it all adds up – even doing, as the original blog writer suggested, half of the great Terry Pratchett’s output, 200 words a day, you’d produce a 73,000 word novel over the course of a year! And on top of that you can be planning and editing and poking at other ideas, getting things ready for the next one, or tweaking the last one to publish.

It feels worthwhile. Rather than feeling disappointed with myself when I write less than a thousand words, if I can feel upbeat because I wrote 200 words, or managed to get to 400 and wrote the same as Terry Pratchett himself, I’ll feel more enthusiastic about sitting down to do the same tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after that.

Passing on NaNo

I was hoping to be able to do NaNo this year, although I have to admit I was also pretty apprehensive. It’s been a weird-ass year and I’ve found it very difficult to write much at all, but I figured maybe I just need to force it out for a month.

Well, work put a stop to that idea anyway. I’ve been asked to re-write the practical course I usually run for the A level biology independent candidates so that it’s more covid-safe. That’s going to take up a huge chunk of the first 2 weeks of November, and I’m sure there’ll be extras added afterwards to take up the second half of the month.

Usually I can make it work. I’ve actually run the practical courses while also completing NaNo in the past! But I think my mojo was a little more co-operative than it is now, and I don’t want to push it. Instead I’m going to try to stick to 200 words a day minimum, so while it might still mean forcing it out, it shouldn’t be too much like pulling teeth!

I’ll be cheering on all the other NaNo-ites from the sidelines!

Photo prompts

Sometimes I find the coolest pictures on Canva – even just limiting my search to the free ones! I was making a graphic for Zero Degrees, which I’m currently uploading onto Ao3 (I know original stuff isn’t really popular there, but it’s probably more likely to be read there than where it was lol!) I came across the one with the Fern-Lady and thought it would be perfect for Changeling!

Sometimes, though, there are pictures that are just really evocative and I’d love to use them, I just don’t have a project they suit right now. I found a bunch of those and put them into a collage above – all pictures I’d love to use in the future. Ones that look like they have great stories behind them, and others that just look funky. Maybe some day I’ll write all the stories!

October is be good to yourself month!

I’ve finished and sent off my edits for Not Broken and now I think October should be a kind month. A self-care month! A month where I don’t berate myself for my pitiful word count.

I’m currently uploading Zero Degrees one chapter per week, and I’m planning to do a master post on tumblr to link to all the chapters there, because yeah… tumblr. Other than that I’m hoping to slowly ease myself into writing The Willing and a bit of fanfic. Work’s quite busy, though, and NaNo’s just around the corner, so I’m not going to be too worried if I don’t get around to it!

Just a Quick One…

I should be (a) marking mock exam papers for my A level students or (b) editing Not Broken for the deadline next week! However I promised to start posting Zero Degrees over on AO3 today, and that’s what I’ve just done. I thought I’d drop in here too.

When I was a kid growing up in Kenya, I read everything I could get my hands on. I could never find anything much about people living their regular lives in Kenya – there were a couple of memoirs, particularly of colonials, but my family is PEAK colonial. I heard all those stories direct from the source.

Instead I always promised myself that if I ever did become a published author, I’d write about Kenyans. The aliens would invade Mombasa. The superhero would come from Kiambu. The one true love story would be set in Nairobi.

I have since written a book about a Kenyan living in Scotland, a coming-of-age story set in my home village of Shimoni (even more poignant for me now since a big port is being built there and almost all of the forest has gone ;_;), and Zero Degrees, where the god of winter takes his family to hide in Nairobi. In fact, the only book without a Kenyan in it is Not Broken! The Willing doesn’t have a Kenyan in either, but to be fair, I had just finished Slopes of Mau Summit, which is based in 1920s Kenya, so I was just aiming for some balance.

I don’t expect many people to read Zero Degrees – original stuff on AO3 doesn’t get much traffic because that’s not what AO3 is for! But I hope whoever reads it will enjoy it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Four years of fanfic

In October 2016 I signed up to Archive of our own (AO3) and started posting an Avengers fanfic. Since then I have posted nearly 900,000 words in 74 fics. I have even been ‘recognised’ in chat groups, it’s surreal!

(A conversation that happened:
N: Hold on wait!! OMG are you Lynds??
Me: Ahh yes I’m sorry!
Friend: Lynds did you just… apologise for being you?
Me: I PANICKED don’t judge me)

Although I keep this blog leaning towards the original stuff, I have no doubt that fic has helped my writing immensely. Not only have I met so many supportive, enthusiastic people who love stories and character development and a good dollop of hurt/comfort as much as I do, I’ve learned how to keep people in character, I’ve learned how to structure my paragraphs and entire stories. Thanks to the culture of positive feedback and cheerleading, I’ve learned what I do well, and it’s helped me so much.

One of my most popular fanfics, Hidden Within, gave me the idea for a whole other story, Zero Degrees, which I self-published a couple of years ago. I recently took it down from Amazon because Eff and I were thinking of putting some of the content from that story into our animated series, Of Gods and Stories. That’s taken a totally different route, as it happens, but rather than putting Zero Degrees back onto Amazon, I think I’m going to publish it chapter by chapter over on AO3 as an original fic. I know they’re not very popular over there, but hey, it’s not like I was taking the publishing world by storm anyway! And Zero Degrees has gods and dragons! AO3 is the perfect place for it lol!

Cover by Cyd Cheng

I don’t know if other people will see it this way but it sort of feels like a thank you to fanfic in a way, and also like a crossover between the two types of thing that I write. I’m hoping to make at least part of a living out of writing my own original stuff, but fanfic will always hold a special place in my heart – I’m certainly still writing it! So this feels like the tipping point, the junction between those two parts of my writing life. I hope you enjoy it if you choose to read it. I’ll link it here each week as well!