Book 2 Diaries: #3 — Outline is complete

Dear readers,

Good news: I recently finished my outline for Rhymes with Wisteria (working title of novel-in-progress). I’m not sure how it happened, because I’ve been a terrible writer for the past few weeks and have been neglecting my outline almost entirely. But a few nights ago, as I was trying to fall asleep, the ending came to me. I fought to open my tired eyes, I told myself that whatever you do, don’t fall asleep. Get up and write your outline. I don’t care that it’s 2:00am. Don’t fall asleep.

I fell asleep. But magically, I didn’t forget! I woke up with the story still fresh in my mind, and managed to write it all into my chapter by chapter outline. With the material I have, I’m estimating that this novel should get to around 80 000 words.

This feels really strange for me, as a past pantser. I’ve never managed to complete an outline before. I’m sure it’ll change along the way, probably quite drastically, but I have a very clear image of the ending. This outline has given my brain the freedom to think of scenes, dialogue, setting descriptions, and all sorts of snippets from different parts of the story. They come to me at random times throughout the day, and I tend to write them  in/on whatever I have at the time: receipts, notebooks, backs of hands. It’s strange to know so much about a story I have yet to write. It’s also extremely calming.

Now all there is left to do is write (and write, and write, and write).

Thank you so much for reading. I should be back to regular blogging once my university semester ends in June.
All the best with your writing,

Tamara

 

Header image [Used under creative commons license.]

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Creative Writing Playlist: Juice of Half a Lemon

Dear readers,

Music is a huge part of my writing process. I’ve done a couple of creative writing playlist posts in the past (see here and here). But for today’s post, I thought I’d put together a playlist of songs that helped me write and edit Juice of Half a Lemon specifically. For each song, I’ll include the most relevant lyrics, as well as an embedded YouTube link, so get a cup of coffee and some earphones! I hope you enjoy.

1. Fire Escape by Half Moon Run

Relevant lyrics:

Hey Dark Eyes/Rest with me a while as I drift closer to sleep/Still cannot/Still cannot find no peace

You let go of glass at our feet/It rained through the night/And you take the fire escape/Run down the street to the church

Hey Murderer/killing keeps us close enough/Hey Murderer/every breath you steal is a breath that I breathe for

 

2. Quiet Crowd by Patrick Watson

Relevant lyrics:

Dear Mr Quiet who’s got so much to say/So much more than all of the sleeping parade

While everybody’s walking their own way through the quiet crowd/All thinking the same old things/If they only knew

 

3. Sense by Tom Odell

Relevant lyrics:

Hard to know/Maybe if I skim the stone/Walk a different way back home/It would all make sense.

‘Cause I/I’ve been feeling pretty small/Sometimes/Feel like I’m slipping down walls/And every line/I ever get a hold/It seems to break.

 

4. Today Has Been O.K. by Sleeping at Last

This one is reserved for sad scenes and very sad days. Skip if you have important things to focus on today.

Relevant lyrics:

Without you here the seasons pass me by

I know you were not new/That looked like May and June/All the same I miss you//And I thought, today has been ok

 

5. Futile Devices by Sufjan Stevens

Relevant lyrics:

It’s been a long, long time/Since I’ve memorised your face/It’s been four hours now/Since I’ve wandered through your place/And when I sleep on your couch/I feel very safe

I think of you as my brother/Although that sounds dumb//And words are futile devices

 

6. You Wouldn’t Like Me by Sleeping at Last

Relevant lyrics:

I feel like/I wouldn’t like me/If I met me//I feel like/You wouldn’t like me/If you met me

 

7. The Pugilist by Keaton Henson

Relevant lyrics:

Oh I’m sorry I broke it/Never forgive me

 

8. Should Have Known Better by Sufjan Stevens

Relevant lyrics:

I should have wrote a letter/And grieve what I happen to grieve/My black shroud/I never trust my feelings/I waited for the remedy

I should have known better/Nothing can be changed/The past is still the past/The bridge to nowhere//I should’ve wrote a letter/Explaining what I feel, that empty feeling

 

Thank you for reading and listening along with me. I hope you found some new music to add to your own creative writing playlists!

All the best,

Tamara Drazic

Back Home – Adjusting to Life After a Residency – Printing the Book

Hi everyone,

I’m so sorry that I haven’t posted an update in a little while–I spent my last days at the residency taking everything in, and immersing myself in my work. It was really hard to leave Iceland, and particularly the Gullkistan residency. The cabin became my home, and although I was only there for one month, it felt like it had been my home for years. I’ll miss waking up to light snowfall, and finding new little trails to explore. I’ll miss the big windows, and view of Hekla, the snow-covered volcano. Now, after three days of travelling, I have made it back home to tropical Cairns.

Let me tell you–it feels bizarre. Nice, but really strange. It’s strange that my whole life doesn’t revolve around my writing anymore. This morning, while having breakfast, I was talking to my family, rather than scribbling down ideas, notes, and pieces of dialogue. After breakfast, rather than sitting down to edit, I took my clothes out of my suitcase to wash, and then sent an email to my university about enrolment (post about this coming soon). I’m scared that my focus is shifting too much, but at the same time, it feels really nice to breathe, and take a little step back. I just need to find a good balance.

During my last days in Iceland, I finished my second draft, and decided to get my manuscript printed so that I could do my next round of edits on paper. I used Createspace to get it printed in book form, to help me get a better feel for the pacing of the story, and to help to keep me motivated while editing. It’s not available online, as I’m going to try the traditional publishing route (after many more rounds of editing, of course). I’ll still write a post about my experience with getting the book printed, and the quality of it, for those of you interested in self-publishing.

I’ll also be writing a post to call for beta readers in the near future. I’m a little terrified, but excited to get some helpful feedback. Everything is happening so quickly.

I promise I won’t disappear again any time soon!

Thanks for reading,

– Tamara

Introducing My Novel: “Juice of Half a Lemon”

The plan involves turmeric, lemons, and letters slipped under doors; a murderer’s sister and a victim’s brother; midnight phone calls, and a stagnant small town. Juice of Half a Lemon is a quirky contemporary adult novel about two people whose loneliness is intertwined.

 

Hi everyone,

Over the past year and a half of posting on this blog, I’ve gone into a lot of detail about my thoughts, my experiences, and my life as writer, but I’ve been quite tight-lipped about my actual writing. I’ve never really told you anything specific about this novel that I’ve been working on for almost exactly a year now, and I’m not completely sure why that is. I think it might be because, until I wrote the end scene only a couple of days ago, I didn’t entirely believe that I would be able to finish it. I didn’t want to introduce something to you only to scrap it a couple of weeks later. I’m finally at a place now where I can confidently say that this one’s sticking, and I’ve got no more excuses! I am currently working on the second draft, and will start looking for beta readers in the near future.

I have to start out small to avoid becoming a nervous wreck, so here are a few very vague details about the story:

Title:

Juice of Half a Lemon

A little introduction:

Adele Zimmerman hasn’t seen her brother since the night he told her he shot someone in the head. When she discovers that the victim was an identical twin, she sets out to find the leftover sibling and anonymously improve his life, as a way of settling her conscience and ridding herself of her second-hand guilt.

Juice of Half a Lemon is about identity after loss, and the suffocating nature of belonging. It’s about things that can’t be fixed, mistakes that can’t be unmade, and connections that can’t be broken.

***

The tone of the story is slightly whimsical, with a bit of dark humour. I plan on talking more about the protagonists, tone, P.O.V, inspiration, and editing process in the posts to come.

Let me know what you’re working on in the comments below; I’d love to hear about it! If you’d rather just talk to me privately, please feel free to send me an email at tamara.j.drazic@gmail.com.

I hope you found this post interesting, and I wish you the best of luck with whatever you are working on.

As always, thank you so much for reading.

Yours sincerely,

Tamara

 

 

Residency Day 13: Finishing the First Draft of my Novel

Hi everyone,

Today is a pretty special day for me, because it is the day I finished the first draft of my novel, “Juice of Half a Lemon”.  I have written the entire second half, 37 000 words, in the last two weeks, all thanks to this incredible residency, and the time, space, and mental clarity that it gave me to work.

This afternoon, as I began to write the very last scene, it started snowing outside. Everything was completely, utterly silent, the kind of silence that only comes about when it is snowing. That moment has become one of my fondest memories, and it’s just one of the countless fond memories that I’ve made while being here in Iceland. I’m so grateful for this little haven that my mind will always be able to wander to.

The first draft is complete, but I know there is a lot of work ahead of me! I am incredibly excited to move on to the editing phase of this novel, as I’ve always loved editing–moving things around, cutting words, and making things fit together. I know I probably will lose a bit of my love for it after round number three, but we will see what happens.

On an unrelated note, I recently found out that I will be reading some of my poetry at a multilingual poetry event in Selfoss, Iceland on the 21st of March. I am so looking forward to meeting some members of the Icelandic literary community.

I feel like my word supply is in need of a recharge, so this post is going to stay short and sweet. Here are some pictures of the lovely Gullkistan Residency, the place that has grown so close to my heart over the past two weeks:

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Let me know how your writing projects are coming along. I’d love to get to know more of you!

All the best,

Tamara

Residency Day 10: Ups and Downs

Hi everyone,

Day 10 of my writing residency in Iceland is officially over, which means I’m a third of the way through! Time goes by so incredibly quickly while I’m working. I never have any idea which day of the week it is, because every day is pretty much the same. I wake up around 7:30, have breakfast with the incredible sunrise, check my emails, write, have lunch, go for a long walk, write, have dinner, chat with the other writer-in-residence, write, check my emails, catch up with friends and family back in Aus, and sleep.

Although I occasionally feel like I’ve fallen off the face of the planet and into some alternate dream-like universe, I have loved every minute of this residency. It has been the best thing I have ever done for my writing, full stop. I can see myself improving with almost every chapter. The rewriting process is going to be a lot of work, especially those earlier chapters, but for now, I’m purely focusing on getting this first draft down. It’s crazy to think that I am so close to finishing it now, this thing that used to seem like such a huge, impossible task.

Of course, I still have plenty of ups and downs with regards to this story. On a bad day, even the parts that I like the most can seem like the worst things ever written by anyone. But the good days make me forget all about that.

Reading through my journal always makes me laugh, and reminds me that my bad times never last very long. Let me welcome you into my mind:

***

4. March.

I think it’s really starting to dawn on me that I can actually finish this thing while I’m here. It was always the goal, but until now, I had my doubts. I have written three thousand words in the last three hours! Feeling good.

5. March.

HOW IS THIS THING GOING TO END? I HAVE NO IDEA. I hate everything I’ve written today. Why does it all just sound so clunky and flat? There is no actual ending in sight, because I just keep writing around and around in circles.

6. March.

I just outlined the rest of my novel. It’s so nice to know how the story is going to end, and so reassuring to have a little guide to which scenes I need to write on which days. Excited for tomorrow!

9 March.

This is really hard. It’s like spending all day every day focusing on the one thing you doubt about yourself the most. My mood is directly affected by how the story is progressing. I pretty much haven’t left my room in two days.

10 March.

I just came back from the most beautiful walk. It’s crazy that I’ve already hit my writing target for the day, and it’s just past lunch time! I am so excited to finish this thing! Not long now.

***

I don’t know if you are quite as extreme (or as melodramatic) as I am, but either way, I hope this post can serve as a little reminder that the bad times don’t last. If you manage to write through them, instead of giving up, you will eventually finish your novel. There’s nothing stopping you.

I hope you enjoyed reading. Let me know how you get through your bad writing days in the comments below!

All the best,

Tamara

 

 

Review: “Dreaming in Starlight” by Philip Elliott

 

Hi everyone,

Here is a short review of Philip Elliott‘s new book, “Dreaming in Starlight”. It’s so important to support new and up-and-coming writers, especially when their work is as special and as poignant as this.

 

“Dreaming in Starlight” is a book that I found myself wishing would never end, while at the same time, finding so much beauty in its brevity. The narrator, JJ, tells truths of life, love, and loss, using artful comparisons, spellbinding descriptions, and often surprising connections. The book is written in the form of letters from JJ, addressed to the people who have had an impact on his life. The unique form sets up the tone for the story, and emphasises the narrator’s loneliness, as well as his desire to belong without conforming. Philip Elliott’s prose is carefully constructed, yet exceedingly natural; unique, yet all-encompassing; and small, yet so large in scope.

I wholeheartedly recommend “Dreaming in Starlight” to any reader who also happens to be human.

For more information, and to purchase a copy of the book, head over to its Amazon page!

 

Yours sincerely,

Tamara

 

 

Reaching the Halfway Point

Hi Everyone,

I’ve finally reached the halfway point in my manuscript. It’s so hard to describe how I feel about it. On one hand, when I scroll through the pages I feel like I’ll never be able to do it all again. On the other hand, I feel like I can’t possibly already be halfway there. I think  I’m kind of afraid of reaching the end, having to cut everything that doesn’t need to be there, and then finding myself all the way back at square one. I know that the real challenge is going to come after the first draft is finished.

First drafts are free to do whatever they want. Finished manuscripts are rational, and cut-throat. First drafts know that they’re not good enough, and they’re fine with that because they know they can improve. Finished manuscripts are anxious that they’re still not good enough at their best.

Although I’m a little terrified, I’m still so extremely excited at the prospect of actually finishing the first draft of this story, and I’m trying not to overthink the whole process. In four days I will be flying off to my residency in Iceland, to finish this thing once and for all. Wish me luck!

I hope you’re all having an amazing 2017 so far.

Yours sincerely,

Tamara Drazic

How to Make Real Progress on your Work-in-Progress

Hi everyone,

Recently I’ve been making more progress than ever on my WIP. I’ve finally managed to get myself out of the rut that I fell into after my writing degree, and it feels so good to be back. I am definitely not a planner when it comes to writing. For some reason, I just can’t come up with decent plot points in the planning stage. My planning consists of lines I might use, characters, and moods, but never plot points. This has undoubtedly lead me into some dead ends, but it’s something that I haven’t been able to change, no matter how many hours I’ve spent trying.

In the past month or so, I have been focussing on how to get back on track, and I discovered how to work with my process, rather than against it. Here are a few tips that will hopefully help you to get out of a rut and make some significant progress on your work-in-progress.

 

1  Only stop if you know what is going to happen next

I used to only write until my inspiration fell flat, and then pack up shop for the day. Don’t do that! Stopping at a dead end meant that the next time I sat down to write, I felt defeated before I even wrote a word. Now, whenever I reach my writing target for the day (more on that later), I make sure that I know exactly which scene I will write the day after. I know that I said I’m not a planner, but I’ve found that right after reaching my target, I’m able to make a tiny, one-scene plan with the momentum that I still have from the writing session. This way, it’s much easier to slip straight back into it the next day.

“Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”
― E.L. Doctorow, Writers At Work: The Paris Review Interviews

 

2   Set flexible and realistic writing targets

Obviously we need to push ourselves if we ever want to finish anything, but I think it’s important to avoid being too rigid. I’ve found that for me, the best writing targets are small, attainable, and flexible. I feel so much better about my writing and myself if I manage to reach my goal every day. I keep my targets flexible by giving myself both a word target, and a time target. This means that every day, I will either write at least 1000 words, or work on the manuscript for at least three hours–whichever comes first. I’m not saying that you should only write when you feel inspired; I’m saying that if you’re not reaching your goal every day, you need to check in and see if you’re not working hard enough, or if your goal is simply unattainable for your lifestyle.

 

3  Find your routine and treat yourself!

Discover the power of a hot cup of tea, or the right song (try calming classical), or the perfect writing spot. Try to really enjoy the time that you set aside for your writing. My writing time is the only time that I can get out of my own head and live in someone else’s for a while. I have found that, by creating the ideal environment for my writing, it feels less like work and more like a treat.

I think it’s important to experiment a little to find out what works best for you. Are you a morning writer or a night writer? Do you work best at home or at the library? Are you a planner or an improviser? Once I really got to know my process, and worked with it rather than against it, I started making real progress on my manuscript.

 

I hope this has been helpful to you, and I wish you all the best.

Talk to me in the comments! What are you working on?

 

Thank you so much for reading,

Tamara Drazic

 

Read More, Google Less – Goals for 2017

Dear readers,

Happy January! Here is a little list of the (quite extravagant) goals I have for 2017:

  1. Release Spinebind Issue #4 (20th of January)
  2. Finish the first draft of my novel manuscript
  3. Write a collection of micro memoirs of my trip to Iceland
  4. Move to a city that I love
  5. Get a day job that allows me enough time/brain power to write
  6. Read more, Google less
  7. Finish the second draft of my novel manuscript
  8. Save Save Save
  9. Travel – New York City for my 21st birthday, and Zürich to spend Christmas with family

Now that I have no structure to my life, I think it’s more important than ever to have some goals set in writing. I’ve been so busy with the magazine and my freelance work that I’ve been falling behind on what I actually really want to do. I can’t let that happen this year.

Thanks so much for reading. What are some of your goals for 2017? Let’s hold each other accountable.

Yours,

Tamara Drazic