Writing Lesson in Horse Riding

I recently figured that hey, I write about knights and cowboys. Maybe I should learn how to ride a horse myself.

It’s something I’ve always wanted to do. There’s something absolutely beautiful about seeing a horse and rider in harmony. Something almost mystical.

Learning how to ride, is another animal altogether. There was Calypso, who hates me. Really. I went up to him, trusting him and… well… He tried to head-butt me. And the riding went worse.

So given that Calypso was out to get me, my instructor introduced me to Juno. Now Juno and I hit it off. With Juno, I thought I’d be able to go all the way.

Except the second time I rode him (yes, I know it’s stupid to name a stallion for the Roman goddess of women and motherhood), he started to do things that made me less than comfortable. I mean, I’m new to this riding thing. So when I want the horse to stop, it’s nice to know the horse will stop. Still, I figured it’d be okay, since I’d grow better as I practiced more.

The lesson after that, though, I was asked to ride Quicksilver. Now Quicky is rather an ornery beast. He’s the one who puts all the horses on the farm in their places. And when he does, he kicks butt and takes names. He’s also the one who wants to be in front no matter what, so he’s faster than either of the other two. And he bites any horse who tries to take the lead from him.

The thing is… Quicky and I simply hit it off. Sure, he was fast, but never in a way that undermined the trust I had to put in him. In fact, riding him gave me the confidence to think I could actually learn other things. Most importantly, though, he loves me too. If there’s a group of people and he’s loose, he comes to me and lowers his head for me to pet him. Is he the horse I can trust? Possibly. He might change his mind later, but for now, we’re getting along perfectly, even if logic says I shouldn’t have liked him.

Incidentally, today, I had to ride Juno and my mom had to ride Quicky. Juno was actually scarier today than Calypso. And my mother felt the same way about Quicky.

Now, I bet you’re wondering how I’m bringing this to writing. Well.

When I started writing, there was a western. We got along okay, but when my mom took my computer and gave it to someone else, I stopped working on it for years. The spark just wasn’t there. (Juno.)

Later on, there was a fantasy. A quest, in fact. With a chosen one. But it was dark. Took me places I didn’t want to go. In fact, it was part of some stuff I was going through at the time that really really messed me up in ways that made my university issues look like kindergarten. In the end, I burnt it. Yep. Wiped it, and all the back-ups, and burnt all the plans and drawings I’d made for it. (Calypso)

I have a few other drafts that I could explain, but right now, there aren’t horses that match them.

Finally, in walked a character while I was re-reading Chronicles of Narnia. After all those failed attempts, I’d decided to give up on writing idea until I was certain that my idea was a good one. The character didn’t take no for an answer, and the story he revealed to me was so good that I knew I’d finish it. To put money where my mouth was, I even started this blog as My First Book. I planned it to be a blog of me finishing a book and getting it published.

Was it because the story was easy? No. In fact, my older bloggy friends might recall that I called it The Beast. The story was huge. It defied my every attempt at pre-planning. The characters were reticent. In fact I hated one of the main characters. But I couldn’t give up. I didn’t want to. (That story went on to become The Vanished Knight.)

Maybe it’s too soon to make this call, but that sounds a lot like Quicksilver. A bit of a bastard, but hey, it picked me and I love it for giving me that honor.

So in summary, the lesson I’ve learnt so far in writing and horse riding:

Just because you’re struggling to get into it doesn’t mean that you should give up. It could be that you just have the wrong horse for right now. 
Anyone want to talk about the drafts before the one they finished? 



I’ve got a bit of uncertainty going again. See… I’m coming closer and closer to finishing the edits to Doorways. And… I’m starting to think I don’t know what to do with it.

I mean… now is the good time to start drafting my query. But do I really still want to go the traditional route?

Yes, it would be a huge feather in my cap to have my ms accepted by one of the big 6. Or even just by an agent. But… in the current climate where traditional authors are pushed harder and harder to produce more and compete with the self-publishers, do I really want to sell my soul and contract my art in that way?

All this came about when I was speaking to my mother about how authors making a lot of money and producing best-seller after best seller… while they’re actually not writing the books with their names on it.  

Or people producing books to the exact same formula. Again. And again. And again.

I have to say that I don’t have a lot of respect for those authors. In fact, (and I’m sorry if any of you do this), I feel that those books don’t really deserve to take the space that could have gone to authors who spent hours perfecting the craft. Honing it to get to agents’ and publishers’ standards. Only to be told no because the quota has been filled.

But. As time has passed and I got more attuned to the comings and goings of the publishing market, I realize that a lot of this has to do with pressure. Those authors seem to be trying to produce enough books a year to stay fresh in the readers’ minds. And now, they need to produce even faster to compete with self-publishers who need a lot less time to get their books published.

Where am I going to draw the line with my writing? Am I willing to publish less than my standards in order to keep a publisher happy? Do I want the  added pressure that if my book does not compete, which it can’t because it’s at least three times as expensive as most self-published books, I’ll lose  the deal with the publisher?

How much of my soul am I willing to risk in order to get my stories trad-published?

How do you/did you decide your chosen publishing method?

Any advice?

Revision thoughts

After days of staying stuck on some technical aspects, I’ve finally gotten back on track with my revisions. I’m now past a quarter of the way through. So I’m pretty thrilled with my progress. 

Still, having an Internal Editor who is alive and well can have its side effects. 

I almost decided to cut out two of my favorite supporting characters. Because they’re supporting characters that only really find their places in Book two. But as I was about to write down the memo, I realized that I couldn’t get rid of them. Because introducing them in Book two will feel wrong in the story that I will want to tell. So they stay. 

On the other hand, I realized that I’ll have to emphasize the stakes a little more on one of my story line so that I can get the Epic back into my Epic Fantasy. So there will be some serious changes later on in the book. Very close to where I am right now. This change is one I embrace, though. One I look forward to. 

Still, those thoughts above reminded me of something that is becoming increasingly scary to me: Killing my babies. There might still come a point where I will have to cut out characters and scenes. I’ve already cut some, but none of them have been particularly important to me. But I know that the day will come that there will be a scene that I love that will have to go.

And that gives me the jitters.

So… who else is revising? How do you decide what goes and what stage? What do you do when you have to cut something you love?


Hi all!

Firstly, a big welcome and thank you to all of the new faces that have joined up recently. I hope that you enjoy it here.

Just want to remind you all to contact me for a GPF slot. And remember, you need to please be a follower before you can post. I need one more blogger for the third week of February. If you are interested , please contact me at mishagericke@gmail.com (mishagericke(AT)gmail(dot)com).

Thanks to everyone who have shown interest so far. This is going to be awesome.

Then, I have finally joined twitter. So if you want to see my convoluted ramblings, go follow me @MishaMFB. I will follow you in return.

Finally, I am sorry for my absence yesterday, my Internet went fuzzy because it was the end of the month.

Back to the blog.

When I opened this post, I realized to my horror that I have no idea about a topic.

Luckily, it didn’t take that long for me to realize that I have mentioned almost nothing about my progress.

So how am I doing?


My rewrite and first draft coincide only on the first chapter. The rest have been shifted, deleted and added to within an inch of their lives. In fact, I am finding very little of my original work that is falling into the pacing and structure as I envisaged it.

Good side to this is that I haven’t been this excited about the story in a long time. The cleaning up has done wonders for the book and the plot holes are slowly being filled or removed.

So far I am absolutely loving the rewriting experience, although it doesn’t really offer the same sort of exhilaration as creating something from scratch. Yes, things are substantially changed, but it still comes from a story already written. But it is especially gratifying to know that the story is getting better now.

I must say that there are some issues with the structure, but it has already been improved this time around. Hopefully I will sort out the rest when I start to edit.
Will I make my 30 April goal? At this rate, I’ll make it by the end of February. On the other hand, I’m not sure if I can maintain the rate at this time though, since we have guests again. Still, in exchange for seeing these wonderful three people, I am willing to finish a little later.

What about you? Any of you rewriting? How are things going for you? And for those who are editing, querying and creating?

NaNoWriMo doubts.

I wonder…

I’ve been struggling recently with writing Doorways, for the simple reason that I don’t know what to write. I have tried writing through it, but I just don’t seem to be able to write more than a few hundred words at a time. Nowhere near the amount I need to write if I am to have hope of NaNo success.

It’s come to the point where I have been so desperate to write something that I went back to my Western. Results? About five thousand words in two days. Which means that if I can write a bit less than that every day between my studies, I would be able to actually finish 50k by month end. 

But I want to finish the darned book. 

On the other hand, my exams have been rerouted in such a way that I’m starting on 18 November and finishing in December. So I don’t have time to struggle with every single word I have to pen down. 

After all, I have to write 1200 every day and actually get round to studying. Kidding. 

Studying is currently my biggest priority, but I have no problem with writing a little every day. But at this stage Doorways is taking me around five hours to write six hundred words. Five hours that I do not have. 

So… as I am writing this, I come to the realization that I will get a lot more done if I relax on my finishing Doorways by year-end goal. If I add 50k words to the Western, I pretty much finish it. I could actually start refining the story and launch into my second draft. There will be a lot of work to it, yes. But I will actually have finished one of my stories.

But my heart lies with Doorways…

But if I can’t pick up my productivity to the point where I can finish 1200 words in two and a half hours, I’m going to shelve it until December, which means that I won’t finish it until it is finished. (Which at the rate it’s currently going, might be next December. Maybe.)

Sigh… choices.

What would you do in a situation like this? Follow your head or follow your heart? 

Doorways and Darrion

The Beast has finally been named. This morning I just felt in a naming kind of mood and turned my attention to my main Work in Progress.  

Quite a few names occurred to me, but they didn’t seem to fit. So… I thought about recurring themes or objects in my story. And there it was. The name makes perfect sense. Doorways.

Except for the fact that doors in a literal sense appear often in my writing (no, I mean differently from going into rooms), doors also have a special significance to me.

These past few years have been all about doors opening on opportunities and closing on my past and wrong directions. There are many doors opening to me and I feel somewhat lost as to which choice to make.

It’s exactly the same with my characters. They are all very different, but they have doorways (making choices) in common.

James has to decide if he will step up. Ward must decide if he will tell the truth. Darrion must choose between loyalty and ambition. Gawain must choose sides. Callan must decide who she wants to become.

Everyone has an important decision. And every decision has an impact on others.

As you might notice from my short summery of the characters, there’s a lot of story to get down – with a lot of voices.

So I decided to take Bish Denham’s advice and hold interviews with each character. And immediately ran into a challenge. 

I started last night at 22:00. Darrion insisted on being first – despite my wanting to start with Ward. What can I say? The fiend is stubborn.

You’d think that he’d be chatty. You’d be wrong. Getting information from him is like pulling teeth.

Think I’m kidding?

Question 1:

Me: Tell me about your childhood.
Him: No
Me: Come on. I need to know.
Him: Did I stutter?

More to and fro arguing and negotiating followed and I gave up without knowing anything. And so it goes on. I’m currently taking a break before I decide to write him a terrible death at the end.

I can’t start an interview with anyone else, because his lordship won’t move his butt out of my mind. So here I am, letting him stew while I entertain myself with other things. Maybe he’ll be more talkative later…

Doubtful. Highly doubtful.

Sigh. I guess it sounds nuts, but I find it quite insightful, since I’m getting to know him outside of the context of the story. Even his reticence gives me insight into who he is, but he’ll never hear it from me…

How do you get to know your characters? Have anyone ever tried to get to know a character, only to have him/her push you back with every effort you make?

Sore feet and paper cuts

So sorry for skipping yesterday. I really just got round to blogging now. In fact the fact that I didn’t post anything was keeping you awake. So I figured I’ll post twice today for compensation. The second post should appear fifteen hours from now. I would have made it sooner, but I’m on the road again for our heritage day long-weekend (yes, dears, we have a LOT of holidays). It won’t deter me from blogging though. I promise to catch up on all your posts ASAP.  

So firstly I want to point out that this blog has 30 followers! Yay! Next step the big 5-0… Welcome all of you! May you enjoy it here.

That said, I think the best course of action will be to go into why I only got to my blog at one o’clock in the next morning.

Well. Since the new idea falls (in a way) into the vampire category, I just got this intense desire to read Bram Stoker’s Dracula. I’m about 150 pages from the end, but for once, I cut my reading sessions up into short bits so that I can write in between.

And so it was that I’m back to working on the Beast. It’s slow going since I’m in a sticky part where a character is at the point of starting a journey and needs to get technical stuff sorted. I just know that I will edit that part out or at least rewrite it later, since I hate it already. As some of you may know, I’m an ex-self editing addict. So nothing gets changed until I’ve finished the draft. 

When I put away the book I’m writing, I cut three lovely stripes into my thumb knuckle.  Yes, I’m aware that this has nothing to do with whyI didn’t blog, but it explains the title.

But definitely the largest reason that kept me from the blog was the fact that I was invited to a braai and sokkie evening. Or, in more commonly understood terms – although not truly the same – BBQ and dancing. Ah it was an awesome evening. I haven’t been out in a long time and more importantly, while it was low-key, the evening was a huge amount of fun. I did however… sin with regards to the diet, but no regrets. I didn’t want to make things awkward by declining the food so lovingly prepared. Luckily I burned a lot of it later when I actually started dancing. I danced for about four hours – in heels – which explains the rest of the title.

But the time spent and carbs eaten was so worth it! I met so many wonderful people and I got out, which freshened my writing mind some more.

Too bad that the next blog title will likely be I wish I stretched before I danced… ;-P

The joys of flying by the seat of your pants when writing

I have tried and tried and tried, but plot, I cannot. I guess it’s partly due to the fact that my beast of a novel refuses to be limited to the constraints of a formal plot outline.

I know this because I tried to create a plot outline before I started to write the book. After about two pages of it with no end in sight, I threw my hands into the air and put the planning aside. I guess that makes it sound like I’m doing a trilogy. If you thought that, you’re not far wrong. I suspect that this will be a series of four books though. But..

The plotting I did was for the first book only. The thing about it that it is a great story that has subdivisions. Some things happen at the same time, some don’t. Some things trigger events in the other story-lines. So it turned out that just writing the damn book is easier that trying to plot it out. I do make an effort to keep major plot points in mind so that I don’t end up wandering around, but those points are fluid. They can change whenever something huge happens as the story progresses. But unless that event is massive, the points don’t change.

Writing like this does have its disadvantages. The big one is that I block. A lot. For long periods of time. Sure I have the big plot points to write towards, but sometimes I draw a complete blank when it comes to writing the small stuff that happens in between.

Then there’s my other personal favourite: I’m happily writing along when I get this sudden flash of inspiration. Usually it’s like a video clip that’s looping through my mind. Sometimes it’s a phrase, word or sentence that keeps echoing. Wonderful? Ugh… not if it’s not from the current book.

Blame my paranoia for this, but I rarely write any ideas down, since it’s difficult to keep track of my notes. So I can’t just write down and describe the mental image or words. No. My mind and creativity gets snarled up in trying to figure out how the story gets to that point in the distant future. Sometimes it takes me weeks to work things out well enough for me to get back to writing. 

Am I complaining? Well… not really. Those flashes of inspiration, for all of their tendencies to come at bad times, really are brilliant. I’m talking about gasp for your breath and grab onto something solid brilliant. These are the kind of things I would never have been able to create if I thought about it. My subconscious just takes in everything – my characters, my story, the circumstances, events etc. – and makes a huge leap to a future point in the natural progression of the story.

I can’t really give examples, since these are huge spoilers. Spoilers of the scope that if I was reading the book and my friend mentioned this, I’d maim his or her reading experience of another book as revenge. (I hate people telling me what happens after the point where I’m reading) But let me just say that someone is going to get the mother of harsh wake-up calls while someone else is going to get a lot worse before he gets better. I just hope I can pull it off before the readers absolutely hate the latter person.

I’m curious about plotters though. How do you work out your plots? What are the best and worst parts of plotting?

And the other pantsers, what are your writing experiences like?

I’m dying to find out about other people’s writing experiences…

My tiny dilemma(s).

Well, except for trying to remember how to spell the word dilemma.

Last time, I announced my decision that I was out on the hunt for a crit partner. One of the big reasons for this is that I am well on my way now, but I’ve been feeling this tiny nag of uncertainty in the back of my mind. It has to do with my plot.

See I have five main characters along with a cast of supporters. Fine. The thing comes in where the story is told from two perspectives. The book is largely about two stories.

To me, this isn’t large, since I keep track of the goings on, but then, I did create the stories. I let my gran read the first portion and she said that the story is good, but that she’s worried about the readers being confused.

Problem here is two-fold. One, she absolutely doesn’t want to hurt my feelings and two, she was taught never to write with more that two or three main characters. She never read or wrote a fantasy novel. 

I can’t give it to my three best friends. One will soften the crit, and the other understands the convoluted workings of my mind too well. So Theresa will say I make perfect sense, because she knows how I think (Although the deal with helping me edit stands :-)). As scary as the thought is, I think that creatively, she thinks like me. Waldo is well read on fantasy, blunt to a fault and being a guy, never quite grasps my thinking, but… he’s doing a Masters in Engineering. I just can’t be cruel enough to make him read through what is sure to be a reasonably sized beast of an epic – in rough draft form – again and again.

So I need someone to read my work, that doesn’t know me, but understands Fantasy as a genre.

Which brings me to the troubling part(s). Firstly, there is the matter of trusting a complete stranger with my brainchild. I don’t know if I’m being overly dramatic, but it feels like I’m toeing the abyss with my eyes closed. It’s just that, I think that this is such a good concept for a book. Really, it’s very very good. If I can pull it off… So I have to check, but what if this person I choose to trust decides he or she likes my idea more than their own?

Then there’s the logistics of the deal. I’m currently writing the Fantasy with pen and paper. So, to get it to a CP involves me rewriting the parts I’ve written, while I’m writing the rest of the book. I don’t want to stop dead, since I’m on a roll. Also, if I get input early on, it might mean a smaller scale rewrite later… 

Anyone have any advice about this?

Wish I could be more creative with my titles.

Really I do. I guess that is one of my greatest weaknesses when it comes to writing.

I’m sure that you have noticed that I refer to my Works in Progress as the Fantasy and the Western. Why? Because I haven’t figured out titles for them.

I have most of my story lines down. I have my characters about as figured out as they’ll let me. Both books are in a stage of rapid movement towards the climax (although far from it), but I have no idea what to call them.

It’s a problem that has haunted me from my childhood. I write good stories (I hope), but thinking of a suitable title is always difficult. So usually I finish the story and pick a name related to some aspect of it. The thing is that my Fantasy novel has quite a few aspects, so picking one is going to be tricky. Still, I’ll cross that bridge when I get there.

At least today, it gave me something to start with. Brilliant eh?

On the topic of writing, I am much relieved to report that I have spent the past few hours writing my Fantasy. My head hurts like hell from the effort, but it’s done and I’m happy. Why? Because I have thousands of ideas running in front of me. 

For once, those ideas involve events immediately after my last written sentences. So hopefully next time I won’t have to wonder what I have to start with.

On a somewhat unrelated topic, I think it’s time for me to let someone who doesn’t know me read at least portions of my book. So… I’m searching for a crit partner. Now, I have never done this before, and I’ve heard many horror stories about mismatched personalities, so I’ll have to wait and see. I will keep you posted…

Right, so enough about me. What about you? Have you ever had to do with a CP? How did it work out? Any advice for the rookie?