Milestones, Novellas and Ravens

Hello, Everyone! I imagine you were probably expecting another month’s worth of answers to the #AcresofInk Writing Challenge.

Surprise! It’s not… Sorry about that.

I confess I’ve been rather amiss with my blogging of late. It’s my aim to catch up eventually, but these last couple of months have been an absolute whirlwind of activity and, much to my chagrin, June looks even worse. So, without further ado…

I’m just stopping by the officially announce…

~*~ I FINISHED THE FIRST DRAFT OF THE MAYOR ~*~

Huzzah

Huzzah! Huzzah! Huzzah!

Yes my friends, it has been A Struggle. After many, many years of trials, tribulations and tears, I finally have done it. I have written A Book. I’m so, so happy.

So what’s next?

Well, for the time being, I’ve put myself on an Enforced Break, fully endorsed by my writing partner K.F. Goodacre. This means I’m not even looking at my novel and actively trying not to think about it… which is much harder than it sounds. In the meantime, K.F. Goodacre has taken my book off my hands and is going to spend the next two months doing an initial edit for me. What a brave soul she is…

RavensTo distract myself, I’ve been catching up on some TV (Black Sails anyone?), reading 18th century books that aren’t mine (The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzie Lee) and keeping myself away from computer screens as much as possible. A couple of weekends ago my work colleague and friend from Latvia visited, and we went to the Tower of London to see the ravens ♥ This weekend just gone, I pampered myself with various lotions and potions (‘Drops Of Light’ facial peel from The Body Shop), enjoyed the warm weather and spent quality time with my boyfriend and his family. Self-care and socialising was something I seriously neglected during the months of March and April, so it feels good to be connecting with myself and the world again.

I’ve also started outlining a novella about my character, Jonathan Carson, which I’m hoping will inform my writing for Book 2 and also serve as a nice way to blow off steam when I eventually get round to editing my book. It is an absolute monster of a novel, standing at well over 200,000 words. I need to get it down to somewhere between 100,000 and 150,000 plus sort out the worldbuilding, plus tighten up the plot, plus build on certain characters, plus cut others completely, plus

What was that? Oh yes, sorry, I’m not meant to be thinking about this stuff at the moment.

Until next time, Lovelies x

Take care,

S.E. Berrow

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Phantoms, Dollhouses and Easter Wishes

Happy Easter, everyone! I hope you’re all having a lovely long weekend. For those of you who are working over the Easter Holidays, I will keep you in my thoughts! ♥

No writing challenge answers this week. Today’s blog post consists of Important Life Updates:

I’ve moved house!

Yes, it’s true. I’ve temporarily moved back in with my parents whilst I wait for the sale of my boyfriend’s flat to go through. I can’t say how long I’ll be here for, but I’ve been made to feel very welcome and today was the first day since Tuesday (the day I moved out) that I’ve actually begun to feel truly settled. Throughout the whole of March I’ve essentially been AN ENORMOUS BALL OF STRESS and I can only apologise to all who encountered me during that time and had to put up with me and my madness.Sarah Andersen

I’m glad it’s over now and can get stuck back into the thing I love to do most…

Writing

For those who’ve been following my blog for a while, you’ll know I’m massively behind with the deadline for finishing my WIP, The Mayor. I originally intended to finish Draft One by the end of December, but had to push the deadline back until the end of February for the sake of my mental health (see here). That revised deadline went completely out the window when I started going through the process of selling my home, plus I began having serious self-doubt along with Anxiety-triggering frustration over my complete inability to finish my manuscript. Going on a really nice holiday for two weeks at the beginning of March helped me out a lot; I didn’t touch my manuscript once the whole time I was gone, and when I came back I felt refreshed and excited, ready to finish everything off. I had a really productive week in the middle of March playing around with my deliciously cruel penultimate chapter… only for reality to set back in that I needed to start packing, stat.

Basically, March was a complete write-off as far as writing was concerned, but April is a new month, a new start. I’m in a new place where I have fewer responsibilities to shoulder all by myself (house maintenance, cooking, cleaning etc.), plus I’m genuinely excited to get to grips with the last two chapters and very short epilogue. Wish me luck.

Once I’m finished (please, God, let it be soon), I’m going to take a break — maybe write a novella about my character Jonathan Carson — whilst K.F. Goodacre takes to my work with razor-sharp scalpel and hammers my words into some semblance of a manageable pile.

Dollies!

Speaking of K.F. Goodacre, it seems her talents know no bounds! As a belated birthday present, she very kindly made me my protagonist Melora in doll form… Behold! She is exquisite:

Melora joins another doll made for me by K.F. Goodacre — my character Jonathan Carson. Don’t they look great together? I’m so in love. Raise your hand if you think Kim needs to start her own Etsy account making dolls of other people’s characters for money? *Hand shoots up*. Thank you so much, Parabatai! ♥

Note: The John doll is a couple of years old now. The character’s ethnicity has changed since its creation and as such, his skin should actually be much darker than what’s shown here. Kim’s assured me she will, at some point, flay John’s skin off and replace it with something more fitting. He’s got to match his brother Jaspher, after all. Watch this space…

Lastly…

Kamelot‘s new album The Shadow Theory is out next week. OMG. I’m so, so, so EXCITED!!!!!!!!!!!! Especially since they dropped their (brilliant) new single last Friday entitled ‘The Phantom Divine (Shadow Empire)’, featuring Lauren Hart from melodic death metal band, Once Human. CHECK. IT. OWT:

 

Can’t wait. Simply can’t, can’t wait. Will explode from teh squee. Super excite! BRING ON LONDON IN OCTOBER ♥

That’s all for now. Ta-ta!

S.E. Berrow

‘Tis The Season to be Stressed Out, Fa La La La La, La La La, HALP

OK guys. Confession time.

I’m not going to make my end of year deadline to complete a first draft of The Mayor.

Here’s the situation:

In a previous post (see here), I explained how I still had 8 more chapters left to write, and was aiming to finish a chapter a week.

Well, this plan fell on the wayside pretty quickly, because it took me 3 weeks to complete just one chapter told from the POV of my villain.

Screen Shot 2017-12-07 at 23.52.21
Our writing retreat in the Cotswolds… Take me back!

Now, I’ve spoken before about how hard Kale is to write in the past; understatement of the century as I’m concerned. This particular chapter was even harder, because it dealt with long-awaited revelations, violent payoffs and a fuck-ton of allegory. Add that to real-world, catatonia-inducing stress (I decided that now, just before Christmas, would be the perfect time to sell my house for some stupid reason), and you can imagine how hard it was for me to sit down and force those words out.

As for the 4-day writing retreat with K.F. Goodacre? Productive as it was (I’d probably still be stuck on that Kale chapter if I hadn’t gone), it was only 2 days long, not 4.

So I still have 5 chapters left to write, and less than 4 weeks to write them.

I have shed actual tears over this. I have had anxiety attacks. I’ve felt like a complete failure and like I was letting not only myself down, but other people as well: my writing partner; my boyfriend, my friends who read what I write as I go along…

But the other night while I was having a shower (it’s amazing how much a nice hot shower clears my head), I had an epiphany:

  • I’m not being paid to do this. I’m not published. I don’t have an agent. I’m not locked in a contract. I don’t have any obligations beyond the ridiculously high standards I’ve foolishly set for myself.
  • It’s the festive season. I usually love Christmas, but this year so far, I haven’t been enjoying it at all, because I’ve been so wrapped up in worrying about how I’m not going to meet my deadline on top of work stuff, house stuff, money worries, and other things I can’t control. I can however control my deadline. Why? Because it’s self-imposed.
  • Most of my writing happens at the weekend… but I’m fully-booked from now until Christmas. I do not want to be resenting the fact that I’m spending time with the people I love — or worse yet cancelling on them at the last minute — because of a self-imposed deadline.
  • This last month has been a struggle. A real struggle, mental health-wise. This wasn’t helped by the fact I didn’t win NaNoWriMo, even though I knew there wasn’t a chance in Hell that I would when I started. WHY, BRAIN?! WHY DO YOU DO THIS TO ME?
    Throw a lapsed deadline and a failed 2017 New Year’s Resolution into the mix, and at this point I’m running pretty close to throwing in the towel altogether. My finger is practically hovering over the delete button, Guys, and that is not good! THAT IS NOT GOOD AT ALL. (I’ve actually done this before with a previous WIP, and have regretted it ever since).

If I’m objectively honest with myself, I’ve done amazingly well this year. I’ve written almost 75,000 words of my novel — more than I’ve ever written in a single year in my life — all while maintaining a household, caring for two cats, and holding down a full-time job. I’m within touching distance of the finish line, so to fall at the last hurdle would be an absolute tragedy.

Therefore I’ve made the difficult decision to extend my deadline by 2 months. Instead of 31 December 2017, I will now be aiming to have a first draft completed by 28 February 2018. (This is actually a pretty excessive deadline — I should in theory be able to do it in one).

I hope you guys aren’t too disappointed in me. I’m so sorry to have let you down if you were excited about the prospect of me finishing, but I think it will totally worth it in the end because I will actually have a story to share with you ♥

Take care,

S.E. Berrow


P.S. Just so this post isn’t entirely disappointing and depressing… here are some random things I’m really loving at the moment that I want to share with you!

Books: The Six Of Crows duology by Leigh Bardugo — a New Adult heist story set in a fantasy world based on 19th century Tsarist Russia. It has a wonderfully diverse cast with some great characterisation — and the story is so much fun! I just don’t want it to end.

Music: Kingslayer by symphonic power-metal band, Almanac — especially the opening track, ‘Regicide’:

On the morning after the king has lost his crown,
Only tears and laughter come together now.
When my senses fail us, I’ll fade without a sound.
When I see you fail I’ll break in to break you down.

Also the album art is great. It’s so, so good; currently tied with Arch Enemy‘s Will To Power for my personal Favourite Album of the Year, 2017.

Lipsticks:Naked Witch‘ by the lovely ladies at Necromancy Cosmetica. At last! I can now make myself look like a ghost without using my foundation as a lipstick! Their palest nude ‘Healing Stone‘ is simply gorgeous too. I love them both. Love love love.

I’m also super amazed at how — despite being without power for 90+ days (being based in the hurricane-stricken Puerto Rico) — they were still able to safely ship my order to me in a matter of days ♥

Writerly Navel-Gazing ~ Week 24: Questions 22 and 23

I’m aware this post is very, very late. Apologies. I’m about to have a mental breakdown trying to finish The Mayor and sell my house at the same time (my timing, as always, is impeccable) so please bear with me…

Part of the 30 Week Writing Challenge. Click here to view all questions.

 22. Tell us about one scene between your characters that you’ve never written or told anyone about before, serious or not.

This is an impossible question to answer, because talking about scenes I have not yet written would be spoiling the book, and I pretty much tell K.F. Goodacre everything before I write it anyway. If I haven’t told her about it, it’s because I haven’t thought of it yet. So we’ll all just have to wait and see! Seriously, a lot of my book is a complete mystery to me…

23. How long does it usually take you to complete an entire story—from planning to writing to posting (if you post your work)?

I do not post my work. It would spoil the surprise!

I started getting ideas for The Mayor around April 2009, then began putting words to paper late that May. That was 8 years ago! I only had a (very) vague outline of the main plot when I first started, which is something I’ve come to seriously regret because the original draft is an absolute mess; I developed the characters, themes, setting and story as I went along, which shows. I got completely lost about halfway through the first draft (I spoke a little about this in my previous post) and didn’t touch it for several years.

Fortunately, I made an effort to pick everything up again at the beginning of this year, and since then have beasted through the second half. I’ve written just over half a book within the space of a year, which is more progress made in the last 9 months than in 2-3 years when I started working on it. Though I’ve fallen a bit behind these last two weeks, there’s still a very good chance I can make my 31st December deadline for a complete first draft.

S.E. Berrow

It’s official: I have The Fear

I have just over 2 months left to finish my first draft of The Mayor.

Sarah Andersen

Crap.

In an attempt to be positive about this, I’ve worked out the following:

  • According to my current plan, I only have 8 more chapters left to write.
  • Two of these ‘chapters’ are actually 1-2 page ‘interludes’.
  • I’m about halfway through one of these 8 chapters already.
  • I have a 4 day ‘writing retreat’ with K.F. Goodacre booked towards the end of November. The pseudo writing-retreat I took at the beginning of October resulted in 2 and a half chapters in just 4 days, so that bodes well.

So technically, that’s just 5 and a half more chapters I have left to write, plus 2 short interludey, epiloguey thingies… I’m currently aiming to complete at least a chapter a week so… that’s totally doable, right? I CAN DO THIS!

Positivity

Today I got back from the booziest family/long-weekend holiday ever, and I didn’t get any writing done at all. So consequently I’m feeling pretty low and rubbish at the moment. It could very well be the hangover talking.

PLEASE SEND ME POSITIVE, ENCOURAGING THOUGHTS, YOU GUYS. I NEED THEM ♥

Deadline-Induced Panic

Take care,

S.E. Berrow

P.S. I know you were probably expecting aWriterly Navel-Gazing question this week, so I’m sorry about that. I promise I’m working on it. The answer to Week 19 is a long one and I’m trying to make it as accessible and as spoiler-free as possible. Plus y’know… finishing The Mayor is currently taking up all my spare time — I’ve almost forgotten what my friends look like.

P.P.S. Philip Pullman’s The Book of Dust is now in my possession, I repeat, THE BOOK OF DUST IS NOW IN MY POSSESSION ♥ I picked it up from Waterstones today. Have you got your paws on a copy yet? Have you finished it? Ahhhhh, I’m so excited! I feel like I’ve been waiting my entire life for this.


The ‘Deadline’ comic strip is by the wonderful Sarah Andersen aka. Sarah Scribbles. The other two graphics are sadly sourceless — please let me know if they are yours and would like to be credited, or for the image to be removed.