Friday, 4 December 2009

10,000 words!

The latest novel has now reached 10,000 words! Something about that number is special to me, and perhaps because it's a marker. 5,000 was okay, but now we're into double figures in terms of thousands and it feels more solid. I have a weird phobia, whenever I begin to write, of running out of words (it's never happened so far), and it's always reaffirming to hit the targets and know there's still lots of the story left to tell. The next major one will be 30,000, which should mark about half way, because Zack (working title) is a Young Adult novel.

Word counts vary with target audience genre. As a general guide, 80-100,000 words is the usual for an adult novel, while 60,000 is a common one for Young Adult. Mid-grade tends to be 30-50,000. The largest influence in terms of genre is fantasy, which increases the limits quite a lot. But even if you're writing an epic fantasy novel, it's probably safer to stick closer to the advised word counts, if it's a first time novel. Once you're published, you have a lot more freedom to write the length you want. J.K. Rowling is a good example: after her first two books established her, the later ones grew longer each time... (until book 5 was probably too long...)

I'm not sure if Zack will be the breakthrough novel. Although it has been quite upbeat so far, it gets much darker very soon and doesn't end in particularly pleasant ways... But we shall see.

Friday, 11 September 2009

It begins!

Well, I've officially started writing a new novel about a character called Zack, 500 words and counting. As is usual for me, the genre is probably best described at YA fantasy, although it's quite different to the other 'successful' novels I've finished. The crucial difference is that it's set in our world, although Zack is quite an unusual human. It's been in my head for ... well, a few years, I think, although I still only have a vague sense of where it's going. My novels are often like that. I have a general sense of their direction, although nothing specific for what might happen along the way.

I wonder how long it'll take me to write? Will I complete it? I have far too many abandoned novels to be confident of myself in that respect. The last one I finished was for Nanowrimo, not last November, but the year before. Nanowrimo is a personal writing challenge. The aim is to write 50,000 words in a month, and for my mid-grade novel Between Time it was the perfect length.

I managed to complete Nanowrimo three years in a row between 2005-2007, with Between Time as the finishing success. However, since I've been at university, I just don't have time in November to take on the challenge. Last year, I attempted and managed to write about 4,000 words that were soon munched when my computer died (back up your work, people!) and this year, I know there's no point in attempting it. Not when I have dissertations and Middle English to wade through...

Anyway, I haven't told you much about Zack's story, although I'm never sure how much I should say on these blog pages. But if you feel like taking part in the Nanowrimo challenge (it's great for making you sit down and actually write), then the website is:

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Passive tense and poor old 'was'

One thing that drives me up the wall is when someone takes to slaying every instance of 'was' under a misguided belief that it's constructing 'passive tense'. A fair few uses of 'was' are not even close to passive tense... It's a bit like the Holy Crusades...

The best trick I heard is if you can stick a 'by someone' in there somewhere, you know it's passive.

Let's take an example: 'He was moved by her.'
This is long passive form.
The 'agent' and 'patient' are the technical words for determining things (different to 'subject' and 'object'). Agent does the action and patience has the action done to them. In passive, the patient is the subject. So the 'he' in "He was moved by her." would be the patient, and the 'her' would be the agent.

The active form of this would be: 'He moved her.'
Here we see the agent taking up the subject slot 'he' and the patient in the object slot. It's the reverse of the passive above.

Now, a confusion some writers have is with short passive. Any long passive can be shortened to remove the 'by someone'. In the example above, we could shorten to 'She was moved'.

Three words. So what's the difference between this and something like 'She was dead'? Only one word is changed, but that word is crucial. In our passive example, we have a verb participle 'moved'. In this second example, we have an adjective 'dead'. No action is occurring to anyone in the second example at all. It's not passive.

People also get confused with the passive and the past progressive. An example of past progressive that looks very similar to our passive example is: 'He was moving.'
But can you stick in a 'by someone' into this? No. There's no patient receiving the action. Only an agent doing something.

To have a passive past progressive (rare, but technically viable), you'd have to have something like:
'She was being moved by him.'
Where again, you can see the passive structure: patient ('she') being acted on by agent ('he').

So there are some of the subtleties of the word 'was'. Please don't get confused, and treat it with the respect it deserves!

Monday, 7 September 2009

Welcome to the blog

Once upon a time, I used MSN Messenger. It gave me an option to write a blog. I tried a couple of times, writing random stuff about school, then college, and about writing, of course, since I'm a writer. Then the Myspace phase came along and I discovered I could blog there, too, so my MSN profile blog became neglected in favour of the Myspace blog. It's been quite a long time since I last wrote on that, and Myspace is dead these days. I have Facebook, but as far as I'm aware, you can't so obviously blog there. I haven't yet jumped on the Twitter wagon, and I thought I might just start up a separate blog...

And here we are. The first blog.

As I mentioned above, I'm a writer. Lizzie became my internet name many years ago, although it's not my preference in real life. I doubt it'll be on the front of any books if I were to ever get published. However, it is my username around the world wide web. It comes from His Dark Materials. Lyra, the main character, calls herself Lizzie when she is trying to avoid detection. It sums me up in many ways, I suppose... Although Hermione from Harry Potter is also another ficticious character that I relate to in far too many ways.

I should say that I'm primarily a children's fantasy author, although I have dabbled in other genres and with other target markets. It gives me an excuse to wander into the kids' and YA sections of bookstores and ignore the funny looks: all part of the market research, folks!

I have two complete novels, a few short stories, and a small amount of poetry. I hope to expand those two novels into series, although I have plenty of other ideas, too. I don't know if I'll ever get published, but writing isn't about being published, really. It's a compulsion. It's a part of what I am. No, it is what I am.

Anyway, I've probably rambled on for long enough this time. Welcome to the blog. Don't expect it to be updated too regularly. I don't have any 'big' plans for it!