Now, to Edit

Last year I wrote a novel in June; the year before that, in July. But this year I am not doing JuNoWriMo — instead, I will be editing a novel.

Before Kelly came to visit, we agreed that we would swap novels: I would read and comment on EDGEWOOD and she would do the same with THE FAERIE KING. She finished reading my novel over the weekend; I have the manuscriipt here, now, with both of our handwriting scrawled over the text and in the margins.

Today has been one of those days of having to force myself to sit down and work, despite wanting to work — both for my thesis and for my novel. But sit down I have and I’ve gone through Chapter One.

For all four of the Pooka novels that I wrote during various WriMos, it took me approximately three days to write a chapter. I shall attempt the same policy for editing the ten chapters of THE FAERIE KING. Yes, I know I’m starting a bit late, but I didn’t want to be editing while Kelly was here. Now that play time is over, it’s back to work for me…

Unfortunately, I don’t know how to indicate my progress during an EdMo because I have no daily-increasing word count to include at the end of my blog posts. Any suggestions?

In the meantime, here’s my favourite excerpt from today:

In time long past, the Ten Kingdoms were full of strange beasts and magic. The dragons were mighty and powerful, their wings could block out the sun and their tails wrapped around the earth. Nothing like the small, wingless dragons we have now. Gnomes lived under trees and dwarves in ancient castles. This was a time of enchantresses in the woods and when the earth shook under the feet of giants. This was a very long time ago – so very long, in fact, that truly faeries did traffic between this world and theirs, and the King of Faerie himself was known to hunt in mortal forests.

You laugh, Sir Richard? The Land of Faerie, called Elfame in ancient texts, is no laughing matter. I have spent many days in Her Majesty’s royal archives and have travelled to several other libraries in the Ten Kingdoms, reading and gathering knowledge for this story. All the ancient authors whom we scholars and tale tellers revere speak of this land of twilight, where the very trees are made of crystal, and where faeries immortal dwell. Do not laugh, but listen. This is a tale for our queen.

June 2011

Books read this month:

  1. King of Attolia. Megan Whalen Turner.
  2. Reading Mélusine: romance manuscripts and their audiences c.1380-c.1530. Tania Colwell.
  3. The Princess and the Hound. Mette Ivie Harrison.
  4. Serenity: Those Left Behind. Joss Whedon, Brett Matthews, and Will Conrad.
  5. An Introduction to the English Version of ‘Melusine’: A Medieval Prose Romance. Robert J. Nolan.
  6. Black Powder War. Naomi Novik.
  7. The Hero and the Crown. Robin McKinley.

Best novel about a king: King of Attolia
Best novel about a red-haired princess: The Hero and the Crown
Best other novel about a red-haired princess: The Princess and the Hound

How could I choose between The King of Attolia and The Hero and the Crown for best rereads? Honestly.

Today I finished:

My novel: Just a short while ago I wrote, Here ends the tale of Princess Agnes and the Golden Crab, closing my novel at 50,022 words. A month ago I did not have a novel. Now I do. I’ve written the third book in a series! Wow.

My thesis chapter: This morning I put the finishing touches on the second chapter of my thesis, printed it out, and handed it to my supervisor after lunch. This chapter at 19,652 words, ‘What is the difference between fairy and demon? The Case of Melusine‘ forms the keystone of my PhD thesis. My PhD thesis is now nearly half-way done! Oh my.

A favourite book: I spent the remainder of a sunny afternoon reading in the quiet serenity of the Cathedral cemetery, where I read the second half of The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley. Without a doubt, Aerin is my favourite princess ever. I have been told that I am more than a little like her, and I’ve lost count how many times I’ve read this beloved book.

Both Rebecca and Kelly have pointed out that this has been quite the month of writing for me. I may or may not have written the most words I have ever written in one month this June (I honestly don’t know), but one thing I do know: that it is possible to write a novel and be actively writing my thesis at the same time.

Another ‘On’ Day

Have I mentioned recently how much I love where I live? It is days like today that remind me of it: when the sun shines unexpectedly, warm as summer should be; when, feeling restless in my office, I can escape to the sea by walking down the street. How fortunate I am that ‘work’ can mean walking along the cliff and the seaside, letting one part of the brain stew over what to write next while the other glories in the blue of the sea that sparkles with diamonds.

Today was another good day. If last week was an ‘off’ week then it looks like this week is ‘on’, so far! I wrote nearly 5000 words today, 2300 for my thesis and 2300 for my novel. I just need another day and a half of ‘on’ days and then I can rest for the weekend.

A while ago Ros called up the stairs, saying, ‘O Writing One, the last piece of cake is yours!’ So I am going to go reward myself with cake.

WORD COUNT: 47,775

A day in the life


  • 6.00. Wake up when it gets fully light in my room, and go back to sleep.
  • 7.30. Wake up again with my alarm.
  • 8.40. Morning ‘commute’ (including a short pause to watch the ducks).
  • 9.00. Arrive at the office. Make a cup of tea and sit down to work.
  • 1.00. Lunch with Rebecca and Ros.
  • 2.00. Return to work.
  • 5.30. Leave the office.
  • 5.50. Catch the tail end of PM on BBC Radio 4.
  • 6.00. Make and eat dinner while listening to the Six O’Clock News and Comedy Time on BBC Radio 4.
  • 7.10. Sit down to write novel.
  • 10.45. Put clothes in the washer.
  • 11.05. Blog.
  • 11:20. Bed.

An ideal day would also include time spent reading for fun and/or knitting, but I am not going to argue about today. Instead, I’m going to bed with a Cheshire cat grin on my face because I added about 1000 words to my thesis chapter today and wrote over 3000 words for my novel and finished Chapter Nine. Excuse me while I am terribly pleased with myself.

WORD COUNT: 45,491

Busy Sunday

Today I:

  • Read intercessions at church;
  • Roasted a chicken;
  • Made gooseberry and elderflower jam;
  • Repot one of the roses;
  • Skyped with Felicity and Kelly;
  • Made dinner for PGCU (Postgraduate Christian Union);

Whew. What a busy day. The problem with having Sundays be my ‘day off ‘ from work means it gets full of everything else. I did not, however, work on my novel or read for fun, which were both things I wanted to do today. The latter was forestalled because it took me 20 minutes to figure out how to turn the gas on for the stove at church, and the former because I arrived home at 10 PM and I am exhausted. It is a good thing I wrote some extra yesterday, and I will have to write extra tomorrow. It is rather frustrating though, to have this be the first WriMo in a good while in which I have not been two days’ ahead for half the month, and that here I am, four days from the end and have gotten behind.

I know. Moaning about a self-imposed deadline for a self-imposed insane task of writing a novel in 30 days which is a self-imposed glorified hobby/second-career in addition to that of my ‘day job’ as a PhD student.

The Forest of Darkness

This has been a frustrating week. Bad hay fever, miserable headaches, obnoxious and infuriating people (person, rather), utility bills, pouring rain, discovering another book to read with a looming deadline and another deadline just days after that. And amidst all this, I got behind with writing my novel. Though it meant staying up tonight, I didn’t want to fall any more behind, so I wrote. Princess Agnes and the Pooka entered the Forest of Darkness in their quest to rescue the Golden Crab, and, well, it is called the Forest of Darkness for a reason…

Agnes had been transformed into a rabbit.

Behind her came a low growl. She bolted. Instinct told her to run, and how to use her legs. She leapt forward, bounding in quick, far reaching leaps. The hunter chased her, just as swift. She panted, barely feeling the ground beneath her as she touched it lightly with the tips of her toes. Smell and hearing and some sense she did not know told her that the hunter still chased her; sheer luck kept her just ahead of it.

She smelled the thicket before she ran into it. Diving down at the base of it, she slithered and crawled her way under the branches. Thorns pulled at her fur and dug into her skin. Broad, heavy paws scrabbled at her from behind. Agnes was certain her heart would burst. One paw swiped her tail. Yelping, she jumped forward. The thorns raked wicked gashes in her sides. On the other side, the princess sat very still, panting and straining her ears. There was nothing to hear.

Except for the growl that came from directly in front of her. The thicket had been a mere thorn bush. Her struggle through its thorns only gave the hunter time to circle the bush and wait for her on the other side. The growl came from deep in its throat. Deep and low and quiet and terrifying. Agnes only caught the glimpse of yellow eyes as it leapt toward her, its jaws clamping down on her neck. She screamed and screamed and screamed.

…that was the first, if not the second, nightmare Agnes experienced. She was also attacked by willows, wandered lost and blind in the forest, heard horrible things from her dearest friend in the world, mistook something that was definitely not the Pooka for the Pooka, and was pushed down a well by the person she loved. And then she fell, and fell, and fell…

I’m back on schedule and I should finish Chapter Eight tomorrow.

WORD COUNT: 38,571

Items of note

A few notable things as of today:

  1. Having finished Chapter Five and passed the 25k word count mark, I am now half way done with my JuNoWriMo novel;
  2. I have moved on to my second pair of gardening gloves, having thoroughly worn the first pair into shreds. Seriously;
  3. After going for six (6) months without buying a single book for myself, I bought two books today: Sabriel and Lirael by Garth Nix, because I wanted them, and because I felt that six months without buying a single book was quite enough.

WORD COUNT: 25,410

A day ahead

I have not been as diligent with (daily) updates about JuNoWriMo as my comrade-in-words Kelly is over at her blog. Though I will not begin writing daily updates, I will, perhaps, try to be better about including a word count at the end of my posts.

That said, during last night’s writing session I got a day ahead (recap: to reach 50,000 words in 30 days one only needs to write 1,667 words/day). This leap forward was actually the product of writing extra during two days’ worth of writing sessions. I am very pleased. Usually I try to write two days’ worth on the first day of a WriMo, but that didn’t happen this time. Nevertheless, it’s always nice to have some cushion.

Princess Agnes has thus far been chased by wolves, entertained in a pleasant palace, told a story to trolls, walked down a road that led to nowhere, been kidnapped by toads, turned into a seal, joined a circus, and run away with a dragon. She’s made a new friend and travelling companion, the Golden Crab. Soon and very soon the illustrious Pooka will make an appearance. As always, when the Pooka appears I expect the novel to write itself…

WORD COUNT: 16,793*

* And before, dear readers, you begin to think, ‘Wait, why does Chera only have 16,793 words when Kelly has over 20,000’, allow me to inform you that Kelly‘s goal is to write 2,000 words/day, because her novel is going to be much longer than the standard 50,000 words. We are both on schedule for our respective writing goals.

Under the bridge

Did you know it’s difficult to find any folk tales about trolls? Other than ‘Billy Goats Gruff’ that is. I was very surprised. So when Princess Agnes of Three Towers encountered trolls under a bridge, I had to make something up…

No sooner had she put one foot on the bridge than two trolls jumped out from underneath it, one on either side of her. They growled, and one said, “Wait right there!”

“Go no further!” said the other.

“We are the trolls of this bridge-”

“-and no one crosses without paying us first.”

“Good morning, trolls,” said Agnes, doing a small curtsy. “I am glad to meet you. I have not met trolls before.”

The two trolls stared at her, dumbfounded. Both were more than twice her height and four times as broad (if not larger), with leathery grey skin and scraggly hair that came to their elbows. They had droopy eyes and large round noses. Some would call them hideously ugly, but Princess Agnes found them a little endearing. “Aren’t you supposed to scream?” asked the first troll.

“Why would I do that?”

“Because we’re trolls!” shouted the second, raising up his arms and snarling.

But the princess only shook her head. “No. You’re not nearly as frightening as the boggart who lived under my bed. But then he wasn’t very frightening in the end. I told him I wouldn’t taste very nice and he would like my bedtime cookies much better. He agreed.”

“You had bedtime cookies?” asked the second troll.

“Yes, the brownie would sneak them up to me. Now, what do I need to give you to cross the bridge?”

I like Princess Agnes. When something out of the ordinary happens, she’s totally cool with it and stays polite. Her grandfather Silas and father Linus taught her well. The above excerpt is from Chapter Two, which I finished last night, bringing my novel up to 10026 words. The princess needs to escape her impending marriage to the Toad Prince. How will she do it? I’ll soon find out…

Myths & fairy tales

It’s only three (3) days until JuNoWriMo — because NaNoWriMo isn’t enough insanity for a few of us (meaning, me and Kelly). I have decided to write Book 3 of my Fairy Tales series and I am terrified. Book 2 was nerve wracking enough, and now I’m going to pull it off for a third time?

The Faerie King was easy. I was essentially rewriting Sir Orfeo, one of my favourite Middle English romances, and the Orpheus myth naturally paired with the fairy tale Sleeping Beauty. The Harpy (formerly The Knight of the Rose) was trickier, but Beauty & the Beast and Cupid & Psyche came together better than I thought. Now I need another fairy tale, and another myth.

Do you know how difficult it is to find fairy tales about princesses who actually do something? And tales about princes don’t easily lend themselves to adaptation into tales about princesses. I have a couple of ideas that I am trying to milk into being novel-length. I’ll be writing on 1st June whatever happens…