The Gestation of a Novel

Hello Lovelies,

What a wonderful week it has been! So many great things have happened, not only with writing but also in everyday life.

For a start, we got some more snow, which is always nice for an Aussie who hadn’t snow falling until recently. I also walked on a frozen lake! I won’t lie, I almost needed new pants after that experience and was so scared the entire time, but I’m glad I did it. The kids didn’t care, they ran out following their father, walking where he walked just like he told them to do. Me…. I was panicking the entire time and my husband thought I was joking. It wasn’t until we were back on actual land that he realised that I was actually scared and not having a joke. Perhaps it was the look of instant relief that made him realise. You see in the movies it always goes like this: person walks on ice, person feels ice cracking beneath feet, person cannot get to shore in time, falling into the icy water and getting trapped or dying of hypothermia. Apparently though, that’s not how it goes in real life. Those who grew up around snow and ice, have some kind of sixth sense or something, they know when it is safe to walk on the ice and where to walk on it and they also know that there are plenty of signs before the ice breaks, giving you time to get back to land before falling to your watery, icy death. How was I supposed to know this though? I am the Aussie who went on a snow trip as  five year old, saw some snow, but never falling snow. I am the one who has trouble walking on snow unless it is freshly fallen, the one who is struggling not to slip on their arse while the husband and kids just walk on like normal.

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This is me, trying not to slide down the hill on my arse.

Now that I’m sure all of the experience snow lovers are laughing at me, let’s get onto the topic of today’s post and the reason why I’ve used the word “gestation” to describe the development of a novel. If you follow me on Facebook or Twitter, you might have seen this:

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Yes, that’s right! For one whole month, I kicked procrastination in the butt and stuck to my word-count goal! I know what you’re thinking, it was only for one month, no big deal, but for me, someone who always finds an excuse, it was a pretty big deal. I met the word count, plus a little extra, as well as did some research and brainstorming for later parts in the story.

I went to bed that night (well morning actually, it was 2 a.m.) feeling a huge sense of accomplishment but realising how much further I still had to go. If I am to get my first draft written in the time frame I am hoping for, I have another 9 months that I need to stick to my word-count goal. I joked with myself, thinking that’s how long it takes for a baby to be born, then it dawned on me… writing a novel is sort of a bit like a pregnancy. You spend the first part hoping you’re doing everything right, but not knowing what it’s going to end up like on the other side. The first draft is the gestation period- the pregnancy. At the end of that, it’s like you have a new born and what do newborns do? Eat, sleep and poop, that’s basically it. What do you do with your first draft? You let it sleep for a while, you realise that,

“The first draft of anything is shit.”

-Ernest Hemingway

Now before you get all up-in-arms and think I’m some sort of baby hater (I have three children, if I really hated babies, something went wrong there), I’m not saying that babies are shit, I’m saying that’s what comes out of them and more often than not, that’s what your first draft will be. Then you begin to edit – a lot, rewrite and edit a few more times – this is the “eating” I guess. You edit and rewrite and edit some more, bringing your story out of its infancy and helping it to grow.

My focus at this point is the gestation of the novel, to get out that first draft no matter how rubbish it might be. I’m not concerning myself with perfecting the grammar and punctuation, because not only will that take time and cause me to lose my momentum in telling the story, but that’s what editing is for! Not so long ago, I used to edit as I wrote. I would reread a chapter as I finished it and edit it before I went onto to next. By the time I got to actually writing the next chapter, what I wanted to write was lost and I forgot where I was heading.

“It’s none of their business that you have to learn how to write. Let them think you were born that way.” -Ernest Hemingway

I have learnt a lot about myself and my writing in the last few years, I have began to learn what works for me and what doesn’t, but I still have a lot more to learn. So for now, let’s focus on telling the story, getting it out and letting it be born. Then later I suppose I’ll worry about the rest when it’s time.

So to my fellow writers, keep writing and to book lovers, keep reading. For the world is full of great stories, stories that take you to different worlds,places and times. Some are already written and some still waiting to be born.

Read on below for a little sneak peek of József trying to prove himself to Anna.

Enjoy,

KK

“You see, I shared with you my hopes and dreams. I’ve never shared those dreams with anyone, not even Apa. I was afraid you see. Afraid that people would laugh or think it was silly, afraid that they would tell me to be realistic. But you didn’t laugh or tell me I was silly or tell me to be realistic. Instead, you asked if you could be a part of my dream, you asked if it could be our dream, our American dream, dreams of hope and perhaps one day, dreams of love. Maybe one day it won’t be just a dream and if that day ever comes, I want to make sure that you will be there to share that dream, together, the two of us.”  -József

An excerpt from An Anguished Heart by Katherine A. Kovàcs

 

© Katherine A. Kovács and The Writer Within, (2013-2016). Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Katherine A. Kovács and The Writer Within with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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“Google” as a Verb

Hello Lovelies,

Last night, when I was in the midst of a futile attempt to fall asleep, my mind was going through the things that I needed to research for my current WIP. Instead of making a mental list of things to research, my train of thought was on formulating what I hoped would be the most efficient search terms to input into Google. I then began to ponder the use of google as a verb, Google (noun) versus google (verb).

How often have you heard the phrases, “I’ll google it” or “Just google it”? No one ever says “I’ll yahoo it” or “I’ll bing it” or even “I’ll alta vista it” does that one still even exist? I might google it to find out… Nope, according to Wikipedia, AltaVista was popular until Google came along, then it was brought by Yahoo! and eventually shut down in 2013. Thanks Google!

Somewhere in recent history, approximately in the last ten years or so, the name of the popular internet search engine Google came into common usage a verb and was even included in the Oxford English Dictionary in 2006. Just like all verbs, the word is slightly changed depending on whether it is used in past, present or future tense, for example “googled” (past) or “googling” (present).

This got me thinking, not only has there been many words introduced to the English language throughout history, perhaps even more so in recent times, but also got me wondering how much of this do we need to take into account when writing historical fiction? Of course there’s the obvious things like not mentioning the name of any modern technology, in say, a 17th century novel. Yet there is much more to consider as well, especially if you want to attempt any element of historical accuracy. The work may fall into the genre of historical fiction, however there needs to be at least a certain amount of historical accuracy I think., especially if you wish to convey a certain world to your readers, a world of a different place and time.

I remember a while back (gosh it seems like a lifetime ago), I was working on a particular scene in Lonely Hearts and I decided it would be more engaging and believable for the character in question with a little coarse language. Just a little and nothing over the top. I wrote a paragraph, with the language included and then began to wonder whether the words I had included were even in popular usage in the early 1930s. I really had no idea how long the words had been in usage, certainly they had been around all of my life and I was guessing my parents’ as well, but were they used in the early 1930s? So I googled it (there’s that word again!) “The history of swear words” is one of my more interesting search terms and actually came up with a lot of useful information and some hilarious swear words from so long ago that not many people alive would have even heard of them, I certainly hadn’t.

The point I am trying to make, is that language -all languages that is, not just the English language, is constantly evolving, there are many words in use now that were not even conceived fifty years ago, twenty years ago, maybe even five years ago. However, as language has evolved and new words became common usage, how many words have been forgotten and lost over the years? No longer in use, so they cease to exist.

right word quote

So what does this have to do with writing historical fiction? If we want our work to truly represent the time period it is set in and to immerse our readers into a different time and place, then we need to find the right words. I’m not saying that the whole novel has to be written in “Ye Olde English”, if that’s what was spoken at the time, because that might become a little annoying and hard for the reader to understand. However, finding the right words is just as useful as ensuring you’re not using the wrong words – if that makes any sense at all. Ensure that the words that you use, are representative if the characters and the time in which the story is set, as this will help convey the time in which the story is set and what kind of world in which the characters live.

So as I go off to try and meet my word count goal for this month (I’m just over half way!), I hope that I am able to find the right words, if not perhaps googling it will help me or help me procrastinate…..

Enjoy,

KK

 

 

© Katherine A. Kovács and The Writer Within, (2013-2016). Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Katherine A. Kovács and The Writer Within with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Shifting Time

Hello Lovelies,

What an interesting week it has been! I’ve had a major breakthrough with my current WIP and I’m right on track with my word-count goal for this month! I also went to a sort of flea market (I suppose you would call it) and discovered a few literary treasures! Nearly all of them are in Hungarian, however I found one children’s book written in German from 1938 (prior to the outbreak of WWII in 1939), a Hungarian translation of Jerome K. Jerome’s “Three Men in a Boat”, a Hungarian translation of August Strindberg’s short story “Historical Miniatures” from the early 1900s and the most favourite of my findings -a translated copy of Edgar Allan Poe’s short story “The Masque of the Red Death”.

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A German children’s book from 1938
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“Three Men in a Boat” by Jerome K. Jerome
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“Historical Miniatures” A Short Story by Swedish writer August Stringberg, published early 1900s

I didn’t believe it to be real when I first saw it, it’s not a first edition by any means (the short story originally was published in 1842 in a magazine) and this edition is in the form of a small booklet and was printed in 1919. From doing a little research, it seems this booklet was one of 12 translated “classics” that were offered for sale in Budapest. Each short story included both the original story, int he language it was first published (i.e. English, French etc.) as well as the Hungarian translation. Being published in 1919, this would have been during the time when Hungary was reeling from the aftermath of WWI and depending on the exact date of publication, could have been during the time of short-lived Hungarian Soviet Republic or perhaps it was published in late 1919 when the Kingdom of Hungary was reestablished. Hungary was a very unsettled country in the aftermath of WWI, so to find this classic as a relatively intact bilingual edition (all pages are there but damaged around the edges) buried in a pile of books ranging from the early 1900s to the present was quite a find!

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A Bilingual edition of Edgar Allan Poe’s short story “The Masque of the Red Death”. This edition published in 1919.

This little market adventure has also given me a little inspiration for my current WIP and I can feel a piece of the story falling into place. There’s nothing like immersing yourself in history in order to gain some inspiration and in keeping with that theme I also visited the Budapest History Museum in Buda Castle. There was a section of one of the permanent exhibitions that included furniture and items from the early 1900s, perfect inspiration for my current WIP! Looking at the family dining table, the writing desk and the other bits and pieces, I began to imagine József and his surroundings, the things that he did, where he might sit to eat his supper, the possibilities and imaginings are limitless.

I’ve also changed the opening of my WIP, in order to have a better lead in to the main narrative. This will also help to link József’s story with Rose’s, which actually occurs some years after. By making this change, I’ve found that the story is beginning to flow a lot more freely, the words are coming without me having to try and force them. So it seems at this point that I have made the right decision.

“Rules such as “Write what you know,” and “Show, don’t tell,” while doubtlessly grounded in good sense, can be ignored with impunity by any novelist nimble enough to get away with it. There is, in fact, only one rule in writing fiction: Whatever works, works.”
Tom Robbins

So for now, I’m going to go with Tom Robbins’ advice and stick with whatever works! And as long as it is working, I’ll keep going with it!

As a treat for reading this far I have a little sneak peek into some of the changes that I’ve made, remember this is still very much a first draft and who knows how much of it I’ll actually delete before I’m satisfied with it!

Enjoy,

KK

József sat in the small chair next to the girl’s bed, matching each small, short breath she took with his own, counting. She was still breathing, still alive. At least that was some sort of reassurance, perhaps he had found her in time and had not completely failed her altogether.

It was the early hours of the morning, that moment between night and day, the moment when the light of day is trying to chase away the darkness of the night and there was much darkness to be chased away on this day. His shoulders and back ached, he had no notion of how many hours he had been sitting in that chair, but he knew the chair seemed a lot softer when he first sat. Yet still, he continued to sit, despite the assurances of the Sisters that they would keep vigil and contact him should there be any changes. He couldn’t help but feel responsible for the girl, so he stayed. The shoulders of his solid frame, slumped slightly with exhaustion. Despite his obvious exhaustion, his body emanated a sense of strength, physically, mentally, emotionally, coming from within. He wasn’t a young man, he was old enough to be the girl’s father and if it wasn’t for the vast differences in their physical appearance, it was surely what this scene appeared to be – a father, who was beyond exhausted, keeping vigil at his daughter’s side, hoping that through mere strength and stubbornness he could grant her the strength to fight and the will to live.  

 

© Katherine A. Kovács and The Writer Within, (2013-2016). Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Katherine A. Kovács and The Writer Within with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

A Mother’s Hope

Hello Lovelies,

As I sit here on the eve of my eldest’s 8th birthday, I reflect on a number of things. I know in last week’s post I made a point of stating that I was focused on the future, that the only way was forward and that I wasn’t going to look back (you can read this post here). There is a difference though, between dwelling on past events and reflecting upon memories of the past. These last few days I’ve been doing the latter, reflecting upon the events of the last 8 years and how much has happened in that time, but with a focus on the good.

This time 8 years ago, I was in labour with my first child – a little girl who would change our world and place us on the never-ending steep learning curve of parenting. 32 weeks prior to this day 8 years ago, I discovered rather unconventionally that we were expecting. I was home alone, getting ready to go and play soccer in the ladies team I played for. Feeling rather faint, I tried to make it to the bed to lie down and that was the last thing I remembered, until I woke several minutes later rather confused, with carpet burns on my knees and a black eye.

To cut to the chase, it seems I passed out in the process of trying to make it to the bedroom, falling down and carpet burning my knees and collecting the bedside table with my eye in the process. The doctor was amazed that I only hit my brow bone and not my actual eye. After such a shock, the knowledge that I was going to be a mother was definitely the silver lining, we hadn’t expected it to happen quite so quickly, we didn’t want to get our hopes up, but the news was definitely the happy kind.

As the week’s went by and my flat stomach (never to be flat again) began to swell, the sonographer announced that we were having a girl.  As my belly swelled more and I felt those first tiny movements, the ones that only the mother feels, I began to imagine, what it would be like to be a mother. I knew it wouldn’t be easy and sometimes it would be downright difficult. There would be days when you would just want to crawl into bed, pull the covers over your head and forget about the world. I also knew that it would be wonderful in ways that I couldn’t even begin to imagine. Despite being aware of the realities of being a parent, I knew it wasn’t just cuteness and cuddles, I knew it was something I had always wanted, the good times would make the difficult ones worth it.

Being my first pregnancy I of course worried about every little thing. I worried if I was eating the right things, taking the right vitamins, if the baby was moving enough, but everything seemed to be going smoothly. I was enjoying being pregnant and the bond I was forming with my unborn child was getting stronger by the day. Then my obstetrician called me with the results of my Glucose Tolerance Test, I had Gestational Diabetes. Given my family history, I shouldn’t have been surprised, but I was. In truth, at the time I was devastated. I know now that it wasn’t actually that big of a deal and women deal with much greater issues in their pregnancies that GDM. I was young though, relatively fit and healthy, enjoying a trouble free pregnancy -despite it’s unconventional discovery. I felt ripped off, I felt like the world was trying to take away one of the happiest times of my life, somehow tainting it with it’s rules and regulations and “diagnosis”. For someone that has a moderate phobia of needles and avoided blood tests until pregnancy, the thought of pin-prick testing at least 8 times a day and the possibility of insulin injections scared the s**t out of me.

After having my emotional moment and learning more about managing my diagnosis, I realised how silly I was being. I was healthy, my baby was healthy and if I listened to my body, toughened up about my fear of needles and listened to what the doctors were telling me, then it would stay that way.

I got over it pretty quickly. I had to for my sake and for my child’s and soon I was again enjoying the miracle of growing a little person. Then it was time, that time that all pregnant women look forwards to and fear simultaneously -labour and birth.  What can I say? It was painful, messy, exhausting (22 hours!) and no matter what anyone says, you do NOT forget the pain once you hold the baby in your arms. You NEVER really forget, but the first time you hold your child in your arms, it makes all the pain, worry and did I mention pain? Yes…Well… it makes it all worth it.

Then comes the steep learning curve I was talking about, the one that never really evens out, the one of parenting. Those first few days, weeks, months with a newborn are always the most interesting and exhausting, especially with your first. You are both learning, both you and your baby. Learning how to feed, how to sleep, how to change a nappy without getting pee’d on or my favourite -the projectile poop! As they get older it becomes less about learning how to be (living, eating and so on) and more about learning how to become. Becoming the kind of parent you want to be, becoming the parent that supports your child, hoping that whatever they choose to become, no matter what it might be, that they are happy. That is a mother’s greatest hope, that her children are happy.

Of course she hopes that her children will grow and be healthy and safe, this goes without saying, but what she wants most of all is for them to be happy – no matter who they become.

So, on the eve of my daughter’s 8th birthday, this is a mother’s hope; that my daughter becomes whoever she wishes to be. That she isn’t afraid to embrace who she is, whoever that might be in the years to come. My only hope is that she is happy, a hope I have for all of my children.

Happy Birthday my beautiful girl, embrace who you are and be happy always!

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Enjoy,

KK

© Katherine A. Kovács and The Writer Within, (2013-2016). Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Katherine A. Kovács and The Writer Within with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Towards the Future

Hello Lovelies,

Welcome to 2016!

So far this year is proving better than the last for me. For starters, I finished reading Grey, thank goodness! I actually spent New Years Eve (Szilveszter in Hungarian) alternating between looking out the window at the sporadic fireworks displays from various locations across the Danube River, stuffing chips and Coca Cola in my face to stay awake and reading Grey. My thoughts of Grey haven’t changed from last week’s post, however, I am now slightly more disturbed by Christian Grey’s stalker tactics and I’m so glad that it’s over.

So with mediocre literature out of the way, it’s time to look towards the future and focus on what I would like to accomplish in the year ahead!

This year I am determined to only look towards the future, not dwell on past events and focus on my family and my writing. Having already started writing József’s story, I would really like to finish at least the first draft whilst we are still in Hungary. I want to be immersed in the surroundings of the story as much as I can, with the culture, history and setting right on my doorstep -literally. I’m not sure whether this story will be a novella or a novel, my aim is simply to write the first draft and decide later what it is.

I am hoping that 2016 will be the year that I actually finish a first draft and perhaps even get into editing and some beta readers. I want 2016 the year that I further develop my writing skills, the year that I explore, create and redefine my characters and their stories, the year that I am able to immerse myself and further embrace and explore the writer within. The only way I can do that though is to actually write, to practice the craft of writing, every day. Any of you who regularly read my posts will know what a terrible procrastinator I am. Having finally completed enough units to graduate with a post-graduate degree in Education, I have been known to leave my assignments to the very last minute, writing 20,000 words in just a matter of hours, including research and somehow still manage to get a good grade. From these actions of my own, I am clearly capable of spewing out a significant word count in a short amount of time, however it is my tendency to procrastinate and the lack of an external deadline that often prevents me from doing so in my own creative writing.

What I really need, is someone to set a deadline for me. I’ve tried the self-imposed deadlines and it doesn’t work, my inner procrastinator gets the better of me and I end up promising myself that I’ll catch up next week or next month and I never do! So this is the plan I propose, I have a good friend who I’ve spoken about before, she has always encouraged me to embrace my creativity and was the first person I sent excerpts of my writing to, she is one of my greatest supporters. She doesn’t know this yet, but she is going to be the one to enforce the deadline. With constant nagging (I’m sure she’ll be good at it), “friendly” reminders and consequences for not reaching my monthly word count goals. I hope she’s up to the challenge, she knows only too well how much of an accomplished procrastinator I am!

I’m not going to call it a resolution or a plan, but rather my intentions for 2016:

  • Focus on the future – don’t dwell on the past, it can’t be changed, it won’t help me move forward. Keep my eyes on the road ahead of me, towards the future.
  • Practice my craft- kick procrastination in the butt, with some help from a friend and write as often as possible, hopefully leading me to finally…
  • Finish a first draft!

 

Enjoy,

KK

 

© Katherine A. Kovács and The Writer Within, (2013-2016). Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Katherine A. Kovács and The Writer Within with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.