I know that one of the key things I need to learn in life is patience. I’m not good at being patient. I’m better than I was in the past, but I’m still a lot more impatient that I would like to be. Where I am both best and worst is with my writing.
When it comes to actually writing a novel, I no longer look at the long slog ahead with dread. I know that it is within my power to get it done and with a bit of patience I’ll get there. If anything my impatience works in my favour here because I want to get it finished fast.
Where I am falling down is waiting for responses. I’ve sent out 4 stories this year and haven’t heard back from any of them. For some I’ll have to guess this is a passive ‘No’, but for others I know that they are just really busy people who have a lot to get through. So I understand why they are taking so long, but it doesn’t stop me from checking my email multiple times a day, my heart in my throat each time. I really don’t like that character flaw in myself.
So I’m going to try diversion. I’m sure the fact I’ve only been working on short stories is why I’m getting focussed on the unimportant stuff. I think it is time to jump back into a novel. When I’m working on a novel I struggle to focus on work, so I’m sure I’ll be able to forget a few attempts at publication.
Now I just have to work out which story. I thought I had it worked out, but then the epigenetics novel kept asserting itself, which is usually a sign that the time is right to get it written. I might just have to be a little bit more patient with the novel I thought I was going to write. I know it will get done eventually.
I sometimes have a problem coming up with titles. I pretty much know that if the title hasn’t come with the idea (which sometime does happen), then I’m going to struggle with it. Titles are important for conveying a little bit of what the story is about, so you need to get them right.
I have heard a few writers say that if they can’t come up with a title, then it means the story is not working. I think that is just one of those quirky superstitions that writers like to embrace. I’m not bagging them, I’ve got a million crazy superstitions around my own writing, but ‘trouble with titles as an indicator of value of story’ is not one of them.
Thanks to Adelaide writers’ week, I now know that other authors also struggle with the title. One mentioned that she came up with about 50 titles and all were rejected by the publisher. I’m impressed she managed that many, I normally give up at about 10, 15 tops, and then I pick the best of the bad bunch.
My approach to the title is similar to how I attack flash fiction or Tweeting. First I write down everything I want to say, and then I work on making it shorter… And shorter… And shorter. If I can get it down to one word, fantastic, but I think I’m doing well once it under three words. It may have lost some of the meaning by then, but I hope it at least gives a hint of what the story is about.
I think a really good title can pick up a few readers you might not otherwise have nabbed, but I think the title would have to be pretty woeful to divert someone who might otherwise have checked it out. But given my last three publications were entitled ‘Glide’, ‘Glow’ and ‘Life’ you might do better to get advice elsewhere when it comes to titles.
Just in case you missed it, I had another PUBLICATION this week! It is an eco-horror tale and, as with most of my short fiction, it is aimed at an adult audience. Yet I have four completed novels and three of them are young adult. The next two that I’m planning are also YA – so why the different audience?
Nearly ten years ago, when I really first started writing seriously, I noticed a change in published speculative fiction. It started to get dark. Where previously a murder was mentioned or glossed over, the books now seemed to go into a lot of graphic detail. This was the same for intimacy scenes. Where once the door was closed, now it was open… wide open.
I know I might cop a lot of criticism over this, but I don’t like to write that. I don’t judge you if you like to read it, I just don’t want to. I know some of my stories, particularly the horror tales, get gory sometimes, but I like to think they never get gratuitous. I show as much as you need to get the picture. This idea doesn’t seem to sell adult books.
Young adult novels are exactly what the name suggests; aimed at young adults. This means I can write adult themes, deal with mature concepts, and (even better for me) I can mash-up genres BUT I can also get away with toning down the graphic bits. I’m not saying all YA novels are soft, there are a lot of very dark, very graphic YA stories, but publishers don’t demand it of you as a writer.
So I am happy to spend 60 or 70,000 words exploring my speculative theme with slightly younger protagonists than my short stories. I don’t feel like my wings are clipped at all. If anything I feel like I am able to take my writing wherever I want to go with a YA audience.
It was YA that first made me realise that novels could be just as entertaining as movies. I remember reading Lois Duncan for the first time and thinking to myself ‘this is what I want to do with the rest of my life.’ It’s been a while since then, but I’m finally fulfilling that wish.
Okay, so it is not actually out yet, but it will be on Friday, and I’m excited!
Dimension6 put out by Coeur de Lion Publishing, has included some of the biggest names in Australian speculative fiction. And I am honoured to be a part of it.
As with a lot of my writing, I didn’t know what category to put this story into. I guess it could be horror, but it would be eco-horror. I’m also not sure that we’ll all be rooting for the same winner when we read it, but as long as it gets you thinking, my job will have been done.
This story is very Australian, so I was glad it got picked up by an Australian publisher. The fact that it is alongside two other amazing authors is even better. I can’t wait to download my copy, and I encourage all of you to do the same, after all –it is free!
I hope you enjoy Glide. And given the recent reports of sightings of Thylacines (Tasmanian tigers) on the mainland, it seems very relevant. We could be on the verge of a very exciting time in Australian Zoology!
Yeah, I know it sounds obvious, but not everyone tries to get their stuff published. This can be for a number of reasons. Two of the more valid ones in my opinion are 1) if you only want to write for yourself, and don’t want others to see it, or 2) you don’t want to be told how or what to write. The editing process, when getting published, can be all about telling you what to change. So you may want to avoid that.
Then there are a bunch of other reasons why people don’t get published which, in my opinion, are not so valid. Sometimes people are too lazy to read submission guidelines, so submit poorly formatted stories to completely the wrong market. Some people are terrified of rejection, so never submit anywhere, but still carry a hope of magically getting picked up. Then there are those people who have such confidence in their writing that they only ever submit to the top publishing houses or magazines.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m envious of people who have such self-confidence. Most of them actually write really well, which probably bags them some jealousy points from me as well. But I believe we have to cut our teeth somewhere, and learning the ropes on the no-pay or low-pay publications is a great place to do that.
Obviously I’m talking more about short stories here. If you only have one novel in you, then perhaps you need to hold onto it for as long as it takes to get the publisher you want (but even that I would question). But for me, nothing feels more writer-ly than people reading your work. If you don’t get paid for it who cares? If your reason for writing is to earn lots of money then you are chasing the wrong dream.
Low or no-pay publishing opportunities are usually run by dedicated people who want you to be successful, and for that I think they deserve all the support they can get. One of my favourites is Antipodean SF. Every month Ion “Nuke” Newcombe puts out a professional e-zine of flash speculative fiction with an antipodean bent. I love it, and for as long as I write flash fiction I will be sending my stuff to him.
Getting your writing published means getting it read, which can mean getting fans. When you get contacted by someone you don’t know telling you how much they liked your story, it won’t matter that you are still slaving away in the 9-5 and haven’t earned enough from your writing yet to pay for a coffee, you will feel like a writer.
There is something odd about my street. More specifically: about the cats in my street. They are all duplicates of cats I have lived with at some point in my life.
I worked out very quickly that this feline doppelganger thing was going on. It also wasn’t lost on me that the most common visitor to my backyard looks EXACTLY like my current cat (see photo above –btw I had to work very hard to get the photo of the outdoor cat to look un-friendly, she is actually a lot more sociable and smiley than my cat).
At first I chose to ignore this coincidence, because it was weird and unnerved me a bit… But recently something odd happened. A cat has moved in who is not a past cat clone. I don’t know this cat, I’ve never known a cat like this cat, and I don’t know anyone who has a cat like this.
Is this cat a glimpse into my future?
I have to confess; the non-clone has weirded me out more than the clones. I don’t have a name for this cat and I’ve been giving it a wide berth. But what will seriously freak me out is if I meet someone who has the clone of this cat. If that happened then I wouldn’t even try to fight the universe, we’d just have to move in together.
Then again, maybe they are just cats?
I have to confess, aside from the time off work and my visiting friend from Melbourne, I wasn’t really that excited about Adelaide writers’ week this year. I had only heard of a couple of the authors in the line-up, and yet again genre writers were under-represented.
It was actually a great week. As always I heard from a bunch of authors I’d never otherwise be exposed to, and I bought a couple of books which might never have found their way into my collection any other way. The big thing I took away from this year was not any tips about getting published or putting words on paper, but how much I could relate to the experience of ‘real’ authors.
Many talked of things I’m banging on about in this blog each week; pantsing, hours editing flash fiction, and forcing yourself to write when doing anything else seems more attractive. Watching the novelty of these ideas wash over the crowd I realised I’m already there when it comes to knowing what it is like to be a writer. This shouldn’t be a big surprise, because I know a lot of these authors still have other jobs to earn a living. So really the main difference between us is degree of publication.
Alarmingly one author, John Marsden, talked about the never ending itch of finding purpose in his life, which drives him to do so much. Currently I’m consumed by this conundrum for too many hours of every day. I stupidly thought getting published and sharing my work with the wider world would sufficiently scratch that itch. Clearly I’m wrong.
But I have always said it is the journey you need to enjoy, not the destination, so I guess that means I’m already in the good bit. There was even a part of me that wondered if maybe I’m lucky that I’ve not had one of my novels picked up yet. I’m writing a book a year and writing exactly what I want. It sounds like getting published might hamper me on both of those things.
It is fantastic that writers’ week is free, and I hope it continues to be so. It is wonderful to share the experience with readers, writers and wannabe writers. Adelaide is not very good at bragging, but writers’ week is something of which we should all be proud. Just please invite some more genre writers next year!
I’ve just started reading Eckhart Tolle’s ‘The Power of Now’. I’m literally one chapter in and I’m already rebelling against it. Chapter one is all about silencing the voice in your head. As a qualified hypnotherapist (scarily that is true, I don’t make this stuff up) I know that silencing the negative voice in your head is an important and healthy thing to do. But this book suggests we silence our inner voice altogether!
That voice is my best friend.
I share all my politically incorrect jokes with that voice. Together we pick out ‘most likely to be a serial killer’ from the patrons on the bus, not to mention ‘who would you hook up with if we were suddenly transported to another planet where we were the only humans’. Sometimes the winners of those two categories are the same person. But see, this is all the stuff that I usually only share with the voice in my head, not my blog readers. Looking back on the last paragraph I think maybe that is the way it should stay.
And we haven’t even scratched the surface of the role of that voice when it comes to my stories. That voice is the first one to translate the ideas into words. That voice inspires me to sit down and spend hundreds of hours writing and editing each year. That voice dreams with me about a day when we’ll get one of our novels published.
Sure it also tells me I have cankles and suggests maybe I’m looking a bit too old to keep pretending that I’m 35. But I’ve got to be honest; it might be onto something there.
I’ll keep reading the book, and hopefully it will tell me to befriend my voice again in later chapters. But for me, at least, I won’t be silencing my voice any time soon. We have way too much fun together.
Just in case you don’t know what they are, writing conventions are usually two or three day events with a few ‘big name’ key note speakers and then a heap of other authors and industry people. These people participate in talks about all aspects of writing and sometimes they even run master-classes. The talks can cover everything from publishing trends to how to write action scenes. Most genres run conventions in most countries, just type in a Google search and you’ll find something.
I’ll never forget my first convention. The key note speakers were Robin Hobb, Neil Gaiman and Poppy Z Brite. They were fantastic. Not only did they give great talks, but they mixed with everyone afterwards in the convention bar (and there is always an attached bar). But the key note speakers were just a small part of what made it so great.
Conventions attract people from all demographics who have one overriding thing in common; writing. Meeting other people who are serious about their writing is one of the most important things a writer can do. You get to talk about issues, successful tricks, and you can find out about resources or opportunities you might otherwise never hear about.
Being at a convention gives you permission to be a writer, and your presence there shows how serious you are about improving you craft. After you have been to a few conventions you will probably find that you get less out of the talks, but you still get a lot out of hanging out at the bar. More than a few life-long friendships have been born at conventions, and I would highly recommend you make the most of it.
The hardest thing about going to a convention is dealing with the downer you inevitably fall into when it is all over and you return to your ‘normal’ life. I channelled this feeling into making me seek out other opportunities to feel like a writer, which I’ll cover in the rest of my Top 10 blogs.
After much planning and picking, I’ve decided not to post about my top 10 non-fiction books at the end of the month.
It struck me as far too personal a choice in terms of topic. Every book I picked was about writing, psychology or animals. If you were hoping for my self-help book tips, well the one I’ve recommended to many people that I think can help everyone is Maximum Willpower by Kelly McGonigal, and I was so impressed with it the first time I read it that I’ve already blogged about it.
So instead I thought I could write about something readers of this blog might actually be interested in; Top 10 things to do to feel like a writer. Just because you haven’t been published, or not enough to make any real money, doesn’t mean you can’t feel like a writer.
This list will be the things that have given me that little writer-flutter in my belly. They are the things that keep you slogging it out even when you think you’ll never get there.
The new Top 10 starts tomorrow!
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