12.30.12

Bookcase

Posted in Journal at 9:00 am by Natalie

I promised myself that I would get a bookcase before the end of the year. I might have been cutting it a bit fine on the timing, but I have finally got one. After nearly a year of living with books piled in my wardrobe, on my study floor and under my desk, I (at last) have somewhere to put them where I am not at risk of falling over them.

The funny thing is that even though I’ve been thinking about it for nearly a year, it took me over two hours to put my books into the shelves –and I’m still not happy with the result. I just didn’t know how to group them.

There are the obvious groupings; horror, sci fi, fantasy, but even those categories left me scratching my head about where a particular book actually fit. When I added literary fiction, popular fiction and non-fiction (travel, biography, biology, finance, computing, writing, weird UFO and crop-circle stuff) I found too many books could fit into nearly ALL the categories.

And don’t even get me started on trying to keep the books of one author together, have you seen how many genres Stephen King has dabbled in?!?

Maybe I should have done what a friend of mine did when she put her books in the shelf… she put them in colour and size order. There is no denying it looked great, but if you wanted to find a book you would be in trouble if you couldn’t remember what colour the cover was.

Bookcase
The final stack – for now

I hope you finished all the tasks you set for your 2012, if not there’s no better time than now for writing your 2013 task list. Have a safe and happy New Year!

12.23.12

Happy New B’ak’tun!

Posted in Journal at 9:00 am by Natalie

Yes, we survived. Who would have thought? Now I’ll be eating canned tuna and rice for the next six weeks, but it is a small price to pay for the world not ending.

So I’ve decided to celebrate the new b’ak’tun (that’s what it’s called when it rolls around from 12.19.19.17.19. to 13.0.0.0.0. in the Mayan Long Count calendar) by starting all my New Year’s resolutions early. A new b’ak’tun seems so much more significant than just another new year.

Thus far I have been pretty good, but the first few days are often like that. Some of my resolutions are going to be a bit tricky to stick with through Christmas, but if I can stay with them over the next week then they might stay with me well into 2013.

One of my resolutions is to start putting some structure around this blog, so January is going to be dedicated to Flash Fiction – writing it, reading it, and appreciating it. I’m a big fan of flash fiction, and probably 70% of my publications are flash, so I’ll share with you what I can.

As for the rest of the year, well I’ll think about that… Structure doesn’t mean having to be anal about my planning, it probably just means less koala photos, unless I do a koala theme month.

So have a Merry Christmas, and be sure to stop and think about how lucky we are. It is very easy to lose sight of how blessed we really are in comparison to so many on this planet.

And finally; congratulations on surviving the nopocalypse!

12.16.12

Is it the end nigh?

Posted in Journal at 7:30 pm by Natalie

This Friday will be the 21st of December 2012, or as the Mayans knew it; 13.0.0.0.0. In the Mayan calendar there are no dates past this auspicious or apocalyptic date, which has led many to believe that the world will end (which was as good an excuse as any to take the day off work as far as I was concerned). Others believe it will be a new awakening of the human spirit.

This potential end of life as we know it gives us a great excuse to reflect on what is important to us; of what are we most proud? Most ashamed? If we could set something right, what would it be? What do we wish we had completed, or spent more time on, or with? What do we wish we had said?

If the moon does not turn blood red on Friday night (that’s the first sign) and the earth does not shake from its core, then what will you do to celebrate the continuity of life?

Perhaps this potential end is a good trigger to get us thinking of new beginnings? Armed with our regrets and achievements from the past we can begin to plan for a better future.

It may be that Friday is our Last Day living life as we currently know it, but maybe that doesn’t have to be a bad thing? Maybe on Saturday, if we awaken to a sunny new day instead of a cataclysmic world of cinders, then maybe we will put that second chance to good use and focus on creating more of those proud moments for when our end of days really does come.

So I wish you all luck, stack your tins in the pantry, get plenty of bottled water and don’t forget the headache pills and candles. Whether it is Christmas or Armageddon it will all come in handy, and there is nothing wrong with hedging your bets.

12.09.12

Consumerism vs. Conscience

Posted in Journal at 9:00 am by Natalie

With Christmas just around the corner I find more and more of my lunch breaks are being squandered with the task of shopping. Apparently I’m not alone in this, though it seems that while the great throngs of Christmas shoppers are just as eager, they, frustratingly, are in nowhere near as much of a hurry as I am.

As I consider item A for person X, picking it up and turning it over in my hands, I feel this twinge of guilt in my gut. I know it is one of the great unspoken truths, but I can’t help but think of all the people in the world who won’t be getting useless pieces of plastic made in China (in workshops of dubious safety). I think of all the poisons that were released into the world in the manufacture of the item I am considering purchasing, and then I think of the landfill it will become three weeks after person X has used it/got sick of it/ been unable to re-gift it.

Surely we can still spend money to keep the economy turning, share gifts with each other and not create a mass of waste? No, I’m not just talking about using tea-towels instead of wrapping paper, I think we need to totally re-think the gift side of Christmas. I know this may be controversial, and on the surface of things a very un-Christmassy idea, but wouldn’t the gift giving side of Christmas be so much kinder to the earth if we were to buy our own gifts?

Others could still give us gifts, but only after we have handed them over to them to give back to us. We could exchange our gifts before we exchange gifts. Think about it, no longer will we need to feign delight; our exclamations of excitement for that special widget will be genuine. It would even be fun for the other person, gaining a bit more of an insight into us by what we gave ourselves. They too would love what we gave them, having got it for themselves.   

Oh well, maybe I will suggest it to the family next year? At the rate I’m going, between ensuring the gift will be wanted as well as being kind to the earth, everyone is going to end up getting groceries!

12.02.12

Chapters

Posted in Writing at 7:47 pm by Natalie

When writing for children there are clear guidelines around chapter lengths according to the age of your target audience. No such guidelines exist when writing for adults. Some adult novels will have chapters which are only one sentence long, others will have no chapters at all. So how important is chapter length?

For me, when I write an adult/YA novel, I always aim for 2,000 – 2,500 word per chapter –give or take 500 words. As I get nearer to the end I’m likely to be more flexible as short chapters can speed up the action of your story, while the ‘big reveal’ chapter might be a lot longer so as not to break the flow.

If a chapter says all it needs to say in 500 words, then perhaps one should let it stand alone, instead of attaching it to the next chapter (as I would tend to do)? I wonder if an author like James Patterson (whose chapters tend to run to between 300 and 1,500 words) finds himself cutting a chapter in half just to keep consistent?

I’m actually reading a book at the moment where the chapters are nearly the exact same length. The only reason I noticed this was because the chapter length matches nicely with my daily commute into and out of work. And while I find this very convenient, it makes me wonder if sometimes the story gets a little more padded or cut short to meet the author’s target? More importantly am I guilty of doing the same thing?

I would like to think that a story will always be only as long or short as it needs to be to tell the story, and chapters as long as they need to be to show the scene or section of the story. Maybe authors cannot help but think in terms of sections of a certain length, and subconsciously we edit or embellish accordingly?

I would be really interested to know if any readers have been frustrated by obvious chapter length doctoring, or even if any readers have even been aware of such things? If it were not for the coincidence of my trip length and chapter length of the book I am reading now, I would never have suspected anything other than inspiration dictating the length of the chapters in the novel.