This week I had the strangest story idea experience. I was reading a light-hearted book, and (as often happens) a single sentence sparked off a totally unrelated idea for a story. This idea was dark. Not just creepy dark, but blackest-pits-of-the-soul dark. It scared me.
I stopped and ran the idea over in my head again, feeling revolted by it. I was simultaneously pushing it away while trying to delve deeper. I could see the sliver of good in it, but the good skirted so finely on the edge that it would be hard to see. It would be easy to read the story the wrong way, to get the wrong idea of what I was trying to say, but if read in the right way it could be amazing.
I don’t think the story was intended for me. I must have had my story rod raised and it caught a bolt intended for someone else. I’ve often said that I think stories come from the collective unconscious and we just catch them and write them down. The way tales come so completely formed, it seems like there could be no other way.
The weird thing about this experience is that now I can remember barely a thing about it. I have shadows of the story, but they are like the memory of a dream; you know you had the full plot, but you can only get tiny parts now. And I guess that makes sense, if it was meant for someone else, it can’t live in my brain at the same time.
Wouldn’t it be amazing if one day I come across the story and remember it? I’ll track the author down and ask them when they got the idea. I suspect it will be this week. I hope someone with the right skills does write it. I still keenly remember the incredible feeling of the idea, I just wasn’t ready to climb down into that pit.
My friend and I have dared each other to ask every author at Adelaide Writers’ Week where they get their ideas – just so we can watch them roll their eyes. The truth is neither of us will have the guts to do this because it is just such an embarrassing question. Writers get ideas from everywhere! Usually the problem is deciding which ones you will let in and which you will ignore.
But it has made me wonder about the rest of the population. Do non-writers really not get ideas for stories? Do all their fantasies revolve only around them and other people they know? Or (and I refuse to believe this assertion) do some people actually not make up any stories in their head about anyone?
I watch a news story and I start imagining the fallout of events, I read a book and I think about where I would have taken the story, I listen to a song which might ostensibly be about the basic boy and girl falling in or out of love and I can turn it into a dark paranormal novel, maybe even a trilogy. Doesn’t this happen to everyone on some level???
If I was to list my top five favourite things about being alive, making up stories would be on there. If, and I hope I’m talking to no-one here, you have never made up a story after you left school, try it now. Even if you need to fan-fiction it and lift someone else’s characters and setting, try it (there are no copyright breaches when it stays in your head). You may just find you like it.
Very few of my stories fall out of my direct experience. Most are inspired by things I see happening to others, or wondering what would happen if things happened to others. My most recent publication was directly inspired by my old workplace.
Let me start by saying that I loved working there, the people were amazing and the work was interesting. But when the market turned and the share price plummeted, rounds of redundancies became commonplace, happening every three months or so. It was a stressful time for everyone.
My team went from 11 people to 5, yet we had the same amount of work to do. Everyone in my team was staying late, working from home, checking their emails on their phones at all hours of the day and night, everyone, that is, except me. When I walk out of the office, I believe in leaving the office behind. Maybe that’s why I was the next one picked to be made redundant?
So because I write speculative fiction, not contemporary fiction, I decided to use a different work pressure, one that might be an issue in the future. The original title of the story was ‘Work life balance’, but I realised that I was commenting on the lack of balance. So then I decided to call it ‘Work’ but that also seemed wrong because while it was work, it was also my character’s entire life. So I ended up with the title ‘Life’ because work and life had become the one. In retrospect that is not very clear, so the title is a bit crap, but hey that was my thinking at the time so I guess I’m stuck with it.
Anyway, I hope you enjoy Life – and thanks to Antipodean SF for once again picking up my flash fiction!
Okay, due to the overwhelming response of one (and that was a text message) I’m going with non-fiction books. I like to always be reading one non-fiction and one fiction book, no idea why, I guess it’s just one of my loveable quirks. And just as I read all different types of fiction, my non-fiction preferences run from evolutionary theory to he’s just not that into you-type books. So this will be an eclectic mix.
To pick my non-fiction books I’ll often look to the references of previous non-fiction books I have enjoyed. Part of me would really like to write a self-help program made up entirely of reading great non-fiction books. This won’t be that list, because some of the books here won’t necessarily contribute to making you a better and more rounded person, but I hope that many will. I will credit some for great leaps forward that I have made.
Something that I really believe about the self-help type books is that you cannot just read them once to get the benefit. If you are anything like me you get super motivated while reading it, but that influence drops off exponentially as soon as you stop reading them. So for these books I’ll let you know that they have made it to my annual reader list. Don’t worry, he’s just not that into you is not on that list.
I know I’m going to miss a whole heap of great books, so I should put in a rider that these books are the ones that are front of mind for me. They are the ones I read again or remember often.
Finally, your own preferences are going to massively shape what non-fiction you read. I LOVE palaeo-zoology and evolution, but that isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, so I’m only going to include one (maybe two) in this list. You might like war planes or something that I find a bit nods-ey, so apologies for those not making the list. I guess this is my blog, so you get to find out about me 🙂
So, starting next month, the last post of the month will be my top 10 (at the moment) non-fiction books.
Every now and then I worry what if “The Secret” is real? Usually this thought is sparked by a bout of coincidences that have left me feeling a little more connected to the universe than usual. Then work and bills and the minutiae of life creeps in and pulls a curtain over my budding belief. But what if it was real? What would my lack of progress say about me?
Don’t get me wrong, I know I’m crazy lucky, but imagine if my lack of success in some important fields in my life were because I didn’t really believe I should get there? I know that exact same thought is what most people use to dismiss “The Secret”, but if I’m honest, realising my biggest hopes and dreams in life also has me terrified. What if I hated being a successful, published author?
For me, something that gives validity to “The Secret” is that I expect some things which are really exceptional gifts, but I take them as if they are the norm; wildflowers to be picked by anyone passing by. My chronic superstition won’t allow me to list those things, but when I stop and think about them I am really grateful, but only when I stop and think about them. Is it my expectation that gives me those things?
The biggest argument against “The Secret” as far as I can tell is why would the universe care what I want? Unless my desire is noble and for the benefit of the world, why should I be granted my dreams? But imagine; what if this world was meant to be a place where we are all satisfied, happy, content and live at one with nature, and the only reason it isn’t is because not enough of us believed in it? That would be tragic. Maybe we all need to work on our belief?
Okay, enough D&M. This year I want my last post of the month to be a Top10 again, so let me know if you would like scriptwriters or non-fiction books. Both kept trying to sneak in last year with my Top10 authors. Or feel free to suggest something else, the more challenging the better.
In the middle of October I started writing a novella and I finished the heavy edit on January 11th. What do I do now? I was spending at least 20 hours a week on this thing in December and January. Should I give myself some time off now?
With both the novels that I finished recently I think I may have burned myself out a bit, and I took a month off after each, but at less than 40,000 words the novella doesn’t feel like it has taxed me to the same degree. If anything I feel like it has revved me up! Not to mention that I’m working part time now, so that’s 16 hours of “work” time I’m not wasting at work each week.
I think jumping into another novel right now would be a mistake, and even a short story so hot on the heels of so much work might be pushing it… But I do know of a flash fiction call for subs which is closing in February. Maybe it is what I need to slow me down just enough to get ready to start the next big project?
I would like to find a way to sustain my writing throughout the year instead of doing several months of intense work and then a whole month of nothing. I might try this pacing thing out and see if it works.
There is a call for novellas that closes on January 12th which I found out about in mid October. Toward the end of October I got hit with an idea. Since then I’ve been dabbling with it, writing 700 words here, 1000 words there. Back in October I figured that as long as I could finish it by December, I’d be okay.
December 31st 2016 at 3:02PM I finished the novella. I was writing nearly every day leading up to this, including Christmas day, to get it done in time. I was doing blocks of over 2,500 words in a sitting. In short, I was working to the deadline.
Now I’m editing like a crazy person. The TV is off and my social life is gone. Grocery shopping has been forgotten (I’m getting creative with making meals out of what is in the fridge), and let’s not even talk about housework. I’m losing days in a world of edit and re-edit. After all, it needs to be as good as it can be by January 12th – and that could take a while.
I can’t help but wonder if the submission due date was Dec 31st would I instead have finished the novella on December 15th? Conversely, if it wasn’t due until the end of January, would I still be writing little snippets of the first draft now? Even more interestingly, would it have been the same story as the one I’m working with now?
I have long realised that I need a deadline to get me working, but it is amazing what can be achieved when you force yourself to do something. I guess I’d better start working out what the next deadline needs to be, because this one will be up soon.
But first I’ll do some grocery shopping. The housework can wait.
My roof got speared by the branch of a pine tree on Tuesday night, and my 40+ year old Golden Elm got snapped in half. We had a storm, a big storm. It was the fourth such storm in Adelaide in 2016. At least they have stopped calling them hundred-year storms, it started sounding silly after the second one.
While the loss of internet and a few days without power is really annoying, it is also starting to feel too familiar. Yesterday I was talking about going halvsies with my parents on a generator so our food doesn’t keep spoiling after these ‘events’. The idea makes me cringe, it is just another hideous Band-Aid over the reality of climate change.
I like to think of myself as being environmentally aware, yet I buy my milk in plastic bottles, I have multiple beauty products which promise (and fail) to deliver straight hair, and I’ve had 5 laptops which have never been passed on to anyone else after I finish with them. There is only so much that recycling can pick up the slack on. I often come in at half the rate on my water, electricity and gas use for equivalent sized households, yet I think I still use too much, far too much.
I want the babies of today to see a live Barrier Reef when they grow up, I want them to live in a world where tigers and orang-utans and elephants are wild animals living in wild places. I want there to be trees that have grown in the same place for hundreds, if not thousands of years. A life full of plastic bottles, needless chemicals and high-turnover electricals won’t help to deliver that.
I know it can seem overwhelming and there is a belief that we are too far gone to make a difference, but that isn’t true. There are actually a million things you can do. Something I saw this week which really inspired me was The Minimalists (see TED talk below). This is something so easy to do, you can do as much or as little as you like, and it addresses one of the big problems I see in Western society of consumerism (even if economists don’t agree with me). Please think about it, I know not all of us can have 5 minute showers, but I’m sure you can find something to cut back on. Every little bit helps.
Happy New Year!
The week I turned 30 I decided I was going to properly ‘try’ to be a writer. I joined a professional writers group and I made the decision to finish my novel. That was over ten years ago now (or six if you use my online age). Strangely 2016 is the first year where I have truly felt like a writer.
It has been a great year when I look back on it, even though it feels like I haven’t done much. That novel I wanted to finish back when I was 30 took over ten years to complete (all up). Last year I wrote a novel in four months, this year I wrote one in three months. I’m also on the cusp of finishing a novella. This is definitely not just a hobby.
I was made redundant from my day job in June and I enjoyed four glorious months of full-time writing. Any fears I had about the lonely life of a writer were well and truly dispelled. This is something I can see myself doing for the rest of my life. I now have managed to land a part time job which lets me continue to write at a rate I couldn’t have imagined three or four years ago.
I know I may never get a publishing contract for a novel, and my self-publishing may never hit the $ values required for me to actually get a cheque, but I love to create and explore and disappear into these worlds. 2016 has shown me that this is something I can give to myself, no matter what the publishing houses of the world may say.
I have learned a lot about myself and a lot about writing over the past year. The thing I would like to share, which applies equally to writing a novel or any other goal in life, is that you just need to do it. Say ‘no’ to lounging in front of the TV, let the dishes build up sometimes and make your goal a priority. That’s what my decade+ has taught me most, and it seems like the most obvious thing in the world.
I hope when you look back on your 2016 you can see all the things you have achieved and celebrate them. I also hope you can light your passion for completing even more in 2017. Happy Christmas and have a safe New Year!
Relationships with animals are unlike anything we experience with humans. I’m not going to say better or worse, but to me they feel magical. This seems doubly true when those relationships are with wild animals. I had this with a local magpie who I called The Gardner.
Ours started off, as many relationships do, as one of convenience. When I mowed the lawn The Gardner would come down and pick off all the bugs I disturbed. Apologies for over-generalising to the oligochaetes, but worms are a silly bunch of critters, did you know they wriggle up when you cut the grass? The Gardner knew.
Later, when I was digging out the lawn to put in as many trees and bushes as possible, The Gardner would hang around because he knew that whenever I unearthed lawn beetle larvae I would throw them to him. Eventually he would sit right next to me while I dug the hole so I wouldn’t miss any.
Now I think The Gardner is dead. He has not come down for nearly two weeks. He does not swoop past me when I come home from the bus stop, brushing his wings against my shoulder to let me know he’s there. He doesn’t sit at my back door when I turn on the lights in the morning. He doesn’t do his little dinosaur run from the backyard when he hears me open the door.
I’d like to believe that The Gardner has just run away, and is making friends with other mowing/digging bipeds somewhere else safe, but in my heart I know that is not the case. I miss him terribly. I had no idea what a ray of happiness he was in my day until he went away.
Thank you for sharing your time with me Gardner, I miss you. 🙁
The Gardner checking out an odd looking visitor.
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