Always writing!

I had big intentions of writing lots of great stuff today. But then this glorious Melbourne autumnal day snuck up on me with its luminous blue sky, perfect temperature and sweet-caress breeze, and next thing I know it is 5pm and I’ve done almost nothing at all.

The birds were singing, calling me out to play. The bugs (while avoiding the afore mentioned birds) also knew the day was grand enough to warrant rubbing their legs together, or wobbling their bums or doing whatever it is that bugs do to make their ‘isn’t it a great day’ noises. It seemed that everything that could herald a beautiful day was doing so, and who was I to ignore this? Isn’t this, after all, what life is all about?

But here is the fantastic thing about being a writer; even when I’m being as lazy as can be, when my biggest act of writing for the day is to push out these 386 words for my blog, even if I was to watch back to back episodes of Oprah for the entire day (which on a day as beautiful as this one would be nothing short of a crime against nature) I get to put it all down to gathering material.

So I gathered material while reading a book in the sun, then I went down and gathered some more material over a yummy lunch at a cafe in Camberwell. After that I strolled down to the shops, gathering material at numerous retail therapy outlets, before concluding with a walk home (via the long way), with much material gathering occurring along the way. And just when you thought that I would not be able to fit any more material in, I gathered six games of FreeCell material before opening Word to write this blog entry.

So you can see, so far I’ve dedicated this entire day to writing. One could argue that I’ve even earned a break! Okay, that might be pushing it. There are still a few good writing hours left in the day, I might get that next chapter started yet… But the sun is still out, maybe I should go for just one more walk? The cats come out about now and they do enjoy their belly rubs…

Nat

The Holiday is Over

Flying back on the day that Melbourne hosted a mini-cyclone (complete with golf ball sized hail) was, perhaps, not the highlight of my trip, though memorable could certainly describe the experience. After just a few hours of delays, and a flight where I made more promises to God than I could keep track of, I was finally back home, safe and sound.

Oddly enough I was not so much inspired by my time at Adelaide’s Writers’ Week as comforted by it. Many of the writing stories the authors relayed were akin to my own experiences. The one that resonated most closely was the 8 year novel being made up of 7 years of Solitaire (though in my case, it would be FreeCell). By the same token the whole not waiting for inspiration, permission to write a bad first draft, not knowing where your characters are going and forcing yourself to put words on the page, were also very familiar stories.

So while I may not yet be published, and I may not have a huge following, at least I know I am getting into the habits of a writer. Something great that did get mentioned again, was the advice to write for yourself, write what you want to read. Do not write just for the market. You can tweak later, but if you don’t believe in your story, no one else will either. So it looks like I can shelve my project about a vampire who uncovers Christian-based mysteries by solving a series of puzzles and word games after he gets kicked out of wizard school. Thank goodness.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the organisers of Adelaide Writers’ Week. It is such a fantastic event, which brings writers and readers together from all over the world. What is most amazing is that all the daytime events are free. And given the big-bucks in fiction writing in Australia (particularly short fiction), that is something welcomed by all struggling writers.

Thank you also to Mum, Dad and my sister for feeding me so well. It wasn’t just extra books that weighed me down on the way home!

Nat

Adelaide Writers’ Festival

It’s day one of my give-me-holidays-or-I’ll-quit visit to the Adelaide Writers’ Festival, and so far it has been great! On a sunny day worthy of the last day of summer, and with the occasional falling leaf to remind us of what season begins tomorrow, I was lucky enough to hear Audrey Niffenegger (The Time Traveler’s Wife, Her Fearful Symmetry) speak. Audrey is refreshingly normal, very entertaining and gratefully not hung up on genre.

Today the festival has taught me how important it is for a writer to also be a confident speaker. Many people in the audience will not have read the authors who speak, so the fifteen minutes at the podium is essentially the closest a writer gets to a ‘coming soon to a cinema near you’ type ad. Those writers who make you laugh, or bring a tear to your eye are the ones who will be making sales in the book tent. Today, for me Jim Crace is the author who made me laugh, made me nod my head as if he was speaking directly to me, and made me want to hear a lot more from him. So I have no idea what he writes, but you can guarantee I will be reading it soon.

So I guess I’d better get to work on my public speaking skills, or at the very least expand my repertoire of jokes beyond what’s long, brown and sticky? A stick.

Until next time, happy writing!

Nat

Writers Groups

This weekend I went to the launch of Foz Meadows’ book Solace and Grief. Foz is part of my writers group, SuperNova, and it was fantastic to be a part of her magical moment. It was also wonderful to see so many of the group there to lend support. There is a perception out there that writers are guarded, jealous types, but my experience had been exactly the opposite.

My group are always willing to share ideas of how to improve a story, alternative ends, where its weaknesses and strengths are, and even suggestions about markets to which I might be able to sell it. This sort of information will never come from friends or family members no matter how well read they are. I won’t lie, some of the ideas people have for my stories are so out there or way off track for where I want to be going that I will just smile politely and nod as they go to a very dark place indeed with my poor, innocent protagonist, but other times they point out the tiniest change that can turn a good story into a great one.

I have often committed the sin of sending out a story before the group has seen it, and it has promptly come back, rejected. Then it goes to the group and becomes so much better than it was, but I have already burned the intended market for the story by sending it out too early. It only takes a little while to learn this lesson (oh, about five years) but it is well worth learning.

So I guess my advice for new writers this week (besides keeping up that visualisation) is to get yourself into a writers group if you are not already in one. And don’t be disheartened if you don’t like the first one you go to. Groups can be very different, some are big back-patting, and some people need that. Some will rip even the finest story into bloody pieces and leave the writer emotionally battered, but that too is perfect for other writers. Try them out, and if possible get an introduction, that way you can find out if it is the group for you.

And remember, when it is finally your turn to launch your book, no matter how much they might have criticized it, cut it to pieces and re-written it, it will be your writers group who will be first in line to buy your freshly published baby. Because they, more than anyone else you know, will understand what you had to go through to get to that point, as well as the enormity of the next part of the journey; selling it. So find a group and be prepared to share, it is the only way to learn.

Now, back to WriMoFoFo, only one week to go and I’m very far behind…

Nat

Holding

I don’t think I am doing this visualisation thing quite right. Do you picture a contract, or the email where they ask you for your book, or do you see the actual book itself? Perhaps you visualise the people lined up out the door for a signing? Or maybe you see yourself in the house of your dreams sitting in the library you have always wanted (with archaeopteryx on one wall and books lining the others) plugging away at your computer as you work on that next book.

I tried them all, but in doing so I felt like I was giving mixed signals to the powers that be. Having said that, perhaps it is no coincidence that this week I got a ‘hold’ request for a story. A hold request means someone likes your story, but they don’t want to buy it just yet. Often it is happens when a submission deadline has not yet closed or co-editors are working on something together, so other stuff might still come in and bump the story.

I know that sounds negative, but the truth is it is very exciting, something akin to when that first lotto ball falls down and it is one of your numbers. You haven’t won yet, but you certainly haven’t lost and you are a lot closer to winning than a lot of other people out there. And that is exactly how it feels; close to winning. To know you piqued enough interest that they think it ‘could’ find a home in their anthology is such a warm feeling.

So from now on I will add visualisation to my weekly task list, but unlike the ‘cleaning my wardrobe’ task, it will be one that I actually do.

Until next week, my friends,

Nat

The Secret’s Secret

The other day, while driving through the city, I pulled up to a set of lights behind a taxi. All at once I was struck with the unerring knowledge that it was about to pull into the turn right lane and block the intersection. As the seconds ticked by nothing happened, yet my gut feeling was as strong and clear as when you watch a Hollywood blockbuster and know from the opening scene that the male and female leads will end up in each other’s arms by the end, no matter how unlikely.

Just before the light turned green a woman dashed through the traffic and leapt into the backseat of the cab. You can guess what happened next; the right-turn indicator came on, he rolled forward so that half the taxi was in my lane, the other in the right turn lane, and he effectively blocked the road.

Was this a flash of latent psychic ability that, like all of us, I long ago learned to ignore or better yet, repress? No, methinks not. I think it was the secret at work. I must have sent the message out to the world that I wanted that taxi to block my way and the universe was obliged to grant my wish.

Naturally this begs the question… Why do I ask for traffic impediments and not publishing contracts? If I knew the answer to that there would be shelf space with my name on it at Borders and I wouldn’t be suffering Sunday-night-itis at the thought of going to work tomorrow. The power of the mind is truly an awesome thing, so shouldn’t I be working out how to turn this energy to work for me?

My task this week is to spend twenty minutes a day working on the power of positive thinking. Just knowing I didn’t have ringworm seemed to work a treat; it’s one week on since my last post and I’m now officially scab-free. So will I be able to think my way to a publication? Let’s see, one can only try…

Nat

Ringworm!?!

It’s not often the doctor thanks you for bringing something unusual into his room, but that was my experience this week. But I’m jumping ahead, this story starts nearly six weeks ago, in Adelaide, at Christmas…

After our 8 hour drive, I arrived at my Mum and Dad’s house and instantly got struck down with a headache so severe I had to vomit or sleep. I chose the latter. On waking I discovered I had brought along an unexpected companion (who would be with me for the entire duration of my holiday) in the form of a cold. I also discovered, to some disgust, that I had incubated a ringworm on my left buttock cheek during the journey over. What a way to start my holiday.

Now, if ringworm had been named ‘Angel kisses’ maybe I would have been more inclined to seek out some assistance. But I kept my dark secret to myself until it turned into something more akin to ring-snake. I gave up on the home cures and started using some actual medicated cream (albeit a few months out of date). Then things got… strange.

I woke up, some four weeks after the appearance of my ‘ringworm’ to discover I had spawned another seven ringworms over my chest and back. The next day it was ten, the day after that about 15. I stopped using the out of date cream and purchased a fresh tube which I diligently applied morning and night (as directed). The next day there were over 20. I stopped counting

I had images of becoming one big scaly patch and was preparing to bathe in tea tree oil to try and zap the ones I hadn’t yet spotted (of which I am sure there were many), when my partner insisted I go to the doctor. Perhaps this was something I should have done four weeks ago?

I don’t actually have ringworm. I have Pityriasis Rosea, an (apparently) rare virus which affects the skin. They don’t know how people get it, there is no treatment for it and all I can do is wait for it to go away. Just for the record, as soon as I found out my anti-fungal cream was doing nothing I started using Lucas Papaw cream and half the lesions cleared up overnight.

So how does all this relate to writing? Of course it doesn’t, but it was very interesting. Also you can bet at some stage one of my characters is going to also come down with Pityriasis Rosea, but I won’t be so mean as to give it to them over their holidays.

Better go, WriMoFoFo started yesterday and I haven’t written a thing!

Nat

Accountability

Well, I opened my computer as promised, but the words did not flow. I need to turn off my internet connection, deactivate Freecell and stop going to the library! I wrote two novel synopses and then I read a book that explained how to write a synopsis. So this week I will be re-writing two novel synopses, well re-writing might be a bit kind, let’s be honest, I’ll be starting from scratch. At least I was reading about writing, so that’s nearly like doing it… Right?

I do have hope on the horizon in the form of WriMoFoFo (Write More For Four). My writers group, SuperNova, begins WriMoFoFo in a week. It is our answer to NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) held in November. November never really works for any of us, and we don’t want to limit ourselves to just one novel, so Elizabeth (in our group) hatched a plan for a really lax version which she dubbed WriMoFoFo. It lets us either write new words or edit old ones, and we each get to set our own target. The big thing that it does offer is accountability. Each week Liz posts our word count on a ‘leader board’ under our pseudonyms (accountability can go just so far after all).

Last year it worked a treat for me. I was working on my 2012 novel and it was flowing well, I managed nearly 25,000 words in the four weeks. This year I’ll be editing said novel, and trying to somehow make it less dependent on 2012 – given the nature of the business and how long it could take to get anyone to look at it, let alone print it. But I’m hopeful of another 25,000 word month.

So, I’ll waste the rest of this evening’s writing time on working out how to give the appearance of having Freecell deleted from my computer, without actually deleting it. I wouldn’t want to do anything to rash after all.

I might just play a few goodbye Freecell games first…

Nat

Procrastination

Procrastination takes many forms for a writer; cleaning, planning, graphing, colour-coding POV scenes (yes, I’ve really done that), net-surfing, even staring into space. I guess in some way all these things end up contributing to the final production, but do we let them get in the way?

I learned (long enough ago that I shouldn’t disregard it as often as I do) that writing does not require inspiration. Writing just needs time. If you have time you can write. If you eat up that time with forty games of Freecell, then you don’t write. The formula is pretty simple really.

So why do I have graphs NASA would be proud of instead of a finished chapter this week? Because I let myself procrastinate. It’s like chocolate in a diet, you may want it, crave it, but you know that you have to say no. Staring at a blank screen may be the equivalent of celery and split-pea soup, but if you stare at it long enough the words will come. The diet will pay off and you will have another chapter in your computer.

This week I’m going to reacquaint myself with my willpower. This week I’m going to make myself sit down at my computer, with the internet turned off, Freecell disabled and my ever-supportive partner ready to make a cup of tea the moment I get tempted to get up and do it myself and I’m going to write. Every single night!

Let’s see how I go.

Nat

The journey of a spec fic writer.