Blog Break

Yes, I know I’ve taken a few of these recently, but this time I’m going to have a think about what I want to get out of this blog. When I started it (nearly 10 years ago) there was no such thing as Twitter or Instagram. I’m not even sure if Facebook was out yet, and if it was, it was still something you only shared with friends.

In 2010 when I was blogging I was also regularly reading other people’s blogs. Not so much now. With all the different feeds of information these days, I struggle to keep up with the blogs I used to follow. There is only so much time in the day.

Likewise, I used to enjoy a bit of discourse with strangers; commenting on each other’s blogs and referencing the posts we had enjoyed. I now do all that with Twitter and the only regular contact I have on the blog is with spammers. I must confess some of their comments are amusing and I would love to turn them into a story, but that’s not enough to keep me going.

So I’m going to take June off and consider if I want to attempt a JulNoWriMo to kick-start me back into the world of fiction.

I will be back, but it may only be briefly to say my goodbyes, or it might be haphazard, only when I have something to say. In the meantime you can find me on:

Twitter @nataliejepotts
Instagram @nataliejepotts

Please say hello if you do find me there.

Self-Assessment

One of the big reasons why it is good to be a part of a don’t-pull-any-punches writers group is that they can tell you when you are off the mark. I find it very hard to assess my writing in terms of what is good and bad. In the past, the members of my writers group have had no trouble making that distinction.

Sure, they may sometimes get it wrong, ideas of good and bad are very subjective after all, but they can save you a lot of time identifying what’s not working, and can usually give you some hints about how to fix it. I think I need that help at the moment.

I have a piece of flash fiction that keeps coming back to me in record time. It’s short, punchy and complete – so is the sort of thing that normally gets accepted the first or second time I send it out. This one just came back to me in two days. So clearly there is something very wrong with it.

I’m not part of a group at the moment, and I feel that loss most months. I think it might be time to try and track a new group down. Wish me luck!

Overcoming Inertia

A while ago I talked about how I was going to start doing something different to try and get my writing career off the ground. One of those things was doing more courses and networking events. Well, I’ve started, and it’s proving valuable in a number of ways.

Firstly, I feel like I’m doing something, which is hugely beneficial from a mental health point of view. In recent months I’ve felt like my writing was going nowhere. I started to wonder what was the point in writing if no-one was ever going to read what I wrote. Going out and doing something different helps me to feel like I’m championing my novels to a wider audience and that they stand a greater chance of being seen.

Secondly, I’m getting a better idea of what everyone else is writing. I thought the whole world was writing Young Adult Spec Fic novels, but in the two events I’ve been to recently it seems like memoir is by far the biggest genre for the great unpublished. That gives me hope, because it feels like the opposition numbers have been culled.

Finally, and perhaps most obviously, I’m learning stuff! I think investing in yourself is never wasted dollars, and so far both events have given me information that I didn’t have before. It is also interesting to see how quickly the publishing landscape is changing, so it is important to keep my finger on the pulse.

I haven’t got any more courses booked yet, but you can bet I’m going to be looking at the program with a lot more interest now.

Publication!

Antipodean SF is celebrating its 250th issue, which represents 21 years of publishing. This is an amazing achievement in the small press world, and is a great testament to the passion of Ion ‘Nuke’ Newcombe for speculative fiction from the Antipodes.

My very first publication was in Antipodean SF, and I remember being so excited when I got that first ever acceptance. My story required a lot more editorial work than my work these days, and I will never forget how grateful I was for Ion taking the time to work with me on this.

The story I have in this edition of the ‘zine, Ti Amo, was one of several robot stories inspired by watching too many SBS documentaries late last year. I lamented the end of relationships when I considered a future where you could custom-order a partner with the personality, appearance and disposition you wanted.

Then I remembered that people are far from perfect and rarely know what we really want. Ti Amo is my glimpse into that future.

I hope you enjoy it, but I must warn you that it is a little bit saucy – so perhaps MA 15+ readers only.

High Expectations

This week I realised that I’ve been setting my expectations a little too high. I was berating myself over it being a ‘non-writing’ week again and feeling a bit down. The thing is though, I did write. An idea for a flash fiction story came to me earlier in the week, and after thinking about it endlessly on the bus, I finally wrote it on Saturday.

And this I considered a non-writing week.

I think part of my problem is that I have so many things that I need to do each week as part of my job that I feel like I need to make similar inroads into my writing goals. The truth is, if I wasn’t getting paid to be there, I wouldn’t be as diligent in getting to work on time and dedicating my whole day to it. I’d probably end up playing too many games of FreeCell at work as well.

So, until my writing is paying the bills, I need to go a little softer on my expectations. I know some people would argue that I’m not going to get my writing to pay the bills if I don’t spend more time on it, but I worry that my mental health will suffer if I try to do two full time jobs. Not to mention my relationships, family, and cleanliness!

Enough Slush

When I started ‘seriously’ pursuing my writing career the advice from all the authors around me was that you needed to prove yourself with short story publications, then that would fast-track your novels to the top of the slush pile. I know that was a long time ago, but now that I’m about to hit my 40th short story publication I don’t think the short publications are helping at all. My stories seem to sit endlessly in the slush waiting for their turn like everyone else’s.

This was highlighted when I recently queried a novel that had been with a publisher for over 7 months. From their response it was obvious that they didn’t even know they had the story. Due to a change in staff, no-one was reading it. Even today I don’t know if they found it, and I don’t know if they are reading it now. What I do know is for the 7 months it was lost in the abyss of slush I was not sending it out to anyone else. This was the same novel a previous publisher had held onto for over a year before they ‘regretfully’ rejected it.

Obviously, these days short story publications are not the way to rise to the top of the slush pile. Awards and social media success probably count for more than publications, but I’m sure (like every other job) networking is what matters most. I guess if I am ‘serious’ about getting published I need to give this a go. It’s going to be hard to do that in Adelaide, but for my sanity alone, I need to try something else in an attempt to get out of the slush pile.

 

Acceptance!

I’ve been having a bit of a rough run with submissions recently, so I was excited to receive an acceptance for a short story that I though would never find a home. It was a bit silly, a bit rude, and a bit controversial (for me). You will be able to read that in the 250th Issue of Antipodean SF – published next month. Don’t worry, I’ll post the link when it goes up.

This week also marked the end of daylight savings, which for me translates to going to be an hour later, but waking up at exactly the same time. So, while I’ve been exhausted at work, it’s meant I’ve spent an hour in bed each morning thinking about what writing project I’m going to work on next.

There are two vying for attention; a novella that wants to become a novel, and a brand-new novel that I started working on two weeks ago. There is part of me thinking that perhaps I could work on both? They are quite different, and I seem to be able to alternate quite nicely between then when thinking about them, so why shouldn’t it be so when I write them?

The weather has cooled down, so I’m spending more of my weekends inside. I think a couple of writing projects might be just what I need.

 

Words vs Meaning

At the moment I’m working with a group of IT developers. Every morning we have a stand-up meeting where we go around and say what we did yesterday, and what we are doing today. It never ceases to amaze me how when the developers talk about what they are doing I can understand 99% of the words they use, but only about 50% of the meaning. It’s like they are using a whole other language, but a language made up of words from my language.

Sure, there are some words I don’t understand, something that sounds like nougat, stuff to do with pipelines, and a wiff, or waff, or woff (I’m still not sure what they are saying). All I need to know is that they have sprinkled their magic code-dust over the computer and it is now doing what I need it to do. But to get that answer I need to ask my own yes/no question.

Any change in job or career means a learning curve where you need to re-learn some parts of your own language. The context of the word can totally change its meaning, and part of that context can even be the people with whom you are talking.

No wonder language is constantly evolving. If these differences can arise in organisations and vocations, is it any wonder we can speak so differently across states and countries?

Time for Change

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a different result (or something very like that). I feel as if that defines my writing journey of late, and possibly that’s why I’m getting so frustrated.

I keep sending my novels out to publishers, they hang onto them for a year, and then they send me a form letter rejection. I’m still waiting for the form letter rejections for the most recent two, but I’ve been waiting 7+ months on both of them, and I’m sure that if the publishers loved them, I would have heard about it by now.

I’m not quite ready to give up totally on the traditional publication path and head down the self-publishing road (but I’m pretty close). And don’t get me wrong, it’s not snobbery about self-publishing that stops me, but rather having to teach myself the ins and outs of hiring an editor, a cover designer, marketing etc. It’s a lot of learning and I won’t do a half-hearted attempt, so I will put that off a little bit longer.

Instead I’ve decided to do the next best thing; networking. I’ve just joined clubs, courses and the SA Writers centre over the last week. If I can’t make some inroads into the publishing industry by getting to know people over then next 6 months, then I’ll self-publishing by Christmas! And if nothing else, I’m sure I’ll meet some people who can teach me about editors, designers and how to market.

I’m getting too old to do this waiting thing any longer.

 

The journey of a spec fic writer.