All posts by Natalie

June Progress

I haven’t written much more of any of the three novels I was considering. I tried, I really did, but it was like wading through a vat of honey. I just wasn’t getting anywhere. So, I logged into Duotrope and had a look at some of the upcoming anthology calls for submissions, just to see what was out there.

As usual, I opened this month with my Furious Fiction entry – which I keep entering out of pig-headed belligerence rather than any belief that I might get placed. Then I had a crack at some brand-new short stories, borne of the calls for submissions I found. For the first time in a long time, I have felt like a writer.

Writing new words, with no expectations, and not very long pieces, has been great. When your novel is giving you grief at 40,000 words, it really does weigh you down. When a 4,000 word story gives you trouble, it’s no big deal because it only takes a couple of days to write anyway. Also, there is a good chance you’d have thought of the trouble before you even started it, so short story storylines tend to be less problematic (for me).

I do have to complete a re-write on a novel that I will be doing soon so I can make the most of a possible opportunity. But for the next week I’m going to stick with these short stories to get the writing muscle working again and then hopefully I can transfer that productivity onto the novel.

May Furious Fiction

The Australian Writers’ Centre runs a 500 word ‘Furious Fiction’ competition over the first weekend of every month. They set specific criteria each month which the story must meet, but besides that you’ve got full creative control. I’ve been entering since December 2019, but there are many who have been entering since it started in February 2018.

I’ve recently found the challenge great for getting me out of my COVID writing funk. It’s also been really interesting because I’ve often gone into genres I don’t normally write.

The problem is, if you don’t get shortlisted, no-one ever gets to see your story. For me, the whole point of writing is for others to read your work, so I’m going to start posting the stories on my blog. Below is this month’s entry, which didn’t get shortlisted, or longlisted for that matter. But I liked it…

May 2020 #FuriousFiction.

Criteria

  • Must start with the word ‘Five’
  • Must include something being replaced
  • Must include the phrase ‘a silver lining’

Shortlisted stories and winner can be read here.

My Story Placed: Not a cracker
My Story Word Count: 496
My Story Title: Brother
My Story Story: I haven’t managed to get a placement with any of my stories, so I moved away from Spec Fic for this one and tried out a more experimental format.

Brother
By Natalie J E Potts

Five mistakes got me here. With the gun pointed at my head, I couldn’t help but reflect on them.

  1. Trusting my brother.

From pulling my pigtails at 6 to crashing my car at 36, he’d never been trustworthy. He’d gotten in with the wrong crowd and was misunderstood. We’d been making so many excuses for him that I guess it was now a habit. I’d break that habit today. Assuming I survived.

  1. Helping him out.

When he asked me to take his car to the mechanic, I asked why he couldn’t do it. He said he had a job interview. He was trying to set himself straight. The implication was it’d be my fault if he went off the rails again. His next call would be to mum if I said no, then I’d never hear the end of it. So, I went around to his place to get the damned car.

  1. Going to his mechanic.

When I pulled up at the mechanic’s it looked like a dump. The gate was locked. I should have driven on to my mechanic to see if he could squeeze me in. But someone came out and undid the padlock, like he’d been waiting for me.

The ‘Mechanic’ took less than five minutes. I know I’m not great with cars, but my brother drives a beat-up old Toyota, not a Porsche, so even I knew they weren’t doing anything to the engine by looking in the boot. I was glad to get out of there when they said I could go. No-one asked me to settle a bill.

  1. Looking in the boot.

As soon as I was out of view, I pulled over and popped the boot. It was surprisingly clean given the mess that everything else in my brother’s life tended toward. The only thing in there was a suitcase.

It was locked, but plenty of international travel had taught me that a hair-clip did the job better than a key anyway. I cracked both locks in less than a minute. The suitcase had a silver lining, but I could hardly see it for all the small bags of white powder.

  1. Returning to my brother’s house.

I slammed the boot shut and took the long way back to my brother’s house, via the shops. I wanted to be sure I wasn’t followed. I eventually pulled up in my brother’s garage. Only the garage wasn’t empty. One of my brother’s bad influences was in the corner with a gun. I only saw him after I got out.

“Take the car,” I said, dumping the keys on the roof.

“You bet I will. But I ain’t turning my back on ya. Piss off.”

Like I was going to hang around?! I ran to my car and left before he’d started the engine. I wanted to make sure I wasn’t there when he realised that I’d swapped the contents of the bags for a kilo of flour.

 

The End

New Normal

This month has been a planning month. I say planning, but probably what I really mean is I’ve started multiple projects and then dismissed them because I think about where they are going and decide that they are broken. But some new words have been written outside of Furious Fiction (yes, I entered May) so I’m pleased with that given the circumstances.

I’m not usually much of a planner, more of a plantser (not quite a pantser). If I have the end of the story in my head, I’ll usually have the confidence to jump on in and discover my way. But at the moment I’m finding it is very easy to go off the rails, so I think I need to plan a bit more than usual. In a funny way the detailed plan is almost like a really short first draft. Okay, I’m pushing it there, but I’m looking for positives.

Something I found very interesting over the last month was my experience with flash fiction. I discovered (in its last week) the Writers Victoria Twitter challenge to write 30-word stories on Twitter containing a nominated word. Then Furious Fiction was on, and with 500 words to play with, I found that I was able to develop a much fuller story with my five or six paragraphs than my usual entries. So, I think the micro fiction really helped me with editing out the fluff. I wonder if I’ll be able to apply it to my longer work?

Right now, I am considering three novels that have been kicking around in my head for 15,10 and 2 years respectively. But all of them feel like they have something wrong with them. I suspect the truth is the ‘wrongness’ sits with the author. I just need to take my advice of years ago and force myself to sit down and write instead of analysing everything so much.

What a month

I can’t believe my last post was just over a month ago and there was no mention of COVID-19. Then again, I can’t even remember if it had even been given the name back then. It feels like a year ago now.

Like many people on the planet, in the last month my plans were scuttled. I ended up having a family member move in for quarantine purposes and I’ve been doing the grocery runs for a number of elderly friends and relatives.

And I’ve been in a weird, muted shock. Even if I was home alone with nothing to do, I don’t think I would have been able to write. Knowing what is happening in so many other parts of the world and wondering if (when) those horrors were going to come here was too much. I know I don’t need to tell you how awful that feels. It’s been everyone’s reality.

As quickly as new phrases have been adopted into the collective lexicon; ‘flatten the curve’, ‘social distancing’ and ‘new normal’, I am now starting to find my feet. In those moments, now, which I manage to snatch for myself, I’m starting to sit at the computer.

I completed my furious fiction entry at the beginning of the month, and I’ve done a little bit of editing this week, not to mention this blog post. So I’m starting to get back on track.

For those of you who are reading this, I hope you are going well and finding peace with your new normal. And to quote everyone else, we are all in this together, even if we are apart.

 

I’m Back!

I don’t know what happened late last year, but I suddenly realised that I’m not getting any younger. To keep planning on what one will do one day just gives you an excuse to not do anything today.

I felt the pressure of that thought through our bushfire-ravaged Christmas and New Year. My perspective about what was important got seriously highlighted. So, after much consideration, I quit my job. It is time to write.

Don’t worry, I accept that I will (probably) have to go back to work eventually, but I have saved enough to give myself a decent break and I have got a plan with numerous lists to go with it. Just one spreadsheet though. I’m sure that will change.

The first stage, implemented in February, was to tidy up the multitude of short stories I had that were nearly finished and almost ready to send out. They are now doing the rounds and with luck I might get some acceptances soon (I’ve already had two really positive rejections).

March is new short story month. The past eighteen months, each time I’ve had an idea for a short story I’ve just written the summary of it into my ideas book. Stories can die in there. This month I’ll set some free.

So, join me on this next leg. Hopefully it will be rewarding for both of us; reader and writer alike. We might all learn something. I’m not committing to an every-Sunday post, but I will try to get back here as often as I can. Wish me luck!

Blog Re-Think

For nearly 10 years I’ve ensured that (nearly) every Sunday there is a post here. In recent years I’ve thought that the blog medium was dying and I wondered if there was any reason to keep it going?

I think there is a place for it, but perhaps not how I’m using it. A blog is a great space to share ideas that do not fit into just 280 characters. Social media is now the place for sharing short observation and high-level ideas, not to mention koala photos.

So from now on I’ll only post a blog entry when I’ve got something to share; good news, bad news, or something I really want to talk about in more space that a tweet will give me. And who knows, I may end up missing it and coming back just as regularly.

In the meantime, you can follow me on Twitter @nataliejepotts – I do have other social media accounts, but I’ll probably be posting here more than I do there.

Rejection

Something that all writers need to get used to is rejection. This week I had another rejection which left me feeling pretty flat. To make matters even worse, these days you don’t even get rejected; you just get ignored. For this particular submission I found out when the selected stories got announced. This is the face of rejection now.

You would think it gets easier with age and experience, but it doesn’t. I feel like these days I do much better research, and significantly better editing with my submissions, so it seems like I should be increasing my chances of acceptance.

This week it didn’t happen for me. So, I’ll let myself wallow in a bit of disappointment. I’ll question again if I should even be bothering. And no doubt I’ll consider closing my blog for the umpteenth time.

But I expect I’ll be back to do it all again soon. After all, I don’t write the stories to get shortlisted in competitions or published, I write them because if I don’t write them, they will haunt me. I need to keep my eye on that and try not to get upset when someone doesn’t like my story or my way of putting it down on paper.

Some days it does feel hard though.

Wri-Mo-Fo-Fo Delay

I only started WriMoFoFo today. The last two weeks at work have been possibly my most stressful ever, and I started forgetting words. It was like anything non-work related got jettisoned from my brain. I tried to log into something which I open every single day and I couldn’t remember my password. That’s when I knew I was stressed.

So rather than heaping more stress onto an already overloaded system, I decided to delay until the long weekend. Now that I’m here I can still feel the stress in the pit of my stomach and slight flutters in my chest, but I’m a whole lot better than I was earlier in the week. At least my words are coming back to me now.

Needless to say that my WriMoFoFo target is going to be pretty low. I think I’m going to try for just 15K instead of my original target of 30K.Also I decided not to add the extra bits into my novel, so those 15K are going to be made up with a few short stories that have been wafting through my brain.

Who knows, if things go well I might even be able to use this as a warm-up to try another NaNoWriMo. But I’m not promising anything yet.

To add, or not to add…

We’re just a couple of days out from WriMoFoFo – Write More for Four (weeks), and I’m starting to have doubts about my chosen project. I’m expanding a novella to a novel because I had ideas about other things I wanted the character to do which I didn’t include in the original novella. I had intended to put them in, but I was writing it for a specific novella submission call and I didn’t write them so I could bring down the word count.

The problem I’m having now is that I’m questioning how much the extra bits I want to add really contribute to the story. Yes, they will give some cool action and danger for the character, but when I get back to the main storyline, will they actually be important? Will the reader be going ‘Oh, that’s why she got chased by the X’.

Unfortunately, I think the answer is no. It’s true that I wouldn’t come back to the original ending and run with it exactly how it is, but for the amount of change that I’m anticipating, is it worth sending the character on that little side journey other than the excitement I get to write it? Does it contribute to the story?

Again, I think the answer is no. It contributes to the world, and I know a lot of people love world building in novels, but I have always said I’m all about story. So here, nearly on the eve of WriMoFoFo, I think my project might be a waste of time.

I’ve got 2 days to make up my mind, and if I don’t work on this project, I need to decide on what project should I work on. Well, I’ve always said I love a deadline.

Wri-Mo-Fo-Fo 2019

I know that NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) is just around the corner, but November is full of great weather and catch-ups with friends. Instead, I’m going to join a few folks from one of my writers groups for WriMoFoFo (Write More For Four) in October.

The timing is perfect; my project at work gets handed over on September 30th so I should (hopefully) not be so busy and stressed, and I’ve just got to the part in my novel re-write where it is all new words. There is nothing like a WriMoFoFo for getting the new words out, so I’m signing up.

It’s open to anyone, so if you would like more information check out my friend Elizabeth’s blog. You can share your progress there, or post on your favourite social media platform with #WriMoFoFo.

One of the great things about WriMoFoFo is it allows you to set your own word target. Sometimes 50k is too big a stretch (the target for NaNoWriMo) so this lets you aim for your perfect four-week goal.

We have a week to plan, so come and join us!