All posts by Natalie

Na-Sto-Id-Mo Week 2

Yeah, not a great idea. I think previously when I’ve done a story brainstorming stint, I’ve limited myself to 3 or 5 a week (I can’t remember which, but it would have been an odd number). Coming up with a new story idea every day is translating into a lot of rubbish ideas.

The one major exception was when I was in bed thinking of an idea, and I came up with the PERFECT story… just before I fell asleep. Of course in the morning I could remember none of it, other than the unflappable knowledge that it was a fantastic idea.

I won’t stop NaStoIdMo though. I think it is good to get my head in a story kind of a place, and for every three or four terrible ideas I have, one idea is good. The only problem this is leading to is that I’ve already got a heap of stories I want to write that I haven’t written, so I am just adding to the pile. But I think this is a good problem to have.

I’ll keep plugging away, and I will ensure I’ve come up with my story idea BEFORE I go to bed. Some days are easier than others, but then that’s true of everything in the writing process.

Na-No-Wri-Mo or Na-Sto-Id-Mo?

November is NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month, where writers all around the world try to write a 50,000+ word novel in a month. Now this idea was hatched in the northern hemisphere where the temperature is starting to drop, and everyone is heading back indoors.

In Australia the opposite is true. I tend to have more ‘let’s-catch-up-before-Christmas’ catch-ups in November than I do in December. Not only that, but it is spring, so the garden seems to double in size every two weeks, including hedges that need clipping and lawns that need mowing. Hence, November is an extremely social and active time of the year for me.

But I feel like doing something to join in, and given that spring has also meant a return to more regular walks, I think that instead of focussing on writing, I’ll focus on the generation of new story ideas. So I’m going to attempt NaStoIdMo or National Story Idea Month – where I challenge myself to come up with a new story idea EVERY DAY of November!

I’ve done something similar before, but not every day and not for a whole month. I’m sure some of the ideas will be absolute stinkers, but from experience it will get me into a more creative frame of mind, which might just give my motivation the edge it needs to land on a ‘next project’ to which I want to commit.

Worst case I’ll have a heap of story ideas that I never follow up. Best case, it might give me a whole year’s worth of projects just in time for the start of 2019, and the more southern hemisphere-friendly JanNoWriMo (January Novel Writing Month).

Trouble starting

Just before I went back to full time work I finished editing and writing a whole heap of stories; one novella, two short stories and two flash fiction pieces. It was a good time to take a break. There’s nothing more torturous than not being able to write when the writing swing is in full force, so I didn’t have that problem for the new job.

Now I’m struggling to land on a ‘next’ project. I keep thinking I’ve got it, but then when I sit down at the blank page it comes out a bit forced and hollow. It doesn’t feel right. Experience has taught me that I’m just reading my words through dark eyes and when I come back to these failed starts in a few months’ time I won’t judge them so harshly, but at the moment they feel like rubbish.

I think this means that I’m starting the wrong projects. As much as it scares me, it might be time to get started on the next novel. And what do you know, November is just around the corner, and with it comes NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month. Could it be a sign? I now know that I can write a novel in a month thanks to my JanNoWriMo effort, and it would be a lovely way to bookend the year by writing another novel.

Maybe I’ll spend the dying days of October planning the novel and make the call on Thursday? The next decision will be do I publish my word counts for all to see? With multiple social engagements already booked in November, I’m not sure that I’ll be hitting the 50K cumulative targets quite as often as I managed in January. But I am interested to find out if I could…

Acceptance!

The table of contents has been released, so I can finally let you know that my story ‘Bleed’ will be published in the upcoming edition of Midnight Echo magazine (the magazine of the Australasian Horror Writers Association). I am so excited by this because I desperately wanted to be in edition #13.

Bleed has a special place for me, because it is one of the few allegories I’ve written. It was inspired by a previous workplace where my boss sent an email at about 4pm on Sunday afternoon to get my team’s opinion on something unimportant. By the time I got into work at 7:30am on Monday everyone else had responded. I realised this was the way people lived now, and I didn’t like it. I believe that my time is my time, but then again, my time is also writing time, so maybe I’m more protective of it than most?

The whole team has been made redundant now, so the crazy hours and rapid response did little to save any of us. I’ll have to send them all a copy when the story comes out.

Another bit of exciting news, which I stumbled across by chance, is that my story ‘Glide’ published by Dimension 6 issue #10, was given an honourable mention in Ellen Datlow’s best horror stories of 2017. I’m actually chuffed that she’d read it, let alone give it an honourable mention.

So, this week has been a good week. I’ve had a few quiet pinch-myself moments which have been absolutely wonderful.

Juggle

One of the biggest challenges for non-professional writers is to manage the juggle to get enough time to write. A few years ago I was able to get a scratch draft of a novel written in 3 months while working full time, but I made big sacrifices. My social life was almost non-existent, I neglected my family much more than I should have, and I let the home maintenance (cleaning included) slide.

Over the last 5 weeks I’ve been working in a full-on full-time job, and my output in terms of words written has been a big, fat, zero. While I think I’ll actually benefit from the break, as I got deeper into the job I found that my classic think-about-story time (bus rides, standing in the shower, just before I fell asleep) gradually got taken over by work-thoughts. So, while my enthusiasm to write was there (and even grew) my idea store was drained.

The full-on part of the job is over now, so I hope to slide back into part-time and free up a whole chunk of brain for writing. But I know I can’t go on like this forever, and I’ll have to commit to full-time work again for a much longer period if I want to help pay all the bills. But I really hate the idea that in doing so I will be sacrificing more stories.

It just makes me wonder; how many fantastic novels are we missing out on, just because their authors need to earn a living? I guess this is the problem faced by artists everywhere, and that’s why sacrifice is so caught up with creativity.

I’m back

I have to confess that my phone line got fixed much sooner than they told me, so I’ve been online for a while. But September was a busy month, so I decided to take it off. I’m sure everyone can relate to that.

Some exciting things happened in September, not only did the princess turn 10, but I got two stories accepted! I won’t say any more until the contracts are in, but they certainly reminded me that I need to send off more stuff, more often. Stories won’t get accepted if they are only present inside my computer.

I also started a new job, so that took up a lot of my head-space, but I’m starting to get used to it now and my mind is starting to wander again when I’m on the bus. There are two main stories that I keep returning to, so I think the next step is to choose one to be next year’s JanNoWriMo. Or who knows, maybe I’ll even get into NaNoWriMo this year?

So thank you for sticking with me regular readers (I know who you are!) and expect to see me back here every Sunday as usual.

The Princess working at the computer. She doesn't look 10!
The Princess working at the computer. She doesn’t look 10!

Time for a break

Despite the fantastic weather that we have been having recently, my landline has once again broken, slowing my internet down to painfully annoying speeds. I’m taking this as a sign that it’s time for another break from blog posting.

I have two projects competing for my attention at the moment, and without the distraction of internet I might just be able to give them each a chance to appear. I’m really interested to see which one wins out.

Supposedly my phone line should be fixed by mid-September some time, which staggers me that no-one can get out to look at it before then, so until then I’ll be a bit quiet, but writing like a mad thing!

Back soon!

Blank slate

When you give yourself permission to start a new project the problem is that so many crowd in demanding to be written. I thought I had my new project selected, but when I sat down to write it, it just wouldn’t work. Worse, another project started sneaking into my head.

Now that I’m here, in new project land, I remember that it is always like this. I will make a few starts on a few different things and then something out of left field will hit and I’ll run with it.

So I guess the next week is just going to be about dabbling to find the right fit. That is such an exciting prospect, I love the unknown of new words!

Multitasking

For several years now, I’ve been making sure I only work on one project at a time, and that’s been working for me. I’ve got a few novels, short stories and one novella to show for it. The problem is that it has been so successful that I’ve now got a heap of things that need editing.

The thing about editing is that it is NEVER finished. If you pick up a piece and read it, even though you think you have edited it to death, you still want to make changes. So until a story is published (at which point I won’t read it again) it can always be tweaked.

My conundrum is that I want to get this editing done so I can get the work out, but I am also eager to write some new words. I had a new novel come to me a few weeks ago that is keen to get out, but I keep putting it on the back-burner while I finish the novella edit. But I know, really, after the novella edit I should re-visit my Jan-No-Wri-Mo novel. That will see me caught up until the end of the year.

I think it is time to go back to multitasking. I know I run the risk of never getting anything finished, that was the problem which set me on the one-project-at-a-time path in the first place, but I need to write some new words. I’m intrigued by these new characters waiting to come to life.

So maybe I can bend the rule to be one editing project and one new-words project at a time? Let’s see how I go. Wish me luck!

Genre mix

Most people I know watch films and TV shows of all genres. Many people I know read a lot of different genres. People might have a favourite, but they generally won’t restrict themselves to just one or two exclusively.

So why do I have to write just one genre? My last two novel ideas were crossover; they didn’t really fit squarely into one genre, but crossed over a couple. This is part of the reason I love to write young adult. Your stories don’t need to tick a box and fit on a certain shelf when you write for young adults because they have a shelf of their own.

I know I’m fighting a losing battle asking for this to change. When you read something you love, you automatically want to pick up something the same. Publishers want that to be the author’s next book. It can’t be an accident that there are so few adult fiction authors who publish across multiple genres and keep the same author name on all of them. Is this a reflection of what readers want, or the expectations publishers set for them?

Surely it can only be a good thing if an author introduces their fans to a new genre by writing something different, or it gives the author a chance to pick up new readers in a genre they haven’t worked in before. As readers, we are not silly, we know which shelf we’ve picked the book from. If I found Stephen King in the romance section, that would encourage me to try it, not ignore it because ‘he writes horror’. I’m sure I’m not the only one like that out there.