All posts by Natalie

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!

Tapping the flow

Last weekend I attended a writing seminar that turned out to be more of a workshop. I’ve been thinking about it over the last week, trying to work out why the workshop component frustrated me so much. I think I’ve got the answer, and I realise how silly it is.

The activities required that we come up with little story ideas to illustrate the points we had just been learning about. The problem is, when I ask my brain to get creative, it really doesn’t hold back. So, for three exercises it came up with three, full story ideas.

These ideas (and specifically the characters) have been coming back to haunt me all week. It’s as if they are wondering what they did wrong to make me ignore them? Why am I not finishing their story?!?

For me, I don’t feel like story ideas are drawn from a well of creativity, as I’ve heard others describe it, but rather they are tapped from below. Once that trickle starts, my experience is that it won’t stop until the story reservoir is dry.

I punched three holes in the story current above me last weekend, and now I can’t stop the drip, no matter how much I try to plug them. I suspect the only way I’ll be free is to finish writing them.

Screenwriting

This week I attended a screenwriting course. I’ve been trying to write a screenplay for a very long time and have never got more than about 20 pages in. I start to wander off into excessive descriptions about the surroundings, or worse, I drop into the thoughts of the main character. Neither or which are acceptable for screenwriting.

I was hoping this course would give me some tips about how to manage these sorts of things, and show examples of other scripts and how they deal with these situations. It didn’t. It’s my own fault for not reading the course description properly, but the course was more about the overarching structure of screenplay stories.

As a short and long-form story writer, I found the rules thing quite strange. I know scriptwriters are hung up on ‘rules’ of story structure far more than novelists. Everything must fit into 3 acts, the story should fit a beat sheet or plot plan, etc. I was prepared for that. But we looked at stuff like the types of power a character has and the exchange of that power. We looked at all sorts of things that I would just heap into the ‘stuff that happens’ pile.

If I tried to keep all these ‘rules’ in my head when writing a script, I would never get a word written. I find it hard to believe that scriptwriters keep all this stuff front of mind when they write. I think if the truth be told, they just stick to the same ‘rule’ as novelists; make sure you include a goal and motivation for your protagonist, and squeeze in some kind of conflict and hey presto, you have a story.

After today I think I’m almost ready to conclude that I am not a screenwriter. It’s a bit sad really.

Deadlines

I had a deadline this week. It was a due date for a submission reading period, and I really wanted to get in. I made it; sending off my story with several days to spare (just in case something went wrong with the submission process). The moment I sent off the story, all motivation to keep writing ground to a halt.

Funnily enough, I have still managed to push myself to edit my novella. I think that’s because I’ve set myself a deadline each Sunday to put up my progress on Twitter. As much as it’s a self-created deadline, it feels like there might be someone out there policing my dedication because I’ve put it in the public domain. I’m sure that if I didn’t have that deadline, I’d have just hung out in the garden all weekend looking forward to spring.

The answer seems obvious to me; I need to find another deadline. My edit of the novella appears to allow me to have some flings with short stories (quite unlike my experience with novel writing), so perhaps I should keep going with this? Because despite my hectic social and work life recently, I’ve actually managed to write 3 short stories in the last six weeks.

I do love a deadline.