Category Archives: Writing

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.

First Draft Life

Occasionally you discover a previously unknown truth that shocks you. It might be as small as realising you have been saying a word incorrectly your whole life, or it could be as major as discovering your parents have been hiding a secret brother in the cellar all these years. Neither of those happened to me this week (they don’t even have a cellar), but I did discover that a belief I’d taken for granted was wrong.

If I was a character in one of my stories I would have wallowed in this particular truth for a while (act 1), come to grips with it (act 2), and then made a radical change to my life to go on with the new knowledge (act 3). Instead I’m trying to pretend I did not make this discovery, and I keep going as if everything is still exactly the same.

Of course, my response is ridiculous, and will no doubt lead to some weird dreams, a few more neuroses and, eventually, several more horror stories. It would also be a very frustrating and uninteresting story if I was reading it.

I know I’ve said it before, but I wish I sometimes had the courage of my characters and lived my life more like a story rather than a prelude to retirement. I guess the issue with real life is that you can’t just go back and edit things if you realise your character is heading in the wrong direction. We only get a first draft at life.

 

Change in Genre?

There is a short story competition coming up that I want to enter. I work best with deadlines, so competitions are great for that. But here’s the thing, it’s not my usual genre. Even though I read really widely, I tend to write 80% science fiction or horror, and the remaining 20% would be classed as fantasy. Which equals 100% speculative fiction.

Spec fic is not terribly in demand, and while it could easily be my style to blame, publishers don’t seem very interested in my speculative novels. So I’ve decided it is time to try something new. Of course the first story idea I got was also set in the future, keeping me in my comfort zone, but it also met the criteria for the competition. The next idea I got had no speculative elements in it at all, and this is the one I’m going to focus on.

Neither story is actually written yet. And they may both turn out to be duds. But it is nice to venture somewhere else for a while. Who knows, maybe it will become my new thing?

In my heart I’ll still be a spec fic writer, and I’ll always be writing spec on the side.