Category Archives: Writing

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.

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.

Reading and writing

As you can probably tell, I’m back on the writing wagon. I’m both editing and writing new words, after a bit of a break. I’m also getting back into my reading. For the whole time that I wasn’t writing much, I wasn’t reading much. It can’t be a coincidence that they both dropped off and picked up again at the same time.

In the past month I’ve read a mix of horror, science fiction, YA fantasy and murder mystery. I’ve also managed to read them quickly – one was knocked over in a single day. They don’t really crossover with what I’m writing, but I find that doesn’t seem to matter. Reading good stories always inspires me to write stories.

Could it be possible that when I don’t write (and don’t read) my aversion is actually to story? I find it hard to believe that could be the case, given how much I love story when I’m in the middle of it, but it is just so easy to pick up a book. So why wouldn’t I do it?

I know this is running a bit of a risk of confusing addressing the symptoms with curing the illness, but I wonder if next time I find myself falling into a bit of a slump – do I just force myself to read a few good books?

Inspiration

Luna
Full moon – before eclipse

I had a bee in my bonnet on Friday. I seriously wanted to write. Out of nowhere I was struck by an urge that felt as physical as hunger or thirst. Unfortunately, I had to work, so I put the inspiration on hold while I did the day job.

Being a believer in not waiting for inspiration to write doesn’t mean that I don’t believe in inspiration. When it strikes it is amazing and something to revel in. So, did I write? Of course! But weirdly, I did not write what I’ve been planning and thinking about for the past two weeks. I wrote something totally new. Something I wasn’t ready for. Something that demanded to be written.

What I wrote was no better or worse than the stuff I write when I force myself down to the computer, but I did enjoy the process a lot more than normal. Interestingly I did not write as much as I normally do in a sitting, but given how unexpected it was, I consider every word a bonus.

I can’t help but wonder if the blood moon that happened in the early hours of Saturday morning was somehow to blame for my overwhelming inspiration. Naturally I got up early to watch the lunar eclipse. Then at 6am, when I had taken enough photos, I came back inside, turned on the computer and wrote.

Inspiration may not be necessary for writing, but it certainly makes it easier.

Luna Eclipse
Blood Moon – total eclipse

Never say never

I have always said that I don’t like stories that have an unreliable narrator. This is when the character telling you the story holds something back, something that if you had known you would have been able to pick the end/twist/big reveal.

But finally, it happened; I had a story idea which falls into the unreliable narrator bucket. As much as I don’t like to admit it, I like the story very much. Not only that, but it feels long. Novel long. Possibly epic-novel long. It will be a big commitment to hanging out with an unreliable narrator for so long. Weirdly I’m looking forward to it.

Who knows, maybe I’ll get to the end and dislike it immensely? But there is only one way to find out. So, the next project has been picked. Time to get writing!

Idea factory

I just got a new idea for a story, and I love the idea. I got the idea while reading someone else’s novel, one that I’m not enjoying. The funny thing is that my new idea bears no resemblance to the story I’m reading. I mis-read a sentence, which sparked the totally off-topic idea. This makes me wonder if the idea was always there?

I truly believe story ideas are out in the ether, and occasionally a write makes a connection to one of those ideas. I hope that if the writer ignores it, then the idea goes back and waits for another author, but it wouldn’t surprise me if the idea doesn’t get recycled. Humans are a bit wasteful, so why not with ideas as well?

For the past three months I’ve only had minimal creative output. I confess I did write a flash fiction story earlier this week, but the idea felt forced and concocted. You can do that with flash (though not always well). This new idea feels fresh, and alive and like it will take me to amazing places I haven’t even begun to think about if I follow it. It’s a story out of the ether.

Maybe the flash fiction was a sign that the muse was coming back. Today I know it is. I want to explore this idea. I want to see what happens. I want to stop watching TV and working in the garden and all the other diversions I have been choosing lately and I want to sit down and write.

It feels good to be back.

Watching the novel

When I read a novel, it is like watching a movie. Sometimes it’s a really long movie that runs sporadically over a few weeks, and occasionally some of the characters look a bit different when they come back on screen, but I ‘see’ it all happening in my mind’s eye. Which is why it really bugs me when an author purposely blinds me.

I was reading a novel by an author I really like, but they refused to show me the main protagonist. There was clearly something up with his appearance, and I watched him walk around dark streets and avoid people, but I didn’t get to ‘see’ him. This went on for three chapters. How am I expected to craft the movie of this novel if I can’t even see the main character?

I think I’ve bemoaned the unreliable narrator before, but this is different. This is wilful omission that both author and reader are aware of. It’s like someone pixilated the lead in the film and expected everyone to just go with it.

I have to confess I put the book down. Who knows, maybe in the next chapter the author did the big reveal, or maybe I was going to be forced to go through the whole novel so I could have an a-ha moment at the end when suddenly it all made sense. Regardless I’ll never know. For me, the appeal of the novel is being able to get into the skin of the main protagonist and learn with them along the way. If they have some kind of physical issue that impacts every facet of how they live their life, then I think I should know about it on page one.

Clearly that is just my opinion, and there will be loads of people out there who love that kind of book (oh wow, all this time he was actually the pet dog!) – which makes me wonder, do some people actually read books and not make their own movie?