Category Archives: Writing

Chopstick wisdom

The other day I was washing some chopsticks in the sink, and while rinsing them I accidentally dropped them down the drain. I think if I had been trying to do it I wouldn’t have managed to get them lined up so perfectly. When I realised to where they had magically disappeared, I couldn’t help but laugh.

But this left the dilemma of how to get them out. I knew that if worse came to worse I could unscrew the pipes and pull them out, but it would be messy and require probably more strength than I have. So I got creative. I grabbed another chopstick and globbed on a nicely worked (and therefore warm and sticky) piece of blu-tack.

It only took three attempts to get the first chopstick out, but the second one proved far more difficult. I brought out the hairdryer in an effort to dry the down-the-drain chopstick so it would be more likely to stick, but even this had only limited success. The chopstick would come part way up, but as soon as I started to pull the blu-tack through the drain opening the stick would drop like a stone.

It was a bit frustrating and I wanted to give up, but I realised there was a good lesson in life here. I could give up and live with a chopstick in my drain, catching all the goop, and no doubt eventually blocking the drain, or I could persist and maybe succeed. I did persist and only two more attempts later I managed to snag the chopstick and pull it out.

The thing is, you never know which time you will pull the chopstick up and it will hold long enough for you to get it out. The only thing you can be sure of is that if you stop trying to pull it out, it will stay there. If I keep sending out my writing, it will get picked up some time. If it stays on my computer and never sees the light of day, it will never get out into the big wide world.

So, I’ll keep sending out my stories. I’ve pulled out a few chopsticks before, so I’m confident I can do it again if I just keep trying.

Humour

Humour is such a personal thing.  Sometimes I worry that my idea of what is funny is quite different to other people’s. In fact, sometimes I say stuff on Twitter that I’m pretty sure people don’t even realise is intended as a joke. They think I’m serious, as well as a bit stupid. That’s my sense of humour.

This is what probably gets in the way when I try to sell my humorous stories. I guess editors don’t realise they are meant to be funny, or worse, they do realise but the story just isn’t funny (to them). Logic tells me to pull the plug on writing funny stories, but they just keep slipping out, like SBD’s you can’t hold back.

I’ve just penned another, and I’ve sent it out, but I can almost picture the eye-roll as the editor reads it. I really should stop subjecting all of us to dealing with them. Having said that, I have sold a few my-version-of-funny stories, however I’ve never been complemented on any of them.

Perhaps I should clear a special place in my bottom drawer for my humorous writing? Or, better yet, maybe I should try to publish them under a different name. It would have to be a silly name… silly but accidentally clever. Sounds like a project for this week.

Are reviews king?

Reviews have recently been the subject of much discussion in the creative space, prompted by Amazon’s new rule that all reviews given for books (movies, music etc.) that were not purchased will be deleted. This has a huge impact for authors starting out, who often give away their first novel to generate a readership and get reviews. I also know that a lot of respected reviewers regularly get free books sent to them, even by the big publishing houses. I assume these reviews, too, will be deleted.

Which got me thinking about reviews. The truth is I rarely read them. If I like the premise of a story, I’ll read the book. If I don’t like the premise, I won’t. This was driven home to me when I was in the book tent at Adelaide Writers’ week this year, ready to buy my ‘donation’ book for the free event. Having stupidly waited until later in the week, all the books I was interested in had sold out. So I was forced to look at the books that were left to find something I liked.

I came across a set of books which had really interesting covers (yes, I do judge) and the titles sounded like they could be spec fiction, or at least genre of some sort. I turned the books over to read the blurb on the back and all I found was reviews. The inside few pages also revealed nothing of what the story was about, just more reviews. A bunch of people had liked these books, but I could not find anything to tell me what any of them were about. Needless to say, none of them came home with me.

I’m sure people who write reviews are as mindful of people judging the reviewer, as what they are of presenting a review which will help someone to make up their mind about if they should buy the book. This means hyperbole and passion can sometimes go a little too far. I’m a big believer in ‘if you can’t say anything nice, then don’t say anything at all’ because often if a reviewer hated a book it’s because they were not the target audience.

I guess with so many books out there it is hard to choose which ones to read. If you have a choice between a 4.5-star and a 1-star reviewed book, you will probably go for the 4.5-star. For me, however, if I like the story of the 1-star novel, I’ll give it a go. With my love of run-on sentences and sometimes questionable grammar, let’s hope my readers feel the same!

Adelaide Writers’ Week 2018

Adelaide Writers Week

For the first time in over 10 years I did not take time off from work for Adelaide writers’ week. Yes, even when I was living in Melbourne, I used to come over for it. In fairness, I’m quite part time at the moment, so I wouldn’t have to miss many days anyway.

Don’t get me wrong, it was really interesting on the days when I did go, and I still think it is a great event. Earlier in the week, when the weather was nice, it was lovely to sit on the grass and listen to writers talking about writing. Then the temperature went over 33°C which is about when my patience starts to run low, and I stopped enjoying it.

I know I’m not in a particularly good place with my writing at the moment, but silly things started to annoy me; the way people took ownership of chairs and carried them around with them to wherever they wanted to go. People asked questions, which were actually just verbose statements turned into questions by saying ‘don’t you agree’ at the end, as if we were all there to hear them talk. I even had someone carry their chair and sit immediately in front of me (sitting on the ground), she then turned to look at me as if I had done something wrong? WTF?

Maybe the truth is that I am not so much in a bad place with my writing, but with my fellow human beings (please BYO coffee cup). Either way, I decided to skip the last two days, which actually had the people I was most interested in listening to. Besides the forecast of 35°C days, I decided it would be better for everyone if I just stayed at home and listened to the pod casts when they come out instead.

One day of ‘normal’

I finished editing my YA novella on Thursday, so I decided to give myself Friday ‘off’. I went for a walk, did my washing and then read for a bit. That took me to 11am. I went out and took a lot of photos of different insects on the sedum in my garden (they love it), then I checked emails and paid bills. That took me to midday. Then I was lost.

It felt wrong to not even be thinking about a story. As much as I may only be spending a couple of hours at the computer (on the days I’m not working), I realise how much writing  infiltrates the rest of my day. It’s as if a little part of my brain is always dedicated to working out a writing problem. And when it doesn’t have such a task set, it feels empty, which in turn makes me feel anxious.

As much as I sometimes bang on about chucking it all in, I really don’t think that is an option for me. I don’t think it is an option for any writers. So I’ve started my next project; another YA novel, but I think this one is going to go a bit dark. I have returned to the day job after all.

P.S. Here are some of the visitors to the sedum…

Something-dart butterfly.
Something-dart butterfly.
Honey Bee
Honey Bee
Native Bees - these guys are fast!!!
Native Bees – these guys are fast!!!

The novel’s finished… what now?

Every time I’ve finished writing a novel (in recent history) I’ve always needed to keep writing over the next few days to slow down after such intense writing. Usually I throw myself into a short story or flash fiction piece. After this I’ll end up taking a break that goes for months.

The post-novel short story got written on Monday, and I’m really wary of taking a break. If I do, I know I’m at risk of not writing for the next three months. I don’t want that to happen this time.

So for the beginning of my ‘break’ this week, I researched writing resources: websites, blogs, videos and books. There is a lot of great and inspirational material out there if you put in the time to look for it. While I won’t necessarily learn something from all of them (though I’d be surprised if I didn’t) what I did learn was joining in with these things made me feel part of a community. In turn, this made me want to write.

Now I think I’m ready to start another big project. Maybe 2018 will be the year I write two novels? Possibly more? Below is from a great channel I stumbled across called ‘Bang2Write’ and this video covers the top structure mistakes writers make. I defy you to watch it and not want to go to your computer to get started on your next project.

YouTube Preview Image

Jan-No-Wri-Mo: Lessons

Well, I did it. 51,154 words in the end. There was actually no point at which I didn’t think I’d make it – I’m far too pig-headed for that. When I promise myself that I’m going to do something, I do it. Which is not always a good thing…

I don’t think JanNoWriMo (or any WriMo for that matter) is a good way to write a novel. It is a fantastic way to get a novel finished, but if you don’t know exactly what is going to happen in your novel (and even my most planned novels end up going in different directions to what I expect) then I think you can hurt the story.

There were seven days in the month when I did no writing at all, and all of them happened when I didn’t know what should happen next. I had nearly three days (the short writing day happened here) where I spent quite a few hours brainstorming all the directions the story could head in. Then I picked one. Was it the right one? I don’t know. In real life I probably would have ruminated over the decision for at least a week. I didn’t like JanNoWriMo on that day.

But it wasn’t all bad. I discovered that early morning walks are fantastic for drawing out ideas. I would set off and couldn’t come home again until I knew what I was writing that day. Some walks went for 20 mins, some for over an hour. All of them got me a little bit fitter too, which is always good. It’s something I’m going to try and keep up.

The other thing I learned was that when you get creative in one area, it makes you start getting creative in other areas. Now, I wasn’t working, so maybe that figured into things too, but I did more elaborate cooking, took loads of photos, was out in the garden, and even managed all my TotalGym sessions without the usual torpor. I know that is one of the tricks you learn in Maximum Willpower; that once you start getting motivated in one area, you get motivated in others as well, but I didn’t even know I wanted to do all these other things.

Now I’m feeling a bit bereft. I’m writing this on the morning of February 2nd because it feels wrong not to be at the computer. When I finish this post I’m going to head out for a walk and see if I can come up with a short story idea. I need to be writing.

And I’m sure novelists can relate to this; I’m also sad. I spent such an intensive month with my characters and now they are all gone. I miss them terribly. Sadly, experience tells me that editing won’t bring them closer in the same way. Maybe that’s why my brain is already working on the final novel in the trilogy?

So, I guess the big question is; will I do another WriMo? I am interested to try JuneNoWriMo, because it’s got to be easier to write in the cool weather. 40°C days are torture at the computer. But I’m going to have a range of projects to work on. I think I could bash out 50K of short stories without running into the same problems that I hit with the novel. Let’s see, I’ve got a few months to decide yet.

Statistics

Number of days out of 31 that I wrote: 24 days
Average session: 2,131 words
Biggest writing day: 5,198 words
Smallest writing day: 712 words

Jan-No-Wri-Mo Week 4

I might be going out on a limb here, but I think I’m going to hit this week’s target. I kind of have to, because even if I do get to 44K by the end of today, that still leaves 6K to write to get to 50K by midnight Wednesday. I think I might still be writing up until midnight Wednesday -which coincidentally is about what time the lunar eclipse is going total in Adelaide, so I wanted to be up anyway.

Will I finish the novel? I think so. Are there some gaps in it; yes without doubt. This will definitely be the scratchiest of any of my scratch drafts to date. It’s the first time I’ve written stuff like <describe the house in more detail here> in my manuscript. I’m cool with that. If something was going to hold me up, or I needed to research it to get it 100% right, then I’ve left those bits for the edit.

Would I do JanNoWriMo again? I don’t know. First of all, I am not sure if I’ll ever get all of January off work again, and there is no way I would have managed the 50k if I was working. Secondly, January is super hot! We had so many days either over 40°C or near enough to. It was awful trying to sit at a computer in those conditions, and probably not terribly healthy. I don’t think it is a coincidence that my previous novels were written over winter.

Finally, I don’t know that I did the novel justice. I suspect I will have whole chapters that are going to get cut. I also feel like I pushed the characters along in places they wouldn’t necessarily have gone if I had given myself a few more days to ponder. As it was I had to take a three-day break mid-JanNoWriMo to massively brainstorm to work out what was happening next. I don’t know if that was the right thing to do. I guess I’ll find out when I go back to do the edit.

Next week I’ll let you know some of the lessons I learned from JanNoWriMo, as well as letting you know what my next project will be. Besides finding a job, of course. I guess I’d better start thinking about that too!

Jan-No-Wri-Mo Week 3

Look, I’m not going to make the week 3 target either, but I’m still at a higher word count than I’ve ever managed for a WriMo before, so I’m not too worried. Also I know what I’m like; when I see the end I’ll make a run for it and push out a lot more words. With any luck we won’t continue to have as many days over 40°C in the next week and a half either. Okay, enough with the excuses…

The project I’ve picked to work on is a pantser novel (no plan).  I chose this because my previous experience with a pantser project was the fastest I’ve ever written a novel. But even then, it took nearly 3 months. Part of the reason why is that I was working full-time, but the other part is because I really turned stuff over in my head before I sat down and wrote. 31 days of January doesn’t give you as much time to do that.

My new way to counter this (only started this week), as well as getting a little more exercise, is to go for a dawn walk. It’s summer here, so dawn is the best time to walk because of the heat, but with all the birds singing around you it is also really inspiring to start thinking about what the novel is going to do next. I realise that I used to do this on the bus ride when I was working, and that was missing in my #JanNoWriMo equation.

So yes, the word count is not on track, but I always knew week 2 and 3 would be bad, so I’m not letting it get to me. I think I’ll get there in the end. I’m also getting to know my community a bit more; there are a lot of dawn walkers out there. I wonder if any of them are trying to write novels?

Jan-no-wri-mo week 2

I always knew that week 2 would be hard. This is when the excitement of starting has waned, the book can enter sagging middle territory and you see that even with all the hard work you have done, you have even more hard work stretching out before you. I felt all of that this week. I even gave myself two days off because I just couldn’t face the book a couple of times. There is a chance I might not hit my word target this week.

To add to the draw of not being at my computer, I bought myself a new toy; the Olympus Tough TG-5 camera. It takes super-close photos (along with about a million other things I haven’t yet worked out). So I’ve been out in my garden playing with it. This is a lot more fun that forcing myself to squeeze out story. It also doesn’t help that I’m not confident the story is going in the right direction. It took a turn I didn’t expect, and I don’t know if I’m up to taking it where it wants to go.

But I’m going to try really hard to have a big Sunday and see if I can at least get close to the word count, because I know this hard reality; the only thing harder than week 2 of a Wri-Mo is week 3. So head down, I’d better get writing.

See below for some of this week’s efforts with the new camera…

Bee
You have no idea how many bee photos I had to take to get his little face in the picture.
Slaters move a little less, so this guy was a bit easier.
Slaters move a little less, so this guy was a bit easier.
When the wind dropped this Hebe was even better at posing than the slater
When the wind dropped this Hebe was even better at posing than the slater
I love how the ends pop off to reveal the beautiful flowers.
I love how the ends pop off to reveal the beautiful flowers.