Category Archives: Writing

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?

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.