Tag Archives: Current Project

Lessons Learned from Time Off

My time off from work is fast approaching its end, so I thought I’d reflect on what I’ve learned while at home. I know that the events of 2020 have tainted my experiences somewhat, but I believe I can identify where that impact was. Especially when it came to productivity.

The main thing I realised, without doubt, is that I’d like this to be my normal life and not the exception. I loved being home and being able to set my own timelines, including when I write. But that was hardly a surprise.

The following things are true for me and my experience:

Editing is much easier to force. When I’m feeling like I don’t want to be at the computer, I can usually force myself to edit, regardless of my mood or how tired I am. The same cannot be said for writing new words. Editing is something I feel I could do equally as well when I’m working when I’m restricted to night time and weekend work only.

If I hit a block in a story, it’s because I’m not asking myself the right questions. When you frame the question as ‘what happens next’ it can be overwhelming. I discovered it is far more productive to frame it as ‘what if the car crashed?’ or ‘why didn’t she look in the bag?’ Those are questions I can answer and are far more likely to lead to the next bit of the story.

Walking is nearly as key to writing a new story as writing. If I sit at the computer and pose questions to myself, I’ll often draw a blank or be distracted by the internet. If I’m out walking, I find it easier to focus on possible answers. Most days I’ll came back from a walk ready to get on with the story.

New ideas are far more abundant when I’m not working. I have been amazed at how many new short stories I’ve written while I’ve been home. If I include the unfinished shorts, I’d be at about two dozen stories in six months. In the whole of last year I wrote only two short stories and came up with another two ideas. This is the saddest bit about going back to work.

Rejection doesn’t get easier. I have a lot of stories out at the moment, and every rejection still hurts. I thought with a lot more it wouldn’t feel so bad, but they still sting the same. The difference is that while I’ve been home, because I had so many out there, I still had hope that the next response would be positive (and some have been). Last year I was shopping around one short story, so it was a much bigger deal when that got the thumbs down.

Oh well. I guess I now know exactly what I’m looking forward to in retirement. Weekends will have to sustain me for a few more years yet.

June Progress

I haven’t written much more of any of the three novels I was considering. I tried, I really did, but it was like wading through a vat of honey. I just wasn’t getting anywhere. So, I logged into Duotrope and had a look at some of the upcoming anthology calls for submissions, just to see what was out there.

As usual, I opened this month with my Furious Fiction entry – which I keep entering out of pig-headed belligerence rather than any belief that I might get placed. Then I had a crack at some brand-new short stories, borne of the calls for submissions I found. For the first time in a long time, I have felt like a writer.

Writing new words, with no expectations, and not very long pieces, has been great. When your novel is giving you grief at 40,000 words, it really does weigh you down. When a 4,000 word story gives you trouble, it’s no big deal because it only takes a couple of days to write anyway. Also, there is a good chance you’d have thought of the trouble before you even started it, so short story storylines tend to be less problematic (for me).

I do have to complete a re-write on a novel that I will be doing soon so I can make the most of a possible opportunity. But for the next week I’m going to stick with these short stories to get the writing muscle working again and then hopefully I can transfer that productivity onto the novel.

New Normal

This month has been a planning month. I say planning, but probably what I really mean is I’ve started multiple projects and then dismissed them because I think about where they are going and decide that they are broken. But some new words have been written outside of Furious Fiction (yes, I entered May) so I’m pleased with that given the circumstances.

I’m not usually much of a planner, more of a plantser (not quite a pantser). If I have the end of the story in my head, I’ll usually have the confidence to jump on in and discover my way. But at the moment I’m finding it is very easy to go off the rails, so I think I need to plan a bit more than usual. In a funny way the detailed plan is almost like a really short first draft. Okay, I’m pushing it there, but I’m looking for positives.

Something I found very interesting over the last month was my experience with flash fiction. I discovered (in its last week) the Writers Victoria Twitter challenge to write 30-word stories on Twitter containing a nominated word. Then Furious Fiction was on, and with 500 words to play with, I found that I was able to develop a much fuller story with my five or six paragraphs than my usual entries. So, I think the micro fiction really helped me with editing out the fluff. I wonder if I’ll be able to apply it to my longer work?

Right now, I am considering three novels that have been kicking around in my head for 15,10 and 2 years respectively. But all of them feel like they have something wrong with them. I suspect the truth is the ‘wrongness’ sits with the author. I just need to take my advice of years ago and force myself to sit down and write instead of analysing everything so much.

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!

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!

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.

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.

Self-Assessment

One of the big reasons why it is good to be a part of a don’t-pull-any-punches writers group is that they can tell you when you are off the mark. I find it very hard to assess my writing in terms of what is good and bad. In the past, the members of my writers group have had no trouble making that distinction.

Sure, they may sometimes get it wrong, ideas of good and bad are very subjective after all, but they can save you a lot of time identifying what’s not working, and can usually give you some hints about how to fix it. I think I need that help at the moment.

I have a piece of flash fiction that keeps coming back to me in record time. It’s short, punchy and complete – so is the sort of thing that normally gets accepted the first or second time I send it out. This one just came back to me in two days. So clearly there is something very wrong with it.

I’m not part of a group at the moment, and I feel that loss most months. I think it might be time to try and track a new group down. Wish me luck!