Tag Archives: Progress

But how does it end?

Writers are generally broken up into two groups; planners and pantsers. Planners plan out what they are going to write, sometimes in very fine detail, before they get started. Pantsers write by the seat of their pants, discovering the story just a moment before the words fall onto the page.

I always thought I was a pantser, an idea comes to me which is normally made up of the beginning and the end of the story and I have to discover all the bits in between. The only time I ever write a ‘plan’ is when a story idea comes to me and I’m not ready to write it yet. So I’ll note it down in my plans book so that I can come back and look at it years later and go ‘what the hell did I mean by that?’

I have a story growing in my head right now which I’m really enthusiastic about. I can see the first, second and third chapter already. Every time I let myself think about it, more chapters fall into place. Only problem is that I have no idea how it ends. At last count I had seven ‘started’ novels, some with only 3 chapters written, some with many more.

For all those other ‘started’ novels I know exactly how they end, and yet I still haven’t been able to finish them. This novel I’m currently considering has no end at the moment, so I’m terrified if I embark on it that it will just end up being another unfinished novel. But the pull is so great. It is filling my idle thoughts; I’m seeing it like a movie in my head. I want to write it.

I think we all know what is going to happen. I’m going to start it and there is a good chance it will turn my seven into eight unfinished novels. But I guess I’ll find out if I am a true pantser and if somehow my subconscious mind will find an end for it somewhere along the way.

Set-backs

Like many keen gardeners I’ve got a bunch of little seedlings bursting out of the ground nearly ready to be planted out. But our spring weather is a bit all over the place at the moment and on Wednesday night the air was a bit chilly, so I put my little greenhouse covers over my seedlings – and promptly forgot about them.

The next day it was 29’C –a lovely day by all accounts, unless you are a vulnerable little seedling with a glasshouse lid over you. By the time I got home all but one of the seedlings had perished. It was weeks of work gone in a day.

It brought to mind what I’m going through with my kid’s book at the moment. 35,000 words into it and I’ve realised that I have to completely change my main character. Worse, when I change my protagonist in the way that I think I need to, it has a major knock-on effect in the story and to other characters.

I feel like my months of work have been a little wasted. Yes the soil of the main plot-line is still there, and I know I have a lot of imagination seeds to spare, but the seedlings are frizzled, they are not going to make it.

It is a little disheartening, but once I’ve changed it I will have a stronger crop. And I know the mistakes I made last time, so I can avoid them this time. So there is nothing to do but re-plant. The sooner I do so, the sooner I’ll have some fresh seedlings.

It’s an honour

The Australian Horror Writers Association Short Story winners have just been announced – and I’ve got an honourable mention for my short story ‘Glow’.  I am so excited that I’m almost shaking!

I started this story three times. I finally finished the first draft in March and two days later put it through my Adelaide writers group. There were problems with the story. I re-wrote it, re-wrote it and re-wrote it. Finally I subbed it to the competition nearly a whole week before the closing date (I was determined NOT to be the final entry as I normally am). By now I both loved and hated this story.

Then I got the news that there had been a record number of entries. There were nearly double the number of what they had received last year. My heart dropped. This story had been banging about inside my head for four years, why did I pick this year to give it life?

Of course you know the punch line, so I won’t labour the point, but I do have to give a massive thank you to Lilliana, Sam and Margot from my writers group for their fantastic feedback. I thought the story was finished and they all explained to me the many reasons why it wasn’t. It was a much better story after I added and cut what they suggested, and this honourable mention is proof of that.

For all of you out there who think a writers group will crush your creativity or box you into a style that is not yours, I want to say that’s rubbish. You have been going to the wrong writers groups. I’ve been a part of two so far and they have both taught me so much. I am a better writer because of them.

Thank you!

No submission

For the last three months I’ve been working on my YA comic fantasy to try and pull it into shape for the Strange Chemistry call for un-agented submissions. I got my first 10,000 words looking pretty tidy (a big thanks goes to my writers group), and this was all I needed to submit. It is the rest of the novel that has been giving me grief.

For starters it wants to be too long. I keep going to write a chapter to get them closer to the climax, and suddenly the characters go off and weave another tangled web. They give me enough hints for me to see what they are planning, and I like it, but I can’t fit it all in and still keep it under 100,000 words.

This is leading to the other problem of not having finished the first draft. In theory, if the Strange Chemistry people like the story they could then ask to see the whole manuscript. That might be in six months time, but it could happen the day after I submit the first 10,000 words. As it stands now I’ve only written the first half, and I’m getting less and less confident that it is actually as much as a half!

So after much anxiety, and trying to force my characters in directions they didn’t want to go, I’m throwing up my hands in defeat. This novel will not be going in for the Strange Chemistry submission this year. The last thing I would want to do is submit a great first four chapters and then submit a sub-standard first draft when they asked to see more, assuming I could even submit a completed draft at all.

I don’t know if it is age or experience that has taught me that it is better to wait for a year and do something properly rather than rush into certain defeat, or maybe I am just so attached to this story that I want to give it the best chance it can have at being published. Either way it isn’t going to be ready for the October 31st deadline, and I’m okay with that.

WriMoFoFo – week 1

It’s been a week since WriMoFoFo started, and I have to confess I did not come out of the gates at a gallop, and actually managed to slow down after that. But as they say, it is a marathon not a sprint, so hopefully I’ll make it up nearer the end.

Firstly, I spent far too much time re-formatting and tweaking the ‘Nifty Spreadsheet’ on the first day (I am a bit particular about my colours and what should and shouldn’t be bold). You would be amazed at how much writing time such things can eat up.

Then I discovered I can’t remember the story upon which I’m basing my screenplay. A little alarming given that I’m the one who wrote the story and edited it nine times. I thought I knew it like the back of my hand, but apparently when they are finished you really do let them go. After all, the bits that haunt me of these characters now are all in the as yet unwritten sequel.

To hit my measly target of 733 words on Saturday I needed to sit down on three separate occasions, even resorting to counting a blog post towards my total. It did not bode well for the week to come.

Day two had me looking at my screenplay with only 27 words on the page and I was ready to give up. I went back to my abandoned novel to get my target and was amazed to discover the characters welcomed me back with open arms, despite my recent bailing on them.

Monday, I spoke to an old friend on the phone for two hours, Tuesday I went out to dinner with my family, Wednesday I spoke to another friend for a couple of hours, Thursday… well you see how my week went.

So now I find myself at Sunday with nearly a whole week’s worth of words to make up. At least I had the good sense to rip myself away from the glorious pre-spring day on Saturday to put some black on a page. I just wish I had managed 733 words worth.

Well, nearly three weeks yet to go, a lot can happen in three weeks, hopefully a lot of words.

P.S. Happy Father’s Day to all the dads, and happy first day of spring to those in the southern hemisphere -it seems like it has been a long time coming this year!

Willpower

I think a large number of writers suffer exactly the same problem that I am often lamenting about in here, a lack of progress. We call it different things; procrastination, laziness, lack of motivation, lack of time, competing priorities and even writer’s block. All these things we know we need to take ownership of, but they all come down to one thing, willpower.

The non-fiction book I’m reading at the moment is Maximum Willpower by Kelly McGonigal, and even though I’m only half way through reading it, I would highly recommend you get your hands on a copy. For anyone who is not getting what they want to do done, or if you keep doing something you no longer want to do, this book can really help.

There are so many tips and hints, exercises and honest self-appraisals in here, but perhaps the one that has helped me the most (so far) is the suggestion that next time you want to ‘spoil’ yourself, act as if you will do that thing every time for the next week. So in my case, if I want to just sit in front of the TV and relax after work, I have to ask myself ‘would I commit to doing that every night for a week?’ Suddenly the impact of that action on my long term goal has a lot more weight. If you consider every sabotaging act in this same long-term-effect way, you suddenly find yourself working more toward your goals, and less in favour of treating yourself.

Obviously I’ve tried to express in one paragraph what Kelly McGonigal takes a whole chapter to get across, so if what I say doesn’t make sense to you then read the book. But seeing the impact on my writing productivity from doing the willpower exercises and being aware of my willpower lapses when they happen, just in this week, has made me realise how important willpower is to getting where you want to be. Goal setting alone is not enough.

Whether you want to write a novel, quit smoking, eat more healthily, progress in your career or simply stop watching so much TV, mastering your willpower will make all these things so much easier. By understanding how your brain works in these matters you can minimise the pain of making a change. Don’t believe me? Try it.

Kelly McGonigal Maximum Willpower

Writers write

Sometimes writing is like pulling teeth. You clear out your requisite two or three hours of you day, you make sure the room is warm or cool enough, the tea supply plentiful enough and all your housework is complete so it won’t nag at the back of your mind…

And then you stare blankly at the screen for the next two hours. You are unable to squeeze out a word, more importantly, the next word. The word that will lead you to the next sentence which starts the next paragraph that takes you effortlessly into your next 1,000 words. And no matter how many false starts you make, that word eludes you for your entire writing break.

Don’t panic!

Maybe all those false starts needed to happen. And if there were none, I can promise you the thinking around what should happen next DID need to happen. It also sends a message to your subconscious mind that you need an answer, so could it please go off and work on it while you do other things.

This time is never wasted, but it does prove one point which I learned a long time ago, but still do not heed; you need to give yourself more chances to sit and not write.

You need to make writing a priority. A couple of hours every Sunday morning is not going to cut it if you want to do more than short stories. You need to say no to the needy partner, to the social invites, the dirty floor, the Master Chef inspired dinner for friends, and most importantly, to the TV. Explain what you are doing and you might just find they support you. Well the TV won’t support you, but its complete indifference should indicate where you are in the TV’s priority list (the floor will always support you, dirty or otherwise).

And right there you have the difference between those who write, and those who want to write. Writers write.

100 Words a day

Who would ever have thought something so simple could work so well?!? Yes the target has only been to do 100 words per day, no that will not get a novel written by the end of the year, but YES it does get me writing, and isn’t that what this is all about?

So far the least number of words I have written in a day is 124, the most; 1,493. All up this week I have managed over 3,000 words. All this just by trying to make 100 words a day. I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t tried it myself (and had the spreadsheet to track and graph it, of course).

Three days I needed to do my 100 words after climbing into bed for the end of the day. I was so determined to reach this tiny little goal that I easily motivated myself to leave the light on just ten minutes longer. Once I even had to write on the back of an envelope because I couldn’t find my pad and the enthusiasm was severely lacking to go looking for it, but at no time did I think it was too much to attempt.

100 words per day is so unbelievably doable! And more than 75% of what I have written was usable stuff. I even dusted off an old novel and managed to plough through, past my dreaded chapter 5.

If I can do this for a month I might even form the habit of a lifetime. No matter how busy life gets or how many other deadlines I have, I think I should always be able to make these 100 words; three or four paragraphs, fifteen lines on my little bedside pad. I might just get some of these novels finished yet…

Cut backs

I don’t know if anyone noticed, but I didn’t post on Wednesday. I’d like to say it was a planned thing, but the truth was I was so sick that after I had crawled over to the wall to turn the power on to the modem, I lay down, exhausted, and fell asleep on the floor. More accurately, a step. The poor cat thought I was dead.

Anyway, today there is no hint of my malaise of mid-week, but my missed post did get me thinking. My online presence is important to me, and I really do value being a part of the community, but my offline writing is, was and always will be paramount. So I’m axing the Wednesday post in favour of Wednesday writing. The slot is nicely booked out in my calendar for the rest of the year already, so I will just change its use.

That will also allow me to do random koala and pet photo posts any time outside of standard post time, instead of waiting for Wednesday. And an update; I am still working on the cat photos for those who asked, hope to have something soon.

I’m also going to change the nature of my blog a little. I’m going to cut back on the advice –after all, what can I claim to know about writing? Perhaps when I’ve got my third novel out or my Pulitzer, then I might have something worth listening to, but until then I’m just going to share what I can claim to know well; the struggles of a writer trying to get her work out into the world.

So thank you for your support so far, and I look forward to sharing a lot more of my journey with you in the coming months!

The Meaning of Life

Yes, I know I promised to present five fabulous non-fiction books to you, but I got some good news this week, and I wanted to share it. So you’ll have to wait until Wednesday for the non-fiction reading list I’m afraid.  

The first bit of good news I got was that my flash fiction story entry Jaxon’s Gift gained an ‘honourable mention’ in the Australian Horror Writers Association short story competition! Which means I wasn’t too far off the pace. I’m also pleased to say fellow SuperNOVA member, Tracie McBride, was also honourably mentioned for her short story Slither and Squeeze.

The next bit of good news I got was that my self-(re)published short story Welcome to Midnight finally made it onto the Amazon free list, and in the twenty-four hours following that over 3,500 people downloaded a copy! As of Saturday night it was ranked #42 (hence the title of this blog). And here’s proof;
Amazon Sales Rank

The truth is I don’t know what the book is being ranked against, it could be all ebooks, it could free ebooks, it could be horror/science fiction books, or it could be free horror/science fiction ebooks by authors with surnames beginning with ‘P’. But I don’t care! My other self-published book on Amazon is ranked at a number four digits longer than Welcome to Midnight, so I’m VERY happy with #42!

So thank you to everyone for cheering up what was shaping up to be a bit of a depressing week!

I promise, next post will be the 5 great non-fiction books!

Nat