Tag Archives: Writing

Notes on writing

May Furious Fiction

The Australian Writers’ Centre runs a 500 word ‘Furious Fiction’ competition over the first weekend of every month. They set specific criteria each month which the story must meet, but besides that you’ve got full creative control. I’ve been entering since December 2019, but there are many who have been entering since it started in February 2018.

I’ve recently found the challenge great for getting me out of my COVID writing funk. It’s also been really interesting because I’ve often gone into genres I don’t normally write.

The problem is, if you don’t get shortlisted, no-one ever gets to see your story. For me, the whole point of writing is for others to read your work, so I’m going to start posting the stories on my blog. Below is this month’s entry, which didn’t get shortlisted, or longlisted for that matter. But I liked it…

May 2020 #FuriousFiction.

Criteria

  • Must start with the word ‘Five’
  • Must include something being replaced
  • Must include the phrase ‘a silver lining’

Shortlisted stories and winner can be read here.

My Story Placed: Not a cracker
My Story Word Count: 496
My Story Title: Brother
My Story Story: I haven’t managed to get a placement with any of my stories, so I moved away from Spec Fic for this one and tried out a more experimental format.

Brother
By Natalie J E Potts

Five mistakes got me here. With the gun pointed at my head, I couldn’t help but reflect on them.

  1. Trusting my brother.

From pulling my pigtails at 6 to crashing my car at 36, he’d never been trustworthy. He’d gotten in with the wrong crowd and was misunderstood. We’d been making so many excuses for him that I guess it was now a habit. I’d break that habit today. Assuming I survived.

  1. Helping him out.

When he asked me to take his car to the mechanic, I asked why he couldn’t do it. He said he had a job interview. He was trying to set himself straight. The implication was it’d be my fault if he went off the rails again. His next call would be to mum if I said no, then I’d never hear the end of it. So, I went around to his place to get the damned car.

  1. Going to his mechanic.

When I pulled up at the mechanic’s it looked like a dump. The gate was locked. I should have driven on to my mechanic to see if he could squeeze me in. But someone came out and undid the padlock, like he’d been waiting for me.

The ‘Mechanic’ took less than five minutes. I know I’m not great with cars, but my brother drives a beat-up old Toyota, not a Porsche, so even I knew they weren’t doing anything to the engine by looking in the boot. I was glad to get out of there when they said I could go. No-one asked me to settle a bill.

  1. Looking in the boot.

As soon as I was out of view, I pulled over and popped the boot. It was surprisingly clean given the mess that everything else in my brother’s life tended toward. The only thing in there was a suitcase.

It was locked, but plenty of international travel had taught me that a hair-clip did the job better than a key anyway. I cracked both locks in less than a minute. The suitcase had a silver lining, but I could hardly see it for all the small bags of white powder.

  1. Returning to my brother’s house.

I slammed the boot shut and took the long way back to my brother’s house, via the shops. I wanted to be sure I wasn’t followed. I eventually pulled up in my brother’s garage. Only the garage wasn’t empty. One of my brother’s bad influences was in the corner with a gun. I only saw him after I got out.

“Take the car,” I said, dumping the keys on the roof.

“You bet I will. But I ain’t turning my back on ya. Piss off.”

Like I was going to hang around?! I ran to my car and left before he’d started the engine. I wanted to make sure I wasn’t there when he realised that I’d swapped the contents of the bags for a kilo of flour.

 

The End

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!

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.

Tapping the flow

Last weekend I attended a writing seminar that turned out to be more of a workshop. I’ve been thinking about it over the last week, trying to work out why the workshop component frustrated me so much. I think I’ve got the answer, and I realise how silly it is.

The activities required that we come up with little story ideas to illustrate the points we had just been learning about. The problem is, when I ask my brain to get creative, it really doesn’t hold back. So, for three exercises it came up with three, full story ideas.

These ideas (and specifically the characters) have been coming back to haunt me all week. It’s as if they are wondering what they did wrong to make me ignore them? Why am I not finishing their story?!?

For me, I don’t feel like story ideas are drawn from a well of creativity, as I’ve heard others describe it, but rather they are tapped from below. Once that trickle starts, my experience is that it won’t stop until the story reservoir is dry.

I punched three holes in the story current above me last weekend, and now I can’t stop the drip, no matter how much I try to plug them. I suspect the only way I’ll be free is to finish writing them.

Time for Change

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a different result (or something very like that). I feel as if that defines my writing journey of late, and possibly that’s why I’m getting so frustrated.

I keep sending my novels out to publishers, they hang onto them for a year, and then they send me a form letter rejection. I’m still waiting for the form letter rejections for the most recent two, but I’ve been waiting 7+ months on both of them, and I’m sure that if the publishers loved them, I would have heard about it by now.

I’m not quite ready to give up totally on the traditional publication path and head down the self-publishing road (but I’m pretty close). And don’t get me wrong, it’s not snobbery about self-publishing that stops me, but rather having to teach myself the ins and outs of hiring an editor, a cover designer, marketing etc. It’s a lot of learning and I won’t do a half-hearted attempt, so I will put that off a little bit longer.

Instead I’ve decided to do the next best thing; networking. I’ve just joined clubs, courses and the SA Writers centre over the last week. If I can’t make some inroads into the publishing industry by getting to know people over then next 6 months, then I’ll self-publishing by Christmas! And if nothing else, I’m sure I’ll meet some people who can teach me about editors, designers and how to market.

I’m getting too old to do this waiting thing any longer.

 

Publication!

This one slipped past me because I wasn’t expecting it until 2019. It was published last Sunday, but I didn’t check my email soon enough. This story, Bleed, is quite dear to me. It has a very personal meaning and was inspired by something in my life. Anyone who has read the story will be a bit confused by that, I’m sure, because the story is set in a time and place that is clearly not our earth.

It is a horror story, but only insomuch as there is a bit of gore, and bad things happen to people. It actually feels a bit more magical realism to me, but there’s not quite enough ‘real’ to truly fit into that category.

I’m not going to tell you the meaning behind it because, firstly, it is a stand-alone story and the meaning is not required to enjoy the story, and secondly, because this twice got rejected, once with the comment ‘this is good, and it will get published, but unfortunately not with us’ – and I wonder if it was because I told them what inspired it, and maybe it hit a little too close to home? The third time I subbed it I left the inspiration story off and it got accepted, so I think there is a lesson in that.

It’s published in Midnight Echo Issue 13 (which I was desperate to get into) which is the magazine of the Australian Horror Writers Association – of which I am a member. It includes some other great fiction, so you would do well to get yourself a copy.

I hope you enjoy Bleed, and if I see you face to face, I’ll tell you the story behind it.

Back on the wagon

A funny thing happened on Saturday. I was lounging about, stuffing my face with enough chocolate to make me wonder if it is possible to get diabetes in a single week of poor diet choices, and I suddenly got up, came into the study, and turned on the computer. More amazingly, I opened a writing project I last worked on in October and I started editing it.

This is was a very rough first draft, so I needed to write new words and everything. Within the first sentence I felt like I’d never been away. Next thing I knew nearly two hours had disappeared and I came up for air, leaving the world in my story behind and finding myself again in the study.

It was wonderful.

This is such a nice way to end the year. It gives me hope for a more productive 2019. I have my list of writing projects I want to complete, and now it seems I have found the motivation to get back to putting words on the page instead of just watching my own private movies.

I hope you all have a very safe, relaxing and fun New Year. I’ll see you all back here next year!

The story machine

I haven’t had a lot of time to myself over the past few weeks. Even on the bus I’ve been bumping into people I know and chatting, or reading books. Today I sat alone on the couch with the TV turned off, the 90’s hits playing in the background, and I let my mind wander.

It amazes me how my mind can go from one subject to another, completely unrelated subject, and somehow find a story. I generally start out by ruminating over something I’ve recently seen, read or watched and then my imagination kicks in. Imagine if this happened? Then that! Then…. Ahh, I think we have a story.

Over the past few weeks I’ve been a little worried that the stories were drying up. I’d heard some other writers say that with age fewer stories come, but I think the truth is that with age more responsibilities and demands on our time come. Give yourself the time and a bit of quiet and your imagination is still there in abundance.

Now if I could just start making the time to write some of these stories without upsetting family, friends, work and the rapidly dying hot water service!

Na-No-Wri-Mo or Na-Sto-Id-Mo?

November is NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month, where writers all around the world try to write a 50,000+ word novel in a month. Now this idea was hatched in the northern hemisphere where the temperature is starting to drop, and everyone is heading back indoors.

In Australia the opposite is true. I tend to have more ‘let’s-catch-up-before-Christmas’ catch-ups in November than I do in December. Not only that, but it is spring, so the garden seems to double in size every two weeks, including hedges that need clipping and lawns that need mowing. Hence, November is an extremely social and active time of the year for me.

But I feel like doing something to join in, and given that spring has also meant a return to more regular walks, I think that instead of focussing on writing, I’ll focus on the generation of new story ideas. So I’m going to attempt NaStoIdMo or National Story Idea Month – where I challenge myself to come up with a new story idea EVERY DAY of November!

I’ve done something similar before, but not every day and not for a whole month. I’m sure some of the ideas will be absolute stinkers, but from experience it will get me into a more creative frame of mind, which might just give my motivation the edge it needs to land on a ‘next project’ to which I want to commit.

Worst case I’ll have a heap of story ideas that I never follow up. Best case, it might give me a whole year’s worth of projects just in time for the start of 2019, and the more southern hemisphere-friendly JanNoWriMo (January Novel Writing Month).

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.