Tag Archives: Writing

Notes on writing

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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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 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

NaNoWriMo is a global event that most writers have tried at least once. It stands for National Novel Writing Month and the idea is that you write 50,000 words over the month of November. The thing is, NaNoWriMo was invented by people in the northern hemisphere, where November is cold and everything is starting to slow down.

In the southern hemisphere, exactly the opposite is true. The weather is warming up, people start socialising and often we begin our Christmas catch-ups in November. The last thing you want to do is lock yourself away from the first of the beautiful weather and write a novel.

That’s why this year I’m going to do JanNoWriMo. January Novel Writing Month. January is hot in most of Australia, so staying inside an air-conditioned room to hit a word target is very attractive. January is also (for many) holiday time, actually giving us the time to write. And finally; January is 31 days long, giving us one more day than in November to hit our word target.

We are just over half way through December, more than enough time to plan your next project. I’ve got one in mind so I’m going to get as much of the pre-work done in the next two weeks as possible so I can hit the ground running on January 1st.

Can you think of a better way to start crossing off your New Year’s resolutions than by writing your novel in the first month of 2018? Who wants to join me?

#JanNoWriMo

Lonely occupation

Something you will hear time and time again is how ‘lonely’ it is to be a writer. I’ve always thought people said that because of the long hours you spend alone at the computer writing. This has always seemed a bit of a contradiction to me, because if you are writing you are spending time with your characters so you are not alone.

This week I got hit with the full brunt of the lonely occupation. After 329 days (and of that over two months spent in the ‘number 1 in the queue’ position) my novella got rejected. I really liked that novella and thought it had a chance. To really rub salt into the wound it was a form letter rejection, so much so that it went to my junk mail, and I opened it just before I started a particularly taxing day at work.

There was no-one I could tell. My work colleagues think I’m wasting my time with my writing, so it would just be confirmation to them that I’m being foolish, and my friends and family are all working through fairly serious issues at the moment, so I didn’t want to burden them with the ‘problem’ of my dreams not coming true. Instead all I could do was think to myself ‘that sucks’ and get back to work building intranet pages.

I have got a writer friend who I will burden with my disappointment when we catch up next week, but I know by then I will have gotten over it and integrated it into my reality. But I can say that this week I felt like a lonely writer. Then I felt guilty for not appreciating all the good things in my life. For me, writing and guilt go hand in hand so I guess I’m normalising already. But I’ll chalk this up as just another sucky week and move on. At least gay marriage was legalised, so it wasn’t a total loss.

Non-break break

I’ve been saying for a few weeks that I’ve been on a break from writing. It was only when I was explaining what this meant to a non-writing friend the other night that I realised that my idea of a break is probably not most people’s idea of a break.

The past month I’ve been spending a LOT of time thinking about stories. I’ve been trying them on for size, working out which one fires me up the most to spend a lot of time with it. The other thing I’ve been doing is reviewing a lot of old writing. I’ve been checking out where I got up to on old stories, reading plans for stories, updating all my excel spreadsheets so I get a good picture of all my non-finished stories. Basically getting an overview of everything outstanding.

Interestingly, I’ve also been writing. While not working on a new project just yet, I have been prepping stuff for send-out, giving work to beta-readers and writing this blog each week. I haven’t counted any of this as writing.

My new definition of ‘writing’ is when I am totally immersed in one project. When I come home from work and get onto the computer instead of the TV. I think about it when I’m on the bus, walking to the shop, or even (scarily) when driving familiar roads. Writing for me now is when I have made a commitment to a story to get it finished.

That’s what I’ve not done over the last month, and that’s why I say I’ve been on a ‘break’. But I think it is time to take the plunge. By this time next week, I plan to be in a committed relationship… with my next novel.