About Writing

thoughts about writing, be it short stories, novels or even blogs

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Last year I started a novel (well it was supposed to be a novella, but it got out of control) I’ve given the working title of ‘Skeleton Romance’ (I really need to give it a proper name). It was a joy to write, and – as often happens when in the throes of writing – I chased the muse.

I stuck to my plot outline quite faithfully actually, just I found myself adding in extra stuff. The primary addition was my two antagonists. Now when I look at the story I know it’s all the stronger for their unplanned appearances. The problem though is since I never planned them, I also hadn’t planned how to resolve their conflicts.

Just like bullies in real life, it isn’t so easy to deal with bullies in fiction. I didn’t want to fall back on stereotypes for their motives, nor wrap them up in a way that a real teenager might try to do and then find themselves in deep water. This is why I stopped when I was essentially 3/4 of the way through the novel. I knew I couldn’t proceed without resolutions for both antagonists.

As the year passed and I wrote other things flashes of inspiration came here and there until now, when I have enough to wrap them both up, but am now faced with figuring how to weave the romantic ending and the resolutions of the two antagonists together.

In case any of you out there are writers or just curious This is how I’ve done it.

Step 1: arc outlines on index cards

I wrote out my original plot outline ending from the point I stopped to the end (which I’ll refer to as the romantic conclusion) on index cards, one scene per index card. Then I wrote the major antagonist’s conclusion as I envision it scene by scene onto cards, and the same again for the secondary antagonist.

Now I’ve got 10 cards each with their own scenes on them. When the kids are NOWHERE NEARBY (crucial in case the caps lock isn’t a hint) I spread these out on the rug in front of me.

Step 2: Lay out original arc

First I lay out the romantic conclusion, because it’s already got its flow and order. Then I look at my to antagonist conclusions and look for where they would piece in nicely to the romantic conclusion. For the most enjoyable end I need both of them wrapped up just before the final conclusive romantic scene, but depending on how it all reads, putting both conclusions side by side just in front of the final romantic scene might be awkward from a pacing and timing perspective.

Step 3: Insert other arc’s scenes

I also look to see if some of any of the antagonist conclusion scenes can be merged with any of the romantic scenes. for example, information to defeat on of the bullies might be stumbled across while the characters are actually doing something that propels the romantic arc forward. Now instead of having to write two separate scenes, I merely have to add a little to an already outlined scene.

Ultimately I had a lot of fun with this, figuring out my concluding outline, and I had so much fun finally finishing my extremely unusual romance filled with teen angst, sexual identity, and suicidal thoughts (because what romance doesn’t include considering suicide?)(the story really isn’t a romance anymore ;p more a coming out/coming of age).

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If you caught my last post (October Goals Round-Up) you know I’m not doing NaNoWriMo this year because I’m supporting my husband in doing it. But I did a quick check on my word count for this month so far and I’m on 21,050 – technically on track for NaNo (well, off by 567 words, but the day is young).

I got there by finishing Sugar Cane and Swamp Monsters (which lets face it isn’t a short story but rather a novellete at 15,000 words), and giving in to the demands of my muse (who wouldn’t let me think about anything else) by writing out the first 3000 words in ‘Romance is Dead'(working title), and finally by adding the carriage heist scenes(and answering a few other issues my writers group had) in Glass Slippers which so far have come out at adding 9,250 words to the story.

Obviously much trimming will be done on these words in later editing stages, but I’m just amused that I’ve kept pace with NaNoWriMo despite not officially doing it. Sadly, since the rest of the month is the trimming sort of editing I doubt tomorrow will see the same thing happen, or the rest of the month.

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Too Many WordsOne thing that ALL of my projects thus far this year have taught me is that I am a severe under-estimator when it comes to setting projected word lengths.

If you have any doubts here are my estimates for the writing projects I’ve started this year:

Skeleton Romance (working title) novella, I projected 20,000 words originally. I upped that figure to 30,000 once I saw where I was in my plot outline after writing 15,000 words. I then upped it again to 40,000. I’ve currently written 43,000 words and am just about to begin the final climb towards the climax, and as it stands I strongly doubt I can do the ending in less than 10,000 words. So basically, this novella is a novel.

Sugar Cane and Swamp Monsters‘ projected length is 7,000 words. I’ve written 6,000. Of course on closer inspection its a terribly slow start, and I need to ramp up the conflict before the inevitable appearance of the swamp monster (what, you thought there wouldn’t be one? Who do you think I am?). So basically, I’m going to scrap just about all of those 6,000 words and rewrite. Maybe I’ll come in a bit closer to the estimate this time…

Glass Slippers was to be a long short story/short novella (depends on your own ideas of what word counts define those terms) and I projected a 10,000 word length. In fact I was worried I wouldn’t hit the 10,000 because the market I intend to submit it to won’t take less than 10,000 words. I just finished it at 30,700 words. Frustratingly enough the market I’d wanted to submit it to has a roof limit of 20,000 words.

So, in case you missed it, I can’t accurately project word counts on my stories this year. I must have lost the talent last year while wallowing in the editing trenches.

On a slight side note, if my project Sugar Cane and Swamp Monsters excites you because you like swamp monsters go check out The Bandershin by Talitha Kalago for another Australian swamp monster story. Don’t forget to review it if you like it too!

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source: Wikimedia commons
source: Wikimedia commons

When I started writing this crazy story(the one I’m calling ‘My Skeleton Romance’ for lack of an actual name at the moment) I thought it would be a novella length, a bit longer than The Troll’s Toll (which is 20,ooo words). I guessed probably 30,000. However I’m passing 25 k (half a NaNoWriMo novel!) and I’m about a third of the way through the plot.

I’m not writing super lean, but I’m not fluffing about padding either. I’m just having so much fun with some of the characters. My supporting cast are stepping up and saying, “hey, I’m more important than the role you’ve assigned me. Here, how about you give me some depth by doing this? And you know what, that’ll go and complicate things for your protagonist too”

The story was supposed to be a romance with a bizarre fantasy/horror twist to it, the romance has taken a back seat to the ‘coming out’ side of the story for the first half (it’s growing a bit more romantic now) and other character relationships have become much more significant that I’d planned.

While I was laying out the plot I was astounding myself with some of the ideas I was having, and now it’s happening all over again.

It looks like this story is going to be a novel perhaps, not a novella. Either way, lets finish this draft first, then do some revision before I start trying to square it away into a box.

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shortThings change. This immutable law of life is well known, but I’m surprised to see not just a change in my life, but a complete 180.

In my earlier days of writing, from youth to as recently as when this blog was still new(ish) I’ve struggled with short stories. I posted about my issue all the way back in 2012 (read the post) and one of my most hilarious tales of struggling to keep it short is in my bio, where I boast about “teaching my ninth grade English teacher the importance of setting word limits for short story assignments by handing in a 27 page novella” (as a side note, he loved it, said he barely noticed the time passing (he’d intended to only read a few pages and stop to show me where an appropriate length story would finish), and I got full marks).

Anyway, the point is I used to struggle with short fiction, I preferred to work on novel ideas. Now, all my published work (both traditionally published and self published) is short stories, and the bulk of what’s on my computer is short stories. If you count novellas as ‘short fiction’ then word for word I’ve written a larger amount of work in short fiction than in novels.

To me that seems so crazy. To the me of four years ago – she’s probably laughing at you for suggesting it (then asking for a ride in your time machine).

Have you made a major turn around in your life? Something you used to hate or have a lot of trouble with is now your preference?

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Høytlesing_-_no-nb_digifoto_20150218_00202_NB_MIT_FNR_19177Blogging once more on the Vision Writers website about yesterdays meeting and what I thought was the best piece of advice given. Curious? Check it out – and my sneaky gaming reference(which I’m delighted to have snuck in since I was wearing a shirt that had an in-joke for players of the Atelier series of games at the meeting ;p )

~

picture sourced from Wikimedia commons and the National Library of Norway

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I’ve come to a point in editing Written By The Stars where I have to decide whether or not to pull out a cool plot point.

The concept of this part of the plot is awesome and it would be a great way to show the differences between Fanta’s home world (our own) and the world she ends up in. On the other hand the only way to solve it in this book is to either change a part of the story’s climax I don’t want to change, or make it part of the driving source for a sequel novel.

I’ve idly toyed with the idea of a sequel to Written By The Stars almost since its completion, but have never had a strong enough plot idea to make me want to commit to it.

Now I haven’t got a choice. If I keep this plot thread in, I need to resolve it in the second book (because all first book resolution options make me want to barf for entirely non-pregnancy related reasons), or I need to remove all mention of it and stick with a stand-alone fantasy novel. This means I have to pause in editing to see if I can make a plot outline worth committing to.

Which is a pity since my editing momentum has been great the last few weeks since I restarted working on this revision back at the writers retreat.

</rant> ;p

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– my mind tries to distract me.

I have just finished writing what may have been the toughest scene to write in my life thus far.

It wasn’t tough because I had no idea what to write. I knew EXACTLY what to write. It was the content, how close it is to my own life, that made it hard.

My mind kept trying to twist away from it. Hey Kirstie, check out what’s happening on Facebook. Oh, you should totally look at baby monitors for the new baby instead. No, write a blog post about this. You should go read that book you started yesterday. No wait, you should email that magazine you think might not have correctly removed you from their subscription list and is sending you copies you haven’t paid for yet.

Sometimes I could barely get a whole sentence out without my brain trying to disengage.

Tubby is a schnauzer
Foxworth is a schnauzer

This is all Talitha’s fault ;p No actually, going back far enough it’s my own. I made a writing prompt on the Vision Writer’s website and it inspired me to write ‘Foxworth’, the story of a family of five who adopt a dog with mismatched eyes and a creepy reason why he keeps being returned to the animal shelter.

I submitted Foxworth to my group for feedback, knowing it was a rather selfishly written story with an ending written to satisfy my own real life worries. I wanted to see if the story could appeal to anyone but me and maybe a few parents in similar situations to me.

Foxworth was well received, mostly with minor corrections, but the deeply talented Talitha pointed out something very important my story was missing. I had shied away from the distressing side of my life which the story was trying to appease. I wasn’t admitting to how bad things can be sometimes. I needed to show that to make the ending satisfying for more readers, to make those who haven’t lived this understand why the ending is cathartic. (You can read a bit more about Talitha’s feedback on the Vision Writer’s site)

I don’t know yet if what I’ve written will connect with people deeply enough. People who have experienced it will understand, but I think they would have understood even with the early version which didn’t flat out put it in your face.

I do know however, that Foxworth is becoming the story I’m most deeply invested in out of all my works.

There’s a particular market I really want to submit it to, but if they reject the story I’m not sure I have the strength to keep sending it to other traditional markets like I do with all my other short stories. Not due to the pain of rejection (I’m pretty numb to that after the last few years and being aware that sometimes there’s only 4-5 story slots and well over a hundred submissions makes it less painful) but because I want it out there now. I have a deep urge to get Foxworth into the hands of others. So perhaps you’ll be reading Foxworth soon…

 

 

schnauzer image sourced from Wikimedia Commons.

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I hate silence. I am a chatter box (not a surprise to those who know me offline), and I love to sing in the car, I even prefer to do housework while listening to audiobooks. I like having a soundtrack to life.

But you need to focus when editing – no music, no audio books, no yammering with someone. A rock and a hard place (for me anyway ;p ).

Cue awesome rainy day soundtracks like Rainy Mood.com. White noise. Something nice to keep life’s sound track jogging along but uninvasive enough to give your full concentration to work.

Does anyone else suffer from a need for noise? What do you like to use?

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bwf14
Brisbane Writers’ Festival 2014 – Our Stories Unfold

At the start of next month I will be attending the first writers’ festival in which I am a presenter.

As long time readers well know, I’m Vice President of Vision Writers, Brisbane’s speculative fiction writers’ group. Instead of having our usual meeting in a room in Brisbane Square library we will be having an open meeting at the Brisbane Writers’ Festival, showing people how we run a meeting, how we critique, how we help each other grow as fellow writers.

On Saturday 6th September at 4pm you can come to the State Library Queensland and check out how our meetings run. We’ll be critiquing pieces just the same as we always do, giving people an insight into what it’s like to be critiqued. Attendance is free and you can find more information out here on the Brisbane Writer’s Festival homepage.