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.
I’m beginning to lose patience with television shows where the entire episode’s drama revolves around the protagonist not telling the truth to someone when they need too.
To clarify, I’m fine with this premise when the truth will hurt someone, or for some other reason needs to be kept a secret. Those are fine. But when the truth is being kept back for no good reason (apart from the writer got lazy and decided this was a great way to create some tension) all it does is irritate me.
Ok, admittedly I’m someone who pretty much just says whatever I’m thinking (and whenever ;p ) so I’m the type who usually tries to explain what’s happening, and not everyone is like that, but when the main character is not telling her best friend she is also hanging out with some old work friends who she ran into a second ago(by happenstance) and just ends up running between the two groups causing anger and confusion and the WHOLE thing could be solved by taking two seconds and explaining things and the only repercussion of doing so is you might be a bit embarrassed in front of the old work colleagues all that happens is I, as a viewer, am frustrated.
If you are going to have a character keep a secret, give them a reason. Make the secret a good secret. Like one character killed someone protecting her friends, but she doesn’t want to burden the other friends (who have a lot on their plates at the moment) with her feelings. She also doesn’t want to make them feel guilty, or like it’s their fault, so she has to internalise all of it.
Sorry for the rant, just in this last week I’ve seen this done at least three times and, well, I’m losing patience.
Is there a device/cliche like this that drives you to distraction? (Permission to rant granted ;p )
My goals board. <3 paper clips courtesy of Kikki K
For most of last year I had a small cork board on the living room wall. On it I put the goals that had highest priority to me.
Early this year Xander finally gained the climbing dexterity to reach it and – as you can imagine – tacks and toddlers are an unwise mix, so it was pulled down and put away.
This happened while I was down and out with my vertigo so by the time I felt better there was so much work to do the last thing on my mind was my goals board. That is, until I started noticing that everything was being prioritised over my writing. Even things I normally prioritise lower (like playing games – much as I love to it doesn’t earn me money ;p ) were getting done before writing. It wasn’t until today that I pin-pointed why this was happening.
My goals board.
I didn’t have my writing goals somewhere where I would be reminded of them and their importance multiple times a day.
I managed to contrive a piece of cardboard which I can clip my goals onto using paperclips and hang it in the living room. Now I have my visible goals and no toddler terror.
Typing on a phone or tablet doesn’t keep the creative juices flowing for me, it takes too long to type with just a thumb(on my phone) and when I type on tablet I type too fast and the tablet gets confused and thinks I hit two spots at once so ignores both and the words are all gobbledegook thanks to auto correct. On a keyboard I can just keep flowing with the idea, expanding and growing. Even with pen and paper my note taking can keep up with my imagination, but on a phone it’s just a little too slow.
I wonder if the generation before me, those less familiar with computers, feel the same way about normal keyboards? I’m fine because I was using typewriter keyboards from a young age so they’re old hat to me. I loved my typewriter so much as a kid that I’d take it along with me on camping trips, giving up what little foot space I had in the car (no idea why a notebook and pen weren’t good enough for ten year old me).
Transitioning to computer keyboard was great because the only thing that frustrated me about my typewriter was when I typed too fast the arms would sometimes get stuck together up near the page and that doesn’t happen with computers.
I haven’t had the same transition with phone keyboards. Even on the larger tablets it just feels awkward to me.
What methods do you prefer? Is there something that you just can’t seem to adapt to?
In yesterday’s post about the anthology, 18, that my critique group released for its eighteenth anniversary, I mentioned the work wasn’t just the product of the members imaginations but also showed the critiquing of the group and the ability of the writers to take that feedback and work on it. I also mentioned that my story, Nightfall, went through a great deal of change. In fact it is one of the stories that probably changed the most from the original.
In my original story Marrille had a massive fear of giving birth and therefore of being assigned a mate, but the group thought this distracted from the much bigger themes in the story – muddied the waters so to speak (though I’m definitely keeping that fear for some poor future character to suffer).
Also, in the original version Marrille and Sario successfully made their provision run, visiting the local town, bartering for food and allowing me to show off all the wonderful creatures I’d populated the world with. However, cool as it was to me, not enough happened in the scene, and it set the action of the hawk attack too far back from the start, meaning a longer slog for the reader before life and death hung in the balance.
So my second version had both of those removed (along with some smaller more finnicky stuff I won’t waste time here on), however my story was still well over the word count and there was still something about the story niggling in a few minds and we eventually uncovered what that was.
The fix was to chop apart the start again. I thought I was killing a darling (a writer’s term for removing something you love that just isn’t working) when I cut the market scene, but taking out the start was much, much worse. My favourite character’s best moments were cut, in fact the whole power of his presence was diminished massively – but it wasn’t his story, it was Marrille’s so it had to go.
This should show how much a story can change between first draft and when it appears on printed page. A critique group, or at least some outside opinions, can help so much in finding flaws that you can’t see yourself, whether you can sense something’s wrong or not.
The cut start is still a darling, and though it was killed from the story I couldn’t let it wallow in a shallow grave in the Word Cemetary, so I’ve made it available here(read on site or pdf). You can read Nightfall in it’s final form first and come back to see the longer opening because of curiosity or read it first then read Nightfall as it appears in the anthology 18. You can buy 18 from Amazon. You can read the darling start by downloading it in pdf or reading it here on this site.
I was reading a great friend and amazing author Talitha’s blog the other day. She’d written a post on productivity tools, a lot of which I use or totally wish I did) and I thought of my biggest productivity tool: my five year diary.
I’ve brought this up before, but for those who don’t want to go back and read the post, a five year diary is a diary where the same date (eg/10th of January) takes up a whole page, but that page is broken up into five sections of five lines each. One section for each year. There’s just enough space for some quick notes like ‘bought my tickets for the Brisbane Writers’ Festival. Wrote a new 4,200 words in Keys, Clocks, Quests (total count now 75184). Tried fixing start of Nightfall based on group feedback, but everything I think of just doesn’t work.’ (actual entry from August 5, 2013).
The diary helps keep me accountable for what I did that day. If I did enough with my family or at my day job to fill the space I don’t feel guilty about doing less writing and editing, but if I can’t fill up those five measly lines, I feel bad – real bad – and I work harder to ensure I do something the next day.
I think productivity and accountability are wrapped together very tightly. It’s like setting goals (or making New Years resolutions). They fall apart if you don’t work on them and if you don’t recognise you aren’t working on them, hold yourself accountable and pick up your game then of course you’re going to fail, because you gave up.
That’s not to say incentives aren’t a handy method too. I was super excited at the NaNoWriMo camp last year to get stickers for every 5,000 words I wrote (yes, I’m over 30 and I love stickers, people who say they don’t love stickers are LYING).
Talitha has a very interesting method of shifting marbles from one jar to another each thousand words which combines incentives (a visual representation of how much you’ve achieved) and accountability (all those marbles you haven’t ‘written’ stuck in the unborn jar making you feel guilty). If you want to know more, go read her post.
Do you have a productivity tool which you find particularly helpful, even if it’s not for writing productivity?
Expectations can be tricky things. When something doesn’t go as expected you tend to be disappointed, for example our family went to a special Christmas event. Considering average ticket cost, location and what I’d read online I had certain expectations.
They were not met.
It put a damper on the evening. The event was still fun, but I feel like it would have been much more enjoyable if I didn’t have those expectations. But meeting expectations in a story too much can lead to a very bland plot, as the reader can predict everything that will happen.
…but get this.
When you’re writing you have to meet certain expectations and obliterate others.
For example if you write fantasy, you must fulfill the reader’s expectation of something fantastic (magic, princesses, dashing knights, dragons, super powers – or perhaps your own spin), but you have to not take the story in obvious directions, or if you must, make it a red herring, throw in a huge twist, stick a damn spanner in the works and run away laughing into the night
Sometimes as well we get excited about something. A friend raves about a book, so we go in expecting genius, but when we read it ourselves – well it’s good, but I’m not going to run down the street naked screaming of its brilliance. So expectations can be at fault for disappointments in a different way too.
Have you had an expectation for something then been let down, either through the hype of others or even your own hype? What about the other way around, not expecting much but then had your mind blown? I’d love to hear about it.
both pictures copyright Disney, top one also copyright Annie Leibovitz (from her Disney Dreamseries)
As regular readers would know I pushed myself hard at the end of NaNo, slamming out 20,000 words in five days (most of which I was working my day job) so I could ‘win’ against the odds.
I won, but at what cost?
For the last few weeks I’ve been creatively burned out. I have been tired in general and lethargic in my writing. I have given feedback on several pieces for my critique group’s up-coming anthology, but I’ve done no work on my own stuff. Instead I’ve picked up my 3DS and been playing Animal Crossing, Pokemon Y and Bravely Default.
I usually give myself game time after writing, like a reward, but these last couple of weeks it’s almost all I’m doing with my free time. And once you start slacking off it’s even harder to get back in gear, particularly when the games are so much fun.
I’m hoping right now that getting a few blog posts up will start to fire up my creative juices and get me back in flow because I have two stories to edit and submit before years end and a deadline for my group’s anthology as well, so I really need to get back into it!
So. After such a killer start my NaNo unraveled pretty severely. Cars broke down, children got sick, more days at work and much longer shifts (which were added to even more by having to bus it to work instead of just taking the car), and an epic amount of effort was put into finding a daycare for Xander to attend for two days because no one else could work those shifts at work (oh the joys of console launches) but our current daycare didn’t have those days available.
I barely touched my computer for two weeks. You don’t even want to imagine what my two email accounts look like. No really. You’d think I’d been spam bombed, but that’s just what an inbox looks like when you haven’t opened it for twelve days.
So after a killer start to NaNo, I’m now 20,000 words behind. And yet, still not gonna give up.
I’ll be channeling this guy (and yes I know I’ve used this image five time before, that’s just how awesome it is)
I have five days. Sure I’m working three of them, but to hell with that. 4,000 words a day will see me win. I’ve already done 2,000 of today’s quota this morning so lets see if I can win this thing.
Cheerleaders totally wanted (ie/ fluff my ego, tell me I can totally do this)
Kirstie Olley is an award-winning speculative fiction author and the full-time wrangler of her children Xander and Harlequin.
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