Always quirky, sometimes sweet speculative fiction

Category: About Writing (Page 3 of 7)

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

Goals Reassessment

Yes I really should have done this earlier in the year, but usually a goal reassessment like this means the removal of goals which are unrealistic. I wanted to keep those goals up as long as possible for something to strive toward.

I did work on every single one of my goals to some extent so far, but many of them are too far from completion to realistically be completed in the less than two months to the end of this year. So a few of my goals will roll over onto next years goals list.

Now, let’s review the goal and where I’m at with them,

Goal #1 – Complete Storybook Perfect’s second book. Yeeeeeah, considering I’ve even been doing rewrites on the first one again, I don’t see that happening.

Goal #2 – Edit Written By the Stars, ideally to a level where it can be sent to agents. I’ve done so many read throughs this year, four when I go back and look at my diary. But I had a big stumbling block that stopped me from making those read-throughs actual edits. I’m pretty sure I have figured out the problem, but it’s going to involve some heavy plotting (that sounds almost sexy). I have to decide between projects and I don’t think I can finish this and the next project, so I have to pick one or the other. Still deciding though, I’m waiting to see what project feels best once NaNo is over and I can focus.

Goal #3 – Complete the first draft of Key, Clocks, Quests. I’ve hit the twist that made me excited to write this story, and I’ve even got them back to the point where they’re back in (almost) control of things, but there’s still a fair way to go. I think it might even be a NaNo length amount left to write. It might be hard to do this one before the year end, but I’m not counting it out just yet.

Goal #4 – Finish a new novel first draft. This one was always going to be a stretch. I’m going to cheat just a smidge and change this to ‘start a new novel first draft’, because by the end of NaNo I should have 50,000 words down in Between Blinks (which I need to add to my ‘current projects’ page), so technically then I’ll have achieved said goal.

Goal #5 – Make short stories, enter competitions and submit to journals. Well this one doesn’t need any correction. Thus far this year I’ve written 7 all new short stories, 5 flash fiction, 2 novellas/novelettes (14,000/17,000 words) and polished 4 short stories started last year to submission quality (or darn close). Two of those stories are successfully published and many of the others are getting from the slush pile to the final decision makers, though ultimately they return with rejections (but feedback riddled rejections, which are quite positive, so yay!). I could probably just sit back on my laurels and rest with this one, but there’s a few more awards and competitions running still so I’m going to keep on submitting.

Goal #6 – Make a newsletter list. I swear if there’s one bit of advice every writer on the internet seems to harp on about it’s the importance of your mailing list. I intend to give a freebie story away when you sign up, but the story I intend to use is tied up with other things right now, so there’s a slight delay on that. I’m waiting for the story to be ready, but sometimes wonder if I should just go ahead and start it anyway and give the gift out when it’s ready.

Goal #7 – Learn. I’ve done plenty for this and I’m nowhere near stopping. I think this is a roll over goal, one that will appear on every goals list for the rest of my life.


I’m a little disappointed by how many goals are not done, but at least I’ve made strides toward most of my goals and if I slog it hard enough through the end of the year I might be able to tick off a few more. I suppose we’ll just have to wait and see (well, you’ll wait, I’ll be busting my ass off).

October Goals Round-Up

October has been a pretty good month for me, seeing not just my first story published but two of them!

I finally unearthed my problem with Written By The Stars and am going back to try and punch the plot in the gut and fix that(well, you know, after I’ve hit all my NaNo targets).

I finished off the first draft of The Glass Witch, which now totals at 14,000 words (I only wrote the last 6,500 this month though). I started a new flash fiction, but it died in the water when I realised it had no ending, it was just a great start.

I did a lot of NaNo prep, creating a detailed plot outline for the book (and looser ones for the two sequel books) as well as fleshing out the characters and creating a blurb and a one sentence summary. I’ve had a good start on it so far, but that’s to be covered in my November round-up ;p .

I did a lot of submissions this month, sending out reprint requests, putting in applications for awards and novelist retreats as well as the usual anthology and magazine submissions, but as is common with the submission process it will be a little while before I hear back from some of them.

It’s funny, sometimes I feel like I didn’t do much, because I didn’t write a lot new this month, but I did do a lot of final proofing, last checks before sending submissions, critiquing of other peoples work so really I was working quite hard toward my writing career as a whole. It makes me wonder if the ‘write every day’ rule for authors shouldn’t be tweaked slightly to be ‘make steps toward your writing goals every day’, because there’s so much more than just putting new words down on the page.

Now, lets see if I can survive my second NaNoWriMo. Also, here’s my jack-o-lantern in the dark!

A tip for other Aussies carving pumpkins: do it the night before Halloween, because the heat kills them within a few days, but Saturday evening mine was sagging and filled with mold!

A tip for other Aussies carving pumpkins: do it the night before Halloween, because the heat kills them within a few days, by Saturday evening mine was sagging and filled with mold!

Is NaNoWriMo 2013 Cursed?

You might laugh at me for this, but I’m less confident I can win NaNoWriMo this year despite my stunning victory last year. This year Xander has shorter naps and wakes earlier, but that’s not it.

As a few of you know my day job is selling video games, so between COD Ghosts, the Xbox One and Playstation 4 November is a busy month at work, and I’m going from 2-3 small shifts a week to 4 nearly full day shifts per week. Much less time between work and the hurricane, but still there’s more.

I’m trying to get my writing there. I’ve been pummeling my hard drive with new short stories for the last year. Some have been published (Short Circuit and Stolen Hearts), some are polished and under consideration at various magazines and anthologies, but a lot are still rough. The latter stories need work, and I want to work on them. I want to get them up to snuff and send them out too, particularly with my recent successes I want to get more out there and fast (but without compromising quality).

And yet that still isn’t all of what makes me think NaNo is cursed this year. Like a good little prepper I picked my story well in advance and plotted it thoroughly. I liked it so much I decided to use it for my application for the Breakout Novelist Scholarships. Before submitting my application I had some good friends from my critique group give it a once over, and one of them mentioned my plot had some passing similarities to an already published series. Agh! They only have similarities, nothing that would see anyone involving lawyers, but that instantly took the shine off the story for me.

I feel deflated because of all of these things, but I don’t intend to let that get me down. I’m still going to take the challenge and I’m still going to go at it head on, I just hope I can keep everything together for this massive month.

To finish on a positive note here’s a picture of my first home made jack-o-lantern – a lot harder than I thought but also a lot of fun. Like NaNo perhaps?


NaNoWriMo 2013 Prep

Challenge Accepted

As if I could have resisted making this one ;p

NaNoWriMo is a lot of fun, but winning isn’t easy, it takes a competitive spirit (oh, look, I’m a gamer – it’s in my BLOOD), good planning and real determination. However getting into the spirit of NaNo is nowhere near as hard as winning. NaNoWriMo just wants you to write, to take that dream of completing a novel and do it instead of fantasising about rolling in your money with JK Rowling and George RR Martin(good for the imagination, but not for actual productivity). As long as you start you are still a winner because you finally started that novel at long, long last.

That being said, I’m gonna win again this year!

Philosoraptor pontificates NaNoWriMo (I am obsessed with Memegenerator ATM)

Philosoraptor pontificates NaNoWriMo

With NaNo on the rapid approach I’ve been working hard on my prep again this year. Last year taught me that good prep significantly boosts your chances of winning. I’ve also been reminiscing about my obsession with memegenerator last year, so enjoy all my NaNo themed memes from last year(click to read posts they originated from).

I’ve picked my story: Between Blinks, and finished the chapter by chapter plotting. I haven’t broken it all down into scene cards in Scrivener yet, but have started. I know from experience as soon as I run out of those scene cards I run out of steam – or at least that’s what happened last year.

Don't bring me down Boromir

not ‘simply’ anyway

I’ve prewarned most people that I will not be very social (I think I might be anti-social in general though ;p ) and T-J knows from experience that I’m going to slack-out on the housework again.

This year I’m excited because I’m going to the local NaNo retreat on Stradbroke island. I’ll be rooming with the awesome Talitha Kalago so I expect lots of laughs and a big boost for my word count.

Now the hard part, waiting until November 1st to start.

Oh Yeah!

Oh Yeah!

What the TMNT Taught Me About Characterisation

The Turtles I grew up with

The Turtles I grew up with

I loved the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, I grew up on them. Now Xander is too. He liked the CG movie from a few years back, so we showed him the more recent show, and he loved it! Which is great, because now I’ll never be one of those mums putting her head in her hands to cry because her child is watching the same episode for the 80th time. Instead I’ll be sitting beside him, grinning and speaking whole chunks of dialogue verbatim.

Re-watching this old favourite has made me realise something important about good characters:

the Turtles that caught my son's eye

the Turtles that caught my son’s eye

What makes you cool is also what makes you weak.

Case in point:

Leonardo is the leader, that’s cool, but he’s the same age as his brothers and he is plagued by self-doubt, worrying he will let his brothers down,possibly even fatally.

Michelangelo is young at heart and a jokester. This makes him loveable and hilarious, but also makes him act silly when it’s not appropriate and make mistakes.

Raphael is strong of will. This gives him strength, courage and confidence, but creates a nasty temper as well. Raph’s temper gets him in a lot of trouble.

Donatello’s strength is his intellect, but he can get wrapped up in and distracted by his work and gadgets.

The Turtles Xander will grow up with

The Turtles Xander will grow up with

As you can see, their strengths either are their weaknesses or tie in closely to their weaknesses. It’s great for characterisation when a character’s core can go either way like that. You do have to be careful of letting that personality trait be the only thing about the character though.

Can you think of any other beloved childhood characters like this?

Also, Raph is the best. Just saying.


Byron Bay Writers’ Festival Workshops

I’m totally AFK at the moment.

I’m down in Bryon Bay for several of the writers festival workshops and made the dreadful mistake of leaving my laptop at home. Oh folly! The only reason I’m able to write this post is because I downloaded the WordPress app for my phone. So you are currently reading my first post written from my phone (let’s see how many words autocorrect will mutilate!).

Yesterday I attended a ‘Getting Published’ workshop with Annette Barlow. The workshop is geared toward enabling writers to better understand what it is publishers want from you.

I enjoyed hearing a publisher’s viewpoint of everything. The class is one of the classes offered (or a splinter from the classes offered) by Faber Academy, Allen and Unwin’s writer academy (I’ll provide links when I’m not on my phone).

Today I attended a fiction master class with MJ Hyland. Her critiquing techniques were really interesting and thought provoking, but I was definitely the odd duck since I was the only genre writer in a room full of literary fiction and YA writers. I loved the interrogating she did to help people get to the core of their plots. I’ll try to write about that in more detail later (perhaps when I’m not on my phone).

All this is a very long winded way of saying I’ll be posting my goals round up post late ;p

Writers’ Group Or Critique Group?

Yesterday I attended the first Writers’ Group Convention in South bank with several members of my critique group.

I'm looking for a little less this...

I’m looking for a little less this…

I love my group, as anyone who’s read any of my posts about them knows, but I also wish I could meet more than once a month. Some months (like this one) are very productive and I create a lot of new stuff and I want feedback, but I hate to ask some people for help because I know they already have a lot on their plate. So I’ve been looking for another group.

I was hoping there might even be one in my local area, but no one at the Redlitzer Writers’ Day last weekend knew of any.

At the Convention yesterday the representatives of many different groups stood up and spoke about how their groups worked. I learned that a lot of these groups met to do workshops together and create new fiction. There wasn’t a lot of critiquing and what critiquing there was seemed to be on the piece you had just written then and there.

and a little more of this.

and a little more of this.

Now I’m not saying those aren’t good groups, just not precisely what I’m looking for considering where I am in my journey as a writer. I have no problem with creativity, heck sometimes I just want to tell my muse “Here’s $8, go to the cinema and leave me alone so I can finish off this idea you just gave me” (I know, not something to really complain about, but evidence nonetheless that I don’t need an inspirational group). What I need is to learn how to fine tune this multitude of ideas. How to hone my stories into something that sells. For that I need a group very much like my current one.

I’m considering starting one in my local area, but don’t know how much time I want to sink into the endeavour – after all, that’s precious writing time I’d end up sacrificing.

The Writers’ Group Convention was short and sweet, with plenty of opportunities to mingle with others and try to learn their groups dynamics and if you are looking at finding a writers’ group yourself I’d recommend keeping an eye out for the next convention, or browsing their website.

Lessons Learned From Critiquing

Critiquing can be tough. My writers’ group is full of amazing authors packed with talent and more and more pieces come in where all I can really spot wrong is the odd typo and maybe an awkward phrase. I was starting to worry that I didn’t have any critiquing skills, and that if I lacked them, how could I ever successfully self-edit?

logo-booksI’m going to the Byron Bay Writers’ Festival next week (stay with me here, I’m not just running off on a tangent, I swear) but only for workshops during the week. One of those workshops is a fiction writing master class with MJ Hyland. In preparation for that participants send in the first 1,500 words of a short story or novel and everyone else attending critiques it. Critiquing the pieces I’ve been sent so far has taught me something.

Like with my writers’ group some people are really great and there’s not much to say, but some other works are unfocused (the person has a great story, but the plot jumps all over(yes, in the first 1,500 words!)), others have great characters but no story. There are problems – and I can spot them! So I don’t suck at critiquing, it’s just that my writers’ group is too full of talented people(you know who you are ;p ).

So, with these newer, younger writers I’m critiquing now I have choices to make. I can’t go and throw every error they’ve made at them, I might hurt the fragile artistic spirit all of us creative types have. So I have to pick out one or two of the most important things to mention and pass on my knowledge.

I also have to be careful, I don’t want to seem like a know-it-all, after all, I’ll be there to learn too. If I honestly thought I did know it all I wouldn’t be going to a workshop now would I? So I’m walking a thin line between providing as much help as I can without damaging fragile hearts or seeming like a Hermione.

Some of these pieces have a lovely story at their core, just their craft needs polishing and it reminds me that I’m the same. I’ve got a long way to go before I’m where I dream of being, so I have to keep working, keep polishing, and keep critiquing and being critiqued.

These are the things I have learned from critiquing these last few days.

Bad Reviews And How To Handle Them

A question that often pops up in the writing community is how to handle negative reviews. True I’m yet to receive a negative reiew, or a critique so nasty as to inspire my ire, but I have a system in place already for dealing with all that you wish you could say to a negative reviewer, but first, let’s look a the types of negative review. In my opinion there are two types of negative review: the critique and the troll.

You welcome the critique. Throw open your arms for it, because while this person didn’t like your piece, they will detail for you what it was they didn’t like and often even why. This is a learning experience. You may listen and work on it, or you may count this person as not one of the people you are writing for. Either way, this person has put thought into their response to your work and I find myself often able to say thank-you even if I totally disagree.

Never feed the trolls, that's exactly what they want

Never feed the trolls, that’s exactly what they want

You despise the troll. This is the person who writes a one star review on Amazon or Goodreads and just says “This book was shit, go back to your day job”. There is no thought or quality to their review and more often than not they are hurtfully phrased. Why? Because that is what the troll lives for. They want to make you feel like excrement and go cry in a dark corner folded into the fetal position, or even better they want you to fight back. Admittedly most of the time the troll is a disappointed customer. They bought your book (or at least you hope they did, why act so nasty with you if they didn’t waste their money?) and didn’t like it. They forget that you are a person too and if someone came into their place of work, knocked over their pot-plant and said “your spread-sheet on the P&Ls for last month was a veritable craptacular, Troll.” that they would probably hide under their desk for a little sob too. Then again sometimes the troll is just a troll, an angry bitter person who wants everyone else to be miserable too.

How do you not get caught up in the troll’s evil web of hate? Well, this is what I do. I open Word and type out a letter. It can be as snarky as I want it to be in the first draft. Once it’s completed I edit it. Remove all swear words. Remove all name calling. Fix up that grammar. Try and put a hook into the sentence structure, or make it snazzy. Fix up the vernacular, make it witty and verbose and catchy. Then save it into a folder called ‘snark’ or ‘trolltastic’ and move on.

I find by the time I’ve edited my reply letter to a solid state of quality I’m often much calmer and I usually look at the letter somewhat impressed with how articulate I can be. I never, NEVER send the letter out into the world. This is hate mail. You don’t want to send hate mail out into the world. It’s a karmic thing. Apart from the karma reason think about your professional image. If you’re seen ranting and raving at a negative review you will not improve your professional image at all. Twice now I’ve received links from other writers sending me to hilarious and shameful outbursts and every time I remind myself to never let that be me.

The letter is also a useful tool for arguments with friends or family, or for you fellow retail store assistants out there when you have a nasty customer who you can’t get out of your head. It just pushes all the anger out and onto the page(so you don’t have to hurt those you love or lose your job) and then just file it away.

Best of all is these trolltastic letters are great for recycling all of that well edited anger into conflict between characters(though do remember, conflict isn’t always about arguments!).

One Story or Two?

This guy is my hero

This guy is my hero

I’m working on an idea for an anthology my writers’ group is planning on creating, and have a fantastic idea. Or is that two? It’s difficult to tell.

I want the story to be set in the same mythpunk world which Charming, The Troll’s Toll, Groundskeeper, and The Wyvern’s Sting are set in, but the best part of the idea involves a trip into our world, and I’m not sure if I want there to be a physical link between Mythpunkia (definitely NOT the official name) and our world.

I’m not dead set against it. But it doesn’t sit well in my stomach. I prefer the thought to be Mythpunkia rides in the dreams of those who wrote the fairy tales and fables.

Also there’s a matter of word count. If we do have this trip to our world I’m fairly certain I’m going to blow the 5,000 word limit to shreds. Yet, if I remove the trip, my protagonist’s whole quest pretty much unravels. It would become too much of a quest of introspection and I’m not sure I want that.

I could always set it in a different world, but two things make that an even less appealing choice. Firstly, my protagonist Mizzy is perfect in Mythpunkia, it suits her from top to tail and secondly I want the story set in Mythpunkia because then anyone who reads the anthology and feels an interest in the world will seek out my other stories. So a feeling from the heart and a cold marketing strategy from the brain.

And let’s not forget I’m actually supposed to be editing at the moment >.<

I think I’ll just write it in the form it is now and hope I can fit it into 5,000 words. If it doesn’t then I can worry about how to split it into two.

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