In the newly added learning goal I have read two books on improving my craft, ‘The Elements of Style’ and ‘Self-Editing for Fiction Writers’. I also attended two webinars and went to my writer’s group and got some amazing feedback (you can read about my reaction in this post). Finally – in the last minutes (OK, not minutes, hours more like) of the month – I joined Holly Lisle’s 7 Day Crash-Revision Workshop. I would have loved to have had the money for her full How To Revise Your Novel course, but alas and alack not this month. (Side note: Holly’s courses are great, I’ve done one of her big ones (How To Think Sideways, now available as e-books) and several of her smaller ones and recommend her to anyone looking at courses on writing. No, I’m not an affiliate, just a happy student.)
In actual creation I made a flash fiction, ‘Eyes on The Sky’, but birthed nothing else new. It isn’t my greatest work to date, and I definitely need to go over it again, but I don’t want to pull it down either.
I started converting the Kindle edit of ‘Written by The Stars’ into the Scrivener file, also did editing and rewrites for my short story ‘The Beauty of the Dance’ and ‘The Wyvern’s Sting’ based on awesome feedback from beta-readers.
I submitted a horror/supernatural piece called ‘Brown Paper Packages’ to my writer’s group for critique after tiding it up, but it was an older piece I went back and cleaned, not a new creation.
I could have done a lot more, even though there was severe back pain, broken down cars which needed parts from France (I know, France? Seriously!?) and relatives moving into our house (and taking up our junk room so aaaaaall that junk needing to be relocated and organised), but also there were things I did instead of writing that weren’t so justified, like playing Ni No Kuni and finishing my 1,000 piece puzzle. So this month I am determined to put in more effort.
OK, so as I have set myself so many goals for this year I thought I would re-cap where I’m at with each of my goals at the end of each month. Accountability, oh yeah! If you need a refresher on my goals you can read the original post here.
Goal 5 has been fruitful for me since I entered two stories into the Black Apples Anthology (Belladonna Publishing) and another one for the Oomph: A Little Bit of Super Goes A Long Way (Crossed Genres).
I’ve also written quite a bit this year, finishing some short story drafts I started in December (Charming, The Wyvern’s Sting, Short Circuit), editing based on beta readers/critique group feedback (Groundskeeper & The Wyvern’s Sting) and writing from scratch (The Beauty of The Dance, Emily’s Typewriter). You can read blurbs for and see where I’m at on all of these stories on my Current Projects page.
I’ve done no work on any of the novels yet (writing wise, editing I am doing), but it is still only January so I can’t get too worked up about that.
In relation to number six I’ve started work on the story I believe will be the incentive to subscribe (The Beauty of The Dance) and have put some effort and thought into which mail service I will use (do I go free or not?).
I’ve also commenced editing ‘Written By The Stars’ (if you want to know more about the story check it out in my Current Projects page) by converting it to .mobi format and reading it on my kindle. I feel so tech savvy doing it that way ;p I’ve done all the edits and just need to action them in the Scrivener file. So I’ve started number 2, but not completed.
We writers can be a superstitious lot. I know writers who have a special location they prefer to work at, or a particular item of clothing they think makes the muse be more attentive. A lot of us seem to have something we believe we need to make us more successful or more creative in our endeavours.
I’m an intensely superstitious person – but not in the standard way. Walk under a ladder, yeah, done it way too often. Black cats? Cute and cool, but don’t care which way I cross their path. Mirrors, broken a few, mostly for art projects back in high school or by accident when moving. However I have certain habits, like when I used to drive to work every day I would look out at a lake I drove past and knew I would have a good day if I saw a bird with its wings fanned to dry in the sun. If there were no birds, I knew that a particular someone I didn’t like would probably visit my store that day. Weirdly enough, it was relatively accurate. A bizarre little superstition, but even now – though work is in the other direction – if I drive past, I look to the lake for my bird friend and gauge whether that day will be good or not.
Lucky charms play a big part in superstitions. Some writers have a special notepad, or pen they like to use. I’m quite partial to my Shinto pencils I bought from the Meiji shrine when I was in Tokyo. The pencils are traditionally bought by students. The students use these pencils to write their notes as they study. The pencils are supposed to invoke a Shinto god to give them luck in academics, make them pass that entrance exam or just generally be smarter. The power of the pencil is released more and more as it grows shorter and shorter with each sharpening. I use mine to write notes about my stories as I plan them.
I also have a lucky editing charm, a pen I bought from Ueno zoo (also in Tokyo – I TOLD you people I’m a Japanophile). It’s one of those multi-colour pens where you click between red, blue, green and black. I use the red and green to do my proofing and editing.
Do you have any weird superstitions or lucky charms, even if they aren’t related to writing?
Short stories are a great exercise for a writer. They allow the mind a chance to flex its muscles (so to speak) and the writer to push the boundaries of their craft and try their hand at other genres than just their favoured one.
I write short stories most frequently outside of my favoured genre of fantasy. Of the short stories I have written in the last two years I have written two horror (one with vampire bad guys (no kissing these vamps) and zombies, the other with a serial killer and very cool twist), two mystery, one ‘nostalgia’ romance (I think I kind of came up with that genre name, it means the person is remembering being in love – if you know what the genre is really called let me know!) one urban fantasy, three slice of lifes and one fantasy.
Writing outside of my preferred genre seems to be the only way to keep at bay my ultimate short story writing flaw: actually keeping it short.
Short Stories are a struggle for me, not because I can’t write them, but because I will fall in love with a character (or several) or the premise and want to expand on it and next thing you know a less than 3,000 word short story becomes a fantasy quartet. I’m joking, that only happened once, the rest of the time it’s usually just a stand-alone novel.
I must confess that I prefer to write novels over short stories. Everything just seems to flow better and I don’t have to stifle ideas or squash down narrative as I sometimes have to with short stories. True it is much harder to complete a novel than a short story, but there is something more fulfilling in the work – to me at least.
I first heard about five year diaries in a quarter column in Kare Kano. (Quarter columns for those who don’t read manga/Japanese comics are small spaces – a quarter page to be precise – where, when the chapter was printed in the serialised magazine it originated from, an advertisement used to be. When the chapters are collected up into a book the space is left blank and the author usually fills it with what might resemble a short blog post or a tweet. They usually talk about their life, or something to do with the comic you’re currently reading.)
When I read about it I was immediately enamoured of the idea. I wanted one. I scoured the bookstores, newsagents and stationery stores around me, but to no avail, I’d started looking for it too late in the year, no one could order them in (apparently, even though they don’t bear any set year date) and they are not usually a desired item.
After almost giving up searching I stumbled across one on the sale table in front of a newagent’s where all the 2012 diaries were stacked up and discounted. The ‘yoink’ as I grabbed it before anyone else could was audible I’m certain.
A five year diary features one date (for example, January first) on each page, but the page is split into five parts, one for each year. So as each year passes you can look back to exactly what you were doing this day last year. I’m using it as a tool to encourage me to accomplish at least one thing with my writing each day. Knowing that Future Me will look back on it and frown if I did nothing is a bigger incentive than just feeling glum when a whole week passes me by with no notable progress.
I’ve been having a great time filling up the pages. Some days the five measly lines I have aren’t enough space for everything, even if I shorten my sentences down to note form. I feel a sense of achievement even just looking back at the previous day’s entry sometimes.
What methods do you use to keep yourself motivated? Do you keep a different kind of diary?
Most authors believe in their muse. The muse is a being that lives somewhere in your heart/mind/soul which inspires you to write. This quixotic creature creates the magic in your stories. She tells you to do something which seems a little odd, but then ties those little oddities up into a great twist or a superb surprise. That moment when the words keep flowing out of your fingertips without you having to think of them – that is when the muse is writing. Often the muse makes magic happen, she gives birth to the amazing idea which you never planned.
Sometimes the muse leads you down an odd path though. My muse has done just that. I have reached a point where my muse insists on a certain thing happening – she won’t proceed without it – but the whole thing seems wrong. It goes against my main character’s personality to do this thing, it would totally change her relationship with another pivotal character and it just doesn’t sit right with the logical part of my brain. But that selfish little @%$*# won’t write another word until I do it. Seriously. I’ve had no inspiration to write in three whole days all because I refused to allow this argument to occur. My muse is stubborn. I tried skipping to a later scene in the book, one I’m eager to write, but she pouted, folded her arms and looked in another direction like she was pretending not to see me at all.
I tried tricking her, writing the explosive argument but with the plan to edit it out later, but she then refused to help me create the heated words she wanted typed, leaving me unable to even satisfy her.
I tried to spite her today by only working on the blog in the hopes she’d come back to the table, but she saw right through that (well she is a part of me after all) and just told me to go on and keep blogging, you need to anyway.
And now, to top it off she’s sitting in a corner with her pencil and book creating wonderful ideas for other projects and calling out for me to pay attention to them. That contrary little wretch. She’s torturing me. Aaagh, is this what the hen-pecked, impotent husband of many years feels like? Unable to escape because of the children (my novels), unable to make my wife happy because he won’t bend on that one little thing that is against his principles even though he usually complies with her every whim? I have no idea what to do!
I had an interesting chat with my father. After he read my post regarding perhaps not entering my work in progress in the Vogel awards (due to it not being the sort of genre that usually wins) we discussed the whys and why nots and eventually started to talk about the viability of self-publishing as an option versus my desire to see my books in traditional print. Some people self-publish their first book and with good marketing make it a hit and use that popularity to entice a publisher to accept their next novel. Others have a few traditionally published novels but then have problems with publishers and decide to self-publish the rest of their works since they already have a fan-base.
Either way, with self-publishing you need to have a strong marketing ability. You need multiple platforms, like Twitter, Facebook, blogs, Linkedin. It all looks like so much to do on top of writing and taking care of a child, but it’s what you need to do if you want to make it.
Of course having a supportive family like my parents and my husband makes things much easier, but the pressures of limited time, lost sleep and finances still loom, shaking their figurative fists at me. As it is I have to get up before my family to find time to maintain my website, do my blogging and write my work in progress. I stay up after my husband and child have gone to bed sometimes too just to fit in time to write. I take my opportunities wherever I can, stealing them during Xander’s naps or moments when he’s quite happy to just sit and play near my feet.
What someone who wants to get published really needs is determination. Determination to find that time and use it productively. With so much to do, be it the writing itself, marketing, platform creating or all your usual daily tasks you need to be able to find and recognise that 10 minutes that you normally may have wasted looking at things you want on ebay and instead use it to build that platform or get down a few more ideas for the next story.
Ten minutes shouldn’t be too hard to find, where can you find your first ten minutes?
It’s been a busy place here at our house since Valentine’s Day. On Valentine’s Day I stumbled across a competition for manuscripts, Allen and Unwin’s Vogel Award. As you can imagine I went from bored browser to excited author in an instant. My heart promptly broke when I read the word count cap of 100,000 words though, because my novel is 175,000. Shrinking Storybook Perfect down to the word count would destroy it. I’m willing to work on it if that’s what it takes to get published, but 75,000 words less is too much change for me to be willing to make.
I was not willing to give up though. So I thought of one of my other ideas, a one-shot which I was expecting would probably average 75,000 words. Being the competitive gamer personality type I took it as a challenge to complete the novel and fully revise it all before the due date of June 1st.
Thus far I’ve written 27,000 words just by getting up before Xander wakes up and writing while he naps. I’m impressed by how much I have managed to write in just those few stolen minutes (or more realistically two stolen hours).
Add onto that that a few days ago the host I desired to use for my website had a sale on hosting costs and all of a sudden my blog was rushed forward a month to take advantage of it. So here I am, learning to blog, learning to promote my blog while I’m doing it. Serious ‘on-the-job’ training.
Sadly, I’ve gone back to the Allen and Unwin award page to check out previous winners (so I could see what they were looking for) and most of the winners seem to be from a specific range of genres, none of which my story fits in. So I most likely will not enter the competition anymore, but I’m still going to goal for novel completion in the same time frame (like I said, ultra-competitive gamer personality). This way I will have the ‘hard-sell’ trilogy making the rounds and an easier to sell one-off doing the same, which should hopefully increase my chances of finding an agent and thus being published.
Has anyone else had a busy week? Anyway, I think it might be time for me to sneak in a nap ;p
The first post. I spent a great deal of time searching for an appropriate topic for my first post. Just like with your first chapter, page, paragraph, even line of a book, you want to make a great first impression. In a story you need to start in ‘medias res’ (in the middle of the action), so where does that put me?
Well, I am an aspiring author with a completed first novel attempting the arduous task of approaching agents with my novel: Storybook Perfect.
My novel is a tough sell, an unpublished writer peddling a fantasy trilogy – it’s going to take a great manuscript and a lot of effort, but I am committed. I have one rejection, but it was a positive one. They liked my query so read my manuscript, but eventually passed on it. The agent even went so far as to compliment my main character and encourage me to continue seeking agents as “while (my) manuscript was not what (she) was looking for there are other agents with other opinions.” Pretty positive for my very first try.
So I’m working on improving my appeal – behold a webpage to display myself and my works to the world. But I’m not just going to sit back and blog and hope for an agent to find me. Oh no! Fortune favours the bold you see. I am working on a new short story to enter an upcoming competition which has a prize of publication. The story is a new spin on the fairytale princess theme. The princess herself is a standard DID, trapped in a tower in the heart of a magical labyrinth. My tale however is told from the perspective of the labyrinths groundskeeper. I won’t say much more just yet but I do hope all this is ‘in the action’ enough for a first post – though realistically I expect that most of the blog subscribers I would have in a years time will never have even read this post, so I probably didn’t need to stress myself out so much ;p
Kirstie Olley is an award-winning speculative fiction author and the full-time wrangler of her children Xander and Harlequin.
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