Month: December 2015

The 7/7/7 snippet challenge

Writing Challenge participant Natalie K challenged me to the 7/7/7 Snippet Challenge.

The rules are:

  • Go to page 7 of your work-in-progress
  • Scroll down to line #7
  • Share the next 7 lines of your manuscript in a blog post
  • Tag 7 other writers (with blogs) to continue the challenge.

Here are the 7 lines from the 7th row of the 7th page of my recently “completed” manuscript, Return to the Monolith. I’m stoked to announce, I’ll start querying agents with Monolith from early January. Hoorah! But here’s a sneak peek.

Dawn peeked through the pink-fringed grey clouds, lighting up the sky in the east. The snow-tipped mountains loomed in the distance.  Alga’s heart pounded. This was the first time she had ever walked away from her mountains.

Her stomach had stopped rumbling. Her tears dried up. She tried not to think about her Sisterhouse and what she had left behind.

snow-black-and-white-mountain-ice

Now, I am passing on the fun to seven more writer bloggers. Consider yourselves challenged;

Looking forward to seeing other 7/7/7 Snippets.

Feast menu from Return to the Forest

I’m in the process of revising Book 2 of my Monolith series Return to the Forest. Today I’m sharing a menu from one of my scenes. Who doesn’t like descriptions of food and feasts in particular?

It is the solstice ceremony of Sundku held on a hilltop clearing, where the religious community of the Sisters live.  All the local women travel to the Sisterhouse for Sundku to welcome the early signs of Spring, the fading of the long Winter and to seek the blessing of fertility from the Goddess.

They dance, sing and chant around the pyre, honouring the Goddess and once the circle is closed, the women feast. Hungry after their homage, they need a hearty meal.

At the end of winter, fresh food is scarce but the women of the Forest are wise and resourceful. It would insult the Goddess to skimp on food at Sundku.

picnic

Each woman brings her own contribution to the feast. The long wooden table is piled with;

  • Rabbit stew: served in a thick gravy seasoned with pepper berries, slow cooked in a large pot over an open flame. The stew is served in carved wooden bowls.
  • Acorn bread: heavy and hearty, baked from ground acorn flour into loaves. The fire baked bread is coated with a crunchy caramel coloured crust. The loaves are cut into hunks and the women dip the bread into the rabbit stew, soaking up the gravy.
  • Jam cakes: local blackberries are harvested in summertime and preserved in earthenware jars to last throughout the cold winter. The jam cakes are baked with more acorn flour, dotted with dollops of sweet black jam. The cakes are golden palm-shaped discs with a hint of summer sweetness.
  • Red wine – of course

I hope you enjoyed a little view into the food world of Return to the Forest.

Hungry?

 

 

Three tips improved my writing in 2015

It’s the time of year between Christmas and New Year, like the lull between two waves. Time for planning and reflecting.

Here are the three writing tips I learned in 2015. These three tips definitely made me a better writer.

  1. Specificity
  2. Simplicity
  3. Different scripts

*Disclaimer – I can’t remember where I got these tips from. If it was you, thanks and sorry.

Specificity

Let’s get specific. Lazy writing is full of things, stuff and them. This year I learned to be specific about what I am writing. In 2015, I got out my nouns. First drafts can be full of vagueness but once the red editing pen comes out, it’s time to be precise. But specificity must be paired with tip#2, otherwise the words will grow and multiply like mice. And there’s nothing worse than a mouse plague…shudder…

Simplicity

Why use ten words when you can use two? My writing style is simple, mainly because I don’t like verbose writing personally, but this year I learned to use embrace the simple (and specific). Why use an adjective when I can find the right verb? He didn’t walk, he strutted, she plodded, we ambled. There is more power in brevity.

Like botanical illustrations, I strive to be both simple and specific.

Different Scripts

The third tip is about dialogue. Any scriptwriter knows this stuff but it was a revelation for me. This year I learned that each character has their own agenda in any conversation. Everyone has their own desired outcome from any discussion and our agendas will clash. This tip has helped me to stop my dialogue from being an exposition fest

In normal conversation, there are misunderstandings and confusing conversations when someone doesn’t say what they actually mean. There are a myriad of reasons why we don’t speak our minds. This is also true in dialogue. Each character is reading from their own script and the scripts don’t match.

Your turn – what great tips did you learn in 2015?

Five things which distract me from my writing

I am boringly conscientious. It was always on my school report…Madeleine is a conscientious student. But stuff still distracts me from writing.

Noise, generally power tools

I live in an area filled with older homes under renovation. If the gentle roar of power tools isn’t coming from my own house, it’s one of my neighbours drilling, sawing or generally banging loudly.

Headphones are good.

drill-portable-and-electric

Social media & the internet

I’m not alone. I know the blasted internet and social media call to us all. Distract me. Validate me. Just check the weather. Maybe someone liked my tweet. A quick look at the news. Next thing I know, it’s thirty minutes later. Damned instant access to everything ever.

The day job

Unfortunately I’m not independently wealthy or a kept woman, so I have to work. This is a major distraction from writing. Although perhaps with more time on my hands to write, there’d be more opportunity for other distractions to creep in.

cubicle-farm

People – reminders I need to have a life too.

Note to self – occasionally stop writing and socialise. While Mr Madeleine and friends are a lovely distraction, if they interrupt at the wrong moment, they are in danger of encountering extreme grumpiness. As with many things, timing is important.

Resistance

I often talk about Resistance. The little evil man on my shoulder telling me I’m crap and I’m wasting my time with this writing stuff. He is the root cause of most of my writing distractions.Some days he is stronger than others. I try to ignore his little snarks and keep putting my fingers on the keyboard.

What distracts you from your writing (or other goals)?

When did you feel like a “real” writer round-up?

In early December, I ran a series of posts asking writers…

When did you feel like a “real” writer?

I was lucky enough to get responses from Gail Carriger, Val McDermid, Joanne Harris, Ben Aaronovitch, Victoria Schwab, John Scalzi, Kim Newman, Neil Gaiman, Joanna Penn, Mark Dawson, Barbara Freethy and Kate Elliott.

There were a few themes running through the responses

  • Doubt and the imposter system persists (regardless whether you’ve sold millions)
  • Sometimes it’s your first big deal or success
  • Sometimes it’s not until you reach magic book no. 5

But mainly, you are a real writer when you write….

Now it’s your turn, when did you feel like a “real” writer?

 

Who is your favourite villain of all time?

Villains. We need them.

We need the villain to threaten our hero. We need our villain to be strong and clever. We need her to give our hero a hard time. Villains add colour and complexity to our stories, they bring the complications.

But when I thought about villains, only the scary characters came to mind. Those men and women who send shivers down my spine. And one man jumped into my mind.

This is not my favourite villain for his intelligence or his outwitting of the hero. He brings no witty retorts. He just scares me like no one else can.

I bring you.

Bob from Twin Peaks.

theres-bob

Excuse me while I go and hide behind the couch…..

Who’s your favourite villain?

Seven random facts about me

Here are seven random facts about me.

  • I dislike romantic comedies

  • I’ve got a law degree and an MBA

  • I was a teen goth

d6da644b850bf10a53d201e2bf044b3f

(This is not me)

  •      I lost 35 kilograms and have kept it off for over 7 years

  •      I like my coffee strong and black, with no sugar

black-coffee

  •      I’m scared of mice

  •      My first concert was John Farnham in Launceston 1986

best-sexywhisp-cd

 

 

4 resources for naming my characters

How do I approach naming my characters? Today I’m answering a few questions on character names from AJ Lundetrae.

Chanel, Dior, Lagerfeld, Givenchy, Gaultier, darling. Names, names, names!

Edina Monsoon, Absolutely Fabulous

 

How important are names to you in your books?

Names are very important to me.

I was a strange child and completely obsessed by boarding school books (especially the Chalet School). Using my illustrated atlas and a reference book of names and their meanings, I created my own school rolls. Lists of girls names and their exotic home cities.

2-6-roll-call-class

A name tells you a lot about a person’s past, their heritage, their social position. Names are infinitely fascinating. Especially in writing (rather than making your own children) when you get to choose the first and last name. In writing, your names can be descriptive of the character’s personality or mannerisms. And it’s just plain fun.

Do you choose the names based on liking the way it sounds or the meaning?

A little of both.

For my Monolith series, I have been obsessed with length. For my main characters, they all have names with four letters; Hana, Alga, Lucy, Erin and Mora. The lesser characters tend to have names of five letters.

Alga is an indigenous Northerner from a goddess worshipping religious community. For Alga, I searched for a four letter names with Estonian and Latvian heritage. I have also made up names for other characters but using foreign language name lists as inspiration.

I really struggled with the right name for Mora for over a year. Mora is the wise feisty grandmother. At one point she was named June, then Vera but now I have settled on Mora. Slightly inspired by the feisty playful Australia artist Mirka Mora.

For my steampunk novellas, I had great fun finding silly place names from the United Kingdom. I didn’t need to make them up. They are all real villages, hamlets or towns from various counties. I also searched for historical popular names on the census.

But in the end, the sound is most important to me.

And a tip I picked up somewhere – avoid names ending in “s”. This makes it messy when adding the possessive noun.

Do you have any name choosing resources you recommend?

My manager at work caught me looking at baby names lists recently and asked me if I had anything to tell her. So, yes, baby name lists from pregnancy sites. I have also found names by number of letters, for my obsession with four letter names.

I also search for foreign names and place names.

Here’s a few examples

 

As you can see, I have finally found a use for my obsession with names. If only I’d kept my list of names for my fictitious boarding school. I could finally find a home for my school girls.

How I “finished” – Tip#8 Listening to my gut

Listening to my gut

Feedback from others is super important but I’m learning to listen to my own internal feedback – my gut instinct.

9

Sometimes I fretted about a scene or a character but doubted myself and did nothing about it. Only to receive the same feedback from someone else.

If I’d trusted my instinct, I could have fixed the mistake earlier.

So I’m learning to take my inner voice seriously too. My inner voice is just as important.

 

This is the last tip in my series. I hope you found something useful from my navel gazing.

Your turn – what are your tips for finishing a novel?

When did you feel like a “real” writer? Part 6

Back again with another two writers answering the question…

When did you feel like a “real” writer?

Today we have two successful women with the same perspective.

Screen Shot 2015-12-09 at 7.31.21 AMScreen Shot 2015-12-09 at 7.31.21 AMScreen Shot 2015-12-09 at 5.35.33 PM

Screen Shot 2015-12-09 at 7.31.40 AM

You’re a real writer when you write!

Words of wisdom!

I have one more answer up my sleeve, which I will post with a wrap-up of all the comments.

I hope you’ve enjoyed the pithy insights so far.

 

How I “Finished” – Tip #7: Being Selfish & Competitive

Being Selfish & Competitive

Now being selfish and competitive is generally seen to be a bad thing, but these two negative traits helped me go from a lump of words to a “finished” manuscript.

8

Books don’t write themselves. I work full time but I find time to write because I’m selfish. Writing is really important to me, so it takes priority over other stuff. I’ve learned to be comfortable saying “no”.

I’m also competitive. Now I’m associating with an online community of writers and every day, my fellow writers are launching books, getting agents, getting publishing deals and 5 star reviews. I’m happy for them, (I believe in abundance not scarcity) but I want what she’s having.

What have you given up for writing?

Tomorrow – Tip#8 Listening to my gut.

When did you feel like a “real” writer? Part 5

After feedback from Melanie Bernard, I’ve taken a slightly different angle today and asked my question to indie-published writers too.

The question again…

When did you feel like a “real” writer?

Today,

  • Joanna Penn – non-fiction and thriller writer. And one of the best writing podcasts around.
  • Mark Dawson – super successful indie published crime-thriller writer.

Screen Shot 2015-12-07 at 6.02.17 PMScreen Shot 2015-12-07 at 6.02.03 PM

The number 5 again? Does something magical happen at Book 5?

I would start feeling like a “real” writer too, if I had Mark’s success.

Tomorrow, another two authors answer my question.

How I “finished” – Tip#6 Loading up my Toolbox

Load up my tool box

A professional needs their tools. The two tools which really helped me  to compile and edit my unwieldy lump of words were Scrivener and Speech Function/Text to Speech.

7

Scrivener is software designed for writers to easily format long documents. It has lots of nifty features.  My favourite is the left hand navigation where you can save chapters or scenes in folders and easily swap things around. I also love the target word count feature, with a satisfying little “ping” to congratulate me on reaching my daily word count. I’m probably only using a fifth of the features, but now it’s an essential part of my writing.

Speech Function/Text to Speech reads my words aloud to me. This is invaluable in the editing process. Read aloud, it’s easier to locate missing words, typos and clumsy phrases invisible to the eye. There is also a choice of voices, so I swap between an older British woman to a younger American man depending on my mood.

What are your essential writing tools?

Tomorrow – Tip #7 Being Selfish and Competitive

When did you feel like a “real” writer? Part Four

Another couple of writers answer my question…

When did you feel like a “real” writer?

Today

  • Kim Newman – author of the bloody amazing Anno Dracula (go get it now if you haven’t read it) and film critic.
  • Neil Gaiman – .writer of everything.

Screen Shot 2015-12-07 at 5.52.39 PM

neil gaiman

Was it 1982 or 2009 for you?

Tomorrow, another two writers answer my question.

How I “finished” – Tip #5 Craft Work

Craft work

Not the German electro band, in order to improve my craft, I sought wisdom from writing gurus. Tips and advice on how to be a better writer, storyteller and editor.

6

Over the past two years, my three main reference points have been

Story and Stein on Writing are available as audio books and the Story Grid is now a podcast.

I’ve listened to the audio over and over again, revisiting different sections as I need for wherever I’m up to in my writing. I heartily recommend all three.

What are your writing references?

Tomorrow – Tip#6 Loading my Tool Box

 

When did you feel like a “real” writer? Part Three

Two more great writers answer my question…

When did you feel like a “real” writer?

Today

  • Victoria (VE) Schwab – writer of multiple fabulous YA/MG series and my fave, A Darker Shade of Magic
  • John Scalzi – Hugo Award winner and prolific twitterer

 

VE Schwab

 

john scalzi

Two different perspectives here. Do you need money or being published to feel like a “real” writer?

Tomorrow, another two authors answer my question.

 

How I “finished” – Tip #4 Thwarting Resistance

Thwarting Resistance

Resistance is the evil force standing between me and everything I want. He’s the naughty voice in my ear telling me stay on the couch, just another episode or have another slice, you deserve it.

5

Resistance is mean and wily. He changed tactics and got stronger the closer I got to finishing. He told me I was wasting my time and I’m no good. He filled my head with fears I was going to stuff up my manuscript and I don’t have the talent to finish this.

Once I became conscious of Resistance and his mean tricks (thanks to War of Art), I am vigilant. I know what he’s up to.

I have my defences ready.

I just ignore him and keep going.

How do you thwart Resistance?

Tomorrow – tip #5 Craft Work

 

When did you feel like a “real” writer? Part Two

Another couple of brilliant writers answering my question…

When did you feel like a “real” writer?

This time I annoyed Joanne Harris and Ben Aaronovitch. A little bit of self-deprecating self-doubt and Daleks.

  • Joanne Harris of Chocolat fame (and heaps more) and a great twitterer.

joanne harris

  • Ben Aaronovitch, writer of seminal 80s Dr Who stories and creator of the fab Rivers of London series.

Ben Aaronovitch

Did Ben mention Daleks?

Tomorrow, another two writers answer my question.

How I “finished” – tip#3 Marinate for 4 weeks

Marinate for 4 weeks

When I’m in full on editing mode, I go cross-eyed. I can’t see “the wood for the trees.”

4

Putting aside my writing to “marinate” is important. Like marinating meat, putting your writing aside makes the flavours richer.

I’ve got a bad memory and when I put something away in the drawer, I completely forget the details. After a period of a month or so, I regain some objectivity about my work. I can see flaws and where to focus next.

And on occasion, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by my own work. Hoorah!

Do you have a rule for resting your work?

Tomorrow – Tip#4 Thwarting Resistance.

 

When did you feel like a “real” writer? Part One.

A few blog posts ago, I decided that I wanted to ask authors when they felt like a “real” writer. It appears that doubt is a continuing trait for writers and I wanted to hear from the sources.

Since then, I’ve been bothering my favourite writers on the internet asking this question.

When did you feel like a “real” writer?

Today I’m sharing responses from Gail Carriger and Val McDermid.

  • Gail Carriger – steampunk doyenne and author of the Parasol Protectorate series.

gail carriger - real author

  • Val McDermid – Crime fiction legend and creator of Wire in the Blood

Screen Shot 2015-12-03 at 7.54.08 PM

Scary but interesting to hear how successful writers still feel like “imposters”.

I have responses from another six brilliant writers, so stay tuned for their responses.

 

How I “finished” – tip #2: Finding my tribe

Finding my tribe

Writing takes up loads of time and not everyone understands the highs and the lows. Sometimes I need someone to whinge to!

3

While my off-line support team are brilliant, finding a tribe of writers online has been really helpful.

The Monthly Writing Challenge twitter group has especially helped with accountability, habit-forming and general encouragement.

They understand when I’m having a writing day where the words are like pulling a pineapple from an orifice.

Have you found a tribe?

Tomorrow – Tip #3 Marinate for 4 weeks.

 

How I “finished” – Tip #1 Discipline

Discipline is not a dirty word

Discipline and routine isn’t sexy but it’s necessary. Books don’t write themselves. Unfortunately. But creating a daily writing habit really helped to finish my project.

With the help of the Monthly Writing Challenge, I developed a routine of writing or editing every day. Every single day. The Monthly Writing Challenge has a target of 500 words per day or 1 hour editing. (More about the Challenge in Tip#2). There’s an online spreadsheet to record your work efforts and a little bit of public accountability helps.

2

Now, daily writing and editing has become a habit.

For example, I wrote this blog post while at the hairdresser in order to get my 500 words down for the day. I’ve written in parks at lunchtime, at airports, dictated while walking and other weirdo behaviours to get my words in.

Generally, I’m a boringly structured person anyway (I’m an Upholder according to Gretchen Rubin’s framework) but having regular accountability has made the habit stick. Then the word counts and drafts follow.

What helps you stay on track?

Tomorrow – Tip#2 Finding my Tribe

 

How I “finished” my novel – 8 tips in 8 days

My manuscript “Return to the Monolith” is now in line editing. Hoorah! Eek. This means I’m done.

Disclaimer – I am “finished” for now. I don’t have an agent or publisher and I’d be naive to think there’ll be no more changes until the book appears in print.

Being “finished” is a peculiar feeling. I sat for ten minutes with my finger hovering over the send button, debating with myself. Am I really done? Is this it? Strange.

Anyway, it’s time to look back on two years of work and think about what I’ve learned.

This is the first in a series outlining what helped me to “finish”. I’ve come up with eight little helpers.

Over the next eight days, I’ll share eight tips.

1

There’ll be a lot of you Nanowrimo-ans out there, with a big lump of words, wondering how to take your draft to the next stage. I hope this might help.

Tomorrow – Tip#1 : Discipline is not a dirty word..

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén