Tag: my writing life (Page 1 of 2)

Persistence – the unsexy secret to success

Today’s post is for the NaNoWriMo people amongst us and part of #NaNoInspo blog tour.

Hello NaNoers

It’s Day 7.

By now you’re probably over the initial blush of excitement which spurs on your Nano project.

If you’re lucky, the words are still flowing and you’re riding high.

But the fairy dust has probably fallen from your eyes and you’re staring into a white abyss with a stupid blinking cursor wondering what the fuck you signed up for.

I’ve done NaNoWriMo a bunch of times and for the first seven times, I flailed at about 20,000 word mark.

I learned the secret over time.

It’s not sexy.

It’s not cool.

It’s boring and hard and takes lots of time and it’s unrelenting.

But it’s the secret to writing success and probably the tip you don’t want to hear.

It’s the one thing that all successful writers have in common. No matter which genre.

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Poll: who should join Evangeline in a Christmas story?

Which side-kick should join Evangeline in a Christmas adventure?

As a little Christmas present to my mailing list subscribers, I’m writing a new short story adventure for Evangeline with the usual hijink and baked goodies, but I need your help, dear reader. 

Which side-kick should join Evangeline?

Have your say in the poll below.

Who should accompany Evangeline on a Christmas adventure?

View Results

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And one more question on format. Would you prefer to read the story yourself or listen to the story (read by me)?

I’ve been personally bingeing on audiobooks and M.R James’ Ghost Stories for Christmas.

What format would you prefer?

View Results

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Evangeline’s Christmas Adventure (short story) will be available before Christmas as a present to my mailing list subscribers. So if you don’t want to miss out, make sure your name is on the list (or sign-up below).

 

Evangeline and the Mysterious Lights – sneak peek

Would you like a little taster of Evangeline and the Mysterious Lights? A wee amuse-bouche?

Well, here’s an extract from Chapter 1.

If you like what you read, Evangeline and the Mysterious Lights is available for pre-order now and is out 11th October 2017.

Or if you’d like all four novellas in one Collection, The Antics of Evangeline is also available for pre-order.

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Borek, biryani and skyr: notes from flaneuring

I’m back at my writing desk after a four week break of flaneuring and flouncing about Europe.

From the buzz and crowds of sunny summer London. Pints on the pavement, sun-bathing in the park, striking a stony Tube face, history intermingling with hipster. A city uniting against tragedy, once again.

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The Smashed Avo Affair and trying new things

When I started taking my writing seriously, I was pig-headed. Or maybe I was “clear about my goals.” I said I’d only write my own stuff. Fiction.

And to date, my stuff has been long form novels and novellas in the speculative fiction genre. I didn’t want to write other stuff for other people, I wanted to focus on my “Art”.

But a few weeks back, I read this article – The Secret to Doing What You Love. This gave me a kick in the bum. The author James Altucher argues that you don’t know what the future holds so you shouldn’t be anchored to one outcome.

Since then, I’ve been thinking of other opportunities to tell stories (aside from my current projects).

And here’s the first product.

Battle Lines Drawn in the Great Australian Smashed Avo Affair – a short piece featured on the fantastic Roads and Kingdoms about a recent furore in Australia about brunch, generational warfare and house prices.

Enjoy.

My 2017 writing goals – simple but not easy

Yes, yes, yes. It’s 1st January 2017 and just like everyone else, it’s time for me to declare my 2017 goals.

Here are my official writing goals for 2017.

I’ve decided to keep it simple and focused. But don’t get me wrong, they are big and scary goals too.

  1. Publish two new Evangeline episodes (and a collection – The Antics of Evangeline Volume 1)
  2. Finish and query The Flower and the Serpent (YA horror novel)
  3. Finish and query The Ravens of Ambrovna (light-fantasy feminist novel)

I’ll check on 30 June with my progress so far.

My other non-writing goals are more about keeping up my health and wellbeing routines, prioritising time for friends/family and reading.

What are your 2017 goals?

 

Thank you for 2016

As the last few hours of 2016 fade away, I’d like to thank everyone in 2016 for their support, feedback, purchases, laughs and reality checks.

THANK YOU

To the agents and publishers for thickening my skin.

To the buyers of the Evangeline novellas for your support, your reviews (good and bad) and making me feel like a real writer.

To my beta readers, cover designers, formatters, editors for your expertise.

To my writing community for your friendships, support and encouragement.

And to you dear blog reader.

You all helped to make my 2016.

 

What went well in 2016 – 3 good things

Now 2016 has been one of those bastard years. With the deaths of lots of beloved artists and surprising political results, it’s been strange and shocking. I wonder whether the Queen will announce 2016 as another ‘annus horribilis’ in her Christmas Speech.

But beyond the rejection letters, two-star reviews and disappointments, 2016 wasn’t all bad.

Here are my top 3 good things from 2016.water-534098_640

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Evangeline and the Bunyip – sneak peek at page 1

Evangeline and the Bunyip is due out any day now and I can’t wait to show you the cover.

But in the meantime, here’s a sneak peek at page 1.

Enjoy.

Evangeline and the Bunyip

Chapter 1

“And another thing, Evangeline. You mustn’t eat too much. There’ll be ample food and I know you have a… healthy… appetite,” Uncle Augie said.

Evangeline glanced at the buttery shortbread in her hand. What could Uncle Augie possibly mean? It was only her third.

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Shadows and Bunyips

Last week’s freebie sale on Evangeline and the Alchemist: A Novella: Mystery and Mayhem in steampunk Melbourne (The Antics of Evangeline Book 1) was an overwhelming success (over 2,500 downloads). I was blown away. I hope you snaffled a copy and enjoy it.

In the past week, I’ve been exploring my shadow side with my new gothic horror work and finalising proofs/cover for Evangeline and the Bunyip.

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Writing round-up (without that toxic chemical)

When I read informative information on how “optimise my author platform”, there is always a mention of a consistent blog content strategy. Mmm, well, big fail here. This blog and my blogging is awfully random. I’ve decided to go with my randomness and only blog when I feel inspired, which waxes and wanes.

Today is a little round-up (and not the noxious chemical) on what’s going on with me. Something new, something old and some classroom time.

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Half time score for 2016

It’s 30th June, half way through 2016 already and so it’s time to reflect and revisit my 2016 resolutions.

  • Publish something
  • Write or edit daily
  • Learn from the experts

How have I fared?

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What inspired The Antics of Evangeline stories?

Now, what inspired the stories in The Antics of Evangeline?

Since I was a child, I’ve loved the weird, the wonderful and the supernatural. I am a big fan of Dr Who, Whedon-worlds, Hammer horror, the X-Files, folktales and all manner of forteana.

The Antics of Evangeline combine a steampunk setting with an exploration of folklore and the paranormal.

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Why the Monthly Twitter Writing Challenge rocks – join for June

I’ve been a part of the Monthly Twitter Writing Challenges for over a year now. Finally in June 2016, I’ve stepped up to lead the challenge. The Challenge has helped me build a regular writing routine, but there are plenty of other reasons to join the ride.

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Sometimes reading counts as plotting, right?

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What inspired The Antics of Evangeline – style

Today I’m talking more about the inspiration behind Evangeline and the Alchemist (coming in June 2016).

The book which sparked the whole Evangeline series was Blameless by Gail Carriger. (Yes, I read her series completely out of order.) Aside from being a cracking good read, I was struck by Carriger’s wit and the possibility of silliness within a Victorian world. As soon as I finished the last page, I was hit with an idea for a character, Evangeline.

I’ve tried writing urban fantasy before (vampire chef, anyone?) but it didn’t sit right with me. The humour felt forced and, to be frank, just plain dorky. Somehow in the artificial world of steampunk, I’ve felt the freedom to be silly and funny in an overblown and flowery way. Bring on the adjectives, chums! At first, this was a release from the more serious world of my Monolith series, but it has turned into something larger and Evangeline is now my first release as an independent author.

Aside from Carriger, I channelled some

  • Wodehouse,
  • with a little Hugh Lawrie as Prince George in Blackadder III,


All these style influences mixed around in my brain to create Evangeline and her Marvellous Melbourne world.
Next time, I’ll continue with my Evangeline inspirations and move onto the story itself.

Why My Advice Won’t Work for You

The internet is full of advice. Do this. Do that. Lose weight. Find Mr Right. Make millions from home. Get a billion followers and rock-hard abs by lunchtime.

I could do the same. This is how I managed to conquer **insert “flaw” here** and achieved **insert “success” here**.

But what works for me won’t work for you. Necessarily.

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Fuck you Resistance…and the horse you rode in on

Dear Reader

I’ve been feeling low, like my writing is a waste of time. My head’s been full of stupid thoughts.

There’s no point
Why am I bothering?
I’ll just be a big failure. A laughing stock.
I’ll never get a book deal or an agent
I’ll sell no copies
I’ll get 1 star reviews

Basically I feel like giving up.

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Three reasons why I’m glad for my day job

In my dreams, I would be a full-time writer. But in reality, some days I’m glad to leave my writing at home and go to the day job.

Here’s three reasons why…

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Mysteries and mayhem in steampunk Melbourne – coming soon

While I query on Return to the Monolith, I’ve decided to keep anxiety at bay (see last week’s post) by putting my Evangeline novellas out into the world.

The Antics of Evangeline is a series of novellas involving mysteries and mayhem in steampunk Melbourne. In the 1880s, Melbourne was the second largest settlement in the British Empire after London and flush with post-gold rush cash.

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What I learned this week

My own Yoda told me to work on something new while querying.

This is great advice, designed to stop me going nuts and checking my email forty thousand times a day.

So I went ahead and worked on something else. The sequels to my querying manuscript. So I’m ready to go with Books 2 and 3 when the call eventually comes.

But the anxiety crept in…. I started to fret and worry.

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A little writing meltdown

Some days, it’s just overwhelming. There’s too much to remember. Too many techniques.

 

Is the pace right?

Does the scene turn?

What’s the character’s motivation?

Is my first line punchy enough?

Is my dialogue boring?

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Recent listens: How to Publish Your Book by Jane Friedman

I like my audiobooks. But for some unknown reason, I can’t focus on fiction in audio. My mind wanders and I miss sections of the story, so I’ve learned to stick with non-fiction for audiobooks.

A recent listen was How to Publish Your Book by Jane Friedman, available through The Great Courses. This is available through Audible and you’ll also receive the accompanying lecture notes in PDF.

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A little writing music

Music is a perfect pairing for writing. It can provide inspiration, pace and block out annoying noises. But it’s gotta be the right music.

The key pre-requisite for me is NO LYRICS. Words distract me and sometimes randomly appear in my manuscript.

This is what I listen to while writing.

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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)?

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?

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.

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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?

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.

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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.

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.

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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

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.

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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

 

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

 

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.”

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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.

 

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!

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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..

My Nanowrimo Tip #5

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Nanowrimo tip#2

5

Nanowrimo – I’m in again

I’m not quite sure how many nanowrimos I’ve done. I first heard of the fun crazy challenge in 2002 or 2003 from a friend in London. I’ve done at least four, I can remember.

My profile is from my days as a closet writer and apparently you can’t change your profile name. So find me under madolescent.

Nanowrimo taught me how to vomit draft.

Now I don’t get writer’s block, I keep on writing and writing. Filling the page with words even though it’s rubbish and sometimes it feels like I’m only typing.

But this way, the words get down and somehow in amongst the rabid typing, the magic happens.

Are you in?

Confessions of a writer tag

I’ve been tagged by Aura Eadon to answer the following questions arising from Nicolette Elzie‘s blog.

When did you first start writing? Was being a writer something you always aspired to be?

Aside from the grey period when law school sucked out all the joy, I’ve always loved books and reading. But I never thought I could be a writer. I wasn’t creative or deep enough. Yet the need to create stories niggled at me for years. I’ve done Nanowrimo, attended a few short courses and produced five or six half-finished novels but never had the confidence to take myself seriously. Then during some maudlin navel gazing, I realised writing a novel was my life’s ambition. So I decided to get serious and come out as a writer.

What genre do you write?

I like to make stuff up so speculative fiction is my genre. A bit sci-fi but no spaceships. A bit fantasy but no ‘chosen ones’. I’ve tried writing in other genres (urban fantasy, crime etc) but the stories did not feel right. It did not feel like me. Speculative fiction is a comfy place to be.

Can you tell us a little about your current work in progress? When did you start working on this project?

I’ve got a full production line going with four or five pieces in various stages of drafting, editing and resting. My Monolith trilogy has been my main focus for the past eighteen months but I’m taking a break and currently working on a set of steampunk YA novellas set in 1880s Melbourne. My heroine is a 17 year old ex-pickpocket and acrobat now living in the Colonies with her long-lost father.

What was your first piece that you can remember writing? What was it about?

There was the cringe inducing poetry published in the school magazine, featuring thinly veiled phallic imagery. Good times.

What’s the best part about writing?

Reaching the magical flow state, when the story takes over and ideas appear out of nowhere. I am just the implement recording the words on the page. It’s pretty damn cool.

What’s the worst part about writing?

When everything I write is a steaming pile of poo and the vicious voices whisper in my ear, telling I have no talent and I’m wasting my time.

What’s the name of your favourite character and why?

Anne of Green Gables. Manic, kooky and fragile, she leaps from the page. She’s the inspiration for my steampunk heroine, Evangeline. Although in real life, Anne would get on my nerves. Such a drama queen.

How much time a day/week do you get to write? When is the best time for you to write (morning or night)?

I’m one of those annoying A-type personalities. Since I decided to get serious, I write or edit every day. But writing is my happy place. In an ideal world, I’d spend every morning writing. But in real life, I write whenever and where ever I get a chance.

Did you go to college for writing?

Nope. I’m ambivalent about writing degrees. For me, writing is about discipline and practice. Can those skills be taught in a class at university? I’ve done short courses in the past. Now I read writing reference books and try to read critically.

What bothers you more: spelling errors, punctuation errors or grammar errors?

Spelling errors. They stand out like a big angry zit.

What is the best writing advice that anyone has given you?

“The most important thing about art is to work. Nothing else matters except sitting down every day and trying.” – Steven Pressfield

What advice would you give to another writer?
  1. First drafts are always shit – go Hemingway!
  2. Stop talking about writing and write
  3. The real work starts after you’ve finished the first draft
What are your favourite writing sites or blogs that you turn to for help, tips or encouragement?

The Creative Penn, Story Grid, Steven Pressfield, Chuck Wendig. Encouragement comes from the brilliant Monthly Writing Challenge crew on Twitter.

Besides writing, what else do you enjoy doing? What are your hobbies?

I spend a lot of time in my head and sitting on my bum, so I try to balance this out with walking, running and weight training. I love to lose myself in books and films.

What’s the best book you’ve read this year?

Three way tie between Perdido Street Station – China Mieville, Parable of the Sower – Octavia E Butler and Sunne in Splendour – Sharon Penman. Speculative fiction in three different ways.

What is the best movie you’ve seen this year?

Cheap Thrills – a twisted movie about what people will do for money.

What is your favourite book or series of all time?

Of all time? Too hard. Currently I’m into Ben Aaronovitch’s Rivers of London series. Recently completed Book 5 – Foxglove Summer and anxiously awaiting #6.

Who is your favourite author?

Depends on the direction of the wind and what I’ve had for breakfast. I’ve mentioned a few authors above. Other honourable mentions include Val McDermid, CJ Sansom and Michael Robotham.

What are your plans for the rest of the year in terms of your writing?

Hopefully to start querying my Monolith trilogy by the end of the year. Exciting times. Wish me luck!

Where else can we find you online?

Twitter

Goodreads

Consider yourselves tagged.

Sara General

Mollie Smith

Annelisa Christensen

Mattias Ahlvin

What you are your thoughts on the questions above?

Why I write – a response

This post is inspired by Chuck Wendig’s Terrible Mind blog. He put out a flash fiction challenge to write about “why I write?”

Here’s my story of “Why I write”.

I was a kid into books. I love stories. I love to be lost in books and transported by words. But I used to think storytellers were other people. Not me. They were artists. Artistic, high lit, tortured poetic wordsmiths. When I dashed down some words on a page, they were plain old crap.

It took years to learn lesson#1.

The first draft of anything is shit – Ernest Hemingway

So I hid the shit in a drawer and went back to watching TV.

But the desire still ate away at me. Whenever I thought about my life goals – writing a book was always number one with a bullet. So I’d enrol in some writing courses. I’d dabble but never had the confidence to take myself seriously.

I’d get discouraged and distracted.

Then I found Nanowrimo. Nanowrimo helped me churn out three or four unfinished lumpy novels. I proved to myself I could sit down and write 50,000 words in a month but they didn’t work. They didn’t resonate with me. My urban fantasy felt too cheesy. When I tried to write crime, my skin crawled when I tried to get inside the heads of serial killers or murderers. I was an imposter, none of it felt truly like me.

So I put it away again and went back to post-grad study.

Try not. Do, or do not. There is no try – Yoda

I started to get all angsty, mid life crisis riddled. My life circumstances changed and I had a bit of time on my hands. I imagined dying tomorrow with this one ambition left unfulfilled. It would be my one regret.

So I sat down and did it.

This time, it’s war – Aliens (1987)

Now I realise I need it. Practising every day, I’m learning the craft and improving. I read and learn from others. I’m prepared. I know it’s a bumpy ride of “I suck. I rock.” I know that the vomit draft is the easy part, the hard part is the six months of Revise. Delete. Rewrite. Repeat. I know the odds are stacked against me, there are millions of books published every day competing for readers. I know all this and I do it anyway. Cos I love it and it makes me happy.

That’s why I write.

Michael Whelan’s Yours Truly

Bird calls, barrels and Navy SEALs – random research

I’m terrible at book monogamy. I got distracted from my reading of Anne of Green Gables (the new shiny thing is Kim Newman’s The Quorum) for my blog series revisiting my favourite children’s book, so no review today. Although I am enjoying spending time with that feisty nutty Anne Shirley again.

Today’s blog post is about research. Or three random research topics for my current manuscript. I needed to describe the call of a hawk, find out what was inside an elite soldier’s survival pack and the different parts of a barrel. My writing is educational too!

  • Bird calls

This site has written descriptions of bird calls, as well as audio clips to listen for yourself. Perfect for describing the screech of a hawk overhead, which is kee-eeeee-arr, if you were wondering. Those twitchers are cool people.

  • Navy SEAL Survival Packs

My current manuscript includes a secret military operation to bring back a fugitive. So I needed to know what is in a standard issue survival kit for a Navy SEAL. This article in Time shows the current contents as well as the contents in the packs from 1960s.

https://timemilitary.files.wordpress.com

  • Parts of a barrel

Did you know that the wooden planks forming the main body of a barrel were called “staves”? I do now.

https://salutwineco.files.wordpress.com

What random internet research have you done this week?

Watching a rom-com unveil in real life

I’m callous and caustic, love stories leave me cold. I’ve never pictured a perfect wedding, knights in shining armour, being swept off my feet (surely that would hurt?) or living happily ever after.

In fact, I actively avoid rom-coms or romance novels. I hate the part in a comedy movie when the laughs stop and the lovey-dovey, vomit-inducing stuff takes over. Blurgh, give me spaceship battles or fights any day.

So, how did I find myself witnessing a scene straight from a rom-com, blossoming moment by moment in front of my eyes?

I arrived at the communal study room of my local library, looking for a little quiet editing time out of the house. The room was crammed with studious people, barely a spare seat, I took the last seat next to a guy. I didn’t look at him, but I glanced across to see what he was working on/studying. I’m nosy like that. He was doing Japanese homework.

I put in my headphones and booted up my lap top, ready to work, when an announcement came over the PA system. The library wifi was down. I opened up Scrivener and plugged on regardless, hoping the wifi would come back soon.

Five minutes later, another announcement. The wifi would be down for the rest of the afternoon. I decided to persevere, with the music-less headphones in my ears (editing Book 2 Return to the Forest). One by one, the other people left the study room.

Then the guy next to me struck up a conversation with the girl on the other side. Miffed at first for disturbing my peace, my stickybeak nature couldn’t help but eavesdrop. He was studying Japanese and she turned out to be a Japanese exchange student, freshly arrived in Melbourne. They exchanged phrases, she corrected and praised his Japanese, he helped with her English. They giggled and continued to talk.

As the room emptied, I moved to another spare table, but glanced over to check them physically. Was he a dirty old man and she a young girl? No, they were well suited, both slim, young and a little nerdy.

Over the next half hour, they moved closer and closer together, while the rest of the room emptied. Arms touching, hunched over their homework.

My editing time was up, so I packed to leave, but as I left the room, I wondered about the Japanese student and the Australian guy, imagining a happy ever after.

Perhaps I’m not as callous as I thought.

www.dreamtime.com

It’s not you, it’s me – should I feel bad for abandoning books?

I have never been one to commit to books, or movies or TV shows. I can walk away at any time, even just a few moments before the end. If it hasn’t grabbed my attention, I can move on. No qualms. Maybe I’m just a commitment phobe.

But now as I’m spending hours and hours of my time writing and editing, every time I put aside a book for something newer and shinier, I have second thoughts. A little tinge of guilt…should I feel bad when I abandon reading a book?

www.booyorkcity.com

On the guilt inducing side…

I feel for the writer, now that I have some idea of the process. The hours, weeks, months and years poured into crafting every single word. Sometimes I feel bad for skimming over sentences, thinking back to my last writing session, where I laboured for forty five minutes over a single sentence. A sentence some callous reader could just skip over!

Then I think about how the writer made it through the gauntlet of the publishing world (although a lesser consideration these days with the thriving indie market), through the anguish of finding an agent and getting selected by a publisher. If it made it through the publishing gauntlet, it must be good, right?

On the other hand

Life is short. There are so many other books I could be reading. There are so many other fish in the sea. If it isn’t doing it for me, I should move on guilt-free.

This does not mean the book is bad. It just isn’t right for me at this moment. If I’m in the mood for a mystery with a hunchback lawyer from the 15th century, then an urban fantasy with a mixed race London bobby in the magical division is not going to cut it.

Of course, reading anything after a fantastic book is hard. Rebounds are always fleeting.

Other times, I’ve abandoned a book only to pick it up again later and devour it. Sometimes I’ve just got to be in the right mood.

After this conversation with myself, I’ve decided I don’t need to feel guilty about abandoning a book. It’s not you book, it’s me.

Do you abandon books?

Killer cockroaches and ashes – Imagination Fuel Diary

Are there any songs about Thursdays? I can’t think of any.

As an exercise in documenting my imagination fuel, I spent a day noting down interesting sights, sounds and topics for future writing. Inspiration is everywhere and you never know where the next gem might crop up.

You get ideas from daydreaming. You get ideas from being bored. You get ideas all the time. The only difference between writers and other people is we notice when we’re doing it. ~ Neil Gaiman

  • A burnt out building.

As I walked to work, I caught sight inside a fire damaged building. The news stories said the fire was suspicious. I peeked inside (actually I stopped and had a proper gawk) at the smoke damaged walls, the blackened beams, the smashed skylights, the missing first floor, the piles of debris, the grey, white and black.

  • A ballet costume on a bill poster plastered to a brick wall

A vibrant green male ballet dancer jumping the air with a flowing cape from the Australian Ballet’s production of a Midsummer Night’s Dream. Here’s the image from the poster.

www.artcentremelbourne.com

  • Killer cockroaches preserved in amber found in Myanmar

A “crane giraffe” killer cockroach from 100 million years ago has been found preserved in amber. Sounds like the premise of a horror movie to me.

  • A bumper sticker “Avenge Sevenfold”

This might be some kind of brand or a bikie gang, but my imagination went to a tale of brotherhood and family rivalry.

Note: turns out my memory is faulty and this is a US metal band and their name is Avenged Sevenfold. Good name though.

What you noticed today which fuelled your imagination?

Three ways to kickstart a writing session

Sit down, open my laptop, crack my knuckles and go!

And then stare at the blank page…sometimes, it’s not that easy to get going.

Here’s a couple of other things I do before I start writing –

  • stretch my body to get the blood flowing,
  • invite the Muse to visit me and then
  • a few writing warm-ups.

Stretch

Whether a few yoga poses, some arm circles or a walk around the block, I need a bit of movement before I put fingers to keyboard.

Have you got a spare three minutes? Here’s a little three minute video of Japanese morning calisthenics (also known as raijo taiso). I do this every morning to knock out the kinks. Apparently, raijo taiso is broadcast across Japan every morning. Originally part of an insurance company campaign in the 1920s, it is still popular today. Some say, it is the secret to the spritely Japanese elders.

Ode to the Muse

Next, I invite the Muse to join me with my writing.

This is the beginning four lines of a beautiful poem Ode to the Muse written by Mary Darby Robinson from an anthology from 1791.

O, LET me seize thy pen sublime
That paints, in melting dulcet rhyme,
The glowing pow’r, the magic art,
Th’ extatic raptures of the Heart;

How could the Muse ignore such a delightful invitation?

Writing warm ups

Now to get the brain moving with a few quick writing warm ups. Something short and sharp, but a little bit hard.

  • the #6words challenges for 6 word stories on a particular topic thrown out on Twitter by Kelsye
  • Describe your main character in 5 words
  • Create a 6 word pitch for your writing

How do you kickstart your writing sessions?

Kicking Resistance in the nuts

Usually I’m annoyingly motivated. Since deciding to take this writing thing seriously, I turn up every day in front of my computer and write/edit for as much time as I have available. Sometimes thirty minutes at lunchtime, sometimes a whole day.

But this week, the Resistance monster has sniffing around, getting in the way. Despite some great feedback recently, the Resistance monster’s been telling me I’m rubbish, telling me I’m wasting my time with this writing malarkey and generally making me not want to write.  As Steven Pressfield says

“Resistance is always lying and always full of shit”.

Steven Pressfield talks a load about Resistance in his classic book “War of Art”, about how Resistance is everywhere. Pressfield believes Resistance is the main cause of unhappiness in the world as it stops everyone from achieving their true heart’s desires. In a recent blog post, he outlined how Resistance can even possess your loved ones, dissuading and sabotaging you from your truth path. The cure is “doing the work”. Sitting down every day and putting your fingers on the keys and just bloody writing.

I’ve felt the Resistance but done it anyway, yet I was still lacking in mojo. I felt I was only going through the motions of editing, the joy was not there.  Until yesterday.

What helped? Exercise. I smashed out a hard kettlebells session then took a long walk with no music or podcast distractions. My mind free to wander, ideas started to flow and the motivation started to creep back in. I got excited about my project again and couldn’t wait to get back to my keyboard and push through my edits.

Phew, I fought him off and kicked Resistance in the nuts.

This time.

But like any evil villain, he’ll be back….

www.american-buddha.com

Write on – why I love writing challenges

Tips on writing and quotes from famous writers are everywhere. I think most advice boils down to “sit there and write. Every day.”

But that’s easier than it sounds, it’s like “eat less, move more.” Easy in theory, but a different story when it’s chocolate o’clock. Writing challenges help me with discipline and build my daily writing habit.

I started with Nanowrimo – write a 50,000 word novel in November. This initially helped me to get into the habit of “vomit drafting”, just blurting it all out, writing without the inner critic and getting those words and thoughts down on the page. But a target of 1,667 per day is not sustainable in the long term for me. Nowadays Nanowrimo is not just for November, there are regular challenges throughout the year and for other forms. I’ve written four novels in Nanowrimos.

My current favourite is Monthly Writing Twitter Challenge with a target of 500 words per day or 1 hour editing. This is an achievable target without feeling overwhelming. And over the month, even with the minimum 500 words, I can amass at least 15,000 words. It’s a simple challenge with a great supportive community on Twitter and it was originally inspired by Dr Who! Join us and sign up for March!

The challenges keep me accountable, motivated and give me a sense of achievement.

What are your tips for building writing discipline?

www.iamerinbrown.com

What I learned about writing in 2014

Time for some self indulgent navel gazing about 2014.

2014 was a big year for me. I got serious about this writing malarkey. Writing and publishing a novel has been my life’s goal as long as I can remember, so it was time to stop tinkering around the edges and make a real go of it.

So what did I learn in 2014 and what inspired me.

There are loads of options in the publishing world

I love my podcasts and stumbled across So you want to be a writer. “Writer” comes from the Australian Writer’s Centre and is a valuable resource of information and inspiration. It alerted me to the booming world of self-publishing. Having read Hugh Howey’s Wool in paperback, I had no idea about his back story in super successful self publishing and the different options available to writers these days. Valerie and Allison are knowledgeable and entertaining, their advice on the importance of establishing an author platform inspired me to start this blog, join Twitter and come out as a writer. I look forward to each episode.

I can write hundreds of thousands of words a year and keep a day job

Having participated in Nanowrimo multiple times and won, this year I got serious about sitting down almost every day to write or edit. In 2014, I managed 4 drafts of a 75,000 novel #1, a Nanowrimo 50,000 word vomit draft of Novel#2 and 15,000 words of Novel #3. And I kept my day job! And still managed 8 hours sleep a night (well, many of those 8 hours tossing and turning but my sleep battles are a discussion for another day).

Although on the downside, I have fallen way behind in pop culture, if it’s not Dr Who or Games of Thrones, I haven’t seen it. Hey, I’m old now – it doesn’t matter if I don’t keep up with the cool kids anymore. Oh and the best thing, whilst some days writing is like cracking walnuts with my bare hands, I still enjoy the process.

My writing doesn’t suck

I put my work out there for the first time, seeking professional and beta reader feedback on my drafts. No one told me I sucked. In fact, people even said some complimentary stuff and more importantly, gave me pointers on what to improve. Onwards and upwards, friends!

My goal –  to have a completed (ready to publish) manuscript by 31/12/15. And I can’t wait to share it with the world!

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