Category: my writing life (Page 1 of 2)

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?

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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?

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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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Superstitions, Steampunk and Speculative Fiction Reviews

I’m back in the swing of this writing thing after a brilliant holiday and so what’s next for me?

Origins of Common Superstitions monthly series
I’m writing a monthly series for the fabulous Folklore Thursday exploring the origins of common superstitions.
So far, I’ve written about;
· Bad Luck comes in Threes: Matches, Murderers or Mathematics
· The Origins of ‘Touch Wood’: Tree Spirits, The True Cross, or Tag?

And there’s another eight more to come….

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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?

 

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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Birching, medieval peasant life & Norse names: random writing research

I’m in the midst of Nanowrimo and closing in on 50k. Hoorah! I dip into research as I write and so I thought I’d share a few random links for interesting things I’ve researched during the past few days. My Nanowrimo manuscript is fantasy, so I’m going all medieval on your arse.

Birching

The use of birch rods for punishment and birches were always my favourite tree. I now look at them in a different way.

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The tale of two projects: kidney stone or maple syrup?

I still don’t have my writing process down pat. This has become bleeding obvious with my two most recent projects.

The Production – a high gothic YA novel – was a constant struggle, getting out 60k words was like passing a kidney stone. Whereas my current Nanowrimo project – The Ravens of Ambrovna: fantasy –  is flowing out like maple syrup.

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My novel writing process is like making a fancy layer cake  

I’m in the process of writing my umpteenth novel (I’ve no idea how many exist on dead computers or in notebooks probably recycled into toilet paper) but I’m still learning what my process is. I’ve decided my process is like making a real fancy layer cake.

Warning – this blog post is going get a bit hippy-dippy. You have been warned.

I can be a force of nature when I put my mind to something. Get out of my way, people. I can make anything happen through sheer will power and hard work. Until I can’t and I end up banging my forehead against a wall. The universe kicks me in the bum quite often and tells me I can’t force everything. Like creativity and inspiration.

But where’s the cake, you ask? I’ll get to it…

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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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How I got over my self-doubt this time

This week has been another brutal week in world affairs.

I feel quite selfish talking about my own struggles with trivial words on a page when there is pain and death in the lives of so many others.

But this week, I’ve really battled with self-doubt and motivation. I was sick of Evangeline and didn’t want to write another word about her. I was convinced I was writing a bunch of rubbish and would never be able to write again. Blah, blah, blah. Self-indulgent writers rant.

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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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Continuum Melbourne – June 10

I’ll be appearing at Continuum – Melbourne’s Speculative Fiction Convention on June 10 on a panel about “Magical Melbourne” at 10pm. We’ll be discussing Melbourne as a setting for speculative fiction and I’ll be talking about Evangeline and the Alchemist in steampunk Melbourne.

Check out the rest of the program here.

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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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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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Why I write steampunk?

In my last post, I proposed my own pithy definition of steampunk.

But why does steampunk appeal to me? Why do I write steampunk?

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What is steampunk? My pithy definition

When I tell people I’m writing a series of steampunk novellas (The Antics of Evangeline), the first question is often ‘what is steampunk?’ Not everyone appears to be familiar with the world of steampunk.

Here’s my pithy definition of steampunk.

Steampunk is a science-fiction genre based in the Victorian era but with anachronistic technology, generally steam-powered.

Steampunk is an alternate world where Victorian innovations are taken to new heights and fun inventions are inserted alongside the Victorian clichés of parasols, whiskers and London pea-soup fogs.

I hope this helps. Next up, I’ll post about “why I write steampunk?”

Further reading (with considerable more detail) on ‘what is steampunk’ including the history, the community, the elements of a steampunk story and of course, the fabulous fashion.

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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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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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Writing spaces – ideal and real

In an ideal world, my writing space would be in a room overlooking craggy cliffs.

The floor to ceiling windows would open out to the sea, where I’d watch the ever-changing weather roll in and the waves crash against the rocks. I’d be inspired by the power of nature, the wild and moody weather.

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Unfortunately named “Suicide Cliffs” in Okinawa

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Excerpt – Evangeline & the Alchemist

Today, I thought I’d share the first page of my steampunk novella set in Marvellous Melbourne in 1880s, Evangeline & the Alchemist.

I hope you enjoy….

Chapter 1

It all started with a rat-a-tat-tat on the Professor’s laboratory-workshop door. Evangeline and the Professor looked up from their inventing to see Miss Plockton in the doorway.

“Chief Inspector Pensnett ta see you, sir?” she said.

Evangeline perked up on her stool. A policeman here at 56 Collins Street? Something exciting was surely about to happen.

“Ah, yes. I plum forgot.”

Evangeline’s father stopped adjusting his new, improved auto-chariot and walked over to the wooden bench, placing his trusty brass screwdriver with the ivory handle down beside neat stacks of brass cogs, wheels and pins. Her father, Professor Montague Caldicott, the pre-eminent horological-engineer in all the Colonies, smoothed down his humongous moustache with his real hand.

“Your lesson is over for today, m’dear. Follow Miss Plockton upstairs and continue with your embroidery.”

“But Father…” Evangeline groaned. “I could be of some assistance.”

“Police matters are not for the ears of impressionable young ladies. All those dead bodies and smugglers and swarthy criminals. Far too sordid.”

“I never get to do anything interesting,” Evangeline grumbled as she stowed away her rosewood-handled screwdriver in the pocket of her dress, along with a handful of brass pins. The smaller and more delicate screwdriver was a recent gift from her father, an encouragement to pursue her own inventions.

Evangeline’s plain bottle-green day dress, buttoned to the neck, was not the latest fashion but it was better than she had ever imagined in her previous life on the grey foggy streets of London, when her toes poked through holes in her boots. Cold was something she had yet to worry about since she arrived three months ago on the dirigible from Singapore. She wondered whether Melbourne could be anything less than sweltering.

“Out. Out.”

The Professor shooed Evangeline and Miss Plockton from the laboratory-workshop, before carefully locking the door behind him.

 

There was a time when a visit from the police would have frightened Evangeline. She would have hurried to hide her loot, but not today. Today she was a reformed character, setting aside her urchin ways and learning to be a proper young lady. But being good all the time was a bit dull.

Evangeline and the Alchemist is now available on Amazon.

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.

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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.

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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?

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?

 

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.

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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.

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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 #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.

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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.

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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.

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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..

Nanowrimo 2015 – tick

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Hoorah! Another Nanowrimo win! Little happy dance and then back to the word mines.

Nanowrimo is fun but I prefer the less pressure of the Monthly Writing Challenge (500 words per day target). It’s less stressful and creates more quality words. Meh, but that’s me.

So if you are not on board with the Monthly Writing Challenge, check it out and we’ll be keeping up the momentum into December.

Hope your Nanowrimo is going well!

My Nanowrimo Tip #5

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My Nanowrimo Tip #4

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Siblinghood of the World Blogger Award – my responses

I’ve been nominated by Beverley Lee to answer the following questions as part of the Siblinghood of the World Blogger awards. I answer 10 questions, then I pose 10 more questions to 10 more bloggers. Here we go…

Your favourite author is going to call you for a once in a lifetime chance to talk. You can only ask them one question. Who is the author and what is the question? Why?

I can’t narrow it down to one writer.

The more I grow as a writer, I realise we all share the same self-doubt and struggles with wrangling our stories. So the one question I’d like to ask all writers I admire is…

When did you feel like a “real” writer?

Which fictional character would you want as a friend, and why?

Which fictional character would you want as a friend, and why?

Nightingale from the Rivers Of London series. I want my own immortal magical mentor with impeccable pre-war dress sense. I imagine him being like Bill Nighy.

List three books you’ve read more than three times.

  • Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
  • Anno Dracula by Kim Newman
  • The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen.

How’s that for a weird combo.

Who would you say is your greatest writing influence in terms of your own style?

I think my influences are from the opposite side. I know what I dislike, so I avoid that type of writing. I have a background in the corporate world and business writing, so my style is simple. I don’t like overly flowery writing because I’m a lazy reader. The style is important to my reading pleasure. Some styles (and writers) do my head in and so I quickly switch to something cleaner.

What are you working on at the minute?

Starting today, I’m writing the next novella in my Evangeline steampunk series. This novella is about seances and spiritualists.

Which actor/actress would you like to see playing the lead character from your most recent book?

She is in serious trouble of being typecast, but from the recent Dr Who episodes playing Ashildr/Me, I can absolutely see Maisie Williams as my character Alga from the Monolith series.

How important is a book cover to you? Would it influence you over the back blurb?

A good cover is so bloody important. There are some serious ugly covers out there, especially in the self-publishing world, but I’ll admit, often I don’t read the back blurb. There have been many times when I’ve been wowed by an early plot twist, then later on read the back blurb.

Before I buy or borrow (library love), I have to read a page at random. There are certain flowery styles of writing which I can’t handle (see above answer).

If you could live in one fictional world, where would you live?

China Mieville’s Bas-Lag world from Perdido Street Station. What’s not to like …aliens, steampunk and magic. Mieville’s world building is crazy detailed and luscious. I feel I could step right into the pages and live there.

Do you let other people borrow your books?

Absolutely. Words and books are to be shared. Share the love.

Books have some of the most wonderful quotes among them. Which is one of your favourite quotes, and why does it resonate with you?

Let’s go back to my favourite kooky melodramatic Canadian redhead.

It’s been my experience that you can nearly always enjoy things if you make up your mind firmly that you will.

Thank you Anne Shirley and L.M. Montgomery.

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My Ten Questions

  1. When did you feel like a “real” writer?
  2. How do you overcome resistance?
  3. What advice would you give yourself as a wannabe writer?
  4. Do you prefer writing or editing?
  5. What part of the writing process do you struggle with the most?
  6. Do you Nanowrimo?
  7. What authors do you follow on social media?
  8. What’s more important to you; a good plot or beautiful writing?
  9. Do you take yourself on artist’s dates? What do you do?
  10. When friends and family ask “can I read your book?” What do you say?

My 10 nominated bloggers

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?

Self-doubters of the world unite

I’m in the first weeks of a new novel. Actually it’s Book 3 of my Monolith series.

I don’t believe anyone ever suspects how completely unsure I am of my work and myself and what tortures of self-doubting the doubt of others has always given me – Tennessee Williams

While many of the characters are familiar old friends and the world is a place I know well,  I’ve transitioned from ‘close to final’ edits (fingers crossed) of Book 1 to a brand new blank page.

My brain is comparing my poorly structured Book 3 vomit draft with my almost complete Book 1.

Next to Book 1 with its 18 months of hard graft and polish, Book 3 feels like a steamy pile of poo. I am the super hack.

I do have high standards. I look at everything I have done and think, ‘Why wasn’t that better?’ Part of my motivation is from crippling self-doubt – I have got to prove myself wrong – Michael Palin

But misery loves company.

Rather than cheer myself up with positive quotes and affirmations, I’ve collated a bunch of other doubters. Doubters who are much more successful than me.

What still concerns me the most is: am I on the right track, am I making progress, am I making mistakes in art? – Paul Gauguin

Self-doubt is part of the process.

No fine work can be done without concentration and self-sacrifice and toil and doubt. – Max Beerbohm

So I’ll acknowledge it and…

Have you got a favourite doubter quote?

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

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