Category Archives: Writing Career

Being Productive whilst on Holidays; Flights of Fancy

steampunk-book-as-vehicle

I went away to spend some time with my parents.I was away from my computer … but took plenty of pens and paper with me. I often do my ‘chunking’ exercises with pen and paper. ‘Chunking’ is when you write out your idea, as it comes to you in chunks and pieces; this is what my first year lecturer called the process. You might call it something else. It doesn’t matter what it is called, it is just the very first step – after thinking – towards writing a story.

I thought I was in holiday mode. My muse disagreed.

I came up with three solid ideas for short stories, including the ‘Dissected Graces’ story based on the artistic anatomical models. I finally have got a handle on the (hopefully final) structural edit to my Steampunk novel; I will have to kill quite a few of my darlings in the process. I also wrote five individual timelines for characters within the novel, which support the structure and at the same time give them all logical stories of their own that don’t conflict with their characterisations or motivations.

I even came up with a strategy for the structural edit that doesn’t make me too fearful of messing up. I am going to write up the new timeline I came up with, and copy and paste into it. In this way, I keep the original draft ‘pristine’ in case I do stuff things up. I’ve been trying to make better sense of my story and plot for a couple of months, so I am very pleased to be moving forward again.

Writers don’t really get proper holidays, because you can never predict when a great idea is going to strike. The muse can’t be ignored. So, I might not have done much in the way of writing on my computer, but I was certainly doing a lot of writing by hand. I was gone for five days, and I have over 13 pages of notes and observations, timelines and research plans. Some of this stuff is pure gold.

Sometimes, getting out of your familiar work routines kick-starts a new train of thought. That is what happened to me. So I am adding this to my writer’s toolkit.

 

 

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Filed under Editing, Personal experience, Steampunk Themes, Steampunk Work-in-Progress, the Muse, The Writing Life, Uncategorized, writing, Writing Career

Forgoing the Tidy Ending (a rant)

dina-goldsteins-photo-series-fallen-princesses

Image from Dina Goldstein’s  Fallen Princesses photograph series.

As a writer, I have to spend time thinking about the ends of stories. A television show has an hour (well 45 minutes plus commercials) to set a problem and resolve it satisfactorily. Few television shows can afford to go with a messy ending with loose ends, because that isn’t what most people want from an hour of entertainment. Movies and plays, particularly art movies and tragedies, can take the risk of having an unhappy ending, but they still like to tie off the various subplots. Books can have very tragic endings, but everything still tends to get tidied away.

In real life, there are no tidy endings.Real life is a Gordian Knot.

patrick_corrigan-illustration-of-gordian-knot

Patrick Corrigan illustration of a Gordian Knot.

What do you – as a writer – risk by forgoing the happily ever after? Well, you may alienate some of your audience. Some people read purely for entertainment and don’t want to have to think deeply about the ending; and there is nothing wrong with that.

But other people read to have their thoughts provoked.So long as you are consistent, and your plot is logical, these readers don’t (or won’t) mind the story ending like an untidy pile of knitting left to unravel. These endings are particularly favoured by big ‘L’ literary books, but genre authors can utilise these endings to good effect. I’m thinking of Lois Lowry’s The Giver as an example.

the-giver

Some genres can’t have avoid happily ever after endings. A happy resolution is part of the classification of the Romance genre and the Fairy Tale. However, don’t confuse a happy ending with a tidy ending. A happy ending depends heavily on where you end the story. Happily ever after is conditional – if Cinderella’s story had ended before the fairy godmother’s visit, the end is sad and tragic.

Happy ever after is conditional.PNG

A twist ending can still be a tidy ending, if all the twists still lead to a neatly wrapped up ending. Twists are how you end up with a Celtic Princess Braid jumper, but it won’t unravel.

As I become more confident in my writing, I am moving away from the too tidy ending. It isn’t that I want to add a level of realism and verisimilitude to my writing, because of course I do; but this interest in knotty endings is more of a rebellion against the sameness of tidy endings. As Leo Tolstoy noted: Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy is its own way. Human beings are messy. Relationships are messy. I want my writing to memorable and original, and so, once in a while, I will try to avoid the ‘sameness’ of a tidy ending.

contemporary-sculptural-basketry-by-catriona-pollard-the-gordian-knot

 

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Filed under Plot, Uncategorized, writing, Writing Career, Writing Style

Resisting Temptation

steampunk-book-as-vehicle

At the moment, I am trying to edit my Steampunk book and polish it so I can start sending it off to market. Except … I keep writing new short stories, and I finished a children’s book, and rewrote a creative nonfiction book about zombie bugs, all in the past nine months. As one of my writing compadres pointed this out to me at an informal get together, this isn’t getting my editing done.

I’ll be the first to admit that I am busy. But adding – and finishing – new projects is suspiciously like an active form of procrastination. It isn’t that I don’t love my Steampunk novel. It is just that the new projects are always just that bit shinier. Quicker to be completed and so quicker to send off to market. The structural edit seems to be dragging on, and I fear it is because I am dragging my heels.

Every time I dip into editing the steampunk manuscript, I want to add in new things. Should I blame my constant process and need for perfection? Normally, this means I am well and truly on top of a project. After all, I’ve complete books before this one. But I really want this one to be special. Magical! Absorbing! Detailed! Fascinating!

If I was listening to another writer complain about their need for perfection, I would be advising them to ease up and take it one step at a time. My staircase seems to be higher than the Empire State Building at the moment. Insurmountable!

At a meeting at my writers’ group, I did another chunking exercise today to try and get some control over the situation. All I ended up doing was coming up with some new (and excellent) ideas for adding foreshadowing to the first five chapters. *sigh*

Where will it all end?book-trunk

 

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Filed under Opinion Piece, Personal experience, The Writing Life, Uncategorized, writing, Writing Career

Let’s Chat.

I haven’t visited the blog for a while because , for an unemployed, stay-at-home, my life is very busy. I have been sending off short stories and manuscripts with the goal of getting 100 rejections in this financial year. I write off applications for jobs (though I am beginning to think I am unemployable). And I write, of course.

Well, I have a bit of good news. One of my stories has been accepted for an anthology: Monsters Among Us, being published by Oscillate Wildly Press. This not only gave me a rosy glow of contentment, the acceptance letter had such treasures as “a strong plot, some magnificently striking imagery and immaculate prose structure”. I’m thinking of getting this tattooed on my arm, to cheer me up on those days I feel I can’t write a single decent word. I was pretty chuffed with “even at this early stage, a gripping page turner.”

This means my strategy to get 100 rejections is paying off. I got the idea from reading John Birmingham’s How to be a Writer, and a couple of other online writing blogs. If you don’t send off your work, you can’t get rejected … but you can’t get acceptances either.

supanova-gold-coast-2012

 

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Burning Down the House

I am in the last gasp of National Novel Writing Month. I am struggling, even though I had a good plan/plot in place. I don’t think I’m going to make it…

I am tempted to have a ‘Burning Down the House’ moment, where I kill everybody off and start again.

Too much pressure. Too many ideas. I’m finding it difficult to focus on just one thing. It is too hot and humid to think in the afternoons. I want to be editing my other two WiPs. I’m too easily distracted.

The Opposite of Writer’s Block is the ‘Burning Down the House’ moment.

So, what to do? Sometimes, a house just has to burn itself out.

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Filed under NaNoWriMo, Uncategorized, Writer's Block, writing, Writing Career

Is it worth it?

This post is dedicated to a writing friend of mine, Ged Maybury. I recently read this post on his blog:

https://steamedup.wordpress.com/2015/07/23/not-another-inspirational-blog-about-writing/

Ged and me by James Niland at Capalaba Library 19th 10 2013 - fluffing the chops.

Ged and me; photo by James Niland, taken at the Capalaba Library 19th of October, 2013 – I am fluffing Ged’s mutton chops.

Ged is one of the most talented men I know. He writes, is an artist, has been an architect, and is a genius designer and maker of Steampunk cosplay outfits and gadgets. And yet his post was a bucket of cold reality for writers, newbies or otherwise.

Writing rarely pays a living wage. This is what happens when you work in creative industries in Australia in the Twentyteens. You often have to make the choice between surviving and writing. Or have a spouse who is prepared to support you, which is unfair pressure on them even when they have faith in you. You have become used to budgeting and doing without.

And yet … writing has allowed me to become friends with some of the most interesting and talented people in the world. Most of the rewarding moments in my life – apart from time spent with my family – are due to my writing obsession. I am not living a beige life. Fewer regrets. Greater joys. Brighter colours. I wouldn’t have that if I wasn’t writing.

I know there are a LOT of writing-related blogs. But I see this blog, my cheery, cheeky little blog, as a way of paying it forward. So many greater writers than I – Ged among them – have shown me great kindness and encouragement. I want to emulate them. This blog also lets me feel more connected to the worldwide writing community, and the the worldwide Steampunk community. I hope people read it to be entertained and educated.

Ged is correct. A writing career isn’t for everyone. But I will persist in calling myself a writer,and trying to get published. And I hope most of you will too. Because – as Neil Gaiman said:

“Life is sometimes hard. Things go wrong, in life and in love and in business and in friendship and in health and in all other ways that life can go wrong. And when things get tough, this is what you should do. Make good art.”

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Filed under Australian Steampunk Author, Ged Maybury, Personal experience, Writing Career

The Professional Writer’s Dilemma

http://observer.com/2015/07/tenthingsnottosaytoawriter-hashtag-has-famous-authors-venting-and-bonding-on-twitter/dan-poynter-quote

Note the clever wordplay on ‘waiter’.

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