Category Archives: Writing Experiment

Poetry – Seasonal Haiku

Rain in the gutter

Turns bright Autumn leaves into

Bitter Winter tea

Black branches of trees

Tatting a stark lace to drape

A cold Winter sky…

Rain makes the frogs sing

Joyful songs for the Summer

Season, wet and hot.

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Why you should be proud of your Fanfic Juvenilia.

The Doctor and the Master

The Doctor and the Master

When I was eleven, I wrote this fanfic based on The Silver Brumby series by Elyne Mitchell. I copied Mitchell’s style, settings, plot lines, and just about anything else to do with Thowra (who I visualized as a snow-white gray and not a palomino).  It was my very first attempt at writing a novel, because up until that point I had been writing short stories. I was so into the Silver Brumby series that I overlooked the purple prose; to be truthful, I was rather taken with the lyrical overwriting and copied that too.

My next attempt at a novel was in the Science Fiction genre, as Fantasy and Science Fiction was my favourite genre for any form of entertainment. I was a huge fan of Doctor Who – and still am. This second narrative was much less derivative on any one author’s work. It was written in snatches between studying and caring for my horse in Grade Twelve, and in the end of year break before I went to university for my first round of tertiary studies. It was quite dreadful, but it was an enormous improvement over my brumby book, as I had made attempted to have an original plot, setting and characters.

When I started my second round of tertiary studies, I wrote a little more fanfic, usually to experiment with the characters in these universes. It helped me to find the confidence to use my own voice.

Writing fanfic gave me practice in all the skills I needed as a writer. It taught me the discipline to sit down and write thousands of words. It taught me about the interwoven relationships between characterization, setting and plot. It taught about how to give a character a voice of their own. It wasn’t a waste of time.

So, I applaud all those individuals brave enough to put their fanfics online for others to read. You need passion to write such fiction, and it is a good way to discover your own talents as a writer.

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Filed under Doctor Who, Fanfic, writing, Writing Experiment, Writing Style

Influences

Writer's Clock

I have a long list of people who have influenced my writing style. My very first major influence was Elyne Mitchell, who wrote the Silver Brumby series. I loved her purple prose with a passion. (Try saying that fast without spitting. And let me just say here … at no point did I suspect Thowra was a palomino, since he was supposed to disappear in snow. To me, Arrow was a palomino, and Thowra was a milk-white grey.) My very first attempt at writing a novel was a Silver Brumby fan fiction; though no one called it fan fiction back then, called Allinta, the Flame. Allinta was copper-coloured mare with a golden mane and tail, and all her adventures were pale echoes of events in The Silver Brumby series. My writing style was florid, without the authentic touch that Mitchell brought to her work. She knew the Snowy Mountains and I most certainly did not.

I was just a pre-teen when I wrote Allinta, the Flame. As I grew older, into my mid-teens, I lost interest in finishing Allinta’s adventures. I had become a huge fan of Star Wars, and now I was writing excruciatingly bad Space Opera. I suspect my main character was a Mary Sue, and I base this suspicion on the fact that my two male protagonists were physically based on my two crushes at the time: Leif Garrett and Ike Eisenmann. I managed to finish this story, and – as I recall – it did show some actual flashes of originality. But it was still terrible, as I had only a vague idea of what it took to write a novel. It was a series of adventures with no real central theme to link them together.

During the time I was studying zoology at university, I found less time to write. I did attempt another Fantasy, thanks to a sudden passion for The Sword of Shannara. Alas, I spent more time studying than writing, and that story faltered in its early stages. I wrote a little poetry and the less said about that the better. I graduated with a Bachelor in Science. I got a job completely unrelated to my degree. I got married to the wrong fellow.

Then I reread some of my juvenilia. Oh dear. It was obvious to me that my talents didn’t lie with literature, and for over ten years I did other things. I took drawing lessons. I even did a diploma in Art & Design. Art tried to fill in the hole left by writing. Of course, it couldn’t.

I had a baby. I got divorced. I thought that my social life was over, at over thirty with an infant and a whole lot of baggage. I was wrong. I met the right man. I remarried. I had another baby. And even while she was a sweet little bundle of cuddles, my muse was whispering in my ear. “Write down these feelings. We can use them.” My second husband is an enabler. When I mentioned I was drawn to try writing again, he encouraged me. I joined an online writing group. I did a TAFE course in short story writing. Then I took the plunge, and decided to do a second degree, this time in writing, with his full support.

I had spent a long time having nightmarish dreams about being lost on a bus. The minute I started my degree, those dreams disappeared. I had found my way at last.

Catbus bus

Now my life is submerged in writing, and I am content. I have found my own voice, my own style, and even if I am never published as a novelist, I feel a part of the writing community. It was at this point I decided to start this blog, and give back to the community that supports me. As well, I do volunteer work related to writing, such as judging the Australian Aurealis Awards, helping out at writing conventions, and giving seminars on the Steampunk genre. I run Steampunk Sunday, Queensland Australia on Facebook. I’m a tadpole in a very big pond, but I’m still swimming.

These days, my major influences for Fiction are Diana Wynne Jones, Neil Gaiman, Angela Slatter and a score of other writers. My Science writing is heavily influenced by Isaac Asimov. I’d love to write like Terry Pratchett, but I don’t have his genius for humour. I know what my strengths and weaknesses are. That is why I did the Writing Experiment online, to take a risk and push my envelope. There is always something new to learn.

Isn’t it wonderful?

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Writing Experiment – an update.

I am surprised at how confronting it is to share a first draft with the world, even when you have planned all along to share that draft. It feels like I am cutting myself open and showing off my cringing, cowardly insides. I didn’t think I would feel this way as I consider myself fairly egoless for a writer. I was wrong. I have plenty of ego.

I am afraid people will see how terrible and talentless my first drafts can be.

And yet, I hope this is encouraging other writers to be brave and take risks. You can only learn through taking risks.

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Writing Experiment: a new scene for the first draft

Etty looked down at the young man on the stretcher, and felt the shock of recognition. It was Nick! Even though she hadn’t seen him face to face in a couple of years, she knew the lines of his face as well as her own. He looked awful, his skin was grey-tinged and he was covered in bleeding scrapes and scratches.

She took his hand, and he opened his eyes. Etty hid her concern and gave him an encouraging smile. He tried to grin, and winced.

Etty said, “Well, what sort of excitement have you been getting into?”

“My bicycle didn’t take a corner. I was trying to avoid one of those big Hummers and was lucky it didn’t clip me,” he grumbled.

“Sounds as if you’re lucky not to end up under its wheels!”

“Not likely. The edge of the road dropped off dramatically. I tried to steer down the slope, but it was too steep.”

As he spoke, Etty and the nurses were checking Nick’s injuries. He groaned as they gently investigated his left arm, which was sitting at an awkward angle.

“Well, it looks like you won’t be back on your bike for a while. You have most certainly broken your arm, and we will have to get an x-ray,” said Etty, writing down notes on his chart. “Lucky I know your head was too hard to hurt – though I see hear you were wearing a helmet as well. I want to check you for internal injuries as well, so we will be keeping you in overnight.”

Nick saluted her with his good arm. “Yes ma’am. Is that the royal ‘we’? Should I call you Doctor Princess or Princess Doctor?”

“You can call me Etty, like always.”

Nick grinned, and retook her hand and gave it a squeeze. He said, “I feel much better knowing you’re here.”

Etty grinned back, though her heart fluttered at his warm expression. “You might not be so pleased with me in a moment. Can you remember the last time you had a tetanus vaccination?”

“Um. No.”

“In that case, guess what my next procedure is going to be?” She held up a needle.

Nick groaned again. “Well, don’t look so pleased. Do your worst.”

As it turned out, the broken arm was Nick’s worst injury. It was a clean break that didn’t need pinning. However, this didn’t stop his mother from having mild hysterics when his parents made it to the hospital.

“My poor boy,” she shrieked when she caught sight of him in his hospital bed. She burst into tears.

“There, there, my dear,” said Nick’s father, patting his queen. “Every looks to still be attached.” He turned to Nick and winked at his son over her head.

Nick said, “Hello, Dad. Oh Mum, please don’t cry. I’m being released this afternoon.”

His mother suppressed her crying, and subsided into some hiccupy sobs. She wiped her eyes. She said, “Oh darling, I’m sorry. It was just the shock of the phone call and the trip, and then seeing in that horrible cast.” She tried hard to give him a damp smile.

“I understand, Mum. It was a bit of a shock to me, too,” joked Nick. “And you’ll never guess who my attending doctor is. It’s Princess Odette.”

“Doctor Odette,” insisted Etty, coming in at that moment, as if summoned by the mention of her name. “I just have to take Nick’s blood pressure and pulse. Then you can take him home.”

She took hold of Nick, and pushed his sleeve up to take the blood pressure cuff.

Nick’s parents stared.

“Etty! You’ll get hives,” said the queen. “You’re not wearing any gloves.”

Etty and Nick froze. Etty had been looking after Nick for hours, and it was obvious she wasn’t having any sort of allergic reaction. She had been too caught up in doing her job to remember the old deception, and poor Nick too shaken up. It was too late in the game to make excuses.

“How extraordinary,” said the King. “I’ve heard of children growing out of allergies, though generally they were food allergies.”

Etty left a wave of relief. She looked at Nick, and he gave her the ghost of a nod. Neither of them wanted to admit that her ‘allergy’ had been a long-standing ruse.

“How wonderful,” said the queen. “After all these years of loving each other, you can finally get married.” Her expression had changed from worry to joy in seconds.

Panic overwhelmed Etty for a moment. Then Nick took her hand and gave it a gentle squeeze. He turned to his parents. “You’ve got to give me the chance to ask her, this time,” said Nick.

His father coughed. “Of course, of course.” His eyes were twinkling. He took his wife by the elbow and steered her out of the room. “I believe the children might need a moment alone,” he said, and closed the door behind him. The queen went without a single protest, but her step was buoyant.

“Phew!” exclaimed Nick. “I didn’t think they would go so easily.” He turned to Etty. “You know, you’ve been my best friend for years. What would you say if I told you that I love you, and not like a sister, but really and truly love you? Will it ruin our friendship?”

Etty burst out laughing, a rich, golden laugh of relief. “Thank goodness,” she gasped, at last. She took a few breaths to calm herself, and said, “I’ve loved you for ever so long. I don’t regret not marrying you five years ago, but if our parents had pulled the same trip yesterday…well, I wouldn’t have connived with you to ruin the wedding.”

“Really,” said Nick.

“Really. And if you weren’t all battered and bruised, I’d kiss you and show you how much I love you.”

Nick pulled her close. “I’m not dead. I’m pretty sure I can survive true love’s kiss.”

“Oh good,” said Etty.  

 

 

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Second Half of the First Draft

The allergy specialists were flummoxed.

It was obvious to both courts that Princess Odette couldn’t marry Prince Yannick, even if the couple were willing. The two countries were going to have to find alternate ways to strengthen their diplomatic ties, rather than making an alliance through marriage. It was a disastrous result after so much planning.

It was Odette who made the suggestion that they turn the wedding celebrations into a festival. After all, she argued, people had travelled from all over the world to see a royal wedding, and it would be unfair to disappointment them completely. It was Nick who suggested that they turn the event into a yearly festival, to draw the tourist trade. They offered to help organise the festival.

When they met, they were always very careful not to touch. Most of their communication was by email and phone. Over the years, they became firm friends, even each other’s best friend. After all, they shared many of the same experiences, as the scions of royal houses.

***There needs to be an incident that brings them back together.***

By ‘declaring their love for each other’, their respective families can’t try to marry them off to other people!! A win/win situation for them both. They seem to be adhering to the plans their families made for them, and so no further attempts can be made to marry off the ‘tragic couple’.

Just after Odette had obtained her medical degree, they suddenly realised they were in love. In fact, they had been in love for years.

The last scene should be of them eating wedding cake.

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Writing Experiment: where to stop the story.

If you are like me, when you are fond of the characters and setting of a story you find it hard to stop. You want to keep exploring the characters, until they are old and grey and have great grandchildren. This is fine if you are planning to write several brick-sized books, but a bit senseless when writing a short story.

I am very fond of Etty and Nick. But I was also very fond of the bumbling diplomat, and yet he has bitten the dust (though he may turn up somewhere else). This is one of those ‘kill your darlings’ situations. You have to draw a line, and not in sand but in cement.

So, how do you find an ending?

I’m fairly lucky in that there is a natural ‘break’ in the story at the point the wedding is called off. This is where I can wrap up the plot tidily. However, sometimes it isn’t so easy to know where that stopping point should be. This is a particular weakness in my own skills, but I know that other writers suffer the same weakness.

A good ending should have all the ends snipped and neatly tucked away, giving the reader a satisfactory resolution to the ‘problem’ that spurred the plot forward. But it shouldn’t be too abrupt (my major fault). At the same time, you shouldn’t meander and dribble your way to the last sentence. It might take you a few attempts to get something that feels right. I recommend taking as long as you like to get a snappy resolution that doesn’t feel too rushed or too slow.

In the cake story, we won’t get to see Etty and Nick finish their educations and get married. But the expectation of such a happy conclusion to their tale will be made evident.

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