Tag Archives: Writing Career

Making a change

My writing has taken an about turn. For the next month or so, I am going to work hard at freelancing, to see if I can generate an income stream that way. The WiP novels will be going on the backburner for a while. However, short stories and articles will be pouring out of Lynne’s fingertips.

I was inspired to this by John Birmingham‘s ‘How to Be a Writer: Who smashes deadlines, crushes editors and lives in a solid gold hovercraft’ and by some articles I’ve been reading in back copies of the Queensland Writers Magazine. After all, I’ve been looking for work for years now. Time to take more control of my writing career.

The novels will be finished. I promise. But for a month, I won’t be touching them. After that, they will be delegated time depending on what else is happening.

So tonight, I am working on a nonfiction article for The School Magazine.

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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

The Editing Blues

This post was inspired by a discussion with author, Kara Jorgensen.

https://www.facebook.com/thevampirelock

kara

I’ve discovered the biggest difference (for me) between writing and editing. The more I write, the easier it becomes to write. However, it never works that way with editing. *sigh* I get to a point where the manuscript I’m editing no longer makes any sense. Sometimes I have to step away to ‘freshen my brain’. I think of it as the Editing Blues or Editing Burnout. (This is why I use beta readers. Sometimes, I just get blind to the problems.)

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate editing. It just makes me want to add more, polish more, and fiddle with structure. It tends to become a never-ending process. The more I edit, the more I can see where I can add more details to help refine the plot, or highlight the importance of the setting, or to intensify characterisation. I want to make my Steampunk manuscript absolutely perfect.

In the past, I’ve been able to sit down and write a novel from start to end, and some of these novels haven’t needed that much polishing. I suspect this is because I am not so emotionally invested in these stories as I am in others. Some projects seem to require more attention than others. I suspect my expectations are higher. It is like expecting a pass mark for Phys. Ed. and a top mark in English; I am just better at some things and it is easier to put in the extra effort for a good mark. Maybe that isn’t the best analogy.

A mother shouldn’t like some of her children better than the others … but I do. My Steampunk novel has to be utterly perfect before I send it off. I want the plot to be convoluted by still logical and easy to follow; I want the characters to be fully realised and unforgettable; and I want the settings to act as framing devices par excellence, full of metaphor, resonance, and meaning. I want the prose to sing! To make my readers remember part for weeks after they have read the book, and smile to themselves. I wasn’t to see online discussions of who would play which character if a movie or television show was made based on the book. This book should bring as much joy to my readers as other books have thrilled and enchanted me.

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That kind of perfection takes work. Sometimes, it seems like too much work and I am overwhelmed by my own vision.

This is when the skills of learnt as a writer kicks in. Take it one page at a time. It kind of reminds me of that old adage: looks after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves. Get one page right, and then the next page, and so on … and one day the editing will be finished. It takes time and dedication to climb a mountain.

In other news, I’ve received another rejection; my story wasn’t long enough and they felt I overestimated age of the suitable audience. This is great feedback, because now I know to re-target my submission list for this manuscript. I am well on track to get 100 rejections in this financial year!

power

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Filed under Editing, Personal experience, Steampunk, Steampunk Genre, Steampunk Writer, The Writing Life

Forgoing the Tidy Ending (a rant)

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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.

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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

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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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The Difference Between Surprise, Shock and Suspense

Surprise: to strike or occur to with a sudden feeling of wonder or astonishment, as through unexpectedness.

Shock: a sudden or violent disturbance of the mind, emotions, or sensibilities.

Suspense: a state or condition of mental uncertainty or excitement, as in awaiting a decision or outcome, usually accompanied by a degree of apprehension or anxiety.

All three definitions are from Dictionary.com

Suspense and shock kitties

Shocked and surprised

I am currently writing a short story as a break from editing. It is a horror story, and so I want to evoke suspense, surprise and shock in my audience as the basic emotional responses. These three emotions are related, but shouldn’t be confused. They do have very different implications when used in the horror genre.

Surprise: 

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Dear me! A spider!

Surprise can be a positive emotion as well as a negative one. It results from something unexpected happening, be it a birthday present or a cockroach crawling out from under the bath. What flavours the surprise is its origin, and the response can vary from person to person, in that what surprises one person may be a terrible shock to another.

Shock:

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Just saw the new puppy… it is a Wolfhound!

Shock can be both an emotional or a psychological response. It is a stronger emotion than surprise, and generally has a more negative overtone. Hearing about the death of a beloved family member is a shock, not a surprise. Shock is not the same thing as ‘shocking’; a glimpse of stocking might be shocking, but it won’t create the same dramatic response as shock, with the sudden chills and dangerous change in blood pressure. It takes much longer to recover from a shock than it does from a surprise.

Suspense: 

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Did I hear a growl?

Suspense can be summed up with that old saying ‘waiting for the other shoe to drop’. Suspense is the backbone of the horror genre; it is created by the overwhelming tension when waiting for the knife to stab or the monster to move out of the shadows. Often, your audience can create worse scenarios in their minds than if you were to give them the full details of what is happening and what the villain looks like.

Of course, the horror genre is built around the actual events like gore and violence, and a good slashfest is horrific. But by building the tension first, the release is much stronger. Make your audience anticipate the worst, and then shock and surprise them with the unexpected monster. Horrible, ghastly, and scary …

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Argh!

 

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Filed under Characterization, Horror, Horror genre, Personal experience, The Writing Life, Uncategorized, writing, Writing Style