Category Archives: Writing

Science Fiction, Double Feature

If you’re anything like me (and a lot of other people on this wonderful planet), the moment after reading the title of this post, a very particular melody popped into your head.

Doctor X will build a creature…

You may currently be envisioning a pair of giant red lips.

See androids fighting Brad and Janet…

Or maybe not. Maybe you’ve jumped straight to picturing Tim Curry in suspenders.

Anne Francis stars in Forbidden Planet…

And any moment now, you’re going to feel an almost unstoppable compulsion to stand up and jump to the left. And then step to the righ-igh-igh-igh-ight.

Oh-oh, at the late night, double feature, picture show.

If you’re reading this, there’s a pretty good chance you’ve seen Rocky Horror Picture Show at some point. Very possibly at multiple points. I know I have. But last week I had my first opportunity to go and see the show performed live on stage, with Craig McLachlan starring as Frank-N-Furter. It was, in a word, AMAZING.

Rocky Horror

It was everything Rocky Horror should be, and time seemed to disappear into a vortex and fly by at the speed of a super-sonic mansion-shaped alien spaceship.

When we came out of the theatre, I was grinning and glowing. The world was a different place — slightly less predictable, and an awful lot more exciting. Around me, 1999 other people (the show was sold out) were exiting the theatre with the same loopy grin on their faces. When people made eye contact with each other, no one looked away in awkward embarrassment at being caught staring. Instead, they shared a secret grin. People jostled each other, not in their rush to leave, but in that casual way that friends and intimates make occasional body contact, as if assuring themselves that they’re in good company.

And the thing that stood out to me, even more than all of that, was the variety of dress and age of the patrons.

Costumes; wigs; diamond jewelry; suits and ties; after-five gowns; fisher stockings; bright red lips; pale pink nails; sensible shoes; 3-inch heels; pearls; cuff-links.

Eighteen year old kids, and seventy year old couples who clung to the handrails for support as they walked, and everything in between.

And all of them, all of them, grinning and laughing and smirking and walking with just a little bit more hip-swivel than usual.

My friend and I left the theatre, and wandered down the strip looking for a place to sit and have coffee and cake. And as we walked, we talked about Story.

Rocky Horror Picture Show is almost forty years old. Those frail-looking septuagenarians? They were younger than me when the movie came out. They probably saw it at the picture theatre. And here they are, still moved by the story of innocent young lovers, and the sweet transvestite from transsexual Transylvania. As for the 19 year olds? They weren’t even a gleam in their parents’ eyes when the movie came out. But they’ve paid a small fortune to go to the theatre and see it performed live on stage.

But, why?

What is it about Rocky Horror that makes it so enduring?

What is it about the story that keeps us coming back for more? Is it the sexual liberation? The costumes? The catchy songs and dance numbers? Or just the overall antici–*

There have been so many other movies and stage shows over the last forty years that take the theme of sexual liberation even further. Seeing a man in suspenders is no longer quite as risqué as it used to be. And while the songs and dances are great, if that’s all it was about, we’d just buy the music. Or see a performance of the songs, rather than the whole show. But, no. We don’t do that. We don’t put the movie in the DVD player and skip through the boring bits to the songs.

Well, I don’t.

So what is it about the Story of Rocky Horror Picture Show that continues to draw the crowds?

“It’s timeless,” my friend suggested. “People can still relate to it.”

But… can they? I mean, obviously they can, or the show wouldn’t be playing to a sold-out audience every eight times a week for five weeks. In Brisbane. But what about it is timeless? Brad and Janet certainly don’t represent modern teenagers. And the whole “we have to go to the the spooky castle and ask if we can use their phone” is quaint and possibly completely unbelievable to the 19-year-olds in the audience.

So what is it that makes the story so timeless?

“You’re over-thinking it. It’s just a great show.”

That wasn’t my friend. That was a random lady who just happened to be walking in front of us, also having come from the theatre, and also in search of refreshments.

“Yes, it is,” I said. “But we’re writers. We like to try to work out what makes the story so great.”

She and her friend slowed and joined us. “It’s just great,” she said flippantly. “I remember sneaking into the cinema when the movie came out — because we weren’t old enough to get in and see it, but things were more relaxed back then. So we snuck in and watched it, with no idea what it was going to be about. And it was just… It’s the story of Brad and Janet who are so innocent, and they’re exposed to this world… It’s like they go through this whole experience, and then… Oh… The hug at the end. Where they run into each other’s arms…”

The two women looked at each, and one fanned herself with her hand. “It’s like… After everything they’ve been through, they realise they still love each other, and their love is even greater than it was to start with, because they’ve experienced so much more. And they’ve both done it, and they’re still there for each other, and…” She trails off, her voice full of emotion.

The other woman adds, “It’s like a fairytale.”

And that’s what it is.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show is a fairytale.

It’s the tale of a young couple, separated by a wicked (and yet incredibly sweet and high-heeled) witch, forced to undergo emotional trials and come face to face with themselves. But in the end, despite everything that’s happened, they run into each other’s arms.

Safe.

Loved.

Forever.

And the wicked witch, a man so desperate to be loved that he would do whatever it took to create the perfect man — and discard the “failures” on a whim — is bested not by an outside source, but by his own excesses and hubris.

It’s a modern fairytale. A coming of age story that is timeless, because as we start to navigate the adult world, one of the most terrifying things we have to face is our own secret desires and appetites.

Also, there’s killer music, costumes, characters, and a whole lot of antici–

“When we were fifteen and we saw the movie for the first time,” my mystery friend said, “we came out of the cinema, and it was like we had been changed. It didn’t feel like we’d watched a movie. It felt like we’d been to another planet ourselves, and we were entirely different people. Like we suddenly saw the world the way it really was. And now…” She trails off and a little smile plays at the corners of her mouth. “Now, every time I watch it, I feel exactly the same way I felt when I was fifteen.”

And that, my friends, that is what makes a story timeless.

Did I over-think it? Under-think it? Why do you think The Rocky Horror Picture Show has such timeless appeal?

*pation.

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Filed under Opinion, The Inner Geek, Writing

2014: The Future’s So Bright…

It may be late, but never fear:
My annual goal-setting post is here!
I do this every single year —DCF 1.0
Post my aspirations here —
It always feels beyond compeer
(Not like my rhyming. Dear, oh dear!)
To know my goals and give a cheer
When my actions bring me near
To achieving something I hold dear.
I may even shed a tear.
But don’t you cry, oh reader dear.
My rhyme is done. My goals are clear.

My good friend Tonia has a theme for this year. #BeBravein2014

Being brave is something I always aspire to — sometimes I succeed more than others. But just knowing that out there in the world, there are other people doing their best to be brave is a beautiful thing.

In the spirit of being brave, here are my goals for 2014.

CST

I am really pleased with this novel. It’s the best thing I’ve ever written. The manuscript is with beta readers at the moment, and I’m eagerly anticipating their feedback. My goal is to sell this book in 2014. But, since there are so many elements to that goal that I can’t control, let me be more specific in the actions I will take.

  1. I will edit and make revisions based on beta reader’s feedback.
  2. I will write the query letter of all query letters.
  3. I will query agents with all the tenacity of a puppy chasing a milkbone.
  4. When I (inevitably) have a moment of despair, I will remember Tonia’s theme and I will #BeBravein2014.

Unnamed Novel

I’m 500 words into my first draft with this as-yet-unnamed WIP. I love it already. (Don’t worry, the Honeymoon period will come to an end soon, I’m certain.) I’ve started it at the same time I started CST last year, and so I’m confident that, even if I have major life upsets this year, I can have it finished by 31st Dec , 2014. Specific goals and deadlines? I’m glad you asked.

  1. I will work on the first draft one hour a day, and have the draft finished by 30th June.
  2. I will give it a break, and then do a read-through and first revision.
  3. If necessary, I’ll do another round of revisions.
  4. I will send it to beta readers by 1st of January, 2015. (Even if, like 2013, it means working my fingers off until almost midnight New Year’s Eve!)
  5. When I (inevitably) feel like I’m not up to the task up completing this in time, I will remember Tonia’s theme and #BeBravein2014.

TNT #1

It’s over a year since I’ve looked at this manuscript. In that time, I’ve found my true voice, I’ve learned a LOT about who I am, what I write, and what I want the story’s focus to be. I love this story. It’s a story that spilled out of my heart and soul, bringing with it my joy in fairy tales, and my belief that stories can change the world.

This year, I want to get back to TNT #1.

So while I’m giving my Unnamed Novel time to marinate, I will start rewriting this story. I’m not going to give myself specific deadlines at the moment — it depends on too many other factors — but I’ll revisit and set them when I do my mid-year goal-setting post. Also, I’ll #BeBravein2014. (Are you picking up the common thread here?)

Other Exciting Things

I have a lot of other non-writing related projects happening at the moment, and a lot of my attention will be focused towards those. I’m in the process of starting two separate (and unrelated) businesses — one on my own, and one as part of a partnership. I’m also doing various other bits and pieces of freelance work, and trying to focus on the more visceral, physical work of gardening, home improvement, and learning how to be a country-dweller.

Plus, of course, I have two beautiful boys who take up a vast majority of my time and my heart.

DSCN0796131022 - Max

 

 

 

 

 

 

2014 is going to be a great year. I can feel it in my fingers (and feel it in my toes).

What are your plans/goals for 2014? (Link to a goal-setting post if you’ve got one!)

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Filed under Random Stuff, Writing

A Year in Review: Revisiting 2013

For those of you who’ve been reading my blog for a while now, you may have noticed my lack of goal-checking and goal-setting post at the start of January. There are good reasons for that. Many of them revolve around not having time to write one.

We shall have to remedy that.

First up, let me say that 2013 was the most intense, heart-shattering, life-changing, wing-growing, exciting, devastating, emotional, challenging, rewarding, and intense (did I already say intense?) year of my life. There were days I was so happy I couldn’t even feel the ground beneath my feet because I was flying too high. There were days when I literally cried non-stop for over 24 hours straight. There were days when I felt a zen-like sense of peace and well-being, and days when I was sure I’d ruined not just my own life, but also the lives of my children (and possibly their children).

It was a big year.

Goalpost

But let me start with my writing goals because, after all, that’s what this blog is supposed to be about. (Except when it’s not.)

How did I go with the writing goals I revised in July?

TNT #1

I was aiming to have revised this novel by October, and be ready to query it. This didn’t happen. Largely because in early September, I realised that the manuscript doesn’t just need a simple revision, it needs a complete break-down and rewrite.

This is a good thing and came about because (a) I finally “found” my true voice, and (b) I realised that I have recurring themes in my work, and discovered that those themes are there in TNT #1, but they’re hidden beneath a veneer of self-consciousness. So once I dig them out and make them shine, the whole story will be better for it.

I didn’t make my goal, but I’m darn happy with the revelations I had along the way.

CST

My goal was to finish the first draft, finish revisions, and start querying. I did finish the first draft on schedule — even though it meant writing my way through pneumonia to do it — and I finished my first-round revisions at 10:30pm on New Year’s Eve.

I’m not ready to start querying. Although I feel like I’m close. The manuscript is with beta readers at the moment, and I’m (eagerly) awaiting their feedback.

And feeling ill every time I think about it too much. But, you know, I’m not as bullet-proof as I like to pretend. 🙂

Novel C

I didn’t start writing or outlining before the end of the year, but I’ve started it in the first couple of weeks of January. So I’m about a month behind schedule on this. But I have worked out what I’m writing. I’ll give you a little hint to whet your appetite (and encourage you to nudge me if I stop writing!).

The story involves Greek mythology, violins, and a female protagonist with delusions of monsters and an acerbic wit.

Outline TNT #2 and #3

Yeah, whatever. Who wrote these goals???

Short Stories

Bum-bum. No more short stories written.

Reading

I don’t know if I read anything in the last few months of the year. It just wasn’t a priority for me.

Other

I think my favourite writing-related part of 2013 was becoming part of a great group of enthusiastic, supportive writers. No matter what else happens in my life, I always have these writers there, supporting and encouraging and generally being awesome. Thanks to my P&Peeps for everything. *mwah!*

And that brings to the non-writing related part of this post.

In about August 2013, I got pneumonia pretty bad. It took over a month to recover. I didn’t end up in hospital — although, really, I probably should have. But I have two children, and going into hospital just wasn’t an option for me. So I spent weeks feeling miserable, struggling to breathe, and still doing the cooking, cleaning, raising the children, blah blah blah. You know how it is. But that put a few things into perspective for me. Things like: What’s really important? And: What do I really want?

Just prior to that, I’d been pulling my hair out over finances. So much of our money was being spent on rent and electricity that no matter how I sliced and diced, cut and shaved, managed and over-managed our budget, there was never enough left over for anything. And sometimes not even enough for the most basic of “extras”. Renting a movie to watch with the kids meant not being able to afford more breakfast cereal. Getting haircuts for the boys meant eating nothing but pasta and rice for a week. 

Between those two things, I came up with a radical and crazy idea.

What if we sold or gave away every single possession we didn’t actually need, jumped out of the “rent this expensive house” game, and lived as simply as we possibly could?

What if we abandoned the life we knew ,and started a new one. A cheaper one. A simpler one. A life more in tune with the world, and with nature, and with the values that are close to my heart?

My husband agreed, and we set about the project.

We bought a dodgy, 30-year-old caravan, and I started renovating it from the inside out. (This is an ongoing project.) We bought a tent for the kitchen, and another one for the chemical toilet. We sold or gave away everything we didn’t need. Everything. It was a much bigger (and more emotional) job than I expected. And then we moved out to the middle of nowhere, and set up in a paddock that belongs to a friend of a friend.

DSCN1565[1]

This is where we live now.

It was a massive adjustment. Suddenly, weather plays a massive part in what we can and can’t do on a daily basis. We have to schedule time to move the cows off the road every time we go somewhere. Snakes are a major threat, as are paralysis ticks and venomous spiders. We can’t race off to the shop on a moment’s notice — it’s at least 20 minutes each way to the closest not-all-that-convenient convenience store. We have to go outside in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom. I hand wash the clothes, carry water to the kitchen and shower, and I even planted a vegie garden.

It was a massive adjustment.

And in the middle of this adjustment, on October 31st — our 9th wedding anniversary — my husband and I reached a point where we realised that, no matter how much we wished it was different, and no matter what we tried, our marriage was over.

Amidst tears and feelings of guilt and grief and pride-killing failure, we made the decision to separate.

For the good of our children.

For the good of ourselves.

Suddenly, in a change that felt like it happened overnight, I wasn’t a stay-at-home Mum and writer living in the suburbs with a husband who supported us financially. I was a single mother living in a trailer in the middle of nowhere. With no income, and no easy answers.

It was tough.

It was tough saying the words “single mother”. 

It was tough falling asleep at night, listening to the wind buffeting the trees outside, and telling myself that everything would be fine, and I could do this — I could do this on my own. I could face this new challenge, this new life, and I could do it with all the strength in my soul and my arms and my heart. It was tough cuddling my son when he asked when Daddy was coming home.

It’s been almost three months.

And I can do it.

DSCN1566[1]I don’t hate my ex-. Far from it. In fact, we get along better now than we have at any other point during the last six years.  We both love our sons intensely, and want the best for them. And I’ve learned that I can grow vegies. I can make new friends, and be a good parent, and put up a tent, and build furniture, and train a dog, and start a business, and make our money stretch just that little bit further, and I can do it on my own.

With the support of my friends and family.

Now, I stand outside at night, with the stars lighting up the sky, and the damp earth under my feet, and I feel loved and blessed and happy.

I feel like myself. 

I am myself.

And the future’s so bright, I’ve gotta wear shades.

How was your 2013?

 

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Filed under Life With Kids, Opinion, Random Stuff, Writing

To Plot or Not to Plot: That is the Question

 

To plot or not to plot: that is the question:
Whether tis better for the story to first
Plan the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune
Or to cast your hero into a sea of troubles
Unplanned and unprepared? To plot; to pants;
To choose. And by choosing to cast yourself
Into heartache and the thousand natural shocks
That writers are heir to, ’tis a common dilemma
Faced by all who write. To plot; to pants;
To try; perchance to fail: ay, there’s the rub;
For in that plot or lack, what thoughts may come
To throw you off your story’s course
And give you pause; there’s the respect
That makes calamity of so long planning;
For who would bear the whips and scorns of prose,
The long hours spent, the hardships borne,
The pangs of ignored loves, the dinner’s delay,
The disregard of hygiene and the coffee,
The quiet toll the life of writing takes,
When you yourself could better your story tell
With a plan in place? But if with a plot,
You grunt and sweat under a weary fear,
And the dread of something planned to death,
And prefer the undiscover’d country from whose bourn
All magic springs, and find the mystery will,
Make you love your story better than any other
Then write of things your plan speaks not of.
Thus overthinking does make cowards of us all;
And the best answer to the question
Is hidden in the first of your thoughts.
Plot or Pants as you think is best.

I put this together as an answer to the question “Should I plot or not?” when it was recently asked by a new writer in the Writer Unboxed Facebook group. After spending so much time getting it right, it seemed a shame to let it vanish into the interwebz as a comment on someone else’s post. So here it is, recorded for posterity. I hope you enjoyed it.

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The Slow Accumulation of Words

Notebook

There are many times I feel like I’m not getting anywhere with my writing. Or, to be more specific, that I’m not getting anywhere fast enough. Like writing a novel is some kind of race, and I’m forever having to stop to tie my shoe.

This feeling came over me a couple of days ago. I’ve been struggling lately. Three and a half weeks of school holidays meant I was exhausted by the end of the day, falling into bed with a grateful thought to the teachers who somehow manage to entertain and teach 21 six-year-olds every single day without, apparently, resorting to alcohol.

Then school started and I fell sick. For eight days.

Then six-year-old Big Brother developed a crazy high fever and was sick for four days.

And through all this, my writing suffered. I’d sit down at night, for my hour of creative time, and I’d have nothing. I was too drained to think, let alone create interesting and comical scenes for an increasingly complex story.

At the end of July, I missed my monthly writing goal by almost 10,000 words. And all those feelings of insecurity and guilt and why-do-I-do-this-anyway-ness crept over me like a thick, woolly blanket. Comfortable and familiar and stifling.

So I took a deep breath, and looked back over the my writing calendar.

You see, at the end of every day I feel in a calendar with how many words I wrote for the day, how many words I’ve written for the month so far, and my updated daily word count goal. It looks something like this:

Calendar

At first glance, it looks pretty dismal. The green highlights are the days I hit my target. There’s not a lot of them some months. 

But then I got to thinking. And to adding. And to working out some stats.

And suddenly, the world didn’t seem quite so bleak.

In the last six months, from the 1st of January to the 31st of July, I have written a total of 103,000 new words.

Over a hundred thousand words.

That astounds me.

And some more stats:

  • On average, I’ve written 5 out of every 7 days.
  • I’ve written an average of 670 words per writing day.
  • Those words have been written on a combination of two novel manuscripts (one finished, one >< close to being finished), and a short story.

Over the last six months, I’ve really developed my style and my voice, and I’ve turned writing from something I want to do, into something I do do. Plus, I’ve discovered a secret love of outlines. (Shhh!)

And do you know what the most amazing thing about all that is?

I’ve done it all in one hour a day.

 

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The Mid-Year Goalpost

Goalpost

I love goals. I’ve mentioned this before. I grew up in a family where setting goals was as commonplace as brushing teeth and complaining about siblings. So I’ve developed something of a tradition here on my blog. In January, I set my goals. In July I revisit them.

That’s a bit misleading, though. I’m actually re-evaluating my goals on a weekly and monthly basis. Because goals are living things, better set in silly string rather than concrete.

Nonetheless, tradition is as tradition does. Here’s how I’m tracking with the goals I set in January.

TNT#1

Achievement unlocked!

I had set a goal to complete the first draft this by March 1st. I actually typed ‘The End’ on February 1st.

I also set a goal to do a once-over revision by May 1st. I actually completed it on Marsh 14th.

Moving forward, my goal is to finish revisions on this novel by October 1st, and have a query letter ready to go by November 1st.

Novel B CST

I set a goal to complete this first draft by the end of 2013. Really, that was a generous time period. I knew that even when I set it. And considering I’m 2/3 of the way through it, I’m revising my goals for this novel to:

  • Finish first draft by 1st September.
  • Finish revisions by 1st November.
  • Have query letter written by 1st December.

Novel C

Because… why not? I have three ideas that I really want to write, as well as the sequels to TNT. So come the end of the year, I will have decided what I’m writing next and got to work. Really, my only official goal is to have an outline done by December 31st. But I’ll be thrilled if I’ve started writing it as well. (Comic dystopian? YA Urban fantasy? Paranormal Thriller? Or something I haven’t yet dreamed up…. Only time will tell.)

TNT#2 and #3

I’ve got the stories mapped out in my head, so my goal is to have the outlines written for both by November 1st. It never hurts to be prepared.

Flash Fiction

I set a target to write and share 12 flash fiction stories, and so far I’ve done none. As you may have noticed, I haven’t been blogging as often. This is partly because Life has thrown me some curve balls, and I don’t have as much time as I expected, and partly because my main focus is on novel writing. So I’ve officially removed this goal from my 2013 plans.

Short Stories

My goal was to submit six short stories to contests and/or fiction markets. As with above, my priorities have changed. I have submitted one, and have plans for another. But I don’t anticipate any more than that. So consider my goal down-graded to two.

Reading

I was going to read 75 books. I was. And then… life. So I’ve only read 20 books at this stage. I’m revising back down to 50 books for the year, and that will be a stretch target.

Overall

What a great year so far! I’m loving my novel writing, and can’t wait to get stuck into writing every day. I’m part of a great writing community on Facebook (seriously, if you’re not part of Writer Unboxed, you have no idea what you’re missing out on!) and have made amazing, supportive, and encouraging friends and colleagues through both WU and a second, more intimate writing community.

I said in January that this is the year I’m moving from “enthusiastic amateur” to “professional writer”, and I feel well and truly on the way there.

How are you tracking with your goals?

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Resistance is Futile: A Poem about Writing

“You don’t have to write,” I whispered to me.
“There’s dishes to wash and stuff on TV,
Books to be read, chores to be done,
You could even, perhaps, go out and have fun.”

“You don’t have to write,” I said with a smile.
“Just lay your head down and rest for a while.
The clock keeps on ticking, the day’s getting late,
Too late to be writing, too late to create.”

“You don’t have to write,” I said once again.
“There’s always tomorrow. Why don’t you write then?”
“I’m going to write,” me said with a smile.
“I’ll write every day, if just for a while.”

“The writing of words is ingrained in my blood.
Too long without writing, my soul turns to mud.
I’m going to write. Now get out of my way.”
“But wait!” I shrieked. “Must you start it today?”

“Tomorrow’s a good day for getting things started!
If you start it tomorrow, we’ll both be clear-hearted!”
But me interrupted, “I know you’re afraid.
You’re afraid, for a start, that we’ll never get paid.”

“You’re afraid that our writing will suck really bad.
You’re afraid that our story is complex and sad.
You’re afraid that our hero is secretly lame.
And there’s millions of others exactly the same.”

“You’re afraid that our plot is one clichéd mess.
You’re afraid that the romance is tragic at best.
You’re afraid that they’ll laugh when they read what we wrote.
Afraid that we’ll finish. Afraid that we won’t.”

“You’re afraid of what’s next when the novel’s complete.
You’re afraid to be published. Afraid to compete.
You’re afraid of which publishing pathway to choose.
Afraid that you’re secretly destined to lose.”

“You’re afraid of so much. I hear you. I do.
But I’m going to write. And that much is true.”
“Yes, but not now!” I screamed. “Not just yet!”
“There’s something important you must not forget!”

“Enough!” me yelled. “Now you leave me be.
Your procrastinating is not for me.
Your lame excuses are just a sham.
Resistance is futile. I’m writing. Scram.”

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