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Weekly Wednesday Writing Wrap-Up

It’s been quite a busy week for me this week. Firstly, I’ve spent a lot of time working on editing my story A Rose By Any Other Name in preparation for submitting it to the Stringybark Speculative Fiction Award. I’ve made some changes, tightened it up a bit, and then sent it to some trusted people for reading, reviewing & critiquing. I’m interested to see how similar the feedback from different people turns out to be. I’ve asked for a critique from (a) a published writer, (b) an unpublished writer, (c) an editor, and (d) a reader. I’m curious as to whether each of them find the same strong and weak points, or whether their different experiences and perspectives will mean that they have different viewpoints.

I also came up with an awesome idea (if I say so myself) for a Flash Fiction story. It came to me in the shower one day, and I couldn’t get it out of my head. Nor could I figure out a way to turn it into a full short story. I had decided to sit down and write it anyway, when I remembered that the Peter Cowan Writers’ Centre in W.A. have a Flash Fiction competition that closes this week. I checked out the details, determined that I had 600 words to work with, and wrote my story.

Once upon a time, in a kingdom far, far away, he was Prince Charming. All was roses and clover until he offended a witch, and was cursed to live as a troll. But that was just the beginning of his troubles. I mean, how do you ever live down the fact that you’ve been beat up by a goat?

I’ve posted my entry in now, and will wait to see how it goes. Whether it gets noticed or not, I’m incredibly happy with the story I wrote.

Thirdly, I’ve reworked the start of my novel, and have changed some of the major details. My protagonist, Michael Storm, was originally going to be a PI working on normal cases in between getting mixed up with every supernatural threat in the city. But I’ve come to realise that every second Urban Fantasy novel being published right now has the same set-up. Seriously. How many magical PIs can there possibly be? Most of them seem to be female PIs, which at least gave my character a slight POD, but even still…

After rethinking things through, I’ve changed my mind. He’s no longer a PI. There are plenty of other, more interesting and original, ways for him to get involved with supernatural threats. I don’t have to actually change his personality, or the plot of the novel. I just need to start with a hook that’s different to the standard “I’m a PI and I’ll take this job because I need the money, even though I damn well know that it’s a bad idea” that every second Urban Fantasy novel seems to begin with these days.

Phew.

Finally, I suffered a mini-meltdown when I realised that at some point over the last 3 years, I’ve lost a HEAP of my writing. I’ve changed computers twice during that time (both times because my old one more or less died of old age), and somewhere in the process, I’ve lost quite a few short stories. Being an idiot, I didn’t have them in hard copy or on any back-up CD that I could find. So they’re just… gone.

One of the stories I lost was a vampire fiction that had been accepted for publication in an anthology, before the company printing it went out of business. A second was the only short story that I’ve had published AND been paid for. Sure, it was back in 2003, and it was only US$15. But payment is payment in this business, right? Fortunately, I was able to find my copy of the magazine it was published in, and retype it from there. But the other stories are lost forever. (For any fans of Jasper Fforde, you can find them in the Well of Lost Plots.)

On to my next major disappointment. In retyping my story, I realised that it was… crap. Okay, maybe not crap. But close. It may have been published, but the writing was horrendous compared to my writing now. I was initially mortified to know that something so badly written was out there in the ether for anybody to see. Then I realised that this is actually a good thing. Surely it means that I have an even better chance of being published now. Right?

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Weekly Wednesday Writing Wrap-Up

I’m not going to lie. Today is Friday.

There’s a very good reason why this week, my wrap-up is 2 days late. You see… Okay, there’s no good reason at all. There’s not even a bad reason. So, I will simply apologise for my tardiness, and move on.

This Tuesday night was the monthly meeting of the Strathpine Library Writer’s Group. Again, this was quite an enjoyable experience – if not necessarily particularly helpful for me. The topic of the night was ‘illustrating’, which is not something that I’m good at, nor even interested in. Nonetheless, I did have the opportunity to listen to some other pieces of writing, share some of mine, and catch up with the group.

If you recall, the “assignment” for this month was to write a story based on a song lyric. I spent almost the entire month trying to work out how to write a story about a teenage girl whose mother write a Position Vacant ad for her replacement, because the girl is so busy trying to be like everyone else that she has no time left to be herself. In my head, it was an interesting flash-fiction idea. But on paper…. Well, let’s just say that I spent hours staring at a blank screen, alternately changing the background of MS Word from blue to white and then back again. (That is the only reason why I will miss older versions of Word when I finally upgrade to a modern edition.)

Eventually, the day before I was due to present the story at the Writer’s Group, I decided to completely change my direction and write in my preferred genre. Urban Fantasy, here we come! So I picked the song ‘Close I’ve Come’ by Ben Lee. The first two lines of the song are:

I slipped into a house to escape my enemies, And opened the door to another world

 With that in mind, I wrote a story that I’m rather happy with. In fact, it conveniently fits into the guidelines of the next Stringybark Fiction Competition – a 2000 word speculative fiction short story – that closes on 30 May. Convenient, no? I named my story ‘A Rose By Any Other Name’, and am happy to share the first paragraph of it with you.

Later, I would learn that magical portals manifest themselves randomly. And that they prefer windows to doorways. But on that Saturday morning, I had no idea that magic even existed. All I knew was that there were three men following me, and letting them catch me would be a bad thing. With a capital B, and a capital T.

Claire suggested that I read Artemis Fowl, as my writing style reminds her somewhat of Eoin Colfer’s. So I’ve added that book & possibly series to my reading list. I’ll let you know what I think.

That was my main writing experience during the week. However, I also had the opportunity to have my sister, Jak Henson, critique a short story that I wrote. She writes, edits and publishes an Arts magazine, and was awarded a Writing Award from the Townsville City Council in 2010 for her work on Artgaze Magazine. She described my writing style as ‘quirky’, which I kind of liked. Also, she’s not a big fiction reader, preferring art texts and biographies, so I was pleased that my urban fantasy was able to hold her attention throughout.

And then she educated me on the difference between hyphens, en dashes, and em dashes. How did I not know about this before??

I’ve also found myself reading a lot of different websites and blogs about publishing (ooooh, the print vs ebook publishing debate rages on!), finding an agent, writing query letters, etc. I’m particularly enamoured by the Bookends, LLC Blog – a literary agency that provides a lot of interesting information on the above topics. I’ve found myself immersed in their posts about things not to put in a query letter, how to not get published, and other interesting topics. Since I’ve not actually finished my novel yet (nor, really, am I even close), I’ve found myself wondering whether this is really research, or just procrastination. I’m going to go with a bit of both. Plus, when you’ve got a colicky 3-month-old baby who cries for 8 hours some days, creativity kind of flies out the window. So at least I’m reading about the right topics!

And, finally, a friend posted this week that she’s had a submission to A cappella Zoo accepted for submission. That’s great news for her, and it certainly kicked me into thinking about writing short stories for submission to magazines (although I’d kind of rather be working on my novel…). It also made me secretly, deep down, hate her just a little bit. You know, in the jealousy muscle.

Seriously though, congratulations to Merrilee, and keep up the good work.

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Weekly Wednesday Writing Wrap-Up

This week started with me desperately trying to finish a 5000 word urban fantasy story that I was planning to submit to the Common Thread Short Story Competition. The competition doesn’t allow for email or online entries, so had to be posted and arrive no later than Friday 15th April. Obviously, that made for an incredibly tight deadline. I had until 5:00pm Thursday 14th to have my story completed and posted. And on the Wednesday evening, I’d written 3500 words but was only halfway through the story, and I still hadn’t decided how it was all going to end.

Wednesday afternoon involved me heading to the library to write. I’ve discovered that there are a lot of benefits to writing on the library computer, rather than at home. These include:

  • No children to distract me every 5 minutes.
  • No husband ditto ditto ditto.
  • No housework that I “need” to do right now.
  • No kitchen full of tempting treats, coffee, alcohol, etc etc etc.
  • No internet access

Essentially, there is nothing to do except sit and write. And that’s it. Without the various distractions and opportunities to procrastinate, I was able to write another 4000 words in only an hour and a half, and complete the story in a way that I was really happy with.

One small problem.

You may recall that I had to write a story that was between 3500 and 5000 words in length. However, anyone with a basic understanding of maths will realise that my completed story came in at roughly 7500 words. Welcome to Thursday night: Editing!

I was honestly not convinced that I would be able to remove 2500 words (1/3 of the work I’d done) and still have a piece of work that I would be happy with. After 3 hours of editing, I hadn’t changed my mind. Although I was down to 5800 words. I went to bed and slept on it, and then Thursday morning began the process all over again. In the end, it took me until 1:00pm Thursday to hit 4987 words. Success!

I had my husband read it, and he said that he couldn’t tell that I’d removed anything, so that was a win. I posted my entry off, and then breathed a huge sigh of relief. As deadlines go, I cut that one pretty fine. Sure, there wouldn’t have been any real negative effects to me not entering, but if I’ve set myself a deadline then I like to live up to it.

After the final rush, I then spent the next couple of days breathing deeply, and not wanting to write at all. By the time I was ready to go, I set down to start work on a 3500 word story for the Lorian Hemmingway Short Story Competition. I had a strong idea, and wrote 700 words in my first writing session. Then I went away, thought about it, and realised that I had the wrong mood. So I deleted it and started the story again. I managed to get about 200 words written, and then….. nothing.

(As a side note, may I say that if you’re looking for a way to procrastinate for hours on end, you really can’t go past the hilarity of Failbook.)

So now it’s Wednesday again, and I have a lot of writing ahead of me. Talk to you next week!

Happy Ostara!

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Weekly Wednesday Writing Wrap-up

The title of this entry is possibly a little confusing, considering that this is the first Writing Wrap-Up that I’ve written. But habits have to start somewhere, and this is the beginning of one.

Last night I went to a meeting of the Strathpine LIbrary Writer’s Group. It’s several years since I was last involved with a writing group, and I really enjoyed the experience. It’s nice to spend some time in a room talking abotu writing with other writers. It’s a quite small group, but full of interesting people with years of experience in writing, and at least one person who has finished a novel & is looking for an agent and publication. The group meets once a month, and I’m looking forward to being able to share my work with other writers for feedback & critiquing.

At the meeting, one of the ladies shared one of her favourite inspriational books with us – How I Got Published, edited by Ray White and Duane Lindsay. (Thanks to Sue!) The book is a compilation of over 80 authors sharing their publication stories. Sue shared the story of Marion Keyes, which I found fascinating as an example of how luck and timing play such a big part in being published. One thing that stood out to me in this story was Marion’s statement (and this is from memory, so the quote may not be completely accurate) that she’s the only author she knows who doesn’t have an underwear drawer full of half-finished novels.

This statement got me thinking about my own novel-writing “career”. Really, I don’t have a lot of unfinished novels to speak of. I’ve got 3 that are still going around in my head:

  1. On Raven’s Wing – A sword & sorcery style fantasy novel based around Raven, a mercenary/tinker who is prophecied to be the greatest mage in the land, and his friendship with the mysterious Marcus, a naive nobleman’s son. I wrote 60,000 words of a first draft before realising that there was some serious plotting issues and restarting the story using the same characters and meta-plot. I’m about 10,000 words into a second draft that makes more sense.
  2. Darkest Winter, Brightest Light – A vaguely historically-based novel about a widowed woman on the edge of the expanding Roman empire being captured by a group of Vikings, and the changing world around them as Christianity sweeps through the land. I haven’t written much more than an outline for this novel, and I need to do a lot more research if it’s going to work.
  3. Tempest in the Night – A vampire novel set in Brisbane, about a centuries-old vampire named Gabriel and his young protege Tempest as they deal with a threat from a competing vampiric threat. I’ve written 2 chapters and have a full outline, and plenty of background material. I was really excited about this idea… and then Twilight hit epic proportions a few years ago, and the thought of being comparied to ridiculous sparkling vampires killed any desire that I had to finish my story.

Really, I do still like all three ideas, and they’re all things that I may come back to “one day”. But what I really want to do at the moment is focus on something completely different. And I finally have something in mind. Urban fantasy is where my interest lies at the moment, so that’s where I’m going to focus my attention. I’ll keep you posted on my progress.

At the moment, my focus is on short story writing, however. I’m just finishing a piece entitled Storm Warning, which I’m writing for a writing competition that closes on Friday. (I know – nothing like leaving it until the last minute.) The competition is the Common Thread Short Story Competition. The story is an urban fantasy with the opening:

I should have left town the day the goblins stole my keys. That would have been the smart thing to do.

Once that’s finished, I’m going to begin work on a story for the Lorian Hemmingway Short Story Competition, which closes on the 1st of May. I will also need to consider a piece to write for the writing group, which needs to be inspired by the lyrics of a song. If at all possible, I will try to write the one story that will serve both of these purposes.

Wish me luck!

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