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Weekly Wednesday Writing Wrap-Up

Yes, I’m late. Again. In my defence, I typed this post on Wednesday, and then forgot to publish it. I’m not sure if that’s better or worse than having an actual reason, but there you go.

This week in writing has been great. Firstly, I got back the various critiques on A Rose By Any Other Name, and used them to really tighten up the writing. I’ve submitted it to the Stringybark Speculative Fiction Award, which closes in a few days. I’m really happy with the story, and with the writing. Everything I write is just that little bit better than the last, which makes me feel really good about my abilities.

Secondly, I’m working on a story that I’m going to enter into the Brighton COW short story competition that closes on 31 May. I’m about halfway through it, so I’ve still got a lot of work to do. I’m practicing writing ‘hooks’ on my stories, so bear with me while I tell you what this one is about.

Twilight: Teenage girls think it’s a love story. Horror fans think it’s an abomination. But what do the real creatures of the night think?

Twelve, the latest in a long line of disposable minions working for Count Damien Frost, thinks it’s a health hazard. And it’s his health that’s in hazard. When his Master reads the book, Twelve finds himself dealing with emo tantrums, a misguided vampire hunter, and an over-ambitious minion. Can he overcome his rival while protecting his Master’s un-life and reputation? Or will he end up like so may of his minion predecessors: pumped full of poisonous venom, while nursing a broken leg at the bottom of a snake pit?

I haven’t got a title for this story yet, but will keep you posted.

Thirdly, I’ve had a piece of flash fiction accepted for publication in the winter edition of Art Gaze Magazine. It’s not my usual genre, being a 800 word coming-of-age story in the aftermath of the recent Queensland floods. I’m incredibly proud of the story, though. Although my family and I weren’t personally impacted by the floods( ie. we didn’t lose property, possessions, or loved ones), I don’t think anyone living in South-East Queensland was truly unaffected. This story was my way of getting my emotions out in a way that didn’t involve reading news stories, looking at horrific footage of devastation, and crying for hours at a time.

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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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