It is still way too hot over here to do anything really constructive. For dinner tonight we'll be having cold meat and salad rolls - that is cold meats, fresh salad on just-from-the-bakery rolls - very nice. We are having this as no one wants to cook in 43C and no one wants to go back outside get take away or eat at a restaurant - even if we could afford it. So cold meat and salad rolls it is.
And for the blog today, I'm also going to cut a few corners and add a link salad. Get it? Cold meat and salad...link salad...sorry...I did say it was hot, didn't I?
In no particular order:
Speakeasy has a good post on improving the craft, which contains good links to other stuff writers should read.
Litmatch dishes out some worthwhile encouragement
The wonderfully named Ms Sin hands out a reminder on confidence and exactly where it should be placed.
And lastly Alexandra Sokoloff has posted an article about "The High Concept" within your story.
Speaking of Alex, I contacted her the other day for some information regarding the Australian release dates of her books and passed on my overall thoughts after reading her first book "The Harrowing". Her response was, apart from providing me with the requested info, and being humble in response to my praise, was to encourage me to write quicker so she could then read my work.
A nice sentiment, but it awakened a stronger need in me. I don't need to write quicker, I need to learn quicker on how to write well. And it is happening.
Over the past few months, I've been learning what makes up a good story, both in print and in film. Alex has prompted everyone who goes to her site, to start thinking about the films they like for specific things. I'm reading some excellent writing books. Websites and blogs of quality information have been offering up brilliant suggestions. Interaction with other writers has shed light on things all writers should know.
I am now beginning to take books and films apart automatically. Not every scene as I still wish to enjoy what I'm watching or reading, but I do mentally bookmark bits to come back to, or add a post-it note to a book. On second viewing or reading, I start to seriously pull things apart. I can now recognise what makes me think something is good, and just as importantly, recognise what is missing for me to think something is not-so-good.
I'm thinking in layers. I'm thinking about how I can better convey theme through additional layers. I'm thinking how I can better describe individual things and relate things back to character, setting, or theme. I'm thinking this way in both the short and long form of story telling.
I'm still improving in my writing - which is timely because Too Late the Rain has just gathered another rejection. The current version of this story was written in August last year. It has garnered two rejection since then. The first came after it was passed around for a second read, so it was in the running. The second came back with a very long and detailed response. Food for thought.
Both markets were in the flat payment, semi-pro, market range. I think I currently have 22 other markets of similar prestige and market positioning listed on the AHWA market database. Not all of these will be interested in this type of story, but the point is, I'm not finished sending this out yet. And then there is the lower paying and exposure markets.
I may have a play with the suggestions from the latest rejection, or at the very least, give it another going over to see if I can improve the writing, but as sure as I know these days of 40C+ temperatures can't last forever, this story will continue being sent to market and this story will find a home one day.
Go read the links and good luck with your submissions
Saturday, January 31, 2009
It is still way too hot over here to do anything really constructive. For dinner tonight we'll be having cold meat and salad rolls - that is cold meats, fresh salad on just-from-the-bakery rolls - very nice. We are having this as no one wants to cook in 43C and no one wants to go back outside get take away or eat at a restaurant - even if we could afford it. So cold meat and salad rolls it is.
Friday, January 30, 2009
I finished preparations for the new school year yesterday. My website now sits ready to accept my progress through the coming year of study.
I've read about half of the first module. Due to the current heat wave (it got to 45.7 on Wednesday and 44.6 yesterday, well over 40 again today and more to come for the next week or so), I'll have time over the weekend to read the remainder.
Next week I begin the first assignment.
Today I wrote another piece for the Cafe Doom flash challenge. We'll see how that goes. I liked it. It is a definite skill to be able to write a fully fledged story in 350 words or less. I think I got it right this time round.
I updated the market information on the AHWA database. I'm still waiting on a couple of reports to complete it, but the majority of the work required for Feb has been done.
As well as completing my course reading over the weekend, I intend to polish my two current works in progress to the point of being able to send out to my beta readers. On that note, I'm looking for someone who writes dark fiction to swap work with. If I have left a comment on your blog or interacted with you within the comments section of this one, and you would like to swap work on an informal basis - give me a yell.
I have no idea what the schedule is like in anyones life so I'm not going to make specific requests of anybody. If you'd like to give it a shot at working together, I'd be happy to hear from you.
I love my current beta readers to death. They have, and continue to help me immensely, but neither write on the dark side (although some of their work points very much to them dipping in a toe - maybe I'm affecting them with the stuff they have to read of mine...). I'm curious to see what another writer of the dark stuff thinks of my work.
Hoping to speak to at least one of you soon.
Here's an interesting on for you all to keep in mind.
Appalachian Holiday Hauntings - Looking For Submissions
Good pay rate and it will be going into the educational system. Could find yourself some early fans who will grow and continue to buy your work for years to come.
Thanks to Hellnotes for the heads up.
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
Well, a new market listed on Duotrope.
Volume 4 of +Horror Library+ Anthology Series has opened for submissions. Follow the link to the guidelines page. Please note the special offer toward the bottom to purchase Vol 1 so you can research and know what they're after.
A couple of words to remember people - White Space.
Have a good look a the manuscript you've just written out and intend to submit to a market. Whether it be a novel or a short story, have a good look at how all the paragraphs sit on the printed page (or get yourself a big enough monitor so you get a good idea of how it will look on the printed page).
If all the paragraphs look to be of similar size and length, if there isn't plenty of white space floating around and within the prose - you've got issues.
I've just read three stories, all of which had white space issues. The first was all tell. The second was bland with no conflict and therefore no story, the third had no narrative flow and very vaguely connected plot points.
I'm about to read a fourth. At first glance it looks to have issues with white space so I'm put into a negative frame of mind before I begin. Who wants to read huge lumps of prose? Elegant descriptions, natural dialogue, emotive scenes, unexpected action or humour - all of these things come in many different sizes when written down. Just have a look at this post!
When I've finished this last story, I'll let you know if my suspicions are verified.
Oh - one last point - use a spell checker before submitting anywhere.
Okay - I've read the last story - it's better than the the others. It's different, sci-fi, tongue-in-cheek and a little out there. I think I'll pass this on to another editor/slusher as a maybe.
Yesterday I worked some more on Digging Up The Past, my story slated for the Devil's Food Antho. Today I finished the first draft. She now sits at 5186 words. I'll let it sit for a while before revising.
Its not as if I don't suddenly have anything else to do.
You see, my course books arrived last night.
First Module off the rank is titled "Writing For Film & Television" - and surprisingly enough, the course book goes on and on about all the things I've been learning about over at Alexandra Sokoloff's blog (link in sidebar - I know, I'm lazy).
The biggest issue I have is the way the course coordinator wants a short script each fortnight. The first is to be only two pages long, the second 3, the next 5, and on we go till we get to assignment 8 where the script is to be up to 15 pages in length. Each one is to have a beginning, a middle and an end.
Formatting for scripts is somewhat different than my normal story writing. You can fit way less on the page, and detail of setting is to be kept to a minimum. How does one tell a complete story in a visual format in less than a few minutes? I know independent film makers just starting out tend to do it all the time, but they always seemed cliche or totally abstract when I watch them. Not sure I can do that. I'm going to give it a go by adapting some of my flash stories, starting with my piece titled Wake-Up Call. At least I don't have to think up the dialogue and the scene doesn't change. What's that saying about 'gently into the fray...'
While struggling with this module, I'll also be doing Write Fiction 2. I really enjoyed the lead up module to this one, and it is a requirement for me to move onto writing a novel next year (that would be polishing the current WIP I hope).
My battle with Mr Jonathon Stone continues in the second half of the year when I become an internal student. That will be interesting. To round off the year I get to examine contemporary Australia which will be in line with the current direction my writing is heading anyway - cool, hey! For more detailed information - go look here.
Anybody see how I'm attempting to manipulate things here so my writing works for my assignments which is working for my writing in an ever increasing circle? Hopefully folding my learning layer over layer (Sara Lee anyone) will result in a greater grasp of the craft leading to a breakout year next year (if not sooner - although the plan is still for 2012).
This brings to mind another great saying: The best laid plans of Mice and Men...
Last night I also received 4 new stories to slush. I've read one so far. I'm still yet to suggest accepting anything :c(
Currently outside we are experiencing temperatures in excess of 45C. I'm inside, at my day job, where the air conditioner is keeping things at a lovely 30C+ (Yep--it can't cope either).
Don't get me wrong, I prefer it to be hot than cold. The cold makes me ache, joints seize up, life is miserable. Heat equals movement, less pain, and females with less clothing on. How can any male prefer the cold?
Enough from me for today. I'll be heading over to my website to update a few things and to create the new pages for the 2009 academic year. Pop on over if you ever get a chance or want to check out my progress.
Adios for now.
Monday, January 26, 2009
Too many things to cover so rather than answer individual responses I'll just list them off here.
Felicity: The Blackness Within is the antho you're after. Looks like it could be a good one to aim at.
Cate: I'll add your suggested authors to my reading list. Definitely add Alex to yours. I've just finished reading her first book "The Harrowing" and found it to be deliciously dark, extremely well thought out, and beautifully written. It's getting four stars from me when I do the review. At only 250 or so pages, it's an easy read I knocked off inside a day but that may also be due to the story just pulling me in and not letting go. Highly recommended.
Ben: Good on you for having some pieces in the works. I'm looking forward to reading something of yours.
Jamie & KC: I found it somewhat liberating to finally make a decision on some of the older stuff and finally move on. I've also come to the conclusion I'm all about quality rather than quantity. In my first year I wrote a bad fantasy manuscript and 14 short stories. Last year I wrote about half that plus all my assignments. This year I'll still have the same number of assignments, I'm looking to do the second half of my manuscript but I'll be lucky to do half a dozen shorts. I'm aiming at publications with deadlines down the track a ways to give me ample chance to work on the stories. By next year, I'm guessing I'll be lucky to write a couple of shorts.
The Weather: This week deserves its own comment. Today is forecast to be 35C. Tomorrow, 42C. Wednesday, 41C. Thursday, 42C. Friday, 42C, Saturday, 42C.
By the end of the week, we should have all melted. Nice.
Sunday, January 25, 2009
Dreaming: For the Apex anthology
Digging up the past: For the Devil's Food anthology
Last week I listed all the current anthologies within Duotrope and went through them one at a time. A couple sparked a minor creative thought but quickly petered out. The Apex anthology gave me an idea that grew and the Devil's Food anthology gave me an interesting idea which prompted a little bit of research, which led into a full blown idea.
I'm going to work slowly on both. We'll see how it goes.
Next: The preliminary ballot phase for The Stoker Awards has been announced. I'd like to congratulate Alexandra Sokoloff for being nominated in the "Superior Achievement in a Novel" category for "The Price" along with such mainstay notables as Stephen King, Jonathon Mayberry, and Brian Keene.
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
I finally got around to updating the web pages today. In doing so I retired 4 stories. One may make a comeback if a suitable anthology ever appears (unlikely but you never know). The others are sci-fi and fantasy stories I wrote back in mid 2007. They were my first fumbling attempts at writing short stories and in trying to find a voice and a genre with which I felt comfortable. I've kept 2 others from that time period which could have joined them, but they are stories I really liked. They need work, so they currently have a status of "on hold" until I find the time and inclination to revamp them.
In clearing out my WIP page, it now looks like I'm less than prolific. I imagine from the outside, I look very much like a Whirling Dervish of sorts - very colourful, full of energy and movement, and tiring to watch, but underneath I'm more like the proverbial tortoise. I'm very slow and methodical, have evolved a hard shell, and enjoy eating and sex.
And I'm fine with that - now. It took a while for me to calm down enough to not try killing myself in churning out work. Reading and diploma work is more than enough at the moment. Add to that reviews, trying to write a novel and trying to work on the occasional short is plenty for me. One thing at a time. And now I may have sports articles to write - more than enough.
Last night I had another look at my current short in progress and began working on the third draft of that. Submissions don't open till the 1st of March so there's plenty of time. I have a bunch of new ideas, a new ending, and new threads running through it adding lots of depth. It's also very Australian which is in line with my writing of Newland. It's taken me a while, but I'm starting to enjoy writing about my own country.
So things are slowly starting to move forward again, but this time with a very measured pace.
We'll see how things go.
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
Rather than write about the mundane time which makes up my non-existent writing life at the moment, I thought I'd bump the writing lessons post Alexandra Sokoloff continues to add to.
Many of the writers who pass by here are looking at commencing a novel this year for the very first time, or looking at revamping a manuscript which has been sitting around for a while. The advice contained here after should be very beneficial for all concerned.
Over at The Dark Salon, Alexandra Sokolff's blog, she has been doing a huge series on writing tips. Enjoy.
Sage Agent Advice
- Why Do I Need An Agent - This is in reverse order than shown on Alex's blog but then I think this needs to be answered first. Once convinced - and you will be - then you can find out how to get an agent.
- How Do I Get A Literary Agent - A frank discussion on getting an agent and some tools to help you in your search.
- Screenwriting Part 2: Craft - This is just for the screenwriters out there and for me as I know I have a screenwriting module within my diploma and I'll need this resource later. The link for Part 1 is at the bottom of this post if you want to start from the beginning. There's a Part 3 as well.
- Whats Your Premise - Excellent advise on the creation of the single sentence premise you'll need to sell your story to others. When someone asks you what your book is about, this will give you the structure you need to provide a killer answer.
- Story Structure 101: The Index Card Method - Alex teaches screenwriting workshops but the formula discussed fits into writing a book. If you're like me and prefer a structured, methodical format to outline your writing - this could be for you. I'm definitely going to give this one a go.
Personal note: When I outline, I do it in a word document but it is similar to the index cards - just on smaller scale. It works. Alex now gives me the vital information of what I need to put into those scenes.
- Fairy Tale Structure & Your List (08-01-09) Late on adding this one. Alex originally posted it back in Nov 08. I remember reading it but just never linked it to this series of posts. I'm putting this up front because creating your list is important. Thinking about the types of movies, settings, scares, love scenes, etc which you have found appealing in movies is central to writing the type of story you - and other movie lovers - would want to read. It also helps you break down what's important and when to place those important pieces. Learn this list - it helps.
- The First Act - (Get the Hero Up A Tree) After learning about the index card method, now you can learn what to put on the cards in greater detail. There are great examples to help clarify things. And there are a lot of things you need to squeeze in here. While reading the second act, you see that some of these things can drift over, but there are still a lot of things to get done.
- The Second Act - (Throw Rocks At The Tree Bound Hero) The big theme here according to Alex: "[The] continual opposition of the protagonist’s and antagonist’s plans is the main underlying structure of the second act." Alex also discusses 'Plants & Payoff'. I've recently started to invest more revision time in this and include comments about it in my critiques, pointing out when things first need to be mentioned (planted) so they come into play later (the payoff). This is also referred to as shadowing , but I differentiate between the two. Shadowing is all about the premise from my POV where as plant's and payoffs are more about making the story move along seamlessly. Shadowing has a bigger importance in my book, the little clues which foretell things to come. Same thing but different.
- Creating Suspense - Good suggestions on recognising the type of suspense you want to create and how to go about deconstructing it into a formula you can then use to build it into your own writing. This post also looks at "the STAKES" within a story and how telling the reader straight out what the big stakes are, will help create suspense. So in Act One, tell the reader what the stakes are while introducing the scene, characters and premise, and then begin to create a scenario where those stakes are at risk. Hopefully you've also allowed your reader to begin caring about your main character. In Act Two you put all the obstacles in the way of your character and ramp up the threats to the major stakes. This can also include the introduction of the ticking clock. This post also makes the point between suspense at the overall level and at a scene level - two very different things which need to be succeeded at.
- Creating Suspense Part 2 (Added 06-01-09) this post lit a light bulb for me on more than just suspense creation (although it's great information on that as well). Writing your WIP in layers, specific layers. You write out the story in the first draft, get it out of your system. You know all the bits you want to include, the emotions you want to provoke, but don't worry about that on the first pass. You can come back and ensure you get what you want on subsequent dedicated passes. Need more suspense? Do a dedicated pass over your story with suspense in mind. Need more warmth from your main character's second sister? Do a dedicated pass through your WIP concentrating on her and her interactions with others. Need more information provided to the reader on the setting? Do a... you get the picture. For people like me who are very methodical after the first draft, I found this idea to be brilliant.
- The Second Act: Part Two - The Midpoint! Part two, of part two, goes into great detail about this very important event with great examples. With all the hints dropped to this point about the different posts still to come, and all the books and movies given as examples so far, I could be reading or watching TV for a long time to come.
- Visual Storytelling - I've seen writers (okay, one writer) develop this technique as they evolved from unpublished to aspiring professional. It makes a huge difference in story telling. Alex again goes into great detail and provides good examples to help make this clearer. Using the visual aspect to mirror the theme, or the characters state of mind within a scene makes good story telling sense.
- Visual Storytelling Part 2 (added 13-11-08) Alex continues her discussion on writing imagery. This post is a little different from the rest of the series being more a discussion of where you can see thematic imagery used rather than how to build it into a story. If you've read the other posts then it'll become self apparent. Still worth the time to peruse.
- What Makes A Great Climax (added 18-11-08) Alex skips to the creation of the end, but it's something we need to think about way before we get there. The details may evolve a little differently as we write and revise our story, but how we come to the climax and what that climax is, will be the last thing your reader/audience remembers. And if it's a let down, you may flush away your chances of landing that agent/editor/future longtime reader.
- Elements Of Act Three - Part 1 (added 2-12-08) The first installment on crafting a great third act, particularly the parts which go into making a memorable, impact full final quarter of your story.
- Elements Of Act Three - Continued or Part 2 (added 15-12-08) And the good advice keeps on coming in Alex's continuing series of brilliant writing tips. Much of this post is confirming things we have already read; things Alex has already touched on but with new examples to drive home the previous lessons. Oh, and if you haven't already made your list of the ten best films, 10 best midpoints, 10 best endings, etc - then you had better get stuck into your homework otherwise you won't gain full benefit from this series.
- What Makes A Great Villain? (AKA Villains part 1) (added 20-01-09) This lesson is the opening gambit on creating a believable counterpart to your story's hero/ine. Rather than specifically telling you how to do it, Alex uses the make your own list method to get to the bottom of what you enjoy in a good villain and how to use that in making a great villain for your own story. It also leads into a great article by Allison Brennan with some gems of advice on the topic.
- Forces of antagonism (AKA Villains part 2) (added 20-01-09) Carrying on from the first villain lesson, this post continues a good grounding on how to create the antagonist including some great examples.
- Plants & Payoffs (added 04-02-09) extremely important tool all writers need to become adept at when writing and revising. Alex gives great and in depth examples. You'll also find a long comment from yours truly which provides additional examples.
- What is "High Concept" (added 04-02-09) This is an important topic. If you can't define this about a piece you're trying to sell, whether in the long of short version of writing, then chances are your readers aren't going to get the gist of your story either.
- Meta-structure (22-02-09) It had to happen eventually. Alex touches on a technique which completely baffled me in the beginning. I had to go away and have a look at many of the suggestions and examples she puts forward to get a grasp on it. I thing I understand what she is trying toconvey now, but I don't agree with it. Little old barely published me, not agreeing with a published author who's books I really like. Well, on this ocassion I don't. However, I think if a story can be fitted into the definition Alex proposes, then I believe the chances of the story being exceptional are high. If the story resonates with a large percentage of people as being - 'Hey, I think that's the only way that type of story, and that story in particular, should be, or could have been told', then I think you are definitely on the way to a comfortable life as a writer. Go have a read and decide for yourself.
Other Useful Stuff
- Internet Resources For Writers - Lots of information about lots of different things - includes a lot of stuff I've already told you to go look at but if you don't believe me, maybe you'll believe Alex.
That's it so far, but there's so much more to come. If you haven't bookmarked this lady's blog yet, do yourself a favour.
Monday, January 19, 2009
I haven't done much more than a lot of reading today. I've read about half my feeds. I've read a heap of my current book concerning the writing of feature articles and will conrtinue to do so for the remainder of this week.
Next week I want to begin reading The Harrowing by Alexandra Sokoloff. I'm guessing my course books will also be arriving in the next week or two along with more reading for the next round of reviews for Black.
I've now written nothing for nearly a week, and I'm not bothered by it. When it comes, and I know it'll come, I'll embrace it and go with it. Until then, I'm not forcing anything - I'm just reading.
Back to the day job tomorrow. Maybe I'll even do some real work for a change...
Sunday, January 18, 2009
The bottom line of the scans I had last week - I'm not in the best of shape. At the tender age of 40, my backbone is looking like the left over prop from the curious case of what's his name....
I'm scheduled to see a physio in the next week or so and a surgeon in April.
I'm guessing nothing will come of any of it as I don't hold a lot of hope that a physio will fix anything and I'm not having surgery unless absolutely necessary. I've seen physios do some miraculous things with rehab but I'm not in rehab - I'm just wearing out.
On the possibly good news front. I got a phone call from my old editor this afternoon. SA50s+ hasn't contacted me since she left which isn't surprising. I wrote sports articles for them and they're changing format and content which will result in no sports articles in forthcoming issues. So in the reshuffle, it seems I've been axed without comment.
But my old editor wants to become my new editor on a different project. The launch isn't due for a couple of months yet so I can't go naming names or anything, but I am once again going to be the sports writer - only I'll be covering international sports events - well, passing journalistic comment on international sports we in Australia are interested in. I'll be writing on a wide range of things on the international stage such as: tennis; formula one; the world game (soccer, or football as everyone outside of Australia and the USA call it); rugby (league and union); major sporting competitions like the Olympics and World Championships; and many many others.
In short, I'll be surfing all the sport news feeds I can find and gathering the most interesting ones into one place. I'll also be writing opinion pieces on them and giving in depth analysis and explanations.
At least I think I am - or will be. I've only had the one phone call, and though it all sounds exciting, I'll have to wait and see how it all pans out.
If nothing else, it will work in well with the diploma again and build more credits in the writers bio.
The news about my crapped out body was a bit of downer on Friday and so I haven't done any reading or writing over the last few days. I have some work to do for the AHWA which I'll get to tomorrow, and then I want to finish reading "The Art & Craft of Feature Writing" which has more significance given the above news.
So I may be nearly 60 on the inside, and nearly 41 in real terms, but I feel much younger in my heart so who cares what the doctors say. You only live once (unless you believe in reincarnation) so there's no point in dwelling on things. Time to get back into the swing of things.
Thursday, January 15, 2009
The review is now up over at HorrorScope.
Go have a squiz here.
This book was only released to the public on the first of this year, hence my being sent what I think is called a gallery copy as opposed to an ARC. Makes reading somewhat more difficult but this book is worth the effort. On the scale discussed below, The Schumann Frequency comes in at a solid 3.
I'm going to start a scale to determine what is good and what isn't. It'll go something like this:
0 - if anything ever scores a zero I'll be amazed but if it does, run for the hills and poke out your eyes so you may never have to endure it's torture. If I've given it a zero, I have probably already done serious damage to myself.
1 - Chances are this will go on the kindling pile for use next winter. Do not buy this.
2 - This book was okay. If you can get it from a library, a free copy from elsewhere or have received it as a gift, then reading it won't be too bad, but never ever fork out the hard earned for this - there are much better titles to spend your money on.
3 - This was a pleasant way to spend time. I was transported to another place and/or time and gained enough enjoyment from the journey that I don't feel cheated in parting from my cash in the purchase of this title.
4 - A good, well written book. I would happily recommend this to my friends. I would happily buy this as a present for someone I cherished. Recommended purchase to all and sundry.
5 - Outstanding. You must buy this book. If money is tight, then steal it.
6 - Genius. This is literary perfection. This is modern-day Shakespeare. This is written by as close to the hand of God as I've ever encountered.
Examples of how I judge books so far:
I have no examples of the first two thankfully.
2 - One Foot Wrong by Sophie Laguna
3 - Infected by Scott Sigler or The Schumann Frequency
4 - Gratia Placenti by Apex Publications
5 - Books of Blood by Clive Barker
6 - Until now I haven't found anything even close to approaching this.
Most books seem to rest comfortably in the 3 or 4 range. Occasionally I find a 5 and even more rarely I find a 2.
Lastly, remember this is only my opinion. Your tastes may be a long way north or south of mine (or should that be left or right??). If you disagree with my review, I'm happy to discuss things. I'm also happy to hear about similar conclusions you've reached.
If you're an author with books you want reviewed, particularly prior to Australian release, (but I'm happy to read and review for any book in any English market) then feel free to contact me - or leave me a comment in any blog post with a contact email and I'll see what I can do for you. Arrangements for reviews can also be made through contacting Shane at HorrorScope: Australia's Dark Fiction Weblog.
Alex has posted a new lesson on story creation but this time concentrating on the bad guy/girl/thing.
Go have a look here.
Incidentally, Alex also posts these things on Murderati where Allison Brennan has taken up the call and also talks about the creation of the antagonist - worth a look, especially the quote "In Christopher Vogler's THE WRITERS JOURNEY, he said that the villain is the hero of his own journey."
This caught my eye for two reasons:
a) Every writer must remember the bad guy has his own story, his own background, his own goals, and they must be as important to the story you're trying to tell as the good guys (guy in this instance is used generically so I don't have to keep using guy/girl/thing.)
b) I received The Writers Journey for Xmas so this just makes me want to read it that much more - cool.
I have the remainder of this week off. mainly due to the need for doctors appointments but also to look after the little one. I went and had my scan this morning. They refused to scan my entire spine due to concerns over the amount of radiation I would be exposed to but they did do most of it. I lay still for longer than I have for years. When it came time to move, I couldn't. My arms and legs were a mass of pins and needles and my back just one large pain. Eventually I got the blood flowing again and managed to get out of there. Tomorrow it's off to the doc for results. Fingers crossed he suggests some physio or chiro at worst. I really don't want surgery.
The problem with the remainder of the week off, is I wrote the review for Chris Ride's book at work, and forgot to email it home. I may have to pop in there this afternoon just to get that posted and out of the way.
Working through all my feeds at the moment and then I'm moving on to try and finish reading "The Art and Craft of Feature Writing" before moving on to another novel - at least that's the plan for the remainder of this week.
Go read the the posts on villains...
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
I guess I could have also called this post "The light at the end of the tunnel has appeared and now I'm hoping it's not a train..."
I still haven't moved past the contents of my last post, but I'm not still down in the dumps so much that packing the whole lot in is a continuous thought.
This Post says what a lot of writers know and have been trying to express to me about my negative thinking.
What I have decided to do about things:
I'm going to read - a lot. I'd already begun this process but K.C. is correct.
I'm going to write reviews of the books I read.
I'm going to break down and analyse the books I like. Hell, I'm going to break down and analyse the books I don't like so I don't make the same mistakes.
I'm going to create a structure template for my short stories. I have one for novels, and that works for me, so why not shorts? I wrote Wamphyri with a structure. I altered it severely as I went along but it helped me identify a few things. I also need to add a list of already known DONT'S. These are things I still fall into, especially with endings.
I'm going to create the lists suggested by Alex.
- 10 favourite movies
- 10 favourite villains
- 10 favourite heroes
- 10 favourite scares
I'm not going to worry about acceptances this year - at all. I will circulate what I currently have out, but if I don't send anything new out - I don't care. If my current batch of completed stories don't find a home, I'll self publish on the website and you all can tell me if they suck or not.
I will pass my second year of the diploma.
In a nutshell: I will read and do the diploma work. I'll write outside of that. I will improve.
Yesterday I finished reading The Schumann Frequency by Christopher Ride. Today I'm letting the after taste roll around inside my head before I write up the first draft of the review. It should be posted on HorrorScope before the end of the week. Actually, I was side-tracked while writing this post, forgot it was here, and went and did the first draft. It should be on HorrorScope tonight or tomorrow.
We move on. We move with the knowledge that I'm still learning, probably at a slower rate than others (I am after all, a painfully methodical and anally retentive person at times), but that doesn't matter - movement is healthy.
Among everything else I am in this life, I am, and always will be, a writer; a lover of the written word, whether I am writing it or reading it. I can't help it.
Monday, January 12, 2009
A strange malaise has overcome me the last few days.
With the not so subtle help of a beta reader, I realise the ending for "Dreaming" currently blows the big one. It needs to be rewritten. It's currently a little over 3000 words, but I need to cut the ending and then write another 2-3K to finish it properly. Probably not going to happen in my current state of mind.
I am seriously considering retiring Grimoire because it's full of cliche's and B grade crap (that's it, I'm retiring it - if I've resigned myself to those facts, then it needs to go).
Two of my better stories have received nice enough feedback but rejections still the same. I've had no inclination to write anything else on Newland or any other story recently.
I've been trying to come up with ideas for the AHWA competition, PARSEC, Salisbury Writing Comp - and I have a big fat zero to show for my efforts. I've read a fair bit recently, I'm out and about, Xmas has come and gone, a break from the daily grind to refresh the batteries - and I've got zip, nil, nada creative to show for it.
I'm probably a bit down today due to lack of sleep. I was called into work yesterday due to a power outage leading to a system shutdown due to the battery backup on the fire board running out. Who would have thought you can make all the backup contingencies for power you like and then a little power board connected to the fire system lets you down. Anyway, the battery failed, which triggered the shutdown. We were then called in to power back up so our "clients" would be able to work first thing this morning. So I was tired by the time I got home last night but I then decided to stay up late and watch the Man Utd v Chelsea game. As a Red Devil supporter from way back - its was seriously worth the loss of sleep. Paying for it this morning though.
I did a quick browse over the action markets as advertised by Duotrope. Not pleasant reading. It mostly aimed at the kids market. I don't write stuff aimed at kids.
I think I just need to leave all this alone at the moment. Even the thought of getting a refund on this years study has crossed my mind once or twice. Consideration of packing it all in and going and playing golf or something.
Yeah I know, boo-bloody-hoo for the oh-why-is-me wanker behind the words. I'm not after sympathy or pep talks or any of that. This is "The Musings of an Aussie Writer", a blog about the life and times of me: an Aussie writer. The way I'm feeling at the moment is part of being a writer, or at least it's part of me and my journey in writing, and so it makes it onto this blog.
Over at David Such's blog (welcome back from India David), he's listed quotes from various literary individuals. Go have a read and grab a favourite.
For years I've been partial to this quote from Stephen King: "Talent is cheaper than table salt. What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work."
Right now, I'm leaning more toward this one from David's list: "No one is asking, let alone demanding, that you write. The world is not waiting with bated breath for your article or book. Whether or not you get a single word on paper, the sun will rise, the earth will spin, the universe will expand. Writing is forever and always a choice -- your choice." – Beth Mende Conny.
My problem is I currently believe myself to be bereft of inspiration, lacking in creativity, and sadly inept at the art of writing. With Mr King's quote in mind: I have limited talent, but I'm a firm believer the mechanics of writing, as a skill, is able to be learned. Inspiration for what to write is something else entirely. The second part of the quote concerning hard work - well my wife and family would attest to the amount of hard work I've put into this over the past two years.
As for Ms Conny's quote, I have a choice. If I gave this up tomorrow, at least gave up any thoughts of writing for publication, blogging, market research for others, study - all that stuff which I've allowed into my life over the last two years which more often than not makes me feel stressed, down, or simply unhappy - the the world wouldn't care. I have no doubt I would still write reviews for HorrorScope and Black as I will forever enjoy reading. I will probably keep writing Newland. I may even write other things on occasion as I feel the whims come and go, but then I'm not really putting in the hard work.
So the choice is: do I want to continue putting in all the hard yards? At the moment, I don't know...
Friday, January 9, 2009
And so it seems I now join the list of those who have started the year with a rejection as Wamphyri has been knocked back.
Comments include "solid and capably written", but the editors believe it would be more suited to an action orientated publication rather than horror.
That last bit surprised me. I now fully understand they are after more of the tension and suspense type of horror but I still thing this is more dark supernatural fiction than action.
Still, I agree it is another story with well used tropes, portrayed in a fashion not wholly different to others which have come before. It's not unique or looked at in a completely different way.
I'm not going to get upset over it. I'm just going to do some market research over the weekend and send out the 3 pieces which have not found a home over the past month and are still waiting resubmission.
Shroud Magazine has decreased its payment upon acceptance of short fiction. From being listed as paying 2-6c/word (US), the guidelines now list the following:
"...beginning immediately (this will not impact issue 4 writers), Shroud will pay a flat rate of $10 for Flash Fiction, $25 for fiction up to 5000 words, and $25 for non-fiction up to 3000 words. Book reviews and other pieces will be discussed with the authors on a case by case basis."
All due to the economy crisis.
Shroud has also instigated reading periods:
FEBRUARY 1st through MARCH 30th, 2009 and then from MAY 1ST THROUGH JUNE 30TH 2009
Submissions received outside of this period will not be read or retained.
Check the guidelines page carefully for this and every market you intend to submit to. Gaining submissions is hard enough without falling over at the first hurdle.
Good luck with all your submissions. May there be acceptances in all your inboxes.
Today I finally did the research I needed to on snake bites so I could continue with Newland. After my reading I plugged in my USB key to commence writing with the hope of finishing off the current chapter I was working on when I ran into the need for the research in the first place.
To my disappointment, I found I hadn't updated the version of Newland on the flash key. Not happy.
As writers we find enough excuses to put off writing and now I'm all hyped up to continue work and don't have access to it. :c(
I need to continue reading tonight so I won't have an opportunity later to do any work on it either. To put it in a nutshell - I'm somewhat disgusted with myself.
I presented my Prime Reader with "Dreaming" last night but forgot to ask if she'd read it when I got home from the cricket club. She didn't mention it while we were trying to find a few pieces in her jigsaw puzzle before turning in for the night so it either hasn't been read or it was so underwhelming she'd forgotten about it as well.
I've also sent it off to my beta readers but haven't heard anything back (and don't expect to for a little while yet).
I've done the rounds reading my blog feeds and now sit here twiddling my thumbs. The book I'm reading is at home. My draft manuscript is at home. My current short story is out with readers. I'm stuck at work with little or no work to do! What a waste of time.
Think I'll head over to Cafe Doom and see what this weeks flash challenge inspires in me.
Thursday, January 8, 2009
A new post from Alex concerning the three act structure, on which she has based her lessons.
Personally, I thought this bit of explanation obvious, but then I'm one who has trod the boards in front of the footlights. Only semi-professional or for local amateur groups, but it means I have read my fair share of scripts to know the structure.
It also means I have a love for theatre, and have paid for a ticket to be an audience member for more than a few plays in my time.
But Alex alerts us to the three act structure and why we should use it for our own writing. And she is correct.
The form is one we all need to harness and perfect. I'm a student of history and find learning from the past a great thing. In this latest lesson, Alex combines the past history of story telling with the modern version you are trying to master to give comprhensive reasons as to why you should be looking to excel in the three act structure.
Combine this with all the other lessons offered so far, and you'll have to go a long way to find a more comprehensive set of instructions on how to write a good story.
Wednesday, January 7, 2009
All day I've been thinking about "Dreaming" and considering new names, parts I can improve on, bits that need to be livened up, etc - and yet I've resisted the temptation to do anything. I haven't even looked at it. That's for tomorrow.
Today I went and seen the doctor like a good little boy, not a stubborn man who needs to be strong in the face of mounting pain regardless of the consequences. An Aussie Ocher I'm not, though I still haven't convinced myself of the immediate need for that probing examination...too much information me thinks...
In Australia, having a single doctor you have seen since they brought you into the world is rare. So rare you could probably find more cases of rampant Ebola in the world than Australian's who have only ever seen one doctor in their lifetime. So I tried out a new doctor's surgery down the road which meant a need to bring the friendly doc up-to-date on all my varied complications and my past history as a nurse (so he wouldn't be tempted to try and pass anything off).
Unfortunately this also had the affect of either scaring him or of him simply wanting me gone. His suggestions to my history, and now growing pain in my legs, was to have either a CT scan or go direct to the surgeon, do not pass go, maybe never walk again...
I chose the CT scan. He printed out the form for the scan and then went back to suggesting the surgeon when I reminded him I had pain in different areas of my back requiring a whole spinal scan.
At that point I was thinking I had a stamp on my forehead stating this one was for immediate scrap-heap addition.
I stuck to my guns and got a new form for a full scan. The imaging place was nearby so I figured I'd save myself a phone call and pop in on the way home. It turns out they were having their CT machine replaced - great timing. So my scan is delayed until later this month. I could have gone elsewhere but the next closest imaging place was an hour away. I can live with it for a bit longer, being the big tough Aussie I am...err, no. I meant being the type not wanting to muck anybody around--really.
So when I got home, the wife, the youngest, and I took the dog for a walk. Afterwards, I took up my reading again - 14 chapters down, 36 to go in Christopher Ride's "The Shumann Frequency". I need to finish this soon as the next issue of Black is due out which means a new round of books for review will also be out in the not-too-distant-future. I already know I'll be reading Alex's "The Harrowing" for one of my selections. No doubt there will be at least one or two others.
The family had free reign on the computer today so I didn't have a chance to do anything with Newland, but that's okay - I'm pushing anything with that one. I have my deadline and I'm confident I can reach it.
Lastly, I'm going to take this opportunity to thank everyone who comes here and reads my ramblings. The amount of constant comments I receive make me feel all warm and very much not isolated. The encouragement and thoughtful discussions are wonderful to receive and be a part of. I try my best to do the rounds and read everybody's blogs and post comments when I'm able or have something useful to say. If you're on my sidebar, be sure I do visit at least a couple of times a week, sometimes more. Be very sure you are all very much appreciated.
Tuesday, January 6, 2009
Okay - milestone time first. This is my 400th post! Woohoo.
Now that's out of the way...
I just finished the first draft of "Dreaming" - 3662 words.
It just kept coming out of me. A few days ago I read Alexandra Sokoloff's latest post which you can read here (sorry about the delay in linking this one) which started me thinking and ended up in one of those moments of startling clarity bubbling to the surface.
I write very much in layers. My first draft is a little about setting, a large part in characterisation and hugely about the dialogue. There is bugger all descriptive prowess, not a lot of shadowing and very little placement of thematic references.
Second pass allows me to beef up the setting and descriptive elements. It also allows me to see where the shadowing and any theme related bits can go.
Third pass will be for polishing all those bits together.
Then it goes out to readers. Rinse and repeat until it's ready for market.
Right now though, I'm full of the adrenaline writing a new story gives me and further topped up with finishing the first draft of something new.
I'll let this sit for a day or so and enjoy the feeling before the cold world of revision takes over.
I hope you've had as good a writing day as I've had.
So much for concentrating on Newland and staying away from short stories.
Today I was browsing around the place and found this. An idea popped into my head four fifths formed. I started writing it out this morning and have so far written 1300 words and managed absolutely no real work at my day job. I just can't shake this idea.
So I'll finish it and send it off to my beta readers after a bit of polishing and after my prime reader has had a chance to give it the once over.
Thing is, I can see this fitting into a couple of markets - markets I do know well enough to see the fit, as well as the market which inspired it. My problem then becomes one of deadlines.
This Apex market closes on the 1st of March 2009 but the publication isn't due out till late 09, early 2010. Another possible market closes on the 31st May 09. Unless I get a quick rejection from Apex, I won't be able to send it to the back up market. How's that for a defeatist attitude?
Tentatively titled "Dreaming", it is full of Australiana and local flavour so I could return to the machine gun method and play it out to all the Australian publications if Apex don't want it and are too slow on any possible rejection.
Lastly, in this years diploma I will probably be required to produce more works of fiction like I did with Wamphyri last year. As this is a story based firmly in Australasia it would probably garner even better results (as long as the writing stays up to par).
Don't you just love it when you get all inspired and excited over a new piece of work...back to writing. Speak soon.
Monday, January 5, 2009
I must say, I did like the imagery I kept all the way through this post... ;c)
This was prompted by a post on The Poisoned Apple, Cate Gardner's blog.
The discussion was about word counts (among other things), and it prompted me to ask:
(from the comment I posted on Cate's blog)
It seems I need to post a question: I'll do it here and on my blog. (Hence this post on my blog...)
First some background...
When I sit down to write, I'm disappointed if I leave before I hit 2-2500 words. I guess I average maybe two or three writing sessions a week (although a bit better than that recently with the holidays), so I guess I get out around 5K a week - this equates to around the first draft of two chapters each week.
When my study starts up again, this will drop back to 2-3K a week if I'm lucky.
Here's the question (yep, there is one, it just took a while getting here): How many of you have a full time job?
I know many of you work from home, and I definitely include looking after kids and managing significant others as part of the full time job market, but being at home would tend to lend itself to having more opportunity to write in my distorted view of things.
I would love to swap with my wife and become a home-dad. I've done it for short intervals in the past, the longest being a couple of months, and enjoyed it. (The working from home bit, not the wife being away bit...).
Unfortunately money requirements no longer allow it, and the time restraints impact hugely on my writing.
So am I just wrong in my view of being home more results in more writing time?
Inquiring minds want to know - well this one does...
I know - I ramble when I post comments as well. But besides that. What do you average as a word count? There is no right or wrong answer here. 15 minutes a day resulting in a couple of hundred words is great if you do it regularly. One day a month where you manage 1000 words is just as good.
I want to know because it seems everyone has an expectation on themselves to live up to the hype out there. Most "professional" writers claim they write at least 2000 words a day, every day, and so many of us emerging writers try to emulate that. Cate's post is the first I've seen with a number under 2K. The comments are the first I've seen with numbers under 1K.
And I for one find it refreshing.
I write a little more than that in a session, but one writer doing 700 words a day manages to write 3500 in a week, which is the same as I manage most weeks even though I write anywhere up to 2500-3000 in a session. If I only manage one session then there is no real difference.
Yep, I'm rambling again. So how much do you write in a single session and how many sessions do you average a week? Do you give yourself the weekends off? Do you have a schedule where one day is put aside for reading, another for writing and yet a third for research? Fill up the comments - everyone wants to know...
Sunday, January 4, 2009
The year is already four days old and I haven't posted yet - smack my hand...
The first was set aside to recover from not much sleep over New Years Eve. We had a pleasant evening with friends, didn't drink too much, had a few laughs, but when we finally hit the hay, we had youths carrying on in the park near my house nearly until dawn.
The second just sort of frittered away. We didn't do a lot: took down the Xmas tree, generally tidied up, watched some TV. Nothing particularly productive but it was still nice.
Yesterday I managed to sit down and write a touch over 2400 words in chapter 10 of Newland, but had to stop to do some research on symptoms of a specific snake bite. Got side tracked by the cricket and other things and never ended up doing the research or any further writing.
Today I updated the market hive for AHWA members. Two more markets removed but found two replacements easily enough and noted the updating of web addresses for five other markets which would suggest they are staying around rather than closing the doors. No new pro or semi pro markets though :c(.
Legs are still hurting and I may soon loose my current writing space. Could very well end up squeezed into a tight space pretending to be the young Stephen King. Lets hope it has the same affect on my writing.
The market updating has used up the time my legs allow me to sit and type. Honestly, it's difficult just to write this post without squirming around (and it's far from pleasurable).
So I think I'll spend the rest of the afternoon reading. I've finally found my copy of "The Art and Craft of Feature Writing" which was hiding under another manuscript I've been meaning to get to for review. "The Schumann Frequency" by Christopher Ride was sent to me for review but I've been putting it off due mainly to the holidays and wanting to write, but also because of the format. This isn't a bound book. It is over 250 A4 pages, printed on both sides and held together with an elastic band. It has two inch borders all the way round so it looks like it has been printed - just not cut and bound. Still it has to be done so I'll make a start on it.
Back to the day job tomorrow. Still, with most of my colleagues on leave, I'll be able to power through my required work in the morning and then spend a few hours doing other forms of keyboard work - what Alex would call "stealing time" for more artistic pursuits.
Time to go.