The home stretch

I hesitate in posting this, simply because I have proven myself inept at gauging the time it takes me to finish any writing project! Even short stories, ones which I think will be completed in just a quick flash. No, they take months extra for no good reason. But, nevertheless, despite a novel being even more unpredictable, I think I’m on the final leg of this novel’s journey – before things really get underway for The Damning Moths.

There’s a certain sense of complication in thinking I’m nearly at the end. Of course, the inevitable desire to rush through, which is absolutely not allowed! After all this, rushing the end would be unforgivable! So I must consciously maintain the same critical mind I’ve had through the rest of these final edits. At the same time, my fast read-through of these last chapters feel like they’re pretty solid. I made a lot of notes about certain plot threads which need to be tidied, but other than that? Well, the ending is just a lot more certain of itself than the beginning was in a lot of ways. We’ll blame it on all the action; it changes the pace, the story evolves into something else. And honestly, by the time I was writing the end, I had all the practice of writing the beginning, going at it for weeks solid. That helps. Truly.

So I will do what is necessary, and finish this novel, and then it will be read for the last time by my copyeditor to make sure I fixed the problems. We’re coming to the hard part. The “everything after”. I feel familiar enough with writing that the writing itself is just this fun thing I do. I sit and have conversations with fictional people. I record what they think and do in challenging situations. I get to read my work and enjoy where it takes me and feel vicious glee and longing and sadness and laughter in all the right places. What comes next, though, that’s all new to me. Publishing is still the big scary beyond.

All the more reason for me to get through it, do what I must, then return to the comforts of writing book two.

While I know most of my blogging buddies will have already seen this, because I am absurdly late to share things, I must reiterate the many people before me who’ve said watch Neil Gaiman give a speech to university graduates. Because Neil Gaiman is amazing. So please, if you haven’t already, watch:

~A

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The results are in!

On this fantastic December first, I will take the time to reflect back on the month of editing I (sort of) accomplished! I have technically been editing for five weeks, but during that period, I missed enough days to constitute an entire week. November has never been the best month for me to work…

I haven’t made it all the way through the story. Indeed, these past ten days have been editing the same chapter, over and over. It’s kind of an important part of the story, you know? I think I found my rhythm, hit my stride, and whatever other clichéd expressions you’d like. The only problem there, is, my style is repetitive and mildly obsessive. Read, edit, pick at each word, add detail, cut everything remotely superfluous, keep only the sharp and essential and the very carefully written. Do it all again tomorrow. Stories, I’m finding, are a very special kind of compulsion.

Every pass I take, it gets better. I can assure you of that much. But I’ve also discovered editing this closely means I often need to go further back, re-read, make sure the connections are all there, the references all make sense. So it takes a very, very long time to make even minor progress. Naturally, every time I do go back, I find something small to change. A little edit to make. Something which might not make quite enough impact gets altered.

Right now, I am still three chapters from the end of the book. My word count total has gone up by almost five thousand words, on top of everything I’ve cut and re-written into concise, clear sentences. I suspect, with the amount of changes I’ve made, the full amount of words I’ve actually written is well over double that number.

I can’t tell how much longer this will take to finish. I like to imagine the last three chapters will zoom by, but instinct tells me they are the ones I will be prying at the most. I can get a lot done with a good chunk of free time at my hands. I will be setting aside some extra writing time, specifically so I can guarantee this edit is finished before Christmas. Things get way too crazy in this household for the holidays, and I’ve honestly started to feel really inspired about working on book two of the series.

And that means, in a few months, I’ll be doing this all over again. Oh lord. Writing really is glorious, delirious madness.

~A

Whipping Your Words, a guest post from Katy-Rose Hötker

Today’s guest post comes from my lifelong friend, Katy-Rose. We have been on parallel life-paths since the time we met; both five years old and instant friends. Katy-Rose is building her writing dream and running Faery Allure, a small jewellery business, in between the exciting experience of first-time motherhood, and starting The Hidden Grove organic produce farm with her husband. Thank you for the guest post, and all these shared years, Katy-Rose!
~A

I could never write short fiction, at least, I always found it difficult. I’ve more often than not been guilty of letting my words run away with me. They can be so beautiful and meaningful, how do you let go? Why would anyone want to reign in their language? The answer to that question is, to achieve better potency! Our words are more memorable and our stories more succinct when we whip them into shape.

I was raised on epic high traditional fantasy. I devoured it in my teenage years. Hungry for its rich detail and lush world building! It’s a genre that affords a fair amount of verbosity and flowery description. However, as the years have passed, my taste in fiction has expanded. I’ve started reading Young Adult fantasy. And YA fiction is a different creature entirely!

The wording of a novel aimed at a vastly teenage readership is a lot snappier I’ve found, in comparison. You must immediately engaged your audience. You must grab them by the shirt collar and pull them through the worm hole! There’s no time for long-winded explanatory prologues, epilogues and appendices. Your intended reader must be sucked in and not want to put that book down. It must be like a quick fix, full of excitement. The stakes must be high. Your audience wants to feel involved.

From my journey through these genres and my current life circumstances, (think newborn and a fledgling business) I decided to put my novels on the shelf, bad pun intended, and began seeking out fiction that would sate my love of an epic snappy story, with body and heart, without the 60-300k word count. It was at this time I found a new respect and love of short stories, and the new kid on the block, flash fiction. These formats allowed my imagination to run wild, but on the clock. I could continue to fit reading and writing into my day.

I began to try my hand at flash fiction myself and found, much to my genuine surprise, that it was easy. It flowed without obstruction from my mind to the page! I couldn’t believe it, I still can’t. For the longest time, shorter fiction, let alone a form of micro fiction, was a ‘no go’ zone for me. It was all or nothing. I was going to write and read epic traditional high fantasy my whole life. Needless to say, I’m glad my taste in fiction has widened. Variety is the spice of life!

So the key to writing shorter stories in my experience, is to write a tale that you would enjoy immersing yourself in, on a limited time budget. Instead of that fifteen minute bus ride to work being a great sullen bore, why not forget reality for that time and enjoy a quick story? Write that story and others will want to read it. We are all escapists at our core. We all dream great dreams and imagine the seemingly implausible. But sometimes big dreams and lengthy tales have to be put on hold, and this is where our smaller, every day dreams step into the limelight and it’s when short fiction shines. It fills an otherwise unoccupied niche in the reader market.

Whip your words into shape and not only will you have an engaged and entertained audience, but also a very satisfied one. One that will possibly commit your name to memory and look out for longer works of fiction by you in the future when you eventually get the time!

You can find some of Katy-Rose’s flash fiction in these upcoming publications!
“Lunar Cry” in Daily Frights 2012: 366 Days of Frightening Flash Fiction (Leap Year Edition) from Pill Hill Press.
“Midnight Allure” in Daily Flash 2012: 366 Days of Flash Fiction (Leap Year Edition) from Pill Hill Press.
“Sweet Delirium” in Short Sips: Coffee House Flash Fiction Collection (Volume 2) from Wicked East Press

Crochet to the left!

Crochet to the right! I’ve been a busy little stitcher! And finally, a collection of projects has been completed, so now I can share photos of the crocheting that has kept me sane in between the madness of editing. Go ahead and click any of the images for a larger view!

First, is a really super snuggly knee rug or baby blanket. The green yarn is very soft, bulky and fuzzy. This was made with a v-stitch, then just single crochet for the border in a lovely variegated blue yarn.

The next knee rug or baby blanket is made from pale and dark blue bamboo/cotton blended yarn, with a segment of grey yarn for contrast. It is SO soft and has a really nice weight to it. This is just a standard granny square pattern, repeated until I was out of the bamboo yarn.

Carrot baby set! This baby beanie was requested by a friend, made with cute little curly carrot leaves. I whipped up the little carroty shaped bib to go with it, because the idea was just too cute!

And lastly, for now, is the most ridiculously adorable thing I’ve ever made: a flopsie-eared bunny beanie. The pink yarn is very soft, with little glittery bits through it. I really love the brown and cream yarn. Honestly, brown is such a great colour for baby things, especially as it goes really well with bright, rainbow colours.

With these four pieces finished, I still have a whole pile of other crocheting to get through. Good thing it’s a great activity to keep my hands busy while I’m trying to puzzle through my writing – any time I get a bit stuck at the moment, I just pick up the crochet and work on it until I’ve thought through my problem. Awesome!

~A

Scarecrow

I am a huge fan of Matthew Reilly’s writing. It’s all kinds of opposite to everything else I read, and that’s part of why I love it. The weaponry, the pace, the action, the brutality, the fact that anyone can die. Anyone. Including, and especially very important main characters.

My first foray into the insane worlds Matt writes was Ice Station, and remains my tied-for-favourite book of all time. Incidentally, the other book which shares tied-for-favourite is The Gone Away World by Nick Harkaway, and it shares many qualities; military setting, action, and ridiculously awesome characters who you desperately want to spend time with. I got my copy of Ice Station from a little secondhand book store over a decade ago, and it has now gone beyond the stage of “much read”, to “lovingly battered”. Well over 30 read-throughs will do that to a book. I also went on to purchase a brand new copy of Ice Station; this second copy has been signed by Matt three times so far. Come November, when he’s on a book tour again and visits Perth, I intend on getting autograph number four in that book (and of course, a lone autograph in his new book!).

I just finished reading Scarecrow and the Army of Thieves. It took me a few hours to finish. That’s one of the things undeniably Matthew Reilly: the book is so fast-paced, and he’s so adept with words, you absolutely fly through reading it. Everything happens, bang, bang, bang. There are moments interspersed in the action, looking in on other characters that aren’t in the middle of a gunfight, that only spur you to read on more. Those moments are usually the ones that reveal a key piece of information that you just know will change the course of the story and throw everything into even greater chaos.

If you aren’t familiar with the four existing Scarecrow novels, and one novella, the main character is a Marine, Shane Schofield, call-sign: Scarecrow. There is absolutely every reason to love this character, cheer him on, and feel completely satisfied when he triumphs – albeit, usually missing most of his team by the end of the books. Trying to describe him would be a terrible injustice.

Reading Matt’s books always get me revved up. They are like all the great action movies, but 100% better. I see what he does, and I want to make awesome stories, too. Sure, I won’t ever write military action novels, but I sure can put every effort into being just as entertaining in my own chosen genres. After all, that’s the best goal possible for an author.

As always, Matt, fantastic work. Thank you for writing.

~A

I have the picture, but not the location

I’m planning to get a second tattoo in the semi-near future. It took me a while to settle on a design. I’ve wanted more ink since I got my first piece years ago, and it’s been an ongoing dance of choices and passing fancies. I don’t get tattoos without a very long decision period. I was drawing my first tattoo on myself for months before I got the permanent copy. I still love my tattoo.

There are two images that I am very fond of as tattoos. One is a picture of an owl, which I would get on the inside of my right forearm, at the widest point near my elbow. It would be a brown-dominant tattoo rather than black, as they usually are. But it’s not my immediate choice, because I’ve drawn myself another picture.

It’s a compass. As in, directional. In the centre is a tree, shaped like an aged bonsai, with leaves trailing away, changing from a vibrant, flourishing green into the beautiful yellow, orange, red of autumn. At the cardinal and intermediate directions spread the symbols of the Vegvísir, the traditional Icelandic runic compass.

I took inspiration from other images and drew the complete design by hand. It contains images of things that I have great respect for, or just resonate with me. Every time I look at the picture, I still love it. Love, love, love it. But I have a problem… I don’t know where I want it.

I don’t often have trouble deciding things like the ideal location of a tattoo if I think something would be awesome. The two notions tend to go hand in hand: “If I wanted this as a tat, I’d get it on this part of my body”. Not so with my compass. It’s definitely a larger image, so I’ve considered my thigh, or my stomach. I don’t like the idea of ink on my back, because I wouldn’t be able to see my own tattoo! It wouldn’t fit nicely on my arms, or lower on my legs. I don’t think I’m a chest, collarbone or neck tattoo kind of person unless I went straight for the manubrium, and that would still leave me with the trouble of not seeing it well. I would be in front of a mirror an awful lot!

I guess you understand my trouble.

My only reasonable solution to this problem is to buy some of that print-you-own temporary tattoo paper and trial the locations I’m interested in. My husband is doing his illustrator thing and creating a finalised design for me where everything’s meticulously measured out and uniform (rather than my rough hand drawn version). Then, we will just have to see.

~A

Just half of a fully forgotten memory

I collect things. Anyone who knows me in person can probably tell you something I collect. Ask ten different people, and they probably tell you I collect ten different things. The truth is, I just keep stuff, not in a deadly-hoarder kind of fashion, but in the “this is useful or interesting or taught me something valuable and I must retain it until it no longer serves that purpose to me” kind of way.

Books, and video games (spanning well over two decades of production), DVDs and CDs flow out of a dozen shelves in my house. I have small wooden boxes and large vintage suitcases, collections of wool, yarn, thread, and scraps of fabric for sewing and creating. Tumbled gemstones, Tarot decks, notebooks and little paper and fabric gift baggies that I usually find another great purpose for.

I also collect quotes and inspiring stories. My favourite is collecting writing advice that doesn’t tell you any of the specific things, but rings that clear, pealing bell inside me, the one that says, “TRUTH!”.

Now, I don’t have the best functioning memory in the world. I usually attribute that to replacing memories too frequently with new information, new ideas. I don’t recall specifics of things I’ve read very well, and that is a kind of blessing. Some days when I’m feeling really lost or uninspired, I might decide to browse through my interesting writing file. Just see if I’ve got anything in there that will remind me why I should do any of it.

I’ll usually find something. Rather, I usually find this blog post by Merlin Mann: Making the Clackity Noise. I can’t remember where I first found this article, or why I read it. It came from somewhere.

It rang true to me in all the right ways. And even if I don’t always end up writing something significant afterwards, I’m happy, because just a little bit of a story fell out of me. I think we get way too caught up trying to do it “right”. There isn’t a right. There is, however, a write. That’s what I’m going to briefly remember to do.

~A