Wow, so… May, huh?

Time is whizzing by at an outrageous pace. Since my last blog entry seven months ago, I have been busy. So, a quick recap!

November, the usual celebrations for that time of year. December, health issues arose. January, we slowly started to get things back in order. I managed to take the whole summer break to simultaneously get nothing and everything done. February, March, and April have been spent in a haze of writing and editing, writing and editing, as best I can while continuing to recover.

By the end of 2014, I had written an incredible 120,000 words for the entire year, across multiple projects. The next novel in the Snowflesh Trilogy clocked in over 90,000 words, and I have moved onto revising it into something worth handing to my editors. Other stories, a couple of which have been invitations to upcoming anthologies, have demanded sporadic bursts of attention with their various deadlines scattered throughout 2015.

All in all, things are good, continuing to progress, and as long as nothing new crops up, the next novel will herald its arrival by the end of the year, and I hope to have a few more significant short stories accepted in the meantime.

Of course, if you want to have a tiny taste of the efforts I’ve been expending, there will be a piece of my flash fiction in this month’s Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing newsletter. Sign up is free, you’ll get to read Night Sounds and see another end of the world from yours truly. Go to www.pmmpnews.com and fill in the relevant details to receive your copy around May 28th!

And for me, I’m falling back into Book Two. One third down, two more to go.

~A

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Write a little, write a lot

First, I careened through a 2,500 word goal in a day. Mostly because that number took my overall word counts to tidy, delightful milestones on the last day of September. The novel now sits at just over 50,000 words, and also marked 85k for the entirety of 2014. This hasn’t been the easiest year to write through with the various ups and downs, but I’m still trucking along and can make my final aims if I push hard through the coming months. I don’t enjoy deadlines, but I do like a challenge.

Then on the tail of stubbornly plodding to that target, I blazed through writing a complete 2,600 word short story in two days. I declared it both a happy story, and spur-of-the-moment, but neither description is entirely accurate. The themes are, in my mind, much happier than a lot of what I otherwise write, but it’s a nostalgic and somewhat heart wrenching tale. I know this, because everyone to read the story thus far has informed me they were tearful by the end, and in one case, cried in public. (Haha. Teach you for beta reading my work at a café, M.)

The story has also been bubbling away at the back of my mind for a very long time, all because I promised a friend I would write a happy story one day. It’s taken somewhere in the vicinity of a year for me to reach this mournful answer to writing a piece not based on horror or darkness, nothing evil, just something very, very human. While I had let the idea germinate long before, I didn’t expect it to fall out, nicely whole, when a single additional incentive to write it immediately was added to the mix.

I found a place to submit the story, which I’m grateful for twofold: it gave me the final push which brought the short to completion, and also provides a prospective home for my bundle of words. My novels are my main work, but the amazing connections I’ve found through having shorter work published is an invaluable element of the experience. Those friends don’t know how much their presence and positivity serves to hold my hand when I silently worry I’m not big and vivacious enough to find a larger readership or propel my career where I want it to be. They are quiet support against a doubtful mind, not just when they share appreciation for my work, but by their companionship throughout. So I deeply value every opportunity I have to try and get more of my shorter work picked up.

I know I have a long way to go. Every extra word written is inching me closer to that purpose.

~A

Reinterpreting my own advice

My efforts to keep writing as a significant entity are coming along swimmingly. Even with time off for the “weekend”, I’m ahead of schedule and finding it easier each day to separate from whatever else fills my time and use it to get the words done at my writing desk.

I’m doing my best to celebrate that progress, though the voice of contention has to chime in. I can pick up on the novel and produce the next pages of text without too much effort, but the summer job is keeping me from percolating on the short stories I need to write. Not enough quiet thinking time. Sometimes, writing a novel feels like throwing thousands of words into a giant hole. I can’t help the ever-so-slight sense of not doing enough, all centred around how I haven’t added anything to the short story list, even when I’m successfully exceeding my daily word quota.

Part of my drive to push a few extra hundred words in here and there stems from the inevitability that my next holiday will be writing-free. Date of departure is approaching rapidly, and I’m helpless in the face of three weeks of writing lost to being away.

Not only am I making up for those days off in advance with my extra effort now, but I’m looking ahead to what my writing plans will be when I return. One of the biggest things I tell many creative friends is to forgive themselves when life gets in the way. We’re a damn critical bunch, and harshest upon ourselves for any perceived lapse.

I’d love to believe I could keep up my excellent daily word count for the duration of my holiday, but every single other vacation has proven otherwise. There’s just not enough time or mental energy to spare when I’m out of the house. I could try and fight it, but I think this is one of the instances where forgiving myself is more important than struggling against the path of least resistance. I mean, it’s supposed to be a holiday, right?

Afterwards, though, I have to be honest, and persistent, and stubborn when vacation time is over. It’s too easy to pretend like the excuses have validity and weight when it’s “just writing”. At no point would I call my manager and tell her I can’t come back to the day job because I’m recovering from holidays. I wouldn’t give up partway through my shift because I’m tired and it’s hard to rebuild the routine. Writing is no longer a just-for-me activity. I have external expectations to meet.

So that will be the thing I fight against, and not simply forgive: the tendency to let myself cruise along as if writing is just too hard when I’ve taken a break. Yes, it is difficult to get back into the groove with a three-week-hiccup in the way, but not enough to actually matter! Step one is my mental approach. I have two jobs to come back to, end of story.

It’s one thing to be forgiving, and another to let myself wallow in lingering post-vacation laziness.

~A

Oops

I guess it’s been a while since I updated. I have a perfectly valid excuse! No, I really do.

I spent the final four days of 2011 editing. Almost non-stop. Thursday and Sunday both came and went in a flurry of words. Reading, cutting, adding, cutting, changing, reading reading reading. For me, editing fiction is a very particular activity. I have come to terms with the fact that it will never be a tidy process.

On New Years Eve, I ran around outside with some sparklers at approximately 9pm, Perth time. I have more of a tradition of celebrating New Years with Sydney, who are three hours ahead of us at this time of year, than anything else. This is simply because I would normally be asleep for any celebration here! This year, I greeted the turn of midnight in my hometown still editing. Approximately twenty minutes later, I touched the last line and declared it a success! I’d reached my goal!

I woke to the first day of 2012 with my mind buzzing; I knew something I needed to go back and modify more. I often wake up with story ideas, since my subconscious is very well trained in making adjustments and working through problems in my writing. My sleeping mind was totally right, and I spent all of yesterday editing even more.

Last night, I provided my beta readers with their copy of the story. I hope to hear back from them pretty quickly about their initial impression, and just hope I haven’t overlooked some kind of atrocious error! But honestly, I am confident in the place my story has come to, and I am really looking forward to getting right back into drafting book two.

At the end of the second draft, traditional means of word count estimation puts TDM at 54,500 words. Yes, that breaks free of being a novella by 14,500 words. I knew when I began editing that this story would stretch to become a short novel, and I simply had to accept the fact. It changes what I will do with the series, slightly. I haven’t made any firm commitment to how I want to publish TDM, and won’t until the final edit is complete!

In the meantime, I have a sequel to write.

~A

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

The plan, the challenge

As you may know, I’ve switched to working on the potential-novella referred to as M. I read the opening I wrote several years ago and felt somewhat overawed by how awesome the idea was, and wondered why I stopped. I can honestly say it was because I hadn’t plotted any of the story out besides the general idea; it slowed me right down, and I can see that, now. At the time, I just drifted onto other projects that had more immediate appeal, without ever realising what was holding me back.

While the ideas for this story were still there, they needed a lot of developing. And as my last blog entry covered, the strange little ideas I’d worked out, and the interesting plot directions I wanted to use have finally started to make sense as a whole story. I got excited and I have begun planning out the plot properly. The best part about doing this is always knowing what to write next. Once this is sorted, I can sit down and throw whatever words I want at the page. Editing will be challenging, but the important part is always finishing that first draft.

My plan is to have the overall plot finalised, to whatever extent I usually do, by the end of this week. Then starting Sunday, I intend on writing like a maniac (or if you’re a fan of Dear Sugar, writing like something else!). Novellas clock in around 40,000 words in length. I want to hit that in two weeks. Madness? Oh, yes. With my lifestyle, most certainly. And that’s precisely what draws me to it.

I have always been inspired by challenges. Put some kind of ridiculous deadline in my head and I want to tackle it wholeheartedly, just to see if I can. Looking over my writing records for TDM, I don’t often reach 3,000 words a day, but where’s the fun in it if I already know I can manage ~2,000? I could do it in a month, but two weeks? We’ll have to see.

There’s always the distinct possibility that I will get directed, bored, or grumpy with this whole plan before it’s finished. You guys can always call me on it if my happy little word counter isn’t rising daily.

~A