What I learned this week

My own Yoda told me to work on something new while querying.

This is great advice, designed to stop me going nuts and checking my email forty thousand times a day.

So I went ahead and worked on something else. The sequels to my querying manuscript. So I’m ready to go with Books 2 and 3 when the call eventually comes.

But the anxiety crept in…. I started to fret and worry.

Then I finished the sequel drafts and started on something new. Brand new. In a completely different world with all new characters.

And I forgot about my queries.

This lead to a little epiphany.

When I was working on the sequels, I was still in the same world with the same characters. I had not really left my manuscript alone.

Now I’m wrapped up in the new world and kind of forgotten about the querying manuscript. Kind of.

So this week, I’ve learnt to start something completely new when querying.

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My Top 3 Writing Podcasts

I like to walk. I like to listen to stuff while I walk.

I’ve been into podcasts for over ten years now, ever since my knitting obsessed days. Yes, there are knitting podcasts. Don’t you know, knitting is a thing – check out Ravelry with over 6 million subscribers. But I digress into knitting defensiveness. Back to podcasts.

I listen podcasts on various topics from personal development to exercise to the paranormal to current events to films and of course, writing. Today I’m sharing my top 3 writing podcasts (for today – podcasts come and go).

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Here are my top 3 Writing Podcasts

So You Want to Be a Writer

A weekly podcast with Valerie Khoo and Alison Tait of the Australian Writers Centre.

Why I like it – An Australian perspective on writing with weekly regular segments and a long interview with a working writer. While basically content marketing for the Australian Writer’s Centre, the content is useful and informative across all genres, covering mainly traditional publishing.

The Creative Penn Podcast

A weekly podcast from Joanna Penn of the Creative Penn

Why I like it – Joanna Penn is passionate about indie publishing and inspiring others. She is interested in many different aspects of the writing world (including new technology and global expansion) and has great interviews with writers, pundits and other publishing related people. I always get something from each week.

Science-Fiction and Fantasy Marketing Podcast

A niche weekly podcast based on marketing for indie published science-fiction and fantasy writers hosted by Lindsay Buroker, Joseph Lallo and Jeffrey Poole.

Why I like it – no frills, no fancy music or advertising. Just authors asking other authors about their writing and their marketing approaches. Good solid information.

What are your favourite writing podcasts?

A little writing meltdown

Some days, it’s just overwhelming. There’s too much to remember. Too many techniques.

 

Is the pace right?

Does the scene turn?

What’s the character’s motivation?

Is my first line punchy enough?

Is my dialogue boring?

Too many ‘said’s. Too many adverbs. Too many adjectives.

Too much detail

Not enough detail

Are my minor characters too quirky?

What about the internal motivation?

Does it make sense?

Don’t worry about the sentence. Worry about the story.

But that sentence is clumsy.

Is my main character changing enough?

Is it cliched? Is it derivative?

Am I wasting my time?

Argh.

 

 

 

 

A little writing music

Music is a perfect pairing for writing. It can provide inspiration, pace and block out annoying noises. But it’s gotta be the right music.

The key pre-requisite for me is NO LYRICS. Words distract me and sometimes randomly appear in my manuscript.

This is what I listen to while writing.

Soundtracks

Soundtracks for films and television are a great background for writing. So long as the music is not too familiar, otherwise I get distracted and start humming along. My favourite composers here; Clint Mansell, Two Steps from Hell, Hans Zimmer, Yann Tiersen, Nils Frahm.

Modern Classical

“Old” classical can be too familiar to me (see above re: distraction), so I really enjoy the experimental “modern” classical music. The Scandinavians and Icelandic seem to dominate in this genre; Olafur Arnalds, Dustin O’Halloran (not quite Scando), Hildur Guonadottir.

Gaming Music

Like movie and TV soundtracks, gaming music can provide pace and the right mood. Especially for action and fight scenes.

Not Frogger.

Ambient

I don’t mean Ambient EDM/techno, I mean proper ambient with no bass. Soundscapes and aural wallpaper. The big guy here is Brian Eno.

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Nature Sounds

Sometimes I get into the zone with nature sounds; forests, birds, wind, thunder, rain.

White Noise

White, pink, brown – who knew there were so many colours of noise. This is great for sealing out the world, although I do have nagging concerns about being brainwashed with the theta waves. Maybe I’ve watched too much X-files. Excuse me while I go all Manchurian Candidate.

Meditation music

Meditation music is my current favourite for writing. Lots of bells, chanting and new agey stuff. The music is calm and repetitive, also the tracks are really long (up to 60 mins). So the music doubles as a timer.  When the music stops, take a break!

What music do you prefer when writing?

Writing spaces – ideal and real

In an ideal world, my writing space would be in a room overlooking craggy cliffs.

The floor to ceiling windows would open out to the sea, where I’d watch the ever-changing weather roll in and the waves crash against the rocks. I’d be inspired by the power of nature, the wild and moody weather.

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Unfortunately named “Suicide Cliffs” in Okinawa

The room itself would be plain and white, with no distractions besides my computer and my creativity.

Imagine the science-fiction I could write from this room…

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Or something monastic.

Perhaps my latent historical fiction would come to life here.

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Mount Grace Priory, Yorkshire

But in reality, my writing space is like this.

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Messy yet functional, surrounded by books and CDs (yes, Gen X), post-it notes, a thesaurus, water, a comfy op-shop chair, story outlines and writing structure reminders.

My only mandatory items are the laptop and the headphones. I wrote the first drafts of Return to the Monolith while my house was under renovations, from the kitchen counter (with headphones on blocking out the noise of power tools) or the local library. I found I could write anywhere.

So the ideal writing space is not necessary for writing but it’s nice to dream.

What’s your ideal writing space?

 

 

Excerpt – Evangeline & the Alchemist

Today, I thought I’d share the first page of my steampunk novella set in Marvellous Melbourne in 1880s, Evangeline & the Alchemist.

I hope you enjoy….

Chapter 1

As soon as Miss Plockton rapped on the door to the laboratory-workshop in her efficient Scottish way, Evangeline knew something exciting was about to happen.

“Chief Inspector Wivelsfield to see you, sir?” she burred.

“Ah yes. I plum forgot.”

Evangeline’s father placed down his trusty brass screwdriver with the ivory handle. Her father, Professor Montague Caldicott, the pre-eminent horological engineer in all the Colonies, smoothed down his humongous moustache with his real hand.

“Your lesson is over for today, m’dear. Follow Miss Plockton upstairs and continue with your embroidery.”

“But Father…” Evangeline groaned.

“Police matters are not for the ears of impressionable young ladies.”

Evangeline grimaced and stowed away her rosewood-handled screwdriver in the pocket of her dress. The smaller and more delicate screwdriver was a recent gift from her father, an encouragement to pursue her own inventions.

The Professor shooed Evangeline and Miss Plockton from the laboratory-workshop, before carefully locking the door behind him.

There was a time when a visit from the police would have frightened Evangeline. She would have hurried to hide her loot but not today. Today she was a reformed character, setting aside her street urchin ways and learning to be a proper young lady. But Evangeline had to admit being good all the time was a bit dull.

Evangeline sulked all the way up the stairs, clumping her feet and dawdling. Her father passed her and continued up the oriental carpeted hallway into his study, closing the door behind him. The conversation of men muffled by the closed oak door.

Evangeline loitered in the hallway, waiting for Miss Plockton to drag her into the sitting room to complete her crudely stitched handkerchief. Whilst Evangeline was proficient in many skills, needlecraft was not one of them.

Rather than bustling Evangeline away, Miss Plockton did something curious. Her father’s personal secretary produced a large brass key from her pocket and opened the small closet adjoining the Professor’s study. The room where all the house linen was stored.

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The 7/7/7 snippet challenge

Writing Challenge participant Natalie K challenged me to the 7/7/7 Snippet Challenge.

The rules are:

  • Go to page 7 of your work-in-progress
  • Scroll down to line #7
  • Share the next 7 lines of your manuscript in a blog post
  • Tag 7 other writers (with blogs) to continue the challenge.

Here are the 7 lines from the 7th row of the 7th page of my recently “completed” manuscript, Return to the Monolith. I’m stoked to announce, I’ll start querying agents with Monolith from early January. Hoorah! But here’s a sneak peek.

Dawn peeked through the pink-fringed grey clouds, lighting up the sky in the east. The snow-tipped mountains loomed in the distance.  Alga’s heart pounded. This was the first time she had ever walked away from her mountains.

Her stomach had stopped rumbling. Her tears dried up. She tried not to think about her Sisterhouse and what she had left behind.

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Now, I am passing on the fun to seven more writer bloggers. Consider yourselves challenged;

Looking forward to seeing other 7/7/7 Snippets.

Feast menu from Return to the Forest

I’m in the process of revising Book 2 of my Monolith series Return to the Forest. Today I’m sharing a menu from one of my scenes. Who doesn’t like descriptions of food and feasts in particular?

It is the solstice ceremony of Sundku held on a hilltop clearing, where the religious community of the Sisters live.  All the local women travel to the Sisterhouse for Sundku to welcome the early signs of Spring, the fading of the long Winter and to seek the blessing of fertility from the Goddess.

They dance, sing and chant around the pyre, honouring the Goddess and once the circle is closed, the women feast. Hungry after their homage, they need a hearty meal.

At the end of winter, fresh food is scarce but the women of the Forest are wise and resourceful. It would insult the Goddess to skimp on food at Sundku.

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Each woman brings her own contribution to the feast. The long wooden table is piled with;

  • Rabbit stew: served in a thick gravy seasoned with pepper berries, slow cooked in a large pot over an open flame. The stew is served in carved wooden bowls.
  • Acorn bread: heavy and hearty, baked from ground acorn flour into loaves. The fire baked bread is coated with a crunchy caramel coloured crust. The loaves are cut into hunks and the women dip the bread into the rabbit stew, soaking up the gravy.
  • Jam cakes: local blackberries are harvested in summertime and preserved in earthenware jars to last throughout the cold winter. The jam cakes are baked with more acorn flour, dotted with dollops of sweet black jam. The cakes are golden palm-shaped discs with a hint of summer sweetness.
  • Red wine – of course

I hope you enjoyed a little view into the food world of Return to the Forest.

Hungry?

 

 

Three tips improved my writing in 2015

It’s the time of year between Christmas and New Year, like the lull between two waves. Time for planning and reflecting.

Here are the three writing tips I learned in 2015. These three tips definitely made me a better writer.

  1. Specificity
  2. Simplicity
  3. Different scripts

*Disclaimer – I can’t remember where I got these tips from. If it was you, thanks and sorry.

Specificity

Let’s get specific. Lazy writing is full of things, stuff and them. This year I learned to be specific about what I am writing. In 2015, I got out my nouns. First drafts can be full of vagueness but once the red editing pen comes out, it’s time to be precise. But specificity must be paired with tip#2, otherwise the words will grow and multiply like mice. And there’s nothing worse than a mouse plague…shudder…

Simplicity

Why use ten words when you can use two? My writing style is simple, mainly because I don’t like verbose writing personally, but this year I learned to use embrace the simple (and specific). Why use an adjective when I can find the right verb? He didn’t walk, he strutted, she plodded, we ambled. There is more power in brevity.

Like botanical illustrations, I strive to be both simple and specific.

Different Scripts

The third tip is about dialogue. Any scriptwriter knows this stuff but it was a revelation for me. This year I learned that each character has their own agenda in any conversation. Everyone has their own desired outcome from any discussion and our agendas will clash. This tip has helped me to stop my dialogue from being an exposition fest

In normal conversation, there are misunderstandings and confusing conversations when someone doesn’t say what they actually mean. There are a myriad of reasons why we don’t speak our minds. This is also true in dialogue. Each character is reading from their own script and the scripts don’t match.

Your turn – what great tips did you learn in 2015?

Five things which distract me from my writing

I am boringly conscientious. It was always on my school report…Madeleine is a conscientious student. But stuff still distracts me from writing.

Noise, generally power tools

I live in an area filled with older homes under renovation. If the gentle roar of power tools isn’t coming from my own house, it’s one of my neighbours drilling, sawing or generally banging loudly.

Headphones are good.

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Social media & the internet

I’m not alone. I know the blasted internet and social media call to us all. Distract me. Validate me. Just check the weather. Maybe someone liked my tweet. A quick look at the news. Next thing I know, it’s thirty minutes later. Damned instant access to everything ever.

The day job

Unfortunately I’m not independently wealthy or a kept woman, so I have to work. This is a major distraction from writing. Although perhaps with more time on my hands to write, there’d be more opportunity for other distractions to creep in.

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People – reminders I need to have a life too.

Note to self – occasionally stop writing and socialise. While Mr Madeleine and friends are a lovely distraction, if they interrupt at the wrong moment, they are in danger of encountering extreme grumpiness. As with many things, timing is important.

Resistance

I often talk about Resistance. The little evil man on my shoulder telling me I’m crap and I’m wasting my time with this writing stuff. He is the root cause of most of my writing distractions.Some days he is stronger than others. I try to ignore his little snarks and keep putting my fingers on the keyboard.

What distracts you from your writing (or other goals)?