Thursday, September 27, 2012

Write it Down

Here is the only piece of writing advice that I've ever really followed. And, if I haven't, I've usually regretted it: 

Carry a notebook and a pen. 

Seriously. Because you know that time you're at the shops and you overhear an intriguing piece of dialogue that might spark an idea? By the time you've paid for your groceries, put your card back in the wrong place in your purse, panicked that you've lost it, found it again and then got into your car and driven halfway home before you realised you've forgotten to buy milk...that dialogue is gone for good. 

Write it down. 

In the era of smart phones, you won't even look like a stalker while doing it. Copying your conversation down word for word? Certainly not. I'm texting my friends, of whom I have many, thanks for asking. 

What about that great idea you have at three o'clock in the morning when you suddenly break free from a crazy dream? Sure, it might not look so good in the cold hard light of day, but how will you know unless you remember it? 

Write it down. 

In the morning, if that note says OMG shoes with zippers then what have you lost? 

I have a few notebooks on the go, as well as a gazillion tiny bits of paper floating around. Pages in my notebooks include Slang I Like, Titles That Have No Stories Yet, Interesting Names, Brainstorming, and Work Quotes. 

This is from Work Quotes

We're on the hill, the man said, and we look down on our neighbours. 
I could tell that was true from the tone of his voice. 


That person could be your soulmate. 
I thought you said cellmate. 


Sancrosant. This word does not annoy me. 

But in the middle of all the useless stuff are chapter plans, ideas for new stories, ideas for improving old stories, and the bare bones of plots that are just waiting to be built on. 

Carry a notebook. Write stuff down. You'll be surprised what turns out to be useful. 

Do you take notes? 

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Writing Goals: How do you reward yourself?

So today my alter-ego's co-author and I hit 42600 words. That's pretty epic, given we've been doing this for a grand total of two weeks. That's NaNoWriMo speeds! Hell, that's faster than NaNoWriMo. 

Full disclosure: I've never finished NaNoWriMo. I started it once, realised after two days that I was writing absolute crap, and threw it in. Not the point of NaNo, I know, but I lost the love. I think that if I went into it with an idea that I didn't actively detest, and possibly some inkling of a plot, I'd do a lot better. This could be the year! 

Then again, NaNoWriMo is like a contest against myself. So I don't care if I quit. Give me someone else to let down though, and apparently I'll write like a demon. 

Do you have writing goals? 
Do you meet them? 
And do you reward yourself? 

This is my reward for myself if I get through editing without whinging and muttering and plotting elaborate revenge fantasies against my lovely editor: 

Yep, this is The Students Handbook of Forensic Medicine, 1882 edition. OMG, you guys, I can't wait to read this and learn how to tell the difference between arsenic and strychnine poisoning. 

Weird old books are my weakness, but how do you reward yourself when you hit your goals? 

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

An Adventure. With pictures.

Writing is like an adventure. 
And you should always try to have adventures... 

...even if you are afraid they may lead to trouble...



Source difficulties...  


...or any manner of unforeseen complications.


Even if you are afraid that people might judge you, 


Get out there. Throw caution to the wind. Write that book, and have that adventure. 

You don't want to live in regret. 


As you can no doubt tell, I have rediscovered The Silent Film Still Archive. What are you up to this week? 

Saturday, September 15, 2012

The Next Big Thing

The lovely LG from Bards & Prophets has tagged me for The Next Big Thing meme. That’s where I get to answer some fun questions about my WIP, which I am co-writing with my sister Kath. So here goes:

What is the working title of your novel? 

Eleven. I know, creative, right? Nobody steal that, okay? Took me ages.

Where did the idea for the novel come from?

I watched a documentary about Hadrian’s Wall. Then I listened to Exo-Politics, by Muse. This was all around the same time my sister, an English teacher, was putting together a work unit on Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell. Somehow everything just came together. Wine was involved. 

 What genre does your book fall under? 

Dystopian YA. But then again, I think everything is dystopian. Seriously. Even utopian is just dystopian from another point of view. You know that character in Candide who always says that he’s living in the best of all possible worlds? Yeah, that’s not me, but that’s okay because if we were living in the best of all possible worlds there would be nothing to stand up and fight for.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

A single sentence? Um…

Danny Sutton, a sixteen-year-old conscript at Outpost Eleven, teams up with Luke Jones, the only guy to ever come back from the Carrier-controlled Dead City, to expose the truth about what’s really happening on the other side of the Wall.

Clear as mud, yeah?

So here’s a longer thing Kath and I were playing around with a while ago:

Danny Sutton, a sixteen-year-old conscripted recruit at Outpost Eleven on the Wall, is homesick, desperate, and slowly pulling together an escape plan when the impossible happens: Lucien Jones, taken four years ago during a Carrier attack, walks up to Eleven from the wrong side of the Wall.

All Danny wants to do is find a way home. He has no intention of getting pulled into Luke’s crazy plan to walk back into the Dead City and stage a rescue for the other prisoners he says are held there. Because there aren’t any – everybody knows that. And it’s not like Luke is exactly stable; if he heard people talking to him over there, it was just in his head. 

Danny has to decide how crazy he thinks Luke really is, how much he is willing to risk finding out, and which side of The Wall the enemy are really on.  

What actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie version? 

Usually I hate this question, and usually I wouldn’t be able to answer it because I rarely describe characters, even to myself. And the only description of Danny that has so far worked it’s way in to Eleven is this: a pale face with big, scared eyes and a bad haircut.

Then, when I was watching TV late one night, I saw this guy:

The actor is called Dylen O'Brien, and he plays the best friend of the main character in the new version of Teen Wolf. And this picture I found of him -- with injuries -- is perfect. Wanna know why? Ouch

Danny has a bad attitude and some big plans. He's also homesick, frightened, and fairly sure he's going to die in the next barrage.  He's very close to breaking point, but so is everyone else. 

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

I will let you know when we finish it.

Will your novel be self-published or released through a traditional publisher?

I guess we’ll try the traditional route first, and see what happens.

What else about your book might pique reader's interest?

We’re hoping the setting might be unique: northern Australia, a ruined city, red dirt, and saltwater. Place is everything.   


And now I’d like the share the love by passing this on to the following helpless victims blogger friends:

Miss Cole at Miss Cole Seeks Publisher
Maggie at The Unibrow.
JEFritz at Still Writing.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Co-Writing: Tag! You're it!

As you guys know, my sister Kath and I are co-writing a book. We still are, even though we’ve pretty much ground to a halt because of Stuff. Stuff includes day jobs, kids, shift work, other commitments…you know: stuff. Like housework. While I’m perfectly content to live in my pyjamas and be smothered by dust bunnies, apparently Kath has higher standards than that.  

“You should do something about those cobwebs,” Kath told me the other day, looking at my study ceiling.

“I am,” I told her. “I’m collecting them.”

In the meantime, my alter-ego is co-writing with another author. This is a whole different game altogether, because there are certain expectations here beyond “Hey, let’s see if we can do this crazy thing.” Mostly because her pseudonym and mine are both already published authors in the genre, so there is at least the expectation that we can do this, although it remains to be seen if we can do it well.

I’ve never met my co-author. We’re both published through the same publisher. Her first book came out the same time my second one did, and she sent me an email saying hi. So we emailed, interviewed each other on our blogs, that sort of thing.

Then, last Thursday night my time (she’s in the US) she sent me an email with the subject: Question. And it started with “Now, don’t feel like you have to say yes, but…”

I said yes.

By Friday night my time, over a series of increasingly excitable emails, we’d sketched out our main characters, a bit of a supporting cast, and a vague idea of a plot. By Monday morning my time, we had one scene to go before we finished the second chapter. Holy crap. That’s almost Nanowrimo speeds!

And we’ve done this with no more planning than “You write as much as you feel like, then email me, and I’ll do the same.”

I like this “Tag, you’re it!” style of writing.

You know that scene you get stuck on? The one that’s maybe not fun anymore, or you’re a bit bored and it’s suddenly more important to be on Facebook? Well, you know what? No excuses. Your co-author is waiting for her turn to write.  

You know how sometimes you get stuck because you’re a pantser not a plotter? And if you don’t know what direction you’re going in, you kind of give up and move onto something else? This time, you don’t. Because it turns out that if you’re stuck, maybe she isn’t, and maybe she’s going to take it in a direction you never saw coming.  

My favourite part so far? While I’m asleep, this book is still getting written. Seriously, I wake up, and there it is in my inbox, and the Magic Writing Fairy has added a whole new scene!

So far we’re in the Happy Manic Creative phase, which is my favourite phase of all, but I know that sooner or later it’s going to be like Actual Proper Work. Which is also fine, but that’s also when things will get interesting.

Who has power of veto if we need it? (When you’re co-writing with your sister, it’s your mum, obviously.)
Whose editor do we pitch to?
Who gets to write the synopsis? (I vote for her. I hate doing those.)            
Who gets to write the really fun scene? You know, the naughty one, with the…um… extra naughtiness. And condiments.

And, possibly most importantly, who gets to name the parrot?  


Has anyone else tried co-writing? I’m always open to advice.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Authors Behaving Badly: Reviews

Okay, so I've talked a bit before about how I feel about reviews. Short version: Authors, don't go there. Reviews are for readers, not for you. Put your hands over your ears and go la la la, but never respond to reviews. 

But you know one thing I didn't mention? Because I really thought it was so obvious that it didn't need mentioning:


"You Lie" by Banksy

Don't be like a certain British crime writer who posted reviews under false names on Amazon. You know what, even if he thinks he's written "a modern masterpiece" that "will touch your soul", it's not for him to say. And he knew that, or he wouldn't have used a pseudonym. That goes to show intent, your honour. 

But don't mistake this guy for a one trick pony. Because not only did he give himself fake awesome reviews, he also gave low star reviews to the work written by rival authors.

Rivals? Shit, I thought we were all on the same side. 


Which brings me to another thing about reviews. Professional courtesy. 

I was worried about going on to Goodreads as an author, because I didn't like the idea of reviewing other authors' works. I don't want to lie, but sometimes I don't want to say exactly what I think either, right? Because your work might be a pile of steaming howler monkey crap -- and you might think mine is as well -- but we both know how hard we worked. 

After speaking to a few other authors, I've adopted the following strategy: I will only rate three, four or five stars reads. If it got under that, you won't even know I read it. Nothing goes onto my "Currently Reading" list that I haven't already finished. 

I might not like your book, but I'm not going to bag the shit out of it in public. Not under any name. If I like it, I'll rave about it. If I hate it, I'll shut my mouth. 

As a reader I might not feel so constrained, but that's where I've decided to draw the line as an author. 

My last point on reviews: Guys, YOU NEVER PAY FOR REVIEWS. 

A paid review is ultimately as worthless as a faked review, expect now you also have no money. Reviews, good and bad, will happen organically. And you have to step back and let it happen. 

Fake reviews are worse than bad reviews. And do you know why? 

Back to the British crime writer: did his book touch my soul? Don't know. I'm never going to read it now. He doesn't deserve my money. 

That's why.

Monday, September 3, 2012

A Noun is a Naming Word: Frog edition

You might have noticed that I name things that some people don't name. Like Simon the spider, and Gordon and Gary the geckos, and Johnny Rotten the possum and all his punk friends. Now, apparently because I'm not six, this is a little strange. And to those people I say: Fine, disregard the opportunity to invest your life with a little imagination. It costs nothing, but hey, it's your choice. I won't judge you -- oh wait, I just did. 

See what I did there? 

I first started naming frogs when I was about eight, and lived in a small town called Monto. One tiny green frog turned up on the screen of my bedroom window. He was called Ferdinand, and first of many frogs. I think I was up to seven by the time we moved. The frogs and I got on really well, except for that one night I opened the screen and Ferdinand joined me in bed. I screamed, he panicked, and we were both traumatised for a while. 

My current window sill frog is called Fidel Bonaventure Jumping-Castle. He is actually Fidel Bonaventure Jumping-Castle the Second (the double barrel surname is because he's an aristocrat, obviously). His namesake, the original Fidel Bonaventure Jumping-Castle, was a very agéd green tree frog with skin as dark as rainforest moss and prominent hip bones. Each wet season he sat on my window sill and sang rain songs. 

Fidel Bonaventure Jumping-Castle the Second is, I suspect, my former toilet bowl frog. There is obviously a strict hierarchical system in place. When the king dies, the toilet bowl frog is promoted to the window sill, and one of the downpipe frogs takes over toilet bowl duties. 

When I first moved into my house I was still a bit nervous of frogs thanks to Ferdinand. I liked them, but I didn't like how they have no way to indicate which way they are going to jump. Now, thanks to the toilet bowl frogs, I'm very good at catch and release. I mean, it's either that or pee on them. And you know how you should never turn your back on someone you don't trust? Well, there are other things you should never expose as well. That's just common sense. 

Fidel Bonaventure Jumping-Castle II
"Why," someone at work asked me once, "have you given a name like that to a frog?" 

Because Fidel Bonaventure Jumping-Castle isn't just a name. It's a story waiting to be told, and I like to cram as many of those as I can into my life. 

Imagination: Use it or Lose It. 

Do you exercise your imagination by naming things? 


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