Saturday, May 31, 2008

SocNoc - Day 1

SocNoc - Southern Cross Novel Challenge - is off and running, minutes away from being 12 hours old. And I'm off and running as well. I have been up since before dawn - woke up and couldn't get back to sleep so what the heck - I got an earlier start than planned.

Logged wordcount - 4791, 9.6% of target

And the manuscript? I finally decided to return to a different idea yet again. This time it is science fiction. I have had this idea kicking around for a long time, and made some abortive starts on it although I have scrapped that earlier writing and just returned to the characters and general plot line I had previously put together.

Do I expect to get a novel out of this? Not immediately. However it is a damned good start towards getting a useable manuscript that may be turned into one in the long run.

I had best put that away for now and get back to what I should be working on - a short story and a script, both uni assignments due to be handed in next Friday.

Why science fiction, especially given the difficulties in having sci fi novels published in Australia at least? Simply because I love it and want to write it. And getting it published is not impossible. Difficult, yes, but not impossible.

Now it is time to put that away and get back to what I should be focusing on today - a short story and a script, both uni assignments due to be handed in next Friday.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Short and Twisted

No, I am not describing either my lack of physical stature nor my sometimes warped sense of humour.

The Short and Twisted anthology has been released, featuring a piece by yours truly, and also one by the talented performance poet Maria Josey. Maria and I were in the same evening creative writing class a couple of years back but fell out of touch until she saw my piece in her contributors copy of S&T and sent me an email. Kewl biccies!

Grab your copy NOW from

Saturday, May 24, 2008

A Decision is Made

I finally made a decision on what to devote my time to during the June writers challenge.

First up it will be drafting some short stories that have been waiting to be written. These will lend themselves to being edited etc with much less drama than a novel once real life returns in July. After that it will be working on the start of a novel. Rather than some of the earlier ideas I was contemplating, I have decided to work on a fantasy that I had done prep work for in the past but never got very far with the actual writing of it. The story has been percolating long enough that I can turn to the writing it without having to stop and think about things like backstory. That sort of material has already either been written or is pretty straight in my head.

Another thing to be done in June is get hold of the next volume of the continuing Hal Spacejock saga by Australian author, Simon Haynes ( No Free Lunch is being launched on May 27 and should be in the bookshops by early June. Note to self - remember to check with Dymocks when it is arriving there and get them to put a copy aside for me. After reading, I want to write some reviews to flog around the place. I am sure that I will enjoy it as much as I have the previous three books. And I want to badger Simon into giving me an interview over the Internet as I am sure that I will be able to do something with that.

I is a critter

The wordsmiff is also an animal, a critter in fact.

One of the things that lead to my lecturer loving that last story so much was because I had submitted it to other students for feedback. That was actually part of the assignment. The feedback was very useful and helped me to improve the quality and flow of the story in question. It was a timely reminder of just how much value one can get out of having others critique your work.

I used to be an active member of but with life intruding, I had to drop out of being an active member. However, as I got so much out of that uni critiquing exercise, I decided to renew my active membership of the site. So I am once more a critter.

My late better half loved animals. Her next door neighbour's dog treated Dimples's place as its own. She had a seemingly continiously increasing number of cats. There was an incredibly spoiled iguana called Charlie that was supposed to live in a large, open-topped acquarium in the living room, although Dimps would often wake up to find Charlie on the pillow beside her. Feeling lonely, the cheeky thing would get clamber out of its tank, wander off to the bedroom and climb up on the bed. Dimps would also take Charlie for walks on a leash, to give him some exercise. Can you imagine the sight - an iguana at the end of the of leash! Dimps used to refer to her 'critters'. So it makes me laugh, now being a 'critter' myself. I think she would have appreciated the joke.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Could I have finally found my niche in the writing world? In a way, I hope not.

Rave feedback from a lecturer whose opinion I value, on a recent short story submitted as an assignment. The problem - it was basically militaristic science fiction. This is a sub-genre that there is virtually no market for here in Aus, and only a limited market worldwide, with most of that interest based in the USA.

Still having crisis of confidence over what to devote my June writing challenge time to. Arrrgh!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

a la King

Far too much happening with my uni work at present to be able to do much with my own writing. Fortunately that uni work is generally relevant to my writing goals, so all is not lost. Sadly, I was not able to finish a piece that I wanted to submit to a particular anthology in the USA. I will just have to find an alternative market for it to submit to in due course.

At the risk of sounding as if I am blowing my own trumpet, I had decided that I must have some strong similarities with Stephen King. Sure, we are both geeky looking things, curse too much and have had alcohol problems, but that isn't what I'm getting at. Nor do I dare compare my writing to his in any way other than to acknowledge he is WAAAAAY better than I.

When an anthology published one of my pieces a couple of years ago, one of the other contributing authors was speaking to me at the launch. Whilst complimentary about my story, he also commented that it had a striking similarity to some scenes in one of King's The Dark Tower series. At that point, I had not read a single one of those books by King. In fact I have only just recently started to read them.

In my opinion, one of my strongest pieces to date was a supernatural western featuring an antagonist called The Gunman. Editors always seemed to be a bit funny about the story. It has generally not been rejected out of hand, but subjected to some further consideration and umming and ahhhing. Now that I have started on that Dark Tower series of books, I think I can understand a little more of that hesitancy. That series of course starts with The Gunfighter. I didn't know that when I first penned my story, and King's Gunfighter is the protagonist, whereas my Gunman is the baddie. But for someone just coming to the story cold, without knowing my background, they could be forgiven for thinking I had been trying to rip King off or at least trying hard to replicate his style of work. So that story has now been shelved until I can come back to it, give it a major rewrite and remove as much accidental Kingesqueness as possible.

Is it my fault that great minds think alike? [he says with all due modesty, to the accompaniment of cries of 'bullshit!'] :-)

revisions and replies

Not a lot done in the last week as I have not been terribly well. However my planning for the June Novel Writing Challenge is slowly progressing. I want to be able to sit down on June 1st and simply start writing.

I recently read about a prolific English author who tracks his daily progress by using a chart. Each day he records that day's word count and total word count. Having that visible reminder up could be another way of helping to keep you at it. Thinking of trying the same myself.

I sometimes wonder if I am a perfectionist (which I doubt) or if I am just sloppy (more likely). Every time I look at a piece that I previously thought finished, I find more to be done on it. Take a 3,000 word science fiction piece that I am handing in as a writing assignment for uni. I could have sworn that I wouldn't be able to find anything else that needed revision, yet over the weekend I ended up making lots of minor revisions, having left it to percolate for some days.

A recent thrill - I am a big fan of the author Jack Dann ( I first met Jack several years ago after somehow being accepted into a weekend Masterclass that he was running here in Canberra. I learned a lot from him, but most of all, he encouraged me to keep writing, telling me that I had a lot to learn but that it would be worth it. I managed to do another single day workshop with him a year or two later that was also worthwhile. The advice I received from Jack both times was that I had no difficulties with writing page turning stuff, but had to work on plotting. I recently emailed him to let him know that I now had a much better idea of what he meant as a result of my university studies, although I know that I will never be a literary writer as such. I received a lovely reply from him, thrilled to hear that I was making such progress with my writing. Jack will be here in Canberra as an official guest in October at Conflux 5 - the annual sci fi, fantasy and horror convention. He sent me the details of another workshop he will be doing, which I will be sure to get my name down for. For those not familiar with Jack's work, he is a wonderful writer with many published credits to his name. My favourite is the novel The Memory Cathedral, which is about a fictious year in the life of Da Vinci.

comedic critiquing

My latest story to come close to being finished is a 2,000 word job that addresses the concept how would ancient gods cope with the modern world. In this instance, not terribly well. After Odin decided to turf the gods out of Valhalla, Thor finds himself trying to retain his sense of what he was, in a modern world that simply doesn't want it. Things are not helped by the fact that he works in an insurance office. The story opens with Thor stepping out of bed with his foot finding the spot where the cat had vomited during the night. Things pretty much go downhill from there.

This evening the piece was discussed at a small critique circle. Two of those present are pretty much a comedy act by themselves and usually leave me in hysterics. As they found my story funny, that just encouraged them further. But some good ideas came out of it that should make the piece better and stronger. For example, the story opens with Thor stepping in cat vomit and cursing the feline, but it was pointed out to me that the cat itself is never seen. 'It's Freir's cat,' comments one of the Dynamic Duo, Freir being a Nordic Goddess. So now Freir is being added to the story as the flatmate from hell whose cat likes to use Thor's bedroom as a toilet, or something like that. It all loses a bit in translation.

What I am leading up to is commenting on the value of getting others to critique your work. It can add so much value to it. I have much greater confidence in getting the story revised to be a stronger, funnier piece and placing it somewhere.

Before I start the rewrites on that, I have to do some rewrites on a piece for uni - my version of Cinderella that turns things on its head. My Cinders is a fat pig who is horrible to her gorgeous step-sisters. She announces she is marrying the prince. Her father isn't happy until he learns that first, the queen is giving them a brewery as a wedding present, and second that the prince supports the same football team. I did have some fun stuff in there about the prince having a foot fetish, and Cinders describing him as hung like a horse (well almost, she admits after remembering pony club). However the story is supposedly to be for a young adult audience so I decided to take those bits out.

If I can make myself laugh writing stuff like this nonsense, then the chances are I can make somebody else laugh as well eventually. Plus I find it can be such a rewarding challenge to develop a nonsensical piece to the point of being able to con someone into publishing it. I am still quite proud of getting my bloody ridiculous bit about fairy tale characters as professional wrestlers published a couple of years back. :) I have been reading Jasper Fforde lately and his wonderful lunacy must be rubbing off on me.

New Beginnings

A new blog for a new beginning. This blog is purely for reporting on my writing, where it is going and what I am doing.

In starting this, I am minded of the US writer Jessica Burkhardt. Jessica used the November National Novel Writing Month to start writing a novel without any prior planning. By the end of the month, she had a draft young adult novel written and edited over the month of December. Come January, an agent saw her mention the novel in her blog and come the end of the month, had signed with the agent. Not long after came a four book deal.

The blog helped bring Burkhardt to the attention of the agent. However it was her existing portfolio of published freelance articles achieved as a teenager that helped prove her writing merits, that she was serious about things and worth developing.

While I do not expect the same to happen to me, this blog does give the opportunity to talk about something that I am passionate about - my writing.

The New Zealand organisation, kiwiwriters, is running its own version of the National Novel Writing Month in June. This crosses my mid-year break from university and I have decided to participate. The target is 50,000 words for the month from each participant. Should I reach that target, I would be a long way towards finishing draft novel. For the story I have in mind, I think 90-100,000 words would be required.

The story is one that has been kicking around in my head for a while. While I have written more speculative fiction than anything else before now, this piece is more of a crime thriller, set in the Australian capital, Canberra. Even if nothing comes from it, I am sure that the writing of it will be a good exercise in itself. At the same time I have several short stories that I either wish to write or want to finish for submission to various anthologies. Another piece when finished is targeted for submission for magazines.

I currently have one piece out with an editor, hoping to hear good news in due course. There is a book launch in two weeks time for the anthology Short and Twisted, which features one of my very short pieces. Unfortunately I will not be able to attend which is frustrating as I was looking forward to being there.

Stay tuned for more...

an explanation...

I recently started a new blog on live journal devoted to writing and writing issues. However I decided to move it over here to Blogger, simply because I liked the layout more. So the following are the couple of entries I had made on the 'new' livejournal one, transplanted to here....