Writing about a work in progress again here. Maybe that’s going to be my new thing for a while.
I’ve started work on Red Alliance, the sequel to Blue Defender. I got about seven or eight pages in, a couple of thousand words and into the second chapter, and wasn’t feeling it. It felt like hard work. Like I was trying too hard. Trying to get everything covered. After all, it’s a sequel; need to cover all that old ground in a general way. It got lumbering and dull.
Missing an important element there.
So, I started off again. Started with the story. Not with the old story, but with the new. Those critical details started working their way in piece by piece. And now it’s starting to feel like it’s taking on a life of its own.
For me, anyway. Because now it’s fun to write, rather than being an obligation.
And if something’s fun for me to write, I’m guessing it will be fun for readers to read.
So I know there is a way to write a whole bunch of posts and have them roll out automatically, even if I’m, say, away on holiday. And holiday for me usually means little or no internet. Let me tell you, that’s really refreshing.
Also, no internet is really good for the writing. So, while on holiday over Christmas and New Year I still got a whole lot of writing done. Keeping up the streak of writing every single day. I started that practice on January 1st 2012. So, seven years. 2,557 days (if my calculations of the number of days in a year, including a couple of leap years, are correct). (also, another twenty-two days as I come to post this).
One place had no electricity (some solar for lighting and the shower pump, but nothing for recharging batteries). An old schoolhouse. That just took some smart battery management on the laptop for a couple of days.
Anyway, writing while on holiday is a blast. We stayed in some awesome spots around New Zealand’s South Island, including this one near Punakaiki. Now, if you’ve got to be somewhere other than your usual writing nook to get some writing done, this one is pretty good.
Last year and the year before I posted about why I wouldn’t enter the Sunday Star Times short story contest. The same applies this year. Without going over the same old ground too much, it comes down to one clause in their rules (scroll down to T&C), where, by entering, you give them the right to publish your story “without fee”.
As I said before, writers get paid.
I write for the love of writing, but I also take myself seriously as a writer. I license my stories for remuneration. Kind of along the lines of how anyone with skills does work for remuneration. The bus driver, the plumber, the dairy owner where you buy your copy of the Sunday Star Times.
Goodness knows, most writers make little enough money as it is.
If you’re so inclined, by all means, enter. The entry details are here. Check those terms and conditions (I know we live in a world of clicking ‘agree’ to terms and conditions without having read them. Some T&Cs out there are as long as a few of my novels).
I would love to enter for the chance of winning. I know the thrill of winning a writing contest. I know the satisfaction of banking a cheque. But that clause is a step too far.
Of course many writers will enter the contest. The newspaper will find an excellent story and publish it and pay the writer the prize money (it’s pretty good prize money too). But then, the newspaper might publish some of the other entries “without fee”.
Barb Tarn, curator of the Sci-Fi July Redux bundle (ten books for $7.99 – a real deal), interviewed me for her website. Thanks Barb.
It’s great to promote the bundle (there are some bestsellers in there – with my little book sandwiched in between Dean Wesley Smith and Kristine Kathryn Rusch – both major bestselling authors), and nice to talk about myself in a, hopefully, coherant way.
Book bundles are a great way for readers to pick up books by authors they love, and find some new authors along the way. It will be available for a limited time (I don’t know the end date, but there will be one), so grab it while it’s available.
My novel in the bundle, Raven Rising, usually retails for $5.99, so picking it up in the bundle is good value for money. The bundle is available directly from BundleRabbit, but also from Kobo, Amazon, B&N and Apple
The blurb for my novel goes like this: Light years from home, Starship Raven went down in an impossible blazing wreck. Crack investigator Angelie Gunnarson and her team love this kind of impossible mystery. But the Raven might have more secrets than even Angelie can handle. An action-packed short sci-fi novel from the award-winning author of The City Builders.
It was a fun novel to write, and I hope to read. It’s great to get it out there in the bundle for a bit more exposure.
And thanks for the interview Barb, and for selecting my book for the bundle.
Seems to me that I’m spending all my writing time working to get over and unlearn all the bad advice from years (decades) of well-intentioned suggestions, poorly considered courses and lengthy apparently learned blog posts.
One thing that I just remembered was a piece of advice which went something like “Finish a writing session at a point where you know what comes next” and associated with that was one like “Stop halfway through a sentence. That way when you sit down again, you just carry on with that sentence”. The reason I remembered was because I finished up a writing session knowing absolutely nothing about what was going to come next.
Not a thing.
I realize that I’ve been doing this for awhile now. Stopping the writing session when I don’t know what comes next. Frankly, my writing is a whole lot more fun too. I remind myself that it’s no special jewel or flower. It’s just a story. Entertainment. And the first person I’m entertaining is myself.
Looking back, I’ve tried the ‘knowing what comes next’ thing and just found myself actually struggling to remember what it was I’d thought of when I sit down at the next session. What was it? She was running toward something, and what’s-his-name was doing that other thing, but what was the whole point? Or something like that.
And a half a sentence? Sheesh. I’ve always ended up just deleting the half and starting a new sentence.
Somehow, after years of angst with this, I’ve finally reached a point of just stopping. Stopping when I don’t know what next. Often times that ends up being the end of a chapter. I might type in “Chapter Twenty Three” ready to go for the next session.
Not one idea what that’s going to be.
I also realize that this does not exist in isolation. It’s paired with a whole lot of other things I’ve been learning, as I fill those gaps of unlearning.
One is cycling. I read back through the work as I go. That’s enough for a post of its own.
Another is ‘being there’. I spotted this in a short essay by James Patterson (at least that’s where I thought I’d seen it, looking back now, the essay I was thinking of doesn’t mention this). Reading through, that is, cycling back, I play at putting myself in my character’s situation. Attempting to ‘be there’. What’s her experience of the place? What’s his reaction to that last thing?
It turns out my subconscious is ready and raring to go. Those next lines and next events show up. I get out of my own way, entertain myself and let the story grow.
I don’t know what’s coming next, and the writing is a whole lot more fun.
Ever since I’ve been writing and submitting manuscripts to publishers, I’ve needed a way to keep track of those submissions. I’ve been around long enough that those first submissions went as a printed manuscript, inside a full-sized envelope, with postage on a slightly smaller envelope inside. To match the very physical nature of this, my tracking system also exploited the benefits of paper and ink. An accounting book, to be precise. And mostly pencil, since it lends itself to updates more readily than ink.
I’ve continued the practice into the present day. I’ve just come to the last page of my second book.
I do subscribe to Duotrope, which has a built-in tracking system for stories. That might be the way to go. But I do have another blank book all set. Starting next week, when my latest story will be ready to venture out into the wilds.
So I’m posting here a photo of my Sir Julius Vogel award. It’s cool, and I guess I’m bragging a bit. But see those three folders underneath? Those are my rejection slips. You know, the letter you get from a publisher who for one reason or another isn’t taking your story. Gathered over more years than I care to admit.
I think there are about two thousand. I have a feeling I’ve lost some over the years.
Most of them are form rejections. Some are very nice personal rejections. One is a disappointingly rude personal rejection (I haven’t submitted to that magazine since).
And there, standing on the shoulders of all those rejections, is an award. To me this is the value of persistence. I mean this to be encouraging. Keep at it. Keep going. Pursue what you love doing. It’s not about the award (though that’s nice), it’s about loving doing it.