Posted in Courses, Creative Writing, creativity, fiction, Fiction Writing Courses

Exploring Short Fiction

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Lauren Daniels and Geneve Flynn – Brisbane Writers Workshop, Seriously Short Fiction

Short story writing is a true art as far as I am concerned. It’s economical, punchy and a great way to polish up fiction writing skills. But … I haven’t been writing short fiction much. From time to time I have taken dreams (and nightmares) I’ve had and written them into short stories, but they always felt half formed. I didn’t know what wasn’t working with them.

So, I’ve stuck with writing long novels – Tuppence Weatherstorm and The Living Death of Toddy James, because I understand long fiction. That’s kind of silly since both short and long fiction have similar building blocks and writing elements. However, when I have attempted to write short fiction, my stories have blown out into massive ideas and I have struggled to contain them.

Both of my current novel manuscripts are in various stages of editing and rewriting and it’s a long journey writing a novel. I like to compare writing a novel to running a marathon. It is a long-term game and I need to pace myself. I have learned that if I sprint, I burn out too soon and hit the wall.

Yet, in between writing and rewriting scenes, deepening characters and depositing theme into my stories, I like to explore other types of writing and see where it takes me. And now it’s time to deep dive into the art and craft of writing short fiction.

When I attended the Brisbane Writers Workshop on writing Seriously Short Fiction with Lauren Daniels and Geneve Flynn. Here’s a few of the things I learned:

  • How to use a literary device called motifs. Motifs can be an object, such as a pack of cards that shows up several times throughout the story and subconsciously signal a deeper meaning to the reader. Honestly, it’s hard for me to wrap my head around what motifs are. I don’t think I can explain it well enough here.. sorry.
  • How to structure a short story – they still have an inciting incident, rising action, a climax and a resolution.
  • The essential plot requirements – conflict, conflict, conflict drives the action of the story forward.
  • Character elements – best to limit the number of characters or the story will no longer be short fiction.
  • The preferred length for short fiction for my target audience – approximately 2,000 to 10,000 words for short fiction.
  • Have fun and protect your creativity.

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Seriously Short Fiction had so much excellent content which has enriched my understanding of writing and sparked my imagination too. It was the kind of course that niggles at your imagination and helps you develop the understanding needed to go away and playfully create on your own.

We did a free writing exercise and I was sitting there penning my thoughts on the paper and giggling like a crazy person because I was having so much fun with the character that danced into my imagination. We wrote for five minutes and the time pressure gave everyone permission to put aside their fears of ‘not being able to write’ and allowed each person to get on with the act of writing without listening to internal judgement.

I’m torn between writing up the free writing exercise here to share it with you and keeping it to myself. I want to share and I want to nurture and play with the story idea that danced to life on the day. I keep writing ‘danced’ because the thing my character stone were dancing shoes.

It was giggle worthy stuff. At least to me. And I think if the writer enjoys what they are writing, then the reader will enjoy it to.

Posted in characters, Creative Writing, Editing

Contest, Critique & Editing

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I’m proud to tell you that my manuscript, The Living Death of Toddy James, was ranked 19 out of 127 submissions in the apprentice level of the 2018 Ink & Insights contest. As far as I’m concerned, that’s a fantastic result.

The 2018 Ink & Insight Contest was the first major critique contest I have entered and even though I was nervous, I stepped out of my comfort zone and put my words out there for constructive feedback from people I do not know.

There were four judges. Three of the judges were excellent, giving me constructive feedback to help me to develop my story structure and my writing while helping me to feel that I am doing a good job at learning and applying what I have learned about the art and craft of novel writing.

The fourth judge wrote comments that came across as if she had twenty plus years of editing experience, providing me with a particularly harsh set of comments. It wasn’t that she had given me difficult feedback so much as it was the blunt delivery of her words on the page that stung.

After reading her critique, I checked out her CV and saw that she is a super-keen newby editor with only one year of experience. That irritated me. And I admit my ego got its back up and I thought, “How dare she judge my work so harshly?” But then I took a deep breath and did my best to see the intent behind her harsh words and to reconcile my feelings. Maybe she was just keen to share what she knew?

Processing the feedback took a while and in the end, I’ve come to realise that all feedback is valuable to the writer, even brutally delivered feedback has hidden wisdom for me to consider.

So overall I am grateful for each judge and the guidance they gave me. But if I’m truly honest, my ego is still a wee bit miffed. I’m just being honest about how it made me feel and the struggles that I am sure every creative writer (and artist) goes through when critiqued.

I think as a creative person you have develop a thick skin for feedback no matter whether you are writing or creating art. Even when I was in art school all those years ago, I had to come to terms with other artists critiquing my work and toughen up as I was galvanised by the process of receiving feedback that was helpful but maybe difficult to hear.

So, since receiving my contest results and struggling to reconcile four different perspectives, I realised I needed the guidance of one editor. I needed to work with someone I trust completely to steer me in the direction of improving my manuscript for publication. That’s when I submitted my 80,000 word manuscript to Lauren Daniels for a professional structural edit and a taste of line editing.

Within a couple of weeks I received my manuscript with the first three chapters line edited and an overall professional structural edit. It was excellent, informative, and each comment was delivered with care for my growth as an author.

Below is an example of my story and the comments and line edit from Lauren. It looks overwhelming, but when I started going through the process of considering each and every comment and deletion, I found the changes made my prose come to life on the page.

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Not once in all the comments and feedback provided to me by Lauren Daniels have I felt down or depressed or like I wasn’t moving forward with my writing skills.

Lauren Daniels is simply a fantastic editor who has twenty years of experience behind her and the depth of compassion needed to nurture authors to reach their potential.

Since receiving the structural edit, I have been able to pinpoint areas that need to be worked on my manuscript.

Each time I open my manuscript on Scrivener, I have cut out un-necessary ‘stage directions’, cleaned up dialogue so it is relevant and no longer a rambling mess, removed rhetorical questions and put an outline together to ensure my plot action and character arcs are adhering to the rising action/climax story structure format.

Below is a slightly blurred visual of my manuscript synopsis/outline for The Living Death of Toddy James. I’ve added a section to capture an important observation by Lauren about some of my female characters and how they relate to each other. I’ve blurred it because I don’t want to give away too many secrets of my story!

TLDTJ Outlining process on Scrivener 3

After wading through emotional confusion, I have allowed myself space to contemplate and compost my story. Processing emotions takes time and I think it’s good to give myself space to do that.

Now I am finding my editing feet and taking consistent steps toward polishing my novel for the next round of feedback and development.

I’ll have an outline with the plot points sorted in a structure that works and I will have a tight cast of characters to carry the story.

I have learned once again that not every reader is from my ‘tribe’ and that’s okay. I’ve also learned that composting feedback and mulling things over is also an important phase of the creative writing process.

It’s exciting to share my ups and downs with you as I go from the dream of writing and publishing a story, to writing the story, editing the story and to one-day publishing it for readers to read and review.

Posted in Author/Book Review, Courses, Creative Writing, creativity, Editing

Through Fear and into Creativity

Since returning from the UK, I have been taking a little break from writing new stories and have been working on polishing up my manuscript, The Living Death of Toddy James.

I received some good feedback from the Ink & Insights 2018 Critique my Novel contest and decided it was time to submit my manuscript to an editor who can help me take it from the rough and step it closer to publication standard.

But as I have taken this step forward in my creative life, I have also had to battle internal fears. Fears that I am still not good enough to publish. It sounds silly given the spectrum of published works in the world since self-publishing became so accessible, but I still have an inner voice that speaks volumes about where it thinks I am at.

This inner voice drove me to pick up the book Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert.  I listened to it on audio first, then went out a got myself a paperback copy so that I could refer to things that inspired me and provided me with ‘a-ha’ moments. big-magic-elizabeth-gilbert-book-review

This lead to me creating a skillshare course called: Through Fear to Creativity, where I explore some of the methods I have used get past the fears that have blocked me when it comes to creative writing and, at times, my artwork.

Fear to Creativity

I then made a short YouTube video where I speak directly about how Big Magic has helped me move through a perfectionism blockage and I hope, if you watch it, that my insights help you to.

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Then I thought I’d do a book review on Weekend Notes and I called it: Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear – Book Review.

So, in a strange way I have been quite productive … dealing with fear and building courage to stand up and do what is in my heart to do.

But I have to be honest, writing a novel is a big project. It’s like a marathon level of focus, day after day. It took me over a year to write the first draft of The Living Death of Toddy James – most of it tapped into my Scrivener file during NaNoWriMo 2017. When I finished that draft, I was exhausted. I’d finally got the basic story out and I liked it.

Then anxiety crept in and I fiddled and fiddled with the manuscript filling in plot holes and other such things. Then I made excuses as to why I couldn’t possibly put the manuscript into an editor.

Then I went to the UK and found (to my surprise) that the level of my fiction writing was on par with the other students in the Fantasy Fiction course. I was stoked.

So, when I hit Australian soil again, I promised myself that I’d be brave and submit my story to an editor with a lot of years of experience and a good track record of helping authors actually bring their stories to publication.

I want my story to be the best fiction that I can make it. Not perfect. I can’t do perfect. I can’t please everyone. But I’d love to know that someone somewhere enjoyed reading what I wrote.

So I guess the next phase is about to begin. And to keep my mind from going totally crazy over what work is ahead of me with my manuscript, I’ve focused on creating book reviews, a YouTube video and a skillshare course.

Hopefully as time goes by I will finally figure out how to move my photos of the UK to some kind of show and tell thing-y, then I’ll be able to share more of what I experienced. But to tell the truth, I’ve kind of enjoyed allowing the travel dust to settle. Who knows when I’ll get around to sharing my UK photos and mini-musings.

In the meantime, Happy Creating!

Posted in characters, Courses, Creative Writing, Fiction Writing Courses, Travel

UK here I come

Tomorrow I fly out of Australia and will be on my way to the UK for a month.

I am super excited to be starting my holiday.

So it’s packing time and Miss Poppy decided it was time to check out the interior of my suitcase. Rocket tolerated some photos with me which I took with my new selfie stick. And Jack spent time inspecting my suitcase as I considered what I might take with me.

My companions are so sweet to look after me in this way.

I’ll miss them while I am away but I feel good that my best friend will be caring for them during that time.

My partner is set to jet off and meet me in the UK a couple of days after I go because I’m going to Oxford to do my writing course.

I’ve got a couple of new ebooks downloaded for the trip:

  1. Three Bedrooms One Corpse by Charlaine Harris
  2. Maim Your Characters: How injuries work in Fiction by Samantha Keel
  3. Play It Away by Charlie Hoehn

So that’s one fiction novel, one writing how-to, and one non-fiction book on how to overcome anxiety through incorporating play in your everyday life.

I’ve also got a few digital puzzles downloaded and I’m currently listening to Voyager by Diana Gabaldon.

It is going to be a big adventure for me. I have a fair bit of character development done on my fantasy story, although there is always more I could do. I’ve got some setting sorted. Conflicts sketched out and an idea of the plot. I wouldn’t say that I’ve got all the novel puzzle pieces in my head but it’ll come as I relax and enjoy this travel adventure.

I’m not sure if I will have an opportunity to post here during my travels but if I can, I will.

UK here I come!

 

Posted in characters, Creative Writing, creativity, Dragons, Editing, fiction, Fiction Writing Courses, Paranormal

Writing – Paranormal and Fantasy Fiction

soul seeker 1A couple of weeks ago a new character came into my imagination. I knew what she looked like and I had a good sense of who she was. It was like being visited by a the soul of a real person.

I grabbed my iPad, opened a new Scrivener project and jotted down everything I’d seen, heard, smelled and tasted in that first meeting. It got me excited because I loved this character immediately and I wanted to know more, to learn more and experience more of her paranormal/normal life. I wanted to learn more about the conflicts she has over her abilities and how her paranormal abilities complicate her career, her love life, her sense of self.

On and off since the first time she showed up, I’ve had visits from her and each time I learn a little more about who she is as a ‘real person’ in my imagination.

Then last night an antagonist walked out of the mist of my imagination and I saw exactly what he was wearing, the gate of his stride, the tilt of his fine boned face.

So once again, I opened my scrivener file and jotted what I’d experienced down. I don’t have his name yet but I’ve got the essence of who he is and the darkness that emanates from him in a seductive manner. And I know he is the opposing force to my female protagonist.

I love it when this type of thing happens. For me this is part of magic of writing fiction. I’m always learning and growing as a writer and story teller, and when a character comes forward and wants to be put down on the page, I get excited. It’s almost as if the character is whispering in my inner ear and I am writing their story from their perspective.

So, now I am a bit over three weeks away from my trip to the UK and I now have two stories growing inside my mind. After a period of feeling creatively fallow, these ideas are a delight.

One of my stories is a paranormal romance, which is probably my absolute favourite genre to write, and if this story goes the way I am plotting it, then it will be my third paranormal story with romance beats. I’m excited to write this story.

The second story is my fantasy novel which features dragons and a few humans that can use magic. I’m enjoying learning how to put an epic fantasy story together. I’m not yet sure how this story will go. Sometimes I feel frustrated that I don’t have all the puzzle pieces and other times I feel inspired by the ideas I have. Most of the time I am considering: How can I take this idea beyond cliche?

So far I have discovered writing a fantasy world is an in-depth adventure in itself. There is so much for me to think about, to brainstorm and to create. My thinking includes:

  • Characters – who is my protagonist, my antagonist and other roles
  • Conflicts – the major conflict and smaller conflicts for all characters and how they will play out
  • World building – there is so much involved in this part, sometimes I feel overwhelmed
  • Plotting how it will all pan out
  • Themes I want to touch on
  • Treatment – do I want to write this story from first person point of view or third person point of view?

So I am going to really enjoy my Fantasy Fiction writing course with David Farland in Oxford, and I am very much looking forward to learning about all the layers and nuances I need to consider to bring my ideas to life and create a believable fantasy fiction world that readers will want to experience via my characters.

When I return from the UK, I hope to finish writing these stories and to work on editing Tuppence Weatherstorm and The Living Death of Toddy James so that I can move them toward publication. It would be good move my writing to the next level, even if being published is a scary step.

 

Posted in Creative Writing, Dragons, Drawing, Drawings

Brainstorming – Fantasy Novel Setting

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As I’m going to the UK for a holiday in August and I’ll also be doing a writing course with David Farland, I’m preparing my story and brainstorming in advance.

One of the things I’ve had to work out is the setting.

This is the first time I’ve ever tried to create a complete fantasy world and I want dragons to be a big part of the story so the setting has to have dragon territory in it.

Without giving away too much of my thinking on who my characters are and the conflicts that I am considering, I thought I’d show you my first attempt at a world building / setting map.

It has several dragon territories and a couple of human settlements. It also has wolf territory. That appeals to my imagination big time. I’m quite excited about where my wolf idea might go.

I’m looking forward to seeing how things develop. It’s been a day of figuring out mega and some minor setting options and filling in ideas for potential characters that could grow out of the setting and their conflicts.

Happy creating – whatever you do!

Posted in Creative Writing, creativity, Journal, Vlog, YouTube Channel

Dream Interpretation, Art & Writing

I’m starting this blog post off with some shameless self-promotion. Today I got inspired and made a youtube video on how you can use dream interpretation to help you with your art and writing.  Or … at the very least, I had a go at it.

Here’s the video.

I had loads of fun making it. I’m not sure I uploaded the first version with high enough definition but this is all about learning and growing into new skills.

I took a short course, How to Make a Great Talking Head Video (even when camera shy) by Lucy Lambrlex on Skillshare.com and this is my first attempt after the class.

I hope you enjoy it and pick up a tip or two that will help you with your creative expression.