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.
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.
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.
I’m circling back around to my arty side this year.
In recent years, I have taken a big break from painting and drawing. I needed a breather but now I have realised just how much I have missed my art practice.
So, I got myself a moleskine art journal (my first one) and have started sketching and water colour painting in it. I am totally inspired by author and illustrator Kate Knappe with her cute little birds, so you will see an image that I drew to honour her artistic expression in the photos below. If you see her work around – there are a lot of greeting cards with her artwork in Australia – do support her if you can and if you like the art of course.
I’m all for supporting living artists who can do with the dollars in their bank account so they can live life and continue to do what they love.
Here is one of the pages out of my moleskine art journal.
I’m going through a reflective stage and wondering what I should do next?
Do I keep focusing on writing my novel and slogging away attempting to get it published?
Or do I study something? Something else? Should I study art? Should I study something that will help me in my day-job?
So many questions.
So much inner confusion.
I love art.
I love writing.
I love coaching.
I do enjoy learning but I am not sure what to do. What is next for me?
So this piece of artwork is a true reflection of the questions and confusion whirling around inside of me.
This page of my art journal is a reflection of how intricately interconnected we all are.
At least, that’s how I see the world.
I have recently decided to sponsor two young girls through World Vision and, hopefully, make a difference for them and their community. I didn’t do this lightly. I feel very strong about young girls having the opportunity for a good education and waiting until a decent age to be married. It is my hope that my sponsor children and their community will embrace this opportunity to have more choices and be lifted up and out of poverty.
As I was drawing this image, I was thinking about my sponsor children and how we are worlds apart, both geographically and with regard to quality of life style and education and choices. But I believe that all beings are interconnected and there are threads that connect us. I believe that one act can have a multitude of effects. A lot of the time, I do not know the effect I have on people, but it is my hope that my effect is a positive one for all concerned.
So, I’m getting back into my art. I’m thinking about things outside of my fiction stories but I am still drawn to my writing. I love it.
I’m just not keen on editing.
Editing is hard work.
I’m not averse to hard work.
I just think I’m a bit creatively burned out at the moment.
But despite my burn out, I am still returning to The Living Death of Toddy James and day by day I am making editing progress. I’m up to chapter six so far. It’s a matter of small daily habits that add up to big changes.
I won’t give up. I’ll rest and I’ll refocus, and I will edit my novel. It takes grit and determination to get these things done.
Now, as promised, here are some more photos of my awesome UK holiday from last year.
In the above collage, Dave and I went to Edinburgh and saw the city, Edinburgh Castle. We also visited a fabulous historic place called Torphichen Inn for dinner and a show.
Wow, what an amazing place. I was in love with the atmosphere, the friendly welcome and the life size cardboard cut out of Jamie Fraser from the Outlander series, written by Diana Gabaldon. The ladies at our table were a little shocked at how excited I was to see the cardboard cut out, but I had only just finished listening to the audio book and watching the series, so in my mind, Jamie Fraser had come to life!
I still love David, but it was Jamie Fraser!
I think David was in love with Torphichen. I think he wanted to immigrate and live there for the rest of his life. It was green and homey. The Torphichen Inn was filled with friendly people and the services was excellent. We had haggis. I actually ate some and David had a bowl-full.
The photo above is the Torphichen Inn.
The show had bag pipes, singing and excellent hospitality. I truly loved Torphichen and felt very warmly welcomed.
We saw the Kelpies sculptures several times as the bus took us from the hotel to Edinburgh and back on our visit. They were spectacular and it was the first time I’d heard that Kelpies were shape-shifting water spirits that take people and drown them. As an Australian, when I hear the word ‘kelpie’ I think of a type of dog, so this revelation was endlessly entertaining to all of the Aussies on the bus.
Dave and I also visited the cafe where J.K. Rowling wrote the first Harry Potter book – OMG, I almost wet myself with excitement. It’s called The Elephant House. We had coffee and cake and then we entered the toilets which were completely covered in Harry Potter fan scribblings. It was surreal. I didn’t like the way people wrote all over the toilets. It was oppressive. I think being a fan is great, but defacing property falls outside of my boundaries for appropriate ways to show adoration.
Anyway, of course, I had to buy a mug to remind me of this special opportunity to dine in cafe where one of the most famous writers of today did her plotting, characterisation and writing. I was hoping some of her inspiration and determination to finish writing would rub off on me. I’m still hopeful.
In the photos above, you can see us at The Elephant House.
We also visited Greyfriars Bobby where this little loyal dog is honoured and remembered. This church was fabulous, but for those who enjoy a bit of ghost hunting and paranormal thrills, I have to say there was a crypt there that gave me the shivers.
It’s the circular one with the dome roof. It had two doors with square windows made of wrought iron. I was too scared to get too close to this one. I kept getting the shivery sense that something was inside watching me. My writer’s imagination went wild, wild, wild with exciting ideas for creating paranormal wonder in my stories from this experience!
Okay, for my last Scottish highlight, here’s a super short video where Dave and I went hunting for the Loch Ness Monster and caught a glimpse!
Happy creativity whether you write, dance, make art or create music. Whatever you do, I hope it brings you joy and happiness.
A 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.
I’m 29 days away from flying from Australia to England to attend David Farland‘s Fantasy Fiction Writing Course.
I am excited and still catching up on all the work I need to do to be fully prepped for the course.
I have been creating characters, working on my settings and figuring out the main conflicts for the characters I have so far. At this point, I haven’t started to explore the themes I want to bring out in the story as it is very early days.
In my story, I have dragons and people. That’s what I can tell you. The rest I’m keeping close to my heart because my story is like a newly conceived baby and I want to protect it while it grows into a being in its own right.
I’m very much looking forward to the course and the three week holiday I am going to have after the course is finished. I’ve never been to the UK, unless I count going through London Heathrow Airport on my way to Barcelona when I was fortunate enough to go for work reasons in the early 2000’s.
It’s going to be excellent for me to immerse myself into a different culture and to see the history of the United Kingdom. I’ll be going to Oxford, London, a number of stops throughout England, then through Scotland, down to Wales and to a number of stops in Ireland.
It feels so surreal at the moment but before I know it, I will be on the plane and in new countries.
During my holiday, my partner, David, will be flying over (for our three week holiday) and we’ll be taking a day trip over to Paris too. I’m very excited to see all these places. And I hope each new experience inspires my imagination to new heights and helps me to become a more entertaining and interesting genre fiction writer, as well as adding to my personal experience as a human being.
I’m certainly stepping out of my comfort zone on this trip. And I am staying positive about it.
29 days and counting down until a brand new life experience comes my way!
I have the day off work and I’m sitting in my cattery, in my wonderful big green lush comfy writing chair and … I’m surfing the internet and cyber… do I call it, stalking? Or is it that I’m really just a fan? Curious, inspired and interested about my newest fav author?
Anyway, I’m choosing to call it: cyber-checking-out. I’m sitting here cyber-checking-out Marian Keyes’ website because I bought her book, The Mystery of Mercy Close, and I’m loving the ‘courageous, vulnerable and wasp-tongued‘ female protagonist Helen Walsh. It’s a great read – at least it is for me. I say that because it starts off where two of the main character’s sister and her friend are talking about having a breakdown together, as though it’s a wonderful opportunity for a holiday.
I found it quite amusing and I identified with the main character straight away because I think I too have a ‘shovel list’ and an inner black comedy when it comes to certain things in life. Like when certain people sit not just next to me on the train but on me. My brain goes to all sorts of places and I often have amusing thoughts, the likes of which are not suitable for polite company.
So according to the back cover of The Mystery of Mercy Close, ‘the Shovel List is: a list of all the people and things Helen hates so much she wants to hit them in the face with a shovel.‘
Wow – I often have this monologue inside my head, talking to me and commenting and noting the things and people I wouldn’t mind smacking in the back of the head from time to time. I probably shouldn’t admit that, but I do. I have it. I think we all have something like that going on inside us… unless, of course, you’re a syrupy sweet sickly person who never ever thinks a ‘bad’ thing about anything.
If you’re that kind of person – lucky you!
Unfortunately, it’s not me. I try to be good in life. I try to say and do the right thing. I try to be caring and compassionate to others. I try to keep some of the things I hate close to my heart and bury them, but sometimes, under all that pressure, I still know that I just want to slap some people in the head and walk away from them. I want to tell them I don’t care about their problems, I don’t want their help, I don’t need to be mothered – because even though my mum has dementia, I still have a mum and I don’t need mothering!
I don’t tell them that or rarely will I allow such things to spill from my lips.
Oh no, I keep it wrapped tight as a mummy on Halloween… until the object of my frustration has pushed me to breaking point and then I can’t articulate properly and all the stuff I’m feeling comes out jumbled, or in the form of “f@ck off” which happened all too recently. Only then does my own ‘waspish tongue’ start to buzz and sting. I try to control it but I’m not always successful
Then, after the event I feel guilty that I said what I said. And yet, sometimes I feel justified in my response. I am, after all, only human and I can only take so much in life when things are stressful. That doesn’t excuse my own behaviour but it does put things into perspective, if you know what I mean?
Anyway, I should be writing my novel. I sat down here to specifically write 1800 new words or so of my novel. I started, then I felt hungry, so I ate. Then I got interested in Marian Keyes again (because she is funny, interesting and adorable and watching her vlog makes me feel happy) and then I thought, I just need to write this blog, so here I am punching out my word count on the blog rather than my novel. It’s not that I don’t want to write my novel. I do, and I am. It’s just that sometimes things resonate so much with me, I just have to share… I want to share it with you.
So now that I’ve written this blog and shared my terrible secret… that I’m human, I make mistakes and sometimes I just don’t want to care about all the drama of other people and their lives. Now that I’ve shared that I’m totally inspired by Marian Keyes and her quirky sense of humour, I feel I can focus my attention on my novel in progress, The Living Death of Toddy James.
My novel is moving along at a cracking pace right now. I’ve been writing new words every day for fifteen days now, and I’m in the middle of writing chapter 20 and things have got pretty hard for Toddy. She’s trapped and I’m not sure how she’s going to get out of her current predicament but as soon as my fingers hit the keyboard, I reckon she’ll show me the way and we’ll be off. Her moving through the action and emotions and me following her every move and scribing her thoughts, feelings and reactions on my Scrivener page.
Writing a story is hard work but it is also very exciting and a lot of fun.
I must go now. I have new words to write and Miss Poppy, my rag doll cat, aka ‘The Novelist’s Little Helper,’ is calling me to get her and bring her into her cattery (her queendom).
What can I say … I am at Miss Poppy’s command.
Thanks for reading my blog and for following me. I hope you have a great day, wherever you are in the world and that you take one more step toward realising your own passion in life.
Of course I’ve read On Writing by Stephen King. It’s a must read for anyone with a passion for writing fiction (in my opinion). I loved reading it so much that I bought the audio book and enjoyed listening to him read his own work.
In the article by Open Culture, they list the top 20 rules Stephen King has for writers.
14. Stick to your own style. “One cannot imitate a writer’s approach to a particular genre, no matter how simple what that writer is doing may seem.”
Just those four rules or tips make my heart burst with creative joy. It feels like I’ve been given permission to go forth and be as creative as I like. Then when it comes to rewrites I’ll cut out what isn’t the story. That is so freeing.
I also love how honest Stephen King is. He is his own person. He writes honestly, even in fiction and that’s cool.
If you skip across to Open Culture for a look-see, I hope you enjoy and that you find these rules/tips as inspiring for you as they have been for me.
I love sharing creative writing tips and when quality courses come along, I want to share them with you.
If you’re based in Brisbane and have been looking for a group of creative writers that will help you to develop your skills, I recommend checking out Brisbane Writers Workshop courses. They will help you to develop valuable writing skills and inspire your creative ideas and develop them into stories.
Brisbane Writers Workshop courses are kept small to meet your needs and their presenters are experts in their fields with current publishing and editing experience.
So, I thought I’d share their 2017 schedule of courses which I put up on Weekend Notes.
Check out this mini-trailer above to see what the classes are like. This was the Fiction Blitz class from 2016 but it’ll give you a great idea of how cosy and cool the Brisbane Writers Workshop classes are.
Here’s the brief list of the courses on offer from April through to September 2017:
Intro to Creative Writing: Light Your Fire [4 Seats Left]
Saturday, 8 April: 2.30-5pm; Sun, 9 April: 10am-2.30pm
Intro to Creative Writing: Light Your Fire will inspire you to begin work on your creative story ideas. Sometimes you have a piece of the puzzle of your story whirling around inside your head and may need a little help getting it to bloom. You may want to work on developing your author’s voice or want to understand the basics of story structure. If that’s where you’re at, then this intro course will be a great start.
This course will give you the foundation information and inspiration to get cracking on your story!
Here’s the blurb from BWW on this course:
Spike your skills with this small-group course presented by Lauren Daniels. Developed for those with a desire to push ideas into more workable drafts, this course provides the petrol and the launch pad. Practice literary techniques, play with writing exercises, and build upon your strengths. Explore common issues from strengthening focus and omitting purple prose, to the crafting solid scenes with a focused perspective and an authentic, active voice.
Speculative Fiction: Myths & Madness is going to be an course filled with ghost, ghouls, vampires and characters inspired by the myths of the world. I can’t wait to go to this course. I enrolled the minute I found out about it.
Here’s the blurb from BWW on this course:
Got ectoplasm on your laptop and fire-breathing carnies on the brain? Got Rowling, Gaiman, Rice, King, Bradbury and Tolkien on your shelf?
While the term ‘speculative fiction’ dawned in the 20th century, the angle of alternative and inventive angles that synthesise magic realism with the supernatural dates back to Euripides and Shakespeare.
Our challenge is to bypass the cliche and stay fresh. If you need some support from savvy editor/authors who love this genre as much as you do, join us…
Here’s the blurb from BWW on this course:
With a travel writer and editor as your guide, join this expedition into one most the most popular of genres. The itinerary includes resources, publishing tips and how to highlight your experiences in a marketable fashion as short pieces of writing for periodicals as well as full-length works. Travel adventure and disaster tales welcome. Beginners to advanced writers will create this supportive atmosphere. Trade trekking insights and tips with like-minded friends.
Polish & Publish: The Insider’s Guide is a course filled with tips on how to bring your writing up to publication standard. I had a very positive experience when I attended this course. It was brilliant and kicked off a second rewrite on my own novel.
Here’s the blurb from BWW on this course:
Bring up to 2000 words of your writing to collect gentle and constructive feedback, discover your strengths, define opportunities for improvement, and get the inside scoop on publishing. This course will enhance your writing and you’ll be inspired by passionate industry pros to join the ranks of writers who take these workshops and get published. At the Polish & Publish workshop you’ll feel empowered to edit your own work with verve and learn how to run productive writing groups.
In Character: Archetypes to the Enneagram
Sat, 19 August: 3-5.30pm; Sun, 20 August: 10am-2.30pm
In Character: Archetypes to the Enneagram is a brilliant course! When I went to this course I learned so much about how to integrate archetypes into my characters. And I learned how to use the Enneagram to further develop my characters personalities. It was an awesome experience. If you’re receiving feedback that your characters are two dimensional, then I recommend getting along to this course.
Here’s the blurb from BWW on this course:
Examine character through an array of lenses including Carl G. Jung’s archetypes, Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey motif, and the personality model of the Enneagram as exemplary creative tools in character and plot development. Read excerpts and experiment with character styles. Explore the concept of identity as you track what makes good characters great. Join author/editors Lauren Daniels, Josh Brockbank and Geneve Flynn for lively discussions, writing exercises, morning and afternoon teas.
Writing for Children & Adolescents: Picture Books through YA
Sat, 16 September: 3-5.30pm; Sun, 17 September: 10am-2.30pm
It is amazing how much work goes into creating a picture book. And children are a tough audience, so the insights I received from the editors were pure gold.
Here’s the blurb from BWW on this course:
Meet with a team of editors — Anna Bartlett and Lauren Daniels — and award-winning, guest author Janet Reid to glean tips on what children’s and young adult [YA] publishers seek and how to prepare professional submissions. Find out about good storytelling techniques for young readers and how to earn the regard of this tough audience.
To find out more about the Brisbane Writers Workshop courses, check out their website.
Thanks for reading my blog and thanks for liking my posts too.