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.

LED editing sample for blog

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 Book Reviews, Courses, Creative Writing, Fiction Writing Courses, Vlog

A Vlog on Books and Fiction Blitz

Here’s my first video blog.  Here I chat about going to Fiction Blitz with Brisbane Writers Workshop and the books I’m reading and learning from.

If you watch the video, I seem to be really up close and personal.  Believe me, it didn’t appear to record that way but when I uploaded it to YouTube it’s come out really close.  Sorry about that.

Anyway, the Fiction Blitz writing course was great fun.  Lauren Daniels, Josh Brockbank and Geneve Flynn did a great job on the day and taught us about the anatomy of a scene, rhetorical devices, how to use allusion in story to create original metaphors, how to write a strong female protagonist and then went into what editors do when manuscripts are submitted.

I found the course to be entertaining, engaging and informative.  I learned how to recognise rhetorical devices through an exercise which has been extremely helpful.

Also, at lunchtime, Josh Donnellan dropped in for some Q&A with us.

He was funny, reflective and honest about his writing experiences.  He signed his books on the day and let me take a few photos too.

During the course we did an exercise to help us understand how to write a scene with different emotional tones.  And it was amazing to see the difference when I read back what I’d written and how different the first one was to the second version.  Basically, we started out in a happy place and ended in a place of murder but had to describe the area without using key telling words such has blood and murder.  It was an excellent exercise.

Here’s a couple of video movie trailers I created to show you two different tones of Fiction Blitz.

The first one is an action theme.

The second one is a pirate / swashbuckling theme.

Lauren Daniels and Josh Brockbank are teaching in the video components. And you can see images of Lauren with Josh Donellan at the end of each trailer.

I hope you enjoyed watching them.

Happy writing and reading.

 

Posted in Courses, Creative Writing, Editing, fiction, Fiction Writing Courses, Story

Brisbane Fiction Writing Courses

Creative Writing Courses Brisbane 2016

There are two excellent quality creative/novel writing courses coming up in Brisbane in August and September, 2016.  I’m pretty excited and wanted to recommend them, just in case you have a book you’ve always wanted to write or know of someone who might like to enroll.

I’ve been personally taught by Lauren Daniels from Brisbane Writers Workshop and David Farland from My Story Doctor and I highly recommend both of them as teachers who can help you take your story ideas and bring them into a novel manuscript and assist you with taking steps toward publication.

I can’t recommend either of them highly enough.

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3 Editors Set To Smash It: Fiction Blitz: 28 August

Who is running the course: Brisbane Writers Workshop and professional Editor, Lauren Daniels

Lauren Daniels is a professional writer and editor who has been working in the publishing industry since the ‘90s.  Most recently, her manuscript for her novel, ‘The Serpent’s Wake: A Fairy Tale for the Bitten’, was shortlisted with The Half the World Global Literati Award.

Lauren is the Senior Consulting Editor for Interactive Publications and the director of the Brisbane Writers’ Workshop.  She’s also edited over 60 fiction and non-fiction titles, many of which have attracted awards and recognition.

More details about her upcoming Brisbane Writers Workshop course can be found below:

When: Sunday 28th August 2016

Length of course: One day course

Cost: $165 per person

Venue: Arana Hills, QLD

What the course covers:

  • What the big publishers seek in a hook
  • Unpacking lingering questions about style and literary devices
  • Examining rhetorical devices
  • Characters: Quick—Make Them Stick!
  • Keep It Real: No Melodrama or Cliché, thanks
  • Themes that are not Love, Hate, Death or Illness
  • What Editors do.

This course will be run by three professional editors – Lauren Daniels, Josh Brockbank and Geneve Flynn.

Josh Brockbank is a freelance manuscript assessor with a track record in novels and memoir.  He has a BA in Journalism and has worked as a journalist for The Westender and Brisbane Arts Guide.  He’s passionate about writing and teaching too, and loves Crime Fiction, Realism and Magical Realism.

Geneve Flynn is a freelance editor with a love of speculative fiction.  She loves helping writers craft characters and stories that resonate with their readers.  And, very exciting, she’s been taught by Fiona McIntosh (who is one of my favourite Australian authors).

Max number of Attendees: 10

More info and website are listed in this reviewhttp://www.weekendnotes.com/fiction-blitz-brisbane/

 

DF-profile-imageWriting Million Dollar Outlines with David Farland

Writing Stories that Sell  

Who is running the course: David Farland will be running this course.

About David Farland:  He’s an award-winning, New York Times bestselling writer in Sci-Fi and Fantasy genres, a professional Editor and author the Runelords series.  He’s also a judge for the Writers of the Future competition, and he’s been a green light analyst for Hollywood movies as well as a story consultant in the games industry.

And now, he’s coming to Australia (from the US) specifically to teach us how to write stories that sell through developing outlines aimed at a wide audience.  He’ll be teaching in Brisbane – Writing Million Dollar Outlines, and then he’ll be teaching in Sydney – Writing Enchanting Prose.

More details about his Brisbane course are below:

When: Monday 19th to Thursday 22nd September 2016

Length of course:  Four day course – 9am to 5pm

Cost: $599 USD per person

Venue: Virginia, QLD

What the course covers:

  • What makes a bestselling story
  • Audience analysis with a focus on how to write to a wider audience so your stories will capture more readers
  • What is a story and why people read them
  • Elements of story
  • Brainstorming settings
  • How to build characters and the roles they play
  • Themes
  • Plotting and plot devices
  • And heaps more – too much for me to mention here.

This course will be run exclusively by David Farland and it doesn’t matter what genre you would like to write in, he can help.

Max No of Attendees: 16

More info and website are listed in this reviewhttp://www.weekendnotes.com/writing-million-dollar-outlines-david-farland/

I hope these course recommendations help you bring your creative dreams to fruition.

Happy creative writing!

Posted in Creative Writing, Editing, Fiction Writing Courses, Story

Fiction Blitz with Brisbane Writers’ Workshop

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Image from Brisbane Writers’ Workshop

On Sunday 28th August 2016, I’ll be heading off to a Fiction Blitz workshop with Brisbane Writers’ Workshop.

I’m pretty excited because every time I attend a course run by Lauren Daniels and Josh Brockbank, I come away with a sense of creative delight, new ways of approaching story and practical tools that I can apply immediately to whatever I am working on.

Over the years, as I have continued to study how to write stories that pull a reader deeper and deeper into the life and conflicts of my characters, I have picked up numerous practical tips from the Brisbane Writers’ Workshop.   I’ve found that they make you feel welcome and your stories are valid and worthwhile no matter what you’re creative writing passion.

If I’ve not understood an aspect of the world of writing fiction, I found I could safely ask my questions of Lauren and Josh, and they were more than happy to help me develop my understanding.  They give lots of relevant examples and help writers pick up skills to apply to their creative writing projects.

Since attending one day courses with Brisbane Writers’ Workshop, I’ve learned so much, it’s hard to list out.  But here’s a few of the things I’ve pick up along the way:

  • The basics of writing a novel with rising action and tension.
  • How to unleash my own creative voice through simple writing prompts.
  • How to bring characters to life on the page by exploring their flaws and exploiting them, then writing those flaws into scenes where the characters are faced with the very thing they don’t want to admit about themselves.
  • How to use the enneagram to create complex character behavioural traits that live on in the minds of readers long after the last page has been read.
  • How to take an archetype and go beyond writing cliche characters.  Actually, this was one of the most interesting writing exercises I’ve done in a while and it sparked my imagination in new ways.  I’ve thought a great deal about ways I could use archetypes to write fulfilling characters in my own stories since doing this exercise.
  • And, I’ve learned about characterisation, voice, point of view, theme, narration, character roles, and heaps more.

Lauren Daniel and Josh Brockbank have introduced me to new ways of thinking about creative writing and helped me to grow into my own creative writing style.  Thanks so much for their ongoing support and dedication to creative writers.

So, yeah, I’m really looking forward to attending the next course in August because I always come away from the Brisbane Writers’ Workshop with a lively sense of excitement and creative drive that filters into my stories as I actively apply what I’ve learned from the course.

This next course, Fiction Blitz is going to focus on how to write hooks and style, and literary devices. And we’re going to examine the subtlety of rhetorical devices which is a relief because I really need to learn about that!  Especially as I’m close to finishing a novel and starting on the editing phase.

Anyway, if you’re interested in attending a Brisbane Writers’ Workshop or want to find out more, I suggest you check out their website.

Happy writing.  May your characters live long in the minds of your readers!