02 December 2013

The Inane Ramblings of a Writer Who's Waiting

or, The Many Cool Things Starting with "Ch".

I'm doing quite a lot of waiting at the moment. Well, just mainly waiting to hear back on queries, partials and fulls, and waiting for the Christmas holidays. And my brain's gone a bill do-lally, unable to attend to any kind of sensible tasks. With that in mind...

So I was cooking dinner, and I had a little sneaky cheese snack ("cook's treat"). And I said to myself, "OMG I love cheese!". And then I thought, "and I really love chocolate." And it occurred to me: how many things, OK foods, I like that begin with the letters "ch".

So apart from the aforementioned...

Image courtesy of Suat Eman / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

and chocolate....
Image courtesy of artur84 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

There's chips - both this kind:
Image courtesy of Keerati / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

and this kind:
Image courtesy of artemisphoto / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

And cheesecake:
Image courtesy of Simon Howden / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

And chicken!
Image courtesy of Apolonia / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Then after I'd finished eating my chicken, I was actually compelled to leaf through the dictionary to see what other "ch" treasures there are. Champagne, cherries, choux pastry.

And then non-food stuff: champion, chamber music, chandelier,chapter, character, chain reaction, charade, charisma, charity, chaise longue, chalet, chalice, chameleon, charming, chateau... need I go on?! (please stop, I hear you say). Those are just the "cha"s. I haven't even got to chivalry or chimpanzee. Oh yeah, and Christmas.

Image courtesy of digidreamgrafix / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Photokanok / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of m_bartosch / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
It's a pretty cool way to start a word... not that I'm biased or anything ;-) But on that note, the dessert called a "charlotte" is pretty amazing.

So many wonderful things! And I was like, "I can't believe I've never thought of this before!" Like it was some kind of genius insight worth sharing. Sorry about that.

While we're procrastinating and thinking about yummy wonderful things, here's some candy for your ears AND eyes.


11 November 2013

Am I Strong Enough For This?

Image courtesy of tiverylucky
So, I've previously posted about this roller-coaster ride that is the journey to potential publication. And here I am, riding it again. I've been receiving feedback on my MS, and also starting to query. My baby is officially taking its first steps out in the world. And along with that comes the highs and lows of the writer’s journey.

My first couple of query responses are rejections. I’m down.
I received some encouraging feedback from a friend. I’m up.
I don’t final in a competition (although my scores were pretty good, some of the feedback flummoxed me). I’m down.
The next day, I receive a request for the full manuscript from an agent. I’m up.
I cast my eye over the manuscript, fixing a few small things noted by the contest judges and beta readers, and I decide the whole thing is pretty much crap. I send it off anyway. Feeling down and generally like a scaredy cat.

And it makes me wonder: do I have the strength to cope with this? Am I actually going to go insane?

It’s only the beginning. If I make it over the first hurdle of getting an agent, there’s revisions, submissions… and then whether I end up publishing traditionally or self-publishing, along with the satisfaction there’ll be negative reviews, anxiety around sales numbers… and so on and so on.

This whole thing is tough, and it won’t ever let up, unless I choose to quit. 

I've done this before, and experienced the same highs and lows before, but each time I go through this process I’m that much more invested; the stakes seem that much higher. I'm probably more vulnerable than usual due to life events of the past 18 months. My day job is also a quagmire of stress, and it’s possibly the combination that threatens my sanity. I know publishing a book through either channel won’t be enough to take the day job out of the equation… but maybe one day… a girl can dream.

I had a full request early in my querying last time, and then I got not one, but two form rejections from that agent. So I am prepared for the sting, but the chance an agent will like it persists in the back of my mind, and it’s enough to spur me on to keep querying. I know this MS is not like a lot of single title romances out there – the comments from the contest judges confirm that. But I know there are others out there who have similar tastes to me, it’s just whether anyone in the industry thinks there is a big enough audience to take a chance on it. We shall see.

Am I strong enough to cope with all these crazy ups and downs? Well, the answer is that if I am ever going to make these dreams come true, then I have to be. There are no rewards without risk, and the greater the potential heartbreak, the greater the possible triumph.

The silver lining is the high you get when someone likes your work. And the more I put my stuff out there, hopefully the more positive feedback I’ll get. And that means I have to create more stuff, just keep working, and keep opening myself up to the hurts as well as the highs. Why am I doing this? Because I’m creating the kinds of stories that make me feel good, and I hope that they will make other people feel good too. It’s an explicable compulsion to create, to share, and hopefully, to enrich the lives of others.

How about you? Do you ever wonder if you’re strong enough to make it through all the insecurities? Do you have the perseverance required to make it to the next goal?

23 October 2013

On to the finish line

So, I was away for a while. I made some long-held dreams come true, and I gained confidence in getting out in the world on my own.

Here's some evidence of my travels:

Now I'm in the home stretch on my second draft, deep in the the third act. I'm very conscious of not ruining things as I rearrange, edit and polish the final pages. It's a struggle between not rushing through scenes, while keeping up the pace. I feel as though I can see the finish line... at least the 'send it out for beta readings' line. I can't wait to get this baby out into the world, whether that's traditionally (which I'll attempt first) or via self-publishing. It's also nerve-wracking as my heart and soul is in those words, but I'll save stressing about that for another day.

Here's a song inspiring me at the moment - what's inspiring you?
(unfortunate freeze-frame)

25 July 2013

How to Beat Writer's Block

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Here's what works for me:
  1. Shut down your computer.
  2. Tell your brain you are NOT going to write.
  3. Go and do something which prevents you from writing/typing your ideas, but won't involve any active thinking. Suggestions: scrub dirty dishes, have a shower, brush your teeth, go to bed and turn out the lights.
  4. Relax and let your mind wander.
  5. As the ideas start to flow out of nowhere, curse your inability to make notes.
When you finally get your computer back on, the words and phrases you end up typing are never quite as magical as the vivid movies playing through your head in the shower. Sigh.

11 June 2013

The Mystery of Artistic Magic

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I'm deep in the thick of editing (when I get around to it!).

I love those moments when you’re reading over your work and you’re like, “Wow, this is good! Where did that come from?”

Those epic moments where inspiration, talent and some sort of artistic magic combine to make words, phrases and paragraphs that are music to our ears. Perhaps they may not impress anyone else, but they make us smile in a deep place. There's a sense of pride in that work. Most of the time I don’t remember the actual moment of creation. It’s almost like the muse had completely taken over and delivered the story, pure and simple, in the best possible form. The wonderful part is, the muse is just part of us. We create that gold. All the tools are within our minds and hearts; we just need to create the right vehicle of expression.

Then there are those moment when you’re like, “This sentence doesn't even make sense. What was I on when I wrote this?”

…Just in case you were tempted towards artistic arrogance. I don’t see that happening any time soon – the mediocre moments far outweigh the sublime. But the fact that the sublime art does exist – that is what makes it all worthwhile.

12 May 2013

How'd It Get To Be May Already?

I thought it was high time for another post! I've been getting back into my second draft with gusto, now having a bit more time on my hands to do so. Revisions are both thrilling (as I fall in love with the work afresh) and scary (when I need to make big decisions, deletions or both).

I discovered a problem with my sub-plot, which demands I either kill off a character or make two family members unrelated. In a twisted way the killing-off would make for a better story, but I can't see where to fit it in with the other characters' arcs without disrupting the flow. Sigh. I've decided to put off the decision for a bit.

The other thing with the subplot is deciding whether to tie up all the loose ends in this book. In my mind I have books 2 and 3 of a trilogy mostly mapped out, which would mean not revealing all in this book. But I'm thinking I should probably pitch it as a standalone to start off with, to see if I get any nibbles. Decisions, decisions.

In the meantime, I thought I would share some things which have inspired me lately. First, this quote from C.S. Lewis. I found it on a writing blog, and the writer was using it to illustrate what we need to do with our manuscripts. For me at the moment though, it provides more encouragement as it was originally intended: for our lives in general.

“Imagine yourself a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, you can understand what he is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping up the leaks in the roof and so on. You knew that these jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently, he starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and seems not to make sense. What on earth is he up to?

The explanation is that he is building quite a different house from the one you thought. He is throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were going to be made into a decent little cottage, but he is building a palace."

Over the past couple of weeks I've discovered some musicians on YouTube who I now adore.

First, The Piano Guys. I looooove these guys. So clever, talented and funny. So hard to choose just one video; they're all so different!

Also, Lindsey Stirling...

And finally, 2Cellos. Enjoy :-)

16 April 2013

The Value of Writerly Companionship

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For many years, I have been afraid of letting my writing life cross over into my real life. I wouldn’t freely divulge my writing hobby among casual friends and acquaintances… though people accidentally finding my blog when it was under my real name sort of gave the game away. While I had overseas-based online writing buddies, I didn’t think joining a local real-life writers’ group would offer me much more than one conference a year and maybe some writing tips. Or perhaps I was just too much of a scaredy-cat to get over my shyness and put myself out there.

How wrong I was. Through Twitter, the great networker of our time, at first I followed like-minded writers in the US and UK, gradually finding Aussie authors. I’d been following a couple of Kiwi authors for a while, but eventually I came into the sphere of some active RWNZ members. One of them was so kind as to chat with me about my writing and invite me to the local chapter meeting. She was so lovely I just couldn’t say no.

At the meeting I met a variety of wonderful people who welcomed me in and were eager to find out about my writing journey. Shortly thereafter I joined RWNZ officially and have since enjoyed all the subsequent meetings, the newsletter and recently, the email loop. Unfortunately I won’t be able to go to this year’s conference due to a prior commitment (although that commitment is going to be pretty awesome).

I’ve already learnt so much. Not just about the craft and different approaches to writing, but about the various avenues to get your work out there. It’s amazing really: writers come in so many different personalities and tastes, but at the heart of it we all love to do the same thing: create characters, worlds and emotion.

These people are my people, and they get/understand so many parts of me like no-one else in my life can. I feel validated in all my quirks, methods and neuroses. I feel encouraged. I feel less crazy. And even though it’s early days, I feel a bond with this group. It’s still daunting rocking up to a large group of (mostly) ladies I barely know, but it gets easier each time, and when the writing discussion starts, I lap it up.

So if you’ve been thinking about joining a writer’s group, any group, I say go for it. If I scaredy-cat like me can enjoy it, you can too.

23 March 2013

The Writing Switch

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Isn't it amazing how the writing vibe can be switched on and off, depending on how much mental energy we assign to it. I've been so preoccupied with attending to urgent business in real life, I haven't really given my imagination permission to do what it must. It's been busy, but mainly trying to imagine my own unknown destiny.

A few nights ago I made a conscious decision I will devote more time to my writing. I then had some fun with research, sparking ideas to use in my WIP. I know I have to make some tough decisions before I can proceed with properly editing this book, but I feel as if I'm almost ready.

But do you know what I love, what reminds me I'm getting back in the zone? When I'm doing my teeth, as I was at the end of that evening, and my brain starts to innocently mull over my creations... then boom. Inspiration. The (possible) first scene for my next book* dropped into my mind. Granted I'm still editing book 1 but I don't argue with the muse. I hurriedly went to my notebook and scrawled down the bones of it, for fleshing out when I'm "allowed" to work on it. The first scene for my current WIP also came to me when my brain was supposed to be otherwise engaged, and I just knew it was a keeper.

A few minutes after that flood I wrote this blog post. Life has since intervened again, preventing me from typing it up! 

However. The switch is back on, baby. I know I must gift myself the time I need to finish what I started. 

*This book is roughly outlined already with quite a few scenes written out of order... what can I say... I'm a hopeless pantser!

28 February 2013

Research vs Writing

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One of the main challenges in writing historical fiction is of course, the history. I love it, but by golly does it take some time to get it right.

I jumped back into my WIP last night (after a considerable absence) with excitement, ready to slice and dice that baby into shape. Looking forward to reading my words again. But I became hamstrung by some details I have to get sorted…. such as how to address the younger son of an earl, and what to call the different types of hired carriages. Then I spent the rest of my allotted writing time on this stuff (although I will admit I got distracted by some real-life business that also needed to be sorted) and I didn’t get any actual writing/revising done. Sigh.

(Also I’d like to whine about how frustrating it was to learn that the younger son won’t be addressed by the same name as his father. I wanted this man to share the name of the earldom and their estate, but it’s not to be. Double sigh.)

Being a detail-oriented person, now that I’m at a point where the story’s written, I can’t go on with revising until I fix this stuff. I’m sure my WIP will still have many glaring errors that I’ll be crucified for if it ever sees the light of day, but at some point I just need to be happy with fixing all the stuff I can see and then sending it out there.

Soon, I hope. Pity the research is only a small part of the revision process.

What sucks you in when you’re doing revisions?

Also, this is my 100th post! Yay.

07 February 2013

Natural Inspiration

When the minutiae of every day life threatens to overwhelm me, I have always turned to natural beauty for solace. I find my soul refreshed as I gaze in wonder at the world around me. On a recent afternoon country drive we took a walk and I was blown away by the sweeping vistas across the harbour and islands.

These images seem to sum up these little islands of paradise I live on... the clear sky, the deep blue ocean, a deserted pathway, and of course, sheep.

What ordinary magic inspires you in your every day life?

04 January 2013

New Year... New Name... New Me

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My life is in a transitory phase at the moment. I'm doing my best to forge ahead, focusing on my dreams. A big part of that is my literary dream, and I hope to have more time over the next few months to focus on my second draft... although there are more transitions to endure.

With the new year, I thought it an ideal time to create a new identity for myself, as my old identities seem somewhat inappropriate for the new me. My first name is my own, but my surname needs a makeover. I need something of my own. This will be my online identity, and I also intend to publish (fingers crossed) under this name.

So it's out with the old and in with the Brentwood. I have no idea why I chose that particular name. It just dropped into my head and seemed just as good as any other. A google search revealed no author competition. 

If anyone has been generous enough to bookmark this blog, please update the link.

On a different note (see what I did there?), I'm loving this song at the moment, even if it does me cry on occasion.

32 and still growing up now...