Catch Up Post, Again.

It should come as no surprise that I ended up overwhelmed and forgot to blog. Again.

It should also come as no surprise that I intend to do something about it. Again.

What this means is the blog is getting an overhaul. Again. Are we sensing a theme?

The first part of this transition to a hopefully more productive, helpful blog will be a running review  of the revised ‘No Plot? No Problem!’ by Chris Baty. I’ll also try to keep my progress updated during Camp NaNoWriMo, and this session’s Abernath the griffin book. If I’m lucky, it will actually be the first book in series this time. There is always hope it will work as planned…

Which brings me to the part where I’m hoping for some input from anyone popping in.

There are a few themes of blog posts I could start with as the beginning of a more consistent schedule. I’d love to know what interests you most.

Would you like to see reviews of texts, fiction and nonfiction, books and other media?

Would you like to know the tips and tricks I’m learning and implementing? What’s worked for me and what hasn’t?

Would you like to know how I’m going about retraining my brain to do creative writing when pain and medication interfere?

Let me know in the comments what you’d like to see first.

Thank you for sticking with me, hopefully this time the processes I’m changing will work long term.

 

The Bunny and the Cat

Plot Bunny and Fluffy Cat are ready!

WILF: ‘Use Your Words’ by Catherine Deveny

I bought this book on a whim because it had ‘You are my special snowflake’ in the introduction. Shallow, likely, but since I’m the human half of Team Snowflake I decided to pretend the universe was giving me a sign.

I am so glad I did.

Catherine Deveny has a vivacious style that makes it easy to keep reading her advice. The other reason I kept reading was that the advice was great. And she made me laugh, which is definitely necessary when you’re looking at the cold hard truths of writing. Like it doesn’t matter what anyone thinks, just write the darn book.

Picking up this book when I was at a stage of deciding just how much quitting writing would be the better idea. I had the ‘done’ button in front of me and was about to hit it and forget all the horrendous half-drafts in my pile of files.

Deveny took that wrung out me and walked me through the fact that what I write is likely shit. That it’s okay to write shit. You are the only person you are writing for. She made it completely okay to be  Gunna, and to take the step from someone is ‘going to’ write to someone who is writing. And that was all before she got to the actual craft stuff!

The big thing I’ve taken from the craft section is her goal setting. It is on my sticky notes as ‘half, half, half again, quarter of that and treat!’ with a smiley face. And she’s right. Taking the smallest part to get something done will make it happen. This blog post, right here? I was going to write the intro part. And then I got a cup of tea. And I wrote the little bit about the style, and patted the dog. And here we are past where I thought I would get to with the review today. Deveny is brilliant.

She makes it easy to feel like you can honestly just start writing and enjoy it, with the confidence to play with your voice because this is for you. First and foremost, this is for you, so do it. Otherwise, why would you be reading the book in the first place?

The other thing I really liked was her use of text-to-speech to help speed up the editing process. I got myself a neat add-in for Word, because I’m still using Word, and there is nothing quite like a vaguely stilted British woman reading your work to you. It really helps catch the words you’ve misspelled and where things actually don’t make sense.

This book is now one of my go-to books for getting started writing. It helps me relax when I feel nothing but the weighty anxiety of being ‘good enough’ to actually call myself a writer, because even if I only write to make myself feel things it still counts.

If you are able to get a copy, do.

And when you feel self-doubt creeping in, remember these words are for you. And if you want to, you can delete them or burn them or whatever else you want to do with them. But they are for you, no one else. Just keep going!

Week 1: ‘A New Beginning’ Part 1

Method 1: The Lester Dent Plan

I had no idea who Lester Dent was until I stumbled across an article talking about his short fiction master formula. Since I’ve never really tried short fiction before, I thought I should give it a go. After all, he was able to make a living writing short fiction in a time when it wasn’t yet the go-to market for up-coming authors. And, to be honest, I haven’t yet read any of his works. But I trust the theory should be sound. I’ve put his work on my ‘To Read’ list, which is an ever expanding thing.

The following is a breakdown of the plan for the prompt ‘A story entitled “A New Beginning”’ from the 52 week short story prompt challenge.

Now, to be really clear, I’m not taking the main advice of making sure the murder is unique because I don’t want to have a murder to investigate. That is much more planning than I’m up for right now. My unique factor is that the Hero is a scion of a literal god, Bastet, and that’s going to be one of my complications. The motivations of my two main forces are pretty simple.

  • The Hero, Lili, wants to change her life, stepping away from her job in a tv series and her on-screen/off-screen partner. Things have been a bit on the ‘warning bells’ side, and so once she’s managed to break-up with him, she leaves. Of course, that means starting again, and trying to avoid her Mother saying ‘I told you so’, but she’s prepared to do that.
  • The Villain, Jared, wants to return to the way things were. He’s prepared to do whatever it takes to prove to Lili the relationship is the only way to be successful, the only thing that will get her what she wants. Because it’s what he wants, and he cares about her. And he didn’t see the break-up coming.

And the conflict is based around what they are willing to do in order to achieve that establishment of the ‘correct’ world order.

 

The First Quarter:

  • Start with the Hero in action, and hit them with a fistful of trouble.
  • Put the Hero in danger
  • End with a twist.

 

Lili, the Hero, moves to San Fransisco, to get away from the life she led as a small screen darling. Since I need to give her a flaw to overcome, at some stage, I’m going to say that she’s made this move with the barest of consultation of her support network. She wanted to avoid the ongoing conflict from the break-up. And her agent is working out the final bits he needs to do with the filming of the show. She’s in action, check

.So, I have to hit her with a fistful of trouble. There are a lot of clichés I could use.

  • Someone leaves pictures under her door or emails them to her of something horrible. Jared cheating on her, her travelling, something equally dramatic but lacking depth since you’ve just met her.
  • Someone overtly threatens her.
  • She gets a stalker, who is actually a PI paid by Jared. That one I like but not for this story I think.
  • The apartment she’s moving to is damaged in a freak accident/storm, and she has to find temporary accommodation.
  • Her Mother can show up. Nothing like a deity running around to make trouble.
  • Her moving van gets sidetracked. Simple, believable. And not going to throw anyone under a plot-bus yet. I think I’ll go with that. I can always add to it.

Fistful of trouble, check.

Now we need danger. This one is a little trickier, since I don’t want to make it a very physical, life-threatening sort of danger. So, I’ll use this as a chance to chuck in some world building.

As a scion of a god, there are some perks. But there are also downsides. One of them is that mortals can be a particular danger to you, because they can shape the way the world responds to you and the world can reflect that onto mortals. I promise I will explain that better in the text itself.

A sort of vicious cycle where you end up playing the part you’ve played and can’t get out of it. And even if you do break the rules of that part, there might be another easy path to step down that causes more problems. She’s been portrayed as a lovely ‘girl-next-door’ sort of character, which would get her help and sympathy usually. But, she’s only got an overnight bag, her cat, and she is running away. That’s a bit different, and the people of San Fran end up responding to that. It doesn’t help that she wants to keep things low key, and that there are rules about pets. She also needs to find a place that isn’t packed, which is another mundane problem to add to the mix.

The danger is that she’s going to end up with the people who she means to befriend treating her as suspicious, and thus undermining her chance at establishing herself. I know it’s not perfect, but it’s good enough for vomit copy. Danger, check.

The twist? There is a message waiting for her at the hotel. It’s from an associate of her Mother’s. After all, her Mother is a cat-goddess, so it makes sense she would use cat’s paws. And again, dealing with mortals is risky for those of divine nature. Twist, check!

And now I should go write that bit, so I can do the next bit with clearer idea of what is happening. Any plot threads will get tidied up between vomit copy and first draft. Huzzah! Plotting!

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Our family cat, Mouse, helping with the Christmas tree. Such a well-meaning kitty.

Week Four: Unexpected Contentment

This week I have discovered that I am grateful for things I has been overlooking when I started Camp NaNoWriMo.
I am grateful for my train travel to work. It helps break my day into manageable chunks, and gives me permission to use my time in those chunks. I can write on the train, and it makes me appreciate time I would usually find a burden.
I am grateful I set myself modest goals. As I wrote, I found the old style of writing I had thought vanished began to emerge. It isn’t the same, it lacks the brightness and sparkle I was used to. But it is there, building on one little idea onto another until the ‘short story’ jas hit nearly 10k words. Not a bad effort really.
And I am grateful for this blog, because it makes me act in a mindful fashion. Instead of losing myself in the feeling of the moment and being overwhelmed, I am able to step back and look for the lesson I could be learning. How do I use this moment to make the right thing easy?
The universe has thrown amazing distraction at me during the last week, which I am so pleased with I dare not say much in case it comes to naught.
Instead, here is a cute bunny picture!

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Duchess had been helping me clean, as demonstrated by the torn up newspaper. She is all tuckered out!

Week Three: Procrastination and Planning

This week has been a drag out fight between my determination to write and the universe’s ideas. The universe is winning.
As is usual for Camp NaNoWriMo, I have caught a cold and become distracted by the goings on of the world. Today, I am going to have a horse riding lesson, and my head is full of horses. It makes it very hard to focus on the characters in my short stories and their predicament. Especially when I have reached that perplexing contradiction of being reluctant to write now the confrontation has arrived.
Looking over my writing past, I have found I shy away from moments of great drama, conflict, or high stakes. They matter, and the pressure to get them right is intense. So I avoid them, and leave it as problem for Future Editor Me. Of course, this usually means  the piece sits in the proverbial draw and I am unlikely to look at it unless I am stuck for news ideas.
After Camp, I am thinking of writing a list of all the stories I have in various stages with the plan of using procrastination in my favour. If I don’t want to work on one project, there must be something less disagreeable on the list to do.
That’s how I ended up booking a riding lesson, after all.

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Dusty and Duchess sharing a treat, because bunnies are cute.

It’s been a while…

I have been a very lax writer of late.
In fact, I haven’t written a single creativr thing in more weeks than I care to admit.
What I did do was throw myself into another hobby, and another project, with the focus and determination usually reserved for NaNo.
So, since I have no writing news, here is a part of the project I was working on. Tatted Dragons. I will add the link when I get to a computer, but I’m putting the post up to get leverage on myself.

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Four little dragons all in a row

Book Review: Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake

As often happens to me during the ‘I have no idea how to work on a project’ phase of getting ready to actually pick a project, I was wandering around Kmart when I absently picked up a book and read the blurb. Usually, that’s as far as it goes. I might read the first page or two to see if I like the voice, but normally that’s where it stops.

Kendare Blake’s Anna Dressed in Blood had me reading the whole first chapter before I realised what I’d done. Which meant the book was coming home with me. 

The book is about Cas Lowood, a 17yro ghost hunter who has a very supportive and understanding white witch for a mother. Set in modern US/Canada, written in first person present tense, this book is definitely a good one to pick up if you have a day spare. Despite my open aversion to first person, and my distrust of present tense, this book had me read the whole thing in a day. Which, considering the day was 44C is no mean feat.

Cas is an understandable and likable protagonist, and manages to balance out being a teenager and not being so annoying you want to hit him with a board. He struggles with making friends, the idea of staying in one place, and coming to terms with his inheritance. Blake’s style is engaging, with just a touch of humour, and the descriptions of the things that go bump in the night are enough to make me seriously consider a night-light.

I would recommend reading this book during the day, and then watching something feel good that will keep your mind from wandering back into the book when the lights go out. Not Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse, because that man knows how to make people jump. But that’s a whole other review.

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Something else that goes bump in the night.