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Mocha Nihilism strikes back

I woke up this morning to find a peculiar email in my inbox. I frowned at the title, terribly confused, before clicking through to find a second rejection for the novella I submitted months ago. It had a full request back then and I got a lovely personal rejection as well.

And yet there I was, reading a second rejection for the very same novella, despite not having submitted it again, or even giving it a thought for the last several months now.

Anyways… OH MY GOODNESS it was an amazing rejection. I don’t mind getting double negatives if they feel this good. This came from a different editor at the same publishing company, and he said that I’m “a strong writer with an engaging voice”, and he hopes I’ll submit other pieces. The premise didn’t hook him (totally relate. It was flawed and I knew that before I submitted), but in my mind, that just means I need the right story, the right characters, premise, etc.

This rejection came at the perfect time for me, as I begin rewriting TCM. It’s given me a lovely boost of confidence and a bit more belief in myself as a writer. I can do this, I just have to keep working at it.

Now if only there were more hours in the day…

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Testing the Theory

Months ago, I trunked Mocha Nihilism. I had very valid reasons for doing so, half of which was because I simply don’t want a career writing romance, and half because there are some flaws with the story – flaws which I wasn’t sure how to fix, and frankly didn’t think it was worth expending the time and energy to make it right (being that I don’t want to be a romance writer).

Still, when one makes a decision like this, there is always that niggle in the back of your head about whether it was the right choice. So when a publisher I follow put out a call for contemporary romance novellas (what are the chances!) I figured that I had nothing to lose by sending Mocha out into the fray.

I put together my submission package and sent it off – this was a huge rush and got me really excited about the idea of having a novel to send out one day – and then waited patiently. Just two weeks later they requested the full.

At which point I started to freak out.

THAT WASN’T PART OF THE PLAN. The plan was that they would politely reject it, and confirm for me that it was the right choice I had made to trunk it. Yes, well…

Anyway, I got my ass into gear and made the changes I had planned and sent it back quick smart. Yesterday I got a reply.

What do you think it said?? lol

I got a rejection. A lovely rejection which said really positive things about my writing and which completely confirmed my personal thoughts about why I should trunk Mocha.

And I felt relieved. I let out the breath I felt like I had been holding for two weeks and I smiled. I didn’t have to worry about getting pegged as a romance writer, after all. I could get back to work on the kinds of things I really wanted to be writing. And more importantly, most wonderfully – I was right all along, and they had just confirmed that for me.

I know for sure now that I can trust my gut instincts about what is wrong or right with a story. I am not too hard on myself, or too soft. There was far more value, for me, in getting that rejection than in getting an acceptance. I feel really empowered and like I have a new confidence in myself as a writer. It was such a fabulous experience, and I can’t wait to have something that is truly ready to be sent out. Hopefully within the next year I’ll have this novel in shape and be on my merry way. I know that I can do this 🙂 And I love knowing that.

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Jumping ship, again

This year I have done a lot of project jumping. I started the year off with the decision to get the first draft of Saving Tomorrow written. Then I worked my ass off on Mocha Nihilism, only to trunk it when it was almost ready for submission. I moved on to Chasing Ascension, hoping to get the first draft of that finished off quickly after cutting 15,000 words from the original version, which I then ditched to start work on Saving Tomorrow, again…

Yup. A lot of project jumping.

And now I’m ditching Saving Tomorrow, for the second time this year. I don’t have another project in mind. There is no new shiny. No other temptation. There is exhaustion and the inability to push ahead with a long term project.

I tried all the tricks in my book. I broke it down into smaller sections – I wasn’t thinking about a novel. I was thinking about this scene, or that. Getting this chapter sorted. Introducing this character. Exploring that situation…

I set myself small, manageable tasks – 750 words a day.

I allowed myself to suck while writing the first draft. I played with whatever ideas came to me. I pushed through blocks and outlined just the right amount for me.

And yet, I just can’t write this novel. Not right now.

Nothing I have tried has managed to get me past the ‘gosh this is going to take me such a terribly long time’ barrier in my brain. I guess what it comes down to is that I am a somewhat hedonistic writer, and one thing that gives me great pleasure is finishing off a draft. Unfortunately, finishing the draft of one scene, or one chapter, is simply not the same as finishing the first draft of an entire novel. It’s not really ‘done’ unless it’s ALL written.

Right now, I can’t make great progress. Life is so very busy. There are many demands on my time and less time than ever for writing. I could write the novel, but it would take me the better part of a year and I just don’t have the stamina for that right now.

What I can do is write short. I can start and finish short stories because they need so many less words. So much less time invested. That feels good. It keeps me smiling, helps me feel like I am making progress. I can begin and end, and have something to show for it. A ‘finished’ something. Eventually a ‘published’ something.

I can also write medium. I’ve proven to myself this year that I can do novellas. I can write them. I can revise them. I can edit them. They are not too hard. Not too big.

I cannot write a novel. Not yet.

So while it feels kind of shitty and lame to put Saving Tomorrow aside, again, it’s really my only option at this point. Setting it aside means that I will still want to write it. I will still love it and have drive for it when I do get the energy/time/head space to throw myself into a novel. (maybe next year, when my middle child starts a couple mornings of pre school a week – maybe when she finally learns to sleep through the night, which please god, can’t be too far off, surely).

Because right now, I feel like I am bashing my head against a wall. I don’t want to write. I feel uninspired and dragged down, and like I’m failing at something I should be able to do. And that’s not good for me, for my creativity, or for my novel.

So, now it’s official. No novel for me. Not this month. Not next. Probably not this year.

BUT, plenty of short stories to complete, new ideas to be had, and hopefully a return to gaining some pleasure from my writing. It’s been an exhausting month for reasons I simply can’t go into here, so I am going to go easy on myself for now.

Let’s see what happens 🙂

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I’m normally pretty determined…

I tend to write under most circumstances – death, pregnancy, newborns, natural disasters – but sickness really knocks me out of the habit. School holidays + sick babies + sick me = zero writing, and zero desire to write.

Which is a pain in the butt, because I was really feeling like I was getting my groove on, and had hoped to have the first draft of the current short story finished by now.

Oh well! Sometimes, you just can’t keep a cold at bay. I guess it’s better now, than once school goes back (I’m very ready for school to go back, by the way. It’s a madhouse with all the kids home – they are either playing nicely, but very loudly, or fighting, very loudly, and nap times? Yeah, lucky if they happen! /sigh).

Anyways, there are always other days, and if Natalie is any indication, another day or so and I should be feeling a little more functional. I feel like I haven’t done a lot this year, but I know it’s more than it feels like. Perhaps that’s because a lot of time was spent refining Mocha Nihilism, and while that’s not a waste, at all, it does mean I am back to working something up to submission standard.

I’ll get there! Hoping to finish this draft of Chasing Ascension in August, and then get stuck into Saving Tomorrow – I have some more planning to do, but I feel just about ready to delve into a whole novel rather than these shorter works. Almost…

How are you doing this week?

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Dear Mocha Nihilism,

It’s been a few weeks now since we parted. While you’ve been visiting my beta readers, I’ve just been chilling at home, raising my babies and trying to keep busy. I was eagerly awaiting the time of our reunion, for a while, but in the last week or so some doubts have crept into my mind.

You came to me at a time when I needed something lightweight. You were fun and care free. You lifted me up, made me smile. I will always treasure the laughs we had together, your sweetness, your gentle nature. But the reality is that I have changed. I’m not in the same space as either a person, or a writer, and I don’t know if I ever will be again.

You were something new, something that I hadn’t tried before, and while I’ve enjoyed this thing we shared, I’m sorry to say that it has no long term potential. You were a fling of sorts and I, I’m searching for something more. Something that delves deeper – and while I know that a novel with intensity will exact a higher toll, I can’t help but long for it.

I think by now you probably know where this is heading – you are not going to be published. I’m sorry. It’s for the best though, really. While I am a firm advocate for writers being able to produce stories in whatever genre they want, I am also a believer that if you are putting work out, then you should keep putting similar work out, and when it comes down to it, you are all I have. I don’t have any desire to write another piece of ‘chick lit’ or whatever other definition you’d like to give yourself – you were a blast while we were together, but it’s time to be honest.

Don’t think this means I don’t appreciate you. You’ve done wonders for my confidence as a writer and I will always be grateful for the lessons you have taught me. I know now that I can stay with a project, revise it and make it better, even if that takes a few drafts. You’ve shown me that editing is actually fun, that surprises can unfold no matter how well you think you know a story. You let me explore a new side of myself, and while I’ve enjoyed the adventure, I now know that it’s just not for me. Well, not right now, anyway.

I’m not going to bury you in a file somewhere, just so you know. I care about you too much for that. I still want to make a few tweaks and tidy things up, and then I am going to offer you to my friends, some of whom I know will enjoy reading you.

Believe me when I say that this wasn’t an easy decision. But I think it’s the right one. It’s been hovering over me for a while now, and I feel better now that it’s been made. There are other things for me to explore, deeper themes, darker horizons. I know they aren’t for everyone, but it’s where I belong.

So thank you, Mocha Nihilism – and I can call you that now, seeing as it doesn’t matter if your title doesn’t fit the tone of the novella – for everything. We’ll meet again soon, and I am sure someone out there will enjoy you.

Yours sincerely,

your author.

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July?

Eeep, where is the year going? I think I say that every month, but it never seems to change. I am stunned that it’s moving by so quickly.

I had a few goals for June, and I’m not interested in going back to see what they were as I am pretty sure I bombed on them a few times. I did, however, complete the latest round of revision on the novella formerly known as Mocha Nihilism. I also submitted three short stories, and while I’m pretty sure they will all get rejected, it’s just nice to have something out doing the rounds.

This month I’m going to do something a bit different, in that it’s pretty much all about a first draft. Two days ago I started working on Chasing Ascension (which feels great, btw, now that I don’t have MN in the back of my head going ‘finish revising me, finish revising me!’). I’ve set a teeny tiny daily goal (100), but am finding that because it’s so low, I am hitting it, and steadily increasing the number of words I get out. I mean, a chimp can write 100 words a day, so I can totally do it. I HAVE to, otherwise I’m a tadpole or something (they can’t write 100 words a day as flopping from key to key is far too tiring and they would die from the effort). I don’t want to be a tadpole. So I’m writing.

MN is currently out with a million readers (okay, seven, but it’s possibly the most I’ve ever had read one thing other than when I was at Critters.org so it feels like a lot) and I am doing my very best to pretend that isn’t the case. It’s not that I think they will rip it to shreds, it’s just that right now I’ve worked on it a lot and I don’t want to think about all the potential revisions they will come back to me with 😉 All in good time, my friends, all in good time.

So, that’s me. I’m also hoping to find time to revise a couple more short stories and get those out into the world, but mostly I’m focusing on CA. It’s the first first draft of a longer piece in a long time, and will be a great warm up for when I start writing Saving Tomorrow (after I do my final passes of MN and send that out to a couple of places).

What are you up to this month? 

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Writing, writing, writing

I got up early this morning – okay, to be honest, I’m up before 6am most mornings – but this morning I didn’t get up and launch into work on Tales for Canterbury tasks. I cleared my emails, got breakfast for the little ones and got stuck into some writing. Boy did it feel good! I have missed this. I haven’t written since the quake hit, even though I had the best intentions Friday night, and I feel refreshed and renewed.

Sometimes, you just really need to be putting your own words on the page. As much as I love reading other stories, as passionate and driven as I am about the anthology project, I am still a writer myself. I still need to feed my own creative side.

The influx of emails has thankfully died down a little now. We’ve got loads of work ahead of us, but I’m feeling more balanced. Back in control. It’s a good feeling to have – especially seeing as March is right around the corner and I still need to get back to work on the novella. I don’t think I can wrap Comfort up in the next couple of days, so I intend to keep working on that over the month ahead – plus there is March’s challenge story to write! I do love a good challenge.

It promises to be an exciting, and incredibly busy month. I’m feeling alive and great though, kind of like I can tackle anything. It’s really true that doing something for others has positive effects in every area of your life. Nothing like a disaster to bring people together, to break down barriers, to heighten your sense of community and place.

I’m very proud to be a kiwi. I’m proud of all the amazing things people are doing to help those in Christchurch, and while I wish I could be on the ground, helping out in person, I can be content that in my own way, I’m doing all the things that I can.

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Writing update

I’ve had a bit of a lull again – it seems that the ‘I Sucks’ are doing the rounds at the moment and I had my dose. Thankfully, I’ve moved on from there and am stuck back into my work.

I have a few things going on at the moment, though most of my time has been spent rehashing the structure of MN – I’ll keep calling it this for now, but I need a title that better reflects the tone of the story, so at some point, it will change! – I was trying to do it in a spreadsheet, but then got frustrated and got some memo paper. It was the closest thing to index cards I could find at the supermarket.

I should confess right now that I have never used index cards before in my life. It has always sounded like a cumbersome and difficult way to do things. I just never *got* it. So you can imagine my surprise when yesterday I had a desperate desire to use them…

I’m using them to figure out which scenes go where. I have the beginning and end done, I just need to finish filling out the middle so that it’s not flabby. I’m working off the three act structure, the pink slips being my intro, 1st doorway, 2nd doorway, and big show down scenes. It’s actually really cool to see it there on the wall, and I think it will helps loads when I get around to the next draft.

At the moment, I’m looking at starting in March because there is an editing challenge on over at Kiwi Writers for 20hrs in the month. I’m going to be doing the editing anyways – might as well get a shiny badge out of it! lol I may get stuck in before then, but I have a couple of things to finish off this month still.

Top of the list is a short fantasy story that I’m reworking, The Comfort of Wood. I love this story, so I’m hoping that I can get it finished off in the near future.

I’m also tossing around ideas for my next big project. This requires some serious thinking about where I want to head as a writer. So many options, all of them tempting and delicious. At least I’m not limited in any way 😉 freedom to choose my own path is something I want to celebrate, which ties in a little to my guest post over at Amy Rose Davis’ blog. It’ll be up at some point – I’d give you a better idea of time but I suck at figuring out time conversions 🙂

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Time to get down to business

I’ve been floundering a little of late – chipping away at some short stories, no real direction or big plans. Which has been fine. We’re still getting back into the routine of life during the school term, and that’s okay. But I realize that what I really need to do is get back to work on Mocha Nihilism. I intend to revise the crap out of in March. I’ll be deleting big chunks, rearranging things, upping the ante. Oh, it’s going to be AWESOME.

But first, I need to write some detailed scene outlines. Make sure I have everything lined up and in place before I get to the work of rewriting. Last year, before I started work on the second draft, I thought I’d done this. What I did was strengthen the existing plot though – I didn’t have the energy, or the inkling, to really push the characters and the situation, to make it a gripping read. Now I know what needs to be done, and I don’t want to make the same mistake again. Going off half-cocked is only going to create more work, and I want this to be the final draft!

I’m both excited, and daunted by the process. I’ve never been a planner, never had a desire to be this organized. Every time I’ve tried in the past I’ve always done a half-assed job. I know this is what I need to do though, to make sure that this is the last rewrite. It will get me one step closer to having something ready to publish, and that’s a good thing.

So wish me luck!

How do you outline? Any tips or tricks for this part of the process to help a panster change her ways?

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Round 3*

I now have 2/3 crits back for Mocha Nihilism, and while I am tempted to completely ignore them (not in the way you might think!) I will be a good girl and read through before launching into my massive reworking.

Because rework, I shall! I am so excited. I’m finally going to be one of those writers that hacks their MS up and rearranges it.

I’ve been reading Plot & Structure by James Scott Bell, and it’s really helped me to figure out how to make a work stronger. As it stands, Mocha Nihilism is a fun story, it’s a decent read – but it’s not as good as it could be. I feel like I am graduating from one level of ‘writer’ to another, because now I can see that if I rearrange things, if I up the ante, if I push the work harder, I can make it the best it can be. And then, I’ll be satisfied.

I’m aware that in part this is because I have more energy. The further away from that newborn stage I get, the more drive I have to work harder at my writing. I’m done with ‘good enough’, I’m done with settling, with being a lazy writer. The only way to grow, and learn, is to experiment and put new information into action.

I’m not going to wait until February to get on with this. I have a lot of new material to write – but I am going to have a much more in depth plan this time, and a lot of what I have can be re-used.

Exciting times, folks!

*you know, whenever I think ’round 3′ or 1, or 2 for that matter, the voice in my head is ALWAYS that from Mortal Kombat. And I think I might have mentioned this before… I feel like it’s been said. And then the mortal kombat music starts playing…ah those were the days…