NaNoWriMo 2016 is upon us!

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nanawrimo - nano - nano2016

Yesterday morning the month of November dawned upon us bright and sunny. Well, bright and sunny where I am anyway. And I daresay for the rest of November, many writers around the world will possibly either see dawn arrive because they’ve already been up for hours or they haven’t gone to bed yet.

Such is the craziness that is National Novel Writing Month (AKA NaNoWriMo, or in its even shorter version, AKA NaNo), whereby we strange creatures who write, try to pump out 50,000 words in thirty days. Easy, huh? Pfft. 1667 words every day for 30 days.

So, because November wasn’t already cray-cray enough (and by the way, I detest this term, but it kinda suits the situation) with everything dance-related (normal lessons plus a photo day, presentation night, full rehearsal days, full dress rehearsal days, and then the two days of concert) and school swimming lessons and school writer’s club and tennis lessons and setting my new business up … I’m sure you get my drift. Life in general. This loopy mum registered for NaNo.

But you know what? I can guarantee you, that most others out there doing NaNo are in exactly the same boat as me. Because we all have lives and people in them.

Now, it’s not life or death. Whether you ‘win’ or not means nothing other than a cool badge to say that you did in fact win. What I like the idea of though, is that maybe by the end of November, I’ll have a finished manuscript, or at least a lot-closer-to-being-finished manuscript, because I already have the first half of it written. Which is exciting in itself.

So wish me luck. I’m up 950 words for yesterday, so no, not quite the 1667, but it’s still 950 words closer to a finished story than when I woke up yesterday on the  bright and sunny morning.

Today is a new day. Maybe I’ll hit the target, maybe not. It’s a different morning – humid and overcast – so we’ll see.

PS If you are also delving into the insane world of NaNo, add me as a buddy – you’ll find me @geesuzie – we can go stark raving mad together! 

Happy writing 🙂

How to become an author

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Three important decisions to make to help you become a writer

I was recently asked by a friend who is coordinating work experience for school kids, if I would be interested in speaking to someone who is in Year 11 and determined to be an author. I am the only person she knows (and only found out by accident just recently) who wants to be a ‘writer’. And as I told her, I’ve not long come out as a someone who wants to be a published author, which on occasion fills me with doubt but mainly excitement as to what may one day be achieved.

Which got me to thinking. If I had followed my childhood dream after finishing school and took the steps to become a writer, rather than coming about it years later via a haphazard and bumpy path, how would I have gone about it?

FIRST DECISION

University? TAFE course? Online course through a writers centre? Online course through an online learning centre?

Each of these hold their own advantages and disadvantages. You will need to look at:

  • cost – for example: around $20,000 at uni vs. $195 for a 2 day TAFE course.
  • how long the course goes for – for example: 3 years full time at uni vs. 6 week online course.
  • what you want out of it at the end – for example: B. of Fine Arts – Creative & Professional Writing can get you into not just fiction/non-fiction/corporate/script-writing, but also editing, publishing, teaching and more vs. a short online course which has the possibility of limiting you to the course outline e.g. travel writing, magazine writing.

Now, one might say that it isn’t necessary to even do any of these suggestions, just go hard at it and write. Yes, there are plenty of people who I daresay have done this and been successful, but at the same time… I just think it doesn’t hurt to hear what others have to say about the writing process. Yes?

SECOND DECISION

How are you going to support yourself to pay for your education (whichever way you decide to go) and also while you are slaving away as an introverted hermit while you write the next multi-award-winning book that is going to make you into a millionaire?

For most wannabe authors, they have a proper job and/or families and/or other obligations where they have to get up in the morning and get their stuff done for the day, before coming home and burning the midnight oil just to get words onto paper (or  screen).

So why not get a job that immerses you in the writing and book industry? Examples:

  • intern at a publishing house, editing agency, literacy agency, magazine, newspaper – in any industry, half the time it is all about the people you know. I know that, you know that, so get in there and know them.
  • work in a library or bookstore – be around books all day, every day.
  • see if there’s anything available at the numerous writing centres around Australia – maybe you can manage the social media accounts, course registrations, or administration.

THIRD DECISION

What else can you do to truly absorb yourself into the world of writing? Plenty!

  • join different organisationsromance and crime both have established organisations in Australia that I know of, and I am sure there will be others out there – they are a happy band of people who have the same dreams that you do.
  • volunteer – in the above-mentioned organisations
  • attend writers and readers festivals/conferences – meet authors, agents, publishers, fellow writers, fellow readers – widen your circle. Do the workshops and listen in on forums.
  • join a writing group – find the right people and they will lift you up to new heights with your writing via critiques, pats on the back and general camaraderie.
  • search Facebook for writing pages/groups and join/follow – similar to the first point.
  • join a book club – guaranteed to make you read widely and what you may not normally read, which is a must.
  • expand your writing horizons – completed a short course on newspaper writing? Do another on copywriting or creative writing, for example. Become a writer of all things, while you continue to endeavour to become an author.
  • enter writing competitions – make sure that it isn’t a scam and is run by a reputable organisation and get your work out there. Some offer invaluable feedback on all or finalist entries, but even if they don’t, it helps you work to a deadline, word limits and guidelines.
  • listen to writing podcasts – the Australian Writers Centre ‘So You Want to be a Writer’, and Vanessa Carnevale‘s ‘Your Creative Life‘ are both informative and interesting to listen to. And there are plenty more out there.
  • last but not least, write every day – get into a rhythm. Even if you only jot down 100 words of personal thoughts as you have your morning coffee, it is something. And something is better than nothing. You will work out your own groove in writing.

I feel like I’ve probably forgotten many other important ideas on how to become an author, but I figure this is a good start. Needless to say, this is only the beginning of the process – it will take time, effort, tears and laughter, and good ol’ luck to get the prized publishing contract that is at the end of the rainbow.  

Do you have any other points for aspiring writers? Particularly for those who know this is what they want to be when they grow up and leave school? 

 

It’s a writing detour, not writers block

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I’ve hit a roadblock on my manuscript. And I’m not sitting there waiting patiently for the stop/go person to turn the sign around, I’m stuck with the electronic board that says ‘DELAYS OF UP TO 30 MINS, FIND ALT ROUTE’ and impatient drivers honking their horns. Except my delays have been more than thirty minutes now, it’s been 13 days since I have written anything specific to my manuscript. Ugh.

I know where I want my story to go, I know the general order in which I want things to happen, I know how I want my characters to behave, and yet… I’m not calling it writers block, just a temporary detour as I try to wrap my head around it. I think because I can see the faults in it, I don’t want to keep writing words that I know will get deleted later on. And I know that I should just write and not worry and not self-edit as I go, but I think I’d rather fix my problem before I continue. Yes?

In the meantime though, I do have other writing bits and pieces to keep me going:

  • There has been the latest #JustWrite prompt.
  • Anthology piece – the first draft is done and dusted. I have critique comments from my writer’s group and also my brother that I now need to go and make use of in my edits.
  • A new monthly exercise for my writing group due next Sunday.
  • As of the 1st August, I’m doing a 5 week online ‘Copywriting Essentials’ course through the AWC.
  • Romance Writers of Australia conference in Adelaide in August – 3 full days of workshops, networking and hopefully, lots of fun!

Of course, I’m not giving up on my novel. I think about it every day and I’ve started making dot-points of my chapters so far, and can already see some issues cropping up. So maybe once I’ve done that, I can do a bit of plotting and make it through my writing detour a bit quicker!

Gift guide for writers and readers

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I thought I would do a post on what to buy a writer when you need to get them a gift. Many of these would also double as presents for readers. In no particular order:

  • Notebooks, pens, pencil cases – or just stationery in general. There are plenty of cool shops online such as Typo, kikki.K, and Moleskine to name just a few. A writer can never have enough notebooks or pens!

  • Spineless Classics – this is an awesome store that prints an entire story onto a poster. So find out what the favourite story of the person you are buying for is, and see if they offer it. Get it framed, and voila! A very original gift idea.
  • Scrivener – a software tool that not only allows for a story to be written, but research can be stored there, ideas can be shuffled with the index cards, character notes are available, and it is possible to go all the way through to compiling your story for self-publication or submission to publishers.
  • For those who are new to Scrivener, such as myself, it can seem a little daunting with the endless possibilities. However, there are numerous learning guides to help you with what to do. I have ‘Scrivener for Dummies’, but there are more to choose from.
  • External hard drives and USB’s. Because we all like to back-up our work. None of us want to lose our many, many words from different stories that we have pumped out over time or are currently working on. There would be tears, I can assure you…
Credit I think this guy just lost his work...

Credit
I think this guy just lost his work…

  • Online writing course voucher – there are many writing centres across Australia, each of which offer courses to learn and/or better your writing skills. Why not help your friend along with a voucher so that they can choose a course of their liking. Personally, I have done courses through the Queensland Writers Centre and the Australian Writers’ Centre.
  • Writing/reading related jewellery – there are a few shops around; for example, this one is on etsy.
  • Scrabble or other word-related games. This is self-explanatory.

So, what do you think? Do you have any to add? There really are endless possibilities, depending on how practical or quirky you feel like being with your gifts!

 

 

Feedback from NYC Short Story Challenge

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It would seem that it was remiss of me to update you with how I went in the NYC Midnight Short Story Challenge, considering the first round was at the end of January and I received my feedback mid-March. I was reminded of this fact when I saw on Twitter today that they have announced those who are going forward into the third and final round. Applause for those who made it!

While I knew that the story I submitted – A Fool Called Bob – was not of the best quality, I figured that seeing as I had paid the entry fee, it would be foolish (hehe) not to enter something. January ended up being a crappy month, and I didn’t get a chance to have my piece looked over by even a single beta-reader, as I pretty much finished it the day it was due.

That said, here is the feedback that I received:

WHAT THE JUDGE(S) LIKED ABOUT YOUR STORY

  • You do a nice job of mimicking Bob’s hazy goings on in the tone.
  • You’ve given Bob a strong voice. He is a distinct, memorable anti-hero. His series of failed petty crimes and the way he is caught in the end all fit together well to resolve the story.
  • A sympathetic protagonist, however misguided. He’s not ‘bad’ but he’s trying to help his parents. Well written/good description — can totally realize who ‘Bob’ is. Like it when he refers to his parents as “the oldies.” Funny how he tries to take off with the massage chair, only to be challenged.

WHAT THE JUDGE(S) FEEL NEEDS WORK

  • Consider using 3rd person to create a more naturalistic approach. Fewer scenes or more unified action would also help keep the reader immersed in the story.
  • The way Bob is described and the way he talks do not give the impression that he cares that much for his parents, yet he goes to great lengths to try to help his parents stave off bankruptcy. Consider developing the relationship between him and his parents just a little bit more so readers can get a better sense of what the family history is and what motivates him.
  • Maybe clarify the ending a bit more. Suggest that Bertie and May should be established early on (even a line or two — noting he’s a ‘strange’ neighbor). Lots of promise as a story.

Without heading back into the forum and searching around, this is what I remember other contestants had to say:

  • Tense changed throughout.
  • Use italics for his thoughts (which I normally do in all of my writing, but you know… didn’t do in this frigging competition!)
  • ‘Crime caper’ as a genre is probably be more about a single crime, not a number of smaller crimes.

So – what did I learn while participating in this challenge?

  1. To be given three set boundaries – genre (crime caper), subject (bankruptcy), character (gardener) – and to write within those boundaries is actually pretty hard, especially when I have never written anything to do with any of those things. It was interesting to say the least.
  2. Google is my friend. If ever my computer’s search engine is looked over for some reason, I would probably be reported and arrested on suspicion of many, many things. How to grow drugs. Quick and easy ways to make illegal money. And that’s just for this one story…
  3. Beta-readers are key. Of course they are. Because they would have told me the issues they told me in the forum, and I could have made changes and fixed it up. Alas, it didn’t happen and I am kicking myself at this lost opportunity.
  4. It was fun, even if I didn’t give it my all at the time.

Will I do it again? Absolutely. January will come around again quick enough, and I look forward to participating for a second time. Fingers crossed that I don’t draw the crime caper card again though!

Have you participated in the NYC Short Story Challenge? How did you go?

Books, foster care, clairvoyance, writing, this post has it all…

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I apologise in advance for the words that are about to spew forth. I went to book club last night and our discussion was so diverse – not just about the two books that we read – that I kind of came home and ruminated on it all and couldn’t get to sleep. I was home at 10.30pm but I did see 1am on the alarm clock and I was awake again at 5am. WTF is with that?

So where to start? Pride and Prejudice was last month’s book club selection, and when I last blogged about it, I hadn’t yet finished it. I ended up enjoying it to a degree. Yes, the way it was written kind of made me frustrated, it was convoluted at times and I felt like getting a red pen and writing ‘TIGHTEN THIS’ across most of it. But then, it was written in 1813 and I guess this is a sign of the times for then. I can understand why it is a classic and I believe that maybe in another few years, I’d be happy to have a re-read and see if I pick up anything new in it, now that I am familiar with the writing style of Jane Austen. And the movie – I am keen to watch it and see how it compares.

SIDE NOTE: The Red Tent by Anita Diamant was another that I had not finished yet when I posted about it. Quite simply, it is a compelling and beautifully written novel. It encompasses womanhood and female bonds and when both of my daughters are old enough to read it (and by this I mean maturity, not reading level), I will be passing it on to them to read.

The second book that we talked about last night was our current one, The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh. The majority of us loved this book, and I am one of them. It is so completely different to anything that I have ever read. Victoria is now eighteen and after having had a childhood of being in the foster care system and continuously let down or mistaken or sabotaging her possible opportunities at happiness, she gets a second chance. She communicates using the Victorian language of flowers (for example: marigold = grief) and this has served her well until she must learn to open herself up in other ways. This novel skips between past and present, but you are never taken out of the story; it flows well and it all melds together wonderfully.

READ THIS NOW!

READ THIS NOW!

Because one of the questions about this book was what we all thought of the American foster care system after having read it, we also moved onto the topic of actually being a foster carer here in Australia. I think I can honestly say that I don’t think I would have the emotional capacity to do it. Obviously the majority of kids that would be coming to you are from broken homes, violent backgrounds, parents with a drug abuse or alcoholic history and so on – and while I feel desperately for these children, I believe I would have enormous trouble not getting attached to these kids in need and would hate to give them back knowing that they are possibly being thrown straight back into the thick of a really shit situation. And while this doesn’t help the already overworked system, it is quite simply how I identify with the whole state of affairs. Heavy stuff, right?

Now, another topic discussed was clairvoyants. Diverse bunch aren’t we? I have never been to one, and quite frankly am still not sure that I would be comfortable to see one. I don’t disbelieve in them (I think there are too many things in this world that can’t be explained), but also realise that there are probably more shonky ones out there who would be keen to take your money and tell you any old crap to keep you happy than real ones. I am probably more afraid of finding  a clairvoyant who is a ‘proper’ one and hearing stuff that I’m not ready or don’t want to hear. But at the same time, I do want to hear it. Does that make sense? If my husband reads this, he’ll be shaking his head and rolling his eyes and thinking, weirdo.

The subject of raising children, and in particular the differences of boys and girls (hello to Steve Biddulph, I will be buying two specific books soon) and when you should be encouraging them to participate in group activities and finding their own groove in life and everything in between was also brought up. Oh boy. If only being a parent was straight-forward. But then life would get boring, yes?

And finally… *inhale* I also came out last night. No, not as someone who is at AA or identifies as LGBT. I came out as a writer, to my book club group. And I tell you what, it got me in a bit of a flap. It is so true what many people say, that many writers are introverts at heart and to say out loud that we write, almost feels like we are admitting that we just sit around all day long wasting our time and not doing anything worthwhile like proper work. Which is a load of bullshit. Most writers still have full-time jobs and/or families and/or commitments and/or health issues and/or a life in general. Wednesday is my only (almost) set-in-stone writing day, because I have no kids under my feet. And while I don’t ‘work’ in a normal job, I do do the farm book work and have three kids, two of whom are participating in guitar, NRL, tennis and dance this year. It makes it bloody busy after school, I’ll just let you know quietly. And then there’s the littlest one who constantly needs feeding or being pushed on the swing or supervised in the toilet and all that stuff that is a part of being a mum… And so while I am slowly letting others know that I am a writer (because I am!), which is something that close family and friends do already know, there is still a bit of a ‘What are other people going to think?’ feeling that I have running around in my brain all the time. The ladies last night were very encouraging though, and I think I have some new beta-readers when the time comes. I did mention it might not be for another year or two yet, but they’re there waiting in the wings… *waves* Hello, book club girls! *exhale*

So, my questions for you today are:

Have you read Pride and Prejudice or The Language of Flowers or The Red Tent or Raising Boys or Raising Girls? Thoughts?

Are you a foster carer? How do you go? If not, do you think you could be one?

Do you write, but are too scared to admit it? 

And now that I have all of that off my chest, I’ll get to work on my manuscript, which is currently sitting at 14,111 words (not 15,000 like I thought last night – hopefully I’ll hit that today!) See y’all on the other side 🙂

I’m on FB and Insta!

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It is official – I now have a ‘Sueanne Gregg Writer’ Facebook page and Instagram account. Things are getting serious. Follow me if you please!

Things are coming along nicely with my writers group anthology piece, and I am currently also working on a prose piece for the Hunter Writers Centre Grieve Writing competition. While I think I could easily grasp at my inner feelings and write something on losing my Dad to Leukaemia, I am trying something completely different and not at all related to death. But shh! It’s a secret…

Of course, I am working on my manuscript also. It is sitting at 11,497 words. You know how I said I was going to write 300 words a day? Yeah, that hasn’t happened so far. I have had a few writing sessions though, where I’ve whacked out 800-ish or 400-ish words, and that is absolutely better than none at all. So I’m happy with where I’m at, especially considering I have a number of writing projects on the go at once.

In other news, I’ve recently discovered Maxabella’s post with links for free images. As with writing and copyright, photos are also copyrighted. Depending on the CC licence of an image will depend on how you can use it, and whether you need to provide attribution for a photo. Check out Bron’s link for places you can find photos to use on your blog and other places, for free and many without needing attribution. Although, like she says, it is lovely to be credited anyway.

Photo found at Pexels

Photo found at Pexels