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My Bitz Box March 8, 2011

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A Bitz Box. Who has one of those? I know modelers who have a bits box. The left over plastic bits from models which get stuck onto custom stuff when they want. Space Marine sprues which come with twenty weapon varieties they can use on other models at a later date. They fish through the box for something that feels just right for some custom miniatures they are painting. There is even an online site just for this kind of thing – http://www.bitzbox.co.uk/.

But I know of people who go through model shops and just buy boxes of models, just in case. There was a shop which had a $2 sale on those random Japanese Mecha kind of models. This modeler purchased about 40 boxes, each one different. Came in handy building dreadnoughts for his Warhammer 40k army he said. Plus, he sold some on eBay to fund his addiction.

I mention this because I feel the notepad I carry around with me everywhere, and what EVERY writer should carry with them, is our version of the Bitz Box.

The notepad I have, for me, is like the entry point into my Bitz Box. I have two files, currently “quick ideas” and “larger ideas”.

The quick ideas are thoughts I like which I think could be useful or great in some way, but don’t have much behind them. They are not stories in themselves, but could be good for something. For example – “I feel so pixellated today” I like this idea, something a character might say in a cyberpunk world, or a hacker or something. But, in itself, it is not an idea that has a story behind it. This little thought is in my Bitz Box.

The Larger Ideas file has ideas I think could be stretched into stories or novels. Indeed, my Grand Apartments novels sprung from this file many years ago. And I have used a few ideas from here to create extended works.

I don’t have a Bitz Box for characters, but I think this might be a good idea. Any character concepts I can collect together.

My Bitz Box also includes inspirational artwork. I can’t draw, which sucks. The number of times I have a character look in my head, and try to draw it and get not much more than a stick figure… grr! I know people who can draw, and I have asked a couple of them to draw characters for me. But I feel bad asking them to produce some work purely for my indulgence. That, and one guy is really good at producing manga-esque drawings, which didn’t suit the gritty sci-fi character I wanted.

So I fish through the internet for inspirational are. Deviant Art and Elfwood Studios are both great resources for me. That picture looks like who I want to be my protagonist! More recently I have grabbed images of skyboats and dirigibles, seeing how other people view them, run them and provide propulsion. Some have rockets, some propellers. Some air ships are floating sailboats with sails. Others are iron-clad monsters with air bags and smoke stacks. It helps me plan how I want my Sky-boats to look and feel.

I am also grabbing pictures of modded nerf guns. But that is for later projects, ahem.

So, when I am stuck for a writing idea, I know I can dip into a box of images and written ideas, pick two or three, and make something of it. An exercise I like to throw at my writing group is – “place person and object”. My last effort I had a picture of a slum-like street with a bright neon sign in a foreign language; I had an android sitting in a doorway looking dirty and run down; and I had a shiny black orb with some blue LED lights on the outside.

My story was about an android which needed to save her master from a terminal illness. A local crime lord had the cure, but she had to gamble for it. She had to put her heart on the line. She lost, her heart and her master, because the crime lord cheated, of course. The android, being a machine, could only think in logics, and not nuances of human emotion and deception.

It was a cool little story. I liked it, and it totally burst forth from my Bitz Box.


the idea of ideas August 21, 2010

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Wednesday writing group was a quiet one. However The Leafy One commented that she enjoys IDEAS. She likes coming up with IDEAS and wants to come up with more of them.

An example she gave was Larry Niven. I must apologise for my lack of remembering, but I do recall a race that was leaving the galaxy, and was taking 5 stars with them as they went? The Leafy One thought that was an awesome idea. I large, interstellar idea.

I like what she said, and I understand what she means. I enjoy ideas. I get ideas all the time, but they, in themselves, are not a story.

In my first ever lecture at university I was told to ALWAYS have a note pad and pen with you. That way, when you got an idea you were able to keep it. I have mentioned my note book in previous entries -‘Where do ideas come from?‘. I am not so comfortable with my current notepad. It seems a little scattered. I might transpose it and start anew.

When my notebook becomes full I put the ideas into word documents. I have a document for the quotes and snippets. And a document for the larger ideas. For example, I have a snippet of an idea for my steam punk- The Disciples of the Cog and Piston. In itself, it is an idea, something I can put into a story, but it is not a story in itself. Just something I wrote in my note pad one day. I have other Steam Punk snippets in this notepad, I see. This must be the notepad where my Steam Punk ideas began.

The larger ideas, the ones which go for two or three pages, they are potential stories.  They mutate into CONCEPTS. I like Concepts. These have the potential to blossom into stories.

I have a file of concepts, waiting to be taken out and given a run. A post apocalyptic concept (Which sci-fi writer doesn’t have one of those?) I romantic high-fantasy with classical Greek and Roman overtures with magic thrown in for kicks. I have a modern day Mythic fantasy set in London in my file, a classic High Fantasy involving a one-armed man, a set of triplets and a sacrificial lamb who clearly wasn’t a virgin when she was chosen.

Ideas, I’m not running short on. Concepts, I have me some of them.

All in good time.

But, like The Leafy One, I enjoy having IDEAS. I enjoy that my mind drifts off to these creative places and comes back with some jewel, something shiny I can add to my collection. My little day dreams. Makes the grind of 9 to 5 not so grindy.

The writing you dont like to do can be good for you June 5, 2010

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I would love to be a published author. I know many people who read this would also love to be a published author. To be able to pay the bills and grocery shop with money earned through writing creatively? That would be awesome.

However, we do need to work the nine to five job in the mean time, to pay the bills and buy groceries. My day-to-day role is in customer service. I get to write a lot, which is good, but it is mainly repetitive answering of questions. A part of my role is to handle escalated customer inquiries, as I like to put it, or talk to customers or write to them, when they are quite angry. This is not the fun part of my job.

There have been quite a few angry customers of late. Perhaps there is something in the water. Oh, wait, I just checked and it is the full moon currently. Yesterday I had to compose an email to a very angry customer explaining things. It took a good deal of time to compose this email, making sure I had answered all questions asked, in a way which was explanatory, well sounding, well-mannered and acceptable from my company’s point of view. I also had to ring a different customer, and write a follow-up report on that phone call and how the customer felt about everything.

In both instances, particularly the phone call, neither customer was happy with the outcome, but it was something that you would never be happy with.

However, my manager took me aside and gave me praise about the way I handled both accounts. The email I sent the first customer, and the report I wrote on the second, she said were both well constructed, worded and written.

In the midst of all these bad vibes over the content, to be told that I wrote the follow-up well, and handled myself well in this situation, made me feel better about the whole situation.

I am currently still chewing over the feedback Jason gave me for my novel. I am partly in that same head space of stress and bad vibes over how to rework it, in particular the main crux of the entire novel – why would a company attack its own employees with pirates?

I have gained some confidence that, being in a similar head-space with my personal creative work as I am in my day-to-day work, I may still produce strong content which is well written, well constructed, and has a clear message.

bite sized writing April 22, 2010

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It has been a while since I have been here. This is one habit I am still trying to form. To regularly blog.  I am writing regularly, but not so much with the blog. I must remember to do this.

I have got back into the habit of writing at lunch time. This is something I do during Nanowrimo, write on the train ride in to work, at lunch time and home from work. I find I hit my daily word count target easily during the day, and it shows that I can write, during the day, and squeeze it in where I can.

So this is what I am doing. Small nibbles to my book at lunch time. Half an hour, a couple of pages. SLow, I know, but it is moving along nicely.

However, today I noticed something which, while making me a little worried, I am not too concerned about. I have read here and there about getting into the writing zone, how writing 750 words, or doing the morning pages, getting the writing brain exercised. I know this works, as I know the longer I write, the more into the zone I get. What I have noticed is, while I am in the area, the half hour I write at lunch does not get me to the zone.

I am writing okay stuff, getting some foundation down. But I can just tell it isn’t strong enough. I am writing a scene where the disenfranchised good guys are planning where to start the war. There needs to be a stirring speech, but I just can’t get myself into that place.

The reason I am not so worried as I know i would have been earlier in life, is the fact I know I am not there. I am able to see when I am not writing the polished work that I feel I should be writing. But at least I am getting it down the ideas that I want. Not altogether exactly how I see it, but, in the area. When I come back through it with more thinking time on my hands, then I will be able to take the scene out of the book, know that General needs to make a speech, the pirate Bobject needs to say his nasty piece, everyone to agree, and then there will be the arrival of other characters. The tail ends of the scene are set. It’s the middle which needs work. But that is okay

I will continue taking my laptop to work, and writing at lunch. I will the come home and tidy up the grammar and spelling, which open office seems to blithely ignore. I will then make the rough a little shinier before storming on through with the story.

Get something down. Even if it looks like a stick figure, two black dots for eyes and a big curl for a smile. It might look simple, but you can still point and say- that is a picture of a person, in the same way I can point at my rough work and say- this is a critical plot point where things of importance happen. And I will add flourish later

Writers block + Procrastination April 2, 2010

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I have not been here in a while. As the title states, I have had a heady mix of writer’s block and procrastination. Struggled to write my own work, had to push myself to do some freelance work, and as such, felt i had nothing to contribute here.

I have had some awesome sinus issues of late. Pain right between the eyes, or behind the eyeballs. I have rodents in my walls, either rats or possums, or both. Scratching and running through the roof cavity, keeping me awake, not letting me get any sleep.

I did try to write during all this. During Nanowrimo there is this sense of wondrous abandon – you write, and even if it sucks, you keep writing and come back later! At the moment, I don’t have that. I am writing and looking at all I write and wondering is it good enough? I wrote a passage, hated it, deleted and started again. Did this three or four times, and the passage was barely one page long. I then gave up, tired, or in pain, miserable, and did no writing.

Through all of that, or perhaps because of it, I have felt I had nothing to contribute here, so I have not been writing here. Catch 22? Or a vicious circle? I don’t know. I did decide, in the end, that everyone goes through these stages. Everyone goes through writer’s block, or just cannot get it into gear to work, to play, or to create.

And this is all a part of the journey that is a writer. I am, currently, not paid to be a writer. It is something that I love to do, enjoy doing and enjoy sharing. But sometimes, you just cant do it. The nine to five day just sucks the energy out of you. Evil furry creatures in the walls keep you up all night and drain you the next day.

It can happen. I don’t like it. I would like to be able to take days off to write and be productive, but I understand that this isn’t happening, at the moment.

So here I am, very little in the way of writing done in the past couple of weeks. I do feel bad and guilty, but I am writing today. So there’s a thing. I have done a daily 750 words, come here to get back on this horse, and now I will go and write my characters from point A to point B, and not re-write it.

Amusingly, this morning there was an update from Tribal Writer – Ten hard lessons about breaking through writers block. Teasingly, she has only included the first 4.

I like number 4- mix it up. So, tomorrow I am taking my laptop somewhere to write. Mix it up. I would do it today, but being Good Friday, there is nothing open.

My tip for writer’s block is to move. Go for a walk, jump up and down, get the body active, heart pumping, get more oxygen flowing through your blood and into your brain. It has worked for me previously.

I also like the tip to Chunk it Up. I am going to do some of that now.

Introduction February 10, 2010

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The Who am I says it briefly. I am a writer.

I have written eight novels through the National Novel Writing Month, four of which were urban fantasy set in the Melbourne suburb of Fitzroy, and my four latest books being science fiction (What I like to call sc-fi-lite). I am very impressed with my four science fiction books, and I can see myself growing stronger as a writer with each one I write. I have the fifth and final book to write now. I have made myself a mission- write the book OUTSIDE of nanowrimo.

I host an online writing group each week which is specifically aimed at the short story. We discuss writing, and set weekly writing assignments. This keeps my creative mind fresh and onto different subject, not totally focused on the world of my novels. I will update on my blog what we discussed and the writing assignment for the week.

I will also update my blog with any other thoughts or events related to my life as a writer. I may post pieces of fiction as well.