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Time flies when you’re having fun, except… July 6, 2013

Posted by mattfarmer in books and reading, Writing Group.
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writing-a-bookAccording to my log, it has been close to 2 months since last I wrote here. I think I am seeing a trend. I am scheduling things, planning things, and then letting them slip. I plan on doing a regular blog here, once a week on a Wednesday, and a business based blog on my website once a week. I plan on releasing a newsletter once a month. In all three cases I have let myself slip. I have my reasons, but when you take a step back, perhaps i need to say to myself- no more excuses?

Well, let me look at these excuses.

This blog? I have been particularly busy in the 2 months since April. I have made the transition from scraping a living, to break even and into the black. I picked up 7 clients in 2 months, who want regular social media from me. Plus the odd job here and there. I am now working on my time management so I don’t get overwhelmed with just 7 clients, and I can handle even more, and this is working. But the process to get there did steal time away from other writing.

The newsletter? In the month of June, I attended 2 funerals- one for my grandfather, and then literally 2 weeks later, for a refereeing mentor, and father of one of my good friends. Both of these events threw me, I must be honest. I would start to write and just not be in the mood. I have not been in the mood before and broke on through, I believe this has been something I have gained this year- being able to write, for my job, even when I didn’t want to. But this was different. And people I knew were sympathetic to me, and understood why I stopped and lay down for a while.

excuses-flow1My weekly business blog? Catching up on work, and being busy with work, I let a couple of weeks slip by. Poor time management, as I said before, of which I am tightening up on.

Maybe it is a mid-season slump. The second act in a three-act play which will pick up in the final third. I think this may be the case. That stunned moment when lots of good things happen to you, mixed in with a couple of real bad things. Then you get yourself back on the metaphorical horse, and get riding again.

I wrote about 10k words of my novel in this time. That sounds like a lot, but it was all done in a two-day moment of clarity. Other than those 2 days, it has continued to be relegated down my list of things to do. It was a year ago that I released the first book. I said I would get the second book out by now. Wow, letting the fans down.

So, I think I came into this blog to put it out there that I have not kept up my end of this bargain I have made, but I recognise it. So, just before the end of the second act, a spark of hope will appear. Could it be? Could he really?

Stay tuned to find out….


Home printing, short stories and a new school year February 6, 2011

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I would like to know. How important is a printer at home? As a writer, do you print what you write, a lot? Read it on paper? I own an Epsom combination scanner/colour printer/fax machine, but it seems so old now that the colour isn’t colourful, the print quality is awful, with lines and so forth. I clean the nozzles each print, but…

So how important is owning a printer, if you are a writer? I can hear myself answering that question by saying- by gum it is VERY important. But I don’t use it that often, to be honest. I read and edit on the screen. When I submitted my manuscript for review last year, I went to Office Works and paid a small sum for printing and binding, which turned out nicely, I must say. I must also say that the manuscript never made it back to me. It is now on a big adventure sitting on an author’s shelf somewhere. One day, this author will take the manuscript down from the shelf and think- yes! It is time to publish this book! Heh.. sure, that is going to happen… really!

So, is a printer at home a good thing for a writer? How much should you pay for a ‘good printer’?

Short stories. I have written one, not really a story, more like me wanting to get a feel for the new world I am creating. It was a short piece about one of my characters getting out of bed, walking along the deck of the ship she knows so well, sneaking up to the prow of the ship and watching the sunrise. There really is no beginning middle and end, no character development or progress. Or is there?

I am resisting throwing myself into this world until the final book in my sci fi is at least written. I know I will get far to caught up with steam punk magic fantasy, to devote myself to finishing something else. But I find writing small things like this good for me so I can add colour to my ‘verse, or work ideas.

The 800 words I wrote for this gave me the character’s name, the names of her crew, possibly the name of her ship, and a secret side of her which doesn’t show through in the book. The character is a female, her name is Tempest, which I think suits her to well. She is a sniper on board a sky ship.  She is a tough woman who has lived with the shame and stigma of her unique racial heritage growing up. But this story showed me that there can still be a part of her that has room for joy. A sunrise makes her so happy.

I think I will write more of these little tid bits. It took not much time at all, and fitted in with what I mentioned in my last post regarding anti-procrastination, where you write something else, to give your brain a break from what it is writing now. A morning ride into work on the train? Shoot out a 500-800 quick little fiction piece about a character. Certainly a lot more engaging than those 5 page character sheets I used to do.

It is also a new school year. I could tell from all the school bags littering the aisles of my train. I don’t mind school kids on public transport. We were all young and rambunctious at one time in life. We’ve moved on from there, now it is their turn to be wild and free. Gosh knows when you hit the real world, opportunities for such shenanigans diminish rapidly.

What this also means is my writing group will soon get back together. I decided to base it on the school year, including time off for school holidays, so it didn’t feel like we had to meet every single week. Also, it gives you 2 weeks off to write something bigger if you like.

Last year was not very productive for me through the group. Not everyone turned up each week, and often while writing was discussed, not many pieces were produced.

I have decided this year that, no matter what is being discussed or what the topic of conversation, that everyone should turn up with 3 things- a person, a place and a thing. These will be kept on a tumblr account, so when you need just something to get you going, there can be 3 elements to a story starter.

I raised this idea with the group. One other person liked it. Someone else did tell me that I am quite capable of finding these images online, and if I need that kind of kick, I should really do it myself. A fair point. I do admit to lacking in some motivation, and one thing I do wish to improve, or strengthen, is my own resolve to get things done. But on the other hand, sometimes it is nice to see what someone else brings to the table, and how their tastes in imagery would affect what you could write.

I remember last year doing this exercise, someone produced a picture of a snow-covered and frozen graveyard, a puppy dog and a flower. These are images I wouldn’t have thought of, and sparked something very moody and dark from me, and a little sad. I liked it. Where normally I would try to lend a speculative fiction vibe to something I wrote, I deliberately steered clear of this for that piece.

Now, it is Sunday afternoon. Some novelling before I go off to play some mixed basketball.


Nanowrimo, Day 9 November 9, 2010

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This implies I should have had days 1 through 8. I blogged daily one year, and it became far too distracting to write a novel AND blog daily. So now it is day 9, physically I am beat, and sleepy, ahead in the word count, so I figure I can give an update on where I am at.

Firstly, I am physically beat due to basketball, and possums using my roof as a mating ground. The writing hasn’t wrecked me at all.

At day 9 I sit at nigh on 38 000 words. That is over twice the minimum daily word count. So this is good. My strategy for Nanowrimo is always to get a head start for when you have days, like today, when you only manage 700 words. Or in a couple of weekends when my brother is down and we go to Metallica. Pretty sure not much writing will happen then.

Others have already crossed the 50k line. I know I will get there, and continue over, but I am in no rush to get there.

I am probably at the mid-point in my book at 40k. So here’s hoping I can hit 80k plus before the end.

The mid-point of my novel is going to contain much death and destruction. It was always going to, but now I have decided to kill some characters that people kind of know. These selfish boys finally do an act of heroics, just to get blown up. Awww…

I went to a write-in last Tuesday, on Melbourne Cup day. Its one of those uniquely Nanowrimo events where you get together with other people, and write, all in the same room. Never mind this solo act in front of the computer, this is social. With snacks. I did enjoy myself, got to meet some other writers, and ended up with two more face-book friends.

So, after a week of writing, I am on track to finish. I may not be totally on track to the major plot points I devised, but I am not so far off course that it’s falling down around me. The characters over there are not being as awestruck about the planet Earth as they are supposed to, and the characters over here are not suffering enough.

I will need to make them suffer. More.

Oh, and I rewarded a fellow writer with a box of chocolates because she put me into her novel. That’s another thing I like about Nanowrimo. You can challenge people with strange little things like that, and it work.s My brother challenged me to put a turtle into the book. Not a problem! Done. What else can I fit into my book?

This post is almost 500 words. That’s 500 words I could have used in my novel. I will now retreat to write.

I will try to update sooner.

Still beginning again and again August 10, 2010

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Its crazy. I’ve written the novel. I have been through 4 drafts. I have 3 other novels which follow on from this in the series. It has been read and enjoyed and reviewed.

And yet, trying to start it again, I falter and fall down.

It is the strangest thing. Once I get into it, all is well. It is just the beginning.

In last weeks writing group two writers commented that they prefer to write characters of the opposite gender. One writer said he enjoyed writing female characters as he can enjoy writing as a woman because he knows everything there is to being a man.

I didn’t fully understand his comment. I don’t know if it is because I have not fully investigated pure gender issues of each of my characters, or I just characterise a person and have them do and be, without a need for gender. My three MC”s for my novel are two gentlemen and a lady (I flatter them by calling them such…) and I can’t say that I have enjoyed writing any of them less than some.

In a later book I developed a lesbian relationship for one of my characters. I have not received any feedback on how well I wrote that. So far those who have read it have not told me it felt false or was badly written. On the other hand, no one has said it was a waste of space and irrelevant for the book. I will hold off judgment until I have had more feedback.

Looking back at my work, I must say that most of my MCs are male. Some may say it is a conscious decision of mine to do this, but I don’t know. Unless you go way out on a limb, you only have 2 choice for the gender of your MC. So I choose the XY more often than XX, should I read more into this than I need? I know how to be a male, so am I just writing what I know rather than challenging myself to write as someone I don’t fully understand?

Or am I just thinking too much? Perhaps I am just distracting myself from the start of this novel.

Speaking of distracting my self, I now need ice cream

I am a subliminal zombie June 1, 2010

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In writing group last week I asked the group to put up some prompts for shot stories. I often set writing tasks and prompts. I use many different methods to get ideas and prompts together. I few great websites to help me include: The Fake Name Generator and the 7th Sanctum page of generators. I also trawl the forum boards of RPG.net for such awesome topics such as corpse scenes and 101 artifacts for an urban fantasy.

I have other such oblique web sites and resource, and love the ideas and varieties of each. The annual DARES thread in the varoius Nanowrimo forums are terrific.

But I wanted the group to set me something. So one member began a word association exercise. She gave us a word, and we had to think of a word to match. The three words she gave were – bark; black; and sky. My responses were – bite, betty, open.

This is why I think I may be a subliminal zombie.

The challenge was a 500 word piece using those three words as a prompt. Despite the allusions to zombies, I wrote a piece about Betty, leaving a small outback town, in the back of a ute, under the wide open sky, eating an apple.

No, I don’t think its brilliant. I don’t think I achieved the subtlety I wanted. But it was nice to get away from science fiction for a brief moment, and create a new character with prompts someone else gave me.

It was refreshing. For me.

There is still the potential for a zombie story, about a zombie with a moral crisis about eating the brains of Betty, who used to be their friend.

Too literal?

Something old, something new… March 1, 2010

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I kept to my writing on Sunday commitment. I wrote my writing group assignment.

I took my MC from the novel series I am writing- Jarred, and his girlfriend, Jasmine, to the auction, as mentioned in my previous entry. Jarred is an ex-history professor from Vega University, so I thought it would be a great place for him to be, as a character, at an auction for something historical.

I used the two characters with swords – the business woman, and the street samurai with the long coat, as my assigned characters. The character with the brief case handcuffed to him made a brief entrance, but it was all about the sword fighting.

What I enjoyed about this exercise is again, using characters I am already familiar with. I have written four novels with these characters, and am in the process of writing the fifth and final novel. I have traveled with my characters through pirate attacks and civil wars, killed their families and even had some limbs blown off in battle. And now, with the final book, I know where they are going and how they are going to get there. Their journey is mapped out in my imagination and will soon be written down in words.

So I am enjoying the ability to take these characters I have come to enjoy, come to know and love, and put them somewhere that is not in the the realms of my novels. I can play with them in my imagination’s sandbox outside the covers of my novels. Far from restrictive, I am discovering more about the characters than I would have had a chance to do inside the novels. I can explore them more.

For example, in the short story I just wrote, Jasmine, who is a renowned pirate, her devious and cheeky side comes out. She is a student of history, in particular military history, and asses her enemies and changes her plans accordingly. In this case, after seeing the tall dark stranger wield his sword with such expertise, she decides holding a gun to his head would not be the best way to rob him. Instead, she feels it better, more strategic, to ambush his ship in transit. Enjoyably wicked.

I know when I finish book 5, and write “The End”, there will be some sadness. You invest such time and energy in creating characters and conflict, that ending a series, which is the right thing to do, can be a little sad. But getting to have the same characters pop up in further fiction? I like that.

Week 4 – The Writer’s Platform & A writing excercise February 25, 2010

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I have begun this blog because I have read so much positive and encouraging words regarding the Writer’s Platform. The first place I heard about this concept was here – Tribal Writer. Justine Lee Musk has said other things regarding this topic, including a guide to getting on to Twitter. These are articles and concepts I am still trying to digest.

I further investigated this concept through the Creative Penn, by author Joanna Penn, and in particular this article.

This is all new territory for me. I have written for years, in the classical style of the author, alone at his desk. I have hand written stories, messed around with a type writer, and finally I now have a desktop and a fantastic little net-book to carry around with me. The first time I ever encountered a writing community was the National Novel Writing Month. I had always been told to join a writing group, and beside a failed attempt post-university to meet up weekly at a pub, this was the first time.

The people I have met through Nanowrimo have been fantastic, creative, scary and absurd. All the things you would expect in a creative melting pot. They were also supportive and encouraging.

So, 8 years of Nanowrimo, and 8 completed novels, it is only now that I am venturing into the world of the online. I will admit to being shy. However, nothing ventured, as they say in the classics. So here I have my blog. I have a twitter, and am setting up my Facebook presence.

I did read somewhere, some time ago, that an author should not have an online blog, as it would take away time from their creative writing. We will see. This is an experiment by me, after all.

Writing group last night. We did talk a lot about this concept of the Writer’s Platform, hence my thoughts above. And when it came time for setting the writing exercise for the week no one had any suggestions, and went to bed without one. THis left me with the joy of setting it for them, with just my input.

I have a few websites I have tagged as great resources for inspiration and creativity. I have found the forums of rpg.net to be absolute gold mines. Roleplaying is such a creative pursuit, collective storytelling with characters not controlled by you. And the people on that site are always looking for creative ways to improve their games.

The 7th Sanctum is also a great place to spark something.

I also enjoy grabbing portraits and artwork from Deviant Art and Elfwood.

For the excercise this week, I grabbed a phrase from a thread in the RPG forums:

“J.D. Salinger’s final, unpublished manuscript was uncovered last week, and Limited Edition – a Seattle auction house – will be hosting the sale of rights.”

I then selected 8 pictures of characters from my folders, various people from various genres, and challenged the group to do one of two things- put their own character, from their verse, as per the other assignments, at the auction, and include at least 2 of the provided characters; OR, use one of the characters as POV, and then at least 2 others, at the same auction.

I will report how I go with the assignment later.

Week 3 Writing Group February 19, 2010

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For Week Two I proposed a minor character have a rant at the main character. I had the First Officer aboard the tramp freighter Ter Vitas have words with the Captain, Jarred, over his current relationship with a pirate. It lacked a bit of spice, so I added a table full of empty pint glasses and shot glasses, and it got messier, rawer.

I brought this to group, and was, not remonstrated with, but was told that while yes, anger can grow easily from alcohol, it does remove the emotional content and contact from the piece.

So the exercise this week, was to turn the mood around. Show a side character and their LOVE for the main character. It can be a monologue, a crush, a love letter, something that indicates the minor character loves the main character.

I suddenly thought back to my anger and hate story, where they characters were drunk, and thought- natural progression – drunken anger turns into drunk – I love youse.

But then I was called on it, and how that lacks an emotional contact with the subject. I was challenged to write the ‘love’ scene, without any alcohol involved, and if I could, with the same two men.

So that is my challenge this week. To have a bromance, an admission of love, between my First Officer and the captain.

I chose these two writing exercises so my writing group could get to know their established characters more. Its something they seem to want to do. Write shorter fiction around already established characters. They are enjoying looking at characters they already love and hate, from different angles and points of view.

I liked the ‘hate’ exercise because often people love their main characters. They may be flawed, but they are the GOOD guys. so it can be hard for you to show ‘hate’ or ‘anger’ towards them. You have invested time and energy in creating a hero to champion your cause, to drive your story onwards, so why would you want to take that character down a peg or two?

I love my characters too. I invest in them, I create them, and as such, I become fond of them. While I can put them in bad situations, I don’t want to kill them, and I don’t want to hate them. But, I am learning, not how to round a character out, but how to see them in different lights.

This is a good thing

Commitments to writing February 11, 2010

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As I said in my introduction, I host, run, participate in a weekly writing group. It was the second week of the year last night. The first week, last week, went well. Introductions, hopes and wishes for the year. The writing assignment in week one was to take a heroic main character and show them doing something “bad”. And then take one of your villains and show them doing something “good”. You had to use some already established characters you have written about.

It gave me some depth to characters I had already thought I knew. Who knew that one of the Board of Directors actually liked to bake cookies with his mum?

So this week we discussed commitments to writing; promises you make to yourself to say- I am going to write. For me it is a case of Tuesday and Thursday nights will be dedicated to writing established work, be they novels, or working on short story re-writes, or writing this blog. And Sundays will be for my weekly writing homework from the writing group. Monday is basketball, Wednesday is writing group, and the weekend is the weekend

This isn’t to say that writing outside these planned writing times is not allowed. Far from it! You can write anytime! I plan to write more on the train into work, once I get my novel back up and running. I discovered I wrote more on the train to and from work, and during my half hour lunch break, than I did at home after work.

Back to the writing group. When discussing a writing assignment, it was decided to continue looking at already established characters some more, to write around them and see what we could see about them.

So this week the assignment was to look at the main character in your story, and then look just to the side of them, or just behind them. See a minor character who is not the main character. Then, have that minor character absolutely lose it. Get angry, rant, swear curse and just go nuts at the main character. See  what it is like from the point of view of someone who isn’t in the spotlight, but is really ticked off at the lead.

Already I like that the group wants to write, and has a say in what they want to write about. I enjoy being with people who want to write. I now have to find someone who is pissed off at Jarred.

But who could possibly be angry at him? He is the hero! He has been through adversity and heart ache and he is a nice guy and everyone loves him. Don’t they?