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Zombies, Beta Readers and an unfortunately good change of plans January 11, 2012

Posted by mattfarmer in Copy writing, writing.
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A long while ago I mentioned in one of my previous blog posts about Zombies being a writing totem, or a dream symbol of my writing for me. Well, I had another dream last night about zombies, and it is writing related. Related to my copy writing, actually. I wont relate the entire dream, although there were some very cool fight scenes in there, but just the two scenes which were the most important to me.

* Stuck up at the top of a very tall building, watching the zombie apocalypse out the window. I keep suggesting ways to escape, bu the people here are just sitting doing nothing. Most are scared, whimpering, and I know that if they do not do anything, something, then the zombies will come up here and kill them

* Have chosen to escape, with another survivor, female. On the way down the building there is a science lab with zombies in it, and I Hear an old man speaking a girl’s name. We go in there and I see an old man, blind, calling out for a girl. The calling out is what attracted the zombies. I put my hand over the old man’s mouth, he is startled to feel me, and we kill the zombies. We find the girl cowered in a little ball, shivering and sobbing. I explain to the old man about how his calls drew the attention of the zombies, and how we would now lead them both out, but he had to be quiet.

Down in the car park we have gathered another survivor, a guy who is mute, cannot speak. As we make our way to the car zombies come running (I hate the fast zombies, totally hate them). I tell the girl to go open all the car door. I start slapping the old man on the shoulder blades, left right left right, imitating running. He nods and starts running to the car. The girl has opened all the doors and is in the back seat. The mute ‘catches’ the running blind man and throws him in the car and jumps in after. I get in the driver’s seat and the other female survivor jumps in. Just as we leave I splat a zombie with my car door and I get splattered with Zombie goo (that last part isn’t writing symbology, but I had to add it in there because… well just because.)

** So, when I woke up, I connected with the scene at the top of the building immediately. I am trying to get action, get movement, do something. But the others just have given up? Are apathetic? This is me currently. I am having feelings of frustration at not getting any work. I want to work, I want to write copy for people, but it is frustrating me that each time I make some sort of movement, or offer, none is returned. I get that now, over Christmas and New Year there isn’t much work. I understand that not everyone needs it, or can afford it, or is working right now. But it is just me. I want to work. I want to write for people and show them I can do this. An idle mind…

So, the rest of this dream? When speaking with my wife about the dream, I mentioned how in my way earlier post I deduced zombies were a writing symbol for me. She then deduced for me that here I was, rescuing someone who could not see, someone who could not speak. So, is this me removing or saving the- no one can see me, or no one is talking about me, and taking control of them? She said it far more eloquently than I did. But it was truly awesome. Here is my subconscious processing my frustrations, that I want to move, to take actin, but no one can see me, no one is talking about me. So, my next question is- how to get people talking about me, and seeing what i am capable of.

And now on to my novel. I recruited 5 Beta Readers just before Christmas. I did put the pressure on them- get some feedback to me by the first week of January. Sadly I have only heard from 2 of them. Well, I heard from one of the other Beta Readers, and she had some uber-drama in her life, s.. okay. But… again, I understand, it was over Christmas and New Year, however I did ask- can you do this? So, I am a little saddened by the lack of return. But this is excited selfish writer me. They offered, voluntarily, and life can happen. So I will work with what I got.

And what I got so far is some good feedback from a reader, and some good feedback from an editor (who is trying NOT to line edit, ah ha.) I have been made aware of how the book reads, and also how there needs to be some more defined motivations and conflicts between characters.

What this has lead to is a realisation that, due to a lack of feedback, and some awesome re-write material, I wont have the full book ready for Valentine’s Day. This disappoints me, since I DECLARED a date, and as such nailed myself a time line. But, I am compromising. I don’t want to release a book and people go- yeah nice. I want a STRONG book which people will go- woah. So. I am going to release Act 1, as a free download. If I cannot deliver on my original declaration, then I will apologise and offer a free gift. And then get the rest of the book, in whole, up at a later date. I am thinking April 1st. I like funny dates.


SUnday Afternoon Writing March 20, 2011

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When my writing group was in full swing I would save Sunday afternoons for writing the weekly assignment. Not much happens on a Sunday afternoon. Perfect time to write.

So here I am, 2.30 in the afternoon, with two things to write. A short piece in my Stempunk verse, and the end of another chapter in my sci fi. The Steampunk is more exciting to me, but I know I have to finish my sci fi soon, else it will just hang around and hang around.

During the writing group this week we talked about world building. I have a world to build and things to decide, and I am not totally sure which way to go. What political system to use, a royal family? Principalities? Some sort of tribal council? I need a currency system, I need a weather system… you need to know the best trade winds to fly your sky ship in, don’t you. I even need to know how my sky ships operate. Just wind power or some sort of steam powered thruster system. And hanging beneath the big balloon, is it going to look like an actual ship? Or a different shape entirely? Do I need a pantheon of gods?

I have many ideas for the verse, but we did talk about how the ideas can drown out the story and make it just a vehicle to show off your ideas. There have been a few movies like this. Great ideas, lousy story. My friend warned me not to ‘crow bar’ the ideas in to ths tory. Let the story be, and if the ideas become relevent, use them. Else just leave them in the background.

Truth be told, I havent actually got a story for my steampunk world yet. Great ideas, but ideas do not a story make. I am sure the story will come in time. There is plenty of fodder for it.

For me, it was an interesting notion of crow barring ideas into a story. You can invest just as much time into creating a world as you do writing about it and you don’t want all that effort to go to waste. The story is what is key here. Everybody loves a good story. Not everybody likes a show off.

For some strange reason I in fact feel a little bit like world building is a luxury. It feels so indulgent just creating a world, a sandbox to play in. It isn’t the story, I am not producing a piece of writing to be read and viewed by others, it is just for myself. However I have been shown the benefits of doing his kind of work. It is done, and you don’t have to think of foundation work while trying to write the story.

For example, I am going to use sigil magic, symbols, in my world. But I have not created the symbols yet. They are going to be based on the written language, so now I am going to create a written language. I know it will be good te be able to reference this language while writing, so I can see what sigils to use, what words to use etc, without having to stop the writing flow, think about it, and fudge it over if I don’t have the firm details.

And yet, to me, to that practical part of my brain, creating a language, a written language, it thinks – why are you doing that? It wont have any use outside that novel.

As you can see, I still need to have words with my brain. It needs to let go of the practicalities of things sometimes.

working around work and zombies January 19, 2011

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There is always zombies, right?

So, my work situation has changed slightly. Losing one member of my team means we have to make up gaps in the roster, since there is no budget to hire new people, and we think we can cover the gaps easily enough. It means I now move from a regular 9-5 job, to a rotating 6 day 4 day week working on every second Saturday, and some later starts, 11 to 7 shifts, even some 1 to 9 shifts.

My first reaction was- darn. Home late, irregular hours. But, and especially with the 11-7 shifts, I have now re-worked my thinking. I have decided that I will actually start work at 9, just, this work will involve sitting in one of three cafes near my office job, with my laptop, coffee, and possibly a pastry treat.

I often find myself at the end of the day with a weary head, tired and just wanting to rest the brain. I know that I have to take a deep breath and work in the time in between to get what I want manifest. Novel written, re-written, out there… I know I need to fit it into my time out of the 9-5 job. So now, I can do it. And it will feel like real work. Dont waste the time before work, use it to feel like a real writer.

So, I have been writing on the way into work this week, all three days so far, and at lunch. Not lunch yesterday though. It’s hard to write in the staff room. They need to watch Oprah on the tv, even thought the reception is awful. But, I am slowly grinding out the words. I am either gathering my forces together for the final push, or procrastinating in my novel with far too much dialogue so I dont have to get to the end yet. Not sure which. I have spent the better part of five years with these characters. And I am quite sure I will be spending many more years with them yet, what with publishing and editing and re-writing and ‘just one more book’ to make a little bit more money off the ‘verse. *smirk*

But regardless, I am recognising that I am slowing the pace down. So as soon as the final character arrives, I’m going to run a blitz and sack the quarterback! Heh, I have been watching some NFL finals. But yeah, I plan to pick up the pace and rush to the finish, bowl over some characters. Not everyone will survive!

I also did some brainstorming on my growing idea, my steam punk world. Havent got a strong story arc yet, just idea threads, but something brewing. Came up with some magic ideas, the corner shop mage, simple home brew spells, a good practical reason why there are round goggles in my verse. I mean, steam punk, without goggles? GOSH NO! So rather than forcing that trope into my verse, it now makes sense.

So, Zombies. One of my hobbies is dream interpretation. I love dreams and I love dreaming. Some of the crazy stuff that can be born from the unconscious and some of the grand stories that grow from this place are just wonderful.

Back in April 2009 I had a dream which had zombies in it. Piles of dead bodies, and zombie children chasing me down. I did some work on the dream with some friends, and I determined that for me, the zombies represented all these ideas that I have, but was doing nothing with. They were hanging around but not alive. And zombie children? My inner child, the source of my creative? Wanting life? Wanting my braaaaaaains…..

So, strange as it may seem, zombies are a kind of writing totem for me. I have my dragon, sitting up there watching me write. I have my writing hat, with its only one bell that rings (i really need to get that second bell replaced…), and I also have my zombies.

In the past I have procrastinated in real life, done nothing, said lots of things and planned many things, but gone no where with my writing. Okay, that sounds a little bit harsher than it should. I’ve written 9 novels through Nanowrimo, many short stories through my writing group. So, I’ve done stuff. But, I know, and others know, I can do more. So, for me, to have zombies as a writing totem kind of feels justified and warranted.

Sunday night I had another zombie dream. But this time, it was a positive zombie dream. Now there’s a sentence I don’t think you’d expect to hear. A positive zombie experience..

So my dream was set in the land AFTER the zombie apocalypse. So, its the world for me. The normal existence of many ideas not given life. But in this dream, the end of the dream had a load of symbology which I found crazy at first, but exciting in reflection. The planning of a new house, by my friend who is currently working 3 jobs to earn enough money to start her dream. So to be led, by her, in my dream was inspiring. The building of a new house, in dream symbology is a new place to dwell, which is where I wish to be.

There was also the symbol of ants eating a turtle. Industrious little creatures devouring a creature that likes to hide in it’s shell. Again, not such a pretty symbol, I know. But it made me feel, energised. Like my subconscious was getting annoyed and saying COME ON! LETS DO THIS!

Who knows. Maybe just by putting the intent out there, the universe is saying – I will if you will…



The tune to write to April 28, 2010

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I think this idea started as a way to procrastinate. Music can put you in a mood. And I wanted to get in the mood to write. So what music would put me in the mood to write? Of course, I then had to listen to some songs and think – is this making me feel like I want to write?

I’ve written to music before. I have some noise canceling headphones I sometimes wear while writing. Shutting out ambient noise from the house and the big-engined cars on the quiet suburban back streets can help me focus. But then I have every little sound of breathing, of the blood pumping through my ears. So some music is good to cancel out the silence.

This led me to search for people with similar issues, and I found this website – Music to Write By. I like the idea of an anchor song, the starting music to the movie which is your book; the song that inspires you. I can hear the Rocky theme in my head, playing that and pumping myself up to write.

I can hear that, but it doesn’t really inspire me.

I like the idea of music that puts you in the mood, but this, again, would require me to go through my music collection and make multiple play lists.

Procrastination again?

I can call it preparation. I can do it now, and then the next time I have a romance scene, out comes Michael Buble, or Dean Martin. Car chase? A fast paced song such as Stop the Rock, by Apollo 440? And I just love this piece by Juno Reactor – Conga Fury (Animatrix Edit) for a fight scene.

In her article Indra also suggested Baroque music, classical stuff which wont distract the mind with lyrics. I like the idea of writing to classical music. When I Was younger I purchased a four-pack of CD’s which were Mood Music collections. Classical pieces with a mood collated onto one CD. I like that. Knowing very little about this genre of music, having someone suggest and make the play list for me was great. And, as such, Indra’s suggestion of Vivaldi influenced my retail decisions to purchase one of his albums. I have yet to write to any of his music, so I will give you an update.

Another great suggestion for music while writing is movie sound tracks. Not the collection of rocks songs, such as The Crow Soundtrack had, which is an awesome album. When I have had my heart broken, I know I am getting better when I can listen to ‘It Wont Rain All The Time’ and it doesn’t bring me to tears. And I have just added that song to my ‘sad songs’ play list.

The movie sound track albums I am speaking of are the classical scores. The Bladerunner sound track is magnificent. So too, for me, the Gladiator sound track. But, again, this is an area I am not very familiar with. I ask for suggestions from friends, and this is leading me through many strange doors. I think Hans Zimmer might be on my most wanted list for movie sound tracks.

And I then come back to the Anchor Song idea. For me, I always know that once I am writing, I enjoy it and I can keep writing. Its that first step, the hook that catches me, something which can drag me down on to the page that i need. I know i have many shiny things distracting me. So, to have an awesome song that makes me want to write?

Wouldn’t that be the proverbial pot of gold?

It is not up to a song to make me write. It is up to me to make me write. But, find a great song, write while the song is playing, who knows, I may keep writing once I hit the ‘repeat’ button.

6 weeks to form a habit, 12 weeks to show health benefits March 4, 2010

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While speaking to some people at work regarding their new exercise regime they passed on this adage, given to them from their personal coach – it takes 6 weeks to form a habit, and 12 weeks to show health benefits.

This struck a chord with me. I know from personal experience, procrastination and the want to do other things can be strong in me. So, while I may have writing to do, and there is always some creative writing I could be doing, getting started can be incredibly hard for me sometimes. Currently I have a novel to write, a short story to re-write and submit, my online writing group weekly newsletter, and some preliminary copy writing work for a website….

However, I have discovered that soon after I start writing, the free creative energy starts generating feelings of euphoria. During the month of November, while competing in Nanowrimo, the crazy creative energy is fantastic. It makes me feel great. A health benefit.

So now, I am trying to create a habit. 2 nights a week and on the weekends. Not completely successful yet. Meetings on Tuesday night, and again tonight, but I did write on Sunday.

Another thing I have found about habits, is once you get into them, others notice them as well. Again, talking about Nanowrimo, I have competed for 8 years now. As it nears November each year, now, I have friends asking me if I am ready, if I have a plot, an idea, a hope of winning. So the HABIT of doing Nanowrimo each year now has my friends aware that I may be unsocial, or a little bit scatter brained during November. I may be talking and suddenly grab my notepad and scribble something down. They also ask about word count, plot points and so forth.

Another thing which can indicate your habit is a symbol of some sorts. When a taxi’s light is off, you know they have a passenger and are not for hire. When someone has head phones on, they are listening to something and do not want to be disturbed.

I have a symbol as well, and is something I will speak of in a future post. My symbol is a purple and orange jester’s hat. It is my ‘Writing Hat’. When I am wearing it, it is a quick indicator that I am (supposed to be) writing.

At a Nanowrimo write-in, wearing my writing hat

So, to boil down my thoughts, I know the personal health benefits I get from writing. I get to be creative, I get to kick around in my own sandbox, and it makes me happy. I will endeavor, still, to create my writing habits, and *try* to stick to them, and who knows, in 12 weeks I may be a happier person.

I know The Artist’s Way is a twelve week course. I am now wondering to myself if Julia Cameron was given some similar advice from a personal trainer, of if perhaps said personal trainer has completed all 6 weeks.

Life is about being healthy and happy. If this is a simple solution- write creatively, regularly, and make a HABIT of it, then go for it I say.