My Blog Hop – my approach to writing

Sooooo, after an extremely long and naughty hiatus (shaaadup, writing a novel) the lovely Di, who blogs here, tagged me in this blog hop.

Some of the other members of my writing group have also ‘hopped’. You can find Jessie’s post here and Marg’s here.

It looked like a fun break from the novel and I didn’t want to be a bad sport, so here goes. Continue reading

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Buster’s Plots

The GeneralThe other day I went to see the band Blue Grassy Knoll play a live accompaniment to Buster Keaton’s The General.

A silent movie isn’t the kind of thing I’d normally go to, but my dad had bought tickets ages ago and then discovered he couldn’t make it. Anyway… I wouldn’t say I was reluctant to go, but I certainly wasn’t dead keen either.

I’m normally too cowardly to do reviews, but the actual show was absolutely farking amazing – as are Blue Grassy Knoll. The production was one of the most enjoyable, vibrant things I’ve seen in ages. Do anything you can to get along if you get the chance.

But, in addition to just being fantastic, The General really made me think about plot and narrative structure.* Continue reading

A Regency (or steampunk) primer.

397px-John_Everett_Millais_The_Black_BrunswickerI’ve always loved the period from 1775-1815*. These 40 turbulent years take us from the beginning of the War of Independence, through the French Revolution and Regency Period, to the death of the First Empire in the mud at Waterloo.  I think I love it because it’s such a vivid, paradoxical time – an age of elegance and savagery, tradition and revolution, war and peace**.

When I set out to write Game Bird, I couldn’t imagine any other period that would quite do. What other period has the same mash and splendour?  The Middle Ages you say? Bah, nothing but ignorant grubby men, doing grubby ignorant things.

Anyway… the other appeal of this setting was that I had already read a bit on the period. I firmly believe that the best and most exciting and most tangible fantasy writing knows its period really well, before it starts effing with it.

So, here is a really quick list of 8 nonfiction books that I think are a great starting point for any writer who is keen to write a Regency, Napoleonic or even steampunk novel and doesn’t know where to start. Not all of them are strictly within the period – but they all will give you a tonne of inspiration and background.***

If you like this list, you can also find my world building blog here. Continue reading

Pitching your novel.

At Conflux back in April I had my first experience pitching a novel. Generally before I do anything like this, I have a bit of a snoop about the interwebs and do some research and prep. In this case, other than this really helpful article by Brittney Van Sandt and a piece on conventions by an agent Evan Gregory (so from the other side of the fence), I didn’t find much really great advice. Now having been through the meat grinder and come out alive, I thought I might jot down some notes for anyone else getting ready to pitch their own novel.

So first things first, how did I go with my pitching? I had five pitches all up. One was pretty poor (on my part), one so-so and three pretty good. That leaves me plenty of room for improvement, but it wasn’t too bad for a first crack.

Pitching

And what did I learn?* ( this is longish, so for the lazy or busy, I’ve chucked a really quick recap in at the end.) Continue reading

A very belated Conflux post.

What seems like an age ago now, I headed down to Canberra for Conflux 9. This is my very quick wrap.

For the TL:DR crowd;

1. It was awesome. If you are even marginally interested in writing SFF, sell a kid and go next year.

2. I won the short story comp. Huge cheer. Even huger sigh of relief. My family, friends and writing groups haven’t just been humouring me!

Being serious for a moment, winning this was just a fantastic feeling, especially as Reunification is the first piece of writing I’ve liked enough to send off. It’s probably the thing I am most proud of professionally (ever!).

Here is a pic of me grinning like an idiot as I get my award:

Conflux

Now for a slightly longer breakdown.

Workshops.

I went along to three workshops. Writing to sell by Patty Jansen, Polishing your Turds by Ian McHugh and Vivid, Vital Characters by Karen Miller. Luckily, Mark Webb went to all the same workshops as me. Go read his blog here. It is much better than this and I’m feeling lazy!

Personally, I found Ian’s workshop especially useful. I already use a system similar to what he described, but I was particularly impressed by how methodical and structured his approach is. His style of turd polishing is definitely something I am going to steal! If you want to see his system in action, go and read Bitter Dreams – it is the best short I’ve read in years.

I also had a little workshop on pitching with the brilliant Rowena Cory Daniels. Long story short, it isn’t hard to see why this fantastic author has been so successful.  Her ability to really tease out the heart of a novel and then sell its essence was very,very impressive. To say that this session was helpful would be the understatement of the year. The only unfortunate thing was that it was after my first four pitches! Grrrrrr.

In summary, workshops were great. Thanks to everyone one who ran one, I came out of all of them having learnt a lot. My only complaint would be that the last two were on at 08:00! That hurt.

Pitches.

I had five pitches! Despite their being bloody nerve wracking, they went pretty well AND I got a few requests for the full manuscript of Game Bird (yay). This is pretty exciting and a massive honour, but ultimately only tells me that I can talk shit, which I already knew. Now I am nervously waiting for replies.

I’ll write a detailed post on what I learnt soon, but a  few quick thoughts.

1. I’d read hundreds of blogs in prep and a lot of them kept coming back to how nasty and aggressive agents and publishers can be. In my brief experience, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Everyone I pitched to was lovely and extremely professional.

2. Five pitches was tough and having them looming over me made it a little hard to enjoy the first three days. A big thank you to the lovely Lily Mulholland, who always had a kind word as I settled in to wait for my next pitch. I’m going to work on this calm for next time;

The Few

The tribe, the crew.

Were amazing. I only knew one person going to Conflux and I was interested to see how this interloper would be received. I had nothing to worry about, everyone was incredibly friendly and very, very welcoming. I don’t have a huge circle of friends interested in SFF and it was just great to sit down and chat with people who share my passion. Very, very cool. I can’t believe how many talented people there are in the Australian scene. Amazing stuff.

Even better, I met some people who I am already looking forward to catching up with again. I suppose you can’t hope for more than that!

And then it was back to the bedlam of project budget meetings and a metric shitload of overtime. Sigh.

Alexander and the fantasy hero*.

Three separate things have teased out this half thought through blog post. They are;

  • I’ve recently read two popular (i.e. well selling) fantasy series that have left me pretty cold.

First the fantasy series. They’ll remain nameless – I’m going to be a coward and not name books I don’t like, sorry – but they were pretty similar. Both dealt with family, magical and political dramas in a vaguely medieval world. I found both quite boring. The two authors wrote well and their characters were relatively well fleshed out, but not much actually happened. Sure there were sword fights and betrayals (gasp) and encounters with monsters, but ultimately the worlds of both books felt fairly static.** A couple of times as I read each one I caught myself thinking “You own a world you can twist and bend to suit your own whim and you’ve still turned out a book more boring than plenty of history.” Continue reading