My Missing Voice

Who has two thumbs and thought writing a second novel would be a breeze?

bob kelsoHow ya doin?

Everything seemed great. I’d settled on and fallen in love with an idea, I’d roughed out a plot and character journey, I really liked my main character and I knew what world she lived in.

But I got about 2000 words in and faltered. The story wasn’t working, even though in theory it was a solid beginning and a fun introduction to the characters and time frame.

Eventually, after skipping ahead and trying (and failing) to tackle some later scenes, I realised I had the voice all wrong. My characters were great (in my very humble opinion) but the writing wasn’t matching up.

One of the problems I’ve fallen into lately is joining an author’s forum and reading every author’s blog I can get my eyeballs on. Which, for the most part, has been awesome. I’ve learned a lot and gained a lot of insight. The problem is that authors are a very strongly opinionated group – most people with a passion are. And what I’ve found in reading these masses of opinions, is that a lot of very vocal authors hate first person tense, and especially hate first person present. To the point where they said they’d refuse to read a book written in this style.

Now I could, and can, respectfully disagree. And not just because my first novel, The Edge of the Woods, is written in first person present. While I can understand a dislike of it (FPP is much more intimate and immediate, and can allow for a bit too much rambling or angst), I’ve read and enjoyed many books in the same style my entire life. My writing style naturally defaults to present tense thanks to years spent focusing on scriptwriting, and I think the first person point of view can be really effective when we want the reader to see the story unfold at the same time as the protagonist, or when the protagonist has a rich inner dialogue.

However, while I found I could take their opinions on board and not let it make me feel bad about the book I’d already written, I’d let it creep into my brain and stop me from writing where I felt comfortable in the next book.

The current novel I’m working on is a young adult comedy, set in rural Australia in the late 1980’s. I’d already decided to write in the past tense, but unwittingly influenced by these other authors opinions, I decided to challenge myself to write in third person as well. The thing was, my main character is outwardly shy with an active, funny, snarky inner life. Removing the reader from her inner world stunted the narrative. It didn’t work.

But changing it to first, suddenly the story has started to come alive. It’s much more fun, and much easier to write.

My rambling point is not that I intend to be a first person only writer (I have several stories planned in the third, as suits the story and the protagonists character’s), but that authors need to choose the best POV and tense to serve the story and the characters, and that when we come to a roadblock in our writing, don’t throw your hands up and write it off as writers block. Find the reason you’ve stalled and fix it.

And now, I need to figure out how to write a press release.

I’m thinking third person present.

 

The Edge of the Woods: Release Date!

20th of May, 2014!

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It’s finally happening, folks! After one year, five drafts and probably a couple of hundred emails with editors, proofreaders, test readers, an artist and a formatter, my debut novel is going public.

The Edge of the Woods, a 64.5k word young adult fantasy adventure about friendship, strength and courage will be available as both an eBook and paperback from Amazon on the 20th, with other ebook retailers to follow.

I can’t tell you how exciting, terrifying and weird it is to have reached this point. I’ve wanted to be a novelist for a very long time, and now to be able to call myself one for real is just… awesome. I’m very proud of my first story, and I look forward to sharing the next (and the one after that, and the one after that…) with all of you.

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I don’t know whether to drink a glass of wine, or get cracking on book #2.

Yeah, let’s go with both.

x

Note: If you’d like a chance at a free signed paperback, my Goodreads giveaway is running until May 31st.

The Edge of the Woods: Sneak Peek (Prologue, Chapters 1 – 3)

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I’m all on track for a May release! My test readers and final edits are done, and I’m down to the finishing touches: proofreading, formatting, and finalising the cover.

So to celebrate, here’s the prologue plus first three chapters of my forthcoming young adult fantasy, The Edge of the Woods.

Hope you enjoy!

Continue reading “The Edge of the Woods: Sneak Peek (Prologue, Chapters 1 – 3)”

Short Story: Sext Best Thing

Warning: some language, some body parts.

The phone sat on her pillow, playing innocent. But even through the dimming screen the text message was clear. Staring at her from inside its obnoxious little blue bubble.

‘Hey nudes?’

Her cheeks were still burning, her heart pounding embarrassingly from the shock of it.

‘Hey nudes?’

Okay, so he’d seen her naked before. Plenty of times. But this was the first time he’d asked for a record of it. Nude pictures just felt like a whole new level of intimacy. After all, wasn’t it actually just a way of saying ‘Hey, I trust you not to put my tits on the internet?’

But if he was ready to cross into this new relationship zone of trust and HD arse shots, shouldn’t he have been a little less casual about it? And maybe have been on his way to the Great War, or announcing his early onset Alzheimer’s?
Continue reading “Short Story: Sext Best Thing”

Nine to Five (sort of): My Writing Process On A Good Day

6.00 am: I wake up, think about exercising. The thought is upsetting. I go back to sleep.

9.30 am: I wake up. I feel guilty about still being in bed. The guilt is tiring. I go back to sleep.

10.30am: I wake up to my alarm and read the abusive message I’ve left for myself. I feel chastised, and slightly resentful. I stay awake, but I spend the next hour in bed checking all of my social networking sites and reading a few news articles just to spite myself.

11.30am: I drag myself out of bed and shower. In the shower I have three brilliant ideas to solve all of the problems in my novel. By the time I get out, I have forgotten two of them.

12.00pm: I eat a healthy breakfast of porridge, sultanas, a banana and juice. Or, I eat an entirely less healthy breakfast of pizza pockets. It all depends on whether or not there are pizza pockets in the house. I chill out over my meal with a book or an episode of Project Runway/America’s Next Top Model.

1.00pm: I sit down to my work space with my computer, my notes, a snack, a tea/hot chocolate and some music. I get comfy and cruise the internet, read a few more news and cracked articles (for a healthy balance), watch some youtube videos, listen to old rock music very loudly, and get myself into the working mood.

2.00pm: The music switches over to movie orchestral soundtracks, rain noises and/or Enya, the internet gets minimised, the phone gets put further than arms reach away (it’s amazing how effective laziness can be) and I open my word document. And stare at it.

3.00pm: I’m starting to hit my groove. I’ve only thought about twitter five times in the last hour. I’m remembering what I like about my story and my protagonist and I’m trying to do right by her.

3.25pm: I ask my dog for feedback. He silently judges me.

4.00pm: I’m awesome. Everything I’m writing is gold. I’m going to be the next JK Rowling for sure.

5.00pm: I’m hungry. Why is the internet so far away. Why does that paragraph that made total sense eight minutes ago suddenly seem like it was written by an eleven year old on lemonade?

6.30pm: I break for dinner. My brain hurts. I’m forgetting everything I like about my story and my protagonist and I want to set fire to my computer.

7.30pm: I feel slightly better about life. I look at the time, ponder my mortality, realise death is advancing with each second I think about how terrible I am, and I get on with it.

9.30pm: I’m well into it, working logically, and things are making sense and sounding all right. I will not try to fling myself off anything in shame today.

10.00pm: I’m working well and I could stand to keep going, but I call it a day. I’ve got a lot done and in the long run, none of it will be wasted. I feel pretty good about myself.

10.30pm: I have a shower, snuggle up in bed, plan to watch one episode of something and go to sleep so I can get up early tomorrow and exercise.

12.30am: Just one more episode of Breaking Bad.

3.30am: OH MY GOD THAT TURTLE IS WEARING DANNY TREJO’S HEAD.

4.30am: …ah, nuts.

On Writing: Fear, Rejection and the Dreaded Question

We’ve all heard some version of it. It usually happens at a party, or in a bar, or basically any social occasion where you’re forced to mingle with people you don’t really know. You find yourself in a conversation with someone new, and the dreaded question comes up: ‘So, what do you do?’

As much as I love what I do, and even though I’ve wanted to be a writer for as long as I can remember, this is my least favourite question in the world. It’s even less fun than ‘How’s your love life?’ which I used to think was a scenario Bridget Jones was being hyperbolic about. But then I turned twenty-five.

Anyway.

About fifty per cent of the time, after admitting that I’m a writer, the person in question will respond with something along the lines of ‘Oh, how fun! God, I’ve always thought about writing something. Look at what’s popular now, it seems so easy.’

And they’re not being mean, or rude (unless you tell them you write for a TV soap. Then they really can), but it is a frustrating thing, and I never know how to respond to it. Because as we all know, writing can be difficult. Writing well can be even harder. It takes time, and discipline. You can’t just bash out the first draft and leave it there, you need to edit, and edit, and rewrite, and edit.

Even though this is something we choose to do, it can be exhausting and draining to spend so much time and energy on this one idea that is so wonderful in your head but just won’t translate onto the page in a way that does it justice, this group of characters you love but who keep taking on minds of their own and making decisions you didn’t expect or plan for. You write pages and pages you throw out later, you spend hours trying to find the truth and heart in just one line of dialogue. And you do all of this knowing that for all your work, it might never be published, or read, or produced.

It’s difficult. And more than that, it’s scary.

It’s terrifying to put your heart and soul into something, and then have to show it to someone. It’s a great conundrum of writing, and not every writer experiences it. Some people have that self esteem thing, which is, frankly, just rude. But even if you do, the constant rejection that comes with being a writer can be hard to take sometimes.

If  you have an editor, they’ll constantly tell you what’s wrong with your work. And this is a good thing, because it makes your work better. But while criticism and feedback is useful, hearing nothing but what you’ve done poorly over an extended time can be disheartening. And if you have a session where it seems like everything you’ve done is being criticised, it can be downright devastating.

If you make it past the editing and complete your work, you get to be rejected by literary agent after literary agent, until (or if) you finally find one who’ll accept you and then you’ll be rejected by publisher after publisher. After this, if you’re lucky enough and your work is strong enough, you may be torn down by critics, and you’ll definitely be torn down by someone on the internet. And they’ll be meaner than anyone you’ve faced before, because until now you’ve been politely rejected by people doing their job. People on the internet don’t have that filter.

If you self-publish, the route is a little different. At first, you get to be rejected by the resounding lack of readers you’d hoped would surge on your work, and then, if you do get popular, you’ll probably get to be torn down by someone on the internet. And they will tweet it to you.

If you’re working on a screenplay or television pilot, you’ve got a whole other slew of rejection coming to you. I don’t know how playwriting, poetry or journalism works, but I’m guessing each brings its own unique rejection hell as well.

See? Scary. And that’s a best case scenario.

So why do we do it? Why do we pour everything we have into something only about two per cent of people ever really succeed at?

Because we have to. Because that idea plants itself in our minds and grows until we can’t think about anything else. Because we all remember that one (or two, or five, or ninety-seven) story that wrapped us up and carried us away somewhere special and stayed with us forever even after it set us down. Because if there’s a chance we can have that effect on just one person it will all have been worth it.

Writing is scary and it’s hard, but it’s beautiful too. And on our darkest days, when the fear wins and all we feel is useless and untalented, we need to remember that.