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Archive for June, 2010

July Writing Goals

There’s been some discussion on the Think Sideways forum about how writers need to write one million words before they come up with something publishable. I’ve seen the quote attributed on the ‘net to the great man Ray Bradbury, but having re-read Zen & the Art of Writing I think he might have been paraphrased somewhat.

I don’t believe in the million words theory. Firstly, I’ve written at least a million words in academic papers, corporate reports, letters, personal journalling and fiction. I’ll agree that doing so has given me a wide vocabulary and a pretty good understanding of structure (non-fiction especially), spelling and grammar. But I’m still a long way from writing something publishable. I also agree that the more I write fiction, the better my dialogue, description and story structure will get. But a million words? BS. One of my fellow Think Sideways students made the point that the ‘mythical million’ could be significantly reduced by reading books, taking courses and educating yourself in the craft of writing.

I prefer the approach taken by Ally Carter here (note – I picked up this link from Brittany’s excellent Hills and Corkscrews blog). Ally Carter’s way of looking at things is that the first draft is dirty water – ordinary, flat prose that you can polish in subsequent drafts.

So, on to July Writing Goals. Instead of specific writing goals, I’m going to simplify things. Minimum one thousand words a day, my choice. Letters, journalling, novel writing, prompts. I think I’m hitting close to that already, but I’ll be tracking this month and if I hit that average, I’ll increase for next month.

That said, I want to see my novel at fifty thousand words by the end of July. I’m just shy of 35,000 words now, so I didn’t reach my June target of 40k. I was doing a fair bit of novel research and mind mapping – check out Pearl Sideways for details.

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It’s been a fascinating few days for Australians and followers of Australian politics. From the first stories on Monday that K-Rud was checking his numbers to the ‘bloodless coup’ of Wednesday morning, Australians have been glued to the Internet and TV screens to watch history unfold.

It’s not just that we have our first female Prime Minister. Or that she is Welsh by birth. (Although as a naturalised Australian, and mother to a one year old girl, I’m delighted that the two highest offices of the land – Governor-General and Prime Minister – are both occupied by women).

The thing that is really grabbing the attention of my fellow Australians is the (apparently suprising) revelation that the Prime Minister of the country can be replaced without an election.

The events of this week have illuminated a remarkable ignorance of how the Australian political system works. News sites and other forums are rife with comments expressing the writer’s shock and dismay that such a thing can happen.

I have news for you, guys. Unless you live in the electoral division of Griffith, Queensland, you did not vote for Kevin Rudd. You may have voted for a local Labor candidate, but at no stage were you issued with a voting card urging you to choose between ‘Kevin Rudd’ or ‘John Howard’.

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Kevin Rudd contemplates the World Cup trophy before his career goes the same way as the Socceroos

We do not have US-style presidential elections here. Your voting options (for the House of Representatives) are limited to candidates standing for election in your electorate, who may either represent a political party or be standing as an independent candidate. When sufficient candidates of one party are elected, that party may form government. And that party may choose to change its leader at any time.

Yes, it’s unusual. And yes, given the presidential quality of the ‘Kevin 07’ campaign trail, we could be forgiven for thinking that we were electing Mr Rudd personally – but it just ain’t so.

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Back in April, I promised a follow up post on the topic of free writing software. I intended to trial Liquid Story Binder to write my novel.

Well, this isn’t the follow up post to that earlier one. Because I couldn’t get my head around LSB, and abandoned it. It seemed to have heaps of potential, but I just didn’t have the time or enthusiasm to work my head around it.

Instead, as regular readers of Pearl Sideways will know, I bought a Mac.

And the main reason I bought a Mac? Scrivener.

The whole time I was testing out the writing software, I kept reading about Scrivener. How all the PC-based software paled in comparison. How the software interface was so intuitive. And how cheap it was. So it seemed like a message from my Muse when my netbook performance took a nosedive and I decided to buy a new laptop… she wanted Scrivener, so that meant I had to buy my Muse a Mac.

It was worth it. I’ve rhapsodised about the Mac over at Pearl Sideways, so I won’t repeat myself. Instead, I’ll limit myself to five great things about Scrivener.

  1. Scene cards – Scrivener allows you to write scene cards that actually look like index cards, along with a virtual corkboard to arrange them on.
  2. Document notes – a partitioned space for each scene where you can make research notes, record ideas or questions, or whatever works for you.
  3. Ease of use – I learned to use the major Scrivener features in less than an hour, and I’ve written several short stories and thirty thousand words of my first novel using the software.
  4. Structure – the ability to structure scenes and information into chapters, sections, research, narrative.
  5. It was hard to choose number five – the statistics, the text editor, keywords functionality – but I’m going for something very simple: the ability to switch to full screen. I am easily distracted, and full screen is the only way to write for me.

I might also have mentioned the price, were it not that I bought a AUD$2,000 laptop in order to download the writing software. But I had to buy that anyway. Really, I did.

Update: In response Scrivener’s link to this post (on Facebook) – yes, it has been worth every penny 🙂

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One year on

Today is Little Pearl’s first birthday.

It’s been a quiet day for us. We already celebrated her birthday with family on the weekend, as my brother had flown in to Canberra for the weekend and it seemed like a good opportunity. So given today it’s just her and me, I’m reflecting on the previous year.

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This was the most emotional, roller-coaster, joyous year of my life. Hers too, I guess. We’ve gotten to know each other over the last twelve months, and somewhere during that time, I began to feel like a mother – her mother. I added another dimension to the way I see myself. I know it didn’t happen straight away, because my journal records that even though I had a baby, I didn’t feel like a mother yet. It must have crept up on me.

The first six months seemed so difficult in comparison to the second half of the year. We had breastfeeding problems and sleep and weight issues to contend with in addition to the rearranging of our entire lives. In the second six months, we learned to adapt.

Having a baby changed our marriage, health, home, views on work and money. Before Little Pearl arrived, my husband said to me ‘Don’t tell me things will be just as good but different.’ Now he agrees it’s the only way to describe life after baby – except for us, things are better, but different.

Little Pearl has brought such joy and laughter in to our home. A few tears, too, but much more happiness than anything else. Watching her grow, seeing her sunny disposition slowly emerge, and encouraging that sly sense of humour has been a delight. The sound of the three of us laughing together is my new favourite noise. I love to see her grin when I walk into the nursery in the morning and open the curtains. I love to listen to her mimic me yelling at the cats – ‘No! Doan!’ in her little soft voice. Watching her sway in time to Barry White or George Michael on the stereo.

When Little Pearl was born, so many people told me to treasure these moments because our children are little for such a short time. It was hard to treasure those moments at first, when we were sleep deprived and terrified of the awesome responsibility of such a small being. But slowly, I’ve come to live in the moment with my little girl. The housework can wait – I’d rather build block towers for her to smash down, or read Where does Maisy Live?
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And in return, I have a year of amazing, wonderful, joyful memories. May the next twelve months bring the same.

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My May Writing Goals went a bit adrift thanks to two severe throat infections – one for me, and one for Little Pearl. But I still managed over twenty thousand words on my novel, so I’m pretty pleased with that. But in case you were wondering where I’ve been, I’ve been huddled up in bed feeling sorry for myself.

In May I also got my first rejection letters! Not a cause for celebration normally, but it marks a milestone in my writing life. Rejection letters mean that I put my work out there, instead of hiding it away. These letters I’m wearing as a badge of honour. I also submitted a contribution to an article in Essence, the magazine of the Australian Breastfeeding Association, but I”m not sure if they’re going to use it.

At the end of the month I had a good friend come to stay with me for a week. She’s a writing gal, so it was just brilliant to share my enthusiasm and excitement about my various writing endeavours and listen to her writing plans. She did NaNo last year and came pretty close to winning, and the resulting novel sounds like it will be a cracker. It’s a shame we can’t manage to get together more often than every couple of years as it is has been a very inspiring visit!

So. On to writing goals for June:

  • One short story for the correspondence course, 800 words. I’ve got the outline, just have to write the story. It’s a fairy tale for adults. I think I have a possible market in mind once it’s finished, but I’ll need to write a longer version for that magazine. (Done)
  • One family history article, 1000 words. For submission to the Ancestral Searcher and for the correspondence course. This article is about my many times great uncle, who was captured by Moorish pirates and sold in to the slave trade to the Sultan of Morocco. He escaped after many years and wrote a book about his experiences. (Done)
  • Final assignment for the correspondence course: The final assignment is ‘free form’, so I’m going to ask if I can submit the first 1500 words of my novel for feedback rather than another short story or article. Fingers crossed.
  • Revise the two short stories I submitted to improve for another submission. Find other markets accepting ‘twist in the tail’ stories. I think I can see how the opening paragraphs could be rewritten for additional ‘oomph.’
  • Review Lessons 8 – 10, How to Think Sideways. Incorporate the lessons into my WIP. More on this on Pearl Sideways soon. (Done)
  • Maintain 750 words / day goal for novel, aiming for forty thousand words in total by end of June. I can’t believe I’ve made twenty thousand words already. At this rate, I’ll be finished by October!
  • Two letters, minimum 1000 words. (Done… but another in the works)
  • Journal pages, ten, whatever format (art journal, personal journal)
  • Four blog posts on Pearl Sideways and four on I Mother of Pearl, min 500 words. (halfway there!)

Welcome to June … and happy writing, folks.

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