What’s Next

I’m back! So, I’ve had some time now to relax and not be so relentlessly tied to my desk. I gave myself a week and a bit off and it’s been a welcome and very necessary reprieve. 

In that time, I’m happy to say I received a very good mark from Dr. Sue Woolfe on the last short story I submitted in class (I’m completing a Masters of Creative Writing at the University of Sydney). Her only comment on the piece was this: ‘Now you’re really writing. Send off for publication.’ And to hear that from a published author was quite uplifting. In fact, I somehow also managed to scrape Distinctions for my Poetry and Screenwriting classes as well, which I wasn’t expecting.

But the holiday isn’t quite over yet – nor is it really a holiday – as I’m going to spend the next week editing ‘The Other Circus’. It’s a story and a world that really excites me, and I need to stop running away from revision. I keep hoping it’ll come out right on the first go and my work only suffers for it, so rather than charge on to my next schedule, I’m going to fix it up and send it off.

However, while I’m tinkering with my finished work, I’ll also be doing this fun little project on the side. It’s a Tumblr page called Scenes From Last Night, wherein I take a moment from the previous night, and write it up. It’s short, sharp, and should keep my prose on point. I’m also hoping to get some submissions in for it so I can start to showcase other people’s moments, other scenes, other lives. 

So why don’t you give it a shot? Send something in via the Submissions Page or hell, just give it a little bit of Tumbling love 😛

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

52! Done & Dusted

Huzzah!

It’s finally here. I made it. This morning, I finished my last entry, ‘The Other Circus’, in this marathon project of 52 things in 52 weeks. It is, fittingly enough, one of the best I’ve done so far.

It’s been an utterly exhausting journey. Too many times I thought, I’m not going to be able to climb this mountain. Maybe if I hadn’t been working and studying full time, it might have been easier, but I’m not sure. Honestly, if I hadn’t changed the paramaters of the project, I probably wouldn’t have made it all.

I started out intending to write 52 short stories, the logic being that I would then have 52 entries in my portfolio at the end of the year, 52 things I could show to people and say, ‘look what I can do.’ Well, turns out my creativity, that rampant beast, doesn’t take direction quite as well as I’d like it to and somewhere along the way, it decided it wanted to write a novel and nothing else would do.

A novel based on one of the short stories I’d written, no less. It was too compelling a world, and annoyingly enough, I’ve had the same thing happen in one of my last stories. I’m very good at creating new worlds but almost always loath to leave them. It makes for flawed short stories, this abundant world-building, where too often I let the place take my focus and not the story itself, not the characters. It has led me to the realisation that short stories – at least in the vein of anything less than 5000 words – really aren’t my thing.

I am a long story writer, a novelist. If you had asked me a year ago if I thought myself a novel writer, I’d have laughed at you. Short stories are my first love, I’d have said. That’s what I do best. And I’d have been wrong. Nor am I a writer that does well within the framework of a week. I like to spend time on my stories, like to spend time in each new world, and I write slowly – these are the realisations that have come from putting myself on a regular deadline and they’re absolutely invaluable.

I know more about my own writing style, about what works and what doesn’t, than I ever have before and I’ve learned more about the craft itself in this year than all other years combined. I’ve learned that I have what it takes to actually sit down, to sit still and write, to really dedicate myself to writing. I can live this life. Even so, that comes at a cost. I didn’t go out anywhere near as much as usual this year, didn’t spend as much time with friends as I’d have liked.

My evenings and weekends were mostly filled with writing, or reading. This writing-shebang is exhausting, it takes more effort and work than I had previously imagined – and believe me, I imagined a hell of a lot – and it’s incredibly lonely on top of all that. What’s more, I’ve yet to see a pay off. Nor, I think, will for some time to come. So why the hell do I keep doing it? Honestly, I don’t have an answer. Not a satisfying one, anyway.

I do it because I must. Because I have stories to tell and stories are where I feel most at home. Not here – somewhere else. So I’m trying to make feeling at home, feeling comfortable in my own skin – a living. Launching myself into the world of spoken word poetry has shown me that much and more. Which is the other dynamic that to came to bear on this foolhardy trip – poetry. It poured out of me in an incredible six-week period where I wrote some 7-8000 words of spoken word poems.

It came at a time when I physically couldn’t bring myself to write anything else, so I had to include it in my List, in my portfolio. My creativity wouldn’t be tamed and once it had been tapped in a week, I often couldn’t do anything else. I was just too tired and had too little time. Nonetheless, I’m incredibly happy that I have such a diverse portfolio now, such a large body of work, however flawed.

In the last year, I’ve written 22 short stories, 18 chapters of a novel, 2 personal essays (well, 4 but I counted them as 2), and 10 (15, really) spoken word performance pieces. Also, two short film screenplays which I didn’t count. All of which came to about 90,000 + words. Not to mention a dozen or more little poems and fragments I never quite got round to piecing together. It’s been an absolutely incredible effort, especially considering the year before this one, I’d written maybe 3000 words in its entirety.

I have quite a long way to go and I hate that I’ve wasted so much time not-writing in previous years. If I had done this even two years ago, I think I’d have achieved many of my goals already. As it is, I’m only 23. I have time yet, I hope, to correct this mistake. I’m going to take a week off and begin again, as before, but this time, I will craft a schedule and a deadline that reflects what I’ve learned about my own process.

It will be 26 pieces in 52 weeks now. My hope is that with the extra time, the final products will be much more polished and require much less work. For now, I’m just going to enjoy this moment and reflect on the man who inspired me to get here, the wonderful, the inimitable Ray Bradbury.

I owe him everything.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Speak To Me Now

I posted this over on my personal blog but as it pertains to the Bradbury Method, and why I’ve been so lax lately, I’m re-posting it here. I’ve also decided that any significant creative work will be added to the list.

 

It’s time to talk about revelations.

It’s been an interesting few weeks. Well, few months really. I’ve been engaged in full-time study and full-time work, and full-time writing – needless to say, it’s been truly insane. And not too successful, if I’m being honest. It’s just too damn hard. Trying to write a short story every week, while working every day, and studying to boot, was stupidly ambitious.

As a consequence, every one of those elements has suffered a dip in quality. It’s also becoming increasingly difficult to go to work, period. Every day, the compulsion to write gets stronger, the conviction a little more strident, and so frustration mounts. I just can’t solve the puzzle: how do you live independently, pay rent and associated bills, while engaged in a creative outlet? I don’t know but maybe this will help. Creating low-rent creative hot spots sounds like a great idea, but it’s a ways off from being a reality.

In the meantime, I turn my eye to competitions, magazines, fellowships and grants but of course, crafting an entry of suitable quality in my current condition is proving difficult, to say the least. Still, it seems clear that getting one of those super-competitive leg-ups is essential to breaking out of this humdrum cycle. And while I hesitate to say this, I think I may have found the thing I’ve been looking for all this time.

It’s called Spoken Word, and it’s taking over my life. I’ve seen a few examples over the years and always loved them but recently, it’s really hit me. I watched a documentary called ‘Louder Than A Bomb’, a phenomenal look at young, struggling kids in disadvantaged schools who were finding their feet through poetry, through the slam poetry competition Louder Than A Bomb. The power of storytelling, of words, has always been a touchstone for me and watching this really reaffirmed that as the basis around which I’ve changed my life.

So, I watched that film as well as dozens of other spoken word videos on the net.Then, I was sitting in my Short Fiction class at USYD, going through an exercise – to scan my work over the past few weeks and circle repeated words/ideas/emotions. The concept was to get an idea of your preoccupations, the things you might not even be aware are embedded in your stories, so I started circling some words and what not. The list wasn’t all that long and I found myself sitting there mulling it over. I like to let things simply gestate, give them time to form.

A few moments later I wrote in big bold letters: I fucking hate silence.

It felt like punching a wall, like tearing a hole in a space I didn’t know existed. I’m not sure exactly how long after that it was but I found myself suddenly writing spoken word pieces. Found myself entranced with rhythm & rhyme but more than that, with being heard. This is why I write – this is why I have always written – because I grew up in a stilted environment that taught me to sit still and be silent, to not speak up, to not question, and that I was never, ever right. The subject didn’t matter, so long as I was talking to someone older; our culture demanded my silence.

So I got real, real quiet. Learned to soak up the absence of sound, learned to live in it, to lose myself in books. Books spoke to me. Books grew up with me. They showed me to speak, how to live, how to love, but always internally. I got to be so damn quiet, I was quite often forgotten. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to say “I’ve been here the whole time.” Just in my room, reading. Writing has always come from this place, this need to express what I’ve never been able to express. So you can see why spoken word, why slam poetry is so appealing – it removes the veneer of fiction, removes the filter, and puts me directly in front of the audience.

Which is fucking terrifying, frankly. I’ve never done well in those situations; I shy away from the spotlight. Correction: I used to, but no longer. I find myself writing and thinking about these poems more than just about anything else now. Reciting them, practicing, listening to all the slam and spoken artists out there. Learning a new art at this stage would seem almost foolish, especially in this economic climate. I’ve been writing stories for years, been studying literature for years – at least there, I have experience, right?

… But I’ve been quiet my whole life and it’s time to speak up.

So that’s what I’m doing. This is just the beginning.

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Back Down Again

So, here we are again.

Knocked down a few pegs.

My Masters degree has kicked into gear, work is insane, and trying to have any kind of life while doing both those things along with my own personal writing, is proving to be impossible. It is so very fucking hard.

I was saying to a friend the other day how I’d tallied up the projects in my head, the stories and novels I want to tell, and that I realised there’s some 10 years worth of writing there. Minimum. When I realised this, I was hit with a feeling akin to despair. A sinking sensation. It was like, ‘Oh, shit. This mountain is so much bigger than I realised, and I have so much less time than I thought to scale it.’

The hardest thing about working and uni and all my other practical commitments now is that I know I have the conviction and the discipline to execute my writing projects. A year ago, I didn’t. Since I started this Bradbury Method, however, that all changed. Writing every week will do that to you. I have structure and discipline now – I know that if I had nothing else to do, no other reason to wake up in the morning, that I would be able to sit down and write and write and write.

Naturally, I need to take it a page at a time. A sentence, a paragraph, a page. One by one. Looking at the big picture in any sense is always going to be a little overwhelming. I know this. It’s just getting a little harder to juggle all the balls I have in the air and I’m terrified of dropping any of them.

Nonetheless, though I am currently behind, I hope to add another chapter and a short film to my collection before this long weekend is done – thank all the gods for public holidays, for this breathing space – and that way, I should be back on track. I’ve cheated slightly by including some non-fiction work on my List, but I’ve put them all as the one entry. I did that because they totalled around 3600 words that I wrote in the span of about a week and that’s a significant portion of writing, a significant effort on my part. You can read ‘The Suburbs I Still Know’ and ‘Sing To Me Instead’. I haven’t put the other up yet.

In fact, all up, the opinion pieces and personal blogs come to around 5000 words. How I’ve found the time for them, I won’t know. To say nothing of the poems I’ve been writing and the short story fragments. If nothing else, I am still productive. No matter how hard it is, I am still going forward, and that’s gotta count for something.

I hope you can say the same.

Leave a comment

Filed under Writing

Catching Up

Every post titled ‘Falling Behind’, ought to be followed by one called ‘Catching Up.’

Thankfully, that’s exactly what I did.

I managed to write two chapters and get back to where I was… which was one week behind to begin with, haha. That’s what I call progress. I’m comfortable being one week behind, it is, I know, an easily remedied situation. Two or three is dangerous territory because the further you fall, the harder it is to get back up.

Motivation is, in a lot of respects, tied to momentum and when you have none, getting going is a monumental task.

Happily, catching up has brought me across the 20, 000 word line. An important distinction, as the last time I tried to write a novel, I never got past the 20k mark. It was a half-hearted NaNo attempt, so I don’t really count it as much, but mentally, it’s still a cursed stretch. I’m hoping it flies past. But this is the point when the novel typically starts experiencing the awkward growing pains of adolescence. Up till now, you ought to have had the relatively easy, joyous run of childhood.

This is where things get messy, and start to connect, and a larger picture forms. That said, the childhood phase of this book wasn’t exactly smooth sailing and will need extensive revision, but still, it’s only going to get harder from here. I am starting to see how it all fits together, though, and that is a particularly satisfying sensation. One of fulfilment that I think presages the feeling of finishing the actual book, telling the whole story, and if that is the case, then I really can’t wait for that moment.

The great thing about this story and the way I’ve structured it is that by moving from First Person Perspective to First Person Perspective through the principal characters, it both keeps the story fresh, and allows me to correct any oversights or missing information through the lens of a different person. And since each person sees the world in a slightly different fashion, relative to who they are and what their needs/fears/wants are, it keeps everything interesting and unique. Also chaotic.

But chaos is half the point. I need it, I want it, I have to have it.

Any world with magic ought to be inherently chaotic, I think.

Executing that vision, however, through the very ordered and precise method of language and story, is altogether paradoxical and problematic. After all, fiction needs to make sense, and so some of that chaos I desire is, by necessity, ironed out. Here’s hoping I can toe the line and create something cohesive, entertaining, and all-round insane.

Leave a comment

Filed under Writing

Falling Behind

Goddamn.

It’s been a month since my last post, which, in itself is a bad sign. Proof of just how busy and harried I’ve been. Also forgetful. Just organising my Masters enrolment and schedule while working full-time, and writing on the side, and trying to maintain some kind of social presence, has been taxing beyond belief.

I shudder to think of how much worse it will get next week when semester actually begins. So, since it’s nearly midnight and I’m exhausted, I’ll make this update a quick one: I’ve continued writing my novel, mostly, even though the makeup of the beast keeps changing in my mind and problems continue to develop. I leave notes for myself, and continue on with the current draft because I am determined, beyond anything else, to finish it. But it’s getting harder and harder to ignore.

Everything was going smoothly until around a week or so ago, when I decided to do away with the chapter-a-week routine which was working so well, and write a new short story. Initially, I was stoked. It was a refreshing change of pace and the story was flowing – I’d forgotten just how much joy and excitement there was in crafting a new world every week, a new slice of finished, composed literature. 

Then, of course, it kept going. And going. And going. The week came and left without a finished piece for the first time in three or so months. I’d written over 3000 words, so it was a productive week, and yet, it wasn’t. Dogged, I pressed on and as of today, have nearly 4000 words but there’s an easy 1500 left and rushing is damaging the overall product, so I made the difficult decision to shelve it. 

I can write it piecemeal, and string it out over the next two weeks, between my usual chapter-sized outputs. Granted, those chapters are fairly short, but that’s standard practice for YA novels and urban fantasy in general, I’ve found. One thing writing this short story has alerted me to is the danger of getting stuck into a writing-count trap. I’d been setting aside a day – Saturday – to sit down and write a roughly 1500 word chapter every week. Now, writing 1500 in one sitting is taxing in and of itself, but I’ve found my output coming to a stop around that mark without any conscious thought or effort on my part.

Whereas this short story has forced me to write a couple hundred words every day, and the result was over double my normal rate in a similar period of time. So, to recap: in moving away from one routine, I totally screwed a different routine, which proved to me both the dangers and benefits of having routines in the first place, leaving me exactly nowhere.

*sigh* Now, I’m two weeks behind, all told. I’ve started a new chapter of the book, and I hope to have it, and one other, done in the next three days. Which probably isn’t feasible but to hell with it. I have to keep pushing forward.

This really is going to be one hell of a ridiculous year…

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Seven Months In

28 short stories and chapters.

Seven months, and around 60, 000 words in that time.

I have chapters 9 & 10 done now, and I think the next piece will be a short story which will be a welcome distraction. I’ve almost forgotten what it’s like to craft a new piece, a new world, every week and I certainly do miss it. Writing a novel is different in that each week is an addition to the same world, another piece to the same puzzle.

I also began work on a graphic memoir a week or two back, which I really want to develop. It’ll be about my grandmother, and her recent passing. It’s deeply personal but I think  there’ll be a lot to it that will resonate with many – the art will be absolutely integral, and it’ll be a struggle to find someone capable of the job but I’ll cross that bridge when I have to.

Finding the time to do all of this while working full time has been incredibly difficult. And it’s only going to get harder, now that I’ve been accepted into a Master of Creative Writing at the University of Sydney. But I have to look at anything that encourages me to write as a good thing, and I’m excited about the opportunity to network and perfect my craft in a critical environment.

That’s all for now.

Still writing, still happy. 🙂

Leave a comment

Filed under Writing