Monday, November 21, 2011

Summer Writing

With summer officially due to start in a couple of weeks, though you'd never guess it looking out my window in Auckland right now, now's a good time to be thinking of the writing tasks you can get done while on holiday. Christmas is a time for family and friends, for appreciating existing relationships and building new ones. It's definitely time for the beach, where I aim to spend a considerable amount of time. But January is also a good quiet time to catch up on writing tasks.

Things such as:

* take that unfinished short story out of the drawer and do an edit or rewrite. A good way to approach this is to set yourself some clear time and space and read it through in one hit - without a pen in your hand, or your fingers on delete keys. Get a feel for it as a complete entity. Ebb and flow, consistency (or not) of voice, development of character, a plot to keep the events moving in directions that add momentum to the previous scenes. Then go through it again with an eye to editing it. First read through is with you positioned as the audience, then the second is you as the crafts-person of the story. You need to be able to get a feel for both roles. Remember you're a reader as well as a writer.

* begin to take some of those story ideas you've jotted down this year and get a couple of scenes written, complete with characters, setting, voice, dialogue. So they go from abstract ideas to pieces you can see/hear/feel in the 'world.' You can't think a story into existence - you have to write it. A good story is organic, grows from its own seeds and roots.

* Contact a few people from your circle of writers and readers and discuss setting up a writer's critique group - or reinvigorate a group that has lapsed. Use some of the lessons we have here on Free Writing Tips page to re-familiarize yourself as to the technical points to look at. (Voice, Point of View, Characterisation, Plot, Structure,Dialogue etc.) It's too easy for writers to get isolated - don't let it happen to you.

* Think of a familiar story that you like and re-imagine it. Change or invent a new context, subvert some of the characters (hero becomes villain, bit-part player becomes main character etc.) Change the tone (comedy to serious or vice versa, serious to satire) Take a narrative from another context (a song, a painting, a poem) and re-imagine it as a story, or take a story and re-imagine it in another form. Do a genre switch (Western to Science Fiction or Fantasy - as George Lucas did when creating the original Star Wars.) These are valuable not just as idea generators but as practice to remember to get away from the familiar, from plots and characters you may create over and over (sometimes without knowing it.)

* Start drawing up a list of your writing goals for next year. Competitions to enter - and their closing dates. Subjects to study, books to read (as a writer, to benefit your craft.) Dates you aim to have your stories (or drafts thereof) completed by. Extra competencies you want to develop (guest blogging, a basic knowledge of marketing, how to make productive use of social media.) Think of what you want to have learned a year from now, what you want to have progressed and/or completed.

But don't forget to get to the beach, or to the mountains, depending on where you are and what floats your boat...

Smart Words

In Jocelyn's interview on TV3 News regarding e-book author Ollie Hille, she reinforces a couple of the many points a Self/Indie published author needs to appreciate.

1) Begin to build your readership while you're writing your book. Don't wait until it's ready. Hone and use your developing writing skills not just to produce your final text but as tools to get your name circulated, to build your credibility.

2) Always treat your work as a professional endeavour. (e.g: in terms of editing, layout, structure, design and production.) If you want people to pay for it, then it needs to be a professionally produced package. Think of all the steps as necessary facets of the professional process - not obstacles.

We cover these issues and the many other elements of self-publishing in The Story Bridge Blogging and Self-Publishing workshops.

AUT Creative Writing Competition

The annual Auckland University of Technology Creative Writing Competition is on now. It is open to authors who have not been previously published. Closing date is 31st January, so it'd fit in well as a summer writing task.


There are three categories with the prize of an I-Pad (e-book reader et al) for each category.

Here is a link to the AUT page with entry information.

Jocelyn Watkin interviewed by TV 3 News

A Christchurch author, Oli Hille, has become an e-book best seller within 6 days of launching his book. He is an "Indie Publisher" (Independent, sometimes referred to as a self-publisher). He was interviewed by TV 3 News last week. 

Reporter Tony Field, from TV 3 News, contacted The Story Bridge team as the industry experts to provide comment and insights on how others can also embrace the exciting new world of Indie Publishing.

Click here for the whole interview including Oli and also Jocelyn Watkin from The Story Bridge (Note: you'll have to put up with a short advertising clip (by TV 3) before the interview starts.