Pack Your Bags (A.K.A I’m Going to Iceland!)

 

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Puffins!

 

For those of you who were following my previous post about my application for a writer’s residency in Iceland, I’m happy to announce that I was accepted!

I’m going to Iceland in June! Wooooo! Expect a lot of blogging about the awesomeness of Iceland.

P.S I apologize for the abundance of exclamation marks. I’m just a little excited.

 

Writing Residences (Or Throwing Puffins in Iceland)

 

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Laugarvatn, Iceland Source:gullikstan.is

 

Recently, I became aware of a writer’s residency available in Iceland, hosted by Gullikstan Center for Creativity.

I’m not sure if I have ever mentioned this, but I am a serious Iceland fanatic. It is a creative wonderland of interesting people and amazing wilderness. They have the highest rate of published authors per capita, publishes more books per capita and also has the Nobel prize winners per capita. They are host to some of the most amazing natural phenomena in the world. For instance, every August, the children of Vestmannaeyjar save confused Pufflings that have become landlocked in town, caring for them before taking the back to the beach and literally throwing them into the ocean, to live another day (and perhaps get eaten as a delicacy. Hey, no shade here!)

That’s not to mention Jolabokaflod or the “Christmas book flood” which is fuelled by the Icelandic tradition of giving the gift of a book and chocolate on Christmas eve and spending the night reading. Needless to say, I think I have found my people!

So when I discovered Gullikstan, I knew I had to apply. It is a perfect opportunity to combine the two things I love the most. The opportunity to just write, without the distractions of work and home. And the chance to visit the country I have longed to visit for nearly a decade.

So, how do you find a writers residency?

The easiest, most efficient way is to go to Res Artis, a directory of artistic residencies across the world. Find one you like, whether it be in your own country or on the otherside of the world.

And then you apply. Because you can never be accepted if you never give it a chance. Okay, so it’s not that easy. You are going to need a few things, depending on which residency you are applying for.

Firstly, a creative CV. I say a creative CV because it is going to be fundamentally different to you normal old CV. No mention of your work at McDonalds or your stint as a checkout chick is needed. What you’ll need is a clean, plain document that lists a little about you, your experience (ie articles you have written, books you have published, competitions you have one), your education (if you have anything relevant to your creative pursuits, like a BA in Arts or a certificate in creative fiction, whatever it may be), details of your online presence and author platform, and perhaps, if it’s relevant, space for other information.

After your CV, you are going to probably have to write an Aim of Stay. Unfortunately a single line that says “To get this goddamn manuscript finished!” isn’t going to cut it, even if at its very core, that is the reason for the residency. Maybe you need a change of perspective? Maybe you book takes place in the host country of your residency? Don’t worry, you’ll think of something.

You may need to send a sample of your work, or even submit an idea for workshops you could hold. Each residency is different, and their acceptance criteria (and the amount you’ll have to pay, or be paid, will differ).  But in the end, what do you have to lose?

Wish me luck!

Have any of you been accepted for a residency? Or perhaps been to Iceland?

 

Is It Possible To Write 20k Words in 3 Days?

If you’ve ever read my previous posts, you’ll know that I am the Goddess of Procrastination (feel free to leave me Youtube links to funny cat videos as offerings) and when I undertook NaNoWriMo this year, I knew there would be some last minute, frantic typing. But as of this morning, I am at 31K words. I need to be at 50K words in three days.

So a small social experiment. I’ll try different scenarios to help make the 50k word deadline at 12:01 Nov 1st. Productivity apps, mainlining caffeine, chocolate binging (I do this already. Whoops), working at different times of the day/night, even disconnecting the internet (SHOCK HORROR!)

I’ll let you know what works for me, and what just sends me into a sugar-fuelled no-internet rage.

The Tension of the Tenses

When you are writing, maintaining verb tense cohesiveness is important. However, understanding the different types of tense can make you, well, tense.

At the most fundamental level, there are three tenses: past tense, present tense and future tense. Each of these tenses has four sub-categories (or aspects) which better describe the tense used within the writing. These aspects are simple, perfect, progressive, perfect progressive. Confused yet?

Past Tense:

Simple Past: Simple past is used to describe an action or event that has happened in the past, sometime before writing, or reading. E.g. I went to the shop. The “went” in this statement is a verb in the past tense.

Other examples include:

Sophie ripped the letter in half.

The frog jumped to the shore.

Tom went for a run along the beach.

 

Past Perfect: Past perfect is used to describe actions that began and were completed in the past. E.g. I had gone to the shop and bought some chips.

Other examples include.

After she had read it from start to finish, Sophie ripped the letter in half.

The frog had jumped from the lilypad to the shore.

Tom had gone for a run along the beach.

Past Progressive: this tense describes actions that were ongoing actions in the past but were completed at some point before the writing of the clause. I was going to go to the shop to fulfil my chip cravings.

Other examples include:

Sophie was satisfied just tearing the letter in half without reading it.

The frog was jumping from lily pad to lily pad to reach the shore.

Tom was going running along the beach.

Past Perfect Progressive: Past perfect progressive essentially describes two actions, where an ongoing action began before or interrupted another action.  I had been going to go to the shop to buy some chips before I searched my pantry and found a packet behind the noodles.

Other examples include:

At first, Sophie was reading the letter carefully, and then she tore it in half.

The frog had been jumping from lily pad to lily pad to reach the shore before it realized it could just swim there instead.

Tom had been running along the beach before he was attacked by a golden retriever.

Present Tense

Present Simple: This tense describes an event that is happening at the time of writing or speaking. E.g. I go to the shop to buy some chips.

Some other examples include:

Sophie rips the letter in half.

The frog jumps from the lily pad to the shore.

Tom runs along the beach.

Present Perfect: This describes an action that began in the past or continues or is completed upon utterance. E.g. I have gone to the shop to buy some chips.

Other examples:

Sophie has decided to rip the letter in half.

The frog has made the jump to the shore.

Tom has run along the beach for five miles.

Present Progressive: This is somewhat similar to present simple tense. However, the present progressive tense highlights the continuing nature of the action. E.g I am going to go to the shop to buy some chips.

Other examples:

Sophie enjoys ripping the letter in half.

The frog is jumping from the lily pad to the shore.

Tom is running along the beach.

Present Perfect Progressive: This tense is used to stress the ongoing nature of a present perfect act. E.g I have been walking around the shops all afternoon, but I still haven’t bought any chips.

Other examples:

Sophie has been contemplating ripping the letter since she started reading.

The frog has been jumping from lily pad to lily pad for fifteen minutes trying to make his way to shore.

Tom has run along the beach for five miles trying to beat his personal best time.

Future Tense

Future Simple: This refers to actions that will take place after the speaking/writing. E.g. I will go to the shop and buy some chips.

Other examples:

Sophia would rip up the letter after she reads it.

The frog will jump from lily pad to lily pad to make its way to the shore.

Tom will go for a run along the beach tomorrow.

Future Perfect: This tense describes an action that will be completed sometime in the future before another action takes place. E.g I will have gone to the shop to buy chips ten times before I go on a diet.

Other examples:

Sophia reads the entire letter twice, before tearing it in half.

The frog jumps from lily pad to lily pad before it reaches the shore.

Tom will go for a run along the beach tomorrow, so he can be ready for next week’s marathon.

Future Progressive: This is used to describe ongoing or continuing actions in the future. E.g. I will be going to the shop several more times over the next month, just to buy chips.

Other examples:

Sophia will continue ripping up the letter until it creates confetti.

The frog will keep jumping around the pond until it finds its way to the shore.

Tom will be running along this stretch of beach until he can get his time under four minutes per mile.

Future Perfect Progressive: This tense indicates some ongoing action that will be completed at some point in the future. If I wasn’t served next, I will have been standing in line at the shop for forty minutes waiting for my chips.

Other examples:

Sophia will reread the letter over and over for at least an hour before she tears it in half.

The frog will have jumped on every lily pad in the pond before he finally reaches the shore several minutes later.

At the end of summer, Tom will have been running this same path along the beach for ten years.

That’s all folks. Now, I need a drink. I will need a drink. I needed a drink. Arrgghh!

Editing… Who Should You Choose?

So this week I picked up my first self-published novel and nearly died when I realised how poorly edited it was. Being able to self-publish is a game changer for the industry, however, but the quality needs to reach the same level as the traditionally published contenders. Ideally, that would mean getting professionally edited.

That being said, the sad fact is, I can’t afford goldfish food (they can eat 2 minute noodles right?) let alone the hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars to be professionally edited.

So, we need to find an alternative. ASAP. There are some impressive editing and grammar programs out there at the moment, a lot of them providing a basic service for free. So I went hunting.

What I found were four contenders, each with numerous reviews and opinions attached to each.

#1 Hemmingway: This is a simple website based editor, or if you can fork out the princely sum of $9, you can download it to your Mac or PC. This app has a great interface and picks up the basic problems with your creative writing; adverbs, passive voice, long/hard to read sentences, and grades the readability of your piece. This is really handy and simple to use

#2  ProWritingAid – This does what Hemmingway does, but delves a little deeper. The list of things that it checks for is quite extensive, and it gives you examples of why something was flagged. I’m not going to lie, the initial report is daunting to read, but once you get your head around it, it is invaluable, and in all honesty, will probably help you grow as a writer. The premium version costs $35 for a year or $120 for a lifetime. A good deal I think.

#3 Autocrit – This is another editing program, very similar to ProWritingAid, but with a few unique features. For instance, there is the “compare to fiction” that shows how your work stacks up next to successfully published novels. It finds repetitive words, pacing issues, sentences that are too long, cliches etc. The list of what it does is pretty expansive and it’s UI is quite user-friendly. It costs about $8/month for the platinum package or $12 for the professional. I’ve left out the cheapest package, as you can only enter 1000 words at a time, and I think that is just too unwieldy for fiction writing.

#4 Grammarly – Ok, so this is a little different to the ones above. Grammarly is a proofreading and grammar checking application. It has a free web-based checker, or a subscription service that lets you use it directly in your word processing application. Grammarly is by far the most expensive option here, and whilst it picks up a few errors that are missed by Microsoft Word, I don’t believe its worth the expensive price tag. However, the free version is great as a plug-in for your blog posts, chrome plug-in etc. to keep your writing tight. But as a fiction writing tool, it’s a little redundant.

So what do you use? Let me know in the comments, and I’ll check it out!

How to Kick the Ass of the ProcrastinKnight!

Oh procrastination, you temptress. We’ve all been here. In fact, some of you are here right now, scrolling through Tumblr instead of working on your manuscripts, or doing your assignments, housework, chores, getting out of your pajamas… I get it. I do. We’ve all had those flat days, where nothing inspires you, and your brain feels empty of all creative or productive thought. Maybe it’s more than a flat day, maybe it’s a flat month, or year. Or decade. If it’s been more than a decade, I’d like to induct you into the brotherhood of the Procrastinknights. You’ve earned it.

So how do we avoid procrastinating due to lack of inspiration? I have a few tricks to help avoid the pit of procrastination.

The first one is setting myself work hours. This way, if I am supposed to be working but instead I am playing on FB, I can feel that dreadful guilt that niggles in the back of my brain, that sounds oddly like my mother, which nags on and on “This is work time, you should be working, why aren’t you working, all the other writers are working, how are you ever going to finish your book if you aren’t working?”

Secondly, unless it is work related, I never go near youtube or tumblr or facebook or pinterest during work hours. YOUTUBE is the Overlord of the Procrastinknight! Once I decided to google how to knit a scarf on YouTube and woke up 3 days later, with a video of Pink Floyds Darkside of The Moon playing backwards on repeat and dancing cats flailing across my screen. It is a tempting black hole of entertainment from which you may never return. I urge you to RESIST!

So far, we’ve set the stage and placed some constraints to help productivity, but what if there is no inspiration? No muse? My response to this differs depending on what stage of writing your manuscript you are up to. Or if you are between projects.

If you are in the middle of writing your novel about aliens who dress as Kim Kardashian and walk around taking selfies in a bid to map out Earth’s defenses, but have stalled because you can’t figure out if Kim has ever been inside a library, so how would she take a selfie inside the Library Of Congress? Whilst your brain is mulling over this extremely taxing question, maybe you can write up a backstory of a character, place, or world? Perhaps it will be the alien Pleedoop, who took a selfie in front of Bergdorfs as ordered, but longs to be a scientist, studying marine biology, because when she was just growing up, she had a pet goldfish smuggled from earth in the 70′s. Maybe you could do a profile of the alien’s home world, the flora, the fauna, what landmarks that are sacred, whether they have reality television or not etc…. These activities may not make their way into your finished project, but they’ll add depth, and may get your creative juices flowing for the original project again. Maybe they’ll create a spinoff series in the end. You never know.

Maybe you could do something that doesn’t involve writing. Storyboard your story so far (if you haven’t already) on notecards, and stick it on your wall to see a physical progression of your plot line and character development. Or you could read out and record a chapter of your book at a time to get a feel for the flow of the words. Attempt to draw a picture of your main character, or plans of the house, town, country, journey or world.

If you haven’t got a project in the works, and you are looking for inspiration for your next big thing, I feel you. I do. Tumblr, Reddit, Pinterest are a wealth of writing prompts and ideas, and pictures to inspire. But if you’d like a more tangible option, you can’t beat people watching. There are some wonderful and whacky people in the world. They all tend to congregate on public transport too, so try catching a train. If you don’t feel like taking your life in your hands, try going to a local thrift shop or used bookstore and buy something cheap. An old book, that’s inscribed in the cover. A well loved jacket or a pair of shoes. Try and divine their history. Who had worn them or read their pages? Maybe something beautiful can come from it. Inspiration is all around, you just have to tackle it and beat it into submission.

What processes and tricks do you have to beat down the procrastiknight of procrastination?

Notebooks are a girl’s best friend

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I’ve lost my notes!! Again!
Have you ever gone to find your notes on a story and realised you can’t remember which notebook you’ve written them in? 

This happens to me all the time, probably because my pile of notebooks and binders looks like the picture above. Every story I’ve ever written since I was 12 has it’s beginnings, and
sometimes endings, in that pile. I have to admit, I have a small obsession with stationary, which makes matters worse. You should see my stack of blank notebooks! Notebooks Anonymous anyone? But I’ll leave that weirdness for another day. 

So I want to ask you, my happy little blog friends; how do you stay organized when you’re writing? Do you start a new notebook for every new idea, or do you just have one notebook to rule them all, and fill it’s pages before moving on to the next? Maybe you do it digital style? 

Sending Your Novel Off Into The Webisphere ( Or Unabashedly Jumping on the Bandwagon)

Today, I made a hard choice. Given the failing sales numbers of eBook retailers, I made the difficult decision to go completely through Amazon Kindle for my epublishing needs. By signing up for KDP select, my book is now available to people with a Kindle Unlimited membership, and is exclusively for sale on Kindle. I unpublished on all my other platforms, packed up shop and sold out to the big boys. I wasn’t making any sales, and two minute noodles start to taste pretty bad after the 4000th time you’ve eaten them. I was starting to get pretty down about my poor sales, and that was affecting my work, so hopefully this is a turning point.

I will endeavour to keep everyone posted on the differences in sales. I know they have started a new system where you are paid by pages read rather than downloads, and hopefully that isn’t too detrimental.

So it is time for a new chapter for my books. I’m still yet to start the last in the series, tentatively titled “Unbound” but as that sounds like an S&M erotica, I’m not sure it’ll make it to the final cut. Speaking of erotica, I’ve turned my hand at the art for some anthology submissions with Nightchaser Ink Publishing so hopefully that gets picked up. If not, I may just release my own little erotica anthology, Delta of Venus style.

I apologise profusely for the long absence.

Until next time, stay sane!

M x

The NaNoWriMo Curse

I think Nanowrimo is cursed. Now, I don’t say this idly. I have thought about it, pondered the coincidences, tried to make other connections, and I have come to the conclusion that NaNoWriMo either hates me, or fate does.

Last year, I participated in Nano for the first time. To say I was excited about the possibility of writing a novel in a month, a huge endeavour on its own, was an understatement. I had my NaNo survival kit ready two weeks beforehand. Brand new gel pens, a whimsical notebook that advised me to “Stay Calm and Write”, I’d cleaned up my computer, dusted off my keyboard, researched the best techniques to successfully complete Nano and I was ready. Then Day One rolled around, and my landlords called and told me they were selling the house. So the rest of November was filled with packing boxes, writing a few hundred words, moving boxes, writing a thousand or so words, collapsing on a pile of my clothes that I no longer had the upper body strength to put away, and then more writing. It wasn’t what I was expecting. This was like extreme Nano, maybe even NaNoWriMo boot camp. I lost that cute notebook with all my notes during the move and had to freeball it for the rest of the 50,000 words to completion. But I’m happy to say, I got it done. It was tough, but I was proud of myself at the end of the day.

So when Camp NaNoWriMo came around, I was excited to be able to sit down and do it properly. I’d given myself a slightly lower word count, joined an all australian cabin (which is awesome, by the way. Huge shout out to those guys) and got my NaNo survival kit ready *this one contained an equally whimsical notebook with hipster foxes and bears on the cover, and contained infinitely more chocolate due to Camp Nano’s relation to Easter). The first day went fine, and I breathed a sigh of relief. However, on the second day, disaster struck. My new landlords called, and you guessed it, they want to sell the house. Time to move again. So back to packing, and scribbling down words in between wrapping plates and knick knacks and house inspections. But I am 8K words into it already, so wish me luck.

Maybe I’ll have better luck in November.