Tuesday, 27 October 2009

The myth of perfect writing.

Working from home has a lot of benefits. I really appreciate setting my own hours, the air conditioner and the nearness of a fridge and toilet. All things conspicuously missing from the previous line of employment where I had to take orders, lift heavy things and dig holes so someone else could fill them in.

But the act of creative writing is not all tea and biscuits. There is a heavy downside. I find satisfaction in finishing projects. Construction was fantastic in this respect. Clear instructions with strict deadlines for completion. Raw materials arrive on site which we turned into structures. I also liked the problem solving aspect, the hard work and job satisfaction at the end.

Therein lies the problem. There is no ‘finished’ when it comes to writing. You’ll never submit a ‘perfect’ story or article. Each day I look back on previous work and inevitably start screwing around with tenses and phrasing. More descriptions and less dialogue here. Insert a missing link between scenes. That niggling inner editor never rests.

This is why you must take a stand and make submissions at less than 100%. I think I achieve 'excellence' around 90%, and really I can’t fudge that figure upwards since continuous improvement is what writing is all about. With a trillion ways to put words together and new ones being added every day, what hope do we have of reaching that misty pinnacle of literary perfection.

Monday, 26 October 2009


Nightmares. Most people have a negative association with them, but if we dig down to the root cause of our dislike; and dispense with the psychological mumbo-jumbo; we resent them because they scare us.

Personally, I find nightmares are an underrated experience. They stimulate my imagination which is most helpful to a writer of Horror. I crave inspiration from any source, so over a period of several years I researched the subconscious, then tracked and recorded my dreams. Harvesting storylines and ideas in payment for the broken sleep and fearful awakenings being the goal of this self-experimentation.

I managed to roughly calculate the temporal origins of quite a few dreams. My brain seems to take around 3 days to mull things over before giving the bits it doesn’t understand to the subconscious. The subconscious has a quick look at these leftovers and weaves a fantastic story around them. Upon waking I quickly, (blearily), write down the feelings and sights; and, as they are not meant to be remembered, I also get a perverse pleasure from capturing them.

I read that it is rare to dream in colour. At the time I couldn’t say for sure if I ever had. I focused on this ability for a time and eventually found dull greens and browns coming through in my descriptions. Nothing vivid or outstanding unfortunately.

While I was immersed in my serial novel, Fatal Cure, you might think I’d be inundated by nightmares. I was dealing with creatures and situations that were fully intended to cause bad dreams in other people, yet I can only remember one occasion that it came back on me. That one solitary Zombie chase was nothing too special either. Just the usual irritating, frozen-legged frustration of not being able to run; the wild swing and miss that puts the soundly sleeping wife at risk. (So much for sleep’s paralysis that is supposed to protect her.)

Perhaps I used up all my fear in the telling. If that is the case I should write a story about being broke.

Friday, 23 October 2009


It's here again! NANOWRIMO! Write a complete novel in 30 days! It's sort of like celebrating getting your face punched in, but hey, maybe you'll find you like the pain, or something.

Subconsciously I think I tried to duck it this year, but the emails and questions from past competitors has made me sign up again. This time I'm not in the middle of another project so I should fly through.

Yeah, right!

The NANOWRIMO is a fantastic opportunity to break through your mind-locking fear of potential defeat. Think your prose is only possible after deep reflection and meticulous organisation? (Or perhaps a little more procrastination?). None of that matters here! We can get words on paper without a single obstruction. No grammatical considerations, no spell-checks. You will be your own judge and your conscience dictates your honesty. No-one will even see what you wrote unless you want them to. Take this journey with your like-minded friends and change your life. Just do it. Even if you only get a single page done you will have achieved something.

If you need added incentive: I finished Nano '07 while working 12-14 hours, 6 days a week. In 2008 I managed to publish a chapter a day of my (free) online novel Fatal Cure on top of the Nano output. I'm not stating this as a hero as much of my Nano output was second rate garbage. But personal goals were met, interesting material and ideas were generated, and I'd like you to share the feeling of a cleansing mental enema too.

By the way this is a bullshit free zone. I don't care about your lame-arse excuses. Do it or don't do it, but I don't want to hear why you can't. That's between you and your brain.

Find out what sort of person you really are.

'Ave a go ya mug.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

A Writer Goes On A Journey

I've entered a competition online. Check it out HERE if you're interested.

Monday, 19 October 2009

Representing OZ

My South African neighbours say I am the epitome of an Aussie! Their perception must be skewed by movies and magazines as I’m certainly not the urbane, metropolitan sophisticate the majority of our country believes itself to be.

My attitude, behaviour and mode of dress would fit a ‘typical’ Aussie male yobbo really. I wear thongs, (on my feet), stubbies and a singlet most days. I drive V8 Holden’s and prefer to drink Bundy rum and Toohey’s beer. I drink too much of both and commonly use swear words as a descriptor. I believe I am honest, friendly and hard working.

Really, I’m a product of my environment, (unique, just like everyone else). The only time I intentionally inflate my Australian-ness is when a cute Swedish tourist says G’day. Disappointingly, unlike Paul Hogan, not many of us chuck shrimps on the barbie or wrestle crocs. Prawns usually are purchased pre-cooked and scoffed cold. Crocs are best avoided.

We’ve got dickheads here too, a percentage I try to exclude myself from. Before they outnumber the good amongst us I’ll take pride of our general acceptance across the world. We still enjoy the ability to raise a friendly smile in foreign airports when they see our passport’s origin. I dread the day our Aussie heritage is met by dislike or scorn.

I’m sure many Australians would be highly embarrassed to have me as their benchmark. But with such a wide range and mixture of personalities and cultures here, any debate on the subject would be futile. Therefore I discard further opinion and accept my neighbour’s nomination.

I’ll stand up to be counted.

One True Aussie.

Friday, 9 October 2009

I just did something disgusting.

You know your oven? You know the grilling tray up top that NEVER gets taken out? Well, I took ours out.

Freaking Hell!!

The foul mess didn't get shoved back in (but the temptation was strong). Instead I stripped the oven down to its undies, chucked everything in the dishwasher, and slapped that 'pots and pans' setting hard. (This is the setting that etches our glasses so I figure it's powerful enough for the job.) I slam the dishwasher door walked away, well pleased with our civilisation's time-saving appliance.

Cycle finished. I expect to see sparkling clean shelves and a spotless tray.


OK, so it's been a while, maybe it just needs another go. Slammed the door again and made it redo its thing.

Opened door. Quickly reevaluated to reach a conclusion that the tray was not going to be cleaned in this manner. A fucking Robo-wash at an engine reconditioner's shop may not have had any luck either.

So I scrub it by hand like the OLDEN DAY PEOPLE had to, with the accompanying sloshing of hot, greasy water down my front cos the fucking thing doesn't fit in the sink properly.

At least I know it's good for another 2 years now.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Submission frustrations

I was once told, (by an editor), that: ‘You have too much invested in your submissions if you can’t stand to wait a year or more for a reply’.

Damn!?!? Well, yeah, I DO invest a lot of myself in my work. If I didn’t, what would be the point of sitting here joining words together? (And deleting most of them again.) I pondered this industry attitude where submissions are reduced to brightly coloured shapes that must fit well-worn holes.

At the end of my think I still feel a year is an excessive length of time for a publisher to sit on a manuscript.

As I understand it, a single editor glances over each new submission. He or she may not quite love your story enough to publish it as is, nor will they necessarily feel they have an obligation to follow up with the author.

I welcome myself to harsh reality.

How is a writer to succeed? Pure chance must play a huge role when you are faced with a single person’s opinion or mindset. We toss our manuscripts at the publishing world’s cyclone and hope it lands on a desk whose editor just got laid, has had a coffee and feels OK with the world.

Many publishers I submitted to were clearly overloaded. Some indicated they wouldn’t be able to respond to submissions for weeks or months. But in their search for polished gold they continue taking on more ore.

How many dusty gems sit right now in their unread slush piles?

Few publishers have a definite acknowledgment structure for submissions. It’s left to the author to judge the amount of queries to make and when to pull their submission. But you will soon run out of reputable publishers by irritating them with your needs.

Yes it was quite a hard think I had. I’m still trying to wrap my head around all the points of view here.

Eventually, feeling my enthusiasm gradually wind down at the utter lack of communication, I self-published. The instant response from the public forum was incredibly gratifying. Honest opinion, praise and criticism abound on the net.

There’s no real point to this post. I’ve tried very hard to edit out the whining. (Took a while.) I know our selfish human natures play a role on both sides of this haphazardly erected fence. I made my own gate. Some are content to wait at the door.

All I’m really after is the briefest reply from those who control the market. ‘Yes, we like it’; ‘No, it’s crap’; ‘Needs work along the following lines...’. Give me some feedback so I can edit, delete or move to my next project.