Overcoming Inertia

A while ago I talked about how I was going to start doing something different to try and get my writing career off the ground. One of those things was doing more courses and networking events. Well, I’ve started, and it’s proving valuable in a number of ways.

Firstly, I feel like I’m doing something, which is hugely beneficial from a mental health point of view. In recent months I’ve felt like my writing was going nowhere. I started to wonder what was the point in writing if no-one was ever going to read what I wrote. Going out and doing something different helps me to feel like I’m championing my novels to a wider audience and that they stand a greater chance of being seen.

Secondly, I’m getting a better idea of what everyone else is writing. I thought the whole world was writing Young Adult Spec Fic novels, but in the two events I’ve been to recently it seems like memoir is by far the biggest genre for the great unpublished. That gives me hope, because it feels like the opposition numbers have been culled.

Finally, and perhaps most obviously, I’m learning stuff! I think investing in yourself is never wasted dollars, and so far both events have given me information that I didn’t have before. It is also interesting to see how quickly the publishing landscape is changing, so it is important to keep my finger on the pulse.

I haven’t got any more courses booked yet, but you can bet I’m going to be looking at the program with a lot more interest now.

Publication!

Antipodean SF is celebrating its 250th issue, which represents 21 years of publishing. This is an amazing achievement in the small press world, and is a great testament to the passion of Ion ‘Nuke’ Newcombe for speculative fiction from the Antipodes.

My very first publication was in Antipodean SF, and I remember being so excited when I got that first ever acceptance. My story required a lot more editorial work than my work these days, and I will never forget how grateful I was for Ion taking the time to work with me on this.

The story I have in this edition of the ‘zine, Ti Amo, was one of several robot stories inspired by watching too many SBS documentaries late last year. I lamented the end of relationships when I considered a future where you could custom-order a partner with the personality, appearance and disposition you wanted.

Then I remembered that people are far from perfect and rarely know what we really want. Ti Amo is my glimpse into that future.

I hope you enjoy it, but I must warn you that it is a little bit saucy – so perhaps MA 15+ readers only.

High Expectations

This week I realised that I’ve been setting my expectations a little too high. I was berating myself over it being a ‘non-writing’ week again and feeling a bit down. The thing is though, I did write. An idea for a flash fiction story came to me earlier in the week, and after thinking about it endlessly on the bus, I finally wrote it on Saturday.

And this I considered a non-writing week.

I think part of my problem is that I have so many things that I need to do each week as part of my job that I feel like I need to make similar inroads into my writing goals. The truth is, if I wasn’t getting paid to be there, I wouldn’t be as diligent in getting to work on time and dedicating my whole day to it. I’d probably end up playing too many games of FreeCell at work as well.

So, until my writing is paying the bills, I need to go a little softer on my expectations. I know some people would argue that I’m not going to get my writing to pay the bills if I don’t spend more time on it, but I worry that my mental health will suffer if I try to do two full time jobs. Not to mention my relationships, family, and cleanliness!

Enough Slush

When I started ‘seriously’ pursuing my writing career the advice from all the authors around me was that you needed to prove yourself with short story publications, then that would fast-track your novels to the top of the slush pile. I know that was a long time ago, but now that I’m about to hit my 40th short story publication I don’t think the short publications are helping at all. My stories seem to sit endlessly in the slush waiting for their turn like everyone else’s.

This was highlighted when I recently queried a novel that had been with a publisher for over 7 months. From their response it was obvious that they didn’t even know they had the story. Due to a change in staff, no-one was reading it. Even today I don’t know if they found it, and I don’t know if they are reading it now. What I do know is for the 7 months it was lost in the abyss of slush I was not sending it out to anyone else. This was the same novel a previous publisher had held onto for over a year before they ‘regretfully’ rejected it.

Obviously, these days short story publications are not the way to rise to the top of the slush pile. Awards and social media success probably count for more than publications, but I’m sure (like every other job) networking is what matters most. I guess if I am ‘serious’ about getting published I need to give this a go. It’s going to be hard to do that in Adelaide, but for my sanity alone, I need to try something else in an attempt to get out of the slush pile.

 

Acceptance!

I’ve been having a bit of a rough run with submissions recently, so I was excited to receive an acceptance for a short story that I though would never find a home. It was a bit silly, a bit rude, and a bit controversial (for me). You will be able to read that in the 250th Issue of Antipodean SF – published next month. Don’t worry, I’ll post the link when it goes up.

This week also marked the end of daylight savings, which for me translates to going to be an hour later, but waking up at exactly the same time. So, while I’ve been exhausted at work, it’s meant I’ve spent an hour in bed each morning thinking about what writing project I’m going to work on next.

There are two vying for attention; a novella that wants to become a novel, and a brand-new novel that I started working on two weeks ago. There is part of me thinking that perhaps I could work on both? They are quite different, and I seem to be able to alternate quite nicely between then when thinking about them, so why shouldn’t it be so when I write them?

The weather has cooled down, so I’m spending more of my weekends inside. I think a couple of writing projects might be just what I need.

 

Words vs Meaning

At the moment I’m working with a group of IT developers. Every morning we have a stand-up meeting where we go around and say what we did yesterday, and what we are doing today. It never ceases to amaze me how when the developers talk about what they are doing I can understand 99% of the words they use, but only about 50% of the meaning. It’s like they are using a whole other language, but a language made up of words from my language.

Sure, there are some words I don’t understand, something that sounds like nougat, stuff to do with pipelines, and a wiff, or waff, or woff (I’m still not sure what they are saying). All I need to know is that they have sprinkled their magic code-dust over the computer and it is now doing what I need it to do. But to get that answer I need to ask my own yes/no question.

Any change in job or career means a learning curve where you need to re-learn some parts of your own language. The context of the word can totally change its meaning, and part of that context can even be the people with whom you are talking.

No wonder language is constantly evolving. If these differences can arise in organisations and vocations, is it any wonder we can speak so differently across states and countries?

Time for Change

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a different result (or something very like that). I feel as if that defines my writing journey of late, and possibly that’s why I’m getting so frustrated.

I keep sending my novels out to publishers, they hang onto them for a year, and then they send me a form letter rejection. I’m still waiting for the form letter rejections for the most recent two, but I’ve been waiting 7+ months on both of them, and I’m sure that if the publishers loved them, I would have heard about it by now.

I’m not quite ready to give up totally on the traditional publication path and head down the self-publishing road (but I’m pretty close). And don’t get me wrong, it’s not snobbery about self-publishing that stops me, but rather having to teach myself the ins and outs of hiring an editor, a cover designer, marketing etc. It’s a lot of learning and I won’t do a half-hearted attempt, so I will put that off a little bit longer.

Instead I’ve decided to do the next best thing; networking. I’ve just joined clubs, courses and the SA Writers centre over the last week. If I can’t make some inroads into the publishing industry by getting to know people over then next 6 months, then I’ll self-publishing by Christmas! And if nothing else, I’m sure I’ll meet some people who can teach me about editors, designers and how to market.

I’m getting too old to do this waiting thing any longer.

 

Perspective

We are at the tail-end of daylight savings, so the mornings are starting to be pretty dark when I walk down to the bus in the morning. Besides the odd funny encounter with possums that I mistake for the neighbourhood cats, the other pleasant side is that I now get to see the whole dawn show from last stars to first heat.

The other day, as the bus crested the hill and Adelaide opened up before us, I was struck by how similar the dawn sky behind Adelaide was to the dusk sky I spent so many photos on up at Lake Argyle. I remember the wonder and amazement I felt looking at the ever-changing hues of pink on that day on the lake, and yet I nearly let this Adelaide dawn go unnoticed. It was a beautiful sky and equally as beguiling as that Lake Argyle sunset.

Sunset over Lake Argyle. I have not fiddled with the colour in this picture at all. This is what it looked like!
Sunset over Lake Argyle. I have not fiddled with the colour in this picture at all. This is what it looked like!

I think the biggest difference was I was not looking with my tourist eyes, but my work-fatigued eyes. As soon as I started appreciating the beauty of the moment I felt my spirits lighten. I then got off the bus a stop later so I could walk through the mall and appreciate the dawn light in the city; something I rarely get to see.

And just for a short while, I felt like I was on holidays.

Adelaide's famous 'Mall's balls' at dawn.
Adelaide’s famous ‘Mall’s balls’ at dawn.

Waiting

I thought I was getting better at waiting. I’m really not. I’ve got a few pieces of writing out for consideration and they have all run overtime on the deadline for responses. But all I can do is wait. That is the lot in life for an unpublished writer.

I can’t help but feel that if I was a more dedicated writer, I would just get on with the business of writing so that I wouldn’t even notice the waiting. But I do notice it. Every day. At least three times a day.

In first year Uni we did an experiment on rats either reinforcing, extinguishing or irregularly rewarding a press on a button with food. The reinforced rats just tapped away casually getting fed, the extinction rats tapped for a while, then gave up and got on with something else. The irregularly reinforced rats madly banged away at that button trying to work out what was the secret combination to get that food reward. I feel like one of those rats.

So, I guess my mission this week is to find something (besides work) to distract me from my email so I don’t keep checking to see if anything has come in yet. And I’m going to try really hard to make sure that thing is not TV.

It really is time for me to start working on a new novel.

 

The journey of a spec fic writer.