Debrief: Session One (again)

Prairie dog (ground hog) used to illustrate a post on repeating a component of a third draft novel writing course.

Includes a free snazzy writing feedback template!

In case you were wondering what happened to my promise of monthly updates with a post covering each session of my writing course, here is quick summary of events that will make it clear why this post is called Debrief: Session One (again). I experienced issues with my tutor and a little *drama with the course admin that I won’t go into here, although details have been filed away in my story ingredient pantry, on a shelf marked ‘stranger than fiction’. I continued to write in the midst of it all, editing my session one submission as best I could in lieu of a conversation with my initial tutor. The writing school responded to my complaints, assigning me a new tutor and the opportunity to start fresh from the beginning of session one. I resubmitted my revised work which included 600+ words of the opening chapter.

Although in this post I am capturing what happened with a revisit of session one, in real time I am at the start of session three. Continue reading

Debrief: Session One

Photo of an eerie house with a bunny clutching a carrot seen in the windowsill. Used to illustrate the idea of an enticing opening of a novel.
Photo by Ksenia Makagonova on Unsplash

This is the first of what will be seven updates on the seven month 3rd draft novel writing course I am currently undertaking. The course is divided into seven sessions, each requiring a submission to my tutor. Once I have digested the session feedback, I’ll be posting on course content, my novel progress and what I have garnered from my tutor’s feedback. Continue reading

Back to School

Black and white sketch of a lioness, illustrating a story of courage in returning to a work in progress

After ‘winning’  NaNoWriMo 2016 with 50,012 words, to say I burnt out would be an understatement. Today, 9 months after the grueling 1700 words per day and just a day before commencing the 3rd Draft Novel Writing Course with The Writers’ Studio is the first time I have looked over what I wrote, and much of it ain’t pretty.

Below are just a few scenes I edited in celebration of this return to my work in progress. It will be an intense 7 months, but somehow I don’t think it will be as crazy as November 2016.

Why the lion? Aside from why not, I’m a Leo, it has taken some courage to commit to this course, and this was a beauty we saw at Melbourne Zoo a few weeks ago. I may be projecting but I think there was a yearning in his expression- for the wild? for the plains of the Serengeti? for her true nature to shine? for that complete novel in the not too distant future? Continue reading

6 Lessons from NaNoWriMo

Over the course of November, I wrote 50,012 words towards my novel, pieced together as:

  • Scenes for the first 5 turning points and first step of the 6th turning point of my WIP
  • A prologue
  • Off-shoot stories about some of the cast of characters who are part of my protagonist’s journey.
bar graph showing daily word count during NaNoWriMo 2016 for 10000hoursleft, finishing at 50012 words on November 30 2016
Source: screen grab from 10000hoursleft’s NaNoWriMo account

In addition to NaNoWriMo, I completed a writing course, applied for 5 jobs, and fulfilled family, work and personal responsibilities. The writing milestones are personal highlights of the past 12 months. Funnily, when I co-wrote my first post of 2016 (on maintaining goals), I hadn’t set out on this path, conceiving these goals in the final half of the year (and working on them in the last quarter), giving me a more tangible target than my previously vague goal of progressing my WIP over the year (it is never too late to start a ‘new year resolution’!).

Here, I share lessons I learnt about myself, my writing, and the writing process. Continue reading

Public Transport

water colour Image of a tram for story set on a tram journey where a man grapples with the prison of mental illness
Image by Graham Lees

“Excuse me, hi, sorry, I don’t want to bother you, have you got a cigarette, can you? Thank you.” Timothy’s eyes were scanning the face of the smoker he’d accosted as though it had a story to tell him.

Cigarette in one hand, he squeezed his free hand into his pocket, feeling the three lighters that he always carried with him. They were the same size and had the same smooth, rounded plastic curves and then the bumpy, metallic, grooved bit that Timothy liked to rub his finger tips against. Before lighting it, he walked back and forth between the two ends of the bench at the tram stop, averting his eyes when the tall man talking on the phone and two women reading their magazines caught him studying their faces. I’m only looking for the sign, he thought, but knew they wouldn’t understand, even though they probably heard him.  Three lengths complete, it was clear now that he was to use the yellow lighter. Timothy fished out all three but stopped when he caught his reflection on the side of the tram stop shelter. Continue reading

The Magpie

Photograph by Richard Baxter
Photograph by Richard Baxter

Extract: Turning Point 2, Step 1, Sequence 3, Scene 3

The magpie had been teasing till now, flying at handle bar height and swooping back and forth in front of her. As they got to the busier part of the park, complete with a kid’s jungle gym, a barbeque and dogs catching frisbees and each other’s tails, the noise and commotion set the magpie to resume its normal tendency and fly high, away from the human and canine disturbances. Mildred kept her eyes glued to it as she peddled faster, putting her bike into gear on autopilot, knowing that there was a hill coming up, the path was that familiar to her, from the days of her pink tricycle with its flying ribbons on her handlebar. The magpie was only distinguishable now because of the red speck that was the little bag it held clasped in its beak. Its warble was no longer discernable from that of its black and white brethren and the general sound of people enjoying the sunshine in the park. With her eyes averted from the path and forgetting the elementary rule that what goes up must come down, the downhill of the path caught her by surprise, her feet madly peddling against no resistance, as her bike freewheeled, crashing into a folding card table on the edge of the path, positioned in the unfortunate spot of the first bit of flat after the descent. The table collapsed and toppled onto her, sandwiching Mildred between it and her bike which lay on it’s side, front wheel still spinning.

Continue reading

Planting the Seed of a Novel

At the end of 2010 and beginning of 2011, I had a lovely period of about 3 months in between jobs, having been made redundant from one, and not feeling urgency to start looking for the next. In that time, I enrolled in an online writing course “Unlocking Creativity” with The Writers’ Studio and immersed myself into the life of a writer, a full time writer.

Three interconnected pieces I wrote as part of that course have stuck with me,  inspiring the novel I am working on (currently on the 2nd draft of my novel, through the same writing school). The pieces were a response to a prompt to write a scene where the  character was facing the following predicaments: pressure, worst nightmare, challenge. I will from time to time post scenes and insights I’d like to share on the writing process, but to launch the new menu item on my blog,  here are those three scenes, seeds of a story that is currently in the germination stage. Incidentally, the dates indicate I didn’t have much happening on valentine’s day 2011. Continue reading

Tools of the Trade

The idea of my 30-day writing challenge is to write. Not write to well, just to write. However, as I found with my Day Two effort, I quickly lost interest when I didn’t like the path the story was taking and couldn’t think of a way out, or a way to finish it without abruptly stopping mid-sentence. My approach to the challenges thus far has been stream of consciousness writing- direct  dump from thought to keyboard, taking the prompt and going from there. In doing so, I have not used all the tools at my disposal. Over the past 4 years, I have undertaken a range of courses with the Writers’ Studio: “unlocking creativity”, “character and critique short story”, “novel and script first draft ”, and one I am currently enrolled in- “second draft novel and script”.

The first two courses in particular opened up a world of possibilities for me. I found that I was starting to enjoy the creative process and for once able to occasionally call myself a ‘writer’ in between frequent bouts of self-doubt. In  unlocking creativity , the idea was to just write, without too much structure, thought or editing – quite often just jotting down a few details for a character (name, age, relationship status) and then closing one’s eyes and trying to embody the character, his/her emotions, the setting, and building ‘bricks of detail’ to convey something using all the senses before finally putting pen to paper (and using pen and paper rather than typing was an important part of the organic unfolding of a story). By the end of unlocking creativity, the exercises included exploring a character’s weakness, the struggle they overcome when faced with a series of obstacles, and finally, the self-revelation toward the end of the story when they see themselves and their place in the world clearly for the first time. The character and critique course went further, identifying a character’s desire, fear etc. and also any conflict between one character and the next. And of course, structuring goes into a lot more depth in the first and second draft novel courses, with development of a character arc, central dramatic question, turning points etc.

For the remaining 27 days of the challenge, I will take the time to draw on the tools from unlocking creativity and character and critique to give me a little more chance of making the most of the daily writing prompts. Who knows? Perhaps one of the daily pieces could inspire a more detailed story or novel one day, which was the case for three interwoven vignettes conceived in unlocking creativity that inspired my first draft novel.

I feel I must address the elephant in the room. I mentioned being enrolled in the second draft course. Yes, currently enrolled and now on the second extension I have been given to complete what I have barely started. I have had a range of excuses for not progressing my writing beyond the first draft of a story I was once very excited about. My problem is, I am bored of the story, and I am bored of the discipline of having to spend more time working on the structure of the story while following the course material, with minimal focus on the actual writing part (I am told that is the focus of the third draft course). I can see the merits of following through with the course and gaining the feedback of my very understanding and insightful tutor, but right now what I need to do is regain a sense of fun when writing and overcome the inertia of procrastination.