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So, it’s a new year…

Hi there,

I’ve been fairly quiet as the annus horribilis of 2010 ground to an end.

But that will change in 2011. I think. Maybe.

The new year is starting brightly – I have a short story in an anthology coming out in April, I’m looking for new employment and I will finish the three novels living on my hard-drive.

This year I will write a mix of short stories and novels and get my head back into writing space.

And I plan to update the blog a bit more (at least monthly or when things perk up).

One of the key decisions I’ve made is that i have to stop think about writing as a hobby. Yes, I will be working full-time to support my family (which most writers have to do – especially when they are starting up) and yes this will mean some late nights and a dedication I haven’t shown so far.

As a hobby, writing was something I did when I wanted – not when I needed to. It was too easy to put it aside as the tumult of 2010 swamped everything.

2011 will be a year of new beginnings.

Good luck and enjoy the ride.

Damon

Reviews, I’ve had a few…

Hi there,

Like all writers, I get rejections and, occasionally, acceptances. While I continue to work on one new novel (and slice the innards out of another), I started to wonder why I do this to myself.

As John Seavey said in a review of my story Birth-Painsthe problem with writing from the perspective of something totally alien to human thought is that you wind up with something totally alien to human thought. Worth struggling through, but the very nature of it means you have to struggle.

And he was right. With the passing of history (Birth-Pains was my first published piece of short fiction – 10…ok, 15… years ago), I can take my glasses off and squint at the weaknesses of the story. It was really interesting given that one of the criticisms of the novel I am currently gutting and rearranging was that it was “too commercial”.

But isn’t that the point?

I would really like to sell this novel and become a hit NY Times best-selling superstar, But, for this particular reader, commercial equated to bad.

So looking back on the past 15 or so years, I’ve realised I want to be an author people read. Not someone worthy who they have to ‘struggle through’.

And I also reminded myself that the two terms are not mutually exclusive.

Hi there,

it’s been a busy couple of months with the end of the financial year, so I haven’t been here much. Work has been hectic as we are putting together the pilot of a new food program for marginalized and disadvantaged youth to kick off in late August which has taken a lot of extra work. Plus there was the whole end of financial year and a visit from the big boss from the US in June.

On a writing front, the value of taking a few months off the manuscript has become apparent. I went back with fresh eyes and did another edit a week ago and, suddenly, the Stairway had another set of steps. Since it was originally “finished” Stairway to Heathen has grown by about 10,000 words and undergone some significant changes.

It is onto its third prologue (the others appearing in different places throughout the novel) and some scenes have been cut to be taken up in book two – Heaven Scent. There are lots of little seeds which are planted for future novels but which hopefully don’t take away from the enjoyment should this be a one off. Most of them are asides mentioned in passing or characters who intersect with the leads who will return in more significant roles down the track.

I actually mapped out a plot line for seven books but am working on a one-three-many arc. In others words, while every book should be able to be picked up and read as a standalone novel, book one is complete with the story coming to a natural conclusion. Book three will bring another conclusion to some dangling plot threads and wider arc. Future books set in the same universe will play with some of the bigger issues as the characters grow and people become more familiar with them.

One of the strange things about editing is the loss of perspective. I now see the words but, because I have lived and tweaked them for so long, it can be difficult to tell if they are any good. Which is where beta readers come in. The trick with good beta readers is to hopefully have a variety with different talents. For example, one person I know is good at going through the novel looking for typos. Another is reading it to see if it makes sense (and hopefully to tell me whether it does the basics of a book – holds the reader’s attention and leaves them wanting more).

You don’t want too many beta readers (and VHS ones, while more numerous, don;t have the same quality). The trick like Goldilocks and porridge is find exactly the right amount.

I let you know when I do.

Cheers,
Damon

Hi there,

There are plenty of people who would disagree when I refer to editing as a pollution or disease.

But it can be. It is very easy to get so caught up in editing your work that it will never be ‘healthy enough’ to go out into the world. And, for some people, it is possible to kill a story with more and more edits that chip away at the work until there’s nothing more than the desiccated carcass of what you started with.

Sometimes this works. Sometimes it doesn’t.

As you may be able to guess, I’m editing one of my own works at the moment and am trying to work out just where to stop. I’m tweaking and pruning and rewriting and generally trying to improve the work until it shines. I’m peeling off the layers of unnecessary flesh and scrubbing the bones to (I hope) perfection.

Unfortunately, I’ve got conflicting reports as to what I need to do to make it shine. One reader thought the beginning needed a complete rewrite (or to be dropped altogether). Another thought it was great on a second reading once they realised what I was doing. Yet another reader loved it and told me not to change a word.

And all three readers are people whose opinion I respect.

I used to joke that one day I would publish a book of all the chapter ones that I had started. The works I had polished so much that they would grab the reader and dazzle them. The works for which there were no chapter twos.

Over-editing can be a noxious atmosphere surrounding a story but all stories need to be edited. Especially, if like me, the author is a two-fingered typist pecking away at the keyboard. Good editing can save a work and make it fantastic.

At the moment my story has to take its medicine in the hope that it will have a better, brighter, more lasting future. So long as I don’t become so caught up in editing that it never has a future.

Cheers,
Damon

Working life and writing

Howdy,

The next few months are going to be critical ones in my job. The non-profit I work for is looking for new corporate sponsors and is developing a range of programs to ensure its growth and future. Despite what some people want to believe, money is an essential part of working for a charity and there is never enough of it.

We are running our Winter Appeal at the moment (see the Feed the Children Australia links below on this page) and the stress of needing this to succeed bleeds into every part of my life.

This is a full-time commitment (taking up many hours a day as well as weekends). And it is something that lies dormant in my mind, leaping to the forefront at times when I should be doing something else. The need to do a good job isn’t restricted to normal working hours.

Which sounds a lot like writing. I’m doing the latest round of edits to a manuscript. Ideas and fixes will pop into my mind while I drive, shower, watch tv, eat, or any one of a thousand non-writing related activities.

The difference is that my job pays me money and my writing (at the moment) doesn’t. And even if I were to sign a novel contract today it would hardly be enough to live off. Thus, like many authors, I need to work and write.

The dilemma is that I can’t do two full jobs and have a family and not be a nervous wreck (you mean, I’m not now) so the writing suffers. It is always there but there are times when I have to summon the courage to banish it to the “I will do later” bin.

I can cross my fingers and hope that the big contract will come through – both for work and writing – but like so many people before me I have to make choices. How other writers cope with these dilemmas make for interesting reading. But at the end of the day I can only live my life, can only make the sacrifices I am prepared to make for myself and my family.

So, to any other writers out there, I offer you my heartfelt best wishes. This is a challenging obsession we have biting at our minds.

And to any charity or non-profit workers out there, I hope you find the support you ned to help other people.

And, to anyone who can, please make a donation to the Feed the Children Australia Winter Appeal or even just a normal donation through the website.

Thanks,

Damon

Hurry up and wait

Hi there,

Ask any writer, a writer’s life is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent working out how to deal with the waiting. It is unlike any other profession I know. You can submit multiple stories in many different forms to many different markets and then you wait. Hear the clicking of my fingers.

I currently have three out there and am prepping a fourth for submission.

Out of these, one has been provisionally accepted (so I can’t talk much about it  – in fact I don’t intend to talk much about where I’ve submitted unless the story is accepted and only then with the publisher’s permission) and is with readers and editors at the moment.

Two more are short stories which are under consideration. The problem is that I have no idea when I’ll hear back. The one of the anthologies is due in November and the other early 2011 so it could be a long time before I hear anything. Unless there are rewrites required (which are less likely in a short story than a novel).

The last project which is almost ready to go out is an original novel. At this stage it will have to go the via slush pile as I don’t have an agent yet (hopefully once a novel gets picked up it will open some doors at a literary agent for me. Thus when I send it off, it could snooze in the slush for many months. Meanwhile I will move on to writing the second book in the series (and possibly the third) – not knowing if the series is even a goer.

Which is how a writer deals with the waiting; they fill it up with more projects. Apart from the projects I’ve mentioned, I’ve got an idea for another short story (and a possible market) and three new novel series. Two of which have a plot breakdown and one which has about 10,000 words written.

Unlike a normal job, the uncertainty means that planning goes out of the window. Any (or all) one of the above projects could come back and mess up my carefully planned schedule writing work.

Or an entirely new opportunity may leap out from where it was lurking behind the wall waiting to bop me on the head.  As a hopeful writer waiting to break into the business, you have to be able to roll with whatever life throws at you.

Or you write blog posts. In fact, you just keep writing.

Cheers,

Damon

Where is the beginning?

Howdy,

I’m sure every writer has experienced this – where is the true beginning of a story?

I’ve just started on book two of a planned trilogy and am starting to wonder if it should be book one instead. The characters are all established, the relationships built, the villain introduced and the world crafted. Book two would be perfect joining point.

Like jumping half-way into a play or hearing the second movement of a symphony, this is where the set up starts to kick in. Not that the set-up is bad. Book one tells a distinct story, it bring my cast together and has some scenes that I really like. But now that I’m onto book two, it feels like the past.

The problem is that I will probably feel exactly the same way when I start book three. Every time I start a new story, it feels like the proper beginning.

I’m trusting the feedback from other people who like book one and who think it is story that deserves to be told (and not be relegated to background notes for other books in the series).

And, of course, if a publisher picks it up. For the moment there is no book one, book two dilemma except in my head.

Cheers,

Damon

Hi there,

When I’m not writing, I work as the Business Development officer with Feed the Children Australia (FTCA). This is both a rewarding and, at times, challenging job. Not because of the pain and suffering you see when you go to help but because many people are all too willing to close their eyes and pretend that Australia doesn’t have a problem with nutrition.

This is despite reports of up to 30% of children going to school without breakfast. And that is across the whole country. In some rural areas or in the lower socio-economic regions, the figures are truly frightening.

As a relatively new organisation within Australia (Feed the Children has been operating for more than 30 years internationally) , finding traction amongst the huge number of people trying to help society continue to function is something we have worked hard to do.  FTCA is a great believer in partnerships and working with local communities to deliver local solutions.

It is a truism that charity and community organisations are an essential part of ensuring our society functions.

One of the unforeseen consequences of the GFC is that many people are no longer prepared or able to donate money. They are willing to give time and goods but the cold, hard cash is drying up unless you are one of the big five charities.

Which is a shame because all the other community groups still need to pay the rent. Insurance companies don’t accept goods in kind and the bank wasn’t supporting a barter system last time I looked.

So this is a plea for people to help support our Winter Appeal (http://www.gofundraise.com.au/FRPView.aspx?fid=59561). This link takes you to a special page designed to track how much we have received in donations to date.

To find out more about FTCA and what we do visit our website, join us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter (see the links below). If you have great ideas on getting the message out there, please don’t hesitate to drop me a line or leave a comment. I’ll be posting about donation and fundraising ideas and opportunities here as well as my writing.

A big thank you to everyone and anyone who does support either FTCA or one of the many worthwhile community groups in Australia. I’ll try not to preach too much while I’m here.

Cheers,

Damon

Hello world!

Hi there world,

I have finally been persuaded to enter the online world of blogging.

Most of my posts will be about writing (who isn’t a hopeful writer) but there will also be the occasional rambling about my job, Doctor Who and assorted odds and ends.

Please feel free to drop by, say hello or leave a comment.

Cheers,

Damon

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