Tag Archives: writing

Knurd to Writer’s Block

writer's block

Unless you’re a hardcore Terry Pratchett fan, you are probably wondering what knurd is. Knurd, on Terry Pratchett’s Discworld, is an extreme state of sobriety, where all the pink illusions we comfort ourselves with are stripped away to leave stark, bare reality. It is described as being all the way through sobriety and out the other side. Someone who is knurd needs a couple of drinks just to be sober. Put simply, it’s the complete and absolute (not Absolut! ha!) opposite of drunk. In fact, read it backwards…

So what do I mean when I talk about the knurd to writer’s block (assuming writer’s block is a state of drunkenness).

I’m referring to someone who has so many writing ideas, and is so dedicated to the idea of their craft, they become paralysed by indecision. I think this complex is tied to perfectionism. And I am guilty as charged.

Because last week I had a serious case of writer’s knurd. 

I realised this when I I was struck by recognition that I have eight short stories and one novel, none of which are finished. I mean, they are finished in the sense they have a beginning, middle and an end. But I have never completed the editing process. Which is not to say I haven’t edited them to the end. Because I have. Many times. I just… keep editing.

It kind of goes like this:
 
Step 1 – Write story.
Step 2 – Revise story.
Step 3 – Give story to alpha and beta readers.
Step 4 – Consider feedback and revise and edit as needed.
Step 5 – repeats Step 1 – 4.

And there should be a Step 6 – Finished, but there isn’t! Why not? Two reasons:
  • I’m constantly trying to improve the work. Part of this stems from the fact I am nearly always studying my craft, learning new things, seeing old errors in the work and then wanting to correct them. The other part is just a complete inability to recognise when the work is finished i.e. no longer needs improving. 
  •  I don’t know what to do when I get polar opposite feedback from my readers, and I mean polar opposite e.g. ‘I love this’ versus ‘this is terrible’.
So I went into emotional meltdown when I realised all this, or otherwise had a knurd moment, and suddenly reality was so tangibly real I couldn’t cope. I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t see how to fix this. OK, so I’m a control freak who always knows the answer (or at least has a strategy that might lead to the answer) and this is most likely a contributing factor. 

Not knowing what else to do, I sought advice from some people I know, and what I got back helped. 

Summed up, it went like this:
  • Are you a perfectionist? Because you might have to let go of that;
  • Don’t listen to the critics and be true to yourself;
  • Don’t let someone else edit your own voice out of your work;
  • There is no way to know when a piece of work is finished; you just have to decide that it is; and
  • You are a perfectionist, I know this. Creative writing is an art, like the performing arts, and often the pursuit of perfection is encouraged but is ultimately unattainable. Recognise that.
Probably no one piece of advice I got was enough on its own, but together they all helped me to get some perspective. So I came up with some rules:
  • Disregard any feedback which is not supported by at least two readers. For better or worse, if it is a solitary opinion I will treat it as a subjective opinion until someone else agrees there is an issue. For my own sanity;
  • I will not entertain changes that don’t feel right to me. I don’t mean of the variety of ‘My writing is perfect and nothing needs to be changed’ but more the variety of ‘If I make these changes I will be changing the very nature of the piece’. Or, put another way, it would destroy my voice. Someone else might write the same story a very different way, but it doesn’t mean my way isn’t right for me, or that either way is better. Just that I am writing with my voice and not the voice of another! 
As for finishing… I’ll just need to let go of my perfectionism. That may be easier said than done, coming from the black and white legal background I do, but I will try. 

I would like to give a shout out to the people who generously gave advice last week; @sirra_girl, @JustinBog, @DionneLister, @CharityParkerso, @RachelintheOC, @amberrisme, @wxmouse, and Erin, my friend since 1994 at school. 

And a special shoutout to @LydiaAswolf for helping me to hear my voice. Because of you, I won’t be making wholesale changes to a short story I wrote.

Thank you all and apologies to anyone I might have missed.

 
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Should I Do the A to Z Blogging Challenge?

A to Z Blogging Challenge


I’ve been toying with the idea of doing the A to Z Blogging Challenge. I keep swinging from yes to no and back again. I’d like to do it, it sounds fun. But on the other side I have these reservations:
  • Am I going to have time for this? My husband is constantly telling me I over-commit and make myself too busy. Full-time work, I’m a mother, a wife, writing a novel, working on multiple short stories, promoting myself on Twitter, managing two blogs (yes one wasn’t enough for me), I’m usually doing writing workshops (four right now) and my latest project is to establish a newsletter (subscriptions are open if you’re interested). Perhaps he has a point?
  • If I do have time for this, I need 26 topics. I usually only blog once a fortnight on this blog, so that’s a year’s worth of topics. I think about that fact and it’s an immediate disincentive to do this challenge. Those topics could get me through the next 12 months!
  • To cut that down, I could post some fiction instead. I don’t usually post fiction on my blog, preferring to seek alternative markets for it (OK I haven’t done much of that yet, I’m working on it, all right…) but I could do some flash fiction for the blog.
So tell me in the comments what you think? Should I:
  1. Participate in the A to Z Blogging Challenge with 26 topics; or
  2. Participate with 13 topics and 13 pieces of fiction (or some other combination of your choice); or
  3. Just write some fiction for you to read and not participate at all; or
  4. If you insist, you can suggest ‘Other’.
This is the list of possible topics I have so far.

A – Achy Breaky Heart and the Perception of Country Music
B – Big Business, Big Bucks
C – Country goes City – Drizabones in Sydney CBD
D – Daylight Robbery – How My Electricity Company Steals My Solar Power
E – Etiquette of Critiques
F – Fidelity and Its Continuing Relevance
G – Gun Laws: Should Australia Relax Regulation?
H – ???
I – Intellectual Property Rights for Books Explained
J – ???
K- ???
L – ???
M- Music – In Defence of Country & Western
N – Names – Did You Change Yours?
O – Oh My God, Are You Really Wearing That?
P – Public Transport and Cityrail’s Campaign Against Undesirable Commuters
Q – Discuss With A Q – Reasons to Use This Comment Widget
R – Raising the Bar for Self-Pubbed Authors
S – Switching from Blogger to WordPress: Should You?
T – Triberr Etiquette
U – Unwinnable War? Ciara Vs Telecommunications Giant
V – Vexatious Blog Habits
W – Writing Workshops – Are They Valuable?
X – ???
Y – ???
Z – ???

Anyone for a dose of fantasy fiction?

























Feel free to suggest a topic you’d like me to rant about or some inspiration for a short story in the comments. Let me know which of these topics you’d most like to see!

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Fantasy Writer and Lawyer: Oxymoron or Perfectly Natural?

Fantasy Writer and Lawyer: Oxymoron or Perfectly Natural?

A significant number of people have remarked it’s an unusual combination to be both a fantasy writer and lawyer. Others, who perhaps have more first-hand experience with the field of law, think it’s perfectly natural. 

Some of you may have now jumped to the conclusion that lawyers always deal with fantasies because lawyer means liar. Believe me; I’ve heard all the clichés. I enjoy a good lawyer joke. In fact I admit to being partial to this one:
An Engineer died and went to see St. Peter.

‘I’m sorry, but I can’t let you in,’ says St. Peter.

The engineer instead goes to hell where conditions are atrocious. After a while, the engineer started to make improvements. He added an escalator, running water, and after a couple of months even air conditioning. Of course eventually God heard about the changes down below. God phoned up the devil and explained that a mistake had been made and the engineer would have to be moved up to heaven.

“No, I don’t think so,” says the devil.

“This is your last chance. Send that engineer up here or I’ll sue you!”

The devil laughed “Ha, where are you going to find a lawyer?”
But as funny as the good jokes are, the tired old misconceptions wear thin real fast. And it is a common misconception that lawyers are liars. 

I’m not going to go into the role lawyers play in the justice system except to say lawyers are officers of the court. A lawyer’s first duty is to the court, even before their duty to the client. A good lawyer doesn’t lie and a good lawyer won’t behave dishonestly in the defence of a client. I won’t say there aren’t lawyers out there who do neither of those things. The point is they’re not supposed to and there are plenty who maintain that standard. I have personally refused to act for clients who lied to me about their activities in breach of the law. Last year I tried to fire a client who wanted me to act in a way I considered unethical. Fortunately – or unfortunately – the client saw the error of his ways (after only three abortive attempts by me to fire him!).

So what is the connection between fantasy and lawyers? It’s not that lawyers are creating the fantasies, oh no. It’s the clients who come to us with their fantasies! If you were so inclined you would have endless inspiration. If nothing else, the profession leaves you with a good sense of human creativity. 

Terry Brooks – lawyer and fantasy writer
My personal favourite was not a client of mine but was described to me by a colleague. This client used what she called the ‘heart of heart’ tests. If he believed in his heart of heart that the company wasn’t doing anything wrong, then they could go ahead and do it – even if strictly speaking it was breaching some law. I expect a lot of things were OK in his hearts of hearts! I sympathise with my colleague. Keeping that client on the straight and narrow was a full-time job!

A client of mine came to me seeking an appointment to a regulator-sanctioned position. It requires the person to be of good fame and character. I won’t tell you his name, but let’s call him John Smith. When I asked him about his industry experience (in selling life insurance, no less) he proudly declared he was the number one seller. While John waxed lyrical about his achievements I privately considered how the regulator might view someone who achieved high sales at the expense of his clients. 

Shortly afterwards I saw an advertisement for an air conditioner. It said something to the effect of ‘We make the most air conditioners’. I immediately thought of my client, John. Having more of them doesn’t make your product better! The fantasy that it does I now call the ‘John Smith school of thought’. 

I have had any number of other deluded clients. Clients who think they don’t have a conflict of interest when they are remunerated by the insurer to advise the insured. Clients who think regulators give a sh*t about their high-flying but totally irrelevant qualifications. Clients who think we overcharge (ha! They should see what they charge at the big-end of town).  Clients who think it’s OK to say one thing and do another. Clients who think I can magically divine their intention or facts about their business and I should just work in isolation without ever pestering them. Clients who think I can do things by yesterday or by 5pm today when they ask at 4pm. 

I got news for them. That ain’t fact. That’s fantasy.
 
In fact, here is a list of 8 lawyers who became science fiction or fantasy writers. I even only knew of one of them! But there are others floating around, I’ve read a few ‘About the Author’ blurbs for authors who were or had been lawyers. 

So there you have it. Law and fantasy are not all that incompatible after all, although on my most trying days I certainly wish they were!


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On the Cusp of Exhaustion

Exhaustion

Yesterday I sent my manuscript ‘Deathhawk’s Betrayal’ to Writing Australia’s Unpublished Manuscript Award. I had done four sets of revisions after receiving feedback from my beta readers, and a couple before that. The latest four sets of revisions required me to edit and revise solidly from April until, well, yesterday. In case you’re wondering, yes that means I read my own 90,000 word novel (approximately 320 A4 double-spaced pages) four times in the last six months. 

Can I say I am exhausted? The last three weeks especially have been gruelling. As I mistook the closing date for October 31 instead of October 13, the last three weeks required me to edit 3000 words a day to finish in time. If I wasn’t working, I was more or less writing. On the train to work, on the train from work, and after dinner until around 11pm. Did I mention I get up at 5:45am? Oh and Sunday night I got three hours sleep due to a restless toddler. 

 As much as I love it, I do not want to look at that manuscript for at least several months. Fortunately, results are not released until the end of November. If I don’t win, I can let it sit until next year. If I do win, they are going to give me money to pay someone to mentor me. Yay! Call me pessimistic, but I don’t have any real expectations of winning. As you know, I write fantasy. Unless the competition is dedicated exclusively to speculative fiction, trying to win a competition with a piece of fantasy fiction is akin to trying to win an Oscar with something like ‘Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl’. And we all know how well that went – don’t we?

So now I am at a loose end. What am I going to do with all my time? 

As it turns out I actually have a list as long as my arm. I’ve promised about three people guest blogs. I have to catch up on my own blogs, which I had let slide for the last week. I did a new post for Somebody Has To Say It last night and of course this one today. I’m participating in Six Sentence Sunday again this week and there will probably be another post here on Flight of the Dragon early next week. 

On top of that I had committed to read and review two books. If you are one of these people, I am terribly sorry for the delay. I am on to this now. Less formally, there are two people who have asked me to provide some pointers on their own work and I also participate in two critique groups, one of which is very active.

What I’m looking forward to the most, though, is reading. I haven’t read very much at all in the last six months and I miss it! Here is my reading list as it stands at the moment:

  1. ‘The Ways of Kings: Part 2’ by Brandon Sanderson;
  2. ‘Spirit Gate’ and ‘Shadow Gate’ by Kate Elliott;
  3. ‘Medalon’ by Jennifer Fallon;
  4. ‘The Iron Tree’ by Cecelia Dart-Thornton;
  5. ‘Master of Dragons’ by Margaret Weis;
  6. ‘The Bourne Identity’ by Eric Van Lustbader;
  7. ‘The Magician’s Guild’ by Trudi Canavan;
  8. The Blade Itself’ by Joe Abercrombie;
  9. ‘A Dance With Dragons’ by George R. R. Martin;
  10. ‘The Omen Machine’ by Terry Goodkind;
  11. ‘Royal Exile’, ‘Tyrant’ and ‘Goddess’ by Fiona McIntosh;
  12. Path of Revenge’ by Russell Kirkpatrick;
  13. ‘Nascence’ by Tobias S Buckell;
  14. ‘The Assassins: Forged in Blood’ by Goran Zidar;
  15. ‘Grand Duchy’ by Kevin Edwards;
  16. ‘Witches’ by Phil Stern.
  17. ‘The Commander and the Den Asaan Rautu’ by Michelle Franklin
  18. ‘The Serpent Bride’, The Twisted Citadel’ and ‘The Infinity Gate’ by Sara Douglass;
  19. ‘Stormed Fortress’ and ‘Initiate’s Trial’ by Janny Wurts.
I am looking forward to it with child-like delight!

You can learn more about ‘Deathhawk’s Betrayal’ here and the protagonist, Astarl, here. Look out for another excerpt this Sunday in Six Sentence Sunday.