Strange Little Giveaway – a few more days

2016-08-06 09.23.30

Just a few days left to enter the Goodreads giveaway for a copy of Strange Little Girls!

(I ordered my tickets for the Aurealis Awards yesterday… *Crosses fingers*)

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Strange Little Girls by Camilla Bruce

Strange Little Girls

by Camilla Bruce

Giveaway ends April 05, 2017.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

 

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Achievement unlocked: Aurealis Award nomination

HAPPY MONDAY!

No, I’m serious.

The short lists for the 2016 Aurealis Awards went up today and OMG I’M ON IT!!!

My creepy, nasty, strange little story Pretty Jennie Greenteeth from Belladonna Publishing’s Strange Little Girls has been nominated in the YA category!

And because these things are always better shared, I’ve got so many good friends on the short list with me, I’m hard put to count them all. So particular congrats to Shauna O’Meara, Dave Versace, Ian McHugh, Elizabeth Fitzgerald, Kaaron Warren, Tim Napper, Tehani Wessely, Thoraiya Dyer, Simon Petrie, Angela Slatter, Alan Baxter, Sam Murray and Lisa Hannett – and everyone else on the list!

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Hellooo 2017

Well, what a year that’s been.

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Serenity and rose quartz clouds at sunset, Canberra, 30 December 2016

Being a very visual person, a fun thing I’ve liked to do since I discovered it a few years ago is checkout Pantone’s colour of the year. Interestingly, for 2016, for the first time ever, they announced TWO colours for the year: Serenity and Rose Quartz. (Side note: naming paint colours is a job I’ve always coveted.) This colour pairing was supposed to express something about the need for harmony in chaos. And it was very pretty in a sort of a kittens and candy-floss kind of way.

The irony, of course, is that on many levels 2016 was not a kittens-and-candy-floss kind of year and I’m not sure that as a global society we really embraced that whole harmony thing. But, in the spirit of aspiring to Serenity and viewing the world through Rose Quartz-tinted glasses, here is my writing achievements round up for 2016.

Just like 2015, I elected to focus on novel projects. I find that what with working a day job and spending time with my lovable and hilarious family, I have to be a bit strategic about how I spend my writing time. So I didn’t do much on the short story front. Here’s what I did do:

  • Wrote two new short stories (and started another, um, eight or so and had ideas for a few more…)
  • Sold 2! (One old, one new.) Both to markets I’m very happy with.
  • Had 2 published (Pretty Jennie Greenteeth in Strange Little Girls, and Breathing in Aurealis #95)
  • Got Novel Project #4 to just over 107,000 words. I wanted to finish it and didn’t, which is annoying, but I’m almost there. Early feedback on the first chunk has been really encouraging, and I’m reasonably confident of wrapping up the first draft soon.
  • Had some exciting things happen in relation to Novel Project #1, which are still a bit secret. But I’m looking forward to talking more about those in 2017.
  • Got into the 2016 ACT Writers Centre HARDCOPY professional development program, which was affirming and valuable and through which I’ve met a bunch more talented and extraordinarily lovely writers.
  • Was part of the team for Conflux 12 & pulled off a wonderful con.
  • Was appointed to the creative production team for the Noted writers festival for 2017!

So what’s on the to do list for 2017?

  • Finish the damn first draft of NP#4 and get it out to my very patient beta readers.
  • Probably do a bit more work on NP#1
  • Have a little rest from novel projects and write/finish/polish up/send out some short stories
  • Give in to the lure of the long-form story and start planning out NPs #3 and 5
  • Get my bloody passport in order and get myself to  Europe for a bit of research.

And what’s the colour for 2017?

pantone-coy-2017-15-0343-chipA “tangy yellow-green” called Greenery. The comment from Pantone is all about vitality and the desire to rejuvenate.

 

Greenery bursts forth in 2017 to provide us with the hope we collectively yearn for amid a complex social and political landscape. Satisfying our growing desire to rejuvenate, revitalize and unite, Greenery symbolizes the reconnection we seek with nature, one another and a larger purpose.

Leatrice Eiseman, Executive Director of the Pantone Color Institute

I’m a big fan of green and, you know, nature stuff. But the cynical part of me can think of a few other associations for green in today’s “complex social and political landscape”, which are less kittens-and-candy-floss and more poisoned apple. Which is to say, I actually think green is a very fitting choice for 2017.

Wouldn’t it be lovely if 2017 did turn out to be all about rejuvenation and new growth and a renewed focus on environmental sustainability? And shared prosperity is actually pretty good too, so let’s have some of that.

Here’s to 2017. I hope all your good dreams come true, and we kill off a few of the nightmares.

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Some kind of milestone

I just hit 100,000 words on the current WIP tonight. Still got a bit to go, but that’s some kind of milestone, right?

Here’s a snippet of tonight’s inspiration:

The Sick Rose

By William Blake

O Rose thou art sick.

The invisible worm,
That flies in the night
In the howling storm:
Has found out thy bed
Of crimson joy:
And his dark secret love
Does thy life destroy.
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Eriovixia Gryffindori

Here’s a new castle-in-the-air goal. Have a newly discovered species named after a character in one of my stories.

Meet Eriovixia Gryffindori, the spider named after the Hogwarts Sorting Hat.

 Eriovixia gryffindori spider has a pronounced abdomen, resembling the shape of the sorting hat from Harry Potter.

Discovered by Harry Potter geeks (and, as it happens, research scientists) in Western Ghat, a mountain range in south-west India. On a slightly more disturbing note, apparently they’re hanging out to find a species they can name after Aragog. O_o

Glimmers of sun in the pouring rain

aurealis-95In a week that has spelled disappointment, grief and gloom for many of us, I’ve had a few small, personal glimmers of sunlight. Here’s one. A lovely review of my story Breathing, out in the recent Aurealis #95, from Kat Day over at Tangent online. She’s given it a “highly recommended” (squee!) Achievement unlocked.

A lovely piece of work, very thought-provoking and actually rather moving.

And here’s some Leonard Cohen for you. Because even though he’s gone now, that’s one life that is definitely worth celebrating.

Running writing

running writing

I am not a sporty person. Never was, never will be. I will not bore you with the humiliations galore I suffered through in PE as a kid. Suffice to say that all the leisure activities I have really enjoyed throughout my life have involved cosiness and curling up somewhere with a cup of tea. However, I recognise that exercise plays an important part in keeping our bodies healthy, so I do make an effort. I ride my bike to my day job most days and in the last year or so, I’ve taken up running. Again, I’m not going to bore you with the details of this. But, for some reason, I’ve found that my attempts at improving my fitness through moderately energetic exercise have had a positive impact on my writing – both my creativity and the way I think about the challenges it poses me.

Getting the creative juices flowing

It is a very tried and tested piece of writing advice: if the Muse is stubbornly avoiding you, get away from your keyboard/notepad/dictaphone/etc. Get out of the house and get moving. Walk or run, either works. I often have great ideas or come up with great solutions to tricky plot problems while I’m running. It’s weird, coz it doesn’t happen so often when I’m on my bike. Perhaps because when I’m on my bike I’m either going to or coming from work, so my brain might be more focussed on work issues. But I run in my spare time, when my brain is almost exclusively consumed with writing stuff; maybe that’s why. But it works for me.

Oh the epiphanies I have experienced.

Never when I have a pen.

This stuff ain’t meant to be easy

A thing running has taught me is that it doesn’t get easy. Which is not to say it doesn’t get easier. But easy? Nope. It’s always hard to drag myself off the couch, to get out there into the winter chill, or the summer heat, or the still-dark, early morning streets. Guess what else doesn’t get easy? Setting aside the time and dragging my arse to the chair in the study to do the story work and pound out the wordage. In both cases I have to battle that sense of exhaustion that comes even before you start – just from contemplating the task ahead. In both cases, though, if I push myself, if I make the effort, I always find I can do the thing.

The importance of stretch goals

This is a really interesting thing running has taught me: Set stretch goals. Then (this is the important bit), don’t just sit there looking at them; give them a go.

Because I’m so unathletic, when I decided to try to get into running, I decided to get into it gradually, alternating intervals of running and walking. Going from running in 90 second stretches to a whole 3 minutes was pretty daunting. Then going from 3 minutes to 5 minutes to 8 minutes… Every time I level up, I always wonder if I can actually do it. But every time I actually can, and every time it feels awesome to have challenged myself and found myself up to it.

And I’ve found this applies to writing goals.

There’s something to be said for applying for something like a residency or a competitive grant or a selection-based professional development course even if you’re not sure you’re ready, because if you get in, someone else clearly thought you were. If you only ever apply for this sort of thing when you know you’re good and ready, you’re not pushing yourself. You might be moving forward one step at a time (and setting one-step-at-a-time goals is also very important), but you’re denying yourself the exhilaration and gratification of taking a flying leap forwards. That sense of achievement you get when you’ve really challenged yourself and risen to it. (Note: when I say “you”, feel free to imagine me giving a stern pep talk to myself.)

Measuring your progress

One thing I learned after I had my first story accepted for publication back in 2011 was that I had just stepped onto the bottom rung of a ladder that just goes up and up and up and up. Every time you climb to the next rung, you look up hoping to see the top, or at least hoping you’ve reached the point where you can poke your head through the thick layer of cloud obscuring your vision of the top. It’s hard to feel like you’re getting anywhere when there always seems to be so far to go.

With my running, I find I’m much less about “Will I ever run a marathon?” (perhaps because I can answer that question straight off: No. Zero interest.) My fantasy goal is more about being able to run for a whole half an hour without stopping for walking breaks, and being able to do it every day without feeling like I’ve broken something. But I also find myself able to stop and look back down the ladder at what I’ve achieved so far. A few months ago I thought running for a whole 3 minutes was a challenge. A few weeks ago I ran for 20 minutes without stopping for a break – probably for the first time since I finished high school.

So there’s my last lesson. Stop and look back down the ladder. Admire the view from where you’re at. Bask in the sunshine of your successes.

Here’s a picture of duckies enjoying running. You’re welcome.

duckies running

 

On wordcounts

The Wordcount is a capricious beast. It is simultaneously the carrot and the stick. The milestone by which you mark what you’ve achieved, and the one that tells you just how far you have to go.

My current novel WIP is sitting on about 65,000 words. I envision it will come in around 90-100,000 words. Which means I’m about 2/3 of the way there. But, hoboy, those last 5000 words have been a slog. I don’t quite know why. I’ve got the key plot stuff all planned out, but I’m having trouble moving between plot points. Generally this means I’ve got to go back and do a bit more work on shoring up the foundations of my story, but that’s a whole other blog post.

A piece of tried and true writing advice is that if you commit to writing a certain amount of words a day (or a week, whatever), it will only be a matter of time before you’ve completed your 80,000/90,000/120,000 word novel. And that’s true…to an extent. It’s not quite the whole picture, though. You can write 90,000 words in three months, but if by then your protagonist hasn’t yet found the magic widget, vanquished the evil nemesis and saved the cat, you’re not finished. You might have another 10,000 words to go. Or another 50,000.

If you’re a good planner – or, perhaps I should say, if your writing practice revolves around planning your work – wordcounts are probably a really good yardstick by which to measure how you’re meeting your writing goals. You probably know you want to write a 90,000 word story and you know X will happen by 30K, Y by 45K, and Z will happen in the last 5K. Great.

But I’m more of a pantser. I feel like this will be a 90,000 word story. I’ve got my plot bones set out, but I don’t do detailed planning around how I’ll get from A to B to C. I’ve already had to revise my chapter plan about 4 times, because the stuff I thought would happen in chapter 7 won’t happen now until chapter 10. It’s all good. That’s what first drafts are for – working all this stuff out. The thing is, though, I find I just can’t commit to progressing my story to a certain point within a certain wordcount. So, for me, I often find that plot milestones are a better way of measuring the development of my work. Have we found the magic widget? OK, now we’re halfway through. Have we just set out to vanquish the nemesis? OK, that’s the 3/4 mark.

BUT.

The wordcount is still there, sitting down in the bottom corner of Word, alternating between mocking me and being a triumphant marker of progress. I’ve found myself falling into the trap of thinking “I’m in that mid-draft slump. When I’ve reached 70,000 words, I know I’ll be doing OK.”

The fact is, though, I am doing OK. I’ve written 65,000 words. They’re not perfect, but I’m generally happy with them. And having the manuscript sitting at 70,000 words won’t be any guarantee that the 2000 words between 70 and 72 K won’t also be a bloody hard slog. There are times when it feels like I am inching myself forwards by the raw edges of my chewed-off fingernails. But I’m not in bad company.

George R R Martin on writing A Dance With Dragons:

The last one was a bitch. This one was three bitches and a bastard.

I just have to keep on swimming.

Finding-Dory-poster-xlarge

 

Goodbye 2015, Happy 2016!

2015-2016

In preparation for doing this roundup, I’ve just reviewed my writing achievements for 2014, by way of seeing how I went in 2015 by comparison. It’s brought home to me the truism that you should never compare your writing achievements to anyone else’s – not even your past self’s, apparently.

I made a deliberate decision to focus on a novel projects in 2015, and to try not to be distracted by short stories. I still wrote a couple, bad girl, but made no sales. Two of the stories I sold in 2014 came out in 2015, so it wasn’t a complete wasteland of ignominy. Also, one of my short stories from 2014 was listed on Ellen Datlow’s recommended reading longlist, which is a definite win.

I achieved a fair bit under the heading of “novel projects”. Novels are, of course, more complex beasts than short stories, and my achievements here feel more intangible, but I’m counting them anyway.

I got additional feedback on Novel Project #1, rewrote a chunk of it, got it into submittable form, wrote a synopsis (a proper one) and developed the basis of a pitch and a query letter.

(Most writers I know complain a lot about having to do write synopses and query letters and I am happy to add my own mewling whine to the cacophony. It was horrible. It was hard. It was not about crafting beautiful imagery or sculpting layered, authentic characters or building immersive worlds or choreographing breathtaking action. But it also kind of was, in the most abbreviated, chop-all-its-limbs-off and pull-out-its-beating-heart way possible. In the end, it was, I confess, deeply satisfying. Like the way I imagine it would feel after having run some kind of endurance race. Painful process, fist pump outcome.)

I submitted NP#1 to several agents, got one request for a full MS, many rejections, and one chunk of invaluable feedback. So I’m calling it a win.

I have now submitted it to a couple of publishers, and so we wait…

I did a huge amount of planning and research for Novel Project #4, and also a big chunk of writing. It’s now sitting on just under 60,000 words. I wish it were further along, but the win I’m counting here is in the planning process. I’ve never properly planned a novel before, so this was a first. I’m pretty happy with my novel plan and I feel like I really know where I’m going for with this story (and its sequels). So: yay.

So… in contemplation of the year ahead, what are my plans and goals? Hmm. Finishing the first draft of NP#4 is high on the list, along with getting it beta-read, and beginning the process of getting it into the kind of condition worthy of a publisher/agent’s attention. I definitely want to reacquaint myself with the art of writing short stories and make another couple of sales. I want to do some overseas travel, which might not sound like writing, but it’s definitely research. I’d also like to focus a little bit on developing my craft and perhaps take some time (and spend some money) on doing some courses/workshops.

Here’s to chasing dreams and wrestling them into reality. I wish you all a happy, safe and prosperous 2016.

xox

HNY 2016