Sunday, July 29, 2012

First Drafts & Revisions: It's Okay to Make a Mess

As some of you may know via Facebook, I've been going through some kitchen renovations. Most experiences lead my strange brain to writing and these renovations were no different.

My kitchen BEFORE
This is what my kitchen used to look like (minus the clutter). Now think of this kitchen as the first draft of a manuscript. It doesn't seem so bad. Everything is in its place. The sink, the oven, the cupboards. Does it all work? No. My oven should've been committed to the ground a long time ago. The range hood made a horrifying sound as if it chewed on nails before it spat them out. The sink was vanishing under rust, and the doors were threatening to fall off every time I opened them. So, while this kitchen looks complete, it's far from it. So too with first drafts.

DURING the renovation

First drafts need to be worked over. They often need to be ripped apart and put back together again--especially drafts born from unplanned ideas. Even drafts that come from detailed outlines need to get messy before the writer can produce magic. Sure we could paint the old tiles, we could disguise the ugly with pretty words, but more often than not we need to get into the nitty gritty. We need to pay attention to the details and not skim over dodgey sections in the hope that no one will notice. In renovations it's the details that make all the difference. Same with writing a novel.

The crazy thing is, renovators know before they begin a task to expect the dust, the rubble, the hard work. They know they have to make a mess before they can make magic. Writers, for some reason, tend to shy away from the mess. They place an unrealistic pressure on themselves to achieve perfection on every word they write. If they don't reach perfection, or something close to perfection, then they think they are hopeless writers, that their project will never be good enough.

My kitchen AFTER
Well, that's malarkey. Mess is good. Mess gives us the freedom to experiment, to try something new, to make space for something better.

What gives you the courage to make a mess with your writing? Have you been tempted to pass over the details?

NOTE: This post was written for Alex J. Cavanaugh's Insecure Writers' Support Group #IWSG. I've posted early because there's been a death in the family and I have a lot of travel to do for the funeral. I'll try to do some blog visits before I leave, but if I don't make it to you, then I'll be back next week and will catch up then. 


Monday, July 23, 2012

The Backworlds Book 2 is Out!

The sequel to The Backworlds is now available. Craze and his friends continue their adventures in Stopover at the Backworlds’ Edge. See what role chocolate plays in the galaxy this time.

The interstellar portal opens, bringing in a ship that should no longer exist. A battleship spoiling for a fight, yet the war with Earth ended two generations ago. The vessel drops off a Water-breather, a type of Backworlder thought to be extinct. She claims one of Craze’s friends is a traitor who summoned the enemy to Pardeep Station. A betrayal worse than his father’s, if Craze lives to worry about it.

Available for all ereaders from:

Amazon / Amazon UK / B&N / Smashwords
iTunes and Kobo will be available shortly.

If you haven’t read The Backworlds yet, it’s available as a free read from many outlets. See HERE for links.

Inspiring the words M. Pax writes, Mary spends her summers as a star guide at Pine Mountain Observatory in stunning Central Oregon where she lives with the husband unit and two loving cats. She writes science fiction mostly and has a slight obsession with Jane Austen. Mary blogs at

A big thank you to everyone who left a comment on my guest post at Rachna’s Scriptorium: How to Trust Yourself as a Writer. It’s still up if you haven’t yet visited.

What role do you think chocolate should play in the galaxy?


Friday, July 20, 2012

How to Trust Yourself as a Writer

Today I'm over at Rachna's Scriptorium with a post about ways you can trust yourself as a writer. I'd love to see you over there.

A big thank you to everyone who shared an early childhood memory in the comments of my last post, Inspiration and Serendipity. It was so awesome reading all of them.

An article I wrote titled Bust 4 Myths to Gain More Writing Time has earned my blog a nomination for a Fascination Award: 2012's Most Fascinating Creative Writing Teacher blog. How cool is that?


Monday, July 16, 2012

Inspiration and Serendipity

When I was young my dad was a pilot. He wasn't the cool kind of pilot I could brag to my friends about. He wasn't a commercial jet pilot, a fighter pilot, or a stunt pilot. No, he was hobby pilot who flew light aircraft. That meant being crammed into a flimsy 1950's style Cessna that stank of diesel, and the whole plane would shudder when the ancient propellers got started. It meant it took forever to get to a destination. It meant getting stranded at airports in the middle of nowhere while we waited for the weather to change. These airports often consisted of nothing more than broken-down sheds with little for a bored kid to do. It was a real treat if the place had a snooker table. I learnt to play snooker at an extremely early age. I also learnt to be open to new experiences—that took a bit longer.

At one such place, the weather was scorching hot. We were—yet again—stranded somewhere in the outback of Australia while we waited for a storm to pass our destination so we could land when we got there. We drank homemade soft drinks (soda pop) from recycled bottles and played snooker with one of the locals in a tin shack that was missing a wall. The land was vast and dry to the horizon, and the sky stretched out into forever.

I remember having a philosophical discussion with the local as the flies buzzed around in the heat. I would've been no more than seven at the time. I wanted to know how he could know that the red snooker balls he saw were the same colour I could see. For all I knew, I was seeing green, which everyone had labelled red. It took a while to get across my meaning and I don't recall any satisfying answer, but it made me think deep thoughts for the first time as I pondered our individuality and tried to work out my place in the world.

I'm still working that last one out, but I believe the experience became the seed of my writerly mind. Did I appreciate it at the time? Absolutely not! To this day I have an intense dislike for the stench of diesel. But I have some amazing memories I wouldn't have had otherwise—of the people I met, of the places I visited, of landing a plane on a beach because the island my dad wanted to visit didn't have an airport.

Every experience we have is food for our creative muses. Every experience plays a part in moulding us into the people we are today. What are some of your special memories from your early childhood that stand out in your mind?

Photo: I took this photo in the Northern Territory of Australia many years later.


Thursday, July 12, 2012

New Release: Crux by Julie Reece

I wanted to introduce a new release I'm excited about. Crux, a young adult novel by Julie Reece. It's described as a paranormal romance and I'm looking forward to reading it. Below is a little more about the story:

She should have run. Now, she’ll have to fight.

Eighteen year old Birdie may be homeless, but she’s surviving, that is until a mysterious guy throws money in the air like a crazy game show host and she grabs some with the idea she’ll be able to buy dinner that night.

In that singular moment, unassuming Birdie becomes the girl in everyone’s viewfinder. Thugs want to kill her. Money-guy wants to recruit her. The very hot, very rich and very out of her league Grey Mathews wants to save her.

Birdie, though, wants nothing to do with any of them until she realizes fate didn’t bring them all together.

Her heritage did.

Now, with only twenty-one days left, she’s got to decide whether to follow in the footsteps of those before her or risk her life for people she’s only just met.

Sounds great, doesn't it?

You can find Julie via Twitter, Facebook, and her Website.
You can find her novel via Amazon, Goodreads, and her Publisher.  

Are you excited by this novel? What other great new releases do you want to read?

Congratulations: A huge congrats to Laura Diamond for getting a publishing deal for her young adult paranormal romance, Shifting Pride, with Etopia Press. And, for the acceptance of a short story as well! Happy dance!!


Monday, July 9, 2012

5 Things A Writer Can Do to Evolve

Today I have the lovely Angela Ackerman here as a guest. Angela is a Canadian who writes on the darker side of Middle Grade and Young Adult. A strong believer in writers helping writers, she blogs at the award winning resource, The Bookshelf Muse and is co-author of The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer's Guide To Character Expression. Angela is represented by Jill Corcoran of The Herman Agency.
Take it away, Angela!

A difficult time for me was the moment I decided to pursue publication as opposed to writing for myself and wondering if I was talented enough to do it. It meant peeling off the rose colored glasses and admitting to my flaws. To become a professional writer, I had to come to terms with how much I didn’t know. Like many others, I knew zilch about the publishing industry, how to approach agents and editors, and most importantly, how to hone my writing to get it where it needed to be.

I’m still learning and growing, but looking back at what helped me evolve to the point I’m at now, five things stand out the most:

Embrace Learning: This is the hardest and most important ‘mind shift’ every writer needs to go through. We all come into the journey believing our writing is good, special, something that will become great with some polish. The truth is that we all need a lot more than a spit shine. Once we own up to that, we can begin to learn from others. Opening myself to learning allowed me to set my ego aside and start thinking long term for publication, rather than believing my writing was almost ‘there’ now. I read a ton--both on craft and fiction--and made a tower of notes!

Find a Critique Group/Partner: Making the decision to share one’s writing with others is a biggie. It can be scary to ask writers for honest feedback. You want them to love it and say it’s great, but what you NEED is for them to point out the problems. Accepting constructive criticism was a skill I needed to learn, and I found that by taking emotion out of it I was able to see that the feedback wasn’t personal. It took time to develop thick skin, but finding critique partners who were strong in areas I was weaker in was one of the smartest things I did! If you are looking for a safe and helpful critique sites, The Critique Circle is one of the best. I’ve been a member there for almost 10 years!

Conferences: Going to a writer’s conference is an excellent way to build relationships with other writers, interact & learn directly from professionals, and find out real information about how the publishing industry works. They can be expensive, unless you’re lucky enough to have one close by, but still worth it to save up to attend one or two as you are developing your career. The most important thing to do when choosing a conference is investigate. You want a conference that suits your current needs as a writer. If you are looking for an event that centers on writing craft improvement, going to a conference that is heavy on book marketing and industry information won’t help. Likewise, if you are a fantasy writer looking to connect with and pitch to editors and agents for your genre, attending a romance-focused conference will leave you dissatisfied. Attending a conference that is a perfect fit will leave you feeling rejuvenated, and give you the creative energy needed to go the distance.

Network: One of the best things about writers is this: they are EVERYWHERE! Connecting with other people who love to write will help you to build a support system that will help you at every turn. Search for writing forums, blogs, facebook groups and twitter hashtags (#writing #writersroad), and you’ll find writers looking to reach out to others for mutual support and knowledge sharing. A new place to check is WANA Tribe. If you feel intimidated by jumping into something when it seems like everyone already knows each other or you’re looking for something new that focuses on sharing, supporting & learning from other creatives, Kristen Lamb’s WANA Tribe is a great emerging community to try.

Find Freebies! Another beautiful thing about writing is that so much of what you need is FREE. Writing blogs, forums and websites are troves of useful help and info. There are a ton of great FREE writing opportunities out there , too! Organizations like Muse It Up and Write On Con offer free online conferences. Sites like Miss Snark’s First Victim and Adventures in YA & Children’s Publishing offer free writing/critiquing workshops. There are free monthly opportunities to win critiques, pitching contests to mystery Agents and lovely free vlogs from incredible Writing Gurus like K.M Weiland & The Plot Whisperer. (The links I provided here are only a few of the great FREE resources out there, too!)

Tell me, what steps have you taken to evolve as a writer? What websites, groups or information sources do you recommend to writers? 

The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer's Guide To Character Expression is a writer’s best friend, helping to navigate the challenging terrain of showing character emotion. This brainstorming tool explores seventy-five emotions and provides a large selection of body language, internal sensations, actions and thoughts associated with each. Written in an easy-to-navigate list format, readers can draw inspiration from character cues that range in intensity to match any emotional moment.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

How to Overcome Writing Pressures

Writers must face a huge amount of pressure during our careers. Before we even get published, we have to deal with the pressure of balancing our writing time with our daily lives without the backup of having validated our career choice through publication. Then there's the pressure to come up with a story idea that's new and interesting, to finish that first draft, to rewrite, to edit, and rewrite again. We then have the pressure to write the perfect query letter, to research the right agent, to impress said agent.

But it doesn't end there. Once we gain publication we have to face more pressures. To market, to edit again, to 'get it right', and then to write another book that's even better than the first.

Among all that there are the unnecessary pressures we put on ourselves. There's the pressure to measure up to other writers. The pressure to 'succeed'. We worry about book signings and speaking engagements and coming up with the next great blog post to keep our readers interested. The pressure we put on ourselves is greater than any pressure from an outside source—especially if we are unrealistic in the way we measure success. We could either turn into diamonds under that pressure, or we could crack.

So how do we overcome these pressures? The simple answer is, 'Just breathe'. What I mean by this is that when we are heaped under a load of pressure—whether from ourselves or others—we forget. We forget how much we love to write. We forget we chose this life because the need to write flows in our blood. We can no sooner stop writing than we can stop breathing.

Sure, we might be able to hold our breath for a while, but soon the need to breathe—to write—presses in on us and we succumb and take that sweet breath. When we put pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard, we remember how right, how wonderful writing is.

Why go through the angst? Let's remember to breathe before we go blue, because let's face it, breathing and writing are awesome.

How do you overcome pressures of writing, study, career, or life in general?

This post was written for the Insecure Writer's Support Group founded by Alex J. Cavanaugh. We post on the first Wednesday of each month. #IWSG

Thank you to Lauren for the Open Horizons award.

Carole Anne Carr is offering her ebook Candle Dark for free for three days from 6th July until 8th July. She is also offering her ebook First Wolf free for two days—July 12th and 13th. So be sure to check them out!


Monday, July 2, 2012

6 Easy Steps to Stop the Chaos in Your Life

The last few months I hadn't managed to get a lot of writing done. I'd been stuck in the middle of things-that-had-to-be-done. I had to deal with marketing demands, edits on various projects—story edits, line edits, edits on edits—commitments to friends, and other deadlines. Inner turmoil grew and I fell behind on my emails, on my comments, my reading lists, and my social networking. A little voice inside me wailed to simply write something new, to explore fresh ideas. But I couldn't find the time or the will.

The advice I'd normally give writers struggling with this is problem is make the time and just write! Sounds simple enough. There's always enough time if we want something enough. But it wasn't so simple when I'd allowed life and everything that goes with it to get on top of me.

So how did I pull myself out of this malaise? Below are the 6 steps I took to turn chaos into order so that I could get back on course to achieving my goals.

1. Decide to make a change: This step is probably the most important of all of the steps. There are few goals in life that are impossible to reach if we truly decide go after them.

2. Unclutter: Deep down I like things to be neat. I like a clean kitchen, I like a tidy living room, and I love to unclutter. But the thing is, my writing area is almost always a mess. I'll clean it up once in a while, but it quickly falls into disarray. I have no idea why. Perhaps it's part of the chaos that makes up a creative mind. Normally this particular mess wouldn't bother me, but because I had too much chaos in my life, it was time to clean it up. There is a certain truth behind the saying that an untidy desk reflects an untidy mind. The act of uncluttering the work space also helps to reinforce the decision to make a change.

3. Make a list: I know that lists aren't for everyone, but I'd like to encourage anyone in this situation to give it a go, just to kick-start the brain. It's a great way of seeing and organising all the things that must be done. It doesn't seem so intimidating once it's written in list form.

4. Prioritize the list: It's a tempting thing to do the easiest things on the list first, but when there are more pressing commitments that need to be taken care of, they'll continue to hang over your head like a noose until they are done. Prioritize your list and remember not to put your personal goals last, eg writing.

5. Make a schedule: Again, this is not for everyone, but sometimes it's necessary to bring back order into your life. Remember that flexibility is key to making schedules work. Keep adjusting your schedule until you find one that works for your lifestyle.

6. Repeat: This process may need to be repeated until you work your way out of the crazies and into a satisfying creative life.

Have you ever felt overwhelmed by everything going on in your life? How did you get over that feeling?

NOTE: Notice anything super cool about the unrelated image above? It's the contents page of Short and Twisted 2012, an anthology of stories and poems with a twist, just released by Celapene Press. Squeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!