Cities (and Stories) Are All the Same … Except When They’re Not

Flinders Street Station transit hub, Melbourne, Australia

Flinders Street Station – a major transit hub, Melbourne, Australia

In what seemed like the blink of an eye, I’d travelled more than half a day into the future; perhaps journeying more than half a day closer to my final day.

~

“I don’t feel like I’ve just come halfway around the world.”

These were among the first words I spoke on Australian soil to my Aussie-born friend and former Vancouver roommate who was the impetus behind my recent trip Down Under.  This after she’d retrieved me from a very crowded Melbourne airport and pointed out all her favourite cafés, restaurants, shopping areas and, walking paths during the drive to her apartment.

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My Very Very Short Story Inspired By Australia

The Daintree Rainforest, a tropical rainforest and UNESCO World Heritage Site along the coast of Queensland, Australia.

The Daintree Rainforest, a tropical rainforest and UNESCO World Heritage Site along the coast of Queensland, Australia.

I didn’t expect to do any writing while here in Australia.

That is, not after I overcame my last-minute fervor to do lots of writing while in Australia – to write during as much of the flight as I remained awake for; to even finish my novel while abroad, if possible, and return home like a conquering hero.

In preparation for this, I scanned and PDF’ed an entire chapter of a reference book (since my WIP is historical fiction and thus research-dependant).

I also downloaded Evernote on both my iPad and phone so that I’d have two methods of inputting my deathless prose that would automatically sync as well as keep a backup in the cloud.

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The Shortest Story I’ve Ever Written

For the record, I don’t like short stories.

Once upon a time the endI’ve written about 10 of them over the course of my writing “career” thus far, and almost all of them are flops.

Not because the writing is bad per se (although some of them were written while I was still in high school, so neither is the writing deathless prose). Rather, they don’t work because they aren’t really short stories at all.

They’re novel back stories masquerading as short stories.

That just seems to be the way my brain works: my stories come to me novel length.

(If my WIP is any indication, my stories come to me trilogy length.)

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Who Anchors Your Artistic Chain of Influence?

Anchor chain

As writers, we often believe we were born to write.

I certainly have early memories of my writing life.  My first “novel” – a masterpiece inspired by the cartoon Jem and the Holograms – was “published” in grade three.  I haven’t really stopped writing since.

“It’s in my blood,” I’ve heard writers claim.  “I couldn’t not do it.”  And I find, for the most part, that I agree.

However, I’ve never been one to champion Nature as the sole determinant of anything.  Especially after reading a recent blog post by literary marketing expert Dan Blank about an artist’s chain of influence, which led me to examine my own early writing influences.

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Two Writers Debate: Pantsing vs. Plotting

Eric John Baker (R) and me, clearly hoping to win this thing by sheer force of smugness.

Eric John Baker (R) and me, clearly hoping to win this thing by sheer force of smugness.

Only two approaches to writing exist: Good and Bad. Write good. Debate over!

Hold on a sec. That’s not what this post is about. This post is a point-counterpoint between two WordPress bloggers arguing the merits of two distinct writing methods, pantsing (freeform writing) and plotting (writing from an outline).

Read on as right-brained, right-coast writer Eric John Baker argues in favor of pantsing (at least we hope that’s what happens… he is making it up as he goes, after all), followed by left-brained, left-coast writer Janna G. Noelle making a case for plotting, probably with all kinds of charts and graphs and stuff.

No matter how ugly and violent it gets, they promise to return you home in time for tea and biscuits!

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Always Say Yes: What writers can learn from our actor friends and improv

(L-R): Nyima Funk, Colin Mochrie, and Wayne Brady from the TV show Whose Line is it Anyway?

(L-R): Nyima Funk, Colin Mochrie, and Wayne Brady from the TV show Whose Line is it Anyway?

Out of all the different types of artistic expression, the artists I seem to befriend most often are actors.

I’m not really sure why this is, for I’m sure as hell no actor.  I have no poker face whatsoever, let alone the ability to re-create a given emotion at will, and body movements range from woodenly awkward to determinedly abrupt.

As well, the mechanics and semiotics of acting are largely lost upon me. I can’t really distinguish a “good” performance from a “spectacular” one, and when I watch movies or plays, so long as the story obeys its own internal logic and follows a satisfying story arc, that’s good enough for me.

I’m a writer; I’m far less interested in the performance of a story than I am in the creation of that’s story’s script.

And yet, as different as my actor friends and their art seems to be from me and mine, I’ve come to discover the usefulness one particular actor’s tool can have for writers.

That tool is improvisation.

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Why Writers Should Spend Time With Other Types of Artists

Sun by Dawn Banning

We writers – when we discuss our work and our process at all – tend to restrict said discussion to other writers.

After all, who else could possibly understand our unique brand of crazy?  How can anyone genuinely comprehend, for example, the compulsion to sit up in the dead of the night and scribble down a story idea unless s/he too has endured the utter frustration of greeting the morning with forgotten inspiration?

Artists of other disciplines (e.g. painters, musicians, actors, etc.), while themselves not fully cognizant of what it means to be a narrative writer, might come pretty darn close to understanding us.

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Taking Over Me: On writing, obsession, and the search for artistic balance

Singer Amy Lee of the alternative rock/metal band Evanescence, from whose song the title for this week’s post is borrowed.  There’s something about the grammatical weirdness of the song’s name – the fact that, in ending with the subject “me”, it serves to emphasizes it – that really resonates with my experiences in this subject.

Amy Lee of the alt rock/metal band Evanescence, whose song I borrowed for the title of this post.

When a writer becomes utterly fixated on his/her WIP, is that a sign of artistic revelation or that s/he has become a less well-rounded person?

I’ve twice had it happen where writing has taken over my life, the first time being back in 2004 when I was writing my first (incomplete, shelved) novel, and the second in 2005 when I wrote the first volume of my two-volume historical fiction WIP.

In 2005 especially, I fully gave myself over to my writing.

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A Little Fall of Rain: The ebb and flow of my writing ideas

A/N: To my fellow Canadians, wishing you all a very Happy Canada Day!

How does an idea in one’s head go about becoming a fully-fledged plan – whether outlined or not – for an upcoming piece of writing?

This is something I’ve been pondering quite a bit lately as I continue to move forward in my novel-in-progress: this question of how it is that my writing actually comes to fruition.

Especially given that the ideas I come up with tend to rather small, vague, and decidedly non-earth-shattering in their physical and psychological impact upon me.

Case in point – the idea for this very blog post: I should blog about how my writing ideas evolve.

That was it: the brilliant brainwave in all its unexplained, undeveloped glory.

Or the idea I have for the next chapter in my novel-in-progress: I need to show the protagonist and her enemy starting to see eye-to-eye.  Okay – there’s a little more to it than that, but not much.  Heaven forbid the Muse offer me something with which I could hit the ground running.

My ideas are like – to borrow from the liberetto of Les Misérables – a little fall of rain: sufficient to get your attention when it speckles the side of your face, but not substantial enough to convince you that anything more will come of it.

For all you know, maybe you were standing too close to a conversation and just got spat on.

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Writing Inside the (Out)Lines – Redux: A Creative Departure

(Or, Why Much of What You Plan in Your Outline Will Get Changed Along the Way)

A Distractions & Subtractions post for Rule of Stupid

Writing a novel is an endeavour of many emotions:

  • The excitement at having an idea take root in your head.
  • The pride you feel every time you sit down at the computer and add new words.
  • The anxiety that maybe you won’t be able to capture your idea in words as clearly as it plays out in your head.
  • The satisfaction of when all the plot pieces finally fall into place in your mind, and you’re finally convinced that yes, this story works.
  • And then, after months or even years of dedication, when the novel is finally completed, a satisfaction of a different sort that results from having successfully achieved a difficult, long-term goal.

But sometimes, this latter satisfaction comes prematurely; sometimes, satisfaction #2 and satisfaction #1 commingle, until they end up one in the same.

That is to say, sometimes, having devised a fully functional plot in one’s head (or on paper, or on the screen) feels like such a sense of accomplishment, the subsequent desire to actually write the novel disappears.

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