Category: Writing


editing_the_monolithSo as I work my way through Bifrost’s (almost) 3rd Draft, I’m finding it incresingly frustrating to have the version I’m working on be a hard copy.

Yes – I do love the look of my pink, purple and blue sparkly editing pens, but the fact that I’m sitting here on a bus, unable to edit because the 550-odd-A4-page monolith that is Bifrost* is too unwieldy to carry around is starting to become quite upsetting.

It became so upsetting recently that I decided “Fuck it, I’m gonna edit the soft copy from which I printed the monolith”. So I did.

Then I tried to print and integrate the edited portions back into the hard copy.

Oh.

Fuck.

Now the pages are all messed up.

So editing the soft copy is out. I get it. Thanks again, Captain Hindsight.

But what do I do? Sure, I’ve been getting A LOT more work done on my blog (perhaps you’ve noticed?) because the times I spent actually WRITING Bifrost were mostly spent in bars, on busses, in bars, on planes, in airports and in bars at airports.

I’ve been hesitant to take out smaller portions of my manuscript in order to edit them on the run because I worry that I’ll damage the pages so much I can no longer read them (I have form with the utilities bills I pay when on the bus) and also that I’ll lose bits or not successfully integrate the smaller portions back into the monolith.

But I think I have to get past this.

I think what I’m going to do is take out whole chapters. Perhaps two per bus day. So…maybe one chapter per hour of travel time. And if I have a suitcase (like I do when I fly), I’ll take the whole monolith, then re-integrate at the hotel or wherever I’m staying once I arrive.

This should allow my defective mathematical brain to be able to re-integrate the parts more easily because they’re whole chapters and I’ll just have to be more careful with the chapters than I am with our utilities bills (I think at a basic level I just don’t like utilities bills).

Hopefully this will allow me to get more work done on editing Bifrost and wishfully, I’ll still be able to get as much work done on this blog!

— IEK

 

 

*Yes, I know it’s 2 books. In fact I’m kind of vibed that it’s 2 books.

Twitter_logo_whirlpoolAsk any professional, full-time author what the biggest drains on their writing time are (or would be if they let it) and social media will inevitably come in the top 5, if not sit at #1. Many professional writers and authors I’ve met force themselves to get off social media or even off the internet completely during their writing time in order to actually get something done. Now I’m not a full-time author, but I can tell you social media is pretty high on my list of time vacuums and I really don’t GET a lot of time to write!

But my relationship with social media and in particular Twitter is one coloured with romance – a romance specifically to do with getting my novel finished. You see there was a time when Twitter saved my novel from never being written and me from never writing again…

Some two years ago, I had a novel languishing, untouched for many months, at the bottom of a very deep pit of zeroes and ones (I have not done “paper” since around 1997). I had gone through long stints of serious writing and I had what I felt were probably enough words to craft maybe a single book, but none of it felt finished. It was like a never-ending saga without climax or closure, just a series of what I felt were pretty awesome scenes.howe_mark

It was around this time that my friend Grizzlee & I were dipping our respective toes into Twitter to try and engage with football (that’s Australian Rules
football
& specifically the AFL to us) fans for our new Podcast One Troll Short (now defunct)…(oh well). We started following people we found interesting who were inevitably football fans & personalities, AFL clubs or porn stars (because of course).

As it turned out, one particular cam girl Grizzlee followed (now I’m dropping him in it) posted a great deal about her general life and her friends and tweeps which I found far more engaging than many of the other adult industry folk who only posted advertising & pictures of their anatomy, so I followed her too. While I can’t even remember the name of this person (sorry), I followed her and found she had a number of conversations with an author friend of hers. This interested me immediately because I considered myself a writer (if not an actual author) and I started following the author friend (who I again can’t remember the name of).

Over time I gathered the courage to engage in a few of the threads between this author and her other author tweeps. Two particular author tweeps of this person were PROLIFIC on Twitter and they started to actually respond to me (unlike unknown original author person). Both of these folks posted hilarious tweets, links, and videos and are two of the friendliest, loveliest people I’ve met on social media. Their names are Leigh Ann Kopans & Megan Whitmer. They’re published authors now and don’t spend NEARLY as much time on Twitter as they used to (I MISS YOU!!), but back then, they were finishing manuscripts and doing an AMAZING job of building an author platform.

Megan was so engaged that she started a movement of writers sprint-writing their manuscripts of a Friday night (which ended up being a Saturday morning here in Australia). She called it #WriteClub (@FriNightWrites) and it was incredible. I joined Write Club for a few Saturday mornings until finally some more magnificent tweeps (Renee Wynne, Rochelle Sharpe & Emily Mead) started running the Write Club sprints on a Friday Night in Australia. I spent many a Friday night sprinting, tweeting & enjoying the writery company and, though I never got involved in organising it (because I had commitments most Friday nights and Saturday mornings), Write Club is truly what got me writing again.

As the months went by and my tribe of author tweeps grew and changed (essentially taking over my Twitter account), I also began to learn things about writing, about being an author, about the publishing industry and about how to do this damn thing FOR REAL.

One of the most important things I learned early on was that a full, completed first draft of a novel should be between 70,000 and 80,000 words. When I learned this, I went back and checked how many words I’d written on my own novel: oh only around 350,000 words.

3_booksWHAT!?!

FUCK – I have 3 novels here!!

That’s right. 3 whole novels already drafted, just not cut & edited. So of course, I picked a point at which I wanted to slice the story and deliver a single finished novel and started editing. And, of course, writing to an ending (something else I learned).

So now, here I am days from finishing my 2nd draft (yes, it’s taken me this long, shut up) and I just wanted to give up a thank you to all of the magnificent author tweeps I’ve met along the way, interacted with, learned from and hopefully taught a few things to (I have some skills, just not necessarily in publishing) and while I still find myself drawn away from my manuscript by Twitter and other social media, I always feel a sense of warmth toward it because social media is very much what saved me from losing writing altogether.

Every day, I interact with other writers and authors from all sorts of places and this is what I feel is the magic of Twitter and social media. The ability to connect with not just a few, but HUNDREDS of like-minded people around the world and draw inspiration, wisdom, courage and benefit from their experience to enhance your work, your life or your passion and to share your own experiences to potentially help others do the same.

So I’d just like to say thank you to my writery tweeps (those are both totally words) for their time and for their inspiration.

thank_you

SO THANK YOU SO MUCH (in alphabetical order because of course):

Adam Dreece

Angelina Williamson

Ann Bisky (wherever you are)

Antonius Hogebrandt

Brianna Shrum

Carey Torgenson

Cassandra Page

Courtney Cantrell

C. P McClennan

David (Evil Overlord)

Elyse Salpeter

Emily Mead

Erin McRay

Evan Carter

Gail Simone

Hayley Humphrey

Jason Cantrell

J.C. Lillis

Jennie Davenport

Julie Hutchings

Kate Fitzpatrick

Kate Sholty

Kathy Palm

Keira Drake

Kiz(zy Wiggle)

Kristine Wyllys

Leigh Ann Kopans

Maria Lewis

Megan Paasch

Megan Whitmer

Mike Cullen

Melbourne on my Mind

Niko Staten

Rachel Heyfield

Renee Wynne

Rochelle Sharpe

S.E. Carson

Sharon Livingstone

Soknou King

Sonya Craig

Tiffie van Bordeveld

Victor Dean Hampstead

If I missed anyone or if I’ve spelled your name incorrectly I’m sorry – I want to thank every publishing industry person I’ve interacted with, but alas there are too many (and I was a bit lax with the proofreading). Just know that you are appreciated.

— IEK

cover_art_teaser_2As promised earlier in the week (although perhaps somewhat later than hoped), I have uploaded a sample chapter of my upcoming action science fiction novel Bifrost and you can see it…

RIGHT HERE!!!

As I have also mentioned, this is my 3rd-draft version of this chapter and there may be changes between now and publication day, but I’m pretty happy with the chapter as it stands and any changes will hopefully be minor.

So, please read and enjoy this (very early) chapter of Bifrost and keep your eye out for more news on its release date!!

And yes – of course, there’s another tiny teaser for the Bifrost cover just above in this post!

— IEK

cover_art_teaserJust this morning I received the sample from the completed cover art for Bifrost!!!! I am VERY excited about it. I’ve given you a tiny sneak peak here!

<=

Very shortly, I will have the final, full-resolution copy in my hot little computer and will commence work turning it into an actual cover (complete with a title and perhaps even my name somewhere!).

I am also in the process of engaging the services of an editor for Bifrost (again – super excited).

Now…all of my excitement aside, I have decided that because Star Wars: The Force Awakens opens in December and (as previously mention) it appears that the writers and I have been drinking coffee from the same beans, I am going to publish a sample chapter or two (let’s see hot it goes) here on iekenner.com. Please understand that though these will be as polished as I can make them in the short time I have – these will not be the finished product and there may be changes here and there as we move from now until release day (an as-yet undetermined date in early 2016).

Keep your eye on this site for when the sample chapter goes up and please give me any feedback you have once you’ve read it!!

— IEK

Ranger Smith in Jumpsharkoid’s spacecraft. From Yogi Bear – definitely not Star Wars*.

!!SPOILER ALERT!! If you are one of the very odd people I know trying to avoid all social media, clips screenshots or information about the upcoming Star Wars film The Force Awakens, read no further (and understand that I think you are odd for trying to live in a time-bubble as if streaming video & a 24-hour news cycle never happened). Oh and that image you didn’t click on because you broke into a cold sweat isn’t from the new Star Wars film*, no…um…it’s from a lost episode of Yogi Bear where Ranger Smith climbs into a cave only to find an alien spacecraft and that annoying green martian who completely ruined the Flintstones. “Jumpsharkoid” I think his name was.

So…My WIP I’ve been working on for the last two and a bit years (Bifrost) just happens to introduce the MC with what appears to be a nearly identical scene to the new Star Wars film (a female scavenger in a desert landscape working through a huge, wrecked spacecraft).

This really is annoying me because it’s a completely freaking cool scene I don’t want to change and now (because I can’t get Bifrost released before The Force Awakens) it’s going to look for all the world like I ripped it off. Which I most certainly DID NOT!! I wrote that scene over 2 years ago.

I cannot believe this has actually happened. I only JUST watched the latest Force Awakens trailer (Trailer 3) and it was like watching another person’s take on my scene. Which was strangely cool, but also extremely worrying.

Anyway…I suppose the Pollyanna takeaway is that my ideas are just as completely awesome as Lawrence Kasdan & J.J Abrams’ ideas (hopefully even better!), but it’s feeling a little like I’m going to have to modify my intro for the Witch**.

— IEK

 

* This is a complete lie

** OOPS! Spoiler alert! ;o)

bop_searchSo far the new writing regime (as detailed in This Blog is Somewhat the Victim of Fear) is going at a level I will call “well”. I have revised five complete chapters since I wrote down my intentions and started back into my novel Bifrost (4 weeks now) and I am VERY eager to get into the next few chapters which are some of my favourites in the novel (and yet still need some serious revising).

The only exception to my new regime’s success is 5am Writers Club which former or present member can attest is a very challenge club in which to stay a member!! Continue to either sleep through or turn off my alarm. But tomorrow’s another day!

This renewed desire to get things done on my novel is a welcome change to the rut I was in leading up to and whilst I was on our awesome holiday to LEGOLand and some other place I forget*. It made me wonder to myself as I was sweeping the kitchen floor the other night: what the hell has changed recently? Why do I suddenly have the drive to write?

I went over the weeks leading up to the holiday: nothing special, was getting a bit stale at work (needed a holiday), was reading books, was thinking about football a lot. Maybe that was it – maybe it was football. But then it was still football season back in March when I was KILLING it on Bifrost and actually finished the damn thing. So what is it?

Then I realised – back in mid-late 2014, after consuming all the Guardians of the Galaxy I could handle I’d decided to go and read a bunch of comic backissues which covered some of the seminal story arcs in comic history that I’d (for whatever reason) never read: The Infinity Gauntlet, The Mark Waid run on The Flash, Spider-Man: Maximum Carnage – that sort of thing. I was reading comics every night (and on public transport)…(and whenever I got time) and I was super-vibed about geting work done on my book.

Many weeks ago, when I saw the leaked footage of the Suicide Squad movie, I decided to go and check out the Suicide Squad backissues (yes, even the first run from the 80s & 90s). I also felt this was a good time to start reading Gail Simone’s work on the Secret Six because Gail is completely awesome.

Then all of a sudden I’m wicked vibed to get onto my revisions. It was comics all along! It wasn’t books or movies or TV or the web (as if) – it was comics!

So here’s to comics. Bring on the backissues and bring on the revisions!!

— IEK

wordleRecently I began to follow a new tweep because of their name. Now I’m not likely to get a follow back because I told them I was following because I love their name & that’s just a little creepy, but it got me thinking about character names and place names in fiction and how we, as authors, decide on those names.

Characters in novels have a few things they need: contextual consistency (their name needs to make sense in relation to their backstory), cultural consistency (as above, but to do with the backstory of their parent culture), timbre & rhythm (whether it’s deliberately cool or deliberately jarring, they should be at least readable if not easily pronounceable).

Names for my characters usually come to me as a flash of a good name while I’m trying to think of one or randomly, whilst driving (I hate that). Names which I struggle for are the peripheral characters or secondary characters (who do, occasionally get promoted to main characters because they are cool). For the names I struggle to make up, I have a spreadsheet of first names and last names which I’m always adding to and from which I draw many of my peripheral character’s names. I have, however, been known to Google up a baby names site for the right sounding name (I’m a big believer in that timbre thing).

One particularly wonderful group of names I stored away for later was from when I was a part-time swimming coach. In one school group I ended up with 6 girls each of whom had a wonderful name (and in typical fashion I told them all this at the time). In this group of six girls there was: Hannah, Madeline, Victoria, Leana, Fallon & Jancis. Every one of those names made it into the names spreadsheet and, though I have only used one as a major character (thank you, Fallon), I think every one deserves to be used at some time in my career. They were also nice girls and swam really well.

Place names I operate somewhat differently. With place names I try my best to follow a logical geographical consistency, though often I’ll look out the window or just around where I’m currently sitting and make up an anagram based on a word I see, then give it a regionally consistent monika like “steppe” or “plains”. Either that or I think of a groovy show I watched one time and throw in a little reference to that (intertextuality! HUZZAH!).

The City names of Bifrost are peculiar in that I invented them a very long time ago when I was very fond of a particular teen-powers TV show and chose to draw inspiration from the names of the cast. Having used the same names for so long and for so many hundreds of thousands of words, they have become like family. I’m not really concerned with regional consistency for those – they ARE the regional consistency.

One thing I do find myself avoiding is using names of people I know. I try (as much as is possible) to avoid using names of people in our lives just in case, should anyone ever read my books, they find themselves feeling like they have been written about. I tend to use certain features of people rather than their entire personality when I write a character and the rest of their horrible personality comes directly from the demons in my skull rather than any violent nutjobs I know personally.

Names are funny things in that you can use them, as Dickens did, to convey personality (though please don’t be as obvious about it as he was – this is the 21st Century) and you can use them to hint at cultural & familial connections, help describe the scene to the reader and also to help round out the world of the character or the setting, but whichever way you do it, remember that the best way to get your names to own their space is to have your characters own those names. Nothing is less engaging than when a terrifying, dark place is referenced by the characters in a book and none of them seem to get that sick feeling they should when talking about something horrible.

Righto, better get on & invent some new names. I only have 50-odd named characters in Bifrost so far…

 

— IEK

literary_surgeryI have been a writer most of my life. At some points I’ve convinced myself that I could be a comic artist or cartoon creator, though my talent in drawing compares only slightly favourably against the work of a talented 6-year-old and my observations on life are only funny you are one of those same 6-year-olds.

What can I say, despite everything, I’m still a master of Dad Jokes.

But apparently I do have some amount of talent for writing a story which is how I managed to earn a private writerly-advice session with (now Sir) Terry Pratchett. Sparked by the terrible sadness I feel about his death this week, I felt I needed to document the one and only meeting I had with him back when I was a teenager and had everything to learn. I have no notes from this time because I was not interviewing him, I was a late-teenage writer speaking to an idol about my own writing and all I have is a very fond, vivid recollection.

It was during a particularly prolific time in my writing life, when I was supposed to be studying for a certificate in IT and ended up procrastinating by writing an unsolicited, 120-page fan-rulebook for my (then) favourite roleplaying game. As part of an upcoming gaming convention (no, not gambling – roleplaying & wargaming), an opportunity arose for me to have a piece of my writing critiqued by Terry Pratchett and meet him for a “Literary Surgery” session (as only he could call it).

I chose to write a story specifically for the purpose because the event was being run by the local gaming community and I had no idea who would be reading the story aside from Terry himself. I already had a number of stories written and polished which contained my own characters and ideas, but in my young, self-important mind I felt that I didn’t want anyone “stealing my ideas”, so I wrote some fan fiction based on the same roleplaying universe in which my fan-book was based.

Terry had the final say as to the pieces he would critique and thankfully mine was one of the pieces chosen. As an hugely famous author, Terry was booked to speak at the end of the day, but much of his day, he dedicated to helping young writers hone their craft which is something to this day amazes me and for which I am forever thankful. Though I never knew him personally, from what I have read about him in his public life, he gave a great deal of himself to others.

I waited outside the room in which I would receive my Literary Surgery for some time, ensuring that I was not late and was eventually called in. I found Terry Pratchett sitting behind a desk, rather angry. Apparently many of the people who had been chosen to meet with Terry and have their work critiqued had chosen not to show up!! What. The. Fuck. Not only this, but the organisers had chosen not to bring me in early even though I’d been waiting around for 20 minutes. Terry Pratchett was still there. He had not stormed off in a huff – he was still sitting, waiting, ready to give a young writer some advice on how to be a better one. Neil Gaiman has written that Terry was an angry man, but that his love for humanity and its failings allowed him to rise above the rage and I witnessed exactly that.

After a only moment of venting his displeasure at having his valuable time wasted by people I can only refer to as idiots, Terry began to ask about my story. Immediately he asked me why I had chosen to write fan fiction. I explained that it was due to concern over my own ideas and who among the gaming folk would be reading my story. He seemed to empathise with this, though I imagine internally thought I was a bit full of myself given how young I was & how unpublished I was. But then he told me this:

Never write fan fiction

He explained that though there are a few fan fiction authors who make decent money from writing for franchises such as Star Wars and Star Trek, the lion’s share of the proceeds go to the owners of the intellectual property rights. Many years *ahem*decades*ahem* later, this is exactly the reason the book was about fifty shades of demented, rich control-freak and not about fifty shades of demented, sparkly vampire.

Terry commented on my dialogue and that though it was good and realistic he told me that my dialogue was in what he called the second stage of dialogue writing. Each one of my passages of dialogue was wrapped in descriptive words and the name of who was speaking.

He told me that in the beginning, writers use simply “she said”, “he said” and “they said” over and over and over. When writers realise that their dialogue requires emotive, descriptive and audio cues, they start using them EVERYWHERE after everything every character says. This was where my writing was. He said that once a writer matures, they begin to use the words around the dialogue to affect the way the dialogue is read and, while still using “said” and the descriptive terms to enhance the writing, a good writer will also leave them out (or indeed remove them during revisions) to make the writing flow.

The last piece of advice he gave me was something just about every writing teacher and author says to budding writers and it boils down to: “show, don’t tell”. Terry Pratchett did not use these words, of course, because he probably knew that any person who has sat in a writing course or read a book on how to write will have read these exact words (along with “write what you know”). Instead, he read me a passage of description I had written – one in which I go into explicit detail about the particular militaristic culture in which the story was set, my passage even went into a 20th-century analogy to try and provide almost essay-like understanding to the reader. The passage was terribly, obviously.

Terry explained that a story’s dialogue, physical surroundings and the personal interactions of the characters will inform the reader of the type of culture in which the story is set – explicit, descriptive passages telling the reader all about this culture were not only clunky, but boring. He recommended that if I wanted to learn how to write a militaristic culture, I should readh Robert A. Heinlein’s Starship Troopers (though Terry called it “Starship Poopers” which at the time I didn’t get and, oblivious, I even wrote down “Starship Poopers”…he must have my utter ignorance quite hilarious).

My literary surgery ended too quickly and I thanked Terry nowhere near enough and I was on my way. I re-read my fan fiction story and saw exactly the parts Terry had flagged, but I never actually revised it. In fact I’ve not written a single piece of fan fiction since.

As I sit here now, it strikes me how much of the meeting I remember a if it were yesterday and it saddens me so terribly that this simple act of recollection was taken away from such a wonderful, intelligent, curious, generous person.

It is a gift to the world that we can still pick up a copy of any of Terry Pratchett’s books and enjoy the hell out of them (again). I’m about to do just that now.

— IEK

That close mask of the scent of sweat,
The cigarette you just sighed before I saw you,
Your shirt rides up,
Reveals your glistening stomach as you slide closer to me…

…and crush me into window.
You fat jerk.
I hate the bus.

word_countThis year, for the first time, I gave National Novel Writing Month a genuine shake.

Now I didn’t win, but I did write a whole lot more than I did last time I dipped my toe into #NaNoWriMo.

In 2013, I signed up and, having decided to completely overhaul my WIP, I felt that it might be a good chance to get some real work done in it, but of course that didn’t work out and I spent November 2013 writing about as many words as I wrote this evening while I waited for the dentist to call me in.

For the uninitiated, NaNoWriMo is a (now) global event which occurs every November and involves writers, authors and people who have never written more than a few words in a row collectively attempting to write a novel in a single month. The concept of “winning” NaNoWriMo is not a singular prize, but rather a reward for achieving the global word goal of 50,000 words (50,000 being considered the minimum length for an actual novel).

This year, while not sacrificing anything in particular, I did try to write at (almost) every opportunity and I managed  21,813 words. My NaNoWriMo login says something in the realm of 19,000 words, but I never actually logged in to update it with my last bash because I was too bloody tired. But I know how many words I wrote and that is the main thing. My goal during this NaNoWriMo was less to achieve the 50,000 words and more to work out how many words I could write if I wasn’t really trying all that hard. I’m pretty pleased.

I have a serious full-time job, 3 kids and a 100+ year-old house we still need to finish renovating and painting. I also like to speak to my significant other (alias Co-Consul) and my kids (even in November). Now none of this is really a valid excuse because in reality, INCREDIBLE people like Leigh Ann Kopans and Megan Whitmer have kids, a job and also manage to actually finish books and publish them, but this mythical time to actually write is hard to come by and I have no idea how they do it!!

Because I never intended to “finish a stand-alone novel” in a month (because apparently to me, a stand-along novel is closer 500,000 words than 50,000), I used NaNoWriMo to focus on Bifrost and try to get it closer to completion (or at least Book 2 closer to completion given the now 120,000-odd words I’ve written on it). We’re getting REALLY close now. I can feel it so much that I started writing the ending chapter today. I had an ending some time ago, I’m just putting it on paper now.

I think what I’ve learned from NaNoWriMo is not so much that writing a novel in a month is possible (I suppose if you’re writing something short, that’s fine), but more that I can achieve without sacrificing everything. This is important.

NaNoWriMo is also littered with wonderful events, write-ins and bookshelves worth of #WriteClub and non-WriteClub writing sprints (seriously you could get in board a writing sprint almost ANY time) and I pretty much did my own thing, not getting involved.

To think what I could achieve if I actually sacrificed and got involved! Hmmm…2015 anyone?

— IEK

 

Powered by WordPress

All content including images are © I. E. Kenner 1997 - 2017