Thursday, September 22, 2011

Goals, Tries and Having Something To Score

At the start of the year I’m sure I made some sort of goal post in this blog, but I really have the memory of a goldfish. I’m not sure that it matters, anyway, but I was thinking that I should sit down and work out what I need to achieve over the next few months. I turn thirty in February, and aside from having a fit about where I want to spend my birthday – I’m leaning towards Peru, although I was having thoughts of camping in South Africa – I want to be seriously dedicated to my writing to a point I can see it as a viable part of my career. I don’t think I have the necessary talent or ability or pure dumb luck to make a living off writing, but I’d like to be able to go back to being a pharmacist but kick back my hours a bit. Four days a week instead of five, or something. But I’ll get to that part in a minute.

I am the queen of unfinished novels. But I do have two that are finished. I’m not really up for submitting either to an agent, however. The first, an urban fantasy romance, has a very solid and interesting first half and completely turns to lumpy scorched custard by the second chapter of the second half. Bollocks. I can rewrite it, and I know that at some point I will. I just don’t think it’s where I want to start my publishing career. The other novel was intended as a children’s book, then a young adult novella, and now…it’s still about thirteen year old kids, but it’s a kid’s book the way Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials is a kid’s series. Kids could read it, sure. I know I’d have read it. But then I was reading bodice rippers and Stephen King at the age of ten, so I don’t think I’m the best judge of reading material suited to age, here. So, I’ve set that aside for the meantime even though I am on and off working on its direct sequel.

This leaves me with four options for my first punt on an agent, none of which are fully complete. The first is Greywater, and this really is the best option save for the fact it’s straight-up fantasy. I think I’m going to have to go waaaaay outside the New Zealand channels here, though I am aware thanks to SpecFicNZ that I’m by no means alone here. It just depends on how hard I want to hit. I’m fairly certain I can get somewhere with this, but we’ll see. The current manuscript is at 112k and is maybe twenty or thirty thousand words off a first draft, after which I can tidy.

The other three options are more complicated. People In Looking-Glass Houses is easily the most marketable idea I’ve got – it’s also an urban fantasy romance – but while I wrote a good deal of it back in 2002/2003, the characters have changed a lot to suit the canon of the world it edges up against, and I’ve decided most of what was written ought to be scrapped or reappropriated. Writing it would take a lot of time over the next few months. I may have that time, but I’m not sure. I will write this story at some point, I’m just not sure how soon is now, or something to that effect. Ha.

Hibernaculum is a tricky one. I love these characters, and I love their story – two of the centrals are my first true OTP, and the novel is nearly finished. Maybe twenty thousand words out, too; I drag my heels with it because it’s a complex ending and I’m a moron. But not only is it also fantasy, it involves one of the other central characters getting into a very complicated relationship with another man and therefore might be hard to market. I’m not sure on that front; it would depend on the publisher. And I suppose I oughtn’t to care considering a) I won a competition last month with a short story with clear elements of homoeroticism and b) my first print publication was with a light erotica story, het or no, and…er. Yeah.

My other novel-in-progress is never going to be a publisher’s choice, mind you. But how much I want to finish it! ^_~ The Juniper Bones is my baby. And of everything I write and share, it’s the one that’s generated the most interest. But not only is it ungodly long in its current form, it just involves so many difficult things that I suspect a publisher would rather just shove me off into Charybdis with that barge pole rather than use it as a debut novel. Ha. Yet every time I open one of the associated files or look at some of the commissions I’ve had done, I end in hysterics. I love those characters, and I love that story. So hard. And I want to share it in its fullness with people, and not just because Morgan will one day give me that partial lobotomy she’s been promising if I don’t.

On the short story front, I want to keep poking away at various markets. Wily Writers has a call for submission for a young adult post-apocalyptic short story that I have a solid idea for; its due date is the end of October, so I can swing it. Yesterday I also ran across this blog fest that sounds fascinating, and I’m fairly certain I will be signing up later today because the fact the first submission sits so well with the dates of my trip to Egypt next week…it seems a sign, to me. So we’ll run with it. Besides, I’ve really got to get back to networking and sharing with other writers. One thing I regret about leaving New Zealand is the loss of my writing groups, and I’ve been really slack about spending time on the wonderful and wondrous CompuServe Readers and Writers forum. So, writing and reading stories for a joint Blog Fest universe sounds like a hell of a way to meet new writers…

Speaking of blogs, I have a few links that I got from CompuServe the other day, relevant to our interests. They’re about writing a query and then a synopsis, and even though I am not at that stage yet they’re actually very useful links for someone like me. Because I have problems with focus and structure. But I was so happy to see that Greywater fit very well into the basic synopsis template, and after writing a test query for the novel I feel that writing a synopsis in that format actually might help me a lot with finishing the novel. So, we’ll see? I would do it today, but I want to go to the Museum of London, and I have no idea how much longer I’ll be in town…

Which brings me to my next thought – I have an opportunity. It occurred to me last Friday as I was sitting in St. James Park that I could go back to Western Australia and just…write. I’m not Australian – GOD, I’m not Australian! – but my father is on a project near Perth and my parents live in a lovely seaview apartment with three bedrooms, one of which doubles as an office. I’ve been to see them twice there over the last year, and it’s a lovely place (which I’m not saying just because Margaret River has the best goddamned nougat IN THE ENTIRE WORLD, nuh-uh). I remember thinking the second time in particular how nice it would be, to marry an engineer and live a life where I could get up at six in the morning, have breakfast, do Zumba, go for a walk for an hour around the mangroves then return home for a day of writing. It struck me at the park that I could actually do this, if only for three or four weeks. I floated the idea to my mother, asking if I could stay in order to write if I contributed to the bills, and she green-lighted it. So…I’m not sure. I came to the UK with the intent of living and working here for a bit, but it’s not really as I’d thought it would be. I do love London; I had no real feelings towards the city the first time I saw it in 2006, but it’s grown on me. I’m just not sure I want to live here – or in the UK – after all. It feels like a step back, to the life that I both loved and hated four years ago. And I want to move forward as a writer, not go back to the world pharmacy. I can do my job, and do it well, but I need something more than that to keep me going. I have to be honest with myself about that, otherwise it's just not fair to any of us.

So, that’s my decision. It’s a bloody difficult one. I keep reminding myself that not every writer gets this sort of opportunity, and considering I have no real ties to anywhere, I should take it. And once I’ve had that sabbatical, I can return to New Zealand (maybe via Cambodia, ha) and move back to Wellington. There, I can get a full-time pharmacist position with my finished novel(s) tucked safely under my arm. Maybe then I can go back to the nine-to-five knowing I have a way of altering my own destiny, so to speak.

I’m scared as hell. I suppose that’s the way the cookie crumbles. But when I was looking something up about The Juniper Bones the other day I found a little file I’d made last year during NaNoWriMo in which I’d kept some of the feedback I’d received from the fantastic individuals at the CompuServe forum, and things like this just brought and still bring tears to my eyes:

When I read your writing, it makes me want more. I don't want to stop. And then I get to the end, and my brain is like a little puppy, all kind of like, where's the rest? What comes next? Huh? Huh? You have an absolutely stunning talent, you know. Your characters are beautifully put together, your story is compelling and mysterious- there's no question at all I'll be buying this off the shelf at a bookstore within a couple of years, and I'll just have to twitch impatiently and hang out for snippets until then.

I need to remind myself that I can write, and that I must write, if only for my own sanity. My sister keeps watching Dragon’s Den, and last night they were talking about how pitches need passion, because no company is going to succeed unless the person wants it enough to spend so much time with it. I could say the same of my writing. I love doing it. I want to do it. I just need to believe. And I was giddy yesterday to finally have run across a review of Red Velvet and Absinthe that mentioned me by name; while I’ve seen a lot of positive feedback about the collection as a whole, I’ve been craving something personal whether good or bad. And this…yes.

Tea For Two is a heart wrenching story that had this reader on the verge of tears. The poignancy of this love story and the loss that the two main characters suffer is so tenderly written, making the whole scenario come alive before your very eyes. Congratulations Ms. Buckingham for a truly tremendous and well thought out short story.

I can do this. I can, I can! So…here we go. Although as I said, it’s half-nine in the morning here in ol’ London Town and I might go out. I need to make the most of the city while I’m here, because I suspect I may have to leave her soon. We’ll see.


  1. Great blog- I used to start novels galore then get stuck/ fed up etc at about the 20k word mark. For the last year I just did short stories which taught me that I've got to get over my fear of the BIG re-write - it is something I'm just going to have to do.
    So I will keep going with my novel - and I WILL finish it. And eventually, re-write it and re-write it until it really is done.
    Thanks for the wee bit of inspiration.

  2. I tend to get most of the way through a novel before I really get angry with it, which is particularly frustrating as I tend to be so invested in the characters by that point and yet I just can't give them the ending they deserve! But I totally agree with short stories and the help they can provide. While they're entirely different wee beasties, being able to plot, write, finish and publish a couple in the last year has taught me a *lot* about structure and style. <3

    And you're very welcome for the inspiration -- it's that passion and desire to just get the words on the page that we need sometimes, in order to silence the evil chatter of one's inner editor. Let's do it. ^_^