Yo! Part 2 of the League of Absolutely Ordinary Superheroes is up on the Darkness and Good blog today! Check it out! 🙂
Years ago, I read an article that prompted somewhat of an epiphany. This is not, in and of itself, a noteworthy event, as this is something that happens with rather astounding regularity in my life. I guess when you read a lot, and when you read widely, this kind of thing is also just called ‘Learning More Stuff’. Yay learning! Yay stuff!
But anyway, this particular article (which I’m sure I linked to at the time but can’t for the life of me find on the blog at present*) was about a distinguishing factor between writing and a lot of other art-forms: namely that in many art-forms, practising in public is not only permissible, it’s actively encouraged. Painting pictures? You don’t have to be a painterly genius for the school to let you exhibit your work. Learning an instrument? Recitals are generally actively required, whether you sound like you’re strangling a cat with tomato sauce or not. Writing? …Yeah, probably just better put that notebook down and not show anyone your writing until you’re *good*, okay, honey? There’s a lovely sane writer person. *pat pat*.
The article, and subsequently I, took umbrage with this notion. Why NOT practise in public? Look at The Martian, for example. It’s arguable but also pretty intuitively obvious that the book only ever became as great as it did because the author took a risk and practised in public, garnering assistance and feedback along the way that made the book what it was.
Look. I don’t want to get too hung up on this idea; I just wanted to note that you know what, writers? Sometimes it’s okay for us to share stuff with The Reading Public that we know has flaws.*****
Segue. In 2010, I wrote a book. It was a book-of-the-heart, the first book I wrote straight through without blood, sweat or tears, and it was magical, and elating, and glorious. It was a book, actually, for my sister, not because the plot mirrors her life or anything (and even less so now than in that first draft) but because, at the time, it felt important that I could give her the gift of happy escapism for a while–and it dovetailed nicely with a fragment of an idea I’d had rolling around in my head for a while.
Segue. It’s 2017. This book has gone through about 7 drafts, at least 4 of those with relatively major changes, though it’s not like it was ever gutted and torn up for parts like some of my other novels. The resultant story is still largely the same shape as the original, just better. More book shaped, less like a whimsical object from my head.
Segue. It’s still 2017, and I have an emotional collapse on Twitter at a bunch of my writing friends. The Twinny One immediately gets onto Skype; she understands what the problem is in a way that’s hard for me to articulate on Twitter, and also in a way that’s hard to articulate on Twitter, she knows the solution. It’s the goalpost, she says.
See, seven years is Quite A Long Time to work on a book, really. Especially when your goal is to make some kind of living out of this. And over those years, numerous times, people have told me (kindly, for my own sanity’s sake) to put Sanctuary down, to shelve it, to walk away.
I don’t walk away from books. I’m terminally incapable. So being told to abandon this one is heart-wrenching, and I’m scared I’ll never finish it, and I’m scared I’ll be forced by time or people or circumstance to abandon it, and secretly I’m just plain old scared that I’ll never be good enough to edit a book to The End. Editing, y’all, is HARD, HARD WORK. Taking this story, this image, this idea that you have in your head and translating it into something that not only makes sense but is just as compelling for others as it is for you? HARD.
But for the first time, Liana puts it in words that seep into my head. It’s not that I’ve changed as a writer in those seven years, though it’s also that, and I most certainly have, in leaps and glorious bounds (though some days I still stumble and crawl). It’s not, as I heard this to mean, that I could do better, that I could write better than this, that I need to be constantly revisiting Sanctuary to update it with the new skills I’ve learned.
It’s the opposite. It’s not that I’ve changed as a writer so much as that I keep moving the goalpost. Of course the book will never be DONE if I keep applying new criteria to it; no book I ever write will be done if I work like that.
There are still some flaws in this book. I know they’re there, but fixing them would mean gutting the book and starting over, and I don’t have it in me to do that yet. Maybe one day I would, but I’m faced with a choice: I can let the book go, or I can hold onto it for another seven years, picking and prodding and angsting and hoping to someday get it ‘right’. I need to let it go. But letting go doesn’t have to mean shelving it. It can also just mean at last, finally, calling it done.
Practising in public, you see.
So here it is: my glorious piece of imperfection, a tiny part of my soul carved into words and made flesh of its own. I’m calling it done, I’m writing The End, and I’m turning it over to you, my wonderful, wonderful reader. I hope you’ll love it. But if you don’t, that’s okay; I’m practising in public, and I’ve done what I needed to do. Finally, I’m letting this glorious beast go.
The fairies have a secret they’re just dying to protect…
Emma knows breaking the rules can get you into trouble; it nearly got her sister killed. That’s why Emma’s stuck in backwater Nowra, Australia, under temporary witness protection with no friends—and no life.
So when Emma has to break the rules to retrieve the runaway family dog, she decides the fairy she sees is clearly a guilt-induced hallucination. Problem is, hallucinations don’t usually send you invites to Fairyland—and shadows don’t usually chase you home.
It would be easy to ignore the invite.
It would be sensible to avoid the shadows.
But when Emma’s only new friend is snatched by the shadows in the middle of the night, Emma knows she has a decision to make: stick to the rules and leave her friend and dog to die, or risk her own life to save them.
THE DOORBELL RANG. That doesn’t sound exciting in and of itself, but let me assure you: it was the most heart-pounding thing to happen all week. It was my birthday, I was home alone, and because of the stupid witness protection business, I’d been stuck in the house all summer. I hadn’t even been allowed out to see friends, because we’d arrived in town at the end of last year with only three school weeks to go—so I didn’t have any friends.
Well. I had friends, but they were back in Melbourne, and I wasn’t allowed to contact them for fear someone would track down our new location. Lucky me.
Anyway, it was my birthday, I was alone because Mum and Dad had gone to do something regarding birthday surprises and Anna had inexplicably chosen to go with them, and the doorbell had just rung. I stared at the closed door, heart pounding, while our chocolate Labrador, Veve, tried to chew it down. Was I going to open it?
Of course I was going to open it. The chances of it being a mobster were slim to none; for starters, a mobster wouldn’t have rung the bell.
* Granted it is 10pm on Sunday night and I just spent 10.5 hours of my day marking things and my brain is leaking somehow out my ears and it’s goo, all goo, everything is goooooooo.**
** The number of times I mistyped ‘good’ for ‘goo’ just then is shameful. And probably indicative of my Tired. And possibly indicative of my subconscious’s determination to be optimistic? Sure, let’s run with that.***
*** Better than running with scissors.****
**** Imma get back to the main article in a second, I SWEAR. Any second now. Aaaaaany second…….
***** Of course, just as the right to voice your opinion does not include the right to be taken seriously, so too practising in public does not shield you from having substandard work received as such. I don’t advise this course of action unless you have a thick skin, or aim to develop one.
I was trying to think of a story for the Darkness & Good blog the other day, because it’s my turn to post this week, and me and short story ideas are kind of hit and miss sometimes (AH HA HA ALL THE TIME HA HA SOMETIMES HA), and first of all, I ACTUALLY THOUGHT OF A STORY RIGHT WHEN I NEEDED ONE AMEN HALLELUJAH, and second of all, in doing so I had a bit of a revelation about myself. The story starts with the protagonist making a stupid mistake that they really should have known better than to make, and it puts their life in danger. Usually in my stories what happens next is sudden, inescapable DEATH.
But this time, I realised that that’s how the story would usually go, and it made me realise something else: I’m really not good at giving myself permission to make mistakes. Like, really not good. I’m better than I used to be, and I know enough now to recognise when I’m beating myself up over something I shouldn’t be and to take steps to stop that, but yeah. I still have this subconscious expectation that I really should be superwoman. Making mistakes when I didn’t know what was going on or what was happening? Yeah, okay, that sucks, but it happens. Making mistakes when I really should have known better? That is pretty much unforgiveable.
Except, it shouldn’t be. I’m human. I’m not *actually* any better than anyone else, and I’ve spent a lot of time trying to retrain damaging perfectionist tendencies. I’m learning where the boundaries are between ‘good enough’ and ‘killing myself with perfect’, and I’m getting better at realising innately what my mum taught me while I was first married and studying at uni: I only have 100% of myself to give, and the more things I spread that between, the less I have to devote to each thing. I can’t expect to achieve 100% in fifty-million things, because that’s fifty-million-hundred percent, and ain’t nobody got time for that.
But. My fiction, apparently, still keeps telling me otherwise. I still keep writing stories where stupid mistakes cost people their lives, out of this perverse and totally subconscious belief that I’m not allowed to make stupid mistakes, that I’m better than that, that doing so is a failing on my part.
So this time, I let the protagonist win. This time, she got hit by a mistake, and came back up swinging, learned from her mistake and triumphed in the end. Because let’s face it, that’s what I do in life. You make a mistake, and you’re allowed to beat yourself for a minute or two, but then you have to figure out what you did wrong, what you’re going to fix the situation, and how to avoid making the same mistake again. Sometimes that actually means remembering to not over-commit yourself, or making sure you protect your sleep so you’re not walking about like the zombified dead–shockingly enough, sleep deprivation is not conducive to avoiding mistakes!!!!!!
If you’re interested, you can read my short story over on the Darkness & Good blog right here. But either way, leave a comment and let me know: Do you get frustrated when you make mistakes too? How do you cope with residual perfectionism, if so?
Welcome to #MadeItMonday, where I post something I’ve made in the previous week, and where you can join in and post something you made too! The rules are easy: post a pic somewhere of something you’ve made in the last week (ish; let’s say in the last month as the hard-and-fast) and tag it. Sit back and enjoy scrolling through all the beautiful things we’ve collectively created, and celebrate the fact that humans can be awesome! 🙂
Whee!!! It’s COVER REVEAL DAY!!! And yes, I am totally cheating and using this as a #MadeItMonday, because our budget for this anthology was about
so I did the cover 😉
Yeah, okay, it needs a thin border around it. Hmm.
ANYWAY, yay! New book! We’ll be setting up preorders in the next couple of weeks, and the lovely Darkness & Good anthology will be released March 19. I’m excited!
From the Darkness and Good blog comes a collection of fans’ favourite stories, all in one convenient volume. Come read about gods and monsters, unicorns and shapeshifters, magical worlds and galaxies far, far away!
Oh, and if you’re a regular follower of the Darkness & Good blog, never fear – there’s some new content in this anthology too 😉
What have you made this week? (It doesn’t have to be fancy!!) Don’t forget to tag your contribution, or even better, leave a link in the comments!! I love seeing what inspiring things other people have made 🙂 🙂 🙂
My son recently acquired the DVD for The Good Dinosaur, and after the compulsory viewing, we were all just kind of piled on the lounge, letting the credits run. Little did we know that good old Pixar had a nice surprise for us (although if we’d bothered to look under ‘bonus features’ I’m sure we could have found it, ha): their latest, super-cute and utterly delightful short film, notionally for kids (but we all know the adults are going to love it just as much ;)). Sanjay’s Super Team is cute and can be read either superficially as a fun story, or with more depth, delving into the relatively obvious moral. It’s only seven minutes, and I totally recommend it <3
It’s my turn to post a free short story to the Darkness&Good blog again this week. This is an older story, because I freely confess that I’m spending every inch of my writing time trying to finish my novel Fox Red so I can release it next year, but you’ll enjoy it 😉 Desperate Measures is a creepy little wedding story; I feel kinda sorry for the MC, actually 😀
Anyway, click to head over to the Darkness&Good blog and read Desperate Measures 🙂
YOU GUYS IT’S NEARLY HOLIDAYS. This, my friends, is a Very Exciting Thing. It also means that hopefully you’ll get some more regularly scheduled blogging – and I’m going to do my level best to set up some sort of blogging system that will work to keep things happening regularly throughout 2017, I promise >.<
BUT! IN THE MEANTIME! FREEEEEEE STOOOOORIEEEEEEESS!!
First of all, I have another short up on the Darkness&Good blog this week. It’s an extract from my work in progress, Fox Red. If you’re following along on social media, this is #FoxBook, and the reason I’m sharing an extract with you is…
The first part of Fox Red is being included in this fantastic anthology of sff YA stories! You can find this awesome anthology of stories for teens on Amazon here, and it’ll be available across all other retailers within the next week or so too. NOTE: It’s 99c at the moment, but if you wait a week or so for the price matching to kick in, it’ll be perma-free 😉 I’ll remind you about it again once that’s happened, so if you want to wait until then, go for it 🙂
The section of Fox Red that I’m sharing on Darkness&Good is NOT included in the That Moment When anthology, so you get bonus bits of story (woohoo!). And if you like what you see, make sure to head over to my Fox Red page for updates on the story and related things like inspiration images and music 🙂
9 days till holidays. See you on the other side.
Just a short post to let you know that I have something up on Darkness&Good this week – a poem, actually, that I wrote on the way home from the US last month.
Love you. Stay safe.
Reminder that the Darkness&Good free (unedited) short story blog is functioning again now that we’ve added author Thea van Diepen to our ranks, woohoo!
Today is part of my Russian steampunk assassin story, One Bad Man 🙂 Let me know if you like it and I’ll post more next time <3
Hello! The Darkness&Good blog took a break there for a bit while Liana and I dealt with some Life Things, but I’m pleased to say that we’re open again for business, and free (mostly unedited) short stories will be going up at least 3 weeks out of every four over at http://darknessandgood.blogspot.com! 🙂
Also, we have a new member: Thea van Diepen has agree to join in the madness, hurrah! You can read her first short story right here, followed by Liana’s story from last week – and today, it’s my turn! *jazz hands*.
So yeah. The Darkness&Good blog exists again. You should follow it. There are stories. They are free, and shiny, and awesome 🙂