Sunday, 23 November 2014

Hair // back to purple

Back to purple and I’m loving it! In fact, I think this is my favourite hair transformation of the year (hard to believe I only started this mad adventure this year). Maybe it’s because it was just for fun, I picked the colour out of the book without any idea as to how it would turn out, or maybe it’s because it’s such a pretty colour.

This is the third time I’ve gone purple and the funny thing is this is a semi and it’s lasted twice as long already compared to the other times. It’s a few shades lighter now and still lovely.

It’s probably my last crazy colour, but I’m not sure. I’ve done pretty much everything on my list, but it’s so much fun changing hair colour!
I didn’t go into this experiment thinking I’d learn anything, it was just an excuse to have more freedom with my hair, but this process has made me feel a lot less precious about my hair.
So, I’m not quite sure about my next hair move, for now I’m just going to enjoy my purple.

{photos by Vickie!} + straight from the hairdressers

Friday, 21 November 2014

Extended Project | editing and plotting

I learnt many valuable lessons on plotting and editing during my extended project. Crafting a story is much more than getting that first draft done and I wanted to share some of what I learnt.

When I received my first detailed feedback on my novella it came with a note from Michael Pryor, my mentor, bracing me for the impact and assuring me after thirty-two times of getting feedback himself, he still found it confronting. I have to admit, it wasn’t too bad for me because I was prepared that I’d sent a really rough draft and was ready for guidance (the first positive comment made me squeal out loud, though).

So, here are eight tips, tricks and ideas I learnt from Michael that helped me sort out the mess that was my novella’s first draft and continue to influence my story crafting today*.

1. Work in stages. Michael encouraged me to make a list of the big picture stuff I wanted to tackle in the first edit before I moved onto the nitty-gritty. I found this approach really good as I often get bogged down in detail too soon.

2. “Every word and every sentence must be as accurate as possible. Always aim to say exactly what you mean. Vagueness, fuzziness and ‘near enough’ have no place in a good story.” – Michael Pryor

3. Beware of coincidences. It’s alright to have some things “just happen” but too much becomes tedious and boring. Michael recommended I pay attention to active plotting, where characters rely on smarts, not good fortune.

4. The opening scene needs to be engaging. Think about your beginning and where in your story would really be the best place to start. Something needs to be happening; it doesn’t have to be big, just with a good narrative hook.

5. Urgency factor. I think this applies to non-quest stories, too. A sense of time pressure keeps the story rolling, but it needs to be defined early in the story to help drive it.

6. Add the right sort of detail. Overcrowding your story with unnecessary detail is obviously not advisable, but there are times when adding a bit of description can really enhance your story. It’s a hard balance to obtain, I know! Adding bits and pieces here and there builds the world and taking time to detail an important scene emphases its significance.

7. Magic, consider it carefully. Magic is mighty tricky, it needs limits, some kind of system and a cost - if there’s no cost, there’s no story because all problems could be solved with a wave of a wand.

8. Last minute doubts are normal. You’ll start to doubt yourself towards the end -or at least, I do- and your polishing can feel like fussing. You just have to see it as making the story better and better and remember most writers feel doubt throughout various stages of the process; it makes us look harder at our work and ultimately improve it.

So, those are a few of the things I took away from my extended project, hopefully they offer some inspiration, interest or are useful in some way!

* In fact, this post has reminded me of a few things I’d forgotten!

Friday, 14 November 2014

Fourteen Fiction | Lemons and Oranges

This was the first 14Fiction where I seriously considered asking for a different word.

Due to me wanting to write that day, I only asked Vickie for a word (the others were either away or at work). She gave me ‘adorable’, which ordinarily I’d find a breeze but combined with this month’s calendar prompt, it clashed.

I was imagining a short, descriptive piece on autumn but unless I just stuck some random bunnies in there, that vision was no longer going to work. Even with the bunnies, I’m unlikely to use the word ‘adorable’ unless in speech. So, they’d have had to be talking bunnies...

That was when I almost got a new word. What was the harm in that? I thought. But I didn’t. I wrote the first line and then went from there. It turned out to be a really great challenge, it pushed me pushed the obvious.

Right, the words!
Adorable {Vickie}
The winter came suddenly, stealing away the last weeks of autumn. {Calendar Prompt}

The winter came suddenly, stealing away the last weeks of autumn. The villagers felt like someone had snuck in one night and stolen time. Precious time.
Now they had days to finish preparations before they were frozen into their houses for the months to come.

Two little girls with neatly braided hair stood in the blistering wind, baskets of lemons and oranges at their feet. But not one person stopped.

A traveller, passing through when she got caught up in the shock winter, noticed the little girls with their autumn-coloured hair.

‘Aren’t they adorable?’ she said to her companion. ‘Come, we should stock up if we are to be stuck here all winter.’

Her companion grabbed her arm to stop her. ‘They are the witch’s children.’ Was all he would say.

The traveller laughed it off, how ridiculous. But her companion would not let her go. They continued on to their lodgings, but the traveller could not forget the little girls.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Extend Project | World building

When I had to build the world of my novella, I found it really hard to find any kind of list to use as a guide for what to think about. I eventually made my own based on old workshop notes and my mentor’s suggestions and thought it might be helpful to share it!

World building is an integral part of Fantasy {and all genres, really}, so it’s super important to get it right. Whether you make it up as you go along or plan every last detail, it doesn’t matter. I personally like to start writing with a sound knowledge of my world, but leave finer details to sort themselves out as I go, or that’s how I try to do it.

Michael Pryor, my mentor, challenged me to think of the world in more detail than I had before, promising it would pay off in the end {which it did, of course!}. That’s when I dug around for my old notes and did some serious brainstorming.
The End of Magic was a high fantasy set in a medieval-esque world. I had to consider the different kingdoms, how they interacted, the different races, bits and piece about the general world and some detail on magic.
I drew a map {which proved to be a great tool in figuring out distances} and then consulted the following list.

The List:
Physical geography (desert? Mountains? Forests?)
Flora and fauna (the general region to base your animals and plants on, like, say, northern Europe)
Means of commerce/exchange
Level of technology
Standard clothing

Rest assured I didn’t write pages on every topic {even though I probably could have, world building can get addictive}; I mostly stuck to a paragraph for each. Some stretched to a page and some only mustered a line.
Some of the topics might sound a bit boring or not useful, but I found ones I was doubtful about could become defining points in my story. Religion became a major part of who my main character was after I got carried away making up a system of goddess. Each topic is at least worth a thought, you never know what crazy idea you might get!

Out of all the topics, I’d say Magic is the trickiest. It needs to have limits, otherwise there’s no story, and it needs to have some sort of twist {doesn’t have to be big} that makes it interesting and not a carbon-copy of someone else’s system.

World building is hard and can be annoying and confusing, but also a lot of fun. So, whether you world building to the last blade of grass, go in blind or are somewhere in the middle, I hope this helped in some way, even just to be of some interest.

Monday, 10 November 2014

Sisters Head East | Mount Gambier

Mount Gambier was the first stop on our road trip and turned out to be a really lovely town. That thing they say about Mt Gambier being a city with a country feel is so true. It’s got a great main shopping street but also hosts beautiful nature attractions like the Blue Lake.

During our stay, we walked around the Blue Lake {and meet an echidna!}, hiked the Mountain Trail, did a day trip to the Naracoorte Caves {spectacular}, visited the breathtaking Umpherston Sinkhole Garden, went shopping and had some really lovely meals {we loved the Metro bakery}.

We all really enjoyed our time there {Amy & I started daydreaming about moving} and it was sad to go, but next was the Great Ocean Road and it’s hard not to be excited about that!

1. The Blue Lake \\ 2. Echidna buddie! \\ 3. Sisters \\ 4. Alexandra Cave, Naracoorte \\ Hydrangeas at the sinkhole \\ Umpherston Sinkhole Garden

Friday, 7 November 2014

Extended Project | The First And most Terrible of All Drafts

To mark a year since I completed my Advanced Diploma, I’m going to be sharing some of the observations and lessons I learnt during my extended project...that I’ve been meaning to write& share for a year...

Getting 25,000 words written in about a month was both really hard and a lot of fun. It was an experience that gave me confidence about actually, physically being able to complete a novel.
There were ups and downs, as with most projects. The words didn’t always flow, which made it hard to not dwell on all the things I still hadn’t sorted out and the fact that I knew it was going to be, like most of my first drafts, terrible.

There was one point where I felt really low and stressed out. I knew the first draft wasn’t meant to be good, but I was concerned I was wasting time on small scenes I’d have to cut anyway, that the speech didn’t sound right, that I was going way over the word limit and, basically, about everything.
I didn’t really know what to do. I feel super lucky that my first polished project was overseen by a mentor, because in this instance, I really needed one.

So I wrote a messy email and sent it to Michael. I got back a response that was so comforting it blew away any doubts I had had about sending the email in the first place.
He didn’t try to solve any of the drafting issues, but reassured me that, yes, this is hard, and that what I was feeling wasn’t abnormal. First drafts are always full of stuff that isn’t great; the most important thing is to complete it.

When times get tough, turn off your internal critic and write to a daily word quota. That’s what I was advised and that’s what I did. I got writing, I tried my best not to worry about the problems because they were things I could fix in the next draft.
I’ll leave you with some sage advice I try to adhere to:

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

A few things... {road trip edition}

We saw, did and ate lots of amazing things on our Sisters Head East road trip. I thought I’d share a handful of those lovely experiences...

1. Umpherston Sinkhole Gardens were breathtaking. We visited twice and on our second visit we had a picnic and Amy & I napped in the sun while Vickie took photos. Perfect.

2. The Great Ocean Road was spectacular. It was even more beautiful than I expected, photos really can’t compare. The scale was astonishing and the thundering of the waves was unreal.

3. Triplet falls was our last walk in the Otways and our nicest. It was a loop walk, which makes a big difference in keeping momentum, and had some lovely scenery, not to mention a beautiful waterfall.

4. The Conservatory at the Fitzroy Gardens was full of flowers when we popped it. It was the lovely surprise as when I visited two years ago with Mum it was full of ferns, so I didn’t expect this. It was glorious.

5. Lunch in Castlemaine at Run, Rabbit, Run was one of the best meals of the entire trip, if not the best. Their chicken burger is...words cannot describe and don’t get me started on those chips!

//photos 1 & 4 by Vickie //