Story Notes

Amako

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I’m excited to announce that my story ‘Amako‘ is now available for purchase at Found Press, a delightful online publisher with a fabulous library of short stories from many outstanding and talented writers.

My collaboration with Found Press has been amazing, this is definitely the first time I’ve had a story completely edited head to toe with the help of an editor (a very talented one in fact – Byran Ibeas). We bounced the story back and forth many times and Bryan made loads of amazing suggestions that I feel polished my story into a gleaming sea pearl.

It was an exciting process because editing is awesome. It’s an art in and of itself (as I have been learning from the ongoing editing of my debut novel with my lovely agent) and if you are working with the right person it can be a fun learning experience. I loved getting the benefit of Bryan’s perspective and I walked away with a much better story because of his editing wisdom, thanks Bryan!

Another thing that’s exciting about this publication is it’s my first interaction with royalties. I put a lot of time and effort into writing short stories and it’s not often that I see much in the way of monetary reimbursement. Now I don’t write fiction with money as my starting goal, but I am certainly happy when I can make some (who isn’t?). So for the very first time I can say that with the purchase of either a subscription to Found Press or the purchase of Amako, you will be supporting me directly (and Found Press’s continued publication of great fiction)!

And finally a quick story note about Amako…

I was inspired to learn more about Ama (Japanese pearl diving women) when I read an article by a photographer who went home to Japan to document their lives. I can’t find his article now, but I wanted to link to some pictures that were similar to those that inspired me.

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Editing my first novel

ImageAbout two weeks ago I got some feedback on my first novel (A Girl Out There) that I felt inclined to listen to, so I went back in time and gave it a read through.

Looking back I was shocked to find that it hasn’t even been a year since I wrote it, but so much has changed since then that it seemed (as I flipped through the pages) like a book I set about writing in my teenage years.  In the meantime I’ve written two other novels, a novella, a host of short stories and I am currently working on a fourth novel.

I have done a lot since the first novel and looking back, my progress shows.

As much as I was happy to have such marvelous feedback I was shocked at the state of the book itself.  It was lacking a depth and a sense of feeling that I like to think I am much more capable of now and there was far too much telling and not nearly enough showing.  It felt sloppy, inconstant and too packed with stuff that didn’t matter.  It had only been seven months since I wrote the damn thing, but I swear it could have been years!

So needless to say I was thrilled to tear it apart and put it back together with more detail, emotion and expansion on the themes.

The whole process started out a bit rough, because I was stuck in the voice of my current protagonist (Nil) and I couldn’t quite make the shift back to the old one (Cali).  Nil is sassy and sharp and Cali is soft and flowing.  So I wrote the first chapter in Nil’s voice (or something close to it) and Ben read it and shook his head.  I’m pretty sure I threw things across the room in my annoyance.

It’s hard going back.  I like to tie things up and move on to the next thing, I’m a forward thinker, not a backward looker.

In round two I tried again, smoothed out some of the rough edges, but still Ben didn’t like it.

I despaired and it was all very dramatic.

Ben said vague sorts of things like ‘I’m just not feeling it’ and I wanted to chuck ‘it’ out the window.

 So I tried again and the next round was a bit closer, then a bit closer, then I hit the nail (more or less) on the head.  It was a huge relief.

After that all was well, having gotten the voice back and reestablishing the character in my mind going through the rest of the book felt as good to me as throwing stuff out.  I love throwing stuff out.  I will periodically go through the cupboards in the house just so I can feel the satisfaction and lightness of having less shit in our lives.

I got to rip out huge sections of text and toss characters to the curb, it was deliciously liberating.

Then, when all that was done I got to build up the parts I had left shallow, try to enrich the relationships and encounters that remained in the wake of my clear cutting.

Overall the book isn’t completely indicative of the style of writing I have moved on to.  My first book was more of an adventure-style story than the others that have come after.  I have shifted my focus a bit to go more literary with my magic realism, but still there is something I will always love about the first because it represents my own personal liberation.  It was me taking back my creativity, my past, my writing.  I was coming out of a bad situation and into a better one and the spirit of change is obvious within the pages of the story.

I used to hate editing.  When it came time for Ben to provide his feedback I would flail and moan and he would wait patiently until I was done my immature spazzing.  But now I get it, editing can be freeing and even fun.  It can be interesting and reflective.

Overall I’m pretty happy with the results of my efforts and I hope others are too (although that remains to be seen).  But what I can say is that I have a new appreciation for editing and the joy of tearing something to bits to find the goodness inside.

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Advice for new writers (or old ones that need some inspiration)

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The Short

Just write.  Writing isn’t about being good, it’s about being passionate.  Don’t let anyone tell you how to write or what to write, just keep writing and don’t stop till your arms hurt and your eyes refuse to focus on the page.

The Long

Each time I sit down to write and stare at an empty page, a void opens up in front of me.  It’s a wide expanse that alternates between self doubt and emptiness and I peer into it with wide eyes and half a heart.  Sometimes it lasts a fraction of a second and other times the seconds march on into minutes, but either way, it’s my job to leap over the void and into the story.  Each time it’s my job to overcome my boundaries and write.

Art is an act of bravery and writing is an act of art.


When we put words on a page it exposes us, our hopes and dreams, our darker side, our interests and passions.  We are exposed to whomever might be reading our words, but more importantly, we are exposed to ourselves.  When we write honestly and openly, there’s nowhere for us to hide and that can be a scary thing.


Try it now.  Open a word document or a journal (of you like writing by hand) and write a series of statements about yourself.  Each one should start with ‘I’.  Write until you come to a natural end.

Did you do it?

I did:

I am tasting the water.
I am speaking with fire.
I am opening my eyes.
I close them too often.
I am thinking of something I don’t want to do.
I dream of things I’d rather not speak of.
I wish for little but hope for everything.
I am waiting for summer to arrive.
I wish I could see the moon on the lake every night of my life.
I want to write well.
I want to be good.
I need to be real, or else what am I?

So what does this mean?  Maybe something, maybe nothing.  It’s just words on a page that came from my mind.  Sometimes it is more meaningful than others but if we spent our whole lives trying to read into the words that we conjure, we wouldn’t get anything done now would we?

So my advice is to write…but how to write?

Write like no one’s reading


Because no one is.  Sure you’re reading, but you know yourself right?  So it’s not all that bad.  The more you write for other people, the more you will veer away from what you are passionate about and what drives you.  If you aren’t writing for you, you will probably get bored of it mighty fast.

Write like there is no good

There are so many different kinds of writers (and readers) out there, who’s to say what good really is?  And even if there is a good and you’re not it, as long as you are doing what you love, why should it matter?  If you’re writing for fame and fortune, it’s a long shot anyway, even for people who are really crazy amazing.  So best stick with the love and try to go from there.

Write with curiosity

Try new things.  I’ve always written urban fantasy, but I have a great deal of respect and passion for truly well written high fantasy (which I believe is scarce), so I’m going to give it a try.  I’m curious to see if I can write high fantasy well.  Don’t limit yourself to what you think you’re good at, try new things, because they may surprise you and if nothing else, the challenge will hone your skills.

Write free

People will try to tell you all sorts of shit about your writing, I promise.  Everyone will have a different opinion.  Some people will love it, some people will hate it and, unfortunately, some people might even try to read into your psyche through your writing. This is about as effective as a psychic reading (meaning not effective at all).  Sure writing exposes you and opens you up to your inner voice, but trying to make sense of that in any psychologically profound way is nigh impossible and ridiculously fruitless.  Write free.  Don’t read too deeply into your writing.  As humans we are great at (and love to) find patterns.  We will even find them when they are vague or nonexistent.  So don’t cling to patterns and let yourself believe they mean things about your subconscious, and for the love of all the gods, don’t let anyone else do it either.

Write with the knowledge that you can always edit later

Everyone has a different way of doing things, but I like to get a full thought out before I edit.  Whether it’s a paragraph, a chapter or a whole story, if you’re in the flow don’t chicken out and go back to check if everything’s al good.  The past is the past and it isn’t going away, so move into the future as far as you can before venturing back.  But please don’t forget to venture back, because it isn’t perfect back there, not yet.

Write with passion

Write for the love, not the money (because the money will either be slow to come or will never come at all).  Write because you can’t stop yourself.  Write because it makes you happy (or makes you miserable not to).  Write because you’re curious and you want to try.  Write because beauty is possible.  Write because life is too precious to go without mentioning.

All of the points above are well and good, but they all have one thing in common.  The word ‘write’.  So at the end of the day, the take home message is, was and always will be: write.  Just close your eyes, jump over the damn void and write like hell.


Tell me about your challenges and share your ‘I’ lists!

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This is a post for www.writesofluid.com’s blog writing challenge.  One blog post a day for all of June!  Check it out at the website or on twitter: @sofluid or #wpad!

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Keep It Simple

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I’ve been doing a lot of reviewing lately on forums and in writing groups.  I feel like it really helps me focus on my own style to take apart other people’s stuff and look at the bits.

What I’ve noticed most of all (especially in fantasy and sci-fi) is that people complicate things too much.  Obscure words, five words when one would do, thick dialogue, overdone description, info dumps, metaphors that don’t match the world.  All of this stuff starts to stack until you have a book or a story that’s too full.

Take a deep breath writers and cut, cut cut.

If it feels confusing when you’re writing it, it will likely be ten times worse when someone goes to read it.  Keep that in mind before you go spilling the guts of the world all over the page.

Keeping it simple also involves knowing what parts of the story matter and what don’t.  I think writers fall in love with their characters and their worlds so much that they think people want to hear every last tiny detail that comes to mind.  We don’t.  We want to hear the details that matter, that are relevant to the story and keep the protagonist(s) charging forward or contain some sort of meaningful moment.

I learned a lesson about this today as I was writing a story that may or may not become a novel/la.  It’s a about a girl hitching to California from Toronto.  So I had her get a ride from some guy and they shared a moment by the lake.  Then the moment was over, it was over and gone but still I was tempted to stretch it out, make it last.  I was about to continue with them having lunch somewhere and my fingers were poised over the keyboard.  But instead, I looked at the chapter and said, ‘lunch doesn’t matter, it’s irrelevant and useless, the moment is done’ and I was liberated after that.  Set free by simplicity and brevity.

So look at your stories and novels writers and ask yourself if you are writing because it matters or if the moment is gone and now you’re just saying stuff because you want to hear yourself talk.

Although being complicated may be cathartic for you, if you don’t keep it simple, your readers will quickly move on.