Taking the Pressure Off

I feel like, recently, all my posts basically say the same thing. Either “I wrote a book, please buy it”, or “I’m struggling, I’m tired, I’m depressed”. I’m not going to be doing very much more of the first, and in an effort to combat the second I’ve made some decisions.

My calendar is full of commitments. Aside from work and family things, there are all these challenges I take part in. I think when I took them on I thought ‘any practice is good practice’, but now there’s just too many things happening and I’m missing deadlines, stressed out, and miserable. Not to mention that keeping up with these things is keeping me out of finishing 19.

Obviously, I can’t drop work and work commitments from my schedule. They’re what keeps the lights on and my dogs in kibble. Likewise family. When the wheels come off, they’re the ones who’ll be there to help.

So. October’s Furious Fiction has just passed. Yes, I entered, and I’m happy I did because it will be my last one for the foreseeable future.

Wishful Inkers… I love this project. I believe so strongly in the reasons behind it. But every new issue fills me with dread. I need new content for it, and the blank page just lies there, refusing to be filled. The new issue will be out soon, and it will contain some work from me. But it will also be my last one for the foreseeable future.

And then there’s Deadlines for Writers. I haven’t submitted a short story for it in I don’t even know how long, but every month when deadline approaches (this month’s happens to be today) I find myself panicking. It’s not motivating me anymore. The poetry side is still working quite well for me, but I think even there I need a break.

I haven’t really been very good about keeping up with my Facebook and Instagram lately, and I think I’m going to drop them from the rotation too. Obviously I’m keeping the actually pages/accounts, I just won’t be actively trying to generate content there. As always, if you want to get in touch with me email or Twitter are the best bets.

And the YouTube channel is on indefinite hold. I have some ideas for what I want to do with it and I can’t wait to get started but, unfortunately, there are some roadblocks which are pretty insurmountable right now.

I’m hoping that this will be temporary. I’m hoping that I’ll be able to get most of the other big items off my plate by the end of the year and I can come back to the smaller things – because they did make me happy once. But I’m not promising that I will.

Sometimes, things are useful to us only for a short time and then we need to move on.

SNEAK PEEK: Tuesday

tuesday

it’s not the big days that get me
that stop me where i stand
choking on memories
and streaming tears
it’s not the birthdays
anniversaries
holidays
it’s the random
ten past three
on a tuesday afternoon
when someone says something
does something
makes something
so unbelievable
that i feel i have to share it with you
and i remember
i can’t
the punch in the gut of
not being able to call and ask
how much milk goes in this sauce
and the sudden realisations
of how long its been
since i last heard your voice


There’s only 20 days left until Silk Flower Goodbye goes live, so I thought I’d share one of  the poems here as a little taster. I hope you enjoyed it!

If you’d like to get your hands on a free copy, I’m running a bit of a competition over on my Twitter page (@inkandsage) where I’m giving away 1 digital copy of Silk Flower Goodbye every day between now and 2 Oct! All you need to do to enter is look out for the post tagged #20DayGiveaway and answer the day’s question. Couldn’t be easier! Today’s (Day 1) question just went live a few minutes ago!

And if you’d prefer not to leave things to chance, you can always pre-order a copy by following this lovely link here!

Let’s Talk about Rest, Baby

There’s a rather prevalent idea in the writer community that you need to write every day – and that if you don’t write every day you’re not a “real writer”. I used to believe that. I don’t anymore.

I understand it, in principle. Making writing a habit means that you don’t waste time waiting for the muse to show up. Writing every day means you have more words (even if they’re bad ones) to work with. And let’s throw in a bit of the 10,000 hour rule, too – the more time you spend writing, the closer you come to expert status (if such a thing exists).

I don’t disagree with the idea on a fundamental level, but I think it is a bit unrealistic. It bases itself on the idea of the solitary writer, in a bubble, separate from the world. It disregards the absolutely irrefutable fact that life happens. And believe me, life does happen. Illness, bereavements, moving, job stress, other commitments… it happens.

So here’s my suggestion. Rather than write every day, let’s say write every day you can. Because when your mother has just passed away, your husband is lying in the high care ward, or you’re just plain exhausted because life, telling yourself you’re not a real writer because you haven’t written today is the opposite of helpful. You make it harder for yourself to deal with what you’re dealing with, and harder to come back to writing with an open heart.

There’s not one writer in the world who hasn’t experienced some sort of upheaval in their writing life, and often that means non-writing days. Maybe one or two, maybe several. Maybe even a couple of weeks or a couple of months. But during that time you are still a writer.

So I’ve been resting this week because last week I was really full-on. I had my usual 8-5 but I was also assisting with the local dance school’s big production. It was a week (and a bit) of early mornings and late nights, buckets of stress, and very little sleep. When the exhaustion finally hit me on Monday night I decided that it was okay to take this break.

And when I start writing again (tomorrow) I, and my writing, will be all the stronger for it.

But Sage! I hear you cry. What about Silk Flower Goodbye?

Fear not, gentle reader. I received some wonderful feedback from my CP, and I’ve been chipping away at the edits just a few minutes at a time. I plan to finalise those, and my front matter, this weekend and have the final file uploaded sometime next week, so I can start looking at *GASP* paperback options.

Pre-orders are still open for the ebook and I’m strongly considering putting the price up after release, so now’s your chance to get it for a mere 1.99 USD (or equivalent in your territory). Current count is 9 and I would really love to get to 15 pre-orders.

Thanks to the lovely Robyn Sarty for mentioning Silk Flower Goodbye in her August newsletter. If you like historical fiction, you can find her at robynsarty.com

Here’s what she said:

Silk Flower Goodbye is a poignant, beautiful, honest, and at times, whimsical look at life, loss, and love.

Friend, I hope you have a wonderful weekend. Do something good for yourself today – whether that’s taking a nap, going for a long walk, or indulging in the hot beverage of your choice. Take care of yourself.

MSUM Part 3 – Passing on the Passive Voice

Welcome to Part 3 of “My Stories Under the Microscope” or “MSUM”, where I run 13 of my short stories through Hemingway and take a closer look at the results.

This time it’s all about the passive voice.

First, let’s have a (maybe not so quick) refresher. If you don’t need a refresher, feel free to skip to the next heading!

Passive voice is when the subject of your sentence is being acted upon instead of doing the acting. For example:

“Sage ate the last burger.” is active voice.
“The last burger was eaten by Sage.” is passive voice.
“The last burger was eaten.” is also passive voice.

If you need a trick to help you identify passive voice, try adding “by unicorns” to the sentence (you can replace unicorns with whatever you like, mythical creatures, cryptids, kaiju…) – if it still makes sense, it’s passive voice. “The last burger was eaten by unicorns” = passive voice. [I take no credit for this trick, it was taught to me by my good friend and writing buddy, Robyn Sarty. Thanks Robs!]

The passive voice sentences are completely valid but they do feel a bit limp. The action has already taken place. It has been acted, it has gone to the great theatre in the sky, it is an ex-action. And if you caught that reference, we are destined to be the very best of friends.

In narrative fiction, generally speaking, we want action that is strong and direct. We want boom-boom, not womp-womp.

Passive voice does have its uses: anywhere where the action is more important than the actor (sorry, theatre buds), we want to use passive voice – think historical accounts (“The war was won.”), legal documents (“The motion was denied.”), scientific reports (“The results were recorded.”) etc. It can also be used to avoid or deflect blame. This is a particular favourite trick of politicians.  It acknowledges the action without stating who is responsible or what the solution or follow-up action is.

Remember: both active and passive voice can be used to great effect, but active is generally considered stronger for narrative fiction.

Now that we’re all caught up, let’s take a closer look at my work and the results from Hemingway.

passive

As with adjectives, the “allowable” is proportional to the word count of the piece. Again, it’s not an exact formula but it works out to be roughly 2% of the word count per piece. Looking at the graph, I don’t seem to be terribly guilty of this particular “problem”, but let’s take a closer look at one of my more passive pieces. 

This is an excerpt from Landslide:

passive2

If we rewrite the passive “Everything was covered in a haze.” as active “A haze covered everything.”  we get a stronger, more present sentence. I’m kicking myself for not having written it that way in the first place, but if I had we wouldn’t have this example to learn from.

“They couldn’t be returned now.” would also be more impactful in the active voice: “She couldn’t return them now.”

So far, so good. It seems we have a pretty solid case for active being better than passive.

But now take a look at the third highlighted section: “They were ruined.”

This is a great example of a passive sentence which is not improved by being rewritten into active voice, for two reasons. The first is that, while “The rain had ruined them.” is a perfectly good sentence, it is also less simple and less punchy than its passive counterpart. The second is that the active version does not make sense when read with the following sentence: “Like she was.” 

This post has turned out to be about 3x longer than I intended it to be, so I’m going to wrap it here and say that I’ll be back soon with MSUM Part 4 – simpler alternatives to complex sentences. I’m also working on a post about writing with/around mental health issues and/or chronic illness, a topic requested by another dear friend, Richard Bat Brewster.

Stay awesome!

 

Title and Cover Reveal!

Friends, thank you for supporting me through the craziness that was July. I managed to reach my goal of 100 poems for my not-so-secret project, and I wouldn’t have been able to do it without your help.

There’s a lot of work still to be done on it, but in the meantime… We have a title! And while we’re revealing that – a cover, too!

*** drum roll ***

SFG1-a

silk flower goodbye is available for pre-order now, and will be out on 2 October 2019.

I want to thank everyone who kept me going this past month – Mr Sage, the Clarens Writers, the Wanderimos, the Wishful Inkers, and the Bestexperimates. I don’t want to single anyone out because I am guaranteed to forget someone. If we’ve had any contact recently, just know that I am so completely, utterly thankful to and for you!

CP is on a trip at the moment so I have a little breather before we get into feedback and editing on this project. I should be working on Number 19 (new title TBA when I can think a little more clearly), but I was struck by an inspiration particle on the commute home yesterday and am going to give myself this weekend to work on that before I get back to Number 19 on Monday.

I know, I know. Squirrel mind.

I hope you’ll have a wonderful weekend, wherever you are. Remember that you are loved. Be good, be kind, and stay hydrated! x

Can You Speed-Write Poetry?

Discussing goals with my local writing group on Sunday, I mentioned that I would need to write 42 poems in 9 days (approximately 5 a day) to reach my goal for July. That statement was met with the question “how?” (Well, not exactly, but that was the gist of it – I’ve paraphrased for clarity.)

My answer is this: exactly the same way that you speed-write a novel – knowing that it is an imperfect draft but that the seeds of a great work are there.

When I’m speed-writing these poems, I’m not intending for them to be the final, finished, published work. I am getting down the kernels of the truths I’m trying to write. And once the month is over, I’ll tweak them and polish them. I’ll give them to my CP to read over and feed back on, and I’ll work on something else while I wait for that feedback. We’ll tweak and polish them together.

And then I’ll polish them a little bit more, because that’s what you do.

Some of them are close to what I want already, and won’t need much work. Some of them are so far away that I can’t see what I want with a telescope – but somewhere inside them is something I wanted to say, and that is what I’m doing when I’m penning 100 poems in a month. Well, 80 – I had about 20 before the month began.

It’s not about perfect. It’s about done.

The Mid-July Report

This post was intended (but not yet written) for last week. Life, however, decide that we had not had enough lemons, and Mr Sage ended up in hospital, where he has been for the last week. (He’s home now, and doing much better).

On 8 July, I had a moment of bravery/temporary insanity, in which I made a public declaration on Twitter. The Bestseller Experiment witnessed it and has shouted it out on the podcast, so there is no turning back for me now.

What did I declare?

Part 1: I will have ALL 100 poems for my book written by 23:59 (GMT+2) on 31 July 2019.

As it stands currently, I have 58 poems ready – 42 still to write. There are 9 days left, not including today. That means 4,7 per day, rounded up is 5 a day. Maybe a little on the hectic side, but not impossible or even improbable.

Stay tuned to find out if I manage it!

Part 2: The poetry book will be available for sale by 01:30 (GMT+2) on 2 October 2019.

Even if I miss the 31 July deadline for completion, which I’m not intending to do, the book WILL be available by 01:30 on 2 October. Why 01:30, I hear you ask. Well, that’s another story for another time – but keep your eyes peeled for more info info and announcements on my blog!

PArt 3: The current draft of Number 19 will be completed and in the inbox of my alpha reader by 23:59 (GMT+2) on 30 November 2019.

No more fannying about with this! This story has taken up too much of my brain space for far too long, and I need to be moving on to other things. So it WILL be done, and sent off for alpha reading, so I can get on with one of the other million ideas incubating in my brain.

I should probably make a start on finding an alpha reader at some point, too…

And what about CampNaNoWriMo?

I am 395 minutes away from my goal of 1200. I’m behind where I should be, but not by much (less than 10 minutes) and I’m sure I’ll make it up this afternoon.

We’re in the home stretch now so – be productive, do the things, be good, be kind, and stay hydrated! You’ve got this!