Diving In

CampNaNoWriMo starts tomorrow! (It’s not too late to sign up, if this is your kind of thing!)

Mr Sage and I met with our local writing group this afternoon for the pre-Camp kickoff party, where we indulged in various refreshments, caught up on what we’ve been doing since the last Camp, and set our goals for this one.

Our motto for this camp is “make something imperfect”. I kind of want to make a T-shirt with that slogan.

MSI

(Edit: I actually did make this available as a design on my Redbubble.)

I’m going to be jumping between two projects for this Camp, with an overall goal of 20 hours of writing for the month. Obviously the site only lets you track one project at a time, so I’ll be “booking” all my time to Number 19 but working on both. (That pun was very much unintended.)

I’m hoping to be able to have this “side” project ready for publication in early October, so that means I really need to push to get it in front of alpha/beta readers and editors etc. I would be thrilled if I could get Number 19 to a state of alpha-readiness as well, but I’m less concerned about that for now.

Good luck to everyone doing CampNaNo – I know you can do it!

The Truth Is…

I’m struggling.

I’m struggling with my mental health, with my physical health, with my job, with my finances. I don’t really want to get into specifics right now, because that will overwhelm me.

I’m just struggling. And it’s impacting on my ability to create, well, anything really – despite the fact that I have hundreds of ideas and am hugely excited about them.

This post isn’t meant to be a pity party – just an update.

So here’s the plan. I’ve already taken some (completely unplanned) time off from my blog, and that’s been helpful to some extent, but I need more time. I’m going to finish the MSUM series in the next month, but I don’t know how much other content I’ll be posting for now.

I want to thank everyone who has supported me in my journey so far. You are all deeply wonderful people.

Until we meet again – be good, be kind, stay hydrated, and know that you are loved.

Sage

MSUM Part 2 – Ably Addressing Adverbs

Welcome to Part 2 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 adverbs.

If you need a refresher on your parts of speech (as I always do), adverbs are words or phrases which modify or qualify the verb in a sentence. They provide more information about how, when, where, or how often that action occurs – think gently, yesterday, outside, sometimes.

Adverbs are quite nifty little words and they can be very important. But too many of them can weigh your writing down, making for slow, clunky sentences. There’s also the danger of heading into purple prose territory, so it’s a good idea to try and only use them when they’re really needed.

Hemingway highlights all of the adverbs, and tells you how many adverbs are appropriate for the length of the piece. Here’s an example from one of my stories:

adv

Look at all of those lovely, blue adverbs. In this example, every one of them could be cut, and I would end up with a stronger story. Yes, they add some flavour and I quite like them where they are, but none of them are really vital.

Now let’s have a look at my adverb count across the stories. I took the Hemingway adverbs target for each story and divided it into that story’s word count. It isn’t an exact formula, but it seems to average out at about 1% – that is, 1 in every 100 words is “allowed” to be an adverb.

adverbs

The chart shows that, out of 13 stories, I went over the acceptable adverb count 3 times, matched it exactly once, and stayed under 9 times. I’d say that’s not too bad. The 3 stories where I went over were particularly emotional stories for me to write, so I think it’s understandable that I would use more qualifiers and modifiers in those pieces.

The chart also shows an overall decline in adverbs in my work. Theoretically, that means my pieces are cleaner and, hopefully, punchier. That’s certainly something I’m working towards. I look forward to revisiting this exercise in a year’s time – we’ll see if I’ve improved at all.

Do you use a lot of adverbs, too? Do you have any tricks for cutting down? I want to hear all about it!

Is This the Secret to a Good Story?

Lately I’ve been listening to a really fun and interesting podcast. It’s called Writing Class Radio, and it does pretty much what it says on the tin. (Warning: They swear. A lot. And while they are usually not graphic and never gratuitous, they are very free in their discussion of such sensitive topics as sex, rape, abuse, and abortion. If these things are likely to cause you distress, do not listen to this podcast.)

I listen to a LOT of writing podcasts. Some of them are about the craft of writing. Some are all about the business. I listen to podcasts for self-publishing, and podcasts that are more trad-focused. The one thing they all have in common is that they’re mostly aimed at fiction writers – people like me.

WCR is different. The writing class in question is a memoir writing class. The students are writing about themselves, about their actual lives. For a lot of them, it’s a form of therapy. They write their stories to work through them.

All the stories they air are great stories. They may not be the most well written, but they are the most real. They grip. They enthrall. I have found myself crying at my desk more than once while listening.

And there’s one thing that connects all of the stories that made me cry, or made me laugh, or gave me a strong emotional response. The narrator is vulnerable. They are raw, and they are true. They have opened themselves up and exposed themselves. Even the ugly bits. Especially the ugly bits. That’s what makes me care.

I don’t write memoir. I might, one day, when I’ve lived a life worth sharing. But for now I write fiction and I’m going to try my damnedest to be vulnerable as I do.

Quick Announcement

I didn’t manage to get this week’s post (MSUM Part 2) done because I’ve been battling the plague all week. To make up for it, there’ll be two posts next week.

Also, if you don’t already follow me on Twitter, now’s the time. I made it to 1500 Twitter followers yesterday, so I’m running a little giveaway over there.

Thought you ought to know.
quirrel

 

Have a great weekend!

My Stories Under the Microscope – Part 1

I’ve been writing short stories “seriously” for about a year now.

I’m part of the Wishful Inkers project, I regularly take part in the AWC Furious Fiction competition, and I’m trying very hard to keep up with the 12 Short Stories challenge. And then there’s short stories for the blog, for (future) reader magnets, secret projects, and just for the heck of it.

So over the last year, I’ve managed to write 13 short stories (that I can talk about), and I thought it would be fun to analyse them in Hemingway, and share my findings here.

Well, I DID run them through the app and, boy, did I learn some stuff about myself and my writing. So much so that I don’t think it would all be digestible as a single post. I’m breaking it down into 4 (maybe more?) posts.

Welcome to “My Stories Under the Microscope” or “MSUM”!

Is this series just an excuse for me to play with spreadsheets and charts? … maybe. But I hope you’ll enjoy it anyway!

The first bit of data I’m going to share is word counts. No two apps give the same word count so, given that this series rests on analyses from Hemingway, I’m going to go with the word counts given by Hemingway.

There’s not much to be gleaned from this chart right now, but it’s a base for the rest of the data, so I’ll be referring back to it later.

What we can see right away is that my word count differs wildly between projects. Furious Fiction is always under 500 words, and the 12 Short Stories challenge has a different word count target (with a 50 word tolerance) every month, so there’s not much I can do about those.

I have more freedom when it comes to Wishful Inkers and my other personal projects but even there I seem to be lodged firmly in the 1k-2k camp. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that, but I would like to try to write some longer pieces at some point. When I do, you can be sure I’ll share them here!

That’s about it for MSUM Part 1. In Part 2, we’ll take a look at adverbs and their impact on readability. I hope you’ll join me then!

My Thoughts on Reviewing Books as a Writer

You may have noticed that I’ve started reviewing books here. It’s something that I wrestled with myself over for quite some time.

Once upon a time, not too long after the dinosaurs disappeared, I actually ran my own book review blog. It wasn’t successful (I’m pretty sure even my mom didn’t follow it), but I managed to keep it going for quite a while. (No, it doesn’t exist anymore. Yes, I backed it up before I deleted it, and I have everything tucked away on a hard drive. No, I’m not going to post those reviews here).

Eventually I decided that yes, I would post reviews on this site, but there would have to be some rules. Well, just one rule actually.

I won’t review a book I don’t like.

It’s simple enough, really. I  don’t feel comfortable taking a book that someone else has bled countless hours into and panning it just because I didn’t enjoy it personally. Maybe I wasn’t the target audience. Maybe I just wasn’t in the right frame of mind. Maybe… there are hundreds of reasons why I could not like a good book, and I don’t want to put people off of books because I didn’t like them.

I didn’t mind so much when I was younger. I don’t know if I was colder and more callous then or if I just didn’t realise how devastating a poor review can be. It might have something to do with the fact that I didn’t consider myself a “real” writer back then. Now, I just don’t think it’s the right thing for me to do, as a reader, or as an emerging author.

The obvious exception to the rule would be if there is something genuinely problematic about a book – e.g. it actively promotes some abhorrent behaviour or world view – in which case I’ll be yelling from the rooftops “DO NOT BUY THIS BOOK!” (But also probably not on this site.)

I suppose what I’m actually doing is less reviewing, more recommending. But that’s the only way I feel comfortable doing it. If I post about a book here, it’s because I really, genuinely loved it, and I want to keep it that way. I want there always to be integrity in my reviews/recommendations.

If you have any books that you’d like me to read and (possibly) review, please leave a comment, reach out on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram, or drop me an email. I can’t guarantee that I will read everything that is recommended to me, and I’m definitely not promising to review, but I will add suggestions to my evergrowing TBR list.