The Moral of the Story

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In the wake of the mass shooting in Las Vegas, the deadliest in US history, I was listening to a segment on the radio about research into gun owners in Australia. Rather than reinforcing the idea that weapons were more likely in rural areas where they are necessarily used for farming and predator control purposes, it found that a small number of urban gun enthusiasts and sports shooters were amassing huge arsenals. One owner had 283 guns. All legal, of course, otherwise the researchers would never have known about them.

There are plenty of illegal guns in Australia as well, estimated at about 10,000, but the strict gun control laws in this country mean that gun ownership is seen as unusual, abnormal even. We don’t have the gun culture that the US has, I suspect partly because of the different ways in which the countries established their independence from their shared colonial master.

The reason this segment on the radio resonated with me is because the main character in my debut novel is a small weapons engineer, a gun designer with a large arsenal of her own, although primarily comprised of historically significant pieces worth a lot of money. In the as-yet incomplete sequel, the novel begins with the opening night of an exhibition of her collection at the Museum of the Confederacy in Richmond, Virginia. Continue reading

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Should You Set New Year’s Writing Resolutions?

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Knowing that this blog post would be published just before New Year’s, I thought to myself, I should write a New Year’s themed blog post (just like the Christmas-themed blog post that was published last week just before Christmas). I’ve written about new year’s writing resolutions before, setting four goals at the start of 2016 (that I pretended weren’t goals to relieve a little bit of the pressure on myself) and writing at the end of 2016 about how successful I’d been (about 50/50 – I achieved some of them, failed entirely at others and achieved things during the year that I’d never even thought about when I was setting those goals).

I wasn’t sure I wanted to set goals again. Setting goals and then failing is demoralising. And I always fail at goals, especially ones that have definitive and relatively short deadlines. More often than not, I accomplish them but long after any arbitrary time frames I’ve set. That sums me up really. I’m easygoing. I’m laidback. I’m not ambitious. I’m happy to succeed over years rather than months and pressure to do it sooner doesn’t make it happen. In fact, it makes it less likely to happen.

So then I asked myself, Should I be setting New Year’s writing resolutions? Should I be setting goals at all? Continue reading

Should You Write a Christmas-themed Book?

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Clearly, it’s much easier to make the decision to write a Christmas-themed blog post (a thousand or so words, a fairly small investment of writing time) but should you write an entire Christmas-themed book? Depending on the type of books you write, it could be another small (or at least smaller) investment of writing time (such as with children’s books) or it could be months or years of your life (such as with full-length novels).

As with all writing choices, there are pros and cons. The final decision (and the reasons behind it) for one person will be completely different to the final decision (and the reasons behind it) for another. So this decision needs to be the right decision for you. Continue reading

Practice Novels: Not Just for the Start of a Writer’s Career

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In my late teens and early twenties, I wrote three novels that I like to refer to as my practice novels. At the time that I was writing them, I didn’t realise that I was just practising. It was only after they were complete that I knew they weren’t good enough, they weren’t the genre I wanted to pursue and they were unlikely to ever see the light of day.

I published the sex scene from the last of them, Liberty’s Secret, in 2015 in conjunction with a blog post on writing sex scenes, mostly to demonstrate that I’m not very good at writing sex scenes. It was full of euphemisms, the highs and lows of waves and crashing, and an overblown sense of emotion. Certainly, it was completely devoid of accurate names for genitalia. (That’s one of the big no-no’s of the romance genre I was attempting to write in.) And I published the entire book chapter by chapter on this blog earlier in 2017, just because… well, why not? I hate wasting writing.

I thought that was the end of my practice novels. But when I sat down to watch the movie of Fifty Shades of Grey, despite its flaws, I realised these genres and sex scenes more generally aren’t going anywhere. They are popular. And if done well, they can be important components of plot and character development. So I could continue avoiding them in my writing or I could try to get better.

Yes, more than twenty-five years after beginning my writing career and after publishing three books, I decided to write another practice novel. I had no intention of attempting to publish it for profit, just to improve on this writing area. Continue reading

How to Psych Yourself into Writing a Book

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After I wrote close to one hundred blog posts in 2015 about developing ideas, characters and plots, writing, editing, publishing, marketing and reading, I realised I had written enough to fill a book. And when I collated them all together, I realised it flowed nicely enough to seem like I’d done it on purpose. I’d written a book without even trying to write a book. That’s how Project December: A Book About Writing was born.

After I published Project December, I continued writing blog posts in the same vein but, of course, this time I knew I was heading towards writing a sequel. Why wouldn’t I? It had been so easy last time. I even wrote a blog post called, “How to write a book without even trying.”

The problem was that because I knew I was heading towards another book, it wasn’t going to be the same process. I wasn’t going to be able to write a book without even trying. Because I was trying to write a book.

I set a deadline for myself but as it approached, I knew for various reasons that I was never going to make it. Life, work and other pieces of writing were getting in the way.

Instead of giving up, I told myself that the deadline wasn’t important. I was the only person who knew it and I was the only person who would know it was going to pass by unmet. The important thing was that I eventually finished writing the book, regardless of whenever that time came.

So I just kept writing. I wrote when I had something to say. I wrote when I felt like it. I wrote when I had nothing else scheduled. And before I knew it, in less than two months, the first draft was finished. It only took one month more for the text to be finalised. How, I asked myself, did that happen? How, when I was so sure it would never happen in that time frame? Continue reading

Mistaken Identity: When Something You’ve Written Shares Its Title with an Infinitely More Famous Work

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Hard to believe but this is my 400th post! Where did all that effort come from? A little bit here and a little bit there. Thanks for reading!

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In 2004, I wrote a category romance novel (Harlequin, Mills & Boon, whatever you call them in your region) called Liberty’s Secret. It was the story of a woman named Liberty Freeman who had successfully reinvigorated a serious magazine from low circulation to being the talk of the industry. Now she was asked by the publisher to do the same thing for a publishing company he had just bought with the help of a financial whiz named Quinn O’Connell. Cue pounding hearts, stolen kisses and Liberty’s insistence that she wasn’t interested despite plenty of evidence to the contrary. And her secret was the reason why.

Liberty’s Secret was the last romance book I wrote. By the time I finished writing it, I knew I didn’t want to continue writing romance or be known as a romance writer. So I shelved it. I put it aside, choosing not to publish it, and I have barely thought about it since.

When I started writing Single White Female Writer, I was constantly trying to figure out ways to repurpose all of the many, many things I have written. So when I wrote a blog post about writing sex scenes for fiction and admitted that this wasn’t a strength of mine, I also posted the sex scene I had written for Liberty’s Secret to prove it was true.

Since I posted it, the sex scene from Liberty’s Secret has averaged one view per month. Like I said, it’s not great. And because it’s just that one scene, completely out of context from the rest of the missing novel, that makes sense to me. Also, because it was an example of something I didn’t think I did that well, I didn’t mind that much.

So imagine my surprise when WordPress notified me of the following: “Your stats are booming! Single White Female Writer is getting lots of traffic.” And when I checked to find out why, it was all because of the sex scene from Liberty’s Secret. In one month, my average views from that post had increased significantly. And in just one week, the average views had increased 4,100%!

What the heck was going on? Continue reading

Why I Sometimes Don’t Want to Tell People I’m a Writer

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Imagine this scenario:

“Hi, I’m Rachel.”
“Hi, Rachel. I’m John. What do you do?”
“I’m a receptionist.”
“So you just sit around talking on the phone all day?”
“It’s a bit more involved than that.”
“Where do you work?”
“At a small family company.”
“Oh. That’s a shame. Any chance you might be able to move on to a big corporate?”
“I’m happy where I am.”
“Are you a good receptionist?”
“I haven’t been asked to do it differently so I guess I am.”
“How many calls do you take a day?”
“Um, well, I’m not sure…”
“How much do you earn?”
“That’s not really any of your business.”
“But how will I know for sure if you’re a good receptionist?”
“Call the main switch and I’ll make sure I transfer you to the right person.”
“But that won’t tell me if others think you’re a good receptionist.”
“I like what I do. I don’t really care if others think I’m a good receptionist. And I really don’t care what you think.”
“That’s a pretty poor attitude for a receptionist to have.”
“Stop talking to me.”

Okay, so it seems like John is a special kind of asshat. But imagine now an almost identical conversation with just a couple of small changes: Continue reading