Category Archives: writing

Never Burn Your Work | House Blog

We’ve all had moments where we’ve thought “This story is so bad that I’m going to set it on fire and roast marshmallows over the flames.” The story doesn’t even need to actually be bad – maybe it’s great but you’ve submitted it so many times that you think it’ll never find a home, or maybe you just can’t get it finished and think only the cleansing power of fire will help. Or maybe you’re simply having a bad day and need to destroy something.

Thankfully now that computers exist, instead of having stacks of paper that can easily be set aflame or ripped into tiny bits, we can merely save those stories in a folder and never look at them again.

Sometimes when I’m in a creative slump I like to wander through my ‘unfinished’ files and see what was going on in my head back then. Why did I abandon that story? Was that actually a terrible idea? Can this be reworked and made into something better?

Today, instead of going through all these random titles* alone, I thought I’d share some with you.

Groundwork : An idea about magical coffee that I used for a very specific submissions call (but never finished in time). Honestly, thinking about it now, I might want to take that magical aspect and put it into another story. Also, I really wish I had magical coffee right now.

City of Ghosts : I have a great chapter 1 written, but just can’t get chapter 2 to work out. This has gone through numerous re-writes and re-casts, and I still can’t quite make it work. Someday I’ll take the time to work on this… someday…

My Mind Makes Things Go Boom : The title says it all. There’s basically 200 words written in this story and nothing about the plot or even what the main character’s name is. I have no idea where I’m going with this, and I’m pretty sure I thought of the title, realized I had nothing else, and gave up.

The Score : A novella that intertwines theft with a musical motif, written when I was in university. I think fondly of it, but oh dear does it need some major work.

No Problem : I have an original character that I adore (from a different, unpublished universe), and I wanted to write a story about him. It didn’t quite work out and the ending has yet to be typed. But I swear I’ll come to back to this one day…

Missing Mountains : Again, I had one small thought and hoped that it would blossom into an actual plot. It didn’t. But maybe some day it will…

Apologies to Patrick Stewart : The story of my first trip to New York City, where all I wanted to do was see a play starring Patrick Stewart. It’s memorable, but not in the way you’d think (spoiler, I never actually met or talked to Patrick Stewart, but I became a bit of a celebrity at the theatre where the show was). This was sent in for a travel story about helpful locals, but never got picked, so perhaps I’ll re-work it for my autobiography (which will come out when I’m 80).

And that’s just a taste of all the works-in-progress cluttering up my hard-drive at the moment. If I’m honest, it actually did give my creative brain a boost. Heck, I might have worked out a plot for Missing Mountains just now…

So instead of putting that story in the recycling bin, hold onto it. After a while you might look at it and realize it’s got potential. Or maybe it’ll give you a laugh. Or maybe you’ll realize that you really need to start taking more detailed notes because what the heck does that even mean?

_____

*Note: this is why you should always try to name your work something interesting, so that by simply reading the name you know what it’s about. I have a few file names I look at and have no clue what might be inside, while other names bring back those ideas as plain as day.

8 Different Kinds of Drafts | House Blog

  1. The Unfinished Draft :: aka ‘The Albatross’. Will you ever pick it back up and finish writing this draft? Does it count as a draft when it’s not complete? What does the word ‘draft’ even mean? What do words mean? Are you a figment of your own imagination?
  1. The Zero Draft :: It might be a mess, but at least it’s done, and isn’t that the most important thing? A little elbow grease and it’ll be a full-fledged first draft in no time!

Continue reading 8 Different Kinds of Drafts | House Blog

Speak The Speech, I Pray You | House Blog

One odd thing about me is that I love acting, but I hate public speaking. Put me in a costume, give me a character to be and someone else’s words to say, and I’ll do all right; but make me stand in front of people as only myself and I’ll start flubbing my words and breaking out in a cold sweat. And that goes doubly for making me read my own work.

The problem is now that I’m a writer with a few things published, I find that there are times when people want me to read my work out loud. And if you happen to be a writer, you may also find yourself in these kinds of situation. Whether it be book launches, signings, competitions, or conventions, there may come a time when someone expects you to read a thing you’ve written. So best get used to reading your own words (or inventing an “Eccentric Author” character to slip into when you need to do a reading *coughcough*).

However, reading your own work can be a great idea—even if it’s not for the public. Continue reading Speak The Speech, I Pray You | House Blog

Why Editing Matters | House Blog

Confession Time: Not so long ago, I used to be SUPER pedantic about grammar and spelling in books. If I found a word that wasn’t spelled right or an ellipsis that was only two dots, I would feel so superior and want to shout it from the rooftops (even if it was the only mistake in the entire story). I think it mostly came from my secret desire to be an editor – like, “Hey, I found this error! And this one! See how good I am! Hire me! Hire me! HIRE ME!”

But that’s not what writers want to hear. Honestly, it’d be weird to have someone come up to me and say “I found a misspelled word on page 54” and then walk away without saying anything else. But what about the 59,999 other words that were spelled correctly? Did you like any of them?

Over time, I’ve learned that I’m perfectly capable of forgiving an error here and there. If I read a line and think “That should be gasp instead of gas”, I’m able to move on. After all, writers and editors are human, and humans miss things. Even big publishers sometimes get things wrong. And, yes, even I make mistakes (I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s one or two in this post). If you’re writing a 50,000 word novel, there’s absolutely nothing wrong if a few mistakes accidentally make it into the finished project.

But don’t get me wrong: I’m not saying that editing isn’t important, because it is. Continue reading Why Editing Matters | House Blog

Helpful Things That Aren’t Writing | House Blog

There are times when I find it difficult to write. Sometimes I’ll sit in front of the computer with the best of intentions, but the words don’t come and the page remains blank. Yes, I want to be writing – I desperately want to create – but I feel stuck. Usually it’s because I’m stressed or finding it difficult to think, or trying not to focus on the other things I should be doing instead (i.e. cleaning).

So when the words won’t come, I try to think of other things I can do that will help push my ideas in a forward direction, instead of letting them swirl in an eternal vortex of hesitation. Such as…

Outlining. I never used to be big on outlining. I would sometimes know specific scenes and maybe how I wanted a story to end, but I always got there organically. Sometimes I even wrote out of order, having to find ways to cobble scenes together coherently. But when I’m having trouble writing I find that jotting down a rough outline of how I want the scene to look will help me. This especially helps with stress-brain, as now I know what I’m looking for and working towards. [This probably counts as writing, but it’s still different than actually writing the story.]

Creating Avatars. My visualizing isn’t always the best, so sometimes I’ll go online and create an avatar so that I have a quick reference to what a character looks like. What was their eye colour? Hair colour? Skin colour? Just look at this photo and you’ll know. And you don’t have to stop at avatars – create or find reference photos for places or buildings, too.

Reading a Great Book. When I was in high school I had two friends who were writing stories and they inspired me so much that I wanted to write one of my own. To this day, I can easily get inspired just by reading something amazing. It makes me want to create something just as wonderful. [Note: I can also sometimes be inspired by a book I find not-so-amazing, as it inspires me to write a story that doesn’t have all those things that bothered me in it.]

Reading or Watching Something Similar. If I’m having trouble slipping back into the world I’ve created, I’ll sometimes find something that’s similar in genre/character/tone, to help ease me into the world. It’s not always a book – it can be a television show or movie or graphic novel. Usually I go back to the thing that inspired me in the beginning. Whether it’s a musical that brought about a short story or a television show that I’ve spun into a series, taking another look can help me re-discover my original inspiration.

What are some of your favourite helpful non-writing activities?

‘What’s My Motivation?’ | House Blog

This line is usually used as a joke to indicate that an actor is high-maintenance, but motivation is a very important factor for actors and characters. Motivation is what compels a character to do (or not to do) something, and if it’s not clear enough, then the audience might have trouble believing in that character’s actions – and maybe even the character themselves. Continue reading ‘What’s My Motivation?’ | House Blog

“Top 10” Stories from The Lightbulb Forest | House Blog

I’d like to start off by saying that as an author I love all my stories equally, and that there’s really no such thing as a “Top 10”, just as there would be no “Bottom 10”. After all, if I didn’t care about some of these stories I wouldn’t have wanted them in this anthology.

That being said, here are 10 of those stories that I’m really excited to share with you. Continue reading “Top 10” Stories from The Lightbulb Forest | House Blog

New Year’s Resolutions (For Writers) | House Blog

I resolve to finish at least one project I start.  (I have twelve months ahead of me, which should be more than enough time to get a working draft done of something. And although I may leave a hundred unfinished projects in my wake, I will finish that one thing.  …Unless it gets too hard, then I’ll switch projects to something else that I’m sure to finish. But I’ll definitely finish that project.)  (Probably.)

I resolve to never be without a pen.  (I will continue to buy more pens than I could ever possibly need, and to be very particular about which pens I buy because some are definitely better than others and ink consistency matters very much.)

I resolve to continue buying books even though I have piles of unread books around my home.  (I’d resolve to stop doing that, but it would probably be broken within minutes.)

I resolve to review more books.  (Considering how often I read reviews to get an idea of what a book’s like, I should be writing more of them.) Continue reading New Year’s Resolutions (For Writers) | House Blog

What Happens to Forgotten Ideas? | House Blog

I had a great idea for a blog post, but then I forgot it.

I can’t remember anything about it, only the vague feeling of ‘Oh, this’ll make a great blog entry’. The rest, my friends, is darkness. It felt like the kind of idea that I would have written an entire post about, instead of doing my usual thing, which is:

  1. get an idea
  2. write two paragraphs
  3. get stuck
  4. wonder why I thought this would be a good idea in the first place
  5. think of something else
  6. repeat steps 2-5 many more times before losing your mind (once you’re officially insane, move on to step 7)
  7. magically discover an idea that’ll fill a whole blog post
  8. panic because it’s already the 18th and you’re behind schedule!
  9. write the post

[Full Disclosure: I did steps 1-5 before that idea hit me, but I’m sure it would have made me go straight to step 7 instead of step 6.  Fuller Disclosure: I only wrote one paragraph before I got stuck.]

Anyways, the point is that the idea left me. Utterly and completely left me. I was sitting at my computer, trying to think of something to write when suddenly I had a brilliant revelation. But instead of writing it down I got distracted by something and by the time I went back to it, the idea was long gone.

This happens most often when I’m trying to get to sleep. I’ll be thinking of how lovely it would be to drift away to dreamland instead of lying here awake when suddenly I’ll think of a new idea or scene or a way to fix a plot point that’s been bothering me. However, the thought of getting up and turning on the light, finding pen and paper and writing it all down can seem like a lot of work. So instead of doing that, I’ll tell my brain that I’d better remember this when I wake up or I’ll be pissed. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

Which leaves me with the question I asked about three hundred and fifty-three words ago: what happens to a forgotten idea?

Is it waiting patiently for me to remember it one day? It it hovering in the background somewhere, hoping and wishing that one day I’ll suddenly have a light-bulb moment and it can spring forth?

Did it get lost in the ether, swirling in idea-purgatory forever? Hoping that it’ll stay above water and won’t get dragged down into the depths from whence it’ll never come back, buried underneath all the other forgotten ideas?

Or did it move on to someone else, finding satisfaction in being acted upon by a person who didn’t forget it? Have all my forgotten ideas shuffled off to someone else? Is someone else writing the stories that I didn’t?

I’d like to think that those ideas don’t ever leave me, that they get stored away somewhere in the back of my mind, waiting for the right time. And some point in the future something will happen and it’ll appear, ready. Maybe it’ll seem familiar or maybe not, but it’ll be there, and that’s all that matters*.

_________

*And hopefully this time I’ll be smart enough to write it down the instant I think of it.