Despite promising myself 2013 would be the last time, I’ve decided to do it. I’m tackling NaNoWriMo again.
Last year I started off reasonably well. I managed to get out about 12,000 words before work got in the way and I fell too far behind. I spent the last two weeks being tortured by those daily NaNo email updates and I couldn’t even look at my word stats.
This year, I’m putting much less pressure on myself, because I know the same thing will probably happen again. I’m not aiming for 50,000 new words – instead, I’m working on an existing draft.
The idea behind NaNoWriMo is to write without inhibition, to get as much down as you can without any self-editing. I don’t think it matters how many words you write as long as you take advantage of that mindset to work towards a goal.
And there are some fantastic resources available to help you get there. Here are some of the ones I plan to use.
Write-Ins and Social Events
I’m normally not a social writer. I find other people distracting, and I tend to work best when I isolate myself in the library or at home. But I think being around people who are committed and inspired makes a huge difference when I have a specific goal to work towards. And sometimes I need to chat about my project to get excited about it again.
There are a lot of social events happening around Melbourne this year and I’m going to try and head along to a few.
The first Writers Bloc Write Here event happens to coincide with the start of NaNoWriMo. It’s set to take place from 11am at Thousand Pound Bend (361 Little Lonsdale Street, Melbourne) on Saturday November 1. It’s a chance to get together with likeminded writers for a few hours, put your head down and get to work. There’s no pressure to workshop; it’s just a supportive place to meet other writers.
The following Saturday (November 8) the Nanowriters Meetup Group will be hosting a write-in session at Thousand Pound Bend. This one kicks off at 3pm and involves some workshopping and writing exercises, but at the end there’s a get to know you session (and since you’re already in a pub, you might as well have a drink). It runs every week until the end of November, and then every second week if you want to keep up with it after that.
I’ve also joined the official NaNoWriMo Melbourne group. They’re running a ton of events throughout the month, including weekly drinks at the Colonial Hotel (corner of King and Lonsdale Streets in the CBD), a Night of Manuscripting Madly at Complete Post (12 Thistlethwaite Street, South Melbourne), and The Second Annual Great Train Write-In.
If you check the NaNoWriMo forums for your region, I’m sure you’ll find similar events in your area.
Online Writing Sprints
Since we might as well be in on all of this madness together, Ricochet Magazine will be running weekly write-ins over on Facebook.
Our first one will be on Sunday November 2 from 11am AEST (use this time zone converter if you’d like to know what time that will be in your city). We’ll write non-stop for one hour, and we’ll have a few prompts to get you started, so if you want to join in just head over to our Facebook page, where you can post about how well you’re doing or chime in if you need some support.
I’m also going to keep an eye on the NaNoWriMo Twitter page, which runs daily writing sprints.
I always turn to writing exercises when I want to work out a character problem. Even calling something a writing exercise helps take the pressure off, and it often ends up being better than anything else I’ve produced that day.
There’s a fantastic workbook called Ready, Set, Novel! which was put together by the NaNoWriMo creators. It’s full of activities and tips to help you brainstorm, plan out your plot, create your characters and your setting. I’ve already scribbled all over it in preparation for November 1, but I think it will be especially helpful when I hit those inevitable brick walls.
If you’d prefer not to buy a workbook, there’s nothing stopping you from putting together your own list of activities or finding some online. The NaNoWriMo forums are an excellent place to start. UK website Writing Exercises lets you generate random images, words, character traits and story titles to aid freewriting.
Some people set themselves a big reward for the end of the month, while others prefer to give themselves small daily incentives. Since I’m very easily distracted by TV, I thought I might as well incorporate it into my routine. The sooner I write my 1,600 words for the day, the sooner I’m allowed to watch The Walking Dead. Sounds foolproof, right? (Right?)
Are you participating in NaNoWriMo this year? Share your survival tips!
It’s here! The September edition of Ricochet Magazine is now available for download on our literary journal page.
The September edition features…
On Place, Memory and Melancholy by Corrie Macdonald
After the Harvest by Eric Botts
Nobody Cares | Everybody Understands by Anna Knowles
A Session by Valentina Cano
Heaven by Ryan Favata
Bubble by Linda Brucesmith
You by Ciahnan Darrell
Hurricane by Charles Bane Jr.
Hot Parts of Town | Love for a Regular Night by Colin Dodds
Spanish Enthusiast of Erotica by Jordan Tammens
Remember by Martha Krausz
Alone by Wayne F. Burke
Disposals by Daniel Hedger
The Oldest Profession by Luke Peverelle
Wood by Valentina Cano
Automatic Houses | And Fingerprints Too by Trina Gaynon
Sometimes We Need to Swim by Alexander Drost
The Haze in the Smoke by Cindy Matthews
Grass Valley by Tayne Ephraim
Because Bathrooms Are Where We Talk Ourselves In and Out Of Things by Anna Knowles
Clarice Beckett by Ross Jackson
Cover Story by Sue Zueger
Driving by Dominic Stevenson
Under Your Feet by Darlene P. Campos
The Conduit by Chris Rowley
Musculoskeletal by Atheer Al-Khalfa
Artwork by W. Jack Savage and Weldon Sandusky.
The Biology of Luck is a story that bursts onto the page and into your imagination, shimmering with life. From the first page I could tell it was far from just another tale set against a New York City backdrop.
Jacob M. Appel tells the story of Larry Bloom, an unattractive tour guide who is hopelessly in love with charismatic free-spirit, Starshine Hart. Larry has spent the last two years immortalising Starshine in his as-yet unpublished novel, also entitled The Biology of Luck.
Now he’s set to play his trump card. He has a date with Starshine and an envelope from a publishing house in his pocket.
The novel takes the reader on a journey through the day leading up to the date, alternating between Larry’s perspective and chapters from his manuscript. Here’s where it gets tricky. Larry’s novel tells the story of Starshine’s life on the day leading up to the date, the day he feels he will win her heart. The result teams whimsy, grit and metafiction in a spunky metropolitan fairy tale.
Creative Nonfiction is seeking new essays about ‘waiting’ – stories of delays, postponements and pauses that explore our relationship with time. There will be a $1000 award for the best essay, but please be aware that there is a substantial reading fee. Submissions close September 22.
Kill Your Darlings is open for pitches and submissions for its print edition and online blog. A few topics the editors are particularly interested in at the moment include literary censorship vs. the use of sexual imagery to sell books, and the racial politics surrounding Nicki Minaj (writers of colour are especially welcomed to pitch on this topic).
The Zodiac Review is looking for literary fiction with dashes of dark humour, suspense, mystery, memoir, historical fiction, light sci-fi and light fantasy.
Tiny Owl Workshop is seeking Christmas-themed flash fiction by Australian writers inspired by the Krampus myth. The twelve chosen stories will be distributed around Brisbane inside illustrated Christmas crackers.
Tincture Journal is seeking fiction, scripts or screenplays and creative non-fiction for its December edition. While pieces can be anywhere from 100 to 20,000 words, 2000 to 5000 words is a good target.
In It For The Long Scrawl, a literary mag created by teens, is keen to publish work by writers aged between 13 and 18. Submissions close August 15.
All the Best, a weekly Aussie radio show, is looking for very short fiction in which your city or home town is destroyed in an apocalypse. An excerpt will be played on the radio and the rest will be published on their website. Send your stories to firstname.lastname@example.org before August 16 to be considered.
The Australian Poetry Journal 4.2 is open for unthemed poems, multimedia works and pitches for short articles (reviews, poetic memoirs, etc) until August 31.
The Shoe Alternative, a website designed to help women figure out what they want to do with their lives, is looking for fiction, articles, interviews, reviews, artwork and more based around the theme ‘Dare to Dream.’ Submissions are open until the end of September.
Overland is looking for pitches on several nonfiction topics, including racial discrimination in dating and payment for writers. Accepted pieces will be published on the online magazine. When pitching, you should explain your article in 50 words and come up with a realistic deadline.
A bird’s eye review of Australian Poetry Journal 4.1
The recent launch of Issue 4.1 of the Australian Poetry Journal took the form of a webcast panel discussion featuring APJ’s new editor Michael Sharkey in conversation with four prominent poetry editors (ABR’s Lisa Gorton, Seizure’s Fiona Wright, Mascara’s Michelle Cahill and Cordite’s Kent McCarter). During the discussion, McCarter admitted a certain degree of editorial ornithophobia, citing an over-representation of ‘bird poems’ in each issue’s expansive slush pile. Bird poems are so prolific that they scarcely need defending, but I think it’s helpful to remember that all poems are somewhat auspicious in nature (in the Greco-Roman sense). They are, or can be, prophecies of momentous clarity bounded by gestures through timespace, and after all, there are few gestures more earthly or universally captivating than the arc of a bird in flight.
Sky gazing is a thoroughly (though not exclusively) human behaviour, and there are birds of flight on every continent. Of course, language can never contain the universal, but perhaps the experience of staring into space, deep in a thought suddenly underscored towards its epiphany by the unexpected swoop of birdlife is about as close as we can get. It’s hardly surprising that ancient sky-gazers assigned meanings to patterns of birdflight, which are as cursive as any written language. The practice of reading these meanings is older than Rome itself. Perhaps this is why Michael Sharkey, a scholar no doubt well versed in the classics, has scattered birds all through the new issue.
Anne M. Carson’s Yula: the return captures the annual repatriation of migratory shearwaters to Phillip Island, a routine auspice that is nonetheless filled with ‘so many birds their wingbeats / are palpable in the dark’. Elsewhere in the issue, birds appear in brief cameo roles: Andrew McDonald’s birds address us in exultation, while Rose Hunter conjures pelicans, and Duncan Richardson pairs ‘stirring gulls / and rusting chains’. Jenny Blackford’s penguins don’t stir or sweep or soar, but ‘beat strong wings / under the ice’. Even Philip Salom’s fond biography of the ‘major minor poet’, William Hart-Smith, can’t ignore his poetry of birds, his cormorants and herons – even a Boomerang is ‘wood into bird and bird to wood again. / A brown-winged bird from the hand of a brown man’.
Perhaps Charlotte Clutterbuck’s Post-modern, in its fittingly self-conscious way, best captures the relationship between augury and art: ‘Brancusi’s wingless birds / suspended above the water / so that art exists fully / only for the one moment / in which you kneel on the rim / of the pond’.
Later in the discussion, when conversation turned to the idea of themed issues, Michael Sharkey flagged his intention to abandon them, a departure from his predecessor Bronwyn Lea’s approach. Indeed, birds are more motif than thematic anchor in this issue; APJ 4.1 presents the work of more than fifty Australian poets, and only a few are augurs. Though some are prepossessed by birdlife, it’s perhaps worth noting that even when the skies aren’t filled with feathered wings, there are still the auspices of so many moths, bats and biplanes left to read. But after those, there are poems that look earthward instead of skyward, and those that gaze to the horizon. Some of the most arresting poems manage to fold these three dimensions into origami kites that remain for the most part anchored in reality, which I suspect is where Michael Sharkey’s editorial thread will keep future issues carefully tethered.
Tupulo Press is open for submissions of book-length and chapbook-length poetry until Thursday July 31. Published works will be distributed across the United States, but poets of any nationality are welcome to enter.
In celebration of The Stella Prize, the Suburban Review will be releasing an issue called the Stellar Edition to celebrate the literary feats of women. The deadline for submissions of short fiction, poetry, artwork and photography is Sunday August 3. They’re running a Pozible campaign that will allow them to pay all contributors $100, so if you’d like to donate, see the website for details.
And of course Ricochet is still accepting submissions of poetry, short fiction, nonfiction, reviews, artwork and photography until Friday August 1.
In case you haven’t heard of it, Pitch, Bitch! is a brilliant new initiative that encourages young female writers to pitch their work for publication.
It was established as a community for female writers who may feel inadequate about their writing prowess, in comparison to male peers who, anecdotally at least, aren’t as discouraged by rejection. The first Wednesday of every month has been designated Pitch, Bitch day, and those who participate can use the #pitchbitch hashtag on Twitter to post about their achievements.
The great thing about the Pitch, Bitch! Tumblr is that it’s a stellar resource for all fledgling freelancers, not just those of the female persuasion. It’s full of interviews with editors, successful pitch examples and advice articles about how not to pitch and how to respond to criticism.
With all that on hand, it can still be hard to know where to send your pitch, particularly when you want to get paid and there are so many not-for-profit and volunteer-based publications out there. Who Pays Writers in Australia? is a good place to start – writers anonymously post pay rates for popular commercial websites and print publications, and there are notes of caution about late payers and tricksy organisations, so you can tread in knowing what to expect. It’s a few years old but the Emerging Writers’ Festival also has a list of pay rates for various magazines and websites.
In honour of tomorrow’s #pitchbitch day, we’ve put together a list of publications that do pay, and a breakdown of the subjects they are interested in (some were hard to pigeonhole, so they’ve been slotted into several categories).
During my studies, I always found that I learned best in a classroom situation if I kept my hands busy, sketching, doodling, and drawing caricatures or geometric patterns. I was always in trouble for filling my schoolbooks with (not very good) pictures, though I maintain that the practice was an essential part of the learning process, as if I was encoding the teacher’s verbal information in visual patterns that only I would understand. Drawing was a way of ordering information in my mind. Later, when I started writing, I found myself doodling once again. At first I thought its function was merely procrastination, but then I reflected more closely, and realised that drawing has a kind of meditative function that is central to the practice of writing.
When I start a story, I start with fragments: characters, plot arcs, images, settings, moods. In general, these disconnected pieces float around somewhere in the subconscious, bouncing off each other, sometimes finding edges that fit together. Some people might map the thing out, or create some kind of grand schema, but I find the act of drawing equally productive. Something about the act of visual concentration, the slow and meditative mode of creation, seems to allow those fragments to join up below the surface, eventually emerging as a solved jigsaw (or at least one whose edge pieces have been sorted).
And perhaps there’s something to it. After all, there are many writers in history who have been engaged in the visual arts to some degree or another – from the clip-art style marginalia of Franz Kafka to the (surprisingly) vibrant impressionism of Sylvia Plath.
Perhaps the most complete record of this little known practice is Donald Friedman’s wonderful book, The Writers Brush, which collects hundreds of examples: from D.H. Lawrence’s well-known paintings to Henry Miller’s watercolours; from the unique modernism of the beat poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti to Kurt Vonnegut’s very collectable screen prints.
The great lesson of The Writers Brush, is that creativity is rarely a beast that can be contained in one channel, or communicated across one medium. If you find yourself struggling to piece together the fragments of a story, try turning your hand to drawing – even if you’re terrible at it. My instinct has always told me that the benefits a writer can derive from the art of doodling have very little correlation to the visual result. This theory is somewhat confirmed by those writers collected in The Writers Brush whose artwork is objectively terrible, but whose writing is nonetheless inspired (Marcel Proust and Fyodor Dostoyevsky, I’m looking at you).
So, next time you’re blocked – try doodling. Lose yourself in the totally mechanical process of connecting lines, and you might find, on the other side of the exercise, some unexpected narrative connections emerging too.
Poetics of power: Wringing creativity from time and space
- @ the Zine Lounge, Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House
- Free event after museum entry
- Bookings essential; by Friday 13 June 2014
A workshop for practitioners, including ziners, writers and artists on using historic places as creative spaces. The workshop will explore the connections between visual, atmospheric and archival modes of experiencing and recording history, including a collaborative poetry experience.
Mitchell will also speak about Poetics of power: Poetry in history and history in poetry on 14 June, and as part of the Australian Prime Ministers Centre Seminar on 13 June, read more information on the website.
18 King George Terrace, Parkes, ACT | Open daily: 9am–5pm | Website: www.moadoph.gov.au | Phone: 02 6270 8222