Is Freelance Writing for Me?

March 11, 2013 Leave a comment

I can’t believe it has been a year since my last post. How slack am I. So where has my writing gone in the last year? Not very far. I worked on my nanowrimo novel, but I made the classic mistake of talking about it to family. Consequently the story now seems stale and I am having trouble finishing the first draft. In an effort to revitalise my drive I decided to attend a couple of sessions at the NSW Writers’ Centre. I attended a session on Freelance Writing and another on The Essentials of Getting Published. The both had value but I can see how they could pull me in completely different directions.

Freelance writing is a great idea, in theory, but I am already working full time. If I dedicate myself to chasing down opportunities I will have no time left for any other type of writing. And really, do I want to be a freelance writer? There is some scope to make a bit of money, but my true love is fiction writing. Barry Divola ran the seminar and is a successful freelance writer. He knows his topic well and even if I don’t go down the freelance path, I will definitely follow one of his suggestions: Enter Competitions.

I have never really thought about writing competitions as an outlet for my stories. What a great way to keep my writing fresh but still keep my focus on fiction. Ok, I don’t expect to win any prizes (unless all the other writers came down with the flu that week) but the germ of an idea from a short story may result in a larger work. I am already working on a story for the Henry Lawson festival.

And how was the seminar on Getting Published? Eye opening. In summary, the chances of getting published via the traditional route are similar to winning lotto. Don’t get me wrong, I buy lotto tickets, so I will probably try the traditional route, but I am not invested in it. I feel I will probably end up self publishing an ebook. I know there are other options like Print on Demand, but I think I will start with an ebook.

What was that? How do I expect to get people to actually find my ebook out of the 700,000 that were published last year? No Idea. Marketing is a whole other challenge. I think I will creep up on it, one blog at a time.

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Categories: Blog Entry

Flash Fiction – The Watchmen

March 14, 2012 Leave a comment

I wrote this one a while ago when I was  all alone, at night,  in the grounds of the old Gladesville hospital. I submitted it to Strange Horizons but they weren’t interested…

The old watchman ambled over to where the new guy was standing, all spick and span in his freshly ironed uniform. A camera lay in the gutter; one of those compact digital jobs best suited for happy snaps. Its lipstick red cover was scratched as if it had been kicked along the gravel path before coming to rest. Sighing he picked it up and flicked the switch to the off position. Continuing on his round, he showed the new guy the meandering route through the old hospital grounds. They rattled doors, checked ground story windows for loose boards and upper story windows for broken panes. They cleared away a pile of broken beer bottles and empty chip packets that had appeared overnight. Contractors came in once a week to mow the lawns and weed the garden beds, but they refused to do cleanup. Back at the gatehouse he placed the discarded camera in the lost and found trunk beside the door before heading for the tiny kitchenette.

The new guy stood a bit awkwardly by the door. “Aren’t you going to look at the pictures? Maybe it will give us a clue who it belongs to.”

The watchman briefly glanced back over his shoulder before continuing to gather the fixings for tea. “No point.”

“But…”

He turned and lent back against the kitchen bench. “Look, whoever owed it is long gone. And the pictures on it, they ain’t real. Them digital cameras, they’re not like the old sort. The ones with real film, they only showed what was there. The new sort, these digital ones, they record what you see.”

“But isn’t that the same?” asked the new guy as he wandered further into the room and sat at the tiny table.

“Course not. Why do you think there weren’t never any ‘evidence’ of spooks and such before the digital cameras started being used? Since it weren’t there, the old film cameras didn’t record it. Now, you get pictures of all sorts of stuff going around; spooks and weird shadows and faces appearing where no-one is and all that. If you want to work here you got to get it in your head – that stuff ain’t real. Else you’ll end up like the ones who owned that camera. I bet they were running like their pants was on fire. And all because of their own imaginings. Got it?”

“Um, sure.”

“So, cup of tea?”

“Thanks.”

The watchman put the mug of tea in front of the latest new guy before plonking himself down in the other chair. “Anyway, you gonna stick around? Most don’t last the first week but your mum talked me into giving you a go. Said you would be ok. Said you wasn’t one for imagining things. I tell you, I don’t usually bother remembering names unless a guy lasts at least a week.”

“It’s Barry. And I’m pretty sure I’ll last at least a week. Mum would kill me otherwise and I’m more scared of her than…um, stuff.”

“Yeh, she’s a tarter alright. Ok then Barry, you stick by me and you’ll get by ok.” He smiled as a thought suddenly occurred to him. “You play chess?”

It was well after midnight and the two men were into their second game. A muted scream followed by a crash and the tinkle of broken glass caused Barry to jump to his feet, nearly upsetting the chess board. The watchman sat forward a bit but didn’t move from his chair.

“Shouldn’t we …”

“No, wait.” The screaming got louder as whoever was causing the racket approached the gatehouse. Someone charged passed the small building and kept on going. The screaming was cut-off by the slam of a car door. The men could hear tyres squealing against the tarmac as the car rapidly accelerated away.

The watchman settled back into his chair. “Nothing we can do tonight. We’ll see what’s what in the morning.”

Barry walked to the window and peered through it towards where the noise had originated. “But what if someone else is hurt?”

“Oh, they usually run in here if that happens, or we get an anonymous phone call. Only had one dead one, no matter what all them tabloids say.” He glanced involuntarily over at the lost and found box. “God knows what he was doing up on that roof.”

“Only one dead. Um, but what about the missing?”

“Well if they’re missing, we ain’t gonna find them. Now sit on down. It’s your move.”

The next morning the two watchmen stood outside the old psych ward. The basement door had been forced open and one of the second story windows was blown out. A camera lay in the gutter below the missing window; one of those flash SLR digital jobs with a zoom lens. Barry picked up the battered silver case and flicked the switch to the off position. As they continued on their rounds the old watchman explained where the tools and ply were kept, what sort of repairs they were expected to do themselves and what warranted a tradesman being called out. At the gatehouse the discarded camera went into the lost and found trunk beside the door.

Categories: Story

Flash Fiction – The Train Station

March 12, 2012 Leave a comment

I completely forgot I had written this story a couple of years ago. I was supposed to be travelling on the train from Canberra to Sydney, but I got lost looking for the station…..

Ann hefted her bag and swapped it to the other hand. If only she hadn’t bought those extra books, but they had been such a bargain. She glanced again at the map in her hand. The street names were mostly the same except for those new roads between the Canberra Glassworks and Cunningham Street. According to this, the Canberra Railway Station was between Cunningham Street and Wentworth Avenue, next to the Railway Museum. Since she was so early, perhaps when she got there she would wander through the museum to kill some time. Walking from the gallery to the station had seemed like a good idea at the time, but the sky had become overcast and there was thunder rumbling in the distance. Rounding the last corner of the road which ended before the station she peered with confusion through her glasses.

The station was not what she had expected. It looked deserted and had the appearance of a shipping yard rather than a public railway. And as for the museum… what a joke. It looked downright spooky. There was a high chain mail fence the whole way around, and any minute she expected a pair of slavering guard-dogs to appear from under one of the rusting train carcasses and lunge at her through the fence. This was obviously not the right station, but she walked on, hoping the owner of the beat up old Falcon sedan was around and would be able to send her in the right direction.

Walking closer to the platform she could see the front of the railway office was completed covered with large wire and several of the window panes were broken. Everything was covered in graffiti and there were weeds growing from between cracks in the concrete. This was ridiculous. There was no way this was the right station.

‘Hello, is anyone around?’

There was no answer. She briefly debated with herself about calling a taxi, but she would feel like a fool if they turned up and the station was around the corner. Perhaps it would be best to ring the ticketing office. She had purchased her ticked online and had the paperwork in her bag. Ann put her bag down and fumbled with the wad of papers containing the printout of her hotel booking and railway ticket. She dropped them in her haste and the wind blew one of the pages out of her reach. Fortunately it was last nights hotel confirmation, so she didn’t bother chasing it down.

‘Um, hello. This is Ann Somers. I booked a ticket on-line from Canberra to Sydney, but I think I am at the wrong station.’

‘Wentworth Avenue? On Wentworth Avenue? But I am at the station between…’

‘Ok, I will go up onto the platform. I can’t see anything. Oh, hang on, I see it now. It is on the other side of the tracks about five hundred meters to the right. Ok. Thanks.’

Feeling like a complete fool Ann picked up her bag and began walking back the way she had come. The forgotten hotel confirmation, with her name and address printed prominently on the top, was picked up by the gusting wind and jumped from one clump of weeds to the next until it came to rest against the wall at the base of the seemingly deserted railway platform.

The next day it was gone, as was the beat up old Falcon.

Categories: Story

Writing Workshops. Are They Worth Your Time and Money?

March 8, 2012 Leave a comment

So, if I am going to be serious about this writing caper, apart from writing, what do I need to do?  Do I need to find other writers? Should I be networking, learning from published authors, go to conferences? It seems as soon as I asked the question, there was a plethora of writing related activities jumping out at me. A couple of weeks ago I saw an advertisement for a Romance Writers workshop at Burwood library. I figured the genre wasn’t that important for someone just dipping their toe into the the pond so off I went. The presenter, Paula Roe, was a charming lady and she gave an informative presentation to all four of us. I was surprised there were only four participants (three really because one was the librarian). Where were all the people who had signed up to NANOWRIMO last year? Still, it was an informative talk and Paula gave a good overview of the genre, as well as how it crosses boundaries with a lot of other genres. It wasn’t a workshop though.

Next I saw a Georgette Heyer conference was being held just one suburb away from where I lived; it was an omen surely. Perhaps not. I found the conference engaging, but it was a homage to the author rather than an examination of her work. She certainly deserves a homage. After all, she did invent the regency romance. But I don’t think I want to write regency romances.

Then I saw it, an advertisement for a Speculative Fiction Writing Workshop at the Writer’s Centre in Rozelle. I jumped on it. I’ve never been to a real workshop before and the only writer I have ever talked to was Paula. (We didn’t really talk. She presented. I listened.) So off I went on Saturday.

Was it what I expected? Having never been to a writing workshop, I didn’t really have any expectations, though the instructions had suggested we bring some of our own writing. So there I was with half a dozen pages of my current work in progress tucked away in the back of my folder. It’s mere presence caused conflicting feeling of dread and anticipation to ebb and flow. Would we have to read it out loud? Exactly how bad would it sound to a room full of people who have probably spent a lot longer writing than I have.

I worried needlessly. We didn’t actually look at any writing.   A third of the time was spent on everyone introducing themselves, with constant interruptions as everyone else had to add their own vital piece of personal flotsam.

Robert Hood ran the workshop. He was approachable, friendly and generous with his time and knowledge. I probably would have liked to hear a teensy bit (a lot) less from the other participants, because frankly I don’t care what movies they have watched, or that they are really good at dialogue. If you want to show us some of your dialogue, that would have been worthwhile.

It was certainly interesting, but I don’t think I would sign up for another one any time soon. At this early point in learning the craft, I should probably spend more time writing and less time looking for a writing community.

Categories: Blog Entry

Diary of a wannabe writer

March 1, 2012 Leave a comment

This is, or will be,  a record of my writing history. Hopefully I will be able to look back on these entries and chart my improvements along the way. Alternately I can look back and see that perhaps I shouldn’t give up my day job.

Writing is something I have often had lurking about in the back of my mind. It reoccurs like a persistent toothache (cliché). It is an itch I can’t scratch. Occasionally I have toyed with a bit of text here or there. I had a short contract at a job in North Sydney many years ago and merrily typed away at a historical romance mystery paranormal hybrid each morning and afternoon on the train.  It died after a few thousand words when the contract ended. This was definitely a good outcome; it was total crap. A couple of years ago I wrote a few short stories and fired them off to a couple of online magazines.  They were rejected of course and the urge was temporarily suppressed by more pressing issues, like paying bills, renovating, watching TV, finishing my MA.

Last year I was trolling the internet and one of my favourite blogs mentioned NANOWRIMO. I had never heard of it. After deliberating for about 30 seconds I decided it sounded like a fun thing to do so I signed up. The first two or three evenings I ground out the requisite number of words, but then came the realisation my intergalactic archaeological dig was populated by characters I didn’t like and I had no real story line. One of the first rules of NANOWRIMO was not to change stories in mid stream, but that is what I did. There was no way I was going to make the word count after that and I think I petered out at about 36000 with a week to go.

The new story was pushed aside again by life, the universe and everything, but in January I decided it was time to give this writing thing a real go. I don’t expect instant success, fame or fortune. Actually I don’t expect them ever, but the tooth has to be pulled, the rash treated or I will never get any peace.

Categories: Blog Entry