Welcome to the Dragon's Pen, the blog of an aspiring kiwi author ... chatting about reading, writing, querying and publishing

Thursday, April 30, 2009

More Editing

It has been a while since I made my last post.

I've been procrastinating a little, I admit, and life has been a tinsy-bit chaotic. Unlike most parents of school age kids, my life gets crazier when school goes back. Why? 'Cause I home educate my kids. So, the first week of term is always mad: sometimes trying to get kids back into school routines after the holidays is like trying to pull teeth with no anesthetic!
The holidays were great though. I did a lot of chilling out, read some good books, and got heaps of editing done. So, I'm feeling great. I hope the rest of you are feeling as well rested.

My friend/editor, Sue, has given my children's novel back to me. I began making changes this week, most of it minor - which is great - since most of the big chopping and changing was done last edit. Except for one thing... I have sadly agreed that she's right, and this thing needs to be done, but I am dragging my heels over it.

And that is: I have to wipe out - eradicate - exterminate - delete - one of my characters. I am not even going to kill him off in the story, he is simply going to disappear and no one will ever know he existed (sob).

His name was Kentigern McKenzie. He was fifteen years old and a twin (his brother will still be in the book). He was born of a Scottish immigrant family. When he grew up he wanted to be a doctor. He loved to read, play the fiddle, swim, and go fishing with his brothers. He was sweet, gentle-natured, and unaffected.

So, why did he need to be erased?
Well, he was just too nice! He never played a big part of the story and was too much in the back ground. I deleted the first reference to him today! The story will not suffer with out him. But I will miss him.

Au Revoir Kentigern!!!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Reading Bliss

Well, I haven't blogged for a few days - the reason?

I have been reading Stephenie Meyer's Eclipse , the third book in the Vampire love-story series. Yesterday, I sent most of the afternoon, encamped on the lawn, with my nose stuck between the pages - another great read!

Lots of people write these books off as silly teen vampire/fantasy romance; but I know plenty of adult women who are just as enchanted by them. And the teens who are reading them are not only girls - boys are enjoying them just as much, which probably has something to do with the werewolves. If girls have a thing about vampires, it's the werewolves that do it for the guys.

One thing I must say about Stephenie Meyer, which I truly appreciate, is the way her prose flows. It literally pulls you effortlessly through the story - before you know it you're on the last page and craving the next book - this is a talent. Nothing jars or grates as you read. You're never pulled up sharp, feeling slapped in the face, by an awkward sentence, hideous grammar or uncouth punctuation. Which happens often these days (sigh) - especially when one is a writer, I think we are more aware of flaws like this than other readers might be.

The other thing I admire in Stephenie's work is her mythology. These Twilight books (as everyone is calling them) are unlike other vampire books - take Anne Rice for example. Her (Stephenie's) vampires are not like anyone else's - nor are her werewolves, for that matter. She has taken the traditional vampire mythology and turned it on it's head. And while some purist's are jumping up and down and screaming: "You can't do that! They aren't real vampires!" I say: "You go girl!" It takes guts to buck the statusquo. It takes courage - especially as a new writer - to try to pull off something like this: It'll either be a great success or an epic fail! In Stephenie's case we have an Epic Success. One of the things that is so hard to do in fantasy writing is to pull off a convincing mythology, but I think she does it admirably.

Well, done Steph!

Sunday, April 19, 2009


I don't know whether to feel excited or relieved. For the last week I have been working all out to finish editing Parts One and Two of my book "A Woman's Quest: Living for the Glory of God." Yes. The title is pretty self-explanatory. It's a theological tome, written by a woman for women. My first non-fiction work.

Yay! I am excited... and relieved. It feels GREAT to have it done!

Now, I just need to finish Parts Three and Four!

Sigh... Someone remind me why we do this to ourselves?

Writng is...

Writing is the struggle against silence.


Writing Tip #1

I thought it might be fun to periodically post a writing tip on the blog and share a little inspiration. A couple of weeks ago, the home work for our Writing Workshop was to come up with a list of writing tips and ideas for overcoming writer's block. I thought I'd share them with you.

Here's tip number One:

Points of View

Once you have an idea for a story and have decided what length it will be (are you writing a novel, a novelette, a short short or something shorter still), it's time to think about the point of view you will write from. Sometimes, as you begin to write the story will decide for itself, other times you need to make a conscious choice. We have four perspectives to choose from.

1st Person - this is told from an "I" perspective as if you were narrating the story.
Fury contorted Rob's expression. "I'll get you!" He swore.
I ducked. His fist whistled passed my ear. Gritting my teeth, I lurched at him. My fist buried itself in the soft flesh of his belly. The air exploded from his lungs in a guttural grunt. Stepping away, I watch with brutal satisfaction as he crumbled at my feet.

2nd Person - this is told as if the "you" are an invisible narrator explaining the character's story.
You cross the room to the window. Jerking it closed you scowl at the leaves littering the carpet. "I shouldn't have bothered to vax." You grumble.

(Personally I dislike this style. I find it awkward to write and uncomfortable to read.)

3rd Person - this is told as if events occur in the present tense from their, the characters, perspective.
Outside the wind whistled around the house, rattling the shutters, and tapping at the windows. Lucy huddled under her covers, her throat tight with fear. The curtains stirred casting ghastly moonlit shadows on the wall.

3rd Person Omniscient - This is often called the God Perspective as if the narrator knows everything. Though this is similar to the normal third person perspective, in this form a story is told to the reader rather than experienced by them.
Jilly kicked a stone and watched it bounce along the path ahead of her. She hated school. She hated home. She didn't want to be at either place. She hunched her shoulders and shoved her fists deeper into her pockets. "Life sucks," she said. The stone didn't say anything. She booted it again. It leapt into the air and landed with the splash in the puddle.

These examples have been quickly rattled off, but they should give you the general idea.

I know that for some of you this is extremely elementary stuff, but it never hurts to review things, and some of you may find this helpful. It may even inspire you to try a style that's outside your comfort zone. I hope so. Happy writing!

Friday, April 17, 2009

True Story Progress

Well, after blogging yesterday about not having any ideas. I've had some inspiration.
Last night I mentioned my frustration to my better half.
"What has been so exciting in my life that I could write about?"
And it struck me. My blog! Of course! What could be more exciting?

Perhaps it just goes to show how dull a writers life can be, but I thought it might be fun to write a story about starting up my blog. I've titled the piece "Entering the Blogoshere."

The other story I wrote is about the day I fell in love with my husband. It's a weird story because we had been best mates for almost a year before it happened. Of course, he's convinced I loved him before that, he's probably right. But I still maintain, it wasn't until that day that I fell in love with him. It was a bit like love at first sight. It hit me like a bolt out of the blue.
I did warn you it was a crazy story. This one I have named "Cupid's Arrow," for obvious reasons.

So this morning I grabbed a coffee and a piece of toast, flicked on the computer and got straight to work, and wrote both pieces in a matter of hours. My kids are on holiday and thankfully, they happily entertained themselves. I only had to intervene a few times, when Abbey decided to hit her sister for taking something off her and hiding it, and to prevent continuous raiding of the fridge. Oh, and I stopped to feed them lunch. I suppose I should feed myself at some point too. Sigh. It's hard to remember such trivial things as sustenance when the compulsion to write is upon you.

If any of my stories are placed in the competition I promise to publish them here for you all to see. Keep the inspiration coming.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Ideas anyone?

Coming up in June, our writing group is having their first competition of the year. For the last two years Chris has won both trophies. This year I plan to give him a run for his money.

The theme is true stories (up to 1000 wds).

I can submit as a many stories as I like, problem is I'm having trouble coming up with ideas. Now, the stories don't have to be my own true stories, they could be yours. I just have to write them. So, if you have any ideas I'd love to hear them.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


To quote Steven King's description of the novella,

"An ill-defined and disreputable literary banana republic."

Classic! I couldn't have said it better myself.


I write ... what's your superpower?


Tuesday, April 14, 2009

What is it?

When I was at our local writer's group the other night a question was raised, "At what point does a novelette become a short novel?" So, out of curiosity I googled it. What I discovered made my head hurt. It seems that depending on word length there are a myriad of labels for pieces of writing of differing length. Of course, I knew about novels and novelettes and short stories, I'd even heard of flash writing and postcards but it seems there is more... much more.

What's even more confusing is that there doesn't seem to be a universal numerical standard length for each form, instead publishers and those who run competitions seem to be able to draw the line where they want. This is especially true of short pieces. The more I read the more ambiguous the limits seemed (though most did fall within a general window). For example, one article explained that short stories, for instance, are less than 7,500 wds, though others suggest less than 7,000-9,000, however, contemporary usage is generally no longer than 20,000 wds and no shorter than 1,000. Not confusing at all, is it?

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of American Nedula helpfully give the following word counts for the larger forms of writing. These seem to be generally held.
  • Novels 40,000 +
  • Novella 17,500 - 40,000
  • Novelette 7,500 - 17,500
  • Short story - 7,500

When it comes to short stories it's quite a different matter. Short stories under 1,000 words can go by the names of "short short" fiction, "sudden" fiction or "flash" fiction. Various forms of flash fiction also go by the names "postcard," "micro-fiction," "micro-story" and "postcard" fiction. Two forms I'd never heard of before were "drabble," a piece of 100 wds (though apparently the term can be used for pieces of up to 1,000) and "vignettes," which are so short the story is implied rather than told.

For my own sanity, I've tried to compose a coherent list of forms and limits, gleaned from Wikipedia, that don't clash.
  • Traditional short 2,501 - 7,000
  • Short 1,001 - 2,501
  • Sudden/Flash fiction 750 - 1,000
  • Micro-fiction 10 - 300
What was the outcome of all this excitement and discovery? Well, I've added some new words to my literary vocabulary, I've confirmed that my novella is a novella at just over 30,000 wds and not a short novel, and I've developed a headache.

I think I've earned some chocolate and a coffee, don't you?

Sunday, April 12, 2009

I'm a prolific writer. By that I mean, ideas and characters often haunt me until I give them voice so I often have a number of things on the go at once. Though I'm getting much better at giving myself over to only one story at a time. Sometimes, when all the character's in my head are vying for my attention, this takes a lot of self discipline. It's all part of the battle.

How it all began...

Some of my earliest memories are related to stories. My Dad was big on reading to us as kids and I can vividly recall snuggling up next to him on the couch listening to him read Brer Rabbit, The Magic Pudding, The Wind in the Willows, A.A. Milne's Winnie the Pooh, and Asterix comics. He would chuckle and laugh hysterically, sometimes until he had tears in his eyes, and I would laugh because he was laughing. It wasn't until I read these books as an adult that I could appreciate why he was always in fits of laughter. So, I learned to love books and to love reading.

I first began writing when I was about seven. I would trace the pictures from my favourite books and make up stories to go with them to read to my younger siblings. (My brother asked me recently if I was still writing and told me my stories are among the best memories of his childhood.) I remember sitting next to my Nana and reading her my stories too. This must have been all the encouragement I needed because I never looked back.

When I was fifteen I was given an electronic typewriter for Christmas and I began to write my first novel. The draft is about 200 pages, it was never finished. Two years later I began another, it was never finished either, but I rewrote it last year and it's now in the final stages of editing.
I got married and had kids and the writing took a back seat for a while, though I was never able to put it aside entirely. Once my kids got a little older and more independent the urge to write returned with a vengeance.

For a long time I was too embarrassed to tell people I wrote. They always wanted to know what I'd had published and the admission of "nothing" often led to raised eyebrows and pitying glances. But then, I'd never submitted anything for publishing. Any hint that I wrote romances would prompt people to assume I was writing trashy or ultra steamy sex novels. It took me a long time to come round to the idea that it was okay to write novels. It was cool to write fantasy and that there is no shame in writing a good romance. Now I quite happily tell people I write. I'm proud of it!

While I've been published in Church magazines and spoken at conferences I have yet to make any hard $ with my writing, which means, so I've been told, I have yet to earn the right to call myself a Freelance Writer. However, I have a growing stash of short stories, a recently completed novella and a children's novel to submit for publishing so, fingers crossed, beginning this year things will start to get exciting. Of course I'll keep you updated with everything on this front.

And so it begins...

At The Dragon's Pen you will be privy to both the coherent and incoherent ramblings of an aspiring inkling. A record of my thoughts and aspirations, my achievements and disappointments, as I figuratively battle to become an established, published writer.

When I first began to consider the idea of a blog I wondered, "Who would want to read it?"
And I thought: "Well, I would." I've always been fascinated and intrigued by the lives behind books. Who were the people who wrote them? Are they like their characters? Why did they write the stories they did? How do they write? Why do they write? How did/do they overcome mental and physical obstacles to achieve their goals?

The more writers I meet the more convinced I become that we are not like other people. We are a strange and complicated breed. Even amongst ourselves each writer is unique. There are diversities in the way we write, the way we develop a story and even in the way we receive a story, if I can put it like that. Each writer's voice is distinctive. Just as none of us speak in exactly the same way, none of us write in exactly the same way. Each of us has our own form of expression, world view, cultural distinctives and environmental influences. This is a writer's "voice."

But, we all have something to say, something to share, a story to tell. That's why we write.