Uncategorized

Guest post – Smuggling Science and Climate Change with Octavia Cade

Climate change is an unexpectedly easy thing to look away from. We’re in the midst of it, and the IPCC gives us limited time to make drastic changes that would stave off enormous global changes to our environment, and we are doing not much of anything, really. Sure, there are marches and protests and all sorts, but when something’s this big, it’s hard to encompass.

It’s not made any easier when the data we have is compromised. States quashing and meddling, burying science so that we’re limited in what we know. The Australian government, pressuring the UN to keep impacts on the Great Barrier Reef out of a major climate report, so as not to scare off the tourists. The American government, getting researchers to remove climate change language from their grant proposals, or preventing scientists from speaking at conferences. Who only knows what else is going on around the world, or what our own government is doing… and that’s not even taking into account the information oil companies have been sitting on for decades.

No surprise, then, that there are groups of scientists around the world preserving climate data across borders so that the anti-science hacks of various persuasions can’t get their mitts on it. When I started reading those news articles, I thought: there’s a fantastic story in this! And there was. It started out as a short story, which appeared a couple of years back in Clarkesworld. That story, “The Stone Wētā,” which you can read for free at the link, became the eventual first chapter of my novel of the same name, out April 22nd – fittingly, Earth Day.

The Stone Wētā is a near-future sci-fi thriller, which documents the efforts of a number of scientists to smuggle climate data across borders, and preserve it from the influence of hostile actors. But when this cold war of data preservation turns bloody – and then explosive – this underground network of scientists, all working in isolation, must decide how much they are willing to risk for the truth. For themselves, their colleagues, and their future.    

I’m a science communicator by training, and raising the issue of how we treat climate data – how we treat scientific data in general – is something that’s really important to me. It should be important to all of us. After all, if we can’t trust the information we have, how are we supposed to make decisions that will give us the best possible future? If The Stone Wētā sparks debate on some of these issues, I’ll be really happy. 

Anyway, it’s published by the Wellington-based Paper Road Press. Please take a look!

Octavia Cade is a New Zealand writer with a PhD in science communication. She’s sold nearly 50 stories to markets such as ClarkesworldAsimov’s, and Shimmer. She attended Clarion West 2016, and is currently the writer-in-residence at Square Edge/Massey University.

Writers, writing

Guest post: Mariëlle S. Smith on her new release

Thanks to Mariëlle for coming onto my blog to talk about her new release. I was lucky enough to get an advanced reader’s copy and it’s amazing, a great book – lots of interesting prompts and self-reflection. Highly recommend this one!

What is the 52 Weeks of Writing Author Journal and Planner about? 

52 Weeks of Writing is a journal and planner for writers that will help you plan, track, reflect on, and check in with your progress and the goals you’ve set for yourself. Every week, it offers questions, writing prompts, and exercises that are designed to help you dig deep and find out the truths about why you aren’t the writer you want to be yet. 

How is the 52 Weeks of Writing Author Journal and Planner different from everything else out there? 

What’s different is that it doesn’t focus on a specific goal, such as becoming better at marketing your books, or planning your social media channels for the year ahead. 52 Weeks of Writing is all about your personal wishes, needs, and goals. It provides a safe space where you can figure out what it is you truly want (once you stop looking at what everyone else is doing), and how to get there considering the realities of your day-to-day life. We all have different aims and desires and none of us carry exactly the same responsibilities. This author journal and planner will help you focus on your situation and on what you want to achieve in this lifetime. 

Why did you create the 52 Weeks of Writing Author Journal and Planner

52 Weeks of Writing reflects everything I’ve learned over the past several years as a writing coach, editor, and writer. As a writing coach, I know that coaches don’t come cheap and that not everyone has the means to hire one. Of course, no book can stand-in for a human coach, but this author journal and planner is my attempt to bridge the gap between hiring a writing coach and trying to figure it out all on your own the best I can. 

Who will benefit from the 52 Weeks of Writing Author Journal and Planner?

Writers who are fed up with themselves and are ready to figure out once and for all why they keep getting in their own way. 

Get the ebook

Get the paperback

Are you ready to become the writer you were always meant to be? 
52 Weeks of Writing will get you cracking by making you plan, track, reflect on, and check in with your progress and goals an entire year long. 
52 Weeks of Writing will help you dig deep by offering questions and writing prompts designed to unravel whatever truths about your writing you’re ready for. 
52 Weeks of Writing will keep you inspired by delivering a thought-provoking writing quote every week. 

  • Do you struggle with setting goals that reflect your daily reality? 
  • Do you want to practise breaking goals down into manageable chunks? 
  • Would you like more insight into your writing habit(s) and figure out why you keep getting in your own way? 
  • And do you want to create a sustainable writing practise that honours your needs and desires as a writer? 

Then the 52 Weeks of Writing: Author Journal and Planner is for you. 

52 Weeks of Writing brings together every lesson Mariëlle S. Smith has learned as a writing coach and writer. Wary as she is of comparisonitis and unhealthy competition, this author journal and planner was designed to help writers develop and fine-tune a practice that works for them. 

If you’re ready to get out of your own way and become the writer you’re meant to be, pick up your copy of 52 Weeks of Writing today. 

About

Mariëlle S. Smith is a coach for writers and other creatives, an editor, (ghost) writer, and custom retreat organiser. Born in the Netherlands and raised by her Dutch mother and Scottish dad, she moved to the island of Cyprus in February 2019 to focus on her coaching, editing, and writing practice. 

Website
Instagram
Facebook

Writers, writing

Boosted productivity via Bullet journal genius

I’ve been using a bullet journal this year, and I’ve found it useful in a lot of ways. Specifically I’ve been loving tracking my word counts/pages edited for each day. This is an example month spread from May. I used to just have words across the whole page, but then I realised I wanted to have editing and learning and things accounted for as well.

So, here’s May with the central spindle date margin, editing etc on the left and wordcount on the right. The running total wordcount for the whole project is on the far right.

I usually try to focus on one project, but you can see I jumped around some (and did work on two projects in one day towards the end… ) I also had a full week of learning, but it gives you a general idea.

But then for the month of August, I tried this system from youtuber Garrett Robinson:

Suddenly my hours were focused. I was less likely to get distracted, or mooch around on other tabs on my laptop. I would be tempted to but just say to myself ‘no, this is my hour to do X’ and apparently that was all my brain needed to really knuckle down. So to speak.

Here’s my running totals for August. You can see that my daily word counts have shot up, I’ve been more focused on a single project, and my pages edited have increased as well. August 11th is, as far as I can tell, my most productive words day ever. It’s a heady feeling.

More than that, I wrote 25k words in one week. I think my previous record was a very exhausting 20k week which resulted in almost nothing the week after. With this system I was still energised, I wanted to keep writing, but I knew my editing on another project was my priority so I jumped into that instead.

This last weeked I travelled to Christchurch and went to the Romance Writers of New Zealand conference, so my word count’s been a bit all over the place. But I learned a lot and have a nice new list of actions for various projects, etc so. It’s all good.

I love this bullet journal tracker, it really really works for me, and I recommend anyone looking to up their productivity gives it a go, for one month at least. I’ll definitely be using it for September and churning out some serious words.

Writers, writing

Writing Process? Part four – the perspecacity

Okay, so let’s say you’ve read and applied the previous posts, you’ve started something and you had momentum for a while. But then something came up – maybe a cool new TV show was released and you’ve marathoned that for days. Or maybe you got sick or work got intense and you haven’t had the headspace to write.

It happens to everyone.

I find around the 8 – 10 thousand word mark I often trail off and think about a new, more exciting project I could be working on. I’ll can always come back to this one later, right?

How do you keep with the same thing?

Honestly? you just have to be super strict on yourself. There’s always going to be a time when you struggle to motivate. You have to find what motivates you. Here’s some ideas, but you have to find your own golden ticket…

  • Read through the plan for the book and remind yourself of the neat stuff to come
  • Write your back of the book blurb. Writing the blurb is so depressing and difficult I’d rather do almost anything but write it
  • Reconnect with your reason for writing – the most motivation I had was at the start of the year when I was in a job I actively disliked. I hated having to go into the office, and I wanted a way out – writing could be the way out, but I have to complete manuscripts for that to work
  • Daydream about your potential future readers, and how much they might love your story
  • Bribe yourself. I really want to play my new video game, but I have to get words down. Well, if I get X many words today, then I can take a break and play for half an hour. Then I can write more and ‘earn’ more time. Then if you get into the flow of writing, you can put the reward off a bit longer and earn bonus extra words. Brains are easy to trick sometimes!
  • Some sort of tracker or progress recorder, which has worked especially well for me lately (more on that soon)

It’s hard work.

You have to put the next words down or the thing will never get finished. But just think of the end point – if you get to the end of the manuscript then you will have finished a manuscript! and that’s pretty miraculous, really.

You just gotta want it and keep on wanting it as hard as you can. Then you do the work and keep on doing the work. Then one day you can type ‘the end’ and feel like the big goddamn hero that you are.

There’s no foolproof method here, it just comes down to understanding your own reasons for writing and what motivates you. If you want to write for money then of course you have to have completed manuscripts to publish. If you want to write to tell your story and share it with people – you have to have it finished to do that.

If you have a way to force yourself back into a WIP when you’re in that ‘fallen out of love’ stage please comment and let me know!

Uncategorized, writing

Writing process? Part three – the actual writing

I’ve written before about a daily writing habit, but I think there’s more to actually writing. And by actually writing I really mean writing enough of a first draft to complete a piece of work. So, here we go…

Part three: the actual writing

Honestly? Finishing a draft is the hard bit because it requires self discipline and saying no, and forcing yourself to be creative. I don’t have a tried and true method for making any of this easy, but here’s the basic tenets I stick to, that I’ve found helpful to remember in terms of writing a first draft.

Don’t edit as you write – it’s really easy to fall into a trap of perfecting things as you go. You can’t do this. Your job when writing a first draft is to get the first draft done.

Don’t judge – following on from point one, it’s really easy to write something and immediately think ‘oh no, that sucks, I’m terrible’. You can’t do that on your first draft, instead you have to stick to your plan and …

Just spew it out – write as much as you can as fast as you can manage. There’s lots of quotes around this ‘you can’t edit a blank page’ and ‘you have to write what you’re going to throw away’, that kind of thing.

Don’t over commit or stress yourself out – signing up to something like NaNoWriMo or giving yourself a really big daily word count to start up with, or even telling yourself you have to write every day is a quick way to burn yourself out. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Maybe you just give yourself five minutes a day, or a half hour, or aim for 500 words, whatever works. Don’t call yourself a failure if you don’t manage to stick to your initial goal. Just look at your goal and see if you need to make a change to it. Then forgive yourself and try again when you can.

If it’s boring, skip to the next bit – this is a hard one to realise when you’re in the woods of writing, but if you’re struggling with a scene, it could be because it’s boring. You can either skip this bit (often when it’s ‘and then character A got to place B’ you can safely skip it). If it’s a scene you need for plot reasons, then my favourite way to fix it is to ask what would make it fun? Don’t let a boring scene slow you down, nothing boring has to be included. Readers will find it boring if you do. Another thing you can ask yourself is…

What’s the worst that could happen? – conflict drives story and reveals character, so look for it in every scene. Then at the end of the story, you can ask ‘what’s the best that could happen?’ and make things brilliant for your babies… well, assuming you’re writing something where everyone survives and your leads get a happy ending. I’m writing romance at the moment and it may be influencing things.

You have permission to write whatever – I know this is kind of obvious, but I have definitely run up against an internal belief that I have to write something worthy or I’m wasting my time. Now, this is a stupid belief and it needs deconstructing.

First: what is worthy? I don’t know, but it sounds stuffy and elitist.

Second: Why the fuck shouldn’t you write just exactly what you want to write?

Third: Forget worthy. Channel your inner child, think about the coolest most fun thing you can imagine and tell a story about that. Worthy is a trap (and an excuse not to write).

So, there you have it. Those are the things I try and remember, and generally this has helped me.

Some other hacks if I’m having trouble getting going:

  • write on paper in a cafe or library
  • voice to text on whatever programme you have, and dictate your story
  • alternate writing on a new draft with another project – have both open in tabs on your laptop and switch between them when you get distracted
  • Pomodoro technique or writing ‘sprints’ of a certain time

Please comment and let me know if you have how to write hacks, everything works differently for different people, so you never know what might hit and what might miss.

Read the Writing process series
Part one – Planning
Part two – Characters