How to make the best of a hiatus

You might expect this to be a how-to guide, given the title. Consider it more of a question that I’m currently pondering. I won’t promise that this will be a useful guide for everyone. It might not even be useful for me. Let’s see!

So, the reason for taking my current hiatus was equal parts:

  • Taking a break from Starwalker
  • Catching up on projects that I have been delaying for a while
  • Trying some new stuff
  • Moving things to a new server
  • Doing something with the first four Starwalker books
  • Planning the next phase of the Starwalker saga.

Like with battle, plans for how to spend my free time tend to fly to the wind as soon as you engage the enemy (with ‘the enemy’ being ‘life and reality’ in this case).

Currently, I am successfully taking a break from Starwalker. Tick!

Let’s see about the rest…

This. So much this.  (Picture: not mine)

This. So much this.
(Picture: not mine)

Catching up on delayed projects

I’m not sure if this blog counts as a ‘delayed project’ (it’s probably more of a ‘neglected outlet’ for me), but you’ve probably noticed that I’m posting more often again. My goal is to build up some momentum here, along with a nice, healthy backlog of stuff scheduled up, and to knock over some of the posts that I’ve been meaning to write for a while. I’ve got over a dozen draft posts here on the site, capturing thoughts that were relevant when I had them: it’s time to go through them, sort them out or throw them away. Expect more posts to come! For at least the next little while.

As for actual fiction-writing projects, the VVSG is going well, and looking good to keep going that way. I haven’t looked at any other existing projects yet. Boomflowers kinda snuck up on me, so that could count as a bit of ‘new stuff’, but is also something that has been percolating for a little while. Half-and-half, really.

The other projects that I am hoping to work on soon include the Apocalypse Blog. The ebooks need a fresh go-through, edit, and new covers applied. I’ve been talking about doing this for ages. It’s about time I just did it! Now that I’m in a good place with the new short-serials (VVSG and Boomflowers), I’m hoping to dedicate some time to this over the next couple of weeks.

I’d also like to get back into the Starwalker shorts. I have a whole list I’d like to do, and a couple of tickling ideas here and there. It would be nice to post something on the Starwalker site for the readers to enjoy while I’m taking this break from the main story! However, that’ll be once I’ve had a stretch of a break from that world. I want to knock over some of the big stuff before I delve back into that universe, and I’ve got to be careful of not starting too many things at once.

Trying new stuff

This is something I chase on a semi-regular basis. Most often, it applies to the events and things that I do locally, rather than with my writing itself (keep an eye out for some NaNoWriMo-related posts coming up soon, for this year’s fun in the works). Overall, I guess I’m pretty happy with my writing itself (though I always look to improve my skills): it’s the periphery that I tend to experiment with. For example, how I publish, or my editing work, or events.

What does this mean for the hiatus? Well, I guess the first new thing I’m trying is Inkspired, and seeing how that works as a serial outlet. I’m spamming them with feedback and suggestions, so I guess we’ll watch that space.

I’m also in the process of setting up an editing and ebooking service. I’ve got skills in those areas and a good friend who’s building it with me. I think we can make a good go at it, and are in a good position to do well with it.

Linked with that but not entirely under that banner is an anthology idea or two that I have. I’m putting together a project to create an anthology with some local writer friends, capitalising on some research I did a while ago with a publishing/editing contact of mine. I’m confident we can put together something pretty awesome. After a suggestion from a local writer, we’re going to make the first one with a view to raising money for our NaNo community writing events.

This is going to be a bit of work, but it’s not going to be just me working on it, and it’s something I really want to have a go at. Ideas abound, and I’m hoping to get the bulk of it off and running pretty soon, so I can make the most of my hiatus time (that is, so it doesn’t wind up sucking up too much time once I’ve restarted Starwalker!).

There’s also some movement in the serial writing circles about setting up an endeavour to expand and promote quality serial fiction. I’m involved in a few conversations there, and I’m really keen to see where that goes. I think I’ve got useful experience to lend to the cause there (mostly in editing, layout, ebooking, and so on). This could explode somewhat, which would both be exciting and potentially derailing.

I’m going to have to be careful what I commit to! For now, I’m enjoying all the opportunities that are spreading out before me, and generally trying not to get too distracted by all the shiny things.

The server move

I started the process of moving all my websites over to a new web host recently. This blog was one of the first things I moved, and is the only one that is also changing its domain name. For the rest, I have a whole slew of domains that need to be shifted (most of which are reserved for projects that I plan to serialise or otherwise put online someday), a couple of websites that I host for family, and lastly the rest of my websites with content.

I’m planning to use the hiatus to shift the Starwalker site over to the new host. There’ll be a short downtime while things get moved across, but it should be quieter on the activity front, so there’s less chance of losing data (comments, etc). It’ll be nice to move to a fresh WordPress install, because the Starwalker one has been a little broken ever since it got hacked. This has been something I’ve been wanted to do for a long time; it’s nice to have the opportunity to do it!

After Starwalker and the Apocalypse Blog sites are moved over (the last big websites to shift), I should be able to close down the old hosting account. Then dust off hands, all done there.

Starwalker so far

I have four whole books of Starwalker shenanigans. What to do with them!

This is something I’m planning to sit down and figure out. I would really like to get them published but I’m still tossing up what kind of publishing I should go for. I could self-publish ebooks again. I could try the traditional publishing world. I could run a Kickstarter and do an actual physical print run.

This particular story is positioned in a way that would make it a good candidate to sell to a traditional publisher. Hybrid authors tend to be the most successful: traditionally-published books bring in the exposure and breadth; self-published books bring in greater revenue. All the stats from the past few years tell us this. And I still have that lingering dream to see my books on bookstore shelves.

However. Starwalker is already sprawling into a fifth book. There are shorts and spin-offs planned. I’m a little bit leery of selling all of that to a publisher.

Pros and cons are yet to be fully weighed. We shall see!

In the meantime, I am aiming to get the first four books collated, edited, and cleaned up, ready to be published. That’s going to be a huge chunk of work on its own, and I may or may not get it done before the end of the hiatus. Let’s start with getting the first book done and go from there, shall we?

Starwalker Book 5

The last big bit of work that I want to get done while I’m on hiatus is to plan out the next phase of Starwalker. Currently, I’m calling this Book 5. (I wouldn’t be surprised if the story creeps out beyond a fifth book: not only is this me we’re talking about – I’m good at sprawling stories – but also I have some suspicions that there are enough questions left to answer to take our favourite little ship on a few loooong journeys.)

I’m not quite sure what it’ll take to do this planning. Hopefully just a couple of days dedicated to laying out the pieces I’ve got to play with.

After that, I need to figure out the timing of the writing. With all the stuff that’ll be in progress over this hiatus, I need to work out when I can responsibly restart the serial. Too soon, and I’ll be too overloaded to do it well. Too long, and I’ll lose a chunk of my readership. It’s a balancing act.

One option might be that I start Book 5 as this year’s NaNo project. That would mean sacrificing the next scheduled chunk of progress on Vampire Electric (which is still halfway through the second draft). I’d have to weight up the pros and cons of that.

This would be a departure in how I write the serials. I tend to write and post as I go, literally week to week. Over the last year and a half, I’ve had mixed success with this, and been far more unreliable than I like. Spending a month writing nothing else, powering through a huge chunk of it: this is pretty attractive. I could have a buffer again!

There’s 6 months between now and NaNo, so I’ve got some time to figure it out. Let’s see what happens.


So there you go: that’s what I have planned for this ‘break’ I’m taking. Ambitious? Maybe. I’m enthused and happy to be able to delve into all these things. There’s a lot to get through and I’m trying not to take my time too much. Wish me luck!

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Boomflowers: sneaking up on you



I wrote recently about the Write-Review-Publish event and how it went. What I didn’t talk about there is what I wrote during that day.

Quite often at the more intensive, structured, or organised events, I don’t really get much opportunity to write. Regular write-ins are fine, but something i’m actively running throughout the day usually means that I don’t get my head down into my own fiction. And that’s fine! I’m completely down with that.

Write-Review-Publish was different. Despite actively running it through the whole day, I actually managed to settle enough for a few stretches to get a piece not only started, but drafted right to the end, redrafted, and edited. It’s not the whole story, but it’s the first whole scene of it.

I had an idea that was niggling at me, and I figured it might be a good candidate for a day like that one. It came from an article I saw about a guy who had turned shotgun ammunition into seed distribution shells, for easy, shotgun-toting gardening. (They’re called Flower Shells.)

This is the best mix for a writer: weapons and violence with a green, environmental bent, and a healthy dollop of the faintly ridiculous. Because gardening with a shotgun is equal parts ridiculous and awesome.

Of course, my writer brain started turning it over like a curious rock. The ‘what ifs’ began: what if these shells became common munitions? What if they were used as ‘organic markers’, to tag suspects in shoot-outs and identify them later? What if someone took them to the extreme and tried to make them into bombs? What if the seeds were adapted to use the heat from the blast to promote fast growth? What if… it all went horribly wrong?

Welcome to Boomflowers. The worst has happened, an entire city (at least) has been taken over by rampant giant flowers, and people have been entirely driven out.

This is where I started at the event. The first piece of the story fell out of my story with surprising steadiness; I won’t say it was easy, because it was a struggle in some ways, but I didn’t get stuck on it, either. It’s heavy on the description in a way that I don’t often write (Starwalker is more internal chatter than pure description). It felt like stretching old muscles in new, fresh scenery.

The goal for the day was 2,000 words and the first piece of Boomflowers is only around 1,500, but I didn’t want to fill it out: I think it’s about right as it is. I really like how it came out, came together, this story that was pretty much just a concept when I walked in that day. I hadn’t expected to get to the end of it! It’s nice to know that I can surprise myself.

Right now, I’m trying not to plan it too deeply. I’ve got an idea about where I want it to go, the ground I want it to cover, and the shape it’ll take to get there. I’m predicting that it will come out around 10,000 words when it’s complete. For me, that’s shockingly short. I’m not looking to overcook this or stretch it out, though I’m determined to let it take the time and space it needs to be the story it should be. So, well… it might wind up longer than that.

I’m enjoying writing it. I’ve got the second piece ready to go, and I’m hoping to get the rest of it written up over the next few weeks, so it’s all done and good to go by the time I get back to Starwalker.

It has been a while since I wrote something with this little prep, and right now, I’m loving it. I should go do some more weird stuff with creeping flowers! Enjoy!

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Write-Review-Publish – the lowdown

As part of my recent work with Inkspired, I held an event in conjunction with the portal’s people that we called Write-Review-Publish.

It was a full-day event in which the intention was to:

  • Distribute writing sparks/ideas
  • Encouraged writers to brainstorm in groups about their story idea or spark
  • Write about 2,000 words
  • Review each others’ stories and give feedback
  • Rework and polish the piece
  • Publish it through Inkspired.
(Picture by Sandymanase)

(Picture by Sandymanase)

This was a new endeavour for me, a new kind of event, and I jumped into it enthusiastically. So did a lot of other people! We had so much interest in it that, after I posted the details up on the NaNo Brisbane Facebook group, I wound up increasing our booking because I thought we’d run out of space!

We didn’t quite get the turnout I had expected (feared?), given the interest a whole heap of people showed, but it was still pretty impressive: we had about 20 people, which is a healthy turnout. It’s a good number to wrangle, I find.

I had set up a whole schedule for the day, laying out time pockets for each stage of the process. The schedule only really existed for about an hour or so, after which I realised that the writing habits and process of the different attendees were going to make it too hard to enforce. I quietly abandoned the schedule idea; after all, these things aren’t set in stone, and the idea was to foster and encourage creativity and writing, not squash it by trying to force it into predetermined boundaries.

Instead, I opted for moving around the room and checking in on people every now and then. It gave me an opportunity and excuse to chat with people, some of whom I didn’t know very well. It gave the day a more relaxed atmosphere, too.

Overall, it went pretty well. Everyone who came wrote a bit of something new, though not all got to the point where they were ready to share it. Some worked with the Inkspired website and uploaded their pieces.

When I arrived to set up for the event, one of the Inkspired creators and developers collared me to tell me about a new feature they had just finished putting in (literally the night before): reviewing. It was a bit raw, but it worked! Writers could now save a draft of a chapter in Inkspired and nominate some reviewers. The reviewers got an email with a link, and were able to go in and mark up the draft with comments.

It was a wonderful addition to the day. There were a couple of issues we gave feedback on, which is probably why Inkspired took a couple of weeks to announce the feature to their userbase, but it worked well enough for us to get some goodness out of. It made the feedback portion of the process much easier than I had anticipated, and everyone was impressed with how it worked.

So, while no-one actually hit ‘publish’ on the day, a whole bunch of people signed up and got involved. A couple of us have since published our pieces and released them into the wild. (More on mine in another post soon!)

The Inkspired people seem keen to do more events like this one. I am, too! (I’m being cautious with not overloading myself, but I do hope to do another one before too long.)

I think the day could be improved, though. 

Now, before I go on, I want to be clear: the attendees were wonderful. You were all wiling, receptive, and brave enough to dive in to what we asked you to do. This is in no way a comment on anyone who was there (or not there); this was a new thing I was trying, and it needs some tuning. So let’s look under the hood and see what we can do.

The event felt a little too loose to me, like it was missing something. I’m not entirely sure what that something was. I think people got to very different places with their pieces, though I’m not sure if that’s a bad thing. I don’t know if there was not enough structure in the end, or too much driving too fast. I’m not even sure if anyone shares my feelings! What I am sure about is: it could be better.

Here’s where I need some help. I’m really curious about what others think, so I can try to make the right changes, should we try this again. So for those who attended, I would love it if you could answer the questions below. For those who couldn’t make it, what do you think about an event like this?

Like with the Writers’ Asylum, I really do take your preferences and suggestions into account when putting this sort of thing together. 

Some questions I’d love to hear from you about:

  1. Have you published on Inkspired yet? If not, do you intend to? Why?
  2. What was the best thing about the event?
  3. What didn’t work for you about the event? If possible, can you say why it didn’t work?
  4. What did you think of the prompts? Did you use one?
  5. Was the feedback you got on your piece useful?
  6. Any feedback for us on the structure of the day? Did you think you had enough time for everything you needed to do? Was anything missing?
  7. Would a more guided writing event be something you would like? For example, a more directed writing challenge rather than open, free writing?
  8. Any suggestions not already covered?

Feel free to comment here, or email me if you prefer.

I think that’s everything. Obviously, if there’s anything I haven’t covered, please feel free to fill in the gap and tell me all about it.

Thanks to everyone who got involved or showed an interest. I couldn’t do any of this stuff without you guys. Here’s to next time, and more great writing being done!

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Inkspired: shiny new toy

Get Inkspired! (Picture: theirs)

Get Inkspired!
(Picture: theirs)

I have been involved with a new publishing venue for a little while, and I figured that it was about time I shared it with everyone. It’s still in beta, but that doesn’t mean you can’t jump in and see what it’s all about.

It is called Inkspired, and it is a free, serial-friendly publishing and reading portal. It’s pretty simple to use: as a writer, you copy in your story, fill in a few details, and click ‘publish’; as a reader, you can read stories on the website or through the app.

(Tip: not to be confused with the tattoo magazine of the same name.)

Let’s get the scary legal stuff out of the way: Inkspired don’t take any rights to your work; it all stays with the author. You’re free to do whatever you want with anything you post up there and you’re not tied to them in any way.

As a writer, Inkspired offers:

  • An easy-to-use interface.
  • Basic text formatting only. If you want something complex, this probably isn’t the venue for you.
  • Access to their readership*, through:
    • Their home page
    • Discoverability / searchability
    • Weekly bulletin emails
  • Automatic notifications to readers who follow your story, whenever a new chapter is published.
  • Automatic reminders when you’re approaching your next chapter due date.
  • The ability to send broadcast updates to your followers.
  • Reviews on a chapter before it is published**.
  • Comments from readers on published chapters, and the ability to reply to them.

* The site is pretty new and the reader base is pretty fledgling-sized. I’d be curious about their actual numbers and how it goes as the reader base grows.

** This is a new feature, added for a recent event I held for them. Writers can get comments directly on a draft of a chapter from invited Inkspired users. It’s great! Some functionality still being ironed out here, though.

I think it’s a professional-looking site and pretty reliable. The creators are open to feedback and have implemented a bunch of features from suggestions. There’s a donation system on the way, so readers can donate to their favourite authors/stories, and likely to be other features in the works I haven’t heard about yet.

Overall, I’m still not sure what I think about it; it’s early days. I like the site and the interaction with the readership. I like that it’s easy, and looks good without much effort on my part. I like that people are discovering my stories on there (more on them soon!), liking and following them, and I get happy little notifications when that happens.

It’s still growing and developing, and it’s exciting to see it shift and change, especially when I get to have input into those changes. At this point, I can’t really tell how the long term or the big picture is going to pan out. Is it a good publishing portal? Will it be successful? I’m not sure and don’t really have the direct experience to predict it. I hope it does work out.

Right now, I’m treating Inkspired as an experiment for me, my writing, and publishing. I’m trying different things, and trying to get the word out there to see what input others have on the subject. Already, I’ve had it compared to Wattpad and realised that they’re fairly similar. As a result, I’m considering doing a compare-and-contrast with Wattpad, just to see what’s what.

As part of my work with Inkspired’s creators (they are local to me here in Brisbane), I ran an event with them recently that we dubbed the Write – Review – Publish event. It went well and was an interesting endeavour, and I hope to do something similar again soon. I’ll write more on this when I’ve had a chance to digest it more fully.

Hopefully, there will be a lot more news on this front over the next little while. Fingers crossed! In the meantime, I’d love to know what you think about Inkspired.

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