Tales from the Screw Loose posts

2015: Hopes and goals

January is already nearly done, and I’m only just setting myself some goals? What can I say: it has been a busy year already.

But that doesn’t mean that I haven’t been thinking about what I hope to achieve this year. Already, some planning has happened and things are shifting. So let’s get down to it! What stars am I aiming for this time?


Life Stuff

As annoying as it is, life stuff impacts on my ability to write and create the stories that are buzzing around in my head. So what are the things that I’m hoping to get done this year, and will they make my writing life easier?


The beloved and begrudged day job pays the bills and makes everything possible. I have some hopes for improvement in this area, particularly with how challenging it is right now, but I really can’t complain.

I’m in the enviable position of:

  • Having a job that pays my bills
  • Enjoying the job and liking the people I work with
  • Being relatively secure in my job
  • Qualifying for long-service leave this year. I just need to decide when and how to use it!
The view from my writing balcony.

The view from my writing balcony.

I’m always leaning towards new prospects and opportunities, but really, staying happy and healthy in my current position will suit me just fine for this year.


Over the past 18 months, I have reorganised my home to be more comfortable and conducive to writing. I’m most of the way through the process, so my main goals for 2015 in this area are to:

  • Finish up the reorganisation, which mostly means:
    • Gutting the dining room and refilling it.
    • Sorting out the old office. It’s going to become a guest room or possibly a beanbag room. Or both.
  • Enjoy my surroundings.
  • Use my writing balcony more.


Ah, the monkey on my back, the fly in my ointment. It hasn’t been good, though I’ve been keeping my head above water (which I judge by my ability to keep going to my day job). I’m hoping to do some investigations into potentially helpful avenues, depending on cost, and will mostly keep trying to look after myself.



This is what we’re really interested in, right? What writing am I hoping to achieve this year? A tricky question, because I’m not sure if I should continue to aim high, or learn from last year and be more conservative.

I guess, at the end of the day, this is a list of things I want to achieve. So let’s start there!


The StarwalkerAfter a hiccup in the latter part of 2014, Starwalker Book 4 is still under way. I’m still loving writing it, too. My aim is currently to finish up Book 4 and get to the end of the current arc.

My plan has always been to stop there. I’ve got the kernels of ideas for Book 5 brewing (the seeds are being planted in Book 4), but there’s not enough there to write. Yet. I don’t believe in starting blindly; I won’t write without knowing what it is I’m writing (I’ve done this before and it doesn’t work for me). It’s simply not ready.

On top of that, I have been writing Starwalker for 5 years now (!!!). I am immensely proud of that, and I’m just as in love with it now as I was when I started. But it’s time for a break. I’ve got projects piling up on my to-do list that I would love to get to, and right now, I don’t have headspace to seriously write more than one at a time.

So what does this mean? It means I’ll be putting a pin in Starwalker after Book 4 is complete. I may come back to it one day, but I’ll be taking a rest from it.

If I get the itch to play in the Starwalker realm, I may well continue building the Shorts. I have a list and an idea for most of them, and shorts are a good way to capitalise on downtime.

I may also look into publishing options. Self? Traditional? Kickstarter-funded? All good questions to consider.

Vampire Electric

I made good progress on this last year, and I want to capitalise on that this year. My long-term goal is to:

  • Complete the second draft (currently about 50% done) and get to the end of the story
  • Do an analysis of the draft and see how happy I am with it, and what work it needs. It might need to be broken up into multiple novel-sized chunks.
  • Serialise the third draft, editing and reworking as I go.

For 2015, I want to work on the first of those bullet points. It’s going to be a big story; if current patterns hold true, I’ve got about 100,000 words left to write. This means I’m unlikely to finish it this year, but I’ll probably work on it as my NaNoWriMo project again and make a good-sized dent in the remainder.

Apocalypse Blog

The Apocalypse Blog Book 1: End of the Old

The Apocalypse Blog Book 1: End of the Old

These ebooks have been out for a while, and I’ll be honest: I’ve let them languish. I have edits I need to do to them, and new covers to apply, and new blurbs to write. I need to adjust the pricing and try to lift their market presence.

In all, it’s probably not a huge amount of work (though with marketing, it’s a bit of a black hole, so we’ll see), but I want to set aside the time and mental space to do it.

Vampire Victim Support Group

This is a lot of fun, and because they’re shorts, I’m hoping to be able to fit them in between other stuff. I’ve got a list of them roughly mapped out, and hope to expand the series over the next year. I’ve also got some big-picture ideas (the original idea was a group of loosely-connected vignettes, and I’ve started pondering ideas for the connective material), but we’ll see where that goes.

Tales from the Screw Loose

This project (otherwise known as the ‘robot brothel story’) has been lurking for a while and is almost in a state that’s ready to write. Talking with a friend about it recently, it’s easy to get enthusiastic and excited about it. It’s not going to be a short or quick project (current plan have a rough trilogy outlined), so this will take some investment. Probably a good one to serialise.

I’m not confident of my ability to get to this in 2015. The projects listed above could easily fill up the year, and I’m not in a place where I’d put this at the top of my list.

Chances are, what I’ll do is see whether I could cope with a second serial when I get to the stage of serialising Vampire Electric. That probably won’t be this year. So Screw Loose will remain on hold, for now, but not forgotten.

Other Stuff

I’m not entirely sure what this covers. I know I talked last year about putting anthologies together, but I really don’t have the mental energy for a project like that this year. Or at least, right now. I think the list above is plenty to keep me busy; everything else is on hold. Backburners. I’ll fight the urge to get distracted by squirrels and shiny objects.

I will add that I’m hoping to be a bit more regular with posts on this blog. I let a few things languish last year, so I’m aiming to be better this year. Finish what I start, which means putting up a lot of posts currently sitting as half-finished drafts. I’m getting there, one step at a time. Watch this space!


Writing Events and Community Stuff

I’m still very active in my local writing community. And by ‘active’, I mean that I organise a bunch of events, get people together, and have a load of writing-related fun. I have no intention of changing this. My writing friends are a constant source of support, amusement, inspiration, and comfort. I wouldn’t trade them for the world.

Monthly Writing Group and Write-in

That said, I am changing things up this year. The monthly events I run are successful and working, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t be better. I have spread the events out over the month, sharing the load around a bit, and I’m hoping that will wind up being better for my health (previously, the two big monthly events were on the same weekend, which was a big, tiring time for me). It also spreads the cost of the events, which will help many of my attendees.

Writer’s Retreat

The view from our balcony. Gorgeous. (Photo: mine)

The view from our balcony. Gorgeous.
(Photo: mine)

After the turnout and feedback we got last year, my co-ML (Municipal Liaison – I have a wonderful friend who helps me to organise the events) and I are in discussions about whether we will do another one this year. The main issue seems to be the cost and getting time away from family commitments. We can’t do anything about the latter, and we work to keep the prices as low as possible, but at the end of the day, if it’s not working, we need to be honest about it.

We’re looking at other ideas and options, and it’s likely that we’ll try something new and different this year. Cross your fingers for us! I’m sure it’ll be fun, if a lot of work, but it’s always worth it.

Writers’ Asylum

This has been a lot of fun over the past couple of years, and I’m aiming to run another one this year. I took feedback last year and have some ideas for how to change it up, so there’ll be a new setup this time. I’ve got the theme in mind and I think I know what the challenges should be. I’m hoping to make it fun for everyone who gets involved.

That’s everything! It’s a big list, now that I look at it all in one place. I’m both a little daunted and utterly ready to get going. So much to do, why waste time?

Let’s go. Let’s make 2015 better than 2014. Onwards and upwards, my friends.

I hope you’ll all join me on the journey.

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Time pressure

It feels a lot like this. (Picture by Lisa Brewster)

It feels a lot like this.
(Picture by Lisa Brewster)

So many projects, so little time. I’ve talked a lot on this blog about how much I struggle with my health and fatigue (or at least, it seems that way to me). I work full time to support myself, too, so my available time to write is pretty restricted.

My project list is so long these days. I put the Works in Progress page up recently, and I’m still thinking of things that I should put on there. It’s a page that will be updated pretty frequently, I think.

It’s natural that I get frustrated by the restrictions in my life. I am brimful of stories and struggling to be able to get them down and share them. I have pieces of my heart I’m ready to give away but no hands to hold them in. Not enough spoons to carve them out with.

Okay, that metaphor might have got away from me there. But you get what I mean.

There’s something that happens to me when I feel this way for a length of time. The things I really want to do pile up and up, and I’m constantly tipping them back against the wall: not yet, not yet, wait your turn. I’ll get to you. Just hold on there.

At some point, that pile gets too high. The sheer volume of things I want to do but can’t becomes too much, and it topples. I’m right in there, standing underneath, and I give up and join in, tearing chunks out of the middle and strewing them around. Fine. Fine.

In my head, something shifts. In my chest, something gives way. I say ‘yes, I feel crappy all the time, and I have all these restrictions on me, and it sucks. And you know what? It’s not good enough. I’m sick of missing out on my own life. I want to do *this* and *this* and this other thing over here. And I’m damned well going to do them anyway.’ My brain is suddenly active, alive with urgency and ideas that are usually so far out of my reach.

Outwardly, I have a productive spurt. I write on this blog again, blurt out a stream of things that have been backing up for some time, and wind up scheduling them over days or weeks to spread them out. I clean my house. I sort papers that have been sitting in a messy pile for months. I throw stuff out that I’ve been meaning to get to. I plan out a chunk of a new project. I write shorts. I do some of those things that have been towering over me, blotting out sight of what progress I might be making with everything I’m missing out on.

Chronic fatigue is a tricky thing. Sometimes this is enough to pull me up for some time – weeks, months maybe. Sometimes it only lasts a short time before my energy dwindles again, maybe a weekend if I’m lucky.

That’s sort of where I am right now, on the up-kick of a productive spurt. I’m not sure how long it will last. It feels more forced than usual, driven by more determination than it has been in the past. I’ve been lower for longer lately, and I’m trying to pull myself up out of it.

Part of it is most likely prompted by some help I’m getting at home, and right now, I’ll eke the most out of every opportunity that I can get. If a door is open an inch, I’ll do my damnedest to kick it wide, or even a foot wider. Every little helps.

Right now, I’m feeling really positive. My day job is going well. Starwalker is a bit of a challenge (which I might talk about in another blog post), but I got last week’s post out on time and that’s a victory in my book. My writing group is going well. I spent last weekend hanging out with writer friends, writing. The Writer’s Retreat is coming along nicely. Now the pressure is off at home, I can spare the mental energy for looking into health options.

And I’m getting lots of ideas for stories. Some existing projects, as well as a whole new one.

I have figured out why Vampire Electric wasn’t gelling as smoothly as it should be for me: the villain is too off-screen and away from the action for too much of the story. I need to go back and rethink how he weaves in with the rest of the story and drives it forward. I’m planning to continue work on the second draft of the novel for this year’s NaNoWriMo project, and now I’m in a good position to fix it up when I do that.

I’m getting more clarity on some of the shorts I have on my list for Starwalker. I know roughly what I want to do for each character, but some are clearer than others.

I have an idea for a second VVSG vignette. It niggles at me.

The assassin-centric novel I wrote a few years ago is starting to itch again, too. I have a fairly good idea about how I want the rewrite to go, and how I might start to shift it into the Starwalker universe. With some more background work, I might even be able to work in the Fall of Earth, but that would be a sequel (or even two or three books down the track in that particular series).
More and more often, I’m finding that my stories come out as a series. Not serials, necessarily, but standalone novels seem to get bored in my brain and start breeding. Like dustbunnies (or plotbunnies). If I keep turning the idea over in my hands, I seem to realise there are three or four plots in there, not just one. So many books to write!

For example, Tales from the Screw Loose is now probably a trilogy, and much bigger than just a robot brothel (once I get down into the depths of the second, and definitely in the third, book). Again, the events in Starwalker are pushing this into a larger story (and I think it’s a lot better for it, mostly because straight erotica really isn’t my thing). Sexual politics, the automation of industry, the impact of refugees, entitlement, rebellion…

And then there’s the new story. It’s shiny and novel, and the more my brain picks at it, the more interesting stuff falls out. It’s called Splinter Soul, and the basic premise is that, some time ago, someone broke the world in a fundamental way. Souls are infinite and managed to survive being split when the planet fractured, and now people walk around with only splinters of the souls they should have. There’s magic involved, based around how much of their soul a person has managed to rejoin and what form they are most powerful in, so it’s in a person’s interest to try to find all the splinters of who they really are. The splinters are other creatures, some of them mundane, some of them fantastical. They might also be other people, and there might be dragons. There’s a role for reincarnation to play here, but I’m still figuring out the mechanics of that.

It’s still mostly a world right now, a setting with lots of fun pieces to play with. I’m having fun working it all out, and the mists of a story are forming in the background. I think, for once, I’ll have the antagonist before I have the protagonist nailed down. Maybe I’ll wind up making the villain the protagonist… now, there’s an idea. Ooo.

Just writing out those two paragraphs has given me two or three new ideas I can work in. It is unfolding.

This is how the mind of a writer goes. Right now, mine is firing on… maybe not all cylinders, but let’s call it five out of six (instead of the usual two or three).

I have to be careful not to push too hard. Not to throw too many balls into the air, lest they all fall down. I have to pace myself, at least a little, try to keep things reasonable. I don’t want to push myself into some kind of collapse.
But I do want to push. I want to enjoy this. I have so many toys and I mean to play with them. I want to make the most of this up-swing in productivity while it lasts.

There’ll be a price at some point. I’m borrowing spoons. But hell, I’m going to make it worth it.

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What am I up to?

Look! It’s a tiny writing dragon! (Picture by jrrhack)

In an effort to be more proactive about self-promotion, I’ve been thinking about the resources available on this site and upgrading them.

Truly, what I should do is build a new author website and move all this content over there. I already have the domain (melanieedmonds.com), but getting it built is going to be a chunk of work. I’ll need to hire an artist to do the banners I want (I already know what I want to do there). I’ll probably need to learn some more CSS to make it look the way I want, too (or hire someone to do that, and that’s beyond me at the moment, too!).

Rather than hang around and wait for ‘one day’ when I might get to all that, I decided to go ahead and build out this site. At least the content will be easy to transpose, should I get the full author website sorted.

Hence, we now have a handy My Writing section here on this site. What is it? Go take a look, lazy!

…I’m kidding; of course I’ll tell you. It lists the stories I’ve done that you can access right now, with links to my ebooks on every store they’re available as well as the original websites. I’ll be working to expand the links available as I find my way into different stores, libraries, and subscription services.

Under that, the Works in Progress page lists, predictably, the things I’m working on at the moment. I’m hoping to keep this up-to-date as I work through stuff (I change projects so infrequently that it shouldn’t fall behind too often).

You may also note that stuff I’m not actively working on is listed on that latter page, too. This is stuff that I have in the works and mean to get to… sometime. Some of it’s old, some of it’s new, some of it I have talked about before to varying degrees. Most of it is ticking over in my brain in some capacity or other.

Maybe these pages will be a kick up the arse for me to get moving with some of this stuff. Fingers crossed, right?

What do you think? Is this worth doing? Of interest?

Got any comments about the projects that are listed there? Suggestions? Requests? Reactions? I’d love to hear them!

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Looking Forward: 2014

Aim for the sky! One rung at a time. (Picture by Mykl Roventine)

Aim for the sky! One rung at a time.
(Picture by Mykl Roventine)

We’re already a couple of weeks into 2014, but it’s not too late to set goals! Let’s see what I’ve got on my list for this year.

I should perhaps add a caveat that I’m going to be a bit more conservative than I was last year. Struggles with my health and energy levels are forcing me to be a bit more realistic, as goals I know I can’t reach just depress and discourage me. If I go above and beyond, then fantastic. But this is what I’ll be happy with achieving. Maybe a little more. I like to aim high, even if I’m pulling my focus in slightly.

Home / Work

Might as well get this stuff out of the way! My goals here involve:

  • Keeping up with the day job as I am currently. It’s going well, I’m always learning new stuff, and it enables me to do all of those other things that make me happy. I’m lucky enough to have a good group of people around me, too, and I’m thankful for that.
  • Finishing up the big change-around at home. The first phase of this is done, and it’s going great. There’s still some tidy-up work to do and the next phase to knock over before I’ll be content with how things are. This will make things easier for me at home, releasing more time and energy for other things.
  • Beating my health with a stick until it behaves. Worth a try, right?



Ah, the beloved web serial. Book 4 is well underway and I’m aiming to finish this particular story arc (and book) this year. Will there be a Book 5? At this stage, I’m honestly not sure – there are a couple of places the story could go after the end of the current trials, but I don’t have any set plans for that yet.

It’s also possible that it’s time to put a pin in that particular project and move on to one of the others on my list. Do I have much more story left to tell there? Would it benefit from a break? All good questions, and no doubt I’ll be asking them right up until it’s time to make a decision. Which will probably be around the end of Book 4, whenever that happens.

Could that be the end of Starwalker? Unlikely. It just might change from its current pattern.

Here’s what I have in mind for this year’s tasks:

  • Finish Book 4. Unless it extends beyond the end of this year, but right now that’s not looking likely.
  • Edit Book 1. A light edit is partially done; I’m looking to finish the edit off and tidy it up for potential submission to publishers.
  • Do more shorts. Elliott’s one is fighting me, but I’m determined to defeat his story and release it into the wild. I have a list of others to do, too, and aim to get to some more of them as well.
  • Look at publication options. By the end of the year, I’d like to have sorted out my options and decided what I want to do. The Kickstarter is still a possibility.

Vampire Electric

I’m loving how the second draft of this story is coming out. This year, I’d like to continue with the second draft and see if I can get closer to finishing it. It’s falling into 3 parts and the first part is almost done. One more NaNo should give me the second part, at least. Hopefully I’ll be able to work on it a bit more than that, but that will depend on other commitments (and potentially whether Starwalker is still running as a serial).

I’m also considering putting this up as a serialised novel, once the second draft is done. Effectively, I’d be serialising the third draft, as all I’d be doing is editing and posting. However, considering how much more there is to write in the second draft, I have no idea if I’ll even start this in 2014.

It’s entirely possible that I have already bought the domain for such a serialisation, however. Ahem.

Tales from the Screw Loose

Recently, I had a little squee moment when my brain stumbled over the missing piece for this story. I finally have everything I need to start writing this one! Except for time and opportunity, of course.

I’m not sure yet whether I’ll write this one as a serial, or as a background project to be serialised later (like I’m considering with Vampire Electric). I’m pretty sure that I will serialise it somehow. A lot will depend on Starwalker and whether I keep that going as a serial, as that will dictate my capability for writing another fresh, off-the-cuff serial. (Trying to write two serials at the same time would be a recipe for disaster for me. Let’s keep things realistic!)

I’d like to get all of the groundwork laid for this story this year. Maybe even start the first draft (or set of posts). A lot will depend on how the two projects above are going!

Apocalypse Blog

Ahh, the good old Apocalypse Blog. I’ve got new covers and fresh edits to apply. I mean to sort these out! Get the books all redone and shiny, and publish them on all the outlets I can get my e-fingers on. I’ll also be changing up the pricing structure to reflect the latest trends. I’d like to rejuvenate the sales for my beloved trilogy and see my graphs go back up again. That would be lovely.

I’m still getting requests for a fourth book on this series. Which I love! I’m so happy that people are enjoying it. I don’t have any fixed plans for a fourth book, but I have notes lying around for some shorts. No promises at this point, but if an idea from this world bites strongly enough, I’ll write it.


Last year, I wrote a couple of shorts for anthologies. This year, I hope to see them published, but that depends on the projects in question. Watch this space!

I’m also looking at putting together my own anthology this year. I’ve got a few themes in mind to choose from, and the kernels of ideas for stories. Still working out details, but I’m aiming to have one released (to the public! to buy and read!) this year. This will be a collaboration effort, rather than an anthology of my work – I’ll be writing one story for it, maybe, and editing, collating, and typesetting the whole thing for release. I have a couple of friends I’ll be working with on this, so it’s not just me.

This is a first for me. I’m not sure how it’ll all go, but I’m sure it’ll be interesting to find out! Need to polish up my ability to write short stories. Also need to figure out more of the back end side of doing a project like this.

I love learning new things.

Writing Community

I adore my local writing community, and that I get to help shape it. I have no intention of stopping, because of all the wonderful help, support, and encouragement I get from the awesome people around me.

Creative Writing Group

Into its sixth year now and still going strong. This year, we have a new time-slot to experiment with, later in the evening, and it’ll be interesting to see how that goes. I took a poll of the subjects that the group wanted to talk about at the end of last year, and I’m curious to see how that list works out. I have a few topics to research so we can talk about them, and that’s all good.

Writers’ Asylum

This was an experiment last year and went so well that I’m doing another one. Preparation for this is going well (I got the prompts written recently), and I’ll be lining this up for April soon. Watch this space!


Can’t go without mentioning this. I fully intend to resume my Municipal Liaison mantle for the 8th year, and we’ll be having fun with the usual events. Plus, there are plans for a new-style Kick-off Party and another Writer’s Retreat. The ball for the Retreat will probably start rolling soon (organising an event this big has to be done well in advance). I’m looking forward to the awesomeness already.

Is that everything? I think that’s everything.

Oh, except that a friend and I have been sorting out setting up an editing service. It’s a way for us to do what we love and raise some money in the process. I’m both eager to get going on this and reeling at the thought. Right now, it’s on a pause until I can get stuff at home more settled. Then I’ll be able to give it the attention and devotion it deserves.

More on this in (hopefully) the near future. For now, I have a set of goals before me. So enough talking about it: let’s get going. Onwards, my friends!

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2013: A Retrospective

2013. It was a bit of a rollercoaster. I can’t believe I’m a week into 2014 and I’m only just getting to this.

I just pulled up my goals post from the beginning of 2013, and wow. The year went so differently to what I had planned. But I guess life would be boring if it was all that easy to plot out, right?

Let’s break it down a bit and see what I managed to achieve and what fell by the wayside.


This one went pretty much as I had hoped. It has been a busy year with occasional bouts of stress, but for the most part it has been secure and steady. Thanks, workplace.

Home Stuff

This is a big part of what changed for me this year. The financial stuff has settled down and that’s a layer of stress that has lifted off me. Score one for me!

However, my folks were both called away several months ago, and they’re currently on the other side of the world. Nothing to worry about: they’re staying with my brother for a while and playing with the grandkids. All good! We share a house, so I’m currently housesitting and catsitting and generally taking care of everything at this end for them. Which, to be clear, I don’t mind in the least, but it is an extra overhead that I didn’t have before.

What I didn’t expect was just how much those little things would impact everything else. I’ve lived on my own before, looked after a house (and its associated furry inhabitants) by myself before, but this time around it’s different. I’m struggling way more than I ever have before. I think my health is just so much worse now and that’s making it difficult for me to keep up. In truth, I haven’t been coping well, and I’ve had to call in friends to help out when my energy reserves just failed me.

In struggling to keep up with things at home, everything else has been impacted. This is because my priorities have to be:

  1. Work, so I can pay to eat and live
  2. Home stuff, so I eat and live
  3. Writing, so I can breathe and be me.

For the latter months of 2013, I spent some time trying to figure out how to make things work at home. It has involved shuffling some things around (not moving house, but moving a lot of stuff around inside the house; this is a work in progress, but it’s getting there); paying someone to pick up the things I don’t have energy for, like the cleaning; and toying with the idea of getting in a lodger. The lodger idea has slipped into the background for now, and I have a few ideas for improvements to help things go more easily for me at home, but it’s getting better. Slowly and surely!

It has been a big change for me. I hadn’t realised just how much I had become used to sharing a house (and all its associated work) with my folks, and how much I relied on their help and input on a day-to-day basis. I’m so grateful for my friends and all the help they’ve given me as I’ve been working to adjust and cope; I would be in such a mess now if it wasn’t for them.


Yeah, it’s crappy. The CFS has been getting worse for a while and I’m struggling along on empty all the time now. I’m budgeting my time and activities more frugally than I’ve ever had to before. For those familiar with the spoons theory, I have fewer spoons to play with these days.

I’ve had a little bit of progress. The tests I had towards the beginning of the year highlighted about three separate issues that I needed to deal with. Things are improving there, slowly. Sadly, these are all digestion-related, and while my tummy is happier these days (most of the time), it hasn’t led to an improvement in energy levels.

The CFS is an ongoing battle. It forces me to prioritise things very strictly, and getting on top of things at home has been more important than chasing the unicorn of a successful CFS treatment. It might sound counter-intuitive, but I needed to get the immediate concerns sorted out so that I have the leeway to tackle the longer-running problems like CFS. I don’t have the mental or emotional energy to handle both at once.

As the home stuff gets sorted, I hope to get time to devote attention to my shitty health. In the meantime, I plough on.


Here’s the really interesting stuff. The short version of this post is that it hasn’t gone anywhere near as far as I had hoped. But let’s break it down a bit.


The web serial is still going strong! It’s into its fourth book now and heading swiftly towards its fourth birthday. Hard to believe I’ve been writing it for that long! My readers continue to be a delight and a wonderfully supportive blanket. They have been so understanding about the posts I’ve had to miss because I was simply too sick to make it (and I’ve done it far more than I’m comfortable with). I’m so grateful for them. I still love the story and even though it’s getting harder to keep up, I have every intention of pushing on and trying hard.

I talked about making the first trilogy into ebooks. Maybe running a Kickstarter campaign and having a whole plan – I actually got as far as writing out the plan. This has largely been skittled by the issues above; my priority is keeping the web serial posts going, and work on editing the first book is very much a background task now.

As for the shorts, I have a pile of ideas brimming but little to no time to get them down. The fourth one of the series is almost written, but it’s fighting me and I’ve been letting it rest so I can come back at it fresh. Not much progress here.

Vampire Electric

(Picture from scienceblogs.com)

(Picture from scienceblogs.com)

I had hoped to finish the first draft. What I wound up doing this year was quite different: I have abandoned the first draft about 70% complete, and started over. It was my NaNoWriMo 2013 project, and I used November to start fresh on the second draft of this story. I knew a lot of the things I wanted to fix or do better or differently, and I think it worked. It’s coming out much stronger now, though I’m only about a third of the way in. On the plus side, I have a good idea of how it’s going to end now, and I still can’t wait to write it.

Tales from the Screw Loose

I aimed to get all the prep done for this. I wound up doing a load of planning during my NaNo prep, so I’ve actually achieved this! There are still a couple of key things that I’m still figuring out to tie it all together, so it’s not quite ready to start writing, but it’s ticking over in the back of my brain. Soon, my pretties, soon.

Apocalypse Blog

Not as much progress here as I’d like. My sales dived into the toilet and I’ve been working to kick them back up again, to no avail. This is mostly because I haven’t got to the point where I could put my work into the public domain and actually do said kicking. On the plus side, I have fresh edit feedback on the ebooks and a set of shiny new covers all ready to go. I just need to put them all together into ebooks again and re-release them.


I haven’t been entirely idle this year! I joined in on a couple of anthologies that were being put together through a group on Goodreads. I have written my stories and sent them through, but both projects have foundered since then (not due to my involvement, I promise!). One of them is back up and running now, and I have hope that it will see the light of day in the next year. Fingers crossed for the other one.

Community and Events

2013-ML-Facebook-ProfileI’m still heavily involved in my local writing community. NaNoWriMo is still a big event for me, full of events to organise and run, and explains why this blog went so chillingly silent after 1st November rolled around. We did a bigger and better than ever Retreat, lots of write-ins, and lots of fun was had. Plus I got nearly 50,000 words of that second Vampire Electric draft done, which makes me happy.

The Creative Writing Group is still going strong. Five years old and still rolling. This makes me insanely happy. Lots of interest and enthusiasm from old and new faces alike, so definitely nothing to complain about here.

I also did an experiment this year by holding the first Writers’ Asylum. Why do I call it the first? Because it got such good feedback that I think it was a great success and I’ll be doing another one. However, they take so much work to set up that I’m not rushing it: right now, it looks like it’ll be one per year. Otherwise I’d never get my own writing done!


It has been a hell of a year. I haven’t achieved anything like as much as I had hoped. But I’m still here, I’m still moving forward, and I’m grateful for all those things that have gone well. It’s harder than it used to be, but I’m still writing. I still have ideas clogging up my brain and popping out of the woodwork when I least expect it.

I know it’s a bit late for new year’s resolutions (and I never really do them anyway), but I’ll do a 2014 goal-setting post soon. It helps to see it all laid out; I like plans. Here’s hoping that 2014 is the year that I manage to stick to more of what I aim to do!

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Running up to NaNoWriMo 2013

Best. Nails. Ever. (mine)

Best. Nails. Ever. (mine)

It’s almost here. I can’t believe it’s almost November.

As you may know, it’s National Novel Writing Month in a few days, and I’ll be trying to write 50,000 words in a month again. It’s my seventh year and I can’t break the pattern! I’m also MLing this year, which means organising loads of events, including a weekend away on a tropical island for around 30 writers.

Always good to know what your goals is

Always good to know what your goals is

Yes, I’m crazy. Luckily, I have help this year from a couple of fellow nutty writers, and they’re doing a wonderful job of lightening the burden of organising stuff. (No, they won’t help with the 50,000 words; they have their own novels to write and I’m not eager to share that part of NaNo!)

So, other than getting the events all lined up and good to go, what else have I been up to in preparation for my annual Month of Madness?

Let’s see:

  • Getting my nails done, all themely. Because these things are important.
  • Putting party bags together to give away to writers. Because we’re all secretly 5 years old. (Okay, in many cases, not so secretly. Some of us are shameless.)
  • Putting hipster PDA/lanyard packs together with report cards, so that writers can collect stickers through NaNo when they achieve goals. (See point above for reasoning. Writers love stickers.)
  • Getting piles of prizes ready for various competitions.
  • Planning out two projects, because I’m having a decision-making disorder.
  • Getting the next month’s strategy for my team at work all lined up and ready, because I’m taking a lot of November off.
  • Tying up loose ends at work so I can be away for the next couple of weeks.
  • Trying not to panic.
  • Attempting to figure out if I’m taking a hiatus from Starwalker or going to keep writing it while I’m novelling.
  • Remembering to feed the cats.
So many planning cards! (Vampire Electric)

So many planning cards! (Vampire Electric)
Caution: spoilers!

A couple of weekends ago, we had an awesome Planning Day for our NaNo peeps. I took along a pile of notecards and wrote a load of colour-coded goodness. Both of my proposed projects are now fleshed out, and planned about as much as I plan anything I write. After I got back home, I diligently stuck the notecards up onto their respective pinboards, so now I have pretty planning boards for the stories.

If only I was sure about which one to write! I think I’m leaning towards Vampire Electric at this point, though it’s entirely possible that I’ll wind up bouncing to Screw Loose if the steampunk doesn’t flow or work the way I want it to. Yes, I know it’s rebelling, but I’d rather write words I know will be useful than bang my head against a story that’s just not working.

Yet more planning cards! (Tales from the Screw Loose)

Yet more planning cards! (Tales from the Screw Loose)
Caution: spoilers!

I had semi-planned to take a break from Starwalker and go on a month-long hiatus. However, it’s not that long since I had a break (when Book 3 ended), and I don’t think it’ll be a huge drain to keep the posts going over the month. My readers have been awesomely patient with me while I’ve been sick and I’d like to reward them by maintaining their usual weekly service of posts. Also, I can count the posts I write in November towards my total.

Last Sunday, we had our Kick-off Party for NaNo; a BBQ in the park where we can get together, give away loads of stuff, get excited about NaNo, talk about our novels, and meet fellow crazy people. It was great! The weather was perfect (not too hot for a change, and it didn’t rain on us at all), and there was a good mix of familiar faces and new people to welcome into our fold.

Happy planning boards. But which one to choose?

Happy planning boards. But which one to choose?

This week, we have a drinks meetup on the 31st October. I expect there’ll be lots of ‘ahh, I can’t believe it’s the 1st tomorrow’, ‘I have no idea what to write!’, ‘I can’t wait to get writing’, and ‘is that a costume or do you always dress like that?’ It’s going to be a blast. Looking forward to it!

I’m currently reading over the first draft of Vampire Electric, to get myself in the mood for picking it up again. It’s reminding me of how much I like the milieu and the characters, and I’m already starting to pick out the bits I want to redo heavily in the rewrite. I plan to start over from scratch, and it’s good to have a clear idea of what I want it to be.

This time last week, I was drained and weary, and trying not to fret about being ready in time. This week, I’m getting enthused about the writing and more comfortable with how prepared we are for the events. There’s just the logistics for the Retreat to sort out, and then we’re good.

I’m getting there. Soon, there will be novelling. And on top of it all, I’m having fun with an awesome group of people. I love my region. Luckiest ML and writer ever.

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Catching/ramping up

It looms, but we love it

It looms, but we love it

I can’t believe that it has been so long since I posted here. Things are busy, my health is crap, and most of the time I’m scraping through the bare minimum to keep my head above water. Plus there’s Starwalker to write and post, and all of this year’s NaNoWriMo stuff to prepare, including another ambitious Writer’s Retreat. Oh, and there was GenreCon, which was awesome and I should post about that.

So much to do, so much to report on, and so little time. With NaNoWriMo starting next week, that’s where a lot of my focus is, so let’s start with that. The ML stuff is coming along nicely (much thanks to my co-MLs and other friends who have leant a hand; I’m so grateful to have them). The Retreat is ticking along and about to start sucking up more of my time, as we approach deadlines and confirmations and the need to pay for things.

And I’m still not sure what I’m going to write this year. I’m determined to write something new/different and not focus on Starwalker for once (my brain needs a break, and I’ve been writing Starwalker for the past three NaNos, so it’s time for a change). But in my looooong list of potential projects, which one to choose? I have two that are in a good state to start writing and I’m currently struggling to decide between them.

Here’s the blurb I put up on the Brisbane NaNo forums recently:

Vampire Electric

500 years ago, electrical creatures rose up and drove humanity out of their city. In the wilderness, a strange bargain was struck and the first vampire was made. Humans went on to build their new civilisation on steam and clockwork, while this new breed fed on the energy of humans in secret.

Now, Diza just wants to prove to the university board that a scholarship girl can earn a linguistics degree. To do that, she takes on the translation of an ancient text that tells the tale of the first vampire, the deal he struck, and a device that might create a newer, stronger combination of man and electrical entity. But she knows that this is no fable; this might be her chance to take revenge on the vampire that killed her family. As she gets drawn deeper into the politics of the vampire world, she begins to wonder if the protection of the man who hired her will be enough to keep her alive long enough to see that revenge through.

I have been writing this one on and off for a couple of years now. It’s one of those things that I poke at in the background when I have time or need to do something a little different. I’m about 70,000 words through it and haven’t reached the end (it’ll probably hit 100k before I’m done). I’ve got to the stage where I know all the things that I want to fix, do differently, and do better.

So while this one wouldn’t be a ‘fresh start’ exactly, I think I’m in a good position with it to start a new rewrite.

Tales from the Screw Loose

It’s not a good time to be an android on the colonies. After Earth was evacuated, floods of refugees needed homes and jobs. Automated solutions are being pushed out, and with it, the need for droid mechanics is on the decline. Grace is forced to leave her home outpost and seek work in the big city.

She ends up as the maintenance engineer at the Screw Loose, a robot brothel. With competition from the real-flesh whorehouse across the street, rising anti-robot sentiments, and an inconvenient corpse that could close the Screw Loose permanently, Grace’s new job quickly proves to be more fraught and dangerous than fixing farm gear.

I have talked about this one on and off for some time. It has taken a couple of years for the pieces to come together, all the elements that will take it beyond an amusing situation (robot brothel, lol) and turn it into an actual story with something to say. Not that I’m aiming for Fiction With A Message; I prefer stories to have a plot and an arc to them, and an idea that they’re ‘going somewhere’. As much as I love serial writing, soap operas and situation comedies are not my style.

Now, I finally feel like the Screw Loose‘s elements are all there, and it’s about ready to start.

The truth is, neither piece is speaking to me very loudly at the moment. It’s possible that there’s just too much going on in my head right now for them to be heard. I kind of suspect that, come 1st November when the starting pistol goes off for this year’s novel-writing challenge, I’m going to be staring at a blank yWriter project, wiggling my fingers above the keys to try to encourage a decision to come out. And then I’ll start writing.

Wish me luck!

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Hiatus over

This is what a hiatus should look like. (Picture by xn3ctz)

This is what a hiatus should look like.
(Picture by xn3ctz)

So, I took July off writing Starwalker. After the end of Book 3, I needed a bit of a break to catch my breath and prepare for the start of the next storyline.

I didn’t intend for the hiatus to be a break from writing altogether, but this is what ended up happening. I did some planning (for Tales from the Screw Loose and upcoming Starwalker), fiddled with some logistical stuff, read a few things, but otherwise… nope, no writing. No editing, no short stories, not a single thing. I didn’t even post here very much.

In truth, I needed the break. I needed to catch my breath in so many ways.

Clearly, my body thought so, too. When I decided to take a couple of days off work to have a bit of a holiday from that too, I got sick with a nasty cold/flu bug that has been doing the rounds. Isn’t that always the way? You take a little break and your body decides it’s time to indulge in that thing it has been putting off for a while: collapsing in a disgusting, dribbling heap. That was three weeks ago, and I’m still trying to shake off the last of the virus.

I had some personal-life stuff explode during the hiatus, too. Nothing bad or disastrous, but family is moving around and there has been a lot to do to help them out with that. I’m currently house-sitting (effectively) and looking after all the family pets. Juggling everything at home with work and being sick has been a challenge. It’s another level of complication that I have to deal with.

With everything that was going on, July ended with surprising alacrity; before I knew it, I was knee-deep in August. Starwalker was suddenly due and I was ill-prepared for it. I had fallen out of my usual writing routine and habits, and I was still struggling to recover enough energy to think straight after being sick.

I was stuck. I really didn’t want to extend the hiatus, because that’s a bad habit to get into and I needed to force myself back into my writing routine. At the same time, I didn’t want to put up a sub-standard Starwalker post; that wouldn’t have been fair to my readers.

In the end, I chose a compromise: a teaser post that featured a regular AI, both shorter and simpler than the usual story entry. It was easy to put together, it went up on time, and it led neatly into the next storyline.

I was so relieved when my readers reacted positively to it (they’re lovely but I still hate to risk disappointing them). And since then, I’ve managed to get a full, Starry-narrated post up that started the fourth book off properly, thanks to a handily-placed public holiday.

I’m still struggling to get back into the rhythm of writing on my daily commute. It has been hard for a while now and it’s only getting harder. But I’m determined not to miss any more deadlines. This week, I got the first draft of the next Starwalker post written at my monthly write-in. I’m going to push myself to keep working away at it, gather some momentum, and push back into the routine I once had.

I’m also going to tackle my health issues and see if I can manage them better, too. Something has to give and I’m sick of the fatigue getting in the way of what I love.

I have so much I want to do. So many projects. I just need to figure out how to make it all work.

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Stepping stones to awesome

Which steps will you take? What order will you take them in? What will be the pattern of your story? (Picture by amypalko)

Which steps will you take? What order will you take them in? What will be the pattern of your story?
(Picture by amypalko)

This weekend, I spent some time planning out two different projects: the next stage of Starwalker, and Tales from the Screw Loose, which I haven’t started writing yet.

I don’t plan my writing very often. Those who know how I plan, know that I don’t plan very deeply, either. I’m not truly a planner or a pantser; I’m an ad-hoc adventurer with a barely-legible roadmap.

A guest at one of my writing group meetings back in the UK described her planning/writing process as ‘stepping stones’. As it turns out, this is the process that works best for me. There are probably other names for this type of system. Skeleton. Outline. But I enjoy the stepping stones analogy, so I’m sticking with it.

Imagine that your story charts the path from one riverbank to the other. You could describe each and every inch of the path before you take it, and know exactly where you’re going before you leave the riverbank. You could wade in and see what happens. Or, you can identify some stepping stones to aim for, and find your way between them.

That’s how I plan. I have stepping stones that I know I want my story to land on, and my characters determine the path between those points. I discover the story as I go, but I always know where it’s headed, even if it’s just the next stepping stone.

Those stones vary widely in size. Sometimes, I’ll have a specific scene mapped out in my head, in incredible detail. Sometimes, it’s just an idea of an event, or a particular psychological corner that a character has to turn. Or sometimes it’s a single image, a snapshot or a concept, or even just a parting glance of the end of something. The lead-up to these stones is always something I discover on the way, as I balance the characters and their choices, the roadblocks in their way, and the goal that is rolling around in the back of my brain. Sometimes it takes some wrangling to get the outcome that I’m after – all the way to that next stone – and sometimes I end up taking a path I never anticipated, but it usually works out.

The characters are always my greatest guide through the stories. I write heavily from a character’s perspective (even when I write in third person, which I do outside of the web serials), and staying true to what those characters would say or do is important to me. Their path has to make sense, and they soon let me know if they’re going to take the easy path to that next stone, or if they’re going to make me work for it. Whether it’s throwing a help or a hindrance their way, I seldom find that there’s no way to get to where I want the story to be.

As for how this stepping stone method of planning takes shape in a practical, physical sense, I love using pinboards and notecards. My original plan for Starwalker was a series of 12 notecards, and they carried me through all 3 books so far (three and a half years’ worth of writing!). Just 12 notecards; that was all I needed!

Over the weekend, I got my stock of blank notecards and glittery-inked pens out, and freed my pinboards from their exile against the wall. And then I went a bit nuts. I colour-coded stuff. I grouped the cards into sections: characters, chapters, different sections of characters, milieu notes, etc. Only the notecards under ‘chapters’ actually made up the stepping stone plan for the story, but the rest is useful for reference.

It helps me to make it all visible. For Starwalker, I filed my original 12 chapter notecards under ‘done’ and reorganised the character lists so that I know who’s currently part of the crew and who’s ‘dead’ or ‘captured/missing’. Then I started adding more cards: 3 more chapter notecards and a chunk of new characters that my intrepid crew will meet in the course of their next adventure.

I’m not quite done there yet, but the ball is rolling. Ideas trickle against each other. The notecards have gaps; for example, none of the new characters have names yet, but the important characteristics are down. The space station still needs a name.

Likewise with Screw Loose: I have a pinboard with the bones pinned to it, but there are lots of gaps I need to fill. Characters I know I need to define before I start. The chapter list needs more stepping stones in it, and doesn’t have a particular order or flow yet. I can see the size of the work I have to do before I can truly start writing it, though, and that’s powerful. It’s more than I knew yesterday. I’m starting to see the shape of the story and pick out the important highlights.

I mean, a story about a robot brothel is all well and (raunchy-)good, but I’d like there to be a plot, too. Now, I know what I need to do to be ready.

Stepping stones are a great way to allow yourself freedom and exploration in your story. Visualising it is a good way to look at the shape of your story and see what gaps you might have, and what you might need to do before you start.

Together, they arm me for my adventures. I know all the tools I have in my backpack and I have a vague map to point me in the right direction. I set off surrounded by characters whose voices I know well enough to let them guide me, and a compass to keep us all true as we explore the story.

I’m standing at the edge of the river, toeing the water and eyeing that distant bank. Soon, I’ll be donning my hiking boots and striding out into it all. I can’t wait.

Here they are: my planning pinboards!

Here they are: my planning pinboards!

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The confluence of ideas

Or, where do you get your ideas from?

Go to any convention or talk with creative people on the panel and someone will ask that question. The panellists will smile or maybe even roll their eyes, because it’s a common and difficult thing to answer.

It seems as if it should be so simple, as if there’s a single, consistent answer. The truth is that inspiration is a vaporous beast, one who lives in the cracks of the world around us. Usually all we get is a wisp; occasionally it emerges, fully-formed and demanding, but those creatures are rare.

The truth is, stories are never created from just one idea (this might be true for short stories, which are focussed on a single idea, but not for longer work): it takes several to make a full, rich tale, whatever genre you’re writing in.

In a recent discussion with a writer-friend, Nick, I described ideas as “like spider-webs, and you have a tiny, tiny flashlight with which to discover them.” We shine light on one piece at a time, and it can be difficult to see the whole picture.

So what are these pieces? What are these wisps of inspiration? They could be anything. It could be an image, or a particular situation or scene that has caught my attention. It could be a turn of phrase that sparks something. It could be a character, or maybe just a particular part of one. It could be something done so badly that I think of a hundred ways to do it right. It could be a single fact spun out to the extent of logic to see where it takes me. It could be someone else’s story. It could be the way that dust motes are caught in a beam of sunlight. It could be the gap in another plot that is begging to be filled in. It could be the sound of a name on someone’s tongue. The patterns the birds make in the sky or the colour of a sunset that just doesn’t seem real.


Once I catch the scent of that wisp, it’s time to try to bottle it. But how do you capture something like that? First, you need something big enough to grab hold of.

That’s when the ‘what if’ games begin. Asking endless questions, rolling possibilities around like a bowl of chicken bones, to see what future or past they might tell. I spin and tease and wheedle to see if I can take a single spark and make a flame out of it.

Sometimes, it works. It can be that straight-forward. From a single wisp of smoke, I can draw out a whole story, complete with cast and characters, just by asking questions. By being curious, I discover everything I need to know.

Starwalker was like that. I had a single, strong idea: a ship’s log as told by the ship. Then I asked myself questions. Who is this ship? Why is she different or interesting enough to write about? I knew I wanted her to be part human, but why is this unusual? How did she come to be? What is her mission? Who are her crew? What kinds of battles can she face? What is the main challenge that she needs to face and overcome? From there, the background, characters, and plot emerged.

Most of the time, it’s not that easy. A single idea isn’t enough to build an entire story around.

A writer at a talk I went to once said it best. Sadly, I can’t remember the who the writer was, but the message remains true: sometimes you’ll get an idea long before it’s time to use it. It’s good but it’s not complete. So you file it away, tuck it into a drawer and let it sit. Later, you’ll get another idea. It could be weeks or months or years, but there it will be. It will click with the first one and fill in the gaps, and suddenly you’ve got a story.

I’ve had this happen. Even with Starwalker; that single idea gobbled up a few facets that had been hanging around in my mental filing system for a while. I knew I wanted to write about a serial monogamist, and that became the captain. Elliott took on elements of Harper from Andromeda (among other sources). Kess is a character that I have been writing for over a decade, in many different forms and iterations; this is the first time she has fit into a much larger story. Scraps of ideas from many sources merged into the whole.

With Tales from the Screw Loose, a story I’m still in the process of teasing out of inspiration and into a plan, it has been much more bottom-up. I had the initial idea some months ago: a robot brothel, told from the perspective of the mechanic responsible for the whores’ maintenance. I have a few choice scenes already mapped out in my head. The mechanic is a character that I’ve been toying with for a few years but haven’t found a place to make hers until now.

But that’s all I had to start with: a main character and the place she works. Ideas from several sources but not enough to make a story. There was still a lot missing.

A few months after that initial idea-gathering, another element fell into place when I got to thinking about tidally-locked planets. (Tidally-locked planets do not rotate: one side is permanently turned towards the sun, so there is a dark side and a light side. Our moon is the same, except that it always has the same side facing Earth, so the light-based implications are not the same.) From this, a whole wealth of ideas sprung. The implications of living on the dark side of the planet, even the impacts of perpetual daylight, are interesting to me. Putting a city on the terminus between night and day and placing the brothel smack in the middle was just too perfect to resist. Symbolism, imagery and metaphor all rolled in with delicious simplicity.

It meant that the story definitely couldn’t be on Earth, and that slid the story into one of the colonies in the Starwalker universe. I now have a solid basis to build from and the freedom to build a new colony planet (the Starwalker story hasn’t visited this particular colony).

It is taking shape but it’s not ready to write yet. I’m still missing a few elements that I don’t want to push forward without: namely, the details of the supporting cast, and the central conflict that my poor protagonist has to battle. I’m missing a driving plot. I may be planning to serialise this story, but I can’t write it without a central purpose or a goal to aim for (others may be able to do this, but it’s not for me).

I could force it. I could sit down and try to map out a plot, but that seldom works for me without that initial conflict in mind. The forced nature of it shows and honestly, it’s much less fun to write. They organic development of ideas makes for better stories and that shouldn’t be rushed. Sometimes the idea is knotty and requires a lot of untangling before I can write – and I’m not afraid of putting the work in – but it’s hard to do that without the idea in the first place.

So I’m still waiting for that wisp of inspiration to show itself for Screw Loose. Waiting for that last piece to snap into place. It could be months before I figure out what that piece is, or I might come across the spark for it tomorrow. When it does, I’ll have a complete entity in my head that is ready to write.

(Complete doesn’t mean fully planned-out – I don’t work that way. It just means I have all the elements I need to start writing.)

And then the words start flowing.

So what does this all mean? It means that searching for ideas is something that never stops. It means that even though you have the best idea in the world, it might not be enough to make the best story on its own. Sometimes you’ll take three mediocre ideas and make something fantastic. Sometimes it will take a dozen different elements. Sometimes it will be months or years before that perfect lynchpin for your story appears.

Never throw away an idea. Inspiration is never wasted unless you discard it. Makes notes in your mental filing cabinet, or a notebook, or a scrapbook, or on a pinboard, or on post-it notes stuck around your bed. Keep even the smallest glimmer of an idea, the barest wisp of inspiration, because you never know how you might use it one day.

And then you get to make it awesome.

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