Category Archives: Projects & Works

Being a creative

(photo credit: Dani Alvarez Cañellas via photopin cc)

Two weeks ago, I read an interview with Evi O on The Conversation. Since then, I’ve been pondering on one particular quote by Evi:

As a creative, I function better when juggling many different projects at once – different design tasks and processes stimulate me.

I couldn’t agree more about this. Currently, I am working on four different projects. I feel like this allows me to continue to be creative. If I think about something too much, I get frustrated and can’t figure out what is wrong with it. I feel like my brain slots everything into place if I ignore it for a bit. Subconscious thinking.

I’ve been working on a couple of new projects and I feel like it’s about time I share them.

The Charlie & Cub Chronicles. I’m still working on this novel. I’ve got one final plot problem (the Parents’ and Sam’s storylines have been resolved), which means I can then start on the re-write. I am very much looking forward to getting back and writing in this world again. I have been so very lucky with this story. My other ideas (which I’m not working on) are no where near as ‘beautiful’.

Papercut Labs is an online scrapbooking classroom. It should be launching in September. I am passionate about the scrapbooking community – even if I’m apart from the community, and not part of it – and I thoroughly enjoy watching the people I’ve met grow as artists. By extending into the classroom setting, I can meet the artists just as they’re beginning. I’m more an admin of these classes while I let much much more creative people be the teachers.

Letterpress magazine is my ‘fun’ project. It’s a small magazine–almost a zine–that focusses on typography, letterpresses, graphic design, digital fonts and how all these things come about. But the fun part is that a large part of this magazine is showcasing digital fonts and I’m asking creative writers to write fictional histories of the fonts. It’s quirky, it’s niche and it’s going to be beautiful. Sometimes I feel myself drowning in it, but then I just need to remember that it is supposed to be fun, and that creative writers are actually fun people. I can’t decide what the next step is: finding writers or finding graphic artists.

The fourth and final project is this. This blog. Being online. Making myself, as cliched as it is and as much as I hate to say it, a platform. I like blogging and I like being on social media. Blogging allows me to work through problems, make decisions on things I only have ideas and inklings about. I like to be connected. I like to give back. It makes my creative process less lonely. Because, honestly, it is just me.

end of post: permalink

On reverse world-building

(photo copyright: me; illustration copyright: sister)

I’ve been working on Charlie & Cub lately. Partly because this damn novel needs to be done. Partly because I can’t leave it alone–I can’t leave Charlie’s world alone. But mostly because I gave it to my first readers, and my husband is probably the best reader I’ve ever had. But he also pointed out some major flaws.

I have a character (Sam) who is introduced in Book 3, and is actually pretty important in Book 5, but he isn’t super consistent. He rebels against Charlie in Book 3, and yet falls over himself trying to help her in Book 5. He’s supposed to work as Charlie’s same-age frenemy. But I don’t really know who Sam is. I know what I want him to be, but who he’s turned out to be — a bit of mystery.

I have the Parents. And they are currently a much larger issue than Sam’s faulty character. As an orphan, Charlie has been moved from home to home all her life. Then she arrives at the convent-turned-orphanage run by these awful people. However, these awful people (The Parents) turn out to be more than just awful. They’ve been searching for Charlie. They’re a large part of Book 1 and Book 4 and a small part of Book 5, and all their parts need to be rewritten.

Why?

Because when I wrote my backstory, the Parents turned into something else. They turned into the Parents of Book 4, and those aren’t the Parents of Book 1, who are slightly different again from the Parents of Book 5.

I wrote my backstory after I finished the series.

I wonder if I wrote my backstory before, if I wrote the rules of my universe before, would I be in this trouble? If I had a consistent universe before I started writing, would I be struggling now to make all the elements to line up? Would my strings be all tied together?

I pride myself on being a planner. I don’t write anything without a dot-point plan, with a dot-point for every 500 words. But I also like my plots. I let my plots carry my story. I don’t tend to write character profiles. I don’t world-build — a little because I set all my stories somewhere I know very well. Charlie & Cub is set where I grew up.

Maybe being a planner with a plot-driven story isn’t enough. Reverse world-building is hard, but it’s not impossible.

The impossible bit is rewriting it back into a story that I’m in love with. Because my story is perfect (to me). I get lost every time I start reading this story. I worry about editing it any further without any help because what if I ruin it? It might not be the best story in the world right now, but gosh I’m proud of it.

end of post: permalink

On The Lizzie Bennet Diaries

This week, I’ve discovered the Lizzie Bennet Diaries. Considering it’s Pride & Prejudice’s 200th birthday this year, it’s quite apt that I found it. Quite honestly, it is amazing.

While I would not recommend watching them all in one go like I did, I do believe that you should watch them all. The actresses get on my nerves. I’m a little sick of them. But then, if you watch anything for long enough, the people will always begin to bug you. Like the book characters, they are over-the-top and soemtimes irritating and insufferable.

Despite this, the adaptation is quite good. It is definitely set in modern times (being a video blog, it would have to be), and the characters have been updated to suit. (Collins is a business man, Pemberley is a digital content company, Lydia parties and drinks in clubs–while still being quite silly.)

This is not my favourite part of the production though. I am particularly interested in how the related media interacts with the original story. Each of the characters have their own twitter accounts–which they use to interact with each other and fans of the show. Some have facebook, others have Pinterest and most have a tumblr. Some characters start their own video blogs, and we get to see the story that Lizzie isn’t apart of through their eyes.

It feels like a true transmedia event. (It feels very similar to how I want Shattered to be told.)

I think what works for the Lizzie Bennet Diaries is that their main networks at YouTube and Twitter. They have picked the ones that work for them and the story. LBD doesn’t try to do everything. And it makes LBD a better story for it.

end of post: permalink

On running a start-up (a Drabbl.es post)

My third project for the year is plugging along in the background. Drabbl.es are being posted and challenges are being uploaded. We have had a steady stream of new users and drabbles.

It’s an interesting challenge and quite a job running a trial of a start-up product, especially one that lives in the online community.

But it’s an insane job. You hear about these start ups, and how much fun it is to work in them, how much creativity there is in the air, and how rewarding it is.

What no one tells you is the history, the highs and lows of running a start-up. Everyone says, yeah it was hard; no one tells the whole story. It’s damn hard work. It’s updating the site when no one else is using it. It’s sending updates to users so they know what’s going on, so everything is transparent. It’s reading feedback requests and wanting to do something about it, but not being able to. It’s applying for funding and not quite making the cut. It’s wanting to be brilliant and settling for okay because there is nothing more I can do right now. It’s having to do everything myself–any new implementation, if I can do it, I have to do it because there is no money.

It’s difficult being a technical start-up without a dedicated developer on the team. I have to pay for all development. I have wonderful developers, but they are a development company. I can’t call them in the middle of the night because I have this great idea for the site and they’ll do it, just because they’re as excited about it as me.

If I have learnt anything about working in start-ups this year, it’s that you need a great team. You need a team that is as excited about the idea as you are. You need a team that has a business person, a technical person (or making person*), a marketing/sales person, and an ideas person. You don’t need four people, but you do need those skills. Without them, being a start-up is more difficult than it needs to be because you need to pay for the people you don’t have, and start-ups do not have money.

Drabbl.es is heaps of fun, but I am definitely learning a great deal about running a start-up along the way.

* I say a making person because not all products are technical, and if they’re not technical, they probably need to be made (clothes, jewellery, toys, etc.).

end of post: permalink

On drabbl.es: micro-storytelling, socially

Last week, my second REAL THING came into being.

REAL THINGS, as I’ve mentioned before, are simultaneously off-putting and entirely rewarding to creatives. We spend so much time and effort, pour sweat and tears, give so much of ourselves and our hearts for these projects that seem that they’ll never actually be completed, they’ll never actually end. But really, things have to end.

We won’t talk about the ever-ongoing novels that are not writing themselves.

Last week, I introduced drabbl.es to the world. What is drabbl.es? drabbl.es is a social micro-storytelling website that allows users to write creative stories, document and record memories, create a life-stream, and participate in storytelling and creative challenges. Each story (which has a maximum of 100 words) is called a drabble.

Drabble is a Monty Python term, but don’t let that deter you! Drabbles started in the UK and are now quite infamous in science fiction and fan fiction circles. I’ve just taken the idea of 100 words.

It’s difficult seeing it out there in the world. I want people to use it. I want people to write on it. I want to see creativity flourishing from it. I want to read stories. I want to write stories. I want people to share them and comment on them. I want it to be a beautiful place where you want to tell stories, fiction or non-fiction.

100 words is a beautiful medium. It’s longer than a tweet and you can get some real story in there; it’s shorter than a blog so you can read ten over a lunch break. You’ll know about ten more people than before lunch.

I love the minimal-ness of 100 words. I want to create newsletters out of people’s 100-word stories that are directly loaded to Kobos and Kindles, that are sent directly via email, that people may create these beautiful books of 100-word stories.

100 words is beautiful. If I could, if I were more talented, I’d write my entire blog in 100 word entries. I’d love to read some of your 100 word stories.

end of post: permalink

On NaNoWriMo: Pantsers vs Planners

There are two types of NaNoWriMo writers. Those that plan their novels within an inch of their lives; the outline of their novels are almost as long as the novels themselves. The other type of writer are the pantsers, those that write by the seat of the pants, that have a vague idea (and sometimes no idea) about what they’re writing on November 1, and just make it up as they go along; they use dares frequently and are the ones that exclaim on November 10, “heck yes! I just killed my main character.”

I have participated in NaNoWriMo for many years, but only really consider myself a ‘true’ participant in the last two (aka, the years I took it seriously).

If this is your first year, there are some characteristics that define pantsers and planners, and possibly things that you should take into account for your first NaNoWriMo.

As a pantser:

  1. You will have no idea what you’re doing until November 1. (Or you will have many ideas about what you’re doing and not choose until November 1.)
  2. You will have no plans, outlines, storyboards or mindmaps. Plans are for wimps!
  3. You’ll love the ideas of dares. Female main character turns into male main character, yes please! Main character comes back as a ghost, yes please! Main character turns into a Power Ranger, yes please!
  4. Word wars and word sprints are your friends. You’ll likely win most of them.
  5. You signed up after November 1? No probs! You still have 15 days!
  6. You’ll be proud of the fact you haven’t hit any of the milestones, but you know you’ll have 50,000 words by midnight November 30.

As a planner:

  1. You know exactly how long each point on your plan is in your word count and you know that you need exactly 150 points to get to 50,000 words.
  2. You will recalculate how many words you need to write each day to reach 50,000 words taking into account exams, work-days, festivals, music concerts, family visits and Christmas shopping.
  3. If you haven’t written anything before November 5, you may feel the desire to not start at all. DO NOT GIVE IN to that desire.
  4. Your plans, mindmaps, storyboards, character profiles, setting analysises, playlists, outlines and even candy drawer and coffee supplies will be well and truly done and stocked by November 1 for the entire month.
  5. You carry a notepad around with you and think about your story. Constantly. There is never a time when you are not thinking about it because you know there’s a plot hole and that just won’t do.
  6. You’ll be proud of the fact that you finished your novel by November 15 because you were so planned.

I am a planner. Well and truly. I was writing a blog-fic the past two years. I had every blog post day and title sorted out. Each post had three points that needed to be hit for that post to be finished. Each post had to be a minimum of 1000 words. I don’t write well with music, so music is never on. I write well in word sprints, so even held my own singular word sprints. (#1kin30mins anyone?)

So, are you a planner or a pantser? How do you define planners and pantsers?

end of post: permalink

On the LAUNCH of B&E: Water

You know what I forgot to do? I forgot to tell you about B&E: Water. And the fact that it was released!

I’m still trying to catch up on all my Africa postings and book reviews and bits and bobs, but this is pretty important. One of the projects I’ve been working on this year is finally a Real Thing. As an artist, it’s sometimes hard to see the end, look at the big picture, when you’re so involved in the middle part. You only see the things immediately in front of you.

But now we have a Real Thing. I am so proud of it.

Dive in and splash about with B & E Water, a beautiful children’s storybook application. Enjoy this entirely original story with hand-drawn animation to enhance any child’s (be they young or old) reading experience.

There are two unique ways to access the story, you can read the story by yourself (with tappable words in case you get stuck) or you can have the story read to you with the words highlighted as they are read. For animation lovers you can also watch the three animations separately.

Special features:
— Works on all Apple iOS devices.
— Words are spoken and highlighted when tapped. (See if you can find all the hidden sound effects!).
— Professional narration.
— Original hand-drawn animation with professionally composed background audio and sound effects.

We’ve got a YouTube channel (bnemediaapps), a facebook page (bnemedia.apps) and a twitter account (@bnemedia). If you haven’t visited our website, the history of the animations in the first app are there as well as some of the original comics.

We’re about to kick off a pretty intense marketing campaign across Australia. But just for you, we have a trailer:

This application is suitable for children under 8 years-old and is available on iPads, iPhones and iPods.

All I ask, is that if you know anyone with children who may be interested in this all-new and original application, please share this blog post, the link to the app, or even any of social media accounts and help support some Australian artists continue doing what they love.

end of post: permalink

Defining Genres.

Over the last couple of days, I’ve had to think about genres–in both non-fiction and fiction–and what “good” genres are. I am currently working on a social publishing platform, which requires users to select the genre of their stories.

Did you know that there aren’t many definitive genre lists on the internet?

I looked. I tried to find them. I found two I really like–Bubblecow and Book Country. (If there are other good lists, please let me know.)

I just want to comment these lists one at a time. Firstly the Bubblecow list. This is a brilliant list, and the one I’m using for my platform. It covers everything; it’s nicely divided into fiction and non-fiction. It has all the major categories. I note, and do realise, that it is missing sub-genres and cross-overs.

The Book Country list on the other hand is only a partial list. It has five genres and a multitude of sub-genres. A quite comprehensive list of sub-genres, if I’m honest. And I’d love to include all these sub-genres, because the genres they belong to are big, as in really really big sellers in the marketplace–so much so that they need sub-genres in the book stores now–but it’s just not feasible to have a list of fiction that is fifty genres long, while the non-fiction is only thirty.

The research made me think about genres, though. How they are defined, who defines them, why do they get defined. The only answer I could come up with was: genres are what people make. There were no sub-genres in fantasy until people needed to more clearly define the type of fantasy they read. So that’s what the platform will eventually do–have a form where users can suggest genres (and sub-genres) that they feel are needed on the site. Once enough users require it, we’ll add it.

end of post: permalink

BnE Media: a shiny new website.

Today, I launched the BnE Media website. It has been a serious exercise in patience and determination. I am quite proud of the website. We didn’t design it (after some failed attempts with freelancers), but the content is all ours.

(When talking BnE, I tend to talk in the third person. It makes it easier on everybody.)

Now that we have a website, we can start marketing. But the marketing will work better when we have the app. Which is soon. I’ve got a demo on my iPad and, geez, it looks awesome (if I do so say so myself).

end of post: permalink

Journaling Prompt: Do you volunteer?

I saw a journaling prompt today that asked: Do you volunteer? If so, what do you love about it? If not, what causes do you feel most passionately about?

I must admit, I never quite feel like a volunteer, even though I am.

I am a volunteer at the Sydney Story Factory. I have worked at their pop-up shop and have participated in their training sessions to be a tutor at the writing centre. Sadly, I have not been a tutor yet as I moved to Canberra soon after my tutor training. What they’re doing at SSF is just brilliant and I am so proud to have been involved even if just for a little while.

Secondly, I am freelancing as an editor at Candlemark & Gleam. C&G publishing–if you haven’t figured out by now–is something that I am insanely passionate about. C&G is doing amazing things in the publishing world. They are trying all sorts of things in this new publishing world, but most of all, they are publishing interesting works. A good story is still core to publishing, and sometimes I feel this has been forgotten by many. I could rant for hours about C&G.

I often, also, talk to senior high-school students about their writing. I give advice on how to get published, I read and edit college entrance essays, and I try to provide assistance with writing in general.

I really do love volunteering. Sure it takes up time, but it’s worth it. I was given large amounts of other people’s time dedicated to my future, my career and my writing. I feel it’s only right to pay that time forward to others. In any case, I get to talk about my favourite topics: publishing, writing and technology.

If you’re going to volunteer for anything, make sure it’s something you like and something you want to spend your time doing.

end of post: permalink