Let Me Digress

Kathryn Hore - Writer

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Aurealis #110

So folks, I’ve a story out in the latest edition of Aurealis magazine. Yay!

Aurealis was actually the very first magazine I was ever rejected by. It still stands as the most painful writing rejection I’ve every copped, too. Well deserved, mind you. The rejected story in question was… well, let us just say “rejectable” in sense of the world.

Ah, the fun of writer milestone. My first rejection, awwww…

Anyway, to have a story in Aurealis now, all these years later, is something I’m pretty darn chuffed about. It’s set in a world decimated by war, but now well into recovery… except for the protagonist, a woman suffering from a chronic psychotic mental illness, who now faces a life without medication. Because the post-apocolypse is not just peopled by the neurotypical and while everyone must fight to survive, it’s even more important is to find others to survive with.

Go here and get a copy. Aurealis is a brilliant magazine and it’s always worth a read: Aurealis #110 (Chimaera Publications)

Spoiler Alert

It’ll come as no surprise to anyone that my social media feeds include a lot of nerdy geeky types. You know, considering I’m one of that particular SFF loving, comic-book reading, pop-culture enjoying, fandom participating, fanfiction obsessing, book nerd crew.

And in case you didn’t notice, the world of geeky fandom has kind of blown up over the last week with the release of the latest Marvel superhero flick which kind of, well –


– kills everyone in the entire history of the MCU, as last as far as I can tell.

Or not. I haven’t actually seen it as yet. With two kids under 6, a full time info governance career, my own writing pursuits and the usual domestic/life/family things to be done, I don’t get to the movies so much anymore. I’m the type of person who has to schedule in downtime – I’m serious here, 3-4 nights a week between 9.45-10.30pm I have literally calendared “do nothing but stare at a screen playing mindless entertainment”. It’s probably not a good sign when you start scheduling relaxation into your calendar. It’s undoubtedly worse when you regularly skip it to get work done.

Personal life-choices aside, I will eventually get to see the latest Avengers flick in which everyone dies – spoiler alert? – but it won’t be until it turns up on a streaming or download service of some kind, so we’re talking some while away yet.

In the meantime, my social media feeds are filled with friends and acquaintances and those weird randoms I must’ve followed for some reason once, but can’t remember now who they are or why I wanted their trivia in my feed, and who are all currently posting exactly the same thing:


Because apparently it’s no longer merely a sin to spoil plot twists in pop cultural products for other people, but it’s now some kind of geek-fandom sin to just spoil it for yourself.


So for all you MCU lovers, and for all you lovers of cinema in general – and books and any other story-telling medium – who like to go in fresh and unspoiled, I wanted to tell you something. Know what I did? Deliberately did within barely a few hours of the latest Avengers flick hitting the worldwide cinemas?

I googled “Infinity War spoilers” and ventured out to the internet to read every damn spoiler for the movie I could lay my hands on.

See, I love a good spoiler. I often enjoy a movie more if I go in prepared for what I’m about to see. Perhaps that’s because I like to think about the pop culture I’m consuming within its broader cultural context – blame that old cultural studies honours year of mine back in the “yay postmodernism!” 90s – or maybe it’s just because I don’t have time to waste on something that doesn’t pay out, so I want to know in advance it’s worth it. But I certainly like to go in knowing what’s going to happen.

It can be a useful thing to be happy with spoilers. I’m one of those Australians who loves Game of Thrones but who’s not prepared to give Bad Old Uncle Murdoch a single red-cent, so I won’t subscribe to his pay TV channel to see it fresh. Instead, I wait until the season ends and buy it to download, after everyone else has already watched it. But as the season plays for the first time I do read all the recaps of each episode and follow what’s happening as it happens. I’m full up with spoilers by the time I get to actually watching it for myself.

And I’ll let you into a wee secret: not once in my entire history of seeking out spoilers have I ever experienced a moment of consuming pop culture where I felt I had a lesser viewing, reading or entertainment experience for knowing what was going to happen. I enjoy it all as equally as if I’d gone in blind. Every second of it. Indeed, I’d argue I enjoy it more.

Maybe it’s just me. Going by the reams of internet “no spoilers!” obsessives cluttering up my feeds at the moment, I’m pretty certain I’m in a minority on this.

As I’m of a generation which grew up without the internet – I didn’t get my first email address until I was a post-graduate student, that’s how old I am – there are movies I have seen where I went in entirely unspoiled, and I’ve tried to recall if it made a difference. I guessed the twist to The Sixth Sense while watching it (I’m a huge fan of ghost stories and the “he’s actually dead the whole time” twist appears in several major ghost tales, so I was actively on the lookout for it), but I loved that film regardless. I grew up watching The Sting, so can’t remember a time when I didn’t know all the twists and turns of that one.

I didn’t know or foresee the twist at the end of The Usual Suspects, and I adore that film, but would I really have loved it any less for knowing? I’ve watched it, just as I have the others above, multiple times since first seeing it, and I love it the same on each repeated viewing.

So does it really spoil anything to know the twist, or plot points, or who dies in advance? I’d argue not.

Now, I’ve been talking mostly about movies here, with a bit of TV thrown in. But when it comes to books, I don’t seek out the spoilers so actively. Someone’s suggested to me in the past that perhaps I don’t invest as much in movies as I do in books, so I’m still going in unspoiled when my fiction is prose and written down on the page. But I’d argue it’s actually because I don’t read that many modern books, especially ones that rely on twists or unexpected plot points. It also takes me longer to commit to a novel than it does to a TV show or film, so I’m not as emotionally engaged when I start a novel and it’s not until I’m well into it that I’ll be interested in finding out spoilers. I also love to re-read novels, and read classic novels, that I already know intimately, so for much of my reading I’m long spoiled already.

So did I really enjoy The Count of Monte Cristo the less for knowing who was behind all those masks and schemes right up front, simply because the book is over 170 years old? (Though I did see a Spoiler Alert posted for it in an online forum once. Seriously people, I think a book dating to the 19th century is probably beyond the spoiler alert requirement.) Do I somehow have less of a reading experience as a twenty-first century reader for knowing ahead of time that Wickham is a cad in Pride and Prejudice, long before Lizzy realises? For knowing that dissolute Sydney Carton gives up his life in heroic sacrifice so Charles and Lucie can be together in A Tale of Two Cities? For knowing that Gatsby dies well before the end?

I’ve never gone into most books fresh and unspoiled. I go in knowing their plots well in advance and loving them for it. And I don’t see how that enjoyment changes just because I’m reading a modern works or watching new films, or TV, or other stories regardless of medium, where it’s technically possible to be unspoiled. I still like to know what I’m in for.

So I’ll say it, loud and proud – I love a good spoiler.

Still, one thoughtful anecdote, to end…

Many years ago, I was going out with a chap who’d grown up loathing Shakespeare. No, I don’t understand it either, and its probably unsurprising our relationship didn’t last the distance, but the fact is he’d actively avoided having anything to do with Shakespeare-related stuff all his life. Until he went out with me and I dragged him to the theatre on a regular basis. For his 30th birthday I took him to see a production of Hamlet. And because of the way he’d grown up, he had no idea what it was about. Not a single clue of any character, plot point or thematic emphasis at all. At the age of 30, this chap was watching Hamlet for the very first time and went in totally cold and unspoiled, if also cynical about the likelihood of enjoyment of it.

I have never in my life seen anyone grip the arms of their chair the way that chap did through the climax of Hamlet. He cried at the death of Ophelia. When Hamlet and Laetres are fighting, and Gertrude picks up the poisoned drink, he literally burst out loud to say “oh god, no, don’t”. This guy was the literal personification of “edge of the seat”. The sheer tension and terror he experienced watching it – and it probably helped it was a very fine production with excellent acting and direction – was amazing for me to witness sitting next to him, and the chance to watch something like Hamlet fresh, without any prior cultural knowledge, as an adult, is an experience I don’t think many in our society have.

So maybe there is something in avoiding spoilers after all.

It still won’t stop me seeking them out at every given opportunity….

Beautiful Lies, Painful Truths

For anyone who’s ever pondered the Answers to life… I’ve a story called “Answers”, in a new antho from Left Hand Publishers.

Beautiful Lies, Painful Truths v2. It’s a wonderful anthology and you can buy it here.

I’m not promising you’ll find the answers to life, death or humanity in my story (and if you do, it might be time to seek some therapy), but it is a story about deity-like, omniscient, maybe-gods engaged in eternal opposition… who are just as confused to the meaning of it all as the rest of us.

Also, the fine folks at Left Hand Publishers have created the most beautiful book trailer. Seriously, give this a watch:


Why hello there, 2018

This writing lark is a fickle business. I fizzled out on NaNoWriMo 2017 because my heart was with a different project and I just couldn’t devote the thinking time to the NaNo one, let alone the writing time to it.

Then December hits, I play around late one night with an old manuscript idea from a few years back because I’m too tired to do anything serious, kind of figure out where the scene was going, and…

…next thing I know, I’ve written 65k words on a new project in five weeks.

Bad first draft words, obviously. Not good words, not by any stretch. And I’m still not quite finished the story yet, so I’m ploughing on until I do, get a full Draft Zero down on the page to kick of 2018. It’s a nice way to start the year, if entirely unplanned, because frankly the last thing I need is yet another long-form writing project to think about.

But hey, whatever works.

It has made me revise my 2018 working plan, though. So, here’s my current whiteboard:

Yeah, I know, the image is a bit unclear, but that’s deliberate. There’s a few scribbled notes on there that are my thinking/planing I wanted to have blurred out for the rest of the world. But to give you a thrust of the main bits, these are my writing goals for 2018:

Long Form projects –

  1. Continue querying/subbing the completed MS (a.k.a. The Cards One), trying to find a nice publishing home for it. This will take as long as it takes.
  2. Finish Draft Zero of new project (a.k.a. The Thief One), however bad the words, just get it down on the page and then let it sit and percolate untouched for a while. D0 to be completed before the end of Jan.
  3. Finish editing/redrafting to Draft 2~3 of the current WIP (a.k.a. The City One), getting it to the point where I can seek professional feedback/structural editing feedback so as to identify where to focus efforts on the next draft after that – work on it through Feb/March, and maybe another cut in July/Aug, depending on time taken for other projects.
  4. Edit/redraft/polish the Novella (a.k.a. The Library One) that was originally drafted in 2016-2017, and submit it to an already identified novella market in Sep/Oct. Work to begin in March(ish), after Project 3 editing round 1 is done.
  5. Either – 5(a) redraft The Thief One to a coherent, sensible, readable-by-others Draft One which can be shown to peers for feedback, or 5(b) work on redrafting of The City One after professional feedback received – timing entirely depends on the other projects above
  6. Bonus Project #1: if there’s time, finish Draft Zero of a full length manuscript version of a novella written 5~6 years ago (a.k.a. The Western One)
  7. Bonus Project #2: start thinking about the other contemporary story that’s been kicking about in my head for a while (a.k.a. The Wedding One) for possible initial drafting in 2019

Will I get time to do all of the above? No fucking way, folks. But I think I will get through a good chunk. I’ll finish this Draft Zero of The Thief One I’m on a current roll with. I’ll finish editing The City One and hopefully get it to a point where I can seek detailed professional feedback. And The Cards One, the completed manuscript, will continue to be sent out to the publishing & agenting world with fingers crossed throughout the year.

I really really really want to finish the Novella – The Library One – but I’m feeling a bit dodgy about the overall plot at the moment and it really needs some concerted thinking time attached. We’ll just have to see how that goes.

And none of this makes any room for short fiction, which I’ve been promising myself I’ll get back to writing more seriously soon, because while I have a couple of short stories lined up for publication in the next few months, and while I have a couple of others waiting to hear back from possible publications, I really want to be submitting more stories more often to more markets. Publishing short stories is a numbers game. You’ve just got to keep sending stuff out there.

But I’m a lover of novels at heart, reading them and writing them, and so short fic keeps getting pushed out the way. Ah well. I’ll try to squeeze some in through the year somewhere.

Right, that’s my year planned. Not counting my professional full time day job, being a mother to my two little kiddies, one of whom starts 3yo kinder this year and the other starts primary school, squeezing in exercise and trying to achieve some physical health goals, plus occasionally remembering to see my family every now and then.

So, you know, 2018 looks busy. Lucky I work best that way…


The problem with plans…

Yeah, NaNoWriMo fizzled out on me this year.

I got to about half way through the month before I could no longer avoid the lumbering grey metafauna dancing a jig in the middle of the room. I was putting down words just for the sake of putting them down. I’d slipped out of Bad First Draft and right into Incoherent Rambling Mess. Time to call it quits, at least if I actually want to finish this project properly at some stage, which I very much do.

Plus I put aside editing an early draft manuscript so as to focus on NaNo new words, but my heart still lay with the other manuscript (coincidently one born from NaNo a couple of years ago). I’ve written a stack of new words this past November, just only a small percentage of them on the NaNo project.

So I called it. Not this year. But gee it’s fun, even when it all falls apart.

So what went wrong? You know, considering I’m supposedly the Queen of Bad First Drafts and NaNo entirely suits my style of writing, which is to vomit everything up onto the page in the first instance, before doing the really hard work of editing, rewriting, redrafting and polishing after?

Well, I actually do more thinking ahead of the writing than I otherwise let on. I was once a complete pantser. Never planned a thing. Just put words to the page and let it go, see where it went. Which sometimes worked… and sometimes ended up in half a million words with no end in sight and a structure one might loosely describe as huh wot?

Then I started trying to write novels that might actually come in complete at under 100k one day and actually resembled a story with an satisfying ending. For that, it turned out, I needed to do me some planning.

Still pretty loose. I’m hardly a pin-cards-on-the-wall type girl. But I need to know generally where the thing is aiming overall, you know, the big climax, and I need to see in more detail at least one chapter beyond the one I’m writing, and I tend to do a load of thinking. Just thinking. Daydreaming. Every spare moment, in the shower, while walking, while driving the kids in the car and desperately hunting for any which way to block out whatever latest high pitched poppy novelty song my 5 year old is currently obsessing about and which has played a dozen times this trip alone.

The problem with NaNo for me this year was I really hadn’t done that thinking. Mentally I was still grey-matter deep in the other project. Oh, I’d made a stab at it, set aside time and tried to broadly outline the NaNo project, even got myself a whiteboard that looked like this:

My whiteboard

But when I was standing on a train platform waiting for delayed public transport, or walking to the office of the day job, or going slowly mad from novelty pop songs in the car, all that idle thinking time that any day, even the busiest brings, the story I was thinking about was…

Not this one. It was the other one.

And without that ongoing pondering, the idle daydreaming, the everyday thinking in between essential tasks, it was a project going nowhere. Entirely stale, every bit forced, and mostly generic. Not showing any signs of me, of being my story, of something only I could have written.

That’s the death knell of any story right there, I reckon. Every writer is unique and their writing has to be their own, or else it’s just going to be a derivative jumble of words that inspire no emotion whatsoever.

Thing is, I really like this project. I wrote 30k words at the beginning of the year on it and it really works for me, I have a passion for it. So I didn’t just want to force 50k out that clearly wasn’t working and meant nothing and destroyed the whole thing. I need to wait until I can think about it. Until I can devote that everyday thinking time to it.

There’s a lot to be said for ongoing pondering and idle daydreaming.

So I called it about half way through the month, went back to the other project, and have been going gangbusters on it since. Because there’s nothing like having other priorities you feel like you should be writing to make a second priority project take off 🙂



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