Letter Writing

Letter Writing

Letter writing is important to me. I’ll write them on paper or as a long email depending on the recipient and what they prefer. Kind of like reading – it doesn’t matter to me if the book is printed, or on my kindle or even on my phone. So long as I can get my hands on it, it’s mine, and I’m reading it or writing it.

I used letters to keep in touch with my Grandmothers while I was living in the UK. One had the most beautiful set of paper: floral with scattered scrabble pieces. The other is techy and prefers to receive emails. Now I’m back in Sydney, it’s the reverse, using letters to keep in touch with my husband’s grandparents.

I use emailed letters to keep in touch with former colleagues and some uni friends. It’s a fun and personal way to catch up with people who don’t post it all on social media. Instagram is picture-perfect, Twitter is a snippet of thought, Facebook is a random collection of article links and holiday photos – but the letter is the long-read where people divulge what most excites and most troubles them. The letter is more balanced and intimate.

I write letters to have conversations with people that I wouldn’t or can’t have in real life: people who may have passed on, or are no longer in my life, my younger or future self. To get out of my head and onto paper everything that I think I’m feeling. Often, writing it down is enough to let it all out. Or even to realise that what I think I’m feeling is disconnected from what I’m actually feeling. It can be easier to see negative (self-)talk or hyperbole written in print, than in my head.

I use letters as pep-talks. If I want to inspire my current self, I might write myself a letter, a long affirmation, a vow, a promise, an encouraging and understanding friendly letter. I’ll try to turn that negative self-talk around.

I’ve always been curious about the fan-letter. I think I found fanfiction before ever I realised that you could write authors letters and they might actually read them. Strange, but I guess I used to put authors on a pedestal and forget that they were live humans and contactable. I’ve not sat down to write a private letter to an author yet. Although, to a degree, some of the review style posts on this blog, and that I’m planning for the blog later this year, are more open letters to the author – thanking them for the little gem of joy their book brought in to my life.

How important is letter writing to you?

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5 Reasons I Failed NaNoWriMo, … but I still feel like I won

5 Reasons I Failed NaNoWriMo, … but I still feel like I won

  1. I didn’t plan beyond the first week. I had a list of prompts and scenes, for if I got stuck in a rut, but I didn’t use them. I am getting way too comfortable in the familiar of the rut. I need to commit to climbing out of it faster!
  2. I got sick. And then I got sick again. Flu and then stomach bug. Which meant all life subsisted on the minimum. I slept a lot and am now getting my diet and exercise back on track better than before. Feeling good 😉
  3. My excellent accountants needed all my tax info for the two countries I’ve been resident in lately. So happy they are organised and got it done with plenty of time to spare, but bye bye November and spare cash. On the plus side, I’m now budgeting a more frugal lifestyle, which means more cash for the stuff that really matters, I.e not takeaway lunches.
  4. We moved house. Yeah that’s kind of a biggie. Especially, when half our stuff was stored with my parents, and the other half at my grandma’s, and boxes arrived from England just in time. It’s been really special setting up the place the way we want and getting comfy in our own space again. Rediscovering beloved items and keepsakes brings a lot of joy.
  5. My husband and I are newlyweds, and given the choice of writing or being loved up… on top of all the above demands on my time and health? I naturally chose the latter. Hey – I’m a member of the RWA. Why only read and write about Romance when you can live it! Love you Mr Hamby xx

Lessons learnt and all that about commitment, making time and not biting off more than I can chew. But I am 7k words richer than I was in October and have ticked off some of the major life goals and admin that coincided with NaNoWriMo, which to me is a big WIN!

How did you go with NaNoWriMo?

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5 reasons to compete

5 reasons to compete

I wouldn’t call myself competitive, because I’m not always aiming to win. Trying not to be an arrogant twit about it – but I want my tombstone to read ‘resilient’, ‘adventurous’, and ‘tenacious’ (as well as Loving Wife etc). I think these words are reserved for people who put their creativity out on the line. They aren’t precious about it. They try things. If they make a mistake, they course-correct.

Indulging in solitary pursuits like singing and writing it is easy to turn yourself into Rapunzel. Only your hair isn’t long enough for the witch to climb let alone the prince; and when the prince finds you, if you keep writing and singing on your own all day and ignoring him- he’s not going to be impressed. In writing circles, they call this the Garret, and it’s not a good thing.

When you compete, you meet other people: competitors, judges, organisers, volunteers, mentors and more! You let your friends and family know what you’re up to and build a support network, a community. You take yourself out of the tower.

If you’re really lucky, they will give you some feedback. I love this quote:

Remember: when people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong.

~ Neil Gaiman

Feedback from other people is usually nicer than the feedback we give ourselves. Competing is a good way for me to perspective-check my thoughts. Other people think I suck less than I think I do – which is always a boost. Think of it this way, would you talk to your friends the same way you talk to yourself? I’m working on being a lot kinder to myself.

Getting feedback is also one of the quickest ways to learn. How do you know what you’re doing wrong if you don’t ask the people who know better? How can you fix things if you don’t know they are wrong?

But most of all – competition is exciting. It’s an adrenaline rush. You are taking a chance and you don’t know what the outcome will be.

So, in short, my 5 reasons to compete are to:

  1. Interact with people who have similar interests.

  2. Make yourself vulnerable, and humble that ego, by receiving feedback.

  3. Embrace the challenge and shut up the negative voice that repeats: I can’t or I suck or What the bleep am I thinking?

  4. Learn something new, and learn it well.

  5. Feel the thrill of the accomplishment.

Today, I entered in to the RWA contest SellingSubmissions. They hold a number of competitions each year that encourage you to work to a deadline, polish a WIP to a high quality and get that all important feedback.

What chances are you taking this year?

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NaNoWriMo 2017

NaNoWriMo 2017

I’m in!

Can’t believe I’m signing up for this again. It would be amazing if I could beat what I managed to get out last year: 12,670. That novel has since grown to a 49,708 word beast that is no where near finished the zero-th draft and needs a lot of chopping. But I can’t chop until it’s all out. So that’s my goal this November. Wrangle the rest of the beast onto the page so I can set it aside for a while and then start editing!

I have a few mini goals before NaNoWriMo starts that centre around what the Romance Writers of Australia offer. I am an aspiring member of the group. Joining up was one of the best things I’ve ever done (Thank you Allison Tait for the encouragement). The group is so supportive – with email loops and Facebook groups and more. The courses give amazing feedback, I’m learning a lot about the craft and commitment. I am currently writing a science fiction novel with romantic elements, so it’s great that you don’t have to be a full blown romance writer to join.

My mini goals for NaNoWriMo Prep are with RWA:

  1. Selling Submission due 30 October

    The RWA have competitions! This is my big task for the week. The beauty is in the feedback. There are so many amazing writers in this group aspiring, emerging and established, I have to be in it to learn!
  2. In the RWA e-loop we also do BIAW – Book in a Week – a mini-NaNoWriMo – where we set our word count targets and are accountable to each other. I need to get in another 1500 today to reach my goal of 2000, because I got distracted reading obsessively during the week. Oops ;)That’s one of the things I find about writing – you need to read (for the love of it and to boost the creativity & industry knowledge), but you need to read in moderation, so you still have time to write. I don’t always get the balance right. Reading all Saturday long is fun… but then you don’t get any words written at all. It’s inspiring though, right?

Come join me on the NaNoWriMo website! My username is JessicaMHamby – same as everywhere else 🙂


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Writing course wishlist

Writing course wishlist

I have $20 to spend on a writing course. Woohoo! 

How? I filled out the Australian Writers’ Centre survey and they gave it to me. For free. It was quick and easy to do. I love this team of industry professionals, they are so generous and welcoming!

So the question is: 

Which one??? 

Click on the course name to be directed to the website and a full description. 
Advanced Fiction Writing

I’ve done the creative writing stage 1 course, this is supposed to be the next step. I’m hesitating, because I like to jump steps and some of the other courses on this list grab me more. But I’m also not sure this is a step I can afford to jump?!

Write your novel program

This is a six month program, which means it’s really exxy overall, but great value on a monthly basis. I’m not sure which novel to use it on – the current first draft or the shiny new idea or even the 15 year idea that I keep shelving? But I’m really tempted to try it. 

Editing Essentials

I want my novel to be the best it can be before I submit it to agents or publishers. That means not submitting my first draft. I need to know how to edit. Full stop. 

Kate Forsyth’s History, Mystery and Magic course

I want to write a novel like this one day and I want to sit a course led by Kate Forsyth. So this would be amazing! Full details are not yet available, tear. So I’ll have to wait.

What course would you take? Have you taken any of them before? 

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Writing again

Writing again

Source: Pixabay

I am so very happy. It is a few weeks into the AWC bootcamp and I am averaging more than 500 words a day. It feels fantastic 🙂

The hardest part is getting started. But setting the word count before I start really helps. There have been a couple of days where I’ve dodged it, but I always catch up the following day. Once I get started I often go a little beyond the target, but not too far so I don’t burn out and have something to pick up again the next day.

The inner critic is screeching it’s head off at me that it’s all rubbish. So, I just keep telling myself that in 4-5 months at this rate, I will have a shitty first draft or zeroth draft – AND THEN I CAN MAKE IT BETTER!

I feel like I need to prove to myself that I can consistently put pen to paper, that I can hash out a plot and characters and a rough draft, figuring it out as I go. Once I’ve got some meat to work with, then I can tenderise it into something edible. I’ve done it before with a Fan Fiction – and I’m now trying to harness that same energy and spirit by writing a YA dystopian. They feel a little cliche and overdone in the market at the moment, saturated is probably the word for it, but I still love them to pieces. So I’m chasing that passion.

In the meantime, I have finished reading the first five books of the Obernewtyn chronicles – reading when I wake up, on the tube, walking to work, over lunch, before bed – my poor husband must be wondering what strange creature he has married that is always reading and writing. Loving this man for being so understanding and encouraging!

Jesi xx

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Name update

Name update


I changed my name!

I was hiding behind a pen name and a curtain of hair. The curtain is still there, blonde as ever, but I’m now going by real name, Jessica.

I had a myriad of reasons for using the pen name. The only one that really matters is that I was afraid. I still am. The internet can be a murky place.

The reason for the name reveal is accountability. A sign to myself, and to you, that this journey I’m on is with my whole self, not a splinter I call by a different name.

The three-month silence? I’ve been busy changing my surname too. Getting married has been a huge and wonderful adventure. It brought out the best in all my family and friends. I have never felt so in love with husband and the people around me. I’m still drunk on the high of that night.

Our celebrant was very romantic and kept a part of the ceremony secret from us. She asked us separately to name three things we loved about each other. We both listed ‘sense of humour’ – he’s not a father yet, but he’s got the Dad jokes sorted and they crack me up every single time. I added his generosity and grounding nature. Mr H. described my honesty and sense of adventure.

This post is me holding true to both those characteristics.

I am seriously excited to be starting the Australian Writer’s Centre 30-day Creative Writing Bootcamp this week. I’ve been reading so much lately. You can check out my Recently Read list here. Loving getting lost in so many different worlds.

I hope you can forgive the last 12 months of being Catherine. I’m excited to now meet you as myself, Jessica. Or Jesi, as my much younger self always insisted. Please say hello!

Jesi xx


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Nanowrimo 2016 

I recently read this article titled ‘3 signs you should give up on your story’ by K M Weiland. In summary, the answer is RARELY.

But after sitting on the same idea for more than ten years and getting lost over and again and losing motivation over and again. I’ve called it. I may return to it one day, but for now, it’s getting parked and I’m trying a different project.

It just felt so stale. So unfocused.

Writers often talk about how their characters speak to them. I feel like mine have stopped. Like childhood pen-pals that no longer reply.

Another article suggested that you write what you read. The stories that you cancel on people IRL to keep on reading.  (Sorry – I can’t find the link now 🙁 usually I keep this stuff)

For me, that’s YA. It’s futuristic. It’s dystopian. It’s romance. It’s sci fi, otherworldly, but based on our world. An extension of the world we live in. The story I’ve been trying to write doesn’t tick as many of those boxes as it could.

So, a couple of days in to Nano, after having written nothing on the work I’ve been attempting again this year, I gave up.

I have started fresh. My last post began to deal with this question. The idea of 1667 words a day seemed too daunting and I didn’t want to give up my old story. The former holds true. 1667 a day is still daunting, but as to trying something new?

I met a couple of new young characters who are sometimes feisty and sometimes afraid. I’m getting to know them and the future world they live in. I’m excited.

I’m behind … Already. 1667 a day is incomprehensible to me. But I will try, some days.

I think the plan is to put aside a few hours over the weekend and try catching up as much as I can. My main goal is to reignite the passion and to push past the mental roadblocks that have stopped me from finishing in the past.


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25K words in – to NaNoWriMo or not to NaNoWriMo?

25K words in – to NaNoWriMo or not to NaNoWriMo?

To NaNoWriMo or not to NaNoWriMo?

That is my question … what do you think?

I’m 25K words into my first novel! (As of this evening and following a long and crazy break.)

I am so excited to get back into it. Trying to set myself some goals.

600 words a day seems reasonable but 1667? Life would be so unbalanced and I’m already over-committed as a general state of being. Not sure I could manage 1667 every single day without alienating my other half or losing my job or losing sleep or sanity or something!

Not that folks aren’t supportive – they are, very – but there are limits.

Then there is the question of the 25K word start on a first draft. Those words wouldn’t count. Most of what I’ve read about NaNoWriMo suggests starting a fresh piece of work. Something new.

But I don’t wanna.

I want to get this story done first.

So what I’m thinking is I keep my own graph. I don’t try to ‘win’ NaNoWriMo this year. I keep my own goals instead. Maybe I can try NaNoWriMo ‘for real’ later on in life. Book number 2?

What do you think? Do you NaNoWriMo?


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Reading like a writer

I’m trying to read like a writer.

Choosing books that will inspire and educate me. Award winning and well-written, innovative and classic.

However, that only gets me so far. I also have to feed my romance and self improvement addictions. Leaving aside academic papers for the day job and email correspondence for long distance family, friends and wedding planning.

I’m saving audio books for when my eyesight fails, though at this rate, that might be sooner than planned!

Read lately:

  • The left hand of darkness – Ursula Le Guin
    I loved the long shots in this: the icy tundra, the sense of scope between this planet and the wider universe, the history of each. I also loved the intertextuality of it: first person narrative interspersed with historical documents, journals, and what felt like oral accounts of local history and myth. This was such a ground-breaking novel, winning both the Hugo and Nebula awards in 1970. Highly recommended.
  • A falcon for a queen – Catherine Gaskin
    This was a bit of fun; a historical romance. Mostly a turn-pager, though it did get a little bogged down in the presentation of the historical research. I think Gaskin was trying to make a point about the difference between two characters, but it dragged a little in these places.

Pace in a novel is something that I look forward to addressing in redrafts. For now I have to focus on getting the words written. But I find it such an interesting concept. I wonder how much of it is subjective.

The Long Shot – is something I need to work on. I think my writing style is very sparse. As much as I step back and look up in real life, I forget to do it when I write.

Currently reading:

  • Far from the madding crowd – Thomas  Hardy
  • Speaking Out – Tara Moss
  • The 7 habits of highly effective people – Stephen Covey

Have you read any of these? Further recommendations based on these?

Posted by jhamby in Blogging, Reading, 3 comments