How to Find the Fat in My Manuscript?

I “think” I’ve finally worked this out, so it’s a good time to share. For any writer who’s stuck looking at their thousandth draft, and unsure where to begin cutting, this one’s for you.

The synopsis that I’d been writing, summarizing every scene and event in my 130k + words manuscript, was complete. This was no cute little synopsis, but a big-bull behemoth in its own right, sitting at about 30k words (just look at it in the centre of that pic). It recounts everything in the story down to he-said-she-said-stab-stab-stabby details.

Not letting the size of my long-synopsis discourage me, I got out the red pen, confident that I’d now be able to see the forest for the trees. I’d cut it down to size, and leave a leaner, meaner story by the end of it. Chainsaws at the ready…

But then I started to read. Oh. Oh dear.
It was still a tangle, and just as impossible to know where to start. Everything seemed connected to everything else, and excising one small part had so many knock-on effects it took all evening to resolve each one. The synopsis went into too much detail, and so… my plan had failed.

On the bright side, it did make it incredibly easy to make sweeping changes and tighten up the plot. Re-jigging things was much easier, as I could zip through the whole plot in an hour, and get a good top-down view on the characters’ journeys. Some serious re-arranging got done using this long-synopsis, and I think the story is a lot stronger for it. I don’t think I could have done this with a shorter synopsis – too many gaps would have left out the important details.

So it wasn’t all bad news, but still – I needed a new plan.

That’s why I’ve written another, shorter synopsis! Not the one-page kind you’d send to an agent after getting a bite, but a 3000+ word plot summary (I didn’t leave out any sub-plots, because they each contribute to the central plot, but I did abbreviate them to their bare minimum). On the first read through, comparing to the long synopsis, I cut out FIVE ENTIRE SCENES. Now this was progress! I could see that those scenes didn’t need to be there, because they didn’t get a mention in the short synopsis, and thus they weren’t needed for the core plot-line of the story. My “darlings” were exposed, and I chopped them up mercilessly.

Several scenes that had seemed hopelessly convoluted, but essential nevertheless, were now obviously meant to be combined into one shorter, punchier scene. Sections that introduced a character, left them, came back, developed them more… were instead smooshed together in a single shorter block. Timelines found themselves chopped and changed. The purpose of these characters and scenes is now more quickly illuminated to the reader, because we don’t just shake their hand and move on… but instead we stay with them a while.

There was only one part of my story that I already felt confident about, before I began all this, and that was the build to the climax. I realize now: the reason these scenes worked is because everything had been explained and set-up in the first two acts, so we could simply rocket forwards, heading to the conclusion. Now, thanks to the short synopsis, I feel like each section of the story has a defined set-up, where tension is built, and then it zooms forward, slinging the story into the next arc. The middle is looking taut. In fact, it could probably afford to have a few beers and some pizza to celebrate…

By the end of this week I’ll try to begin re-writing the manuscript itself again, and I’m pretty excited about that!

Have you had any “eureka” moments in your own  editing struggles? I’d love to hear and learn from you.

Best regards,


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Progress is Progress, DAMMIT!

Says I, a person who is currently progress-challenged.

I’ve been editing about a page worth of synopsis every other day, and there’s still a looong way to go. It’s all-good though: I know that this tid-bit of forward movement, as slight as it may be, is enough for me to keep the ball rolling.

How about outside of my writing? Same deal: – I’ve not finished weeding and mulching down the mountainside, and I sure haven’t finished the fence I started several weeks ago (I haven’t even dug all the post-holes yet… hah!). I have moved a heap of cut wood though, and the swing is now hanging in the tree, ready for our little person to enjoy.


Oh yes it is, and it’s awesome. She shouts SHOOOM SHOOM! Meaning, “put me on that-there swinging contraption, for I wish to soar through the air, and wave my pudgy little arms at the sky.”

My point is, I think that all of us need to focus more on these little bits that we DO get done, and not beat ourselves up for the ones that are still sitting around unfinished…

In other news: with my impending birthday, I am now the proud owner of a cheeky robot. A robot that cleans my floors. This is so exciting I may have to explode.



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Oh hi there, long time no see…

And boy have I got things to tell you. I’ve moved house since I last blogged, to a big ol’ house on the hill (ostensibly owned by my parents, but they’re fairly unlikely to kick me out, and they’re welcome to stay at any time [how magnanimous am I, right?]). This has resolved a number of problems related to my writing, archery, work, and pretty much everything really.

SPAAAACE. I have it now, and it’s amazing what it can do for a person’s productivity.


I now have:

  • a shed for gardening gear
  • a fifty metre stretch of fire-trail (on private property!) that I can send arrows zipping along
  • a garage with enough space for storage, car, AND a workshop…

But most importantly, I have an office. A room all of my own, with a closeable door (not yet lockable, though I could resolve that with a quick trip to Bunnings) and enough desk space to sprawl out at the keyboard.

Why then, have I not gotten my novel finished? Why no blog posts? What’s going on, ‘ey?

Weeeell, it’s mostly down to all the fun I’ve been having settling in: I can now play The Division and scream at my buddies on Teamspeak without waking up the rest of the house. I can bash away in the garage making whatever I fancy for the house and yard (e.g. – an archery backstop, and finally finishing the drawers for the Jackaroo), and of course there’s plenty of gardening to do. Axe-throwing-as-a-hobby is only a weekend’s work away, and then there’s a fire-pit to build ready for winter, fencing to keep my ravenous toddler away from cliffs…

And all this has been a massively cathartic experience -after being cooped up in tiny townhouses for most of the last decade- but finally I’m beginning to re-focus. This is the time to get back into the writing -no time like the present- and I’ve said I’ll do this thing, so I will.

Pages of synopsis have been hand edited during my blogosphere-absence, with everything now ready to type back into a digital format. I’m planning to finish this draft sometime in the next six months, and feeling confident I’ll be able to do it.

How are your writing / creative endeavours going? Let’s cheer each other along, and clash drinking vessels in a comradely fashion!

Best regards,



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Shorts Anthology Review: The Time Travel Chronicles

Hello again. OOOH EXCITEMENT! I am within 35 pages of completing the synopsis! I can almost taste the completion… and can nearly smell the next re-write. Ugh.

Anyway, here’s the review I’ve posted to Goodreads and Amazon for “The Time Travel Chronicles,” an excellent anthology of short sci-fi tales focussed on (wait for it…) time travel!

The Time Travel Chronicles (The Future Chronicles)The Time Travel Chronicles by Samuel Peralta
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

There are some really solid tales in this anthology, including a good mix of slower, more personal tales, with a few space-time stomping adventures. Particular talents to look out for:

Ernie Luis, just for the depth of emotion and dread he conjures up in his tale, Meddler. You can vividly relive the best moments of your past with just a few eye-drops… but at what cost?

Extant by Anthony Vicino, for a vividly imagined world where time travel is a super power, or a super curse…

The Traveler, by Stefan Bolz, is more introspective tale about a girl dealing with the loss of her father, who was also her mentor for all things engineering. She finds some unbelievable plans hidden in his workshop after he’s gone… could this be a way to see him one last time?

Loads more. All fun and fancy reads, well worth a look!

View all my reviews

And for bonus sci-fi reading points, the last chunk of Ernie Luis’s time-travelling assassin tale – Alternate, has just come out! I reviewed the first few instalments herehere and here, and am frothing all over to read this last bit (as should you be. As you should be? Whatever).

In other news, I just bought three massive heavy boxes of 2-way radio equipment off ebay, and it seems none of the 30+ items included actually work. Oh well. Twenty dollars pooted out the window. Maybe one of the chargers can give me a nice warm electrical fire?

Best regards,





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Book Review: Star Wars Aftermath, by Chuck Wendig

12185507_10153523631415073_4890698887357628849_oI’ve been a bit busy of late (haven’t we all), so I thought I’d roll a bunch of updates and stuff into one post, starting with a brief review of a neato book I read: Chuck Wendig’s STAR WARS Aftermath!

I posted the review to the ‘Zon here, and to Goodreads also. Go buy a copy if it sounds like your thing.

Aftermath (Star Wars: Aftermath, #1)Aftermath by Chuck Wendig
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Fast paced fun, a psychopathic battledroid (ROGERROGER!), and a load of feels. There’s a dose of all the stuff we expect from the original Star Wars series: banter, exotic locales, tense battles, space battles… and none of the BS political intrigue and unlikable protagonists of the prequel films. I give it four and a half blaster rounds out of five (so the half is “set to stun” I guess?), and I’m looking forward to the next book!

View all my reviews

Incidentally,  I’m keen to grab a copy of the new Kevin Hearne Star Wars book as well…

Life updates? Weeell I had a great trip to Cairns to visit family, which was all dips in the pool, dinners at the RSL, feeding bags of apples to horses named Wolf, and beers with the family. Oh and crocodile farms, Minecraft with the nephew, and other fun shennanigans.
This past weekend was PAX AUS, with cosplayers (and Star Wars Battlefront promotional cosplayers too!) PAX2015-2728and games and nerding out over people’s PC case mods.PAX2015-2959 Oh, and stupendous beer consumption. Stupendous. Also many fun games of cards against humanity (and yes, that’s me playing CAH with a one-year-old on my lap. I’m a terrible parent).PAX2015-2805

How has my writing fared in the midst of all this? Not too poorly, as it would happen. I’ve managed to get within a frantic struggle distance of the finish line, which is to say I should be onto the next re-write in under a month (there’s no real finish line in this editing lark. It will go on forever until someone pries the keyboard out of my brittle mummified fingers). I’m expecting to be able to show something to beta readers by the end of the year. Stay tuned!

Okay, much love. Peace out. Best regards,


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Hello peoples. Here’s the follow up to last week’s Flash Fiction challenge set at Chuck Wendig’s blog – Terribleminds.

That one was all about writing a 250 word character description, or a short scene introducing a fresh character. THIS WEEK we’ve been given the task of picking one of these characters, that someone else has created, and writing a story featuring them as the protagonist.

I chose the fantastic Yvonne Mae, a bad-ass Korean superhero feminist lady, living in Brooklyn. Her superpower is to completely nullify any one incoming attack, which hypothetically would allow her to smack foreheads with the Hulk, or catch a swing from Mjolnir. I don’t have her dishing out quite that kind of punishment here, as I wanted to explore her intellect and fears more than her raw ability to layeth-the-smack-down. She’s the brainchild of Todd Dillard over at doodle-doodle, so get over there and see what they’re up to.

Okay, without further ado…

Yvonne was waiting for her post-gym espresso when the MRA finally caught up with her. She’d been using the café’s wifi to kakao-talk with mom back in South Korea. Her mom loved that app, with its cutesy emoticons and message tones. Yvonne just liked keeping-in-touch as cheaply as possible, and the free wifi helped.

“Alright, alright, omma. Algesseo-yo,” she said, even though she had no intention of enduring a blind date with mom’s-cousin’s son, a restauranteur over in Queens. Hahaha, no.

It had nothing to do with her outspoken views -ignorant, militant, feminist bitch, or so the internet trolls kept telling her- Yvonne just felt that twenty-six was too young for popping out grandchildren. Sorry mom.

Dad was happy to wait, so long as the guy was Korean. The revelation of Yvonne’s superpowered ex, Fling, had driven dad to cut her allowance and call her back to Busan, degree unfinished. She made enough in superhero-appearance-money to pay her own rent, but it’d been a close thing to refuse him. Anyway, he’d worried for nothing. Fling by name…

Far from earning a respite, her agreement to consider dating only sent mom to the next nagging topic. When was Yvonne going to stop upsetting so many men? Her eyes glazed over, idly counting pigeons out on the sidewalk. There were dozens… maybe someone dropped a sandwich?

Anyway, why were these men upset? A woman daring to voice opinions on twitter? Gasp! Her last youtube upload hadn’t helped… How could she have known a video of her thrashing renowned supervillain, AlphaMale, would go viral?

“I’ll stop when I’ve smashed the patriarchy,” she said, tapping her baseball slugger against the floor.

Mom accused her of making light -the latest internet death-and-rape-combo threats had been particularly graphic, especially one from BirdMan97- and making her mother worry.

Yvonne felt a twinge of guilt, and was ready to repent, but mom was already gnawing the next bone of contention. When was she going to chuck that Vespa -a restored moped she’d dubbed ‘Horace’- and buy something grown-up. Like a Camry.

“Mom, with my powers a scooter is safer. Well, unless I get hit by two buses at once…”

Her coffee was ready, so Yvonne grabbed the corrugated cup with her name sharpie’d across the lid, and strutted for the door. “Omma, I gotta go. Talk tomorrow. Ggeuneo, mmm.”

She didn’t get a chance to hear her mom’s response, because as she opened the door a pigeon smashed into her face.

Another ploughed into her midriff, but the irresistable force of her superpower sent it bouncing back, a dusty bird-print on her blouse. The pigeon that hit her face had slipped through a millisecond later, and her power couldn’t deal with two targets at once.

Yvonne dropped her coffee as she fell, staining her jeans, burning her wrist. The birds flapped wildly at her feet, in her lap, in her hair. Yvonne screamed, not the scream of an enraged superheroine, but one of pain, and fear. She hated birds, their skinny legs, inkspot eyes and twitchy movements. She’d always been a city girl, so birds were vermin to her mind. She shuddered and flailed with her baseball-bat, scrambling backwards into the coffee-shop.

Customers stood, alarm and concern the prevailing tone. As the door swung shut, more birds, pigeons, sparrows, swallows, even seagulls, swarmed against the glass. A concerted wave of them knocked over Yvonne’s scooter, cracking the fairing against the kerb. Within moments the downed Horace was coated in bird-droppings.

Yvonne reeled. This was some kind of superpower, she felt sure of it. Someone manipulating the will of these dumb creatures, urging them into battle. But who?

A pelican landed on the hood of a stopped car, and ducks waddled up the sidewalk. Bystanders were losing their minds, lives ground to a halt. But then Yvonne spotted something. One bystander outside wasn’t losing it. On the contrary, the kid was videoing the chaos on his smartphone.

He was conventionally dressed, right down to the stickered cap. His eyes found Yvonne’s, and he smiled with recognition. Those eyes were intelligent and attractive, the poster-child of middle-America. The perfect front for a cruel streak.

Still recording, the kid threw a handful of something into the street. Birds swooped on it. Birdseed. So they weren’t puppets, but willing servants…

Sirens wailed, announcing the cops were inbound. The kid entered a shop opposite and pretended to take cover. He grinned just for her. The police would arrive. People were distressed, some hurt, and she was the known Super. She was the one they’d take for questioning.

Yvonne’s fear crystallised and expanded into rage. He was laughing at her.

Try as she might to ignore the barrage on social media, it eroded her will. Little things like her morning ritual –gym first, then good coffee from the hipster joint- helped her to recharge. Spilled coffee was cooling on her ruined jeans.

No way could she let him win, but the cops wouldn’t listen to a young Asian woman. Talk to? Gladly, but listen? No. Yvonne needed to change the game.

She limbered her bat, shouldered through the door, and went out swinging.

Gym-aches forgotten, she swatted birds, running all the while. Horace was slick with bird-leavings, but she wrestled him upright, thanking her stars yesterday wasn’t leg day, and leapt into the saddle. The moped started and she shot off the mark, swerving around the jammed traffic.

As she passed the kid’s shop window, she flipped him the bird. “Come catch me, Bird Brain.”

The kid came out, red in the face, and pointed after Yvonne. His feathered friends streamed in her direction, blotting out the sun. Every bystander would have seen him do it, the dumb rookie.

Blue-and-reds flashed as police arrived at the scene behind her, and Yvonne knew she needn’t bother looking back anymore. The flock was chasing at her heels, but not for much longer. As the wind cooled her scalded legs, it was her turn to grin.

Thanks for reading.

Best regards,


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My Writing Process. HOW I DO.

R2cupoftea2Over at Terribleminds, Chuck put the question to everyone, what does your writing process look like?

It was a timely question for me, because my writing process has only really solidified into something routine in the past few months. Everyone does this writing thing differently, and reading some of the other responses has been fascinating.

Anyhow, here’s my writing process. Please let me know yours in the comments!

My process?
Well… from the moment I wake up (before I put oon my maake-uppp) I get in front of my PC. It’s a full on gaming rig, so firing up MS word is a bit like heading to the office in a tank. This is happening at anywhere from 6am to 7.30am.

First I check my emails to see if any of the Day Job projects I’m working on have killed anybody (hasn’t happened thus far. WINNING), and then I get a giant R2D2 mug of tea with two teabags.

If I’m currently writing I aim for a word count of 400 words.

If editing I try to tackle one scene, defined as GOAL>CONFLICT>DISASTER, or one sequel, defined as REACTION>DILEMMA>DECISION.

If I need to work on outlining because something no longer makes sense I do that instead, taking my notes by pen, MS Word comment function, or in a file entitled CHANGES.

If I’ve got a nicely edited second draft I write a long synopsis dividing the whole thing into scenes, and use this exercise to work out what gets cut, changed or abbreviated.

After all that I inflict it on mum. Repeat previous steps until this low hurdle is cleared, then planning to seek beta readers.

This whole elephant gets eaten in tiny bites, as my ten month old baby gemul (monster in Korean) might wake up any time crying for food, nappies and hugs. The onslaught of cute ends when she nods off, and by that time I need to heed the call of the Day Job…

So once again, what does your writing process look like?

Best regards,


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Plotting Fiction – Part 1, with Millie Ho

So writing a book can be an isolating experience. It isn’t a team sport, at the end of the day, and no amount of love from friends and family can really assure you about what you’re doing, because…

They’re not doing it with you. It’s you, and the keyboard, and the almost imperceptibly flickering monitor. For weeks, or months, or years.

So that’s where talking to other writers comes into play. There are other people as utterly batship fruit-loop as you are, who are also tackling the task of penning a novel, and talking to them about the process can be a revelation (both in terms of how you feel about writing, and also as-in actually revealing stuff you didn’t know)

I’m lucky to have had a chat recently with a great aspiring writer, by the name of Millie Ho, whose blog you should totally check out. We discuss plotting, our respective stories, and even meander into a discussion about introducing the fantasy aspects of a story-world in a believable manner.

There might even end up being a part two video, because we actually prepared a heap more questions about plotting that we didn’t get through.

You can find Millie at

Best regards,


PS – The video editing is my fault.


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Hello all. Here’s a quick Flash Fiction bit I’ve bashed together for a challenge set on Chuck Wendig’s blog – Terribleminds.

The gist of it is to write a 250 word character description, or a short scene introducing a fresh character. Next week someone else can choose one of these characters, and write a story with them.

I’ve written a short scene to give a taste of the character, but I don’t expect anyone to write following on from this necessarily. Leaping to a different chronological point, changing the zombies to aliens, or throwing her into a different world altogether would all be great, the main thing is the character.

Okay, without further ado…

Chastity Jones stashed her tips. These were the last she’d need, enough dollars to buy one ticket. Just her, not the boyfriend. Venice, Zurich, or Paris, anywhere but the doomed U.S. of Z. Still, her shift wasn’t over. Ribs and cheese-fries to serve.

She checked her reflection before heading back. Peroxide blue hair and enamelled X-men nails, the quietest part was the Hooters uniform.

Chastity sidled up to the new-girl as she struggled with the register, her customer irate. “Let’s fix this.”

The customer left, the girl got her tip, even tried to give it to Chastity. She refused.

Later they sang happy birthday. The girls rubbed shoulders, trying to put the family in ‘family restaurant’. The birthday girl, a rosy-cheeked toddler, smiled so hard she missed blowing out the sparkler.



The response seemed off, and Chastity looked around.

A fist was thrown, and bodies collided. Alarming, not unheard of, but then the blood…

She grabbed a co-worker. “Dial 911.”

One man started eating the other, right there in the aisle between booths. Entrails amidst peanut shells and serviettes.

Customers trampled each other to escape, and Chastity’s thoughts tumbled as well. Zombies meant an outbreak. Outbreaks meant quarantine. The cash under her mattress would be useless. Ashes.

One thought remained, as she grabbed a bullwhip from the wall décor. That little child, crying alone at the table, ice-cream cake already melting.

Chastity grabbed the new-girl, and shoved an extinguisher into her hands. “Let’s fix this.”

Thanks for reading.

Best regards,


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Revenge of the Awkward Author Photo Contest – I GOT 3rd PLACE! WOOO!

Awkward author D.R.Sylvester

Awkward author D.R.Sylvester

So you might remember a previous post where I mentioned that I was entering a competition for awkward author photos, and that the other entries for it were positively exploding with gaiety and hilarity…

Well it seems I must give thanks to the voters of this illustrious event, because  I CAME THIRD! (which in a 3-way would make me the winner)

Thank you so much for voting, well done to all the other brilliant contestants, congratulations to the 1st and 2nd place winners (61 – yours was excellent) and thank you to Chuck for running such a fun competition.

*swishes Miss Beardy-Author sash*

*picks bikini out of butt-crack*

*takes a bow*



Posted in Thoughts, Uncategorized, Writing | Tagged , , , , | 8 Comments