Category: my writing life (Page 2 of 2)

It’s not you, it’s me – should I feel bad for abandoning books?

I have never been one to commit to books, or movies or TV shows. I can walk away at any time, even just a few moments before the end. If it hasn’t grabbed my attention, I can move on. No qualms. Maybe I’m just a commitment phobe.

But now as I’m spending hours and hours of my time writing and editing, every time I put aside a book for something newer and shinier, I have second thoughts. A little tinge of guilt…should I feel bad when I abandon reading a book?

www.booyorkcity.com

On the guilt inducing side…

I feel for the writer, now that I have some idea of the process. The hours, weeks, months and years poured into crafting every single word. Sometimes I feel bad for skimming over sentences, thinking back to my last writing session, where I laboured for forty five minutes over a single sentence. A sentence some callous reader could just skip over!

Then I think about how the writer made it through the gauntlet of the publishing world (although a lesser consideration these days with the thriving indie market), through the anguish of finding an agent and getting selected by a publisher. If it made it through the publishing gauntlet, it must be good, right?

On the other hand

Life is short. There are so many other books I could be reading. There are so many other fish in the sea. If it isn’t doing it for me, I should move on guilt-free.

This does not mean the book is bad. It just isn’t right for me at this moment. If I’m in the mood for a mystery with a hunchback lawyer from the 15th century, then an urban fantasy with a mixed race London bobby in the magical division is not going to cut it.

Of course, reading anything after a fantastic book is hard. Rebounds are always fleeting.

Other times, I’ve abandoned a book only to pick it up again later and devour it. Sometimes I’ve just got to be in the right mood.

After this conversation with myself, I’ve decided I don’t need to feel guilty about abandoning a book. It’s not you book, it’s me.

Do you abandon books?

Killer cockroaches and ashes – Imagination Fuel Diary

Are there any songs about Thursdays? I can’t think of any.

As an exercise in documenting my imagination fuel, I spent a day noting down interesting sights, sounds and topics for future writing. Inspiration is everywhere and you never know where the next gem might crop up.

You get ideas from daydreaming. You get ideas from being bored. You get ideas all the time. The only difference between writers and other people is we notice when we’re doing it. ~ Neil Gaiman

  • A burnt out building.

As I walked to work, I caught sight inside a fire damaged building. The news stories said the fire was suspicious. I peeked inside (actually I stopped and had a proper gawk) at the smoke damaged walls, the blackened beams, the smashed skylights, the missing first floor, the piles of debris, the grey, white and black.

  • A ballet costume on a bill poster plastered to a brick wall

A vibrant green male ballet dancer jumping the air with a flowing cape from the Australian Ballet’s production of a Midsummer Night’s Dream. Here’s the image from the poster.

www.artcentremelbourne.com

  • Killer cockroaches preserved in amber found in Myanmar

A “crane giraffe” killer cockroach from 100 million years ago has been found preserved in amber. Sounds like the premise of a horror movie to me.

  • A bumper sticker “Avenge Sevenfold”

This might be some kind of brand or a bikie gang, but my imagination went to a tale of brotherhood and family rivalry.

Note: turns out my memory is faulty and this is a US metal band and their name is Avenged Sevenfold. Good name though.

What you noticed today which fuelled your imagination?

Three ways to kickstart a writing session

Sit down, open my laptop, crack my knuckles and go!

And then stare at the blank page…sometimes, it’s not that easy to get going.

Here’s a couple of other things I do before I start writing –

  • stretch my body to get the blood flowing,
  • invite the Muse to visit me and then
  • a few writing warm-ups.

Stretch

Whether a few yoga poses, some arm circles or a walk around the block, I need a bit of movement before I put fingers to keyboard.

Have you got a spare three minutes? Here’s a little three minute video of Japanese morning calisthenics (also known as raijo taiso). I do this every morning to knock out the kinks. Apparently, raijo taiso is broadcast across Japan every morning. Originally part of an insurance company campaign in the 1920s, it is still popular today. Some say, it is the secret to the spritely Japanese elders.

Ode to the Muse

Next, I invite the Muse to join me with my writing.

This is the beginning four lines of a beautiful poem Ode to the Muse written by Mary Darby Robinson from an anthology from 1791.

O, LET me seize thy pen sublime
That paints, in melting dulcet rhyme,
The glowing pow’r, the magic art,
Th’ extatic raptures of the Heart;

How could the Muse ignore such a delightful invitation?

Writing warm ups

Now to get the brain moving with a few quick writing warm ups. Something short and sharp, but a little bit hard.

  • the #6words challenges for 6 word stories on a particular topic thrown out on Twitter by Kelsye
  • Describe your main character in 5 words
  • Create a 6 word pitch for your writing

How do you kickstart your writing sessions?

Tips from an author with 300 million books sold – James Patterson

James Patterson is in town this week. Whilst I’m not really a fan, you can’t argue with a guy who’s sold 300 million books. I went along to hear him speak and hoping to catch any snippets any wisdom. Hoping, perhaps some of his success would rub off on the audience. Here’s my take on his story, his process and the importance of self-promotion.

My first impression, what a down to earth guy! Witty, self-deprecating and a little bit cheeky, the talk was very entertaining, with many chuckles. Not at all what I expected…

His story

  • Started reading again for pleasure while working the night shift in a mental hospital
  • Every short story he submitted was rejected
  • His first novel – The Thomas Berryman Number was rejected 31 times before winning the Edgar Award for Best First Novel
  • At his acceptance speech for the Edgar, he said “I guess I’m a writer now.”
  • The highlight of his Hollywood career was appearing the Simpsons, as a fantasy of Marge’s.

His wisdom included…

Writing craft and his own process

  • The best writing is crisp and short, including short chapters. He repeatedly used the word “crisp”.
  • His strength – to turn anything into a story
  • His weakness – patience to truly hone his work, rather than moving on to the next project
  • On co-writing, he sees it as a team effort. Screenwriters/TV writers work in teams. He also uses researchers.
  • On characters, the reader does not need to know everything about a character, only what makes them interesting.

Why people like thrillers (especially his own)

  • Solving puzzles
  • Involvement with both the hero and the villain
  • Satisfactory endings – so lacking in everyday life or true crime

Key takeaway – Self promotion

I was really interested in how he developed his own ad for “Along Came a Spider”. Working in advertising at the time, he pitched an ad to his publishers. They rejected the idea, but he went ahead and did it himself out of his own pocket. This advertisement helped push the book into the best seller lists. A great example of taking control of your own marketing and brand.

He told a great follow-up story, where he watched a woman pick up his book in a shop and was filled with delight, only to see her slip the book in her handbag without paying. Does shoplifting count as a sale?

He also spoke on the need to support independent bookshops (worried about the Amazon monopoly) and building a passion for reading in children. Here here!

An enjoyable evening with a few nuggets of wisdom for this budding writer.

www.jamespatterson.com

Lakes of liquid mercury and Bears take back Chernobyl

OK, it’s a massive cliche but the world is an amazing place and truth is stranger than fiction. Here are a couple of news items which caught my eye and fuelled my imagination.

Lakes of liquid mercury

Archeologists excavating a Mexican pyramid site found a chamber filled with liquid mercury sealed for over 1,800 years. This lake of liquid mercury suggests the existence of the tomb of a very important individual. Liquid mercury has no apparent purpose for the ancient Mesoamericans. The archeologists theorising that the liquid mercury represents an Underworld River like the River Styx or a dark mirror to look into the supernatural world.  Reminiscent of a scene from a Mummy movie.

Bears take back Chernobyl

It’s almost thirty years since the Chernobyl disaster and nature is taking back the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. Scientists on the Ukrainian side, have positioned over 80 cameras to document the animals now living in the radioactive zone, including endangered horses, grey wolves, lynx and even brown bears. The way nature bounces back and takes over in such a short period always fascinates me.

What fuelled your imagination this week?

www.vecteezy.com

Kicking Resistance in the nuts

Usually I’m annoyingly motivated. Since deciding to take this writing thing seriously, I turn up every day in front of my computer and write/edit for as much time as I have available. Sometimes thirty minutes at lunchtime, sometimes a whole day.

But this week, the Resistance monster has sniffing around, getting in the way. Despite some great feedback recently, the Resistance monster’s been telling me I’m rubbish, telling me I’m wasting my time with this writing malarkey and generally making me not want to write.  As Steven Pressfield says

“Resistance is always lying and always full of shit”.

Steven Pressfield talks a load about Resistance in his classic book “War of Art”, about how Resistance is everywhere. Pressfield believes Resistance is the main cause of unhappiness in the world as it stops everyone from achieving their true heart’s desires. In a recent blog post, he outlined how Resistance can even possess your loved ones, dissuading and sabotaging you from your truth path. The cure is “doing the work”. Sitting down every day and putting your fingers on the keys and just bloody writing.

I’ve felt the Resistance but done it anyway, yet I was still lacking in mojo. I felt I was only going through the motions of editing, the joy was not there.  Until yesterday.

What helped? Exercise. I smashed out a hard kettlebells session then took a long walk with no music or podcast distractions. My mind free to wander, ideas started to flow and the motivation started to creep back in. I got excited about my project again and couldn’t wait to get back to my keyboard and push through my edits.

Phew, I fought him off and kicked Resistance in the nuts.

This time.

But like any evil villain, he’ll be back….

www.american-buddha.com

Write on – why I love writing challenges

Tips on writing and quotes from famous writers are everywhere. I think most advice boils down to “sit there and write. Every day.”

But that’s easier than it sounds, it’s like “eat less, move more.” Easy in theory, but a different story when it’s chocolate o’clock. Writing challenges help me with discipline and build my daily writing habit.

I started with Nanowrimo – write a 50,000 word novel in November. This initially helped me to get into the habit of “vomit drafting”, just blurting it all out, writing without the inner critic and getting those words and thoughts down on the page. But a target of 1,667 per day is not sustainable in the long term for me. Nowadays Nanowrimo is not just for November, there are regular challenges throughout the year and for other forms. I’ve written four novels in Nanowrimos.

My current favourite is Monthly Writing Twitter Challenge with a target of 500 words per day or 1 hour editing. This is an achievable target without feeling overwhelming. And over the month, even with the minimum 500 words, I can amass at least 15,000 words. It’s a simple challenge with a great supportive community on Twitter and it was originally inspired by Dr Who! Join us and sign up for March!

The challenges keep me accountable, motivated and give me a sense of achievement.

What are your tips for building writing discipline?

www.iamerinbrown.com

How 70s Dr Who still inspires me – Leela

I’m a child of Jon Pertwee and Tom Baker era Dr Who. I had the whole “hide behind the couch” childhood experience and the stories still resonate with me today. I see past the low production values and my imagination still runs wild inside the stories.

Now when it comes to my current writing, one of my characters is inspired by my 70s Dr Who experiences. I have an indigenous character, who is “wild” and “savage”. Who else to inspire this character but Leela….

www.kooltvblog.blogspot.com

Leela is a hunter, a warrior, a survivor, she acts on her instincts and she has a big cool knife. She is a “fish out of water” in the modern space world with the Doctor, willing to use violence in worlds where violence is not the first response. Her costume also inspired the clothing for my “savage” character, although my character is only in her mid-teens, so there’s a bit more fabric in her dresses. She’s not quite the “dad’s wet dream” that Leela is, but my character is clad similarly in leather and boots.

It’s no coincidence that Leela also appears in my all time favourite Dr Who episode; Talons of Weng Chiang.

Any Leela love out there?

An apocalypse? But I’ve got nothing to wear?

Last weekend I visited the Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier exhibition at National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne. The exhibition itself was fun and exciting but also inspiring. JPG knows how to kit you out for the apocalypse.

Of course, he designed the costumes for the Fifth Element and the bandage look for Mila Jovovich.

www.theguardian.com

I found inspiration in his Ukrainian collection. My current writing takes place in a cold Nordic type world, where the native people continue with their ancient customs. I can now see them in heavily decorated folk art dresses, knitted cables or sheepskin hats and boots.

www.newyork.com

Now I know what I want to wear when the apocalypse comes…

www.telegraph.co.uk

Or perhaps this is more practical

www.fashionone.com

Now this is no fashionista blog, so what do I do with this inspiration? Well, I have Pinterest boards for character clothes (as well as locations). I pin images of clothing for my characters, this helps with better detailed descriptions of their clothing, and continuity.

For example, here’s a picture of a futuristic power suit, inspiring the outfits of one of my characters in my work-in-progress Intervention.

Balmain – not sure of photo source

For the writers out there, how do you dress your characters?

How to find your way home without breadcrumbs or GPS

Another world building inspiration post today, but quite different to my last post on city living. This week, I’m intrigued by natural navigation, how to read the landscape, whether using trees or animals or the more obvious sun and stars, to find your way home without maps or GPS or breadcrumbs (if you’re Hansel and Gretel).

This is information we’ve (city dwellers) lost and the people who’ve retained this ancient wisdom are now shrouded in mystery and awe – Aboriginal trackers from my side of the globe or Inuits reading ice formations or Bedouins understanding the direction of the wind from dune shapes. An interesting side note, the last official Aboriginal police tracker retired from the Queensland police force in 2014. The skills, whilst rare, are still vitally important when people go missing in the “wild”.

I stumbled across Tristan Gooley‘s work on a podcast. Gooley teaches natural navigation in his native UK but his website covers small tips even for the city dweller. For examples birds sitting on a rooftop will face away from the wind, trees grow thicker on the sunny side and spider webs are woven out of the wind.

www.wallpaperhi.comHe even has tips on navigating in a city – if it’s 8.30am and you’re looking for a train station, go against the flow of people and you’ll most likely find a station. Common sense, yes?

I’m currently writing about a fictitious native people who live closely associated with the land. This information inspires me when developing how they read their landscape and navigate through thick forests. But in my real life, I’m now watching the clouds whenever I walk outside, trying to understand where weather fronts are coming from, especially if I’ve forgotten my umbrella.

What I learned about writing in 2014

Time for some self indulgent navel gazing about 2014.

2014 was a big year for me. I got serious about this writing malarkey. Writing and publishing a novel has been my life’s goal as long as I can remember, so it was time to stop tinkering around the edges and make a real go of it.

So what did I learn in 2014 and what inspired me.

There are loads of options in the publishing world

I love my podcasts and stumbled across So you want to be a writer. “Writer” comes from the Australian Writer’s Centre and is a valuable resource of information and inspiration. It alerted me to the booming world of self-publishing. Having read Hugh Howey’s Wool in paperback, I had no idea about his back story in super successful self publishing and the different options available to writers these days. Valerie and Allison are knowledgeable and entertaining, their advice on the importance of establishing an author platform inspired me to start this blog, join Twitter and come out as a writer. I look forward to each episode.

I can write hundreds of thousands of words a year and keep a day job

Having participated in Nanowrimo multiple times and won, this year I got serious about sitting down almost every day to write or edit. In 2014, I managed 4 drafts of a 75,000 novel #1, a Nanowrimo 50,000 word vomit draft of Novel#2 and 15,000 words of Novel #3. And I kept my day job! And still managed 8 hours sleep a night (well, many of those 8 hours tossing and turning but my sleep battles are a discussion for another day).

Although on the downside, I have fallen way behind in pop culture, if it’s not Dr Who or Games of Thrones, I haven’t seen it. Hey, I’m old now – it doesn’t matter if I don’t keep up with the cool kids anymore. Oh and the best thing, whilst some days writing is like cracking walnuts with my bare hands, I still enjoy the process.

My writing doesn’t suck

I put my work out there for the first time, seeking professional and beta reader feedback on my drafts. No one told me I sucked. In fact, people even said some complimentary stuff and more importantly, gave me pointers on what to improve. Onwards and upwards, friends!

My goal –  to have a completed (ready to publish) manuscript by 31/12/15. And I can’t wait to share it with the world!

How I deal with the dreaded feedback

If you never do anything, then you’re safe from getting feedback.

Actually that’s not even true, sometimes random strangers feel compelled to let you know how you’re progressing with helpful comments like “why don’t you smile?”, “looking good” or “get out of my way.”

However, feedback is part of the process of improving. Whether at work or in writing, feedback and criticism is helpful, necessary yet frightening. We’re all delicate little flowers underneath and no one likes to be told, you’re crap.

I’ve recently put my writing out into the world for the first time, actively seeking feedback from beta readers and an editor. Scary stuff. I received a manuscript assessment about four weeks ago and while the feedback was mainly good and constructive, I went my own emotional rollercoaster ride of dealing with the feedback. It’s the same cycle I’ve been through many times with other feedback.

www.jaysamit.com

Here’s how it usually goes….

  • Day 1 – Punch to the stomach/ ego bruising. Focusing on the bad bits. Self doubt mixed with wanting to quit, hating the world and wanting to crawl under the quilt, never to come out again. This usually lasts a day or two.
  • Day 2 or 3- Processing the feedback. Re-reading (or replaying) the feedback. Glimmers of hope start to appear and (usually) it is not as wrist-slitty, soul-destroyingly bad as I feared on Day 1.
  • Day 4 – Action. The sun reappears from behind the clouds, I wake up determined and with direction of what to do next. I focus fixing stuff. Right! Let’s get on it!

Now despite the fact that I know this about myself, I forget it every time I receive feedback. I only remember on reflection – oh yeah I always do this, don’t I? Sometimes the process goes longer, sometimes shorter, but always the same.

How do you deal with feedback? Do you go through the same cycle?

And in other news…..I win

Winner-2014-Web-Banner

Writing dilemma – who’s my target audience?

Today’s writing dilemma…should I write for a specific audience or write for myself?

In my day job, I’ve been a product manager for ah-hem years. Rule #1 being – know your customer and develop a product to meet your customer’s needs. For years I’ve been analysing and getting to know my “target market”.

But when it comes to my writing, I don’t really know who my target audience is.

I’m writing a book I’d like to read and couldn’t find. In the wise words of the incredible Toni Morrison….

If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.

But then I’m busting another rule of marketing – don’t market to yourself. Cos that’s a pretty small market. I’m not going to buy my own book!

Confusion reigns.

www.theinvisibleagent.wordpress.com

This is today’s dilemma…how do you approach your writing? Do you have a specific audience in mind or do you write to interest yourself?

4 things learnt from Nanowrimo 2014

It’s almost the half way point of Nanowrimo. Can you hear the constant clatter of fingers on keys and foreheads banging against desks?

Time for a bit of reflection. What have I learnt from Nanowrimo this time round?

  • Writing takes priority. I don’t have time for the community stuff.

I’d like to get to know my fellow Nano-ers, visit the message boards and attend the local events, but I’ve got a full-time job and only a limited time to squeeze in my 1667 words per day. There’s no room left for the community stuff. Sorry.

  • Some days are hardwww.zazzle.com.au

And in other breaking news, the sky is blue and the sea is made of water. Everyone knows it’s hard. Some days, it’s all picnics, unicorns and rainbows. Other days, as I tweeted, it’s like extracting an oddly shaped nobbly object from my arse. The lesson is persistence.

  • Knowing your characters saves time

My Nanowrimo project is book 2 of my Monolith series. So, I already know my main characters and my world inside out. This saves time, I don’t need to stop to think how they react or their motivations. I’m visiting old friends. This feels a bit like cheating, but in a good smug way.

  • If I can write in the midst of a house renovation, I can write anywhere anytime

There’s drilling, sawing and tradesmen all around me. I’m writing from a space at the end of the kitchen counter next to the fridge. If I can write in this mess, I can write anywhere. Headphones are a wonderful device. I don’t need a perfectly decorated writing room with the inspirational view to get my project out.

What have you learnt from your Nanowrimo so far?

Why it’s different this time

My name is Madeleine and I’m a closet writer.

I’ve been dabbling with novels for years now…and nothing has come of it. There was my yoga detective, my vampire chef and my crime phase (until I realised I hated writing the violent bits). I finished Nanowrimo three times. But this time, it’s different. This time, I’m going to do something with this.

Why is it different this time?

Maybe it’s me. Perhaps it’s a matter of life experience, perhaps I needed to wait for the right story to come along, the right mix of dedication and time. Getting older and finally realising what I wanted to be when I grow up.

And the world has changed…there are more options for getting your work out there. Self publishing is becoming mainstream, I don’t have to rely on being “chosen” by old school publishers, I can manage my own writing, my own product and do it my way.

So this time, it’s different.

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