Tag: writing tips (Page 1 of 2)

#12 – Oscar de Muriel – Write Through The Roof

Welcome to Write Through The Roof, the podcast for writers who want to improve their craft.

Episode 12 with Oscar de Muriel – writer of Victorian murder mysteries

It’s not sipping a glass of wine and staring out the window.”

Episode 12 – Oscar de Muriel – Show Notes
  • Fuelled by wine and cheese
  • Jurassic Park (the book) the first inspiration
  • Discipline
  • Spreadsheets
  • Being a chemist is very useful for murder mysteries
  • Isaac Asimov – The Black Widower’s Club and Lucky Starr series
  • Banshees, MacBeth and Bram Stoker
  • Not a whodunnit but a ‘who will do it’ – balancing reader’s expectations while trying something new
  • Madeleine’s tip – Text to Speech functions

“Thanks to Malbec for its contribution to this book”

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#10 – Dee Dee Chainey – Write Through The Roof

Welcome to Write Through The Roof, the podcast for writers who want to improve their craft.

Episode 10 with Dee Dee Chainey – Folklorist & freelance content marketer

“Bringing magic to the mundane”

Episode 10 – Dee Dee Chainey – Show Notes
  • Do your writing first
  • Instagram pictures of cake
  • Dark folklore; Krampus, hand of glory and the tooth fairy
  • Confidence
  • Don’t keep rewriting the same piece, move on
  • Squeezing a massive topic into an introductory book
  • A non-fiction writer mainly influenced by fiction
  • Aubrey Burl, Carrie Ann Noble, Jackie Morris, Phillip Pullman
  • Madeleine’s tip – 10 story ideas per day

“What do you want to say to the world and to yourself”

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#09 – Garth Nix – Write Through The Roof

Welcome to Write Through The Roof, the podcast for writers who want to improve their craft.

Episode 09 with Garth Nix – uber best selling YA & children’s fantasy writer

“The foundation of my writing is reading, and broad reading.

Episode 09 – Garth Nix – Show Notes
  • Having multiple stories on the go all at once
  • Momentum in writing – spending 80% of his time to write first half, 20% to complete the second half
  • Writing stories for yourself, which make you curious to find out what happens
  • Reading widely equips you with instincts for your writing and gives you the broadest set of tools to draw on
  • The role of a good editor to make you a better writer
  • Experimenting with form and points of view but the story dictates how it should be told
  • Madeleine’s tip – Julia Cameron’s Morning Pages

“As you add more energy into it, it (the story) takes on a life of its own”

“I don’t think ‘how am I going to challenge myself?’, I think what is the best way to tell this story.”

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#08 – Dave Hutchinson – Write Through The Roof

Welcome to Write Through The Roof, the podcast for writers who want to improve their craft.

Episode 08 with Dave Hutchinson – award winning sci-fi writer & prophet

“You know in your head what a good book is. Try and be that good book.”

Episode 8 – Dave Hutchinson – Show Notes
  • A natural short story writer and more comfortable in 1st person but currently writing novels in 3rd
  • Winging it
  • Europe books: prophetic by accident
  • Write something that satisfies you as a reader. Read widely – it’s all writing
  • Discovering ordinary people in sci-fi
  • Struggling with the fourth Europe book
  • Madeleine’s tip – no internet before writing

“I’m a better writer than I am a plumber.”

“John Le Carre is the guv’nor.”

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#07 Dominic Dulley – Write Through The Roof

Welcome to Write Through The Roof, the podcast for writers who want to improve their craft.

Episode 07 with Dominic Dulley – writer of rollicking space adventures

Critiques Groups, Spreadsheets and Con Women in space

“When I didn’t get picked up, the next book I’d write I’d try something different, another tangent, to give myself the best chance to get a deal”

Episode 07 – Interview with Dominic Dulley – Show Notes
  • Great fan of spreadsheets
  • Plotting only a few chapters ahead
  • Hunting down chocolate hobnobs
  • Exploring friendship, loss, wealth and privilege in space
  • Critiquing others is equally important as receiving feedback in your improving writing
  • Debut novel ‘Shattermoon’ inspired by True Grit but in space
  • Madeleine’s tip (or is it a fail?)

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#06 – Harmony Williams – Write Through The Roof

Welcome to Write Through The Roof, the podcast for writers who want to improve their craft.

Episode o6 with Harmony Williams – Period romance, cosy mystery & ghost writer

Romance, Co-writing and Regency Research

“I want to lift you up from your daily problems for a few hours and drop you off feeling better”

Episode 06 – Interview with Harmony Williams – Show Notes
  • If you write 500 beginnings, you will only get good at beginnings but not middles or ends
  • The co-writing process
  • Inspiration for the Regency period; Austen, Clarke and Novik
  • Humour and romance
  • Madeleine’s tip: musings after GenreCon

“Everything’s better with dragons”

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#04 – Kristy Acevedo – Write Through The Roof

Welcome to Write Through The Roof, the podcast for writers who want to improve their craft.

Episode o4 with Kristy Acevedo – YA Sci-fi author & writing community leader

In and Out, Diverse Voices and Dried Mango

“It’s getting harder to be in survival mode and also produce art.”

Episode 04 – Kristy Acevedo – Show Notes
  • The 100 page discovery draft
  • Dried mango as a writing aid
  • Getting in and out of a scene as soon as possible
  • JK Rowling and Stephen King as inspirations but not for the reasons you might think
  • Championing working class and disadvantaged voices
  • Madeleine’s segment: The Monthly Twitter Writing Challenge
Links
Episode 04 – Interview transcript coming soon…

#03 – Angela Slatter – Write Through The Roof

Welcome to Write Through The Roof, the podcast for writers who want to improve their craft.

Episode 03 with Angela Slatter: award winning dark fantasy writer

“I’m a hybrid mess.”

Episode 03 – Angela Slatter – Show Notes.
  • Whiskey and the morning writer
  • Reverse engineering for writers
  • Reading like a fat kid at the dessert table
  • Frankenstein-ing her debut novel ‘Vigil’ together
  • Madeleine’s segment – The Foolscap Method
Links

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Someone ought to do something – Evangeline calling me a wuss

I realised something today. One of my main characters is influencing my life.

I write fiction. I make stuff. I make people up. My main character in The Antics of Evangeline series is Evangeline. She’s a busy-body feisty teen in an action-adventure series, solving mysteries and kicking derriere.

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Marty says you can ‘Finish the Damn Book!’

Apparently 80% of Americans want to be authors. Today I have a guest post from Martin McConnell. Marty is a writer and first-class motivator and he’s here to convince you (if you’re one of the 80%), that you can “Finish the Damn Book!” And if you read to the end, there’s a little treat for my blog reader. 

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First of all, I want to thank Madeleine for allowing me to write this post. In case you haven’t engaged with her directly, she’s a terrific person, and someone any writer would be lucky to count among their friends. Even though she’s an ocean away, I’m glad to have the honor of regular communication with her.

I’m here to talk about writing, maybe for those of you who have thought about writing a book someday, but are having trouble finding your muse, or maybe you think that you don’t have what it takes.

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Birching, medieval peasant life & Norse names: random writing research

I’m in the midst of Nanowrimo and closing in on 50k. Hoorah! I dip into research as I write and so I thought I’d share a few random links for interesting things I’ve researched during the past few days. My Nanowrimo manuscript is fantasy, so I’m going all medieval on your arse.

Birching

The use of birch rods for punishment and birches were always my favourite tree. I now look at them in a different way.

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The tale of two projects: kidney stone or maple syrup?

I still don’t have my writing process down pat. This has become bleeding obvious with my two most recent projects.

The Production – a high gothic YA novel – was a constant struggle, getting out 60k words was like passing a kidney stone. Whereas my current Nanowrimo project – The Ravens of Ambrovna: fantasy –  is flowing out like maple syrup.

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My novel writing process is like making a fancy layer cake  

I’m in the process of writing my umpteenth novel (I’ve no idea how many exist on dead computers or in notebooks probably recycled into toilet paper) but I’m still learning what my process is. I’ve decided my process is like making a real fancy layer cake.

Warning – this blog post is going get a bit hippy-dippy. You have been warned.

I can be a force of nature when I put my mind to something. Get out of my way, people. I can make anything happen through sheer will power and hard work. Until I can’t and I end up banging my forehead against a wall. The universe kicks me in the bum quite often and tells me I can’t force everything. Like creativity and inspiration.

But where’s the cake, you ask? I’ll get to it…

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Writing round-up (without that toxic chemical)

When I read informative information on how “optimise my author platform”, there is always a mention of a consistent blog content strategy. Mmm, well, big fail here. This blog and my blogging is awfully random. I’ve decided to go with my randomness and only blog when I feel inspired, which waxes and wanes.

Today is a little round-up (and not the noxious chemical) on what’s going on with me. Something new, something old and some classroom time.

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Interview with Annelisa Christensen – the Popish Midwife

I do love a bit of historical fiction and today, I’m talking with UK author, Annelisa Christensen. Some might know her from the weekly writers’ game, #1linewed, and some might know her from her blog, Script Alchemy, but she’s hoping that we’ll get to know her as the author of her debut novel The Popish Midwife: A tale of high treason, prejudice and betrayal.

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How I got over my self-doubt this time

This week has been another brutal week in world affairs.

I feel quite selfish talking about my own struggles with trivial words on a page when there is pain and death in the lives of so many others.

But this week, I’ve really battled with self-doubt and motivation. I was sick of Evangeline and didn’t want to write another word about her. I was convinced I was writing a bunch of rubbish and would never be able to write again. Blah, blah, blah. Self-indulgent writers rant.

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Why My Advice Won’t Work for You

The internet is full of advice. Do this. Do that. Lose weight. Find Mr Right. Make millions from home. Get a billion followers and rock-hard abs by lunchtime.

I could do the same. This is how I managed to conquer **insert “flaw” here** and achieved **insert “success” here**.

But what works for me won’t work for you. Necessarily.

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Three reasons why I’m glad for my day job

In my dreams, I would be a full-time writer. But in reality, some days I’m glad to leave my writing at home and go to the day job.

Here’s three reasons why…

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Writer’s Residence in a Scottish Castle – interview with Margaret Skea

Hmm…who would like the opportunity to write for a month in a Scottish castle?

Um…me.

So when I heard that Margaret Skea – fabulous historical fiction writer – had secured a residency at Hawthornden Castle, I was overcome with jealousy.

I caught up with Margaret after her experience and she shares a glimpse into the writing fellowship program at Hawthornden Castle as well as the imposed periods of silence, broken boilers in February and eating porridge from a pewter bowl.

Hawthornden Castle

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What I learned this week

My own Yoda told me to work on something new while querying.

This is great advice, designed to stop me going nuts and checking my email forty thousand times a day.

So I went ahead and worked on something else. The sequels to my querying manuscript. So I’m ready to go with Books 2 and 3 when the call eventually comes.

But the anxiety crept in…. I started to fret and worry.

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A little writing meltdown

Some days, it’s just overwhelming. There’s too much to remember. Too many techniques.

 

Is the pace right?

Does the scene turn?

What’s the character’s motivation?

Is my first line punchy enough?

Is my dialogue boring?

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A little writing music

Music is a perfect pairing for writing. It can provide inspiration, pace and block out annoying noises. But it’s gotta be the right music.

The key pre-requisite for me is NO LYRICS. Words distract me and sometimes randomly appear in my manuscript.

This is what I listen to while writing.

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Three tips improved my writing in 2015

It’s the time of year between Christmas and New Year, like the lull between two waves. Time for planning and reflecting.

Here are the three writing tips I learned in 2015. These three tips definitely made me a better writer.

  1. Specificity
  2. Simplicity
  3. Different scripts

*Disclaimer – I can’t remember where I got these tips from. If it was you, thanks and sorry.

Specificity

Let’s get specific. Lazy writing is full of things, stuff and them. This year I learned to be specific about what I am writing. In 2015, I got out my nouns. First drafts can be full of vagueness but once the red editing pen comes out, it’s time to be precise. But specificity must be paired with tip#2, otherwise the words will grow and multiply like mice. And there’s nothing worse than a mouse plague…shudder…

Simplicity

Why use ten words when you can use two? My writing style is simple, mainly because I don’t like verbose writing personally, but this year I learned to use embrace the simple (and specific). Why use an adjective when I can find the right verb? He didn’t walk, he strutted, she plodded, we ambled. There is more power in brevity.

Like botanical illustrations, I strive to be both simple and specific.

Different Scripts

The third tip is about dialogue. Any scriptwriter knows this stuff but it was a revelation for me. This year I learned that each character has their own agenda in any conversation. Everyone has their own desired outcome from any discussion and our agendas will clash. This tip has helped me to stop my dialogue from being an exposition fest

In normal conversation, there are misunderstandings and confusing conversations when someone doesn’t say what they actually mean. There are a myriad of reasons why we don’t speak our minds. This is also true in dialogue. Each character is reading from their own script and the scripts don’t match.

Your turn – what great tips did you learn in 2015?

Five things which distract me from my writing

I am boringly conscientious. It was always on my school report…Madeleine is a conscientious student. But stuff still distracts me from writing.

Noise, generally power tools

I live in an area filled with older homes under renovation. If the gentle roar of power tools isn’t coming from my own house, it’s one of my neighbours drilling, sawing or generally banging loudly.

Headphones are good.

drill-portable-and-electric

Social media & the internet

I’m not alone. I know the blasted internet and social media call to us all. Distract me. Validate me. Just check the weather. Maybe someone liked my tweet. A quick look at the news. Next thing I know, it’s thirty minutes later. Damned instant access to everything ever.

The day job

Unfortunately I’m not independently wealthy or a kept woman, so I have to work. This is a major distraction from writing. Although perhaps with more time on my hands to write, there’d be more opportunity for other distractions to creep in.

cubicle-farm

People – reminders I need to have a life too.

Note to self – occasionally stop writing and socialise. While Mr Madeleine and friends are a lovely distraction, if they interrupt at the wrong moment, they are in danger of encountering extreme grumpiness. As with many things, timing is important.

Resistance

I often talk about Resistance. The little evil man on my shoulder telling me I’m crap and I’m wasting my time with this writing stuff. He is the root cause of most of my writing distractions.Some days he is stronger than others. I try to ignore his little snarks and keep putting my fingers on the keyboard.

What distracts you from your writing (or other goals)?

When did you feel like a “real” writer round-up?

In early December, I ran a series of posts asking writers…

When did you feel like a “real” writer?

I was lucky enough to get responses from Gail Carriger, Val McDermid, Joanne Harris, Ben Aaronovitch, Victoria Schwab, John Scalzi, Kim Newman, Neil Gaiman, Joanna Penn, Mark Dawson, Barbara Freethy and Kate Elliott.

There were a few themes running through the responses

  • Doubt and the imposter system persists (regardless whether you’ve sold millions)
  • Sometimes it’s your first big deal or success
  • Sometimes it’s not until you reach magic book no. 5

But mainly, you are a real writer when you write….

Now it’s your turn, when did you feel like a “real” writer?

 

4 resources for naming my characters

How do I approach naming my characters? Today I’m answering a few questions on character names from AJ Lundetrae.

Chanel, Dior, Lagerfeld, Givenchy, Gaultier, darling. Names, names, names!

Edina Monsoon, Absolutely Fabulous

 

How important are names to you in your books?

Names are very important to me.

I was a strange child and completely obsessed by boarding school books (especially the Chalet School). Using my illustrated atlas and a reference book of names and their meanings, I created my own school rolls. Lists of girls names and their exotic home cities.

2-6-roll-call-class

A name tells you a lot about a person’s past, their heritage, their social position. Names are infinitely fascinating. Especially in writing (rather than making your own children) when you get to choose the first and last name. In writing, your names can be descriptive of the character’s personality or mannerisms. And it’s just plain fun.

Do you choose the names based on liking the way it sounds or the meaning?

A little of both.

For my Monolith series, I have been obsessed with length. For my main characters, they all have names with four letters; Hana, Alga, Lucy, Erin and Mora. The lesser characters tend to have names of five letters.

Alga is an indigenous Northerner from a goddess worshipping religious community. For Alga, I searched for a four letter names with Estonian and Latvian heritage. I have also made up names for other characters but using foreign language name lists as inspiration.

I really struggled with the right name for Mora for over a year. Mora is the wise feisty grandmother. At one point she was named June, then Vera but now I have settled on Mora. Slightly inspired by the feisty playful Australia artist Mirka Mora.

For my steampunk novellas, I had great fun finding silly place names from the United Kingdom. I didn’t need to make them up. They are all real villages, hamlets or towns from various counties. I also searched for historical popular names on the census.

But in the end, the sound is most important to me.

And a tip I picked up somewhere – avoid names ending in “s”. This makes it messy when adding the possessive noun.

Do you have any name choosing resources you recommend?

My manager at work caught me looking at baby names lists recently and asked me if I had anything to tell her. So, yes, baby name lists from pregnancy sites. I have also found names by number of letters, for my obsession with four letter names.

I also search for foreign names and place names.

Here’s a few examples

 

As you can see, I have finally found a use for my obsession with names. If only I’d kept my list of names for my fictitious boarding school. I could finally find a home for my school girls.

How I “finished” – Tip#8 Listening to my gut

Listening to my gut

Feedback from others is super important but I’m learning to listen to my own internal feedback – my gut instinct.

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Sometimes I fretted about a scene or a character but doubted myself and did nothing about it. Only to receive the same feedback from someone else.

If I’d trusted my instinct, I could have fixed the mistake earlier.

So I’m learning to take my inner voice seriously too. My inner voice is just as important.

 

This is the last tip in my series. I hope you found something useful from my navel gazing.

Your turn – what are your tips for finishing a novel?

When did you feel like a “real” writer? Part 6

Back again with another two writers answering the question…

When did you feel like a “real” writer?

Today we have two successful women with the same perspective.

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You’re a real writer when you write!

Words of wisdom!

I have one more answer up my sleeve, which I will post with a wrap-up of all the comments.

I hope you’ve enjoyed the pithy insights so far.

 

How I “Finished” – Tip #7: Being Selfish & Competitive

Being Selfish & Competitive

Now being selfish and competitive is generally seen to be a bad thing, but these two negative traits helped me go from a lump of words to a “finished” manuscript.

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Books don’t write themselves. I work full time but I find time to write because I’m selfish. Writing is really important to me, so it takes priority over other stuff. I’ve learned to be comfortable saying “no”.

I’m also competitive. Now I’m associating with an online community of writers and every day, my fellow writers are launching books, getting agents, getting publishing deals and 5 star reviews. I’m happy for them, (I believe in abundance not scarcity) but I want what she’s having.

What have you given up for writing?

Tomorrow – Tip#8 Listening to my gut.

How I “finished” – Tip#6 Loading up my Toolbox

Load up my tool box

A professional needs their tools. The two tools which really helped me  to compile and edit my unwieldy lump of words were Scrivener and Speech Function/Text to Speech.

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Scrivener is software designed for writers to easily format long documents. It has lots of nifty features.  My favourite is the left hand navigation where you can save chapters or scenes in folders and easily swap things around. I also love the target word count feature, with a satisfying little “ping” to congratulate me on reaching my daily word count. I’m probably only using a fifth of the features, but now it’s an essential part of my writing.

Speech Function/Text to Speech reads my words aloud to me. This is invaluable in the editing process. Read aloud, it’s easier to locate missing words, typos and clumsy phrases invisible to the eye. There is also a choice of voices, so I swap between an older British woman to a younger American man depending on my mood.

What are your essential writing tools?

Tomorrow – Tip #7 Being Selfish and Competitive

How I “finished” – Tip #5 Craft Work

Craft work

Not the German electro band, in order to improve my craft, I sought wisdom from writing gurus. Tips and advice on how to be a better writer, storyteller and editor.

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Over the past two years, my three main reference points have been

Story and Stein on Writing are available as audio books and the Story Grid is now a podcast.

I’ve listened to the audio over and over again, revisiting different sections as I need for wherever I’m up to in my writing. I heartily recommend all three.

What are your writing references?

Tomorrow – Tip#6 Loading my Tool Box

 

When did you feel like a “real” writer? Part Three

Two more great writers answer my question…

When did you feel like a “real” writer?

Today

  • Victoria (VE) Schwab – writer of multiple fabulous YA/MG series and my fave, A Darker Shade of Magic
  • John Scalzi – Hugo Award winner and prolific twitterer

 

VE Schwab

 

john scalzi

Two different perspectives here. Do you need money or being published to feel like a “real” writer?

Tomorrow, another two authors answer my question.

 

How I “finished” – Tip #4 Thwarting Resistance

Thwarting Resistance

Resistance is the evil force standing between me and everything I want. He’s the naughty voice in my ear telling me stay on the couch, just another episode or have another slice, you deserve it.

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Resistance is mean and wily. He changed tactics and got stronger the closer I got to finishing. He told me I was wasting my time and I’m no good. He filled my head with fears I was going to stuff up my manuscript and I don’t have the talent to finish this.

Once I became conscious of Resistance and his mean tricks (thanks to War of Art), I am vigilant. I know what he’s up to.

I have my defences ready.

I just ignore him and keep going.

How do you thwart Resistance?

Tomorrow – tip #5 Craft Work

 

How I “finished” – tip#3 Marinate for 4 weeks

Marinate for 4 weeks

When I’m in full on editing mode, I go cross-eyed. I can’t see “the wood for the trees.”

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Putting aside my writing to “marinate” is important. Like marinating meat, putting your writing aside makes the flavours richer.

I’ve got a bad memory and when I put something away in the drawer, I completely forget the details. After a period of a month or so, I regain some objectivity about my work. I can see flaws and where to focus next.

And on occasion, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by my own work. Hoorah!

Do you have a rule for resting your work?

Tomorrow – Tip#4 Thwarting Resistance.

 

How I “finished” – tip #2: Finding my tribe

Finding my tribe

Writing takes up loads of time and not everyone understands the highs and the lows. Sometimes I need someone to whinge to!

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While my off-line support team are brilliant, finding a tribe of writers online has been really helpful.

The Monthly Writing Challenge twitter group has especially helped with accountability, habit-forming and general encouragement.

They understand when I’m having a writing day where the words are like pulling a pineapple from an orifice.

Have you found a tribe?

Tomorrow – Tip #3 Marinate for 4 weeks.

 

How I “finished” – Tip #1 Discipline

Discipline is not a dirty word

Discipline and routine isn’t sexy but it’s necessary. Books don’t write themselves. Unfortunately. But creating a daily writing habit really helped to finish my project.

With the help of the Monthly Writing Challenge, I developed a routine of writing or editing every day. Every single day. The Monthly Writing Challenge has a target of 500 words per day or 1 hour editing. (More about the Challenge in Tip#2). There’s an online spreadsheet to record your work efforts and a little bit of public accountability helps.

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Now, daily writing and editing has become a habit.

For example, I wrote this blog post while at the hairdresser in order to get my 500 words down for the day. I’ve written in parks at lunchtime, at airports, dictated while walking and other weirdo behaviours to get my words in.

Generally, I’m a boringly structured person anyway (I’m an Upholder according to Gretchen Rubin’s framework) but having regular accountability has made the habit stick. Then the word counts and drafts follow.

What helps you stay on track?

Tomorrow – Tip#2 Finding my Tribe

 

How I “finished” my novel – 8 tips in 8 days

My manuscript “Return to the Monolith” is now in line editing. Hoorah! Eek. This means I’m done.

Disclaimer – I am “finished” for now. I don’t have an agent or publisher and I’d be naive to think there’ll be no more changes until the book appears in print.

Being “finished” is a peculiar feeling. I sat for ten minutes with my finger hovering over the send button, debating with myself. Am I really done? Is this it? Strange.

Anyway, it’s time to look back on two years of work and think about what I’ve learned.

This is the first in a series outlining what helped me to “finish”. I’ve come up with eight little helpers.

Over the next eight days, I’ll share eight tips.

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There’ll be a lot of you Nanowrimo-ans out there, with a big lump of words, wondering how to take your draft to the next stage. I hope this might help.

Tomorrow – Tip#1 : Discipline is not a dirty word..

My Nanowrimo Tip #5

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My Nanowrimo Tip #4

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Nanowrimo tip #3

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Nanowrimo tip#2

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Nanowrimo tip#1

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Confessions of a writer tag

I’ve been tagged by Aura Eadon to answer the following questions arising from Nicolette Elzie‘s blog.

When did you first start writing? Was being a writer something you always aspired to be?

Aside from the grey period when law school sucked out all the joy, I’ve always loved books and reading. But I never thought I could be a writer. I wasn’t creative or deep enough. Yet the need to create stories niggled at me for years. I’ve done Nanowrimo, attended a few short courses and produced five or six half-finished novels but never had the confidence to take myself seriously. Then during some maudlin navel gazing, I realised writing a novel was my life’s ambition. So I decided to get serious and come out as a writer.

What genre do you write?

I like to make stuff up so speculative fiction is my genre. A bit sci-fi but no spaceships. A bit fantasy but no ‘chosen ones’. I’ve tried writing in other genres (urban fantasy, crime etc) but the stories did not feel right. It did not feel like me. Speculative fiction is a comfy place to be.

Can you tell us a little about your current work in progress? When did you start working on this project?

I’ve got a full production line going with four or five pieces in various stages of drafting, editing and resting. My Monolith trilogy has been my main focus for the past eighteen months but I’m taking a break and currently working on a set of steampunk YA novellas set in 1880s Melbourne. My heroine is a 17 year old ex-pickpocket and acrobat now living in the Colonies with her long-lost father.

What was your first piece that you can remember writing? What was it about?

There was the cringe inducing poetry published in the school magazine, featuring thinly veiled phallic imagery. Good times.

What’s the best part about writing?

Reaching the magical flow state, when the story takes over and ideas appear out of nowhere. I am just the implement recording the words on the page. It’s pretty damn cool.

What’s the worst part about writing?

When everything I write is a steaming pile of poo and the vicious voices whisper in my ear, telling I have no talent and I’m wasting my time.

What’s the name of your favourite character and why?

Anne of Green Gables. Manic, kooky and fragile, she leaps from the page. She’s the inspiration for my steampunk heroine, Evangeline. Although in real life, Anne would get on my nerves. Such a drama queen.

How much time a day/week do you get to write? When is the best time for you to write (morning or night)?

I’m one of those annoying A-type personalities. Since I decided to get serious, I write or edit every day. But writing is my happy place. In an ideal world, I’d spend every morning writing. But in real life, I write whenever and where ever I get a chance.

Did you go to college for writing?

Nope. I’m ambivalent about writing degrees. For me, writing is about discipline and practice. Can those skills be taught in a class at university? I’ve done short courses in the past. Now I read writing reference books and try to read critically.

What bothers you more: spelling errors, punctuation errors or grammar errors?

Spelling errors. They stand out like a big angry zit.

What is the best writing advice that anyone has given you?

“The most important thing about art is to work. Nothing else matters except sitting down every day and trying.” – Steven Pressfield

What advice would you give to another writer?
  1. First drafts are always shit – go Hemingway!
  2. Stop talking about writing and write
  3. The real work starts after you’ve finished the first draft
What are your favourite writing sites or blogs that you turn to for help, tips or encouragement?

The Creative Penn, Story Grid, Steven Pressfield, Chuck Wendig. Encouragement comes from the brilliant Monthly Writing Challenge crew on Twitter.

Besides writing, what else do you enjoy doing? What are your hobbies?

I spend a lot of time in my head and sitting on my bum, so I try to balance this out with walking, running and weight training. I love to lose myself in books and films.

What’s the best book you’ve read this year?

Three way tie between Perdido Street Station – China Mieville, Parable of the Sower – Octavia E Butler and Sunne in Splendour – Sharon Penman. Speculative fiction in three different ways.

What is the best movie you’ve seen this year?

Cheap Thrills – a twisted movie about what people will do for money.

What is your favourite book or series of all time?

Of all time? Too hard. Currently I’m into Ben Aaronovitch’s Rivers of London series. Recently completed Book 5 – Foxglove Summer and anxiously awaiting #6.

Who is your favourite author?

Depends on the direction of the wind and what I’ve had for breakfast. I’ve mentioned a few authors above. Other honourable mentions include Val McDermid, CJ Sansom and Michael Robotham.

What are your plans for the rest of the year in terms of your writing?

Hopefully to start querying my Monolith trilogy by the end of the year. Exciting times. Wish me luck!

Where else can we find you online?

Twitter

Goodreads

Consider yourselves tagged.

Sara General

Mollie Smith

Annelisa Christensen

Mattias Ahlvin

What you are your thoughts on the questions above?

Self-doubters of the world unite

I’m in the first weeks of a new novel. Actually it’s Book 3 of my Monolith series.

I don’t believe anyone ever suspects how completely unsure I am of my work and myself and what tortures of self-doubting the doubt of others has always given me – Tennessee Williams

While many of the characters are familiar old friends and the world is a place I know well,  I’ve transitioned from ‘close to final’ edits (fingers crossed) of Book 1 to a brand new blank page.

My brain is comparing my poorly structured Book 3 vomit draft with my almost complete Book 1.

Next to Book 1 with its 18 months of hard graft and polish, Book 3 feels like a steamy pile of poo. I am the super hack.

I do have high standards. I look at everything I have done and think, ‘Why wasn’t that better?’ Part of my motivation is from crippling self-doubt – I have got to prove myself wrong – Michael Palin

But misery loves company.

Rather than cheer myself up with positive quotes and affirmations, I’ve collated a bunch of other doubters. Doubters who are much more successful than me.

What still concerns me the most is: am I on the right track, am I making progress, am I making mistakes in art? – Paul Gauguin

Self-doubt is part of the process.

No fine work can be done without concentration and self-sacrifice and toil and doubt. – Max Beerbohm

So I’ll acknowledge it and…

Have you got a favourite doubter quote?

Bird calls, barrels and Navy SEALs – random research

I’m terrible at book monogamy. I got distracted from my reading of Anne of Green Gables (the new shiny thing is Kim Newman’s The Quorum) for my blog series revisiting my favourite children’s book, so no review today. Although I am enjoying spending time with that feisty nutty Anne Shirley again.

Today’s blog post is about research. Or three random research topics for my current manuscript. I needed to describe the call of a hawk, find out what was inside an elite soldier’s survival pack and the different parts of a barrel. My writing is educational too!

  • Bird calls

This site has written descriptions of bird calls, as well as audio clips to listen for yourself. Perfect for describing the screech of a hawk overhead, which is kee-eeeee-arr, if you were wondering. Those twitchers are cool people.

  • Navy SEAL Survival Packs

My current manuscript includes a secret military operation to bring back a fugitive. So I needed to know what is in a standard issue survival kit for a Navy SEAL. This article in Time shows the current contents as well as the contents in the packs from 1960s.

https://timemilitary.files.wordpress.com

  • Parts of a barrel

Did you know that the wooden planks forming the main body of a barrel were called “staves”? I do now.

https://salutwineco.files.wordpress.com

What random internet research have you done this week?

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

Recent reads – The Profession by Steven Pressfield

Since listening to Shawn Coyne on The Creative Penn podcast, I’ve been obsessed with the Story Grid – advice for editing novels.

The Story Grid (book soon to be released) is a story design system and a step-by-step process for analysing and improving your writing. It teaches you to be your own editor. Definitely one for process-minded, plotter, spreadsheet nerds like me.

Shawn Coyne works closely with Steven Pressfield (of War of Art, which I blogged about in my recent post on Kicking Resistance in the nuts) and one of my recent completed reads was Steven Pressfield’s The Profession. While reading, I had one eye firmly on the Story Grid system, looking for the tips and structure outlined by Coyne. Luckily, The Profession is also a cracking read.

The Profession is set in the near future, following the story of Gent, a soldier for hire. The Middle East is a mess of corporations, tribal war lords and nation-states, all vying for supremacy and protecting their interests by hiring mercenaries. Gent, after years of warfare and campaigns, knows no other life.

I am a warrior. What I narrate in these pages is between me and other warriors. I will say things only they will credit and only they understand.

Gent works for a disgraced US General, Salter. His devotion to Salter is absolute. He loves this man and unquestioning, follows this man into anything.

Now, on the face of it, this is a book for blokes. It’s a geo-political thriller with gun fights and machinations, warriors and mercenaries and there’s a lot of gear porn in it. Loads of description about guns and bombs and helicopters. Information I skipped over.

Yet underneath the testosterone, there is something epic about this story, something mythic. I’m no historical scholar and Pressfield’s other works include Roman historical novels,  but there was something familiar about the tale of Gent and his loyalty to Salter. It resonated. Is it based on a myth or is it completely original? I’m not sure and I don’t care. Richer than your average thriller, I was moved by Gent’s anguish as he faces the tests of his love and devotion to Salter and choosing right from wrong. It felt bigger than just blowing stuff up.

Back to the Story Grid, I flicked backwards and forwards between reading this for pleasure and looking for the elements of the Grid in it. One of the key elements of the Story Grid is internal and external value at stake. Although I was looking for the structure through out the book, this was a great example of the battle between the main character’s internal and external values. How the character changes through the story and how inner conflict and external conflict play out.

I recommend The Profession for an intelligent, fast paced read (and for writers, I recommend the Story Grid.)

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

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