Ready for a Holiday #writerslife #writing #amwriting

Sick club…

I’ve not been well for a few months now with a cold and then a cough that just won’t go away. But this is my last week of work and then I am taking a three week holiday. Really looking forward to a nice relaxing break….Okay, and maybe just a smidgen of fun 😉

Back to the blog…

So, I’m well and truly fed up of the sick club and can’t wait to get back to blogging. I have some fun blog posts queued up and will get cracking on them while I am on holiday! So pull up your chair and get the popcorn out!

Happy holidays…

I’ll be in Brisbane for Christmas and New year, and I will also drop a couple of posts of our travels while there. It’s been over five years since my last visit and I expect it will have changed a fair bit. It’s a long flight from Perth, too, so any scifi or fantasy reading recommendations would be appreciated!

Writerly stuff…

When I wasn’t feeling sorry for myself I was busy writing my new book series. I’m into editing now and happy with the way the book turned out. I usually aim for 100-110k and then cut about 10-20%. This time I didn’t quite make 90k in the draft and it’s tracking at around 80k after the first editing cull. I normally struggle to keep the word count down so this is a new experience for me! I’m comfortable with the storyline and will see how it feels as I read. Sometimes gaps become obvious later, but I would rather it was a good 80k than try and pad it out!

Book 2 for the Divided World Series should be coming out in print soon. And Book 3 just needs a final read, so lots coming in the new year!

Let’s get creative…

I’ve had a lot of fun writing the new book. It was nice to get back into the creative side of writing after so long editing and tweaking the last series. But now the draft is done, I do enjoy the editing 🙂

Happy reading and writing! 🙂

What every writer wants for Christmas #amwriting #books

Well, it’s that time of year again where we start thinking about writerly gifts 🙂

1. Pencils!

Sit down and get Writing! – These pencils are sure to increase your productivity!

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2. Mugs! 

The best literary mugs – you know you want one!

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3. Cushions!

Bibliophile Cushion Designs – bookish cushions and pillows – perfect to throw at anyone who interrupts your reading time!

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4. Kindle Covers!

Kindle case book covers – If you don’t have a real book – fake it! …and pretend you are reading something far more literary than 50 Shades of Grey!

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5. Soap!

Soap for writers block – all you need is a shower and your writers block days are over!

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How to turn ideas into a story #amwriting #writing

As the saying goes, stories don’t just write themselves, which means that you, the writer, need to put some effort into the process if you want those wonderful ideas to become a book.

How do you turn ideas into a story?

And where do you start?

Firstly, you need to start is by writing. Some people talk about world building, or scene setting. Some people talk about characters. Some people start with a plan.

I say, ditch all of the above and just jump straight into writing.

Why?

Because until you jump in you don’t really know where your idea is going to take you. Whether it is a single scene or an epic ending, it doesn’t matter just write it down.

Some people get very fixated on where to start, as if you cannot begin unless you have a firm container in which to place the story.

Writing doesn’t need a container. It just needs a writer and an idea.

When a writer begins writing, something magic happens. They start thinking about what happens before the seed idea, and what happens after…and what happens much later…and what happens much earlier. And before you know it, a rough timeline of events is established.

None of this happens until you begin to write so don’t feel you need a plan, or a character profile, or a fully fleshed out world before you can begin. You will need all of these things, but not right now. Now is for fun, and for playing and testing your idea.

Some of these new ideas will become backstory that may be discarded later on.

Some of the ideas may not fit in with the overall story as you fill in the gaps, and you may discard them too.

Once you have enough ideas, or scenes, you can plan, and flesh out character profiles, and worlds, or locations if need be…but not until you have enough ideas to at least hint at a story.

Ideas do not always become a full story, so don’t feel bad if you try and then find it goes nowhere.

Keep thinking, keep generating and testing ideas. The more you practice writing and using your ideas, the more ideas will come. Eventually one of them will become a story, a real story, a full story.

And that’s when the real writing begins 🙂

What’s your favourite book genre? (Blog reader survey!) #amwriting #amreading

Looking forward to seeing how everyone votes.

You can pick more than one.

Once you vote you can see the results. 🙂

Binge writing, Fast drafting & NaNoWriMo #amwriting #NaNoWriMo #writer

So it’s that time of year again where writers all over the world enrol for the National Novel Writing Month.

If you haven’t given it a go, it’s simply a month were you challenge yourself to write 50K of words. Whether it is a 50K novel or 50k towards a novel, doesn’t really matter. You sign up, you commit, and all you need to do at the end of the month is paste your 50k into the site to receive your certificate.

If you’re interested in learning more you can check out their site here.

https://nanowrimo.org


If you are looking for a little help preparing, here is a great article I came across a few days ago. Some great tips on getting your draft out whether you are taking part in NaNoWriMo or not.

What I Learned From Binge-Writing Nine Bad Novels


And if you are looking for a few tips on fast drafting…

Six Secrets to Drafting a Novel – Fast!

If you want to get your novel DRAFT out FAST, here are my top six tips to help you on your way.

  1. Planning. I am the original anti-planner. I hate the constrictive, creativity stifling, and passion killing thought of planning…but…a little planning goes a long way. You don’t need to go crazy and have every single scene detailed before you start, but you do need a skeleton.

Deviating from said skeleton is all part of drafting; so don’t let yourself feel in anyway constrained just because you have a plan. There is no doubt about it though; planning works, and the upfront investment will make writers block and endless story syndrome a thing of the past.

2. Don’t Edit. And when I say don’t edit, I mean DON’T EDIT AT ALL. Sorry shouting and all that, and I am really shouting at myself because I am the world’s worst edit-as-I-go-er. It’s the perfectionist in me peeking out again, better get a whip and a chair to that little monster!

It’s soooo hard not to edit, because the moment you read it, it looks like crap, and you immediately think you are a terrible writer, and that chapter will never work. STOP. It will work just fine…when you edit, which is LATER. So, no peeking, not even a little peek, let it go and move on to the next chapter.

3. Don’t think just write. What? Ok, it’s maybe more…don’t think too much.

Even with a plan, and knowing what the chapter is going to be about, and having a house completely free of interruptions, and your favorite music on, and a coffee at your side…you sit there and your head is blank. The endless procrastination kicks in, you check Facebook, Twitter, you read the news, make a cup of coffee…again. You write a few words and then delete them, and then a few more…and delete them. Sound familiar?

That’s because you’re actually thinking too hard. Yep I know, that sounds like reverse logic because how can you think too hard. It’s not a myth; I do it all the time. It’s not writers block either; so don’t panic. It’s more like…temporary amnesia about what that keyboard thing is for. Either you can’t start writing at all or when you do write you have an overwhelming urge to hit delete.

This is where the stop-thinking bit is really important. Just start the scene, even if you know it’s crap, even if you know you are going to delete the whole first paragraph, because something amazing happens once you get past a few sentences without hitting delete…it all starts pouring out and you remember that there is a connection between the brain and the keyboard, its calling fingers, and wow, they work!

4. Killing the people who interrupt you. Yes, I know it’s not practical, and hiding a body is so hard, but hey sometimes it’s got to be done. Just kidding, you can’t really kill the people who interrupt you, but you can think about it in glorious detail!

Interruptions are a fact of life, and they only interrupt you because they love you so much…or they want to be fed, or they can’t find that . I find meditation, and practicing breathing techniques really works…yes I’m just kidding about that too…nothing works, either get a lock for your door and fit soundproofing so you can’t hear them screaming at you, or just build a bridge and move on.

5. You are going to chop out some the work you write. Gasp! No! Yep, it’s going to happen. Remember in point 2 where I said don’t worry if it looks like crap it will all work out fine in the end? I lied. Some sentences, paragraphs, and yes, even whole scenes will meet a fate worse than death, discarded for ever to your clipping folder where you retain them in the misguided hope they will be reused or reinserted later. They won’t be, but it’s Okay to keep them, I do.

Now, you may be wondering how knowing that a scene may later be chopped is going to help you write quickly because now you are feeling pretty depressed and not at all motivated to write quickly, but here’s the catch, would you rather spend ages over-editing a scene, or procrastinating writing it, and then delete it? Nope, I certainly wouldn’t.

I have lost count of the number of beautifully written sentences or scenes that simply had to go. Sometimes you just need to get the whole story done before you can be truly objective enough to see what needs to stay and what needs to go, and the less time you spend getting to this stage, the better.

6. Use word count targets. Love ’em or loath ’em, word count targets work, especially when you are drafting. Goal setting is written about, talked about, and well established as the single most important part of achieving ‘stuff’. If your goal is to write a book, you need to give yourself targets on the way to keep motivated.

Didn’t hit your target today? So what, there are plenty of days where you don’t make as much progress as you wanted too, and some days you make no progress at all. Celebrate the good days, and move on past the bad days, and remember that any words written at all is a step closer to completion! (Unless you end up deleting it as I mentioned in point 4…but we are not going to think about that during the draft)

I have been writing long enough to know roughly what I can write in a day, or an evening if it’s a work day, so I build my daily count around that. I LOVE seeing how I am progressing. Scrivener has this little happy ‘bong’ and a popup telling you well done when you hit your daily target. I LOVE that. I also love hitting book milestones like the quarter point, the half way, the three quarter, the finish, the editing…I break absolutely everything up into little micro targets, and this provides an amazing sense of movement and progress.

Writing a book takes FOREVER, so keeping the motivation up and sense of achievement high will get that draft finished in super fast time.

Finding your writer’s voice #amwriting #writing #writerslife

“To gain your own voice, you have to forget about having it heard.”
—Allen Ginsberg, WD

A writer’s voice can be an elusive thing. It is hard to know you have found it unless you are an experienced writer with enough books under your belt.

Often, you instinctively know when you are allowing your fears to get in the way of what you really want to say, but it can be difficult to do something about it. Whether it is word choice, style choice, character choice, or some other choice you are smothering, it can be difficult to quash your inner critic and just let the inner writer out.

What is the definition of a writer’s voice?

The writer’s voice is the individual writing style of an author, a combination of their common usage of syntax, diction, punctuation, character development, dialogue, etc., within a given body of text (or across several works) Source Wiki.

One of the things I grapple with is my use of unorthodox words. There were a couple of places in my book where my editor pointed out ‘better’ words, but I decided not to use them. Of course, there were plenty of other places that I did take her advice. I guess there are certain words that interest me, and although there may be a simpler word I prefer the alternative ones.

I talk in the same way, it’s part of me, and I think there is nothing wrong with leaving a little me in place.

I’m glad I did, and for no reason other than it allows personality into my book.

What is the right amount of voice?

Many bestselling writers use very little ‘voice’ to make their books as appealing as possible. There is no doubt that this tactic works and to elaborate I will use an example. I am one of those odd people who tends to read book reviews after I finish a book, and I was reading a review of a book that I had thoroughly enjoyed, and was surprised by a large number of negative reviews. All the writer’s other works had received glowing 4/ 5 star reviews, but this particular book (which I personally felt was the best in the series) had received a significant number of 1 star reviews.

Why was everyone upset? Well, she had done something a little out of the ordinary in this one. Personally I felt it gave the book an edge that was lacking in the others. For me, this book had something that pulled it out of the ‘mundane’ pack. I read a lot of books and I have been reading for many years, and I have found over time that I actively seek and enjoy uniqueness in a book or writer.

Many of the readers wanted the nice flat line…personally I enjoyed the blip. Certainly not everyone was upset by the book, and it did get a lot of five star reviews too, but I couldn’t help but wonder if the writer’s decision to ‘stick to the safe script’ for future work was a result of these negative reviews.

I hope not.

Can you have too much voice?

There are also writers who have a very unique and extreme voice for a variety of reasons. I once decided, in my infinite wisdom, to read the complete works of Jane Austin while working through classic works. Jane Austin definitely has a voice! And the thing about reading a writer with a strong voice is that it rubs off, and you find yourself writing like…Jane Austin! Given that I mostly write scifi or fantasy, even when I am just ‘play’ writing, it was a rather bizarre mix! And funny! But definitely not a good style!

It is good to recognise the importance of what we read, and to be aware of how it ultimately impacts what becomes our voice. There’s nothing wrong with reading Jane Austin, but perhaps with hindsight six books back-to-back was a bit of a style overdose.  🙂

Whether you are an advocate of the neutral voice, or prefer reading books that have a distinctive voice, we all have one ourselves, and we can choose whether to let it out.

What do you always do? #Rituals #Editing #Writing #Editors #Authors #Bloggers

What are your writing rituals ? 🙂

Creating Perfection

Last week I attended an online author chat with Louise Jensen and her Bookouture publicity manager, Kim Nash, over on Facebook. Louise is the bestselling author of three psychological thrillers,The Sister, The Gift, andThe Surrogate (click the links to buy your copies!) and one of the questions asked was what, if any, rituals Louise has whilst writing.

She explained that she listens to classical music and lights a new, berry scented candle when she starts a new draft.

This got me thinking about the rituals I have when editing a manuscript.

Before I open a new manuscript, I clean my desk. I take everything off it, pc screen and all, then clean and polish it, the keyboard, mouse, screen; I organise the stationery in my screen riser, and the books I keep on my desk top. I then open a new page in my notebook and…

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Update: Writing, Books…and Pods! #amwriting #writing #writerslife

Where we write…

I thought I would begin my writing update by sharing a little about my writer’s nook (or pod in my case).

The funny looking structure above is my writer’s pod (The bit on the left…the big bit is a bedroom). I call it a pod, because…it really is a little pod on stilts and the perfect place to hideaway and write.

Here is the view into the valley from my window, which of course I never look at because I’m so focused on my writing! Okay sometimes I peak.

The inside of my writer’s pod…it doesn’t normally look quite that tidy! And I am also normally squished onto one side of the desk to make space for my cats…and their blanket.

And this is Toby, who was snoozing beside me while I was writing yesterday.

Writing Update…

I’ve been busy with a couple of writerly things. Firstly, book three has received all the beta feedback, so I’ve made the changes and will let it settle for a couple of weeks before I tackle the final read and review. I’m very excited to see the trilogy completed! And very grateful for all the constructive feedback I’ve had on the book…including all my bloopers. Between ‘discounting’ a horse instead of ‘dismounting’ and ‘lunching’ instead of ‘launching’, I’ve kept my beta readers entertained for all the wrong reasons! 🙂

My second bit of writerly activity, has been cracking into a new draft. This is set on the same planet as my current trilogy, but with a new cast and explores the planet’s colonisation. I’m about 30% in, and going reasonably well…reasonably, because I never feel comfortable with a draft until I get to the end and all the bits come together.

About my beta readers!

We are all at different stages of our writing journey, and so I would like to finish by dropping links and bios on two of my beta readers who are published authors themselves.

Jason J. McCuiston’s story,  “The Wyvern” can be found in Pole to Pole Publishing’s new anthology, Dark Luminous Wings. It is a post-apocalyptic steampunk horror story set in the skies above a Mojave Desert filled with magic and dark memories.

You can find out a little more about Jason here in his guest post. Talking about sport and writing! Don’t let the title scare you, I am the least sporty person on the planet, and I learnt something new 🙂

And this is the lovely Cassandra Parker, who always has at least 3 writing projects on the go, but still finds time to read my book and give me feedback!  If you are looking for a little 70’s nostalgia with a wistful and endearing love story thrown into the mix then check out her book Harley & Me.

You can also find out more about Cassandra in her author interview here. Author Interview – Cassandra Parker

Wishing everyone happy reading and writing! 🙂