Why writing a book is like creating a parallel universe #amwriting #writerslife

Choose your own outcome…

When I was little there was a children’s book I read, and in the book you got to choose what happened next. Such books were not new then, and they are still around now. I saw an adult version of this not very long ago. You know the kind…

Lots of exciting stuff has happened…do you:

  • Open the door – go to page 64
  • Turn around and walk away – go to page 72

This got me thinking about the writing process, and how, when we write, we sit out of time, as if we are sitting on the edge of countless parallel universes.

Nobody knows the exact way the book will turn out when they start to write. Writers are always talking about the way characters can surprise them, or how the story can twist unexpectedly. Our imaginations, our life journeys, our jobs and the people we spend time with can all impact the words we write on the page.

In what other ways, do we the writer, impact the story?

What if we sit down to write a chapter today, would it be the same chapter if we wrote it tomorrow instead? Would it be close, slightly different, or very different? And if it was different, could it shape the entire rest of the book?

Hence my parallel universe reference.

It’s a little mind blowing to think that if you sit down at your keyboard you may write a scene in a completely different way just because you are feeling particularly happy or particularly sad. And what if the phone rings and interrupts you, and when you come back you have decided that a character needs to die, or fall in love, or something else that you had no inkling of before.

It’s in that moment when you decide to stop writing, when you move away from your keyboard for whatever reason, must a new parallel universe inevitably pop up? Like a deck of cards on endless shuffle, or a kaleidoscope shifting sand, you never know exactly how the dice are going to fall until they do fall, or in writing terms, you sit back down at your computer. And when you do everything has shifted and you sit down to a different place and a different head space.

Every time we write a story, we could have written a million more.

Would those other variations have been better or worse or just different?

Life too, is full of choices and the consequence of those choices impact everything that comes after, so it seems only fair that our fictitious worlds should be subject to the same whims.

We might think that there are a million stories or a million lives we could have lived, but ultimately there is only one story, just as there is only one passage through our life, and that is the one we choose to write.

10 wonderful quotes about being a writer #amwriting #writer #writerslife

 


“You fail only if you stop.”

~ Ray Bradbury


“This is what separates artists from ordinary people: the belief, deep in our hearts, that if we build our castles well enough, somehow the ocean won’t wash them away.”

~ Anne Lamott


“Every human being has hundreds of separate people living under his skin. The talent of a writer is his ability to give them their separate names, identities, personalities, and have them relate to other characters living with him.”

~ Mel Brooks


“Most people carry their demons around with them, buried down deep inside. Writers wrestle their demons to the surface, fling them out onto the page, then call them characters.”

~ C.K. Webb


“The more you leave out, the more you highlight what you leave in.”

~Henry Green


“Which of us has not felt that the character we are reading in the printed page is more real than the person standing beside us?”

~ Cornelia Funke


“The writer’s curse is that even in solitude, no matter its duration, he never grows lonely or bored.”

~ Criss Jami, Killosophy


“Every writer is a frustrated actor who recites his lines in the hidden auditorium of his skull.”

~ Rod Serling


“Writing, real writing, should leave a small sweet bruise somewhere on the writer . . . and on the reader.”

~ Clarissa Pinkola Estés


“Blessed are the weird people:
poets, misfits, writers
mystics, painters, troubadours
for they teach us to see the world through different eyes.”

~ Jacob Nordby, Pearls of Wisdom: 30 Inspirational Ideas to live your best life now

What do you listen to when you write? #writerslife #amwriting

Being quiet

I am guessing not everyone will share my sentiments, but for me, there is great comfort in being quiet when writing. I write best when I am sitting in my little pod office, with the lovely view of trees, and…absolute quiet.

My husband used to be incredibly noisy, which did present some problems on occasion! Recently, he has become an avid reader (he reads way more than I do now!) and I am delighted that he does this in the quiet. For the most part, when I am writing, I am left alone in this noiseless state. I do deviate occasionally, but more on that below…

E.B. White “I never listen to music when I’m working.”

Background chatter

Yes, this is the writing chimp editing in a coffee shop!

I am a self aware introvert. I accept this is what I am. That said, this desire for silence is a little extreme even amongst the introvert brigade. A few years ago I read the aptly named ‘Quiet’ by Susan Cain, a book all about being an introvert. In it, she talks about her writing routine, and she found it more productive to sit in a coffee shop to work on her book. The background chatter, and the unobtrusive presence of people helped her to focus. For her, too much isolation was actually a bad thing.

Pop music

The concept of writing anything of worth while listening to pop music is beyond my comprehension. But E.L. James  found Will.I.Am blasting in the background an inspiration when tackling her ‘naughty’ scenes! Each to their own…

Classics anyone?

Classic music can create a powerful mood in a movie, but what about when we write? I do have a few pieces that I enjoy occasionally when I want to create a pull in a particular emotional direction. I am not alone in this one…

In an interview Edmund White, the writer of award-winning fiction, biographies and memoirs, said he liked to write to chamber music by Debussy, especially the cello sonata.

Chill-out tunes / a beat without words 

This is probably one of my favorite deviations from silence. I love things with a good beat if I’m writing an action scene. It’s a great tool for visualisations!

Ambient music

A final shout out to the ambient music. Birds, wind, waterfalls, waves, the stuff you hear when you go to the spa…if you go to a spa, that kind of thing. Ambient music is all about creating a mood. There is generally no beat to it (although there might be), just drifting notes that (hopefully) create a strong or peaceful mood.

So, what do you write to?

Thoughts and suggestions? Have I missed any obvious ones? What do you like to write to?

To trope or not to trope…when writing become a cliché! #writing #amwriting

Today I want to talk about tropes. When to use them, when not to use them, and the vast gray quagmire that exists between.

What is a literary trope?

In the literary sense, a trope is a common theme, plot point, event or motif within a story.

What is the problem with using a trope?

There is nothing wrong with using a common trope, there are oodles of them out there and we love them, which I will explore in more detail below. The problem is only when they are overused…badly.

They make us groan, switch off, or even reach for the nearest trashcan to dispense of the literary waste.

Overused tropes and writing clichés are boring, disappointing, and leave the reader feeling cheated.

So, we should never use a trope?

Here is where it starts to get a little gray and fuzzy. It’s pretty difficult to think of something completely original and new. Humans take comfort in a story that triggers a familiar spark in our imaginations. Fairy tales and fables are the ultimate tropes, and even as adults we are happy to read them again and again.

Tropes become tropes, well, because fundamentally they are appealing:

  • They present us with the ultimate challenge > zombies hunger for human flesh or aliens experimenting on humans
  • They appeal to our sense of good and happiness > boy meets girl and lives happily ever after 
  • They identify stereotypes > grumpy boss, evil drug kingpin, nerdy IT student

The good the bad and the ugly…😱

“I can’t believe they did that. It was sooooo obvious!

Avoid overused character tropes like the plague!

Many bad tropes relate to characters, not all, but certainly many do. Not every character has to break the stereotypeI used to work in IT and I can definitely confirm that some stereotypes have a foundation in reality! But deviating from cliché characters can deliver amazing results when done right.

Look what happened when a desperate school teacher dying of cancer became a drug kingpin? Walter White is the ultimate anti-trope character and Breaking Bad was a huge success for exactly this reason.

Tropes we still love…Zombies want to eat us

The flesh-eating zombie trope has been, well, done to death if you’ll excuse the pun. But we still love this trope…there are books and books of this trope and I don’t think our enthusiasm for zombies has yet to show signs of decline. Sure, we can mix it up but fundamentally zombies love eating human flesh and we are still reading about it.

Tropes we love to hate…UFO abductions

Unlike the zombie trope, which might still have a little life left, excuse the pun! Aliens abductions has tipped over the other side. A couple of decades ago this might have been more common, but the basic alien abduction is definitely in decline.

Conclusions

A trope, in itself, isn’t a bad thing, avoiding any familiarity in a book or story is near impossible, and the occasional deviation towards trope-land isn’t going to kill your creation…but too much of it will. The subtle ways in which we explore our writing and challenge ourselves when it comes to tropes and clichés can make an average story, great. Not every character has to break the mould, not every plot point has to be unique (nor can it be!), but within those bounds we should strive to remain vigilant for clichés, and enrich our writing with events, people and circumstance that reflect the diverse and surprising nature of real life.

What are your favorite tropes?

What tropes do you love to hate?

Some great articles on tropes…

Six Unrealistic Tropes and How to Avoid Them

5 Clichés To Avoid In Your Fantasy Novel

Ten tropes you’ll find in science fiction – over and over again

Why feedback is so important… #writing #amwriting #writerslife

I was recently reading On Writing by Stephen King. It’s one of those books you dip in and out of and even re-read. While I love his candid style, it is something else within this book that I want to reflect on.

The importance of nurturing young minds

I have always been a reader; my earliest memories are of sitting with my head buried in a book. People would buy me books, my mum in particular bought me a huge number as gifts. I would read my favorites over and over again. I was never much of a writer when young though, and it wasn’t until I left university that I started to dabble in writing myself.

Whenever we come to the writing life, whether as a child, a young adult, or an older adult, we come to it with a measure of vulnerability.


“She (his mother) said it was good enough to be in a book. Nothing anyone has said to me since has made me feel any happier.”

~Stephen King, On Writing.

We all need someone to believe in us.

One someone is usually enough.

Just someone.

Someone whose opinion holds weight, whose opinion matters.

That doesn’t mean feedback should be sugar coated. It must be genuine, and better if it comes from someone who is circumspect with their praise. Most people, young or old, have an inbuilt detector for the disingenuous. False praise will fall flat, but the praise we have worked for will lift us up to a special place.

It’s also about timing. We are all vulnerable at times in our life, and that maybe when we are young like Stephen was when his mother read his first story, and it might equally be when we are older.

So, I am going to amend my above quote and say that there is an importance to nurturing all minds.

All writers are equal and different

I realize everyone is different, and that some writers might need greater nurturing than others. Some might even be comfortable with their own magnificence and need very little nurturing at all.

I think most writers are imperfect perfectionists who are never really satisfied with what they produce and are always seeking to do better.

And I think all writers need someone to believe in them. I know if someone offered me an option to have a hundred dollars or a hundred reviews from people who enjoyed my work,  I would pick the reviews every time.

It doesn’t matter how many books you have written or how successful you are as a writer. Success is subjective, after all. But I love that Stephen Kings greatest source of writerly pride was getting a quarter for his first book from his mother.

Somewhere new! #writing #amwriting

I don’t normally work in the dining area, but it has started to turn chilly in the evenings so I cranked up the log burner. The table just happens to be in comfortable proximity, and I can make the most of the toasty warmth while I write.

Toasty warm!

I also happen to live in a house with walls that look like a castle (and they are about as thick), which creates a good writerly atmosphere. My office doesn’t have the mighty walls so it feels interesting sitting down here for a change.

I’m doing a little rework on my new book this week. Added about 5k to the start after some feedback, and I’m pleased with the way it is going. I love getting beta feedback and I have plenty to work on at the moment before I move on to my next book in the series.

I’ve been playing about with section breaks. I usually write quite small chapters, but this time I’m going larger, and trying POV swopping where the scenes flow into one another. I never realized this was so complex! If you are looking for some information on chapters and section breaks, here are a couple of great articles I found.

7 Methods for Handling Point-of-View Changes

The Secret to Section Breaks

Happy writing 🙂

Holidays, books and being a writer! #writing #amwriting #writerslife

“I’m a writer. My hobbies include not writing.”

I have a bit of a fixation with writing memes, and the above was my favourite from this week. I’ve been on holiday in Brisbane for the last 10 days, and even though I’m on holiday I’ve found it hard to tear myself away from my story. I was sitting in a coffee shop, doing the final read of book 3 from my trilogy before hitting publish, when this meme popped up. Needless to say, it made me chuckle.

I dabbled in writing for so many years before I published, and the moment I did publish it was like BOOM I’m addicted. I really don’t have any other hobbies now…except walking or maybe gardening, because walking and gardening mean you can still think about writing!

Win, win!

Some pictures from my Brisbane trip…

Enoggera, QLD…yes, that is me and not the back of a random person!
South Brisbane Foreshore
South Brisbane Foreshore
Cute Koala at the Lonepine Koala sanctuary
Botanical Gardens, Brisbane
Toowoomba, QLD

The end of the Divided World…not quite so divided anymore…more of a…well, you’ll have to read it to find out 😉

It’s taken me nearly 18 months, but I’m finally at the end of the trilogy with the 3rd book out on Amazon in print, and ebook on pre-order!
There will definitely be more adventures for Tanis and perhaps even spin-offs, but for now I’m starting a new series.
Such a great feeling to get to the end. And super excited about the next chapter…pun intended

For those who love sci-fi with a touch of fantasy and a lot of conflict!

Divided Serenity (Divided World Book One)
http://hyperurl.co/yfi7m2

 

 

Serenity Falling (Divided World Book Two)
https://hyperurl.co/1j9tol

 

 

Revealing Serenity (Divided World Book Three)
Available on pre-order
https://hyperurl.co/ja0qrt

Using Third Person vs First Person Novel POV (Survey)

So far I have always used third person in my own work, but I have often wondered about giving first person a go…and I read lots of both.

What’s your preference? And why?

It’s been a while since we had a survey! 🙂

A great article on the subject.

Using Third Person vs First Person Novel Narratives (Link)