For the Writer in your life…

Writers deserve Special attention

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When thinking about gifts few of us balk at flowers and chocolates, but your writer may be hoping for something a little more writerly, something that will push them a little closer to their goals. Here are a few ideas to tantalise the taste buds.

The ultimate gift for any writer is the time to write. An hour when the kids are safely occupied; a full day of peace and quiet; a whole weekend when the dishes are done, the phone doesn’t ring and the dog doesn’t bark. And many words on the page. Bliss.

Running a very close second to time is space to write. A tidy space in the corner of a room, to a purpose built studio in the garden. Or perhaps partitioning a space in the shed; somewhere with a dedicated desk and room for a notebook and pens. And a coffee mug, a comfy chair and maybe a view. Why not combine the two and gift your writer, or yourself, time at a Writers Retreat? These are optimised for writerly use and comfort.

A writer will never say no to a book. Book Her Mother's Secret by Natasha LesterA classic, a first edition. And before  you complain about the pile building at the side of the bed, how about that much needed shelf or even a bookcase? Say these words: “A writer can never have too many books.” Repeat as needed.

The same goes for notebooks, the prettier or more handsome the better. One for every nook and cranny; remember, ideas pop up any place, any time. Oh and don’t forget the waterproof notepad for the bathroom.

Subscriptions to literary magazines are a must have for writers everywhere. If the postman grumbles about the weight, there is usually an online version

A membership  to a Writers Society will keep the juices flowing, not to mention tickets to lectures or favourite author talks. How about travel and accommodation to a Writers Festival? Now you’re talking.

After a session of writing nothing quite suits as much as a soothing massage, or a soak in the bath – don’t skimp on the oils. Candle, bath balls, bath salts

Ok, now this is a big one. When your writer asks to share ideas, thoughts and writing, use honesty with your feedback. It’s not a case of “do I look fat in this?” when you are obliged to say “no, of course not.” Think carefully about your response. The best answer is constructive and honest.

Please feel free to add to my list, I love to hear new ideas.

 

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A writer simply writes. Right?

Someone hears you are a writer and they say “oh it must be great to sit down and write, so much fun.” Because that’s what we do; window-192242_1280sit at our desks watching our story play out on the page while sunlight through lacy curtains casts delicate patterns of dappled light and shade…right? No. No, no, no.

Why not? A writer must simply sit with pen and paper and the words will flow seamlessly onto the page. How I wish. Or maybe I don’t. That actually sounds a little boring. How about the struggling penniless writer in a loft in Paris, trying to keep fingers warm by candlelight. Romantic? Mmmm, a little too Dickensian.

So what is the reality? If  writing is not like this, what is in the Writer’s Job Description?

 

  • Reading copiously – yes this is in the job description. IMG_2055Read in your genre, read the classics, read not in your genre, read whatever interests you. Read.
  • Research. Where is the story set? When? Is fashion a factor?
  • Snatching moments to write while working the day job and juggling family commitments.
  • Editing – because no one else does that for free.
  • Editing again and again and again…
  • Struggling with Imposter Syndrome. Ok this isn’t exclusive to writers but it is real.
  • Fielding questions from friends and foe like, “Have you written anything I have read?”
  • Keeping up with social media connections. Someone out there will want to read your words.
  • Looking for those notes you scribbled at 3am and maybe that is what the cat is now throwing up under the bed.
  • Making the time to write.
  • Finding somewhere to write.
  • Trying to keep those ideas in your head while negotiating peak hour traffic.
  • Making yourself accept that though you haven’t written a word on your Work In Progress for days, you are a writer because of the above and more.
  • Reciting this mantra daily –

I am a Writer

I am a Writer

I am a Writer

I could add more to the list, but if you can relate to a few of the points above, guess what? Yep. You are a writer.

 

 

Writin’ 9 to 5…

A recent article in a national newspaper bemoaned the fact that the working day has gone beyond the 9-5, Monday to Friday realm with the advent of the much maligned digital age.

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I understand the journalist’s point that emails and texts from the boss or client or even the colleague, can and do invade the weekend junior footy match…if we allow them to. These pieces of digital masterpieces have an off button. But what about those of us who write? And do not try to tell me that writing is not a job. Let’s ponder this from a creative writer’s point of view; to wonder how many writers have ever or do stick to that Mon-Fri rule? With no consequences.

Notwithstanding the absolute necessity of social media, how many of us are able or willing to turn off our writing for the weekend? The whole weekend, every weekend.

A full time writer may be able to; those who work to a writing schedule on a daily basis (please sprinkle some of your discipline laced fairy dust in my direction), might be able to put the pen down to have a life for the rest of the day or week. But how do they stop the ideas from popping into their mind? Ah ha. No. They can’t, just like the rest of us they are unable to put them aside because it is Saturday and hope to pick them up again Monday at 9am.fullsizeoutput_5ed

This is not a new problem for writers; something which happened with the advent of emails, texts and twitter. There are ways to manage those, but if anyone has managed to stop the ideas and the manic rush for a scrap of paper at 3am on a Sunday, or even a crayon for the bathroom wall at shower time, I would like to hear from them.

What’s in a name…

Can the name of a character make or break how we react to or even write them? We all know the Rose reference in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, but do names have an effect on how we see people, read characters or even write them?

In a recent post, a well known author mentioned that she now had the name of her character; she could begin to write her on the page. She was now real to her.

This struck a chord with me, or more correctly jolted a light bulb moment. I am in the process of editing my WIP but during the actual writing process up to and including this point I have not felt I know my protagonist well. As well as I should; I mean I know her story and her emotional journey, I know what she looks like and I can hear the sound of her voice, but I don’t feel a closeness that I experience with the other characters. Now I feel I know why. I haven’t chosen her forever name.

My protagonist’s name is Victoria. Before that she was Kate. But she isn’t either one of those and in the back of my mind I have known that I will change her name. When the time comes. I realise now that time was at the beginning. The relationship between myself and this character is crucial to her story and I have been keeping her at bay, at arms length by not giving her her ‘real’ name.

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Not to get all Shakespearian but a rose by any  other name is still a rose, right? Still as beautiful and fragrant? This might be true for the rose but to hark back to my original question – do names have an effect on how we see people, read characters or even write them? I believe so.

Look at the names of past fictional heroines – Emma, Elizabeth, Jane, Anna…these names still invoke ideas of old fashioned feminine strength and at least internal beauty. So how to choose the right name for my character? A baby name book? Go through the alphabet? Is she like someone I know? I haven’t had this problem in the past but I know that this time round I have to get it right.

Let me know if you suffer the same problem, or maybe you find it easy? Well, I am off to find my protagonist’s forever name. Wish me luck.

Bookshop Addiction-there is no cure.

Do you admit to bookshop addiction? I do. Openly, blissfully I admit to my affliction.

And there is no cure. I know; I have done the studies. No. Cure.

When you enter those hallowed walls, how do you browse the shelves? What is your process? Do you head straight for your genre, despite looking for a gift for someone else? Do you start at the back and work forward? Or do you mix it up a little?

I start at the beginning. At the very front. Those tables piled with temptation; the specials tables, then the new releases. Oh… the joy of picking the latest by a favourite author. Beyond these to the crime, romance, literature. There is the classic I have been looking for. On to the self help which does nothing to salve my addiction.

The children’s section, cooking and wine. Art and memoir. My pulse quickened back at Australian Classics and my doctor would seriously disapprove of the level my blood pressure has reached. I have enough to feed my addiction for the moment. It is time to go.

Have you noticed most registers are never quite at the front of the store? Nor in the middle or the back? No. So as not to impede your progress, they know their best spot is to the side, set back a little; not too obvious but where you will see them, ready to transfer your treasures into a brown paper bag while they feed their spoils of your addiction into the till.

I confess to something a little peculiar; I pick the book behind the first one. So I buy a pristine copy. It’s like the top one is sacrificed for the good of the rest. Unless I am browsing a second hand bookshop. That’s a whole other story.

My habit is out of control; I have browsed many a bookshop and below are a few of my favourites. There’s a common thread in these; heritage buildings, high timber shelves, careful lighting. And those library ladders!

New modern shops with their bright lights and garish posters – not for the seriously addicted, clearly. No, the serious addict doesn’t want their affliction flaunted in places such as these. Give us the low light, soft murmurs, and that smell. You know what I mean. Breathe it in and exhale slowly.

Are your characters loveable?

Should we always write loveable characters? Or even likeable?

I recently received constructive feedback on a short story I entered into a competition. One of the comments “…this successfully built empathy for her situation whilst allowing one to dislike her for…” led me to wonder how many times a character I have had empathy for, or even a person I have met, I have disliked despite that empathy.’Empathy’ and ‘like’ don’t necessarily go hand in hand.

Not long after this I listened to a great interview with Dutch writer Hermann Koch who has written best selling novels with distinctly unlikeable characters and was thereafter involved in an impromptu discussion about the emotions raised during and after reading the Neapolitan series by Elena Ferrante. How cross one reader was with the protagonist despite empathy for her situation.

That really is what writing a good story is about, isn’t it? Raised emotions and reactions, for the story to remain with us after we finish reading it?

Who are likeable characters and what makes them so? Anne of Green Gables?A rascallyClark Gablerogue with a handsome face and twinkle in his eye, a smile that sweeps you off your feet? A beautiful femme fatale who takes the bullet for the hero? I seem to be channeling 50s gangster movies. Bridget Jones? How about the Artful Dodger or Nancy, from Oliver Twist? Oliver goes without saying.

Our characters ought to have some redeeming features, or we would all put the story away pretty quickly.These will be in the eye of the reader and the skill of the writer. How differently is a character seen or interpreted between the mind and words of the writer and the eyes of the reader? A lot I think. Our readers are individuals and as such react, well, individually. They may not appreciate the depth of the character we as writers have slaved over.

So, must we always write likeable characters? Obviously not as the best selling status of the above mentioned authors attest. We must write flawed characters, but how deeply do we portray these flaws? We don’t want to turn our readers away. Should the protagonist be likeable and the antagonist not, because by the meaning of the word they are there to be Harper Lee booksdisliked. In one of my favourite books, To Kill  A Mocking Bird, Atticus is a warm, loveable character. However, in the recently released Go Set A Watchman, he is the antagonist; but so cleverly written by Harper Lee I am still a big fan.

What type of characters do you prefer to read? Maybe it depends on your mood at the time. After an exhausting day you might look forward to something warm and cosy with a happy ending. Or on a bleak wintry day you might want to fire yourself up with a deeply flawed character set on saving the world the hard way.

And do we write the sort of characters we like to read? After all we are in their heads a long time; we can even become them.

Back where all this began -did I like my character in the short story, do I like her now?  I’m not going to tell you, but if you would like to find out for yourself whether you might like her, I have attached a link here.

A quick note – this story, Invisible,  was placed 34th out of 251 entries; the first 31 were published. I am happy with that, and have chosen not to rewrite that story, yet; instead to move on and use their feedback on a current WIP. So the story you may be about to read is there warts and all.

 

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Kindling II – a valuable writer’s tool

I have said before that I am not a reviewer, but when I come across a work I enjoy I am compelled to share my thoughts. And I enjoyed Kindling II, an anthology produced and published by Writer’s Edit, very much.

From the blurb on the back of the book-

over 30 deeply personal and inspiring works of fiction, creative non-fiction, poetry, and industry advice from Australian and international literary talent.”

I could not say than any one of the stories was more powerful than another, but I will admit to being brought to tears reading Friedrich’s Goat by Rosalind Moran, and Dear Perfect Stranger by Karen Morrow caused me to emit an ‘Oh’ out loud as I finished it. And the poetry, well let me just say it left me in awe.

This is a volume of works I will return to, not only for the pleasure of reading it over, but for the valuable insider knowledge and tips, such as the piece by Kyla Bagnall – Unsolicited to Solicited, which covers topics from the value of literary agents and how to find one, competitions, pitching to networking.

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Other pages bookmarked are – The Waiting Game: Strategies for patience in the Publishing Industry by Alison Jean Lester (as in patience post-submission) and Writing a Perfect Query Letter by Benjamin Stevenson. (I loved the date analogy throughout this).

 

 

 

Kindling II is not only a valuable tool for writers but those who read for pleasure will not be disappointed. A perfect companion to Kindling I.