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.

 

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If Anthony Trollope can do it, or 117,000 words 15 mins at a time.

In my last post I told you that I was easily distracted from writing, in reality suffering from the chronic malaise of procrastination. Then how did I manage to write more than 117,000 words in eight months you ask? Glad you asked.

When I began my draft last year, I set myself a goal of 1000 words a day in order to achieve at least 80,000 words. This was also dependent on writing every day. What could possibly go wrong? Four months in and I was way behind. I was lucky to write 1000 words in 1 week at times.

Let me explain my procrastination problem. My overlying issue is that I do not put my writing before all else; before the housework, a good book, the dog, friends, family, social media, the new adult colouring fad… you get the picture. And then the guilt sets in and the self chastising and before you know it another day has gone by and no writing. (And probably no housework either, but I didn’t tell you that.)

This old dog is not good at learning new tricks, so the problem is not going to go away any time soon. What to do? By chance I came across a post about this very issue. (Surprise surprise, again with the procrastination.)

Apparently, prolific author, Anthony Trollope, managed to churn out so many books because he made himself write 250 words in 15 minute time slots for 3 hours every day. I am no Trollope and there is no way I would find 3 hours in my day. But this piqued my interest.

Anyway long story short, I said to myself, ‘Self, it is only 15 minutes, you don’t have to find an hour or more in one sitting.’ So I set the timer for 15 minutes and wrote. Or typed. For 15 minutes non stop. Of course it would need editing, it was a draft for goodness sake. BUT I always managed more than 250 words in each sitting. Sometimes I would leave it and set aside another 15 minutes later in the day, or I would immediately set the timer again and go for it.

Because I realised I would still not manage to write every day, this method was perfect and worked wonders. My self esteem, my sense of achievement, raised itself a notch as my goal of 1000 words was easily met, and often beaten, in up to four sessions on any given writing day.  And my goal of 80,000 words? See for yourself.

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If I can do it, anyone can. Enjoy and happy writing.

 

Stephen King is one, Margaret Atwood is another…

It has been a long dry spell between drinks as they say. In my case between writing posts to this blog.

My feeble excuse is that I have been working on the draft of my work in progress, and I managed to finish it on cue just before Christmas.

For me this was both a milestone and huge learning curve. I learned a few things about myself during this time, or to be more accurate, confirmed what I already knew- that I am easily distracted (otherwise known as procrastination), and that I am a proud, flag carrying PANTSER. (Not that I would classify myself with the ilk of Stephen King and Margaret Atwood. )

Pantser Loose Definition: a person who prefers to write by the seat of their pants without a plan or an outline. There are variations on the theme but you get the drift.

I have tried the other way. In fact I joined an online writing course during this period but failed miserably to fulfill their dream of my potential. There was nothing wrong with the way they taught the course, but I was unable to do as they asked; submit planned outlines and scenes until after the event. That is, until after I had written them. Why? Because I didn’t know what was going to happen until I had written it. (Much like my posts to this blog.) And going backwards was, well a backward step for me.

IMG_1768I admire writers who have it all planned out, with data cards pinned to their wall in order of outline; their chapters neatly named ready to be filled by equally neat scenes. Mine have yellowed, the writing faded, covered with pictures of the dog.

People have sometimes been aghast that I don’t know what is going to happen. But I tell them it is like reading a book; you don’t know what it going to happen until you read it. And that is what makes it exciting.

 

 

When My Muse Procrastinates

Finding the muse, struggling for new ideas, fighting distraction, inspiration lost, writer’s block. We have all been there, that place where we fear we have lost our mojo. There is much written on this subject and many accomplished writers have prepared lists of what they find most useful for breaking the cycle and boosting their own creativity.

Not everything on these lists appeals to me – this body is not built for yoga, for example – so I was compelled to look at the ways I deal with distraction, to solve a character or plot problem, to even actually getting started some days. My list is in no particular order because I find my emotional and physical energy levels will affect which one/s works for me. (In other words which one I can be bothered doing).

1. Escape to a cafe, a museum, a gallery

One of my favourites. This morning I sat in a cafe to prepare notes for this post. I watched people pass, sit and move on. The red haired man covered in tattoos scratching his leg ferociously; a recent tat gone wrong? The shabbily dressed, proud elderly man with a slow limping gait. He Western Australian Museummay have survived a POW camp. The 2 young mums chatting over coffee. One dressed simply and expensively with immaculate hair and makeup, her child quiet and happy; the other frazzled but trying to hide it, her clothes thrown on at the last minute, hair falling out of it’s clip, child throwing his cake at her. Sisters? Old school friends? What choices led to their different journeys?

I might visit an art gallery, an exhibition, even weekend markets. Somewhere I am exposed to different areas of creativity which help get me into the mood and to feel at my most inspired and creative.

2. Take a walk

Walking has solved many a problem for me, I’m just not that great at it. While I know that walking is good for mind and body, walking shoesI often have a pretty good argument against it. I am also one of those people who gets bored on a walk around the neighbourhood, so my smart phone is my best companion. Music, radio or a podcast and by the time I am home again I have solved the issue of whether Miranda should meet Jean Louis in Paris or Sebastion in London. It is also a great way to smell the roses from time to time. Or the seaweed and salt if a beach walk is more the thing.

3. Morning Shower (or whenever)

waterproof notes

This might sound odd but for some reason my mind unleashes when I am in the shower. It’s a bit like being in an enclosure with the outside world shut out for a while. When I found these waterproof notebooks I was in seventh heaven. Because I lose ideas quickly if I don’t write them down. The downside is I can emerge a lot more wrinkled than when I started.

4. Enjoy Nature

Winding down, relaxing, getting my thoughts together is easier, and all the more enjoyable, if I can sit under the shade of a big tree and listen to the birds chat and Looking up into a treethe leaves mingle. Watching the canopy move against the sky can mesmerise and clear my mind, giving me room to start again and fill it with ideas on how to begin the next part of my story, or just start.

5. Write everyday – even if it is junk.

“Start writing no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.” Louis L’Amour. (I admit I had to look him up.) but he is right. I just pick up the pen and write. Anything. What I am seeing through the window, what scents waft in. I can hear the sound of a lawn mower fighting the cries of the galahs in the trees. How does the pen feel on the paper. Why does the buttery croissant taste so good right now?

6. Read – Anything

As writers we are encouraged to read widely, especially in the genre we hope to be published. I need no excuse to do this, usually with two books on the go at once. This is therapy, enabling me to travel to different places, inhabit other minds and often inspires me to put the book down and put my imagination to use on my own project. I also love to read what other writers have to say. McSweeneys.net is a good place to get lost in.

7. Mind Mapping

I keep a scrap book and markers handy. This is a fun activity and I am often surprised at where I end up. Basically, start with a question or an idea in the mindmapmiddle of the page and branch out from there with associated thoughts and ideas. A bit like a tree or a spider. Let your mind go and write whatever comes to mind. Try this website,  Mindmapping,  for help if you haven’t tried it.

8. Try just one thing from this list or a different list.

Then share it. I would love to know what works for you.

Oh, and 9. TURN OFF THE INTERNET FOR AN HOUR.

Self explanatory.

6 excuses not to be a writer – and how to turn them around

When I tell friends and acquaintances that I write, so often they say – “I would love to write, but…” We all have excuses not to write, not to even start.  I used them. Most likely you did too. Excuses are not valid reasons.

So how to turn these excuses around and send them packing? In this post I share what worked for me, what made me pick up that pen and just go for it.

First and foremost, give yourself permission to write. This can be the biggest hurdle, too often we put our needs last. Believe in yourself, put you first and say ‘YES.’

No 1. I wouldn’t know where to start

Enroll in a writing course. This is the first thing I did when I finally gave myself permission to write. Enrol in a community college class or, if you want to be less visible, look online, whatever works best for you.  Start with the basics. I found these beneficial – Australian Writers Centre, The Writers Studio and UWA Extension, however there are many, many others.

Read, read, read.

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This is probably the one most important piece of advice I received and that I can pass on to you. Read the genre you want to write in. But do also read other genres. Join a book club, join a library. Expand on your reading experience. Pretty soon you might say to yourself – “I could write that.”

Pick up a pen and paper and just do it.

Notebook and fountain pensWrite junk. About anything. Write what you see outside the window. What can you hear, smell? Use all your senses and don’t worry what goes on the page. No one will see it except you. Throw it away after if it makes you feel better. But do it every day.

Join a writing group. There is so much support out there for new writers. Search ‘writing groups in your area’. Go on. I dare you.

 Attend Writers Festivals. This is my favourite thing to do. These are a mecca for writers and readers alike. Writers are there to promote themselves and their work and they offer much in the way of encouragement to those of us on our own journey to being published. Soak up the ambience and escape to another world with like minded people. Here is a link to a piece I wrote after the Perth Writers Festival 2015.

2. I don’t have the time

SunsetTime is on the move, don’t waste it.

Do you really have to watch the twentieth repeat of (insert here your favourite TV show)? That’s 30 minutes you could have been writing.

Do you commute by public transport? That’s twice a day you could be writing.

Get up 30 minutes earlier, go to bed 30 minutes later.

An hour lunch break? (Lucky you) Squeeze in 30 minutes of writing.

Once a month ask your partner to take the kids out for the day. Write. Do the same for him/her.

3. I don’t have a place to write

You don’t need a huge space to write. Grab a corner of the dining table.

Large oak treeSit under a tree. Go to the library or your favourite coffee shop. Your lap. As long as you can fit your notebook on it you can write.

Some days I escape the distraction of a dirty house, and crave a quiet spot. My local library is perfect. And there is a lovely cafe close by. What more do you need? Supposedly, the Potter books were written in a cafe on napkins. We all know what came next… (I know, but it makes for a good story, right?)

4. I don’t know what to write about

Stories are everywhere. Who is the person under the Santa suit? A friendly Granddad or a serial killer? Maybe he murdered the last Santa and is hiding out. Sorry, didn’t mean to scare you off Santas, but…

The homeless man on the station platform, the girl with the purple hair and the tears in her eyes on the bus. The old lady who walks down the road at the same time every day. They all have stories.

Write about the happiest event of your childhood, or the saddest. There is a story in you.

5. I couldn’t write a whole book

So don’t. Write a short story. Write a poem. Dig out those essays you wrote at school. Rehash them, rewrite them. They were good and they can be again.

PastedGraphic-10Enter competitions. I did and was lucky enough to have 3 short stories published. Some are free but most will ask a small reading fee. One of the benefits of many of the competitions is the feedback.

Stringybark Stories is a small publisher who runs regular competitions across varied genres, and there are many others. You can be anonymous and receive genuine feedback.

6. I am too old to write

The worst one of them all. You have sent the kids out to the wild beyond, you are winding down to retirement and you plan to sit and wither away waiting for someone to call? I think not. You especially, have a lifetime of experience to explore. Use it.

I am the world’s worst procrastinator, but at 59 I have 3 short stories published and at the time of writing this post, am 28,000 words into the 2nd draft of a novel.

Books by Mary WesleyMary Wesley, Laura Ingells-Wilder, Frank McCourt, Harriet Doerr, to name just a few, were all late-comers.

Maybe you just want to write for your own pleasure, you’re not ready to share your words. Keep a journal. Fill a notebook.

If you have ever once in your life said to yourself, “I want to write something”, then do it.

Perth Writers Festival 2015

The Perth Writers Festival is over for another year and for me it abounded with inspiration, warmth, fun and fantastic weather. It is one of the highlights of my year, I anticipate the next one for months before it occurs and live off the memories for months after. Yes I am a ‘tragic’.

Australian writers and illustrators from all genres mixed, mingled and debated with equally illustrious writers from overseas to bring their expertise to packed audiences. Tropical garden to airconditioned tents to theatres, the venues were as diverse as the guests. Kudos to the hosts, the University of Western Australia, whose grounds and beautiful buildings, as ever, proved the perfect venue for such an event. PeacockTo the left is one of the resident peacocks who kept me company for much of my downtime between sessions.

So many writers, so hard to choose a favourite. Elizabeth Gilbert oozed warmth and insight while Graham Simsion greeted his audiences on entry with chocolates; his wit, charm and intellect held us spellbound during sessions which passed too quickly. Liane Moriarty, Peter Docker, Inga Simpson to literally name just a few among such an exciting group of Australian writers.

I sometimes wonder what draws others to Writers Festivals. The demographic is predominantly female seniors, strongly Caucasian. But the multicultural mix is improving which is great to see. And family day is a joy to observe. There is a minority, however, who test my patience. The self promoters in the audiences who, at question time, purport to know more about the writer and why they wrote the book than the writer themselves. To the frustration of the rest of the audience and perhaps even the author. I swear there is at least one of these in every session. (end of rant).

I know why I am there. To learn, to be inspired, to be awed; to soak up the ambiance and float home afterwards, my mind full.

(originally written earlier in the year for my own personal use)

#pwf15 @paulinewrites

Point of View – which is best?

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Recently I submitted a brief breakdown of scenes of the first chapter of my WIP. While the feedback was great, it was pointed out that not all scenes were in the Protagonist’s Point of View. The feedback went on to explain that it is more difficult to write from a multiple POV. The risk is that the reader may no longer relate to the protagonist, and indeed might lose any empathy for this character. This is especially difficult for a novice writer and I might want to rethink the scenes in question.

This was sage advice, however I had not deliberately set out to write this way, in fact I did not realize I had until then. Naturally I was concerned but as I read through my scenes and placed them in the big picture of my story, I began to wonder if they shouldn’t stay. In this novel I include several characters whose lives interact with both the protagonist and antagonist. Their own stories play out around these two. My challenge then is to keep to the rules of this POV and not confuse or bore the readers.

What to do? So off to the bookshelf to dust off the books on writing, and of course to the trusty Internet to seek answers, the rules… and maybe justification. There are many and varied websites and one I found particularly helpful is http://www.scribophile.com and of course I also checked in with Orson Scott Card, author of Characters & Viewpoint.

Nowhere did I find a commandment telling me Thou shall not write multiple third person POV because you are a novice writer. But I did find rules so I don’t stuff it up.

Salient Points

  • Multiple POV provides the ability to be inside each character’s head, to grow that character and for the reader to get intimate with that character
  • Not all of the characters need their own scene
  • The writer can build suspense by revealing something the protagonist doesn’t know, like watching the teenager about to walk through the door and we know the crazy guy with the chainsaw is waiting on the other side.
  • Rule of thumb – stick to one POV per scene, don’t head-hop by mistake – the writer must stay in the one character’s head for the whole scene.

So I guess my research has validated my subconscious choice, but will this prove to be my downfall when it comes to publishing my novel? Stay tuned.

@paulinewrites