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.

 

 

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.

Everything I write is s**t

I am currently going through the ‘everything I write is s**t’ phase, and that includes stories I have had published. I mean, what would they know?

This phase leads to the ‘why am I even bothering’ stage, hand in hand with the ‘I am wasting my time’ phase. Sound familiar?

What sets this in motion? Procrastination? Reading something awesome and profound by a fellow writer that we know we will never emulate? The phases of the moon? Or just a general dip in our biorhythms; a funk? If I had the answer I could probably write a book on it.

So what to do?

pexels-photo-47444For starters, get up and stop sulking. Next, move away from that computer and note book! Now, set yourself a task you know is achievable and /or short. Like doing the dishes, or going for a walk. Load the washing  machine or read a chapter of your favourite book. Weed the path. Whatever it is finish it. Achievement!

Now, tell yourself you can write. You are a writer. I. CAN’T. HEAR. YOU. That’s better. You are one of a big wonderful group of writers who go through this same phase over and over again.

Self doubt is a kicker. It sneaks up on  us when we least expect it and we let it in. And it wants to stay. Don’t let it. Kick it back. In fact, kick it out. It will come back, like the proverbial bad penny, but next time you will be prepared; you will shut the door in it’s face before it gets the whole foot in.

In a timely moment before I was ready to post this, I read Charlotte Wood’s article in The Australian, written after she was awarded the Stella Prize 2016 for her novel The Natural Way of Things. She writes of almost giving up because no one would want to read it. And why and how she didn’t give up. So glad she didn’t.

 

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