My Nanowrimo Tip #5

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Siblinghood of the World Blogger Award – my responses

I’ve been nominated by Beverley Lee to answer the following questions as part of the Siblinghood of the World Blogger awards. I answer 10 questions, then I pose 10 more questions to 10 more bloggers. Here we go…

Your favourite author is going to call you for a once in a lifetime chance to talk. You can only ask them one question. Who is the author and what is the question? Why?

I can’t narrow it down to one writer.

The more I grow as a writer, I realise we all share the same self-doubt and struggles with wrangling our stories. So the one question I’d like to ask all writers I admire is…

When did you feel like a “real” writer?

Which fictional character would you want as a friend, and why?

Which fictional character would you want as a friend, and why?

Nightingale from the Rivers Of London series. I want my own immortal magical mentor with impeccable pre-war dress sense. I imagine him being like Bill Nighy.

List three books you’ve read more than three times.

  • Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
  • Anno Dracula by Kim Newman
  • The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen.

How’s that for a weird combo.

Who would you say is your greatest writing influence in terms of your own style?

I think my influences are from the opposite side. I know what I dislike, so I avoid that type of writing. I have a background in the corporate world and business writing, so my style is simple. I don’t like overly flowery writing because I’m a lazy reader. The style is important to my reading pleasure. Some styles (and writers) do my head in and so I quickly switch to something cleaner.

What are you working on at the minute?

Starting today, I’m writing the next novella in my Evangeline steampunk series. This novella is about seances and spiritualists.

Which actor/actress would you like to see playing the lead character from your most recent book?

She is in serious trouble of being typecast, but from the recent Dr Who episodes playing Ashildr/Me, I can absolutely see Maisie Williams as my character Alga from the Monolith series.

How important is a book cover to you? Would it influence you over the back blurb?

A good cover is so bloody important. There are some serious ugly covers out there, especially in the self-publishing world, but I’ll admit, often I don’t read the back blurb. There have been many times when I’ve been wowed by an early plot twist, then later on read the back blurb.

Before I buy or borrow (library love), I have to read a page at random. There are certain flowery styles of writing which I can’t handle (see above answer).

If you could live in one fictional world, where would you live?

China Mieville’s Bas-Lag world from Perdido Street Station. What’s not to like …aliens, steampunk and magic. Mieville’s world building is crazy detailed and luscious. I feel I could step right into the pages and live there.

Do you let other people borrow your books?

Absolutely. Words and books are to be shared. Share the love.

Books have some of the most wonderful quotes among them. Which is one of your favourite quotes, and why does it resonate with you?

Let’s go back to my favourite kooky melodramatic Canadian redhead.

It’s been my experience that you can nearly always enjoy things if you make up your mind firmly that you will.

Thank you Anne Shirley and L.M. Montgomery.

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My Ten Questions

  1. When did you feel like a “real” writer?
  2. How do you overcome resistance?
  3. What advice would you give yourself as a wannabe writer?
  4. Do you prefer writing or editing?
  5. What part of the writing process do you struggle with the most?
  6. Do you Nanowrimo?
  7. What authors do you follow on social media?
  8. What’s more important to you; a good plot or beautiful writing?
  9. Do you take yourself on artist’s dates? What do you do?
  10. When friends and family ask “can I read your book?” What do you say?

My 10 nominated bloggers

Confessions of a writer tag

I’ve been tagged by Aura Eadon to answer the following questions arising from Nicolette Elzie‘s blog.

When did you first start writing? Was being a writer something you always aspired to be?

Aside from the grey period when law school sucked out all the joy, I’ve always loved books and reading. But I never thought I could be a writer. I wasn’t creative or deep enough. Yet the need to create stories niggled at me for years. I’ve done Nanowrimo, attended a few short courses and produced five or six half-finished novels but never had the confidence to take myself seriously. Then during some maudlin navel gazing, I realised writing a novel was my life’s ambition. So I decided to get serious and come out as a writer.

What genre do you write?

I like to make stuff up so speculative fiction is my genre. A bit sci-fi but no spaceships. A bit fantasy but no ‘chosen ones’. I’ve tried writing in other genres (urban fantasy, crime etc) but the stories did not feel right. It did not feel like me. Speculative fiction is a comfy place to be.

Can you tell us a little about your current work in progress? When did you start working on this project?

I’ve got a full production line going with four or five pieces in various stages of drafting, editing and resting. My Monolith trilogy has been my main focus for the past eighteen months but I’m taking a break and currently working on a set of steampunk YA novellas set in 1880s Melbourne. My heroine is a 17 year old ex-pickpocket and acrobat now living in the Colonies with her long-lost father.

What was your first piece that you can remember writing? What was it about?

There was the cringe inducing poetry published in the school magazine, featuring thinly veiled phallic imagery. Good times.

What’s the best part about writing?

Reaching the magical flow state, when the story takes over and ideas appear out of nowhere. I am just the implement recording the words on the page. It’s pretty damn cool.

What’s the worst part about writing?

When everything I write is a steaming pile of poo and the vicious voices whisper in my ear, telling I have no talent and I’m wasting my time.

What’s the name of your favourite character and why?

Anne of Green Gables. Manic, kooky and fragile, she leaps from the page. She’s the inspiration for my steampunk heroine, Evangeline. Although in real life, Anne would get on my nerves. Such a drama queen.

How much time a day/week do you get to write? When is the best time for you to write (morning or night)?

I’m one of those annoying A-type personalities. Since I decided to get serious, I write or edit every day. But writing is my happy place. In an ideal world, I’d spend every morning writing. But in real life, I write whenever and where ever I get a chance.

Did you go to college for writing?

Nope. I’m ambivalent about writing degrees. For me, writing is about discipline and practice. Can those skills be taught in a class at university? I’ve done short courses in the past. Now I read writing reference books and try to read critically.

What bothers you more: spelling errors, punctuation errors or grammar errors?

Spelling errors. They stand out like a big angry zit.

What is the best writing advice that anyone has given you?

“The most important thing about art is to work. Nothing else matters except sitting down every day and trying.” – Steven Pressfield

What advice would you give to another writer?
  1. First drafts are always shit – go Hemingway!
  2. Stop talking about writing and write
  3. The real work starts after you’ve finished the first draft
What are your favourite writing sites or blogs that you turn to for help, tips or encouragement?

The Creative Penn, Story Grid, Steven Pressfield, Chuck Wendig. Encouragement comes from the brilliant Monthly Writing Challenge crew on Twitter.

Besides writing, what else do you enjoy doing? What are your hobbies?

I spend a lot of time in my head and sitting on my bum, so I try to balance this out with walking, running and weight training. I love to lose myself in books and films.

What’s the best book you’ve read this year?

Three way tie between Perdido Street Station – China Mieville, Parable of the Sower – Octavia E Butler and Sunne in Splendour – Sharon Penman. Speculative fiction in three different ways.

What is the best movie you’ve seen this year?

Cheap Thrills – a twisted movie about what people will do for money.

What is your favourite book or series of all time?

Of all time? Too hard. Currently I’m into Ben Aaronovitch’s Rivers of London series. Recently completed Book 5 – Foxglove Summer and anxiously awaiting #6.

Who is your favourite author?

Depends on the direction of the wind and what I’ve had for breakfast. I’ve mentioned a few authors above. Other honourable mentions include Val McDermid, CJ Sansom and Michael Robotham.

What are your plans for the rest of the year in terms of your writing?

Hopefully to start querying my Monolith trilogy by the end of the year. Exciting times. Wish me luck!

Where else can we find you online?

Twitter

Goodreads

Consider yourselves tagged.

Sara General

Mollie Smith

Annelisa Christensen

Mattias Ahlvin

What you are your thoughts on the questions above?

Three ways to kickstart a writing session

Sit down, open my laptop, crack my knuckles and go!

And then stare at the blank page…sometimes, it’s not that easy to get going.

Here’s a couple of other things I do before I start writing –

  • stretch my body to get the blood flowing,
  • invite the Muse to visit me and then
  • a few writing warm-ups.

Stretch

Whether a few yoga poses, some arm circles or a walk around the block, I need a bit of movement before I put fingers to keyboard.

Have you got a spare three minutes? Here’s a little three minute video of Japanese morning calisthenics (also known as raijo taiso). I do this every morning to knock out the kinks. Apparently, raijo taiso is broadcast across Japan every morning. Originally part of an insurance company campaign in the 1920s, it is still popular today. Some say, it is the secret to the spritely Japanese elders.

Ode to the Muse

Next, I invite the Muse to join me with my writing.

This is the beginning four lines of a beautiful poem Ode to the Muse written by Mary Darby Robinson from an anthology from 1791.

O, LET me seize thy pen sublime
That paints, in melting dulcet rhyme,
The glowing pow’r, the magic art,
Th’ extatic raptures of the Heart;

How could the Muse ignore such a delightful invitation?

Writing warm ups

Now to get the brain moving with a few quick writing warm ups. Something short and sharp, but a little bit hard.

  • the #6words challenges for 6 word stories on a particular topic thrown out on Twitter by Kelsye
  • Describe your main character in 5 words
  • Create a 6 word pitch for your writing

How do you kickstart your writing sessions?

Kicking Resistance in the nuts

Usually I’m annoyingly motivated. Since deciding to take this writing thing seriously, I turn up every day in front of my computer and write/edit for as much time as I have available. Sometimes thirty minutes at lunchtime, sometimes a whole day.

But this week, the Resistance monster has sniffing around, getting in the way. Despite some great feedback recently, the Resistance monster’s been telling me I’m rubbish, telling me I’m wasting my time with this writing malarkey and generally making me not want to write.  As Steven Pressfield says

“Resistance is always lying and always full of shit”.

Steven Pressfield talks a load about Resistance in his classic book “War of Art”, about how Resistance is everywhere. Pressfield believes Resistance is the main cause of unhappiness in the world as it stops everyone from achieving their true heart’s desires. In a recent blog post, he outlined how Resistance can even possess your loved ones, dissuading and sabotaging you from your truth path. The cure is “doing the work”. Sitting down every day and putting your fingers on the keys and just bloody writing.

I’ve felt the Resistance but done it anyway, yet I was still lacking in mojo. I felt I was only going through the motions of editing, the joy was not there.  Until yesterday.

What helped? Exercise. I smashed out a hard kettlebells session then took a long walk with no music or podcast distractions. My mind free to wander, ideas started to flow and the motivation started to creep back in. I got excited about my project again and couldn’t wait to get back to my keyboard and push through my edits.

Phew, I fought him off and kicked Resistance in the nuts.

This time.

But like any evil villain, he’ll be back….

www.american-buddha.com

Awesome Female Characters – my picks for #womeninfiction

Last week (last century in internet terms), the hot trending hashtag was #womeninfiction. Everyone chiming in with their favourite female characters. I jumped on the band wagon and here’s my picks in more than 140 characters.

In no particular order:

Harriet the Spy – Louise Fitzhugh

Harriet M. Welsch, an eleven year old budding writer, who started jotting down everything she saw in a notebook. I’ve just reread the synopsis of the book and I can’t remember any of the rest of the plot! But her inquisitive ways, her bravery and her love of tomato sandwiches stuck with me to this day!

Lisbeth Salander – Steig Larsson

“Salander was the woman who hated men who hated women.”

A powerful messed-up character, who you cheer for, cringe with and cry for. Smart, stupid and stubborn. The only female character here written by a man.

http://www.thedebutanteball.com

Pippi Longstocking – Astrid Lindgren

“Don’t you worry about me, I’ll always come out on top.”

Free-spirited girl, strong and brave, clever and resourceful. A rocking role model for any girl.

VI Warshawski – Sara Paretsky

I went through ten years of avid crime reading. Then one day I woke up and seemed to have moved on. One of my earliest reads and loves was VI Warshaswki. VI was the original self-sufficient, tough, clever female private investigator.

Super exciting post script – Sara Paretsky tweeted me back to thank me for my nomination. Squeee!

I’m sure I’ve missed a million others, who are your #womeninfiction?

Write on – why I love writing challenges

Tips on writing and quotes from famous writers are everywhere. I think most advice boils down to “sit there and write. Every day.”

But that’s easier than it sounds, it’s like “eat less, move more.” Easy in theory, but a different story when it’s chocolate o’clock. Writing challenges help me with discipline and build my daily writing habit.

I started with Nanowrimo – write a 50,000 word novel in November. This initially helped me to get into the habit of “vomit drafting”, just blurting it all out, writing without the inner critic and getting those words and thoughts down on the page. But a target of 1,667 per day is not sustainable in the long term for me. Nowadays Nanowrimo is not just for November, there are regular challenges throughout the year and for other forms. I’ve written four novels in Nanowrimos.

My current favourite is Monthly Writing Twitter Challenge with a target of 500 words per day or 1 hour editing. This is an achievable target without feeling overwhelming. And over the month, even with the minimum 500 words, I can amass at least 15,000 words. It’s a simple challenge with a great supportive community on Twitter and it was originally inspired by Dr Who! Join us and sign up for March!

The challenges keep me accountable, motivated and give me a sense of achievement.

What are your tips for building writing discipline?

www.iamerinbrown.com

How I deal with the dreaded feedback

If you never do anything, then you’re safe from getting feedback.

Actually that’s not even true, sometimes random strangers feel compelled to let you know how you’re progressing with helpful comments like “why don’t you smile?”, “looking good” or “get out of my way.”

However, feedback is part of the process of improving. Whether at work or in writing, feedback and criticism is helpful, necessary yet frightening. We’re all delicate little flowers underneath and no one likes to be told, you’re crap.

I’ve recently put my writing out into the world for the first time, actively seeking feedback from beta readers and an editor. Scary stuff. I received a manuscript assessment about four weeks ago and while the feedback was mainly good and constructive, I went my own emotional rollercoaster ride of dealing with the feedback. It’s the same cycle I’ve been through many times with other feedback.

www.jaysamit.com

Here’s how it usually goes….

  • Day 1 – Punch to the stomach/ ego bruising. Focusing on the bad bits. Self doubt mixed with wanting to quit, hating the world and wanting to crawl under the quilt, never to come out again. This usually lasts a day or two.
  • Day 2 or 3- Processing the feedback. Re-reading (or replaying) the feedback. Glimmers of hope start to appear and (usually) it is not as wrist-slitty, soul-destroyingly bad as I feared on Day 1.
  • Day 4 – Action. The sun reappears from behind the clouds, I wake up determined and with direction of what to do next. I focus fixing stuff. Right! Let’s get on it!

Now despite the fact that I know this about myself, I forget it every time I receive feedback. I only remember on reflection – oh yeah I always do this, don’t I? Sometimes the process goes longer, sometimes shorter, but always the same.

How do you deal with feedback? Do you go through the same cycle?

4 things learnt from Nanowrimo 2014

It’s almost the half way point of Nanowrimo. Can you hear the constant clatter of fingers on keys and foreheads banging against desks?

Time for a bit of reflection. What have I learnt from Nanowrimo this time round?

  • Writing takes priority. I don’t have time for the community stuff.

I’d like to get to know my fellow Nano-ers, visit the message boards and attend the local events, but I’ve got a full-time job and only a limited time to squeeze in my 1667 words per day. There’s no room left for the community stuff. Sorry.

  • Some days are hardwww.zazzle.com.au

And in other breaking news, the sky is blue and the sea is made of water. Everyone knows it’s hard. Some days, it’s all picnics, unicorns and rainbows. Other days, as I tweeted, it’s like extracting an oddly shaped nobbly object from my arse. The lesson is persistence.

  • Knowing your characters saves time

My Nanowrimo project is book 2 of my Monolith series. So, I already know my main characters and my world inside out. This saves time, I don’t need to stop to think how they react or their motivations. I’m visiting old friends. This feels a bit like cheating, but in a good smug way.

  • If I can write in the midst of a house renovation, I can write anywhere anytime

There’s drilling, sawing and tradesmen all around me. I’m writing from a space at the end of the kitchen counter next to the fridge. If I can write in this mess, I can write anywhere. Headphones are a wonderful device. I don’t need a perfectly decorated writing room with the inspirational view to get my project out.

What have you learnt from your Nanowrimo so far?