Last month, I was given the opportunity to review Darren Dash's upcoming novel, Midsummer's Bottom. Readers of his previous books will soon discover that it's nothing like anything he's written before. Taking a daring dip into the lighter side of fiction, you'd almost be forgiven for thinking that this book was written by an entirely different author... almost. Dash's signature wit and humour shine on every page, and it soon becomes clear that this is the voice of the writer we have come to know and love.
Every year, a group of amateur actors come together to perform their annual showing of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream -- much to the dismay of the named fairies in the play. MEET The Midsummer Players. Their dedication to the bard's beloved play is second only to their abysmal reputation as actors. ENTER the fairies of the real A Midsummer Night's Dream. Cursed to attend every performance ever attempted, they have long reached their wits end. When Oberon and Puck hire a human agent of chaos to infiltrate the players and turn them against each other, not all goes according to plan...
It can often take me a little while to get into a book. But Midsummer's Bottom sucked me in from the first page. Dash quickly introduces us to a cast of colourful characters and brings them all to life on the page, Small details and quirks pull you deeper into his world, and I found that I was smiling to myself often. Despite the constantly changing and evolving points of view, the book flows in a pleasant way that makes it easy to devour. This is magical escapism at its best.
One of the things I like most about this book is that you never really know what's coming next. Darren Dash weaves a masterfully woven web of twists and turns, leaving you with no choice but to sit back and be entertained by the unfolding drama. As a reader, I felt like I was looking down on a bizarre, fantastical play, with a birdseye view of this humorous story.
Midsummer's Bottom is a laugh out loud comedy, a rollicking romp that will leave you with a warm, satisfied feeling long after you finish. I really enjoyed this book and so, for me, it deserves nothing less than five stars.
You can buy Midsummer's Bottom here.
2018 is approaching at full speed. It's going to be massive, I can feel it. Well, it could be... if I can get my head in gear.
You see, in 2015 I wrote a novel in a year, from scratch, having never completed one before. It was awesome, it was excruciating, it was one hell of a learning curve. I was pretty hard on myself, though. In fact, I became so obsessed with rigid goals and weekly word counts that in the process, other important aspects of my life took a back seat. It was unhealthy.
In 2016, I procrastinated quite a bit. It was productive procrastinating, as I managed to write and publish two other books, Bite-Sized Fiction For Busy People and Get Organised! An Idea Tracker For Writers. However, the novel that I'd poured my heart and soul into had been shelved indefinitely.
Fast forward to this year and I can tell you now that this one started well. I mean really well. I bought a course on How to Revise Your Novel and flew through the lessons. I was unprepared for how much work that was left for me to do after writing the book. Guided by a pro, though, I was soon back on track and once again learning fast. Learning about revision. Aka, the second draft, aka the dreaded rewrite.
Revising the first draft of Crimson Touch was intimidating. It was like that one time in my school years during swimming lesson, where everyone graduated from the little pool to the big pool all at the same time -- all apart from me. And instead of being extra patient with that one child with a deep fear of water, they decided to push me up too, before I knew how to swim.
So, yeah. Umm... where was I going with this, again? Oh yeah. Revising that novel was like being a child again, clinging to the side of a pool that I can't touch the bottom of while not knowing how to swim. I can't think of a more perfect way to describe that feeling of being lost in the vastness of your own epic ideas, with no idea of how to get from A to B without drowning.
Anyway, like I said, the year started well; about as well as it can when one only has a vague notion of what one's journey entails. I'm sure if Frodo and Sam had known that their journey was going to be such a soul sucking slog, they would have thought twice about leaving their cosy holes, even if it was to save the world! However, as months went by and my motivation began to wane, I decided to take the opposite approach to my previous straightjacket discipline and go down the 'do what you want, when you want' route. Yes, I know. Not my best idea. As you can imagine, I didn't get a huge amount done in the latter half of the year, and my project had hit and miss results.
But guess what? I did learn yet another valuable lesson.
So, what have I learnt in these past few years, exploring who I am as a writer? I'll tell you...
1) Discipline is good, within reason.
2) Sometimes, you need to take one step back in order to take two steps forward
3) Good intentions do not write books.
Today, I made a solid action plan for 2018. I know I have what it takes, I believe in myself and if I follow the plan, I get to share Crimson Touch with the world. Hopefully, before I'm old and grey...
There is nothing I want more. So I'm going to blog about my struggles and triumphs over the next twelve months, logging my progress and using this blog to hold myself accountable. Sound good to you?
Until next time then.
I've never been a morning person. In fact, I'd go as far to say that I downright hate them.
It takes me a good hour or so after waking to actually feel awake. Caffeine is nice, but doesn't pack that punch I desire first thing in the morn -- or at least, it doesn't with me. I'll get up for work at 7 and often feel like the walking dead until about 10 o'clock. By which time, most of the morning has already passed.
Last year, I was officially diagnosed with narcolepsy. This explains a lot.
I won't bore you with the details (a post for another day, maybe). But it's only since accepting this and therefore, removing that mental block that's been holding me back, that I've discovered that mornings don't have to be the enemy.
Now, I want to share with you some of the things I've learned work for me. And if they can help me, then hopefully, they'll help you too.
1. Acknowledge that you're awake -- This is a bit of a weird one. Yes, you read that right. Acknowledge that you are awake. If you can get your head around this one, though, then I'm confident that it will change your life.
There are two words that I can use to sum up this method, and they are MIND FRAME.
Your alarm goes off. It's screaming at you. You just want to be left alone. What do you do? You hit snooze and grab another 10 minutes or so. When it goes off ten minutes later, you hit it again. 10 more minutes, you think. It won't hurt. I'll skip breakfast. But when you finally do have to rise, you're no better off than if you'd have crawled out of bed on the first alarm.
I'm not judging you. This is me. I do this dance nearly every morning! It's frustrating and makes you feel yucky. Recently, though I've started using this method to get me going faster:
Sometimes, I just don't care about anything other than sleep. On these occasions, the snooze button wins ;-) However, when I can make this work for me, I feel energised in way that I didn't I didn't even know was possible.
Put simply -- how can you move forward into the day if you're still looking backward at your bed?
2. Like the room that you wake up in -- This one will go hand in hand with any of the other methods in this post. To be honest, it's less of a stand alone method and more of an enhancer. But why do I have to like the room I sleep in, you might think? I don't sleep with my eyes open.
Well, you would be right on that account. But there's method to my madness. You see, whether you realise it or not, the mood you wake up in will set the tone for the rest of your day. And when you first wake up and look around you, what you see will have an impact on your mood.
I like my bedroom. It's pretty small and I'm not the tidiest person in the world, but I've filled it with things that make me happy. This makes my often futile attempts to wake up in the morning that bit more effective. I'm drawn towards the hi-fi to get the radio on. The books in my 'to be read' pile are stacked in the corner of the room, just waiting to be picked up and devoured. But if reminders of looming deadlines, old junk and things that just don't call out to you are what you see when you first wake, it's no surprise that your morning motivation is at an all time low.
Leaving your warm bed in the morning can feel like a big ordeal, especially in the winter. You can't remove that feeling completely. What you can do, though, is make your waking world a more appealing place to be in.
3. Move and stretch -- Some people can jump straight out of bed and start dancing. No, I'm not kidding. They'll know who they are when they read this post. If you're anything like me, though, your energy comes much, much later.
Don't panic. This method doesn't have to be hard. I'm not talking about exhausting workout routines or morning jogs here (although good for you if you can!). There are kinder ways to get the blood flowing and wake yourself up than putting yourself through that.
I'm talking about a simple move and stretch routine.
For my birthday this year, my sister got me a yoga mat. Since then, I've discovered the simple pleasures of bending and stretching, of slowly but surely working through all the kinks and waking up each part of the body, one area at a time. I'm certainly no pro. I have an old back injury and I've never been able to touch my toes. But yoga is not only good for your body, it's also good for your mind.
I've used yoga as an example here, as this is what works for me. However, if you're looking for more inspiration on finding what words for you, why not start with this gentle 5 minute wake-up workout or these 7 energising moves to jump start your day?
Pair this with your morning coffee and you'll be feeling like a human being in no time.
4. Create a waking up ritual -- I've mentioned in a previous post how creating a pre-writing ritual can be an effective way to get more writing done. In the same way, building an effective wake up ritual can work wonders for those of us who struggle to be productive in the morning.
The theory behind this method is based in routine and familiarity. Whether you've consciously thought about it or not, chances are that you have one in some form or another. I have one too and it's more or less the same as what I've had for the past few years: wake up, reach for my phone and switch WiFi on, make a cup of tea, take it back to bed to check email and social media, eating into my breakfast time, where I'll eventually have to sacrifice my own breakfast in order to make one for the bearded dragons before dashing out to work.
It's not very well thought out. In fact, it's almost purely made up of old habits. But imagine how much more effective a well thought out wake up ritual could be if created with the purpose of maximising your morning potential? My best mornings almost always start with a cup of tea, a short yoga session, a good cup of coffee and no social media!
Examine your own average morning and look for the repeated actions. Which of these work for you? Which things don't and are holding you back? Think about what makes you happy. Adding something purely for you at the start of the day can make all the difference to your morning.
5. Let some light in -- Your body has an internal clock that responds to light and dark. The sun comes up and your brain knows that it is day time. The sun goes down, the sky gets dark and your brain begins to shut down.
Okay, you might say. I do that now. I switch on the lights in the morning and switch them off again at night! What gives? Of course, I'm not talking about any old 40 watt light bulb. What we need is natural light.
When you dress in the dark, you may think that you're saving your eyes from a blinding, but in actual fact, all you're doing is depriving yourself of the natural sunlight your brain needs to adjust in the morning.
For those that don't see sunlight on a daily basis, or even just want to be proactive and give this method a good go, you can buy something called a 'natural light alarm clock' to make your life easier. This product mimics the natural rising of the sun, starting by switching on at a low light and gradually working up to a full morning glare. The idea of these ingenious little devices is that by the time you are awake, you are far more awake than if you had been screamed at by your alarm clock. Waking up this way is also said to help you get a better night's sleep, so it's win-win.
I don't think I'll ever be a morning person. I can make them that little bit more bearable, though, with a well thought out routine and a positive attitude.
What do you think? Have you tried any of these methods? Have something better that you'd care to share? Let me know by leaving a comment below.
Dialogue: a conversation between two or more people as a feature of a book, play or film.
You'd think that writing dialogue for your fiction book would be easy. After all, you've been talking for such a long time now. It's something that you do on a daily basis and most of the time, you don't even have to think about it. But in actual fact, when it come to fiction, there is a fine line between doing it right and being too realistic.
In everyday life, people talk over each other. They fumble over their words, umming and ahhing, switching from miserable weather, to what they ate for tea last night, to the latest hot topic., to... well, you get my drift. Real conversation is messy, all over the place and often completely trivial.
Fictional dialogue doesn't have time to be trivial. Everything you put into your book must matter, must push the story forward. A simple conversation between two characters can enlighten the reader, giving away a key piece of plot information. A difference of opinion can increase tension and add to the conflict already in play, not to mention reveal elements of your characters motivations that weren't previously clear.
Another effective use of fictional dialogue is to focus on how your characters speak to each other. The way one character interacts with another can tell the reader a lot about both characters. For example, if your outgoing protagonist becomes tongue-tied around one particular character, it would indicate that their feelings for this individual run a little deeper than they're willing to let on.
As characters naturally develop throughout a story, the way they speak to one another should change along with them. When used correctly, dialogue is one of the many powerful tools writers have at their disposal when writing fiction.
Got any tips on writing dialogue scenes? How do you approach them? Share below in the comments.
Missed last week's post? Check out C is for... Characters here. Look out for the next post in the series, E is for... Emotion.
Character: 1. A person in a novel, play, or film. 2. The mental and moral qualities distinctive to an individual.
Without your characters, you don't have a story. It is as simple as that.
Let's think about that for a second. A story is the ups and downs of an individual, or a group of connected individuals' lives. Without those characters, your story will simply be a string of events happening one after another. There will be no reactions and no emotional stakes.
Let's face it -- it's the characters in a story that have us coming back for more, time and time again. They have a big job to do, and that's to make you care. In this aspect, it goes without saying that protagonists have the biggest job to do of all. But, open any fiction book and more than likely, you'll discover that it holds a colourful cast of varied characters that all play different roles in the story.
Some examples of character roles are:
The Protagonist -- the point of view character and person responsible for fixing the main problem of the novel.
The Antagonist -- the bad guy. This character blocks the protagonists path at every turn, making it difficult for them to succeed.
The Sidekick -- the protagonist's unflinchingly loyal friend. They support the main character and their actions are often a key part of the hero's success.
The Mentor -- this character's role is to provide the lesson that, upon learning it, will unlock new potential in the protagonist.
Can you think of any other fictional character roles? Let me know in the comments below.
Missed last week's post? Check out B is for... Beginnings here. Look out for the next post in the series, D is for... Dialogue.
Novel Beginnings: The beginning of a novel should set the tone for the rest of the book and capture the reader's attention, while not rushing into the story or giving too much away too fast.
The beginning of a novel can make or break a book. The opening pages must grab the reader by the throat and never let them go, or risk losing them completely.
The first chapter of any book will typically contain a hook. The hook can be something that resides within the first few pages, the first few paragraphs or even the opening line. Its single function is to 'hook' the attention of the reader in a way that encourages them to keep on reading.
The beginning is also where the writer needs to set up the rest of the story. Where are we? Why are we here? Who should we care about? Why should we care? What's at stake? These are all questions to provide answers to within the book's opening pages, even in their most basic form. Sometimes, though, these answers are often more effectively teased at, as opposed to handing the answers over to your readers on a plate.
Giving too much information away too early on can make your story predictable, and therefore, bland. Finding the balance between an overwhelming information dump and pure guesswork is the key to writing a solid novel beginning.
Got any tips? Share your wisdom in the comments below.
Missed last week's post? Check out A is for... Antihero here. Look out for the next post in the series, C is for... Characters.
Antihero: a main character in a story who lacks conventional heroic qualities such as idealism, courage, and morality. Although antiheroes may sometimes do the "right thing", it is often for the "wrong reasons" and because it serves their self-interest rather than being driven by moral convictions.
The charming antihero is possibly one of my all time favourite story characters. Done well, they will disgust and delight you, before stealing your heart and selling it back to you in pieces.
They will often work alongside the hero or heroine in fiction. Their reason for doing so will be very different. In fact, it can be all too easy to mistake the antihero for the villain, especially when their worst moments paint them in a dark light. What separates them from the antagonist, though, is their ability to 'walk the line' between good and evil.
Yes, the antihero is fickle character. Whichever side best serves their current interest usually wins their loyalty. Despite this, though, the antihero tends to make the right decision when it counts most. Because of this, the reader can feel compelled to cheer them on throughout the story, despite the occasional villainous deed. They are redeemable.
Antiheroes get away with murder. Sometimes literally. Befriend one at your own risk.
Some examples of fictional antiheroes are:
The antihero of my current book is Drayvex from Crimson Touch. If he managed to get his hands on your heart, he'd probably eat it whole.
Can you think of any awesome antiheroes that deserve a special mention? Sound off in the comments below.
Next is B is for... Beginnings.
The sun's shining in from my left and the kettle is directly ahead. My decrepit laptop whirrs beneath my fingers as I rest them on the smooth, black keys. It's Saturday and therefore, I have an entire day to myself.
The conditions couldn't be any better. Today, it's the 1st of April -- and it's finally time to write.
Here are the items I consider to be essentials for the month of Camp NaNoWriMo:
2) Scrivener -- Scrivener is my programme of choice for writing. Like everyone ever, I started out using a simple word processor. But once you try the wonder that is Scrivener, it's difficult to look back. Created for writers, by writers, this programme comes with a cork board for scene cards, a binder that allows you to see your entire project at the same time and a split screen feature, giving you the power to have two separate documents open side by side, or one above the other. Last year, I spoke to Anne of Scrivener Virgin, where I went into more detail about my favourite features of Scrivener and how I use it to help me write.
3) Coffee -- the wonder drink. A writer's best friend and the holy grail of imagination. Not only do I enjoy the taste of coffee immensely, but it gives me just the right amount of kick to get my fingers tapping away at the keys. Aside from the occasional cup of tea, coffee is my beverage of choice when it comes to writing. But it has another great benefit, aside from the obvious things I've mentioned above. Making coffee is part of my pre-writing ritual. When that kettle is boiling, my muse sits up and listens. Whether I'm spooning granules straight into a cup or stirring my cafetiere, something clicks in my brain. And my muse (or my internal editor) knows it's time to get down to business.
4) Pinterest -- Pinterest is a great place to go when you're looking for inspiration. It's where I go when my imagination begins to wither, or I've got an idea forming that still has lots of blank areas to fill. All you have to do is search for a word or a phrase, say... trolls, and Pinterest will produce pages and pages of troll related pictures. You can also save the pictures that you like best in dedicated folders. I like to have a Pinterest folder for all my main fiction projects, if only to give people an idea of what to expect. It's pretty spiffy, but be warned -- once you open that Pandora's box, you'll have a hard time putting it away!
5) Spotify --some people write better with a little music in the background. If you're one of those people, then Spotify is definitely something that you need to check out. This programme gives you free access to virtually any song you can think of. The app allows you to play music on the go and the only limits are the occasional adverts, which you can remove by becoming a premium member. Personally, I like to mix it up a bit. As the mood calls I switch from silent, concentrated writing, to a little relaxed typing with background music when my muse is feeling bored or tired. I have personal playlists ready to go.
6) My Favourite Snacks -- when I'm writing, I like to pick. Comfort food is the key to keeping my muse happy and if my muse is happy, then I'm going to write for longer. At least, that's what I tell myself as I'm tucking into a 'sharing' bag of beefy puffs. Sometimes, I use tasty snacks on a reward basis for completing paragraphs. Other times, (who am I kidding? Most of the time...) I simply enjoy their flavour.
7) iPad -- this is a bit of a strange essential to have on top of a laptop. But actually, it helps me a great deal. Having recently bought Scrivener for iOS, I can now switch between my laptop and my iPad at will. My project is synced to my Dropbox from one machine to the other, so no matter what I choose to use for writing with I can continue with a fully updated project.
But why would I want to do this, you might ask? Well, when I'm sat at my laptop for long periods of time, I often get restless. Once I enter this frame of mind it's much harder to be productive, and very often, this is when I start to scroll through Twitter, and check my emails, and read an article or two, or three, and... well, you get the gist. Now when this happens, I pick up my iPad, move to a new location and continue my project from there. With a different view of your words, not only does this convince your brain that you're almost starting afresh again, but it's easier move around with or get comfy.
8) Comfy Socks -- this one is purely for comfort. I can't stand having cold feet, so I like to wear nice thick socks whatever the weather. Side note: in Wales, we don't really get summer, but 'summer'). For writing, having toasty feet is especially important to me. With this in mind, number eight on my list of essentials for Camp NaNoWriMo has to be a pair of the thickest, fluffiest socks imaginable. Try it yourself. You'll thank me for it!
Well, those are mine. But what about you? Have I missed anything important? Sound off in the comments below!
"To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all."- Oscar Wilde
My love of writing can be traced back to my earliest memories. English was by far my favourite subject at school, as it was the only lesson that writing stories actually classed as school work. Most groaned at the thought. I celebrated.
A decade later, I'm still writing. The difference is, though, as a child I wasn't concerned with structure or plot. I didn't think about how well my characters were developing, or if the story made sense to anyone but me. It was the pure enjoyment that I took from bringing my stories to life that had me hooked. It was simple.
As grown ups, we tend to live pretty busy lives. We rush about from week to week, balancing jobs and finances, families and friends and somehow, still keep those ridiculous appointments that were squashed into the tiny gaps between. We are always pushing ourselves for more, yet rarely stop to smell the roses.
Is this you? Are you nodding your head? Well, then I have one question I'd like you to answer.
Have you discovered the simple joys of flash fiction?
"Flash Fiction- a style of fictional literature or fiction of extreme brevity."
Yes, that's it -- flash fiction summed up in a nutshell. But flash fiction can also be a stray thought, given life when the questions what if? and how? are asked. It can be the remnant of a vivid dream or a vague memory, moulded to reflect your deepest desires. It can be a quick scribbling on a scrap of paper. A lunchtime daydream that demands to be recorded, or a bite sized break from an otherwise mundane day.
If you 're new to the wonders of flash fiction, then I suggest that you give it a try. In fact, I'm so confident that you'll see something you like that I wrote a small book to give you a taster, and I'm giving it away for free.
So don't forget to live every once in a while. Because life is passing is by every second and it's not slowing down.
Click here to check out the book.
IT'S ONLY natural to want to stop when things gets tough. Because, let's face it -- putting yourself out there isn't easy. When you put your hard work and honest opinions online, people can judge you based on that work. They can tell you that you're wrong. Or that what you've got to say isn't valuable in any way. Or make you feel small.
The thing is, we crave attention for our work, but when people start noticing you it can make you feel vulnerable. But being vulnerable isn't always a bad thing. In my personal experience, when you're beginning to feel uncomfortable, when you catch yourself thinking that maybe this wasn't for you after all, that is normally when you're on the verge of something awesome.
However, there's a difference between having healthy misgivings about something, and being so far out of your comfort zone that you want turn and hide in a deep comfy hole for the next decade. One works on the basis of logic, the other feeds off of your insecurities and weaknesses. We all have them.
You see, it's difficult to picture those big changes when you haven't actually experienced them. That's what makes hindsight so valuable. You can look back and think, yes, I was on the path to greatness. Silly me. But until then, it's sheer blind faith that keeps you chipping away on that project every day, despite that crippling doubt.
Alright, that was a little cynical. It's not only blind faith. But faith does play a huge part in getting us through those uncertain times. Faith and hope.
When setting a target, it's important not to aim too high. However, it's just as important not to aim too low, either. The idea of a target is that you work towards a goal that is slightly out of your reach. By making things too easy for yourself, you're not allowing yourself much space to grow and improve. Set it too high, and you're more likely to become discouraged and give up. You're only human, after all.
I've come to the conclusion that change is supposed to be uncomfortable. When you throw yourself into the deep end, there are two possible ways in which you will react. You will either:
In order to lean how to swim, though, we must put ourselves outside out comfort zone. Give ourselves the chance to learn and adapt. Because the magic of change is that if you stick at it, even through that crippling doubt, that one day we will discover that we have grown to fill that large, scary space.
The change becomes the new comfort zone.
What do you think?
I've been there a lot this past year.
You're on a roll and it's all going so well. Until, you stop to consider how well you're doing. And wonder how you can keep it up for the rest of the week. And how much more you have left to do.
Suddenly, it's there, large and looming -- that bully writer's block. And it's laughing in your face. "Get nice and cosy," it grins. "We're going to be spending a lot of time together."
Okay, so your writer's block may not be quite so rude. But none of us like being there. No one does.
Wouldn't it be great, though, if you had a ready made list of ways to eliminate that pesky problem in a jiffy?
Well, my friends, keep reading, because that's exactly what I'm going to give you. My top 6 ways to kick writer's block to the curb.
1/ Do more research
For me personally, writer's block occurs most often when I'm lacking information (although this is only obvious in hindsight!) If you’re writing a story, this could be a key piece of the plot, or information about a specific character, or something that sheds light on a part of plot you didn’t even realise was missing. If you’re writing an article or other non-fiction piece, it could be that you haven’t done enough background research for your project. Whatever you are working on, not having a full picture will hold you back, whether you're aware of the problem, or not.
When writing a fiction first draft I tend to just wing it. I don’t know where I’m going, but I trust the muse to figure it out, piece by piece as I go along. The problem with being a pantser, though, (see the age old pantsers vs plotters debate) is that at some point, you will inevitably hit a solid brick wall. Now, you could call it writer’s block and wait for the problem to go away by itself. Or, you could do some digging. Ask yourself questions. Do some brainstorming and make odd connections. What happens next? What if the last thing I expect to happen next, happens? I’ve learned through experience that on many occasions, what I would once call writer’s block can be easily solved this way.
Sometimes, though, you just don’t know the answer yet. And if you’re really truly stuck, then the worst thing you can do is stew on a problem. In this case, the best thing you can do is move on. Try not to stress too much over one particular element of a project. You can always go back to it at a later date.
2/ Switch to handwritten
There's something magical about good ol' pen and paper. It's underrated and now commonly seen to be the outdated method of writing, what with so many other, simpler options available to us. But the truth is, there's much more to it than that. You may not believe me. That's quite okay. I urge you to try it yourself and find out. After all, it's natural to think, 'aren't I just making more work for myself, having to type everything up again at the end of the day?' Maybe. But would it be worth it if the words flowed like water in a tap?
Handwriting is a sensory experience. There's the feel of the paper brushing against your hand, the smell of the paper. The weight of a good pen resting between your fingers. Maybe even the smell of the ink on the page, depending on what kind of pen you use. When you write a word down on paper, you are far more likely to commit it to memory than if you had simply typed it on a keyboard. And then there's the fact that it forces the brain to slow down and really think about the content you're coming up with.
3/ Skip straight to the good parts
Have you ever thought to yourself, "This scene/subject really needs to be in this piece. So why, oh why can't I bring myself to write it?" I know I have. You have a specific thing in mind. You have vision. And yet, you've still reached the point where each word feels like a single trickle of blood squeezed from a paper cut in your finger. And you need a damn bucketful.
(Do you feel queasy? I'm sorry. #notsorry)
It can be difficult not to fixate on specific areas that feel important to us, especially when we think it's where we need to be. But if you're going nowhere fast and the words just won't flow, it may be time to put that pesky scene on hold. Go back to your project's roots. What made you want to write this piece in the first place? How did that initial idea make you feel? If a specific part or scene makes you feel excited to write, start there.
4/ Do something equally creative
Being ambitious is not a bad thing. But it’s all too easy to forget that we're human beings with both physical and emotional limits. Occasionally, we expect too much of ourselves. When we pump our creative wells dry (see 31 Ways to Reinspire the Muse, Parts 1, 2 and 3) it often has the opposite effect and, very quickly, we can become creatively blocked.
As a direct result, our writing suffers. In other words, our efforts fail to match the expectations we have set for ourselves. Now, you could take a step back, accept that writer’s block has sunk its overgrown talons in and will only let go when it’s good and ready. Or, you could work on something equally creative while you wait. Do a finger painting, make a collage, write a diary entry. Do something that you won’t take too seriously and can have a little fun with. A creative splurge, so to speak. And it doesn’t even have to have anything to do with writing. Trust me, you’ll be amazed at the difference a change in attitude can make to that brick wall.
5/ Emotionally commit yourself
Sometimes, it's fear that holds us back. Yes, you're clearly committed to your project. You're reading an article on shifting writer's block. You're being proactive. But I don't just mean physically committing yourself to spending time on your chosen piece, or the act of working towards a specific goal. I'm talking about emotionally committing yourself.
"No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader" -- Robert Frost
For example, the novel I'm currently redrafting, Crimson Touch, began life in one of the darkest periods of my life to date. In order to revise this book and take it to the next level, I had to revisit those demons years after they were put to bed, and embrace the negative emotions attached to the words. This held me back for a long time. But once I'd committed myself both physically and emotionally, signing up for the full package, I smashed those barriers.
Was it hard? Yes.
Was it worth it? Absolutely.
My point is, fear often holds us back from giving our best. Fear of failure, fear of rejection, fear of the unknown. But unless you start taking some risks, you'll never quite live up to your own high expectations. After all, failure is proof that we tried. Rejection is proof that we put ourselves out there, despite being advised not to. And the unknown? Well, it's only unknown for as long as we avoid it.
6/ Push on regardless and refuse to give in
Sometimes, you just have to push through writers block. Sometimes, there are no short cuts or quick fixes. If all else has failed you, then it may be time to simply knuckle down, despite any discomfort you feel and write anyway. Write anything. It doesn't matter if what you write is bad. It doesn't have to be something you keep. It doesn't even have to be seen by anyone but you, as its purpose is purely to keep the words flowing. You may find that just the mere act of writing, even when the words don't come so easily, will help to shift that mental blockage.
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YOU SEE it all the time. If you want to be a writer, then you must sit down and write.
It seems to be the number one piece of advice that all experts provide. Write every day, whether you feel like it, or not. But if you’re not an expert and writing isn’t your main source of income, this advice can seem quite daunting.
Every day? I once thought this to be an impossible ask. What about my day job? My family and friends? What about when I’m feeling tired or unmotivated? I can’t do it.
Well, I'm here to tell you that it certainly can be done. Present day, I try to write at least six out of seven days a week and today, I’m going to share with you my top ten tips for getting into a daily writing routine.
[CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD THE PDF CHECKLIST!]
1) Set small goals. If you try to accomplish too much too soon then every time you fall short, it will put you off. Even if you only write for five minutes a day, consistently, you’re doing it!
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2) Do something every day for thirty days and a habit will start to form. It will slowly become a part of your daily routine. For example, write for five minutes at the same time every day. This could be first thing in the morning before you get out of bed, last thing at night or alongside your mid-morning coffee.
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3) Don’t focus so much on quality or content at this stage, but on quantity and consistency. The important thing when first starting out is that you simply hit those goals. Stressing over each and every syllable so early on is the wrong way to encourage writing activity, but the right way to put you off writing completely -- maybe even for good!
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4) Create a reward system to encourage daily writing activity. This is a great way to inspire a daily writing routine, especially when you don’t feel like writing. For example, your reward for Monday could be a glass of wine at the end of the day. Your reward for Tuesday could be a nice slab of chocolate. Rewarding yourself when you succeed is a fun way to motivate yourself into following through with your daily writing.
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5) Do the work, then set it aside. Once you’re done, you’re done. And it’ll feel good knowing that you’re achieving those goals, day after day. There may come a time when you don’t need to dangle rewards over the goal post, or be so strict about how often you write to get the work done. But until then, treat each session as you would an appointment.
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6) Don’t get bogged down with having to write. If there’s no enjoyment in what you’re doing, your task can soon become a chore. At these early stages, it’s not important how you choose to complete your task, just that you do. Before you’ve even formed the habit of writing daily, it can quickly turn into hard work with the wrong frame of mind.
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7) Make sure you are writing for you. It can be something serious, or purely for your own enjoyment. Fiction, memoir, non-fiction, a poem, a story idea. But if you’re not enjoying it even a tiny bit, then you must ask yourself – why do you want to form a writing habit? Do you like writing, or just the idea of being a writer?
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8) Go with your whims and passing fancies. Want to write a poem? Write a poem. Into short stories or flash fiction? Try your hand at making your own. Have a blog? Want one? Take your thoughts to the world wide web. You don’t have to be good at something to create it.
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9) Hold yourself accountable. For example, you could pledge to post something on your blog every day for a month. People will come to expect your daily post and if you don’t post on a particular day, it’s not just you that will know this. Some of us flourish under pressure, or benefit from that extra nudge that keeps us on track.
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10) Get people involved in what you’re doing. If you don’t want to post online every day, find a writing buddy, friend or family member to hold you accountable instead. This way, on your worst days where you would rather do the dreaded housework than write, you have someone to remind you that actually, you do need to grab that five minutes and yes, it is important after all.
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Okay, still with me?
That's great. I knew you would be. That was a lot of information to take in in one go, so allow me to summarise the ten main points for building a daily writing routine:
Enjoyed this post? Well, my friend, I've created a spiffy bonus, just for you. If you haven't done so already, click below to grab your free bonus checklist to help keep you right on track.
[CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD THE PDF CHECKLIST!]
When the opportunity to review Darren Dash’s latest novel presented itself to me, I snatched at it with eager grabbing hands. Having enjoyed his previous book, Sunburn, Dash had already proved to me that he’s not afraid to go in hard and fast, taking his writing to places that the average writer fears to tread. This book is no different.
I won’t be recommending this book to my mother, as An Other Place is far from a crowd pleaser. I was advised by the author before I began that this may not be my cup of tea. And that would be okay. But by golly, this book really did blow my mind. It stretched my imagination in weird new ways, made me think, sent me soaring and then crashing back down to earth (ha! Inside joke) with one hell of a bang.
An Other Place treats you to deep point of view, giving the reader an intimate seat inside the mind of troubleshooter Newman Riplan. When Riplan is transported to a strange fantastical world, both him and reader are kept in the dark as he explores. Being limited to experiencing only what our protagonist goes through makes this journey all the more effective in its delivery.
In the beginning, we get a definite sense of a situation that’s spiralling upwards, but no real idea of what’s going on or what is coming. Much of the novel is disorienting in this way. I frequently found myself feeling as lost as the main character, feeling my way through the dark with a tiny light, not quite knowing what to expect. Each page turn was both chilling and thrilling in equal measure.
The main character is generally likeable, but far from perfect. In his worst moments I found myself
utterly repelled, and yet, he always managed to be compelling -- sometimes in all the wrong ways. My reactions to him as a character were varied, which I found refreshing.
What's more, An Other Place really appealed to my dark sense of humour and love of the bizarre. To sum this book up in three words, I’d have to go with ‘weird and wonderful’. Like a mystery slowly unravelling and tangling, it constantly kept me guessing.
Darren Dash masterfully manipulates the reader in his chosen direction, changing the mood and pace of the book at will with little to no warning. This made it difficult to put down. I found myself constantly wondering what could possibly happen next.
I really liked how truly demented this book is. The story gets weirder and weirder as you go along. I'd become used to being in one place and then the story would twist, leaving me disoriented once more. Each time you think that things can’t possibly get any worse, they do and you’re presented with a new level of worse.
Despite not agreeing with every decision our main character makes, he displays an admirable amount of grit and determination throughout which, in turn, allows us to maintain some sort of an emotional connection throughout the book. This, I feel, is very important.
An Other Place gets darker and more grisly as the story progresses, giving a haunting, eerie sense of isolation that seeps into your bones. I spent the majority of the story feeling like something is ‘off’, but was unable to put a finger on exactly what. As a reader, there is never a moment where you are truly relaxed and comfortable. The more I discovered, the more it made my head reel.
Overall, this has to be one of the strangest book I’ve ever read. Through its ups and downs, there always seemed to be an unsettling undercurrent buzzing away in the back of my mind. Towards the end of the book, the reader is rewarded with the answers to some secrets and certain mysteries are made clear. However, these revelations only seem to offer yet more questions which, once again, send the cogs of my mind spinning at high speed.
The conclusion to this strange tail left me with goosebumps, chilling in impact and meaning. I felt oddly pensive as I read the last sentence, unsure of exactly how to feel. Dash leaves the reader with lots to think about. I now want to start again from the beginning, reading with the hindsight and prior knowledge I have.
My overall score? 5/5!
You can grab yourself a copy of An Other Place from the links below in ebook or paperback format. Let me know what you think!
Last year, I had the pleasure of receiving an advance copy of Darren Dash's latest novel, Sunburn. With only the author's vague description, 'Bigfoot in Bulgaria' to prepare me, I eagerly jumped in with both feet, completely unaware of the sheer chaos waiting in the wings.
I discovered early on that this book has a serious case of one-more-chapter-itis. Sunburn is the kind of story that makes you want to read on into the night, despite having to get up early for work the next day. Reading away my precious sleeping hours, I had no idea how tense I had become until my phone pinged and I jumped out of my skin.
The elements of classic horror are very much present here, and at the core of every horror theme is the simple struggle for life. Darren Dash isn't afraid to go in hard with this or tread where other are afraid to go, with moments of dark humour providing light, albeit brief relief which I often caught myself smiling to. There is an underlying edge of something sinister building throughout the book. The tension increases like a slowly boiling kettle -- you know early in that at some point, it's going to reach boiling point. But not before its time.
My love of horror stems back to my childhood. Barely a teenager, I would sit alone in the dark, watching films that thrilled and tortured me in equal measure. There was something about that raw mix of adrenaline and fear that always kept me coming back for more. Sunburn gave me that same thrill, with Mr Dash taking no prisoners in this dark and compelling tale.
I immediately felt attached to the main characters, each interesting in their own way but very different from the other. The story also flows nicely, each transition feeling smooth and unhurried, yet pulling me ever onward. I often find when reading a good book, my attention splits at some point or other. Half my attention will be focused on the chapter I'm reading, the other half hovering somewhere near the end, mithering over how current events will effect the final outcome. But Sunburn held me firmly in the moment, demanding my full attention right to the very last page. Then, just when you begin to think you're safe, unholy bloody mayhem ensues.
Every now and again we gain insight into a primal mind, the mind of a somewhat sentient beast. What I found fascinating are the ethical questions that sprung to mind while reading from this unique point of view. Can a beast be seen as evil for carrying out basic instincts? Is is close enough to the human being to be compared to our murderers, killing for pleasure? Personally, I found myself fluctuating between the two throughout the book. However, by the time I reached the final quarter, there was no doubt in my mind about the beasts true colours.
The ending comes full circle in a satisfying, bitter sweet way that feels complete and not left dangling for the sake of it. Overall, I really enjoyed Sunburn and look forward to reading many more Darren Dash books to come. Just don't expect a gentle ride!
You can buy the book in physical or ebook format from your Amazon of choice. Enjoy!
WRITING HAS always been my go to place when life gets tough. I struggled a lot with my sweet sixteen and, looking back now, writing was actually one of the few things that helped to diffuse the self-destructive cloud that frequently converged around me.
But this post is not about me. This post is about you.
I felt overwhelmed the other week so, naturally, I began to write. This blog post is that result.
Why you feel rubbish...
Overwhelmed -- life has been a bit hectic lately. Even though you're not Superwoman (much to your surprise), your life often requires you to be many things to many people. As well as this, you're juggling a hundred and one different responsibilities that all need your precious time and attention. But that's okay, you're going to be awarded your red cape any day now. You can feel it. Or, at least, next week has to be easier. You hope.
Things build up over time -- those little things that you swept under the rug didn't go away. They're still there, hidden beneath a good, safe layer of 'out of sight, out of mind.' But now, there isn't much room left under the rug. And people are soon going to start seeing those lumps...
Stress and misfortune -- you're having a bad run. Illness, loss, debt. Maybe it's the stress of a good relationship turning sour. Or maybe you're haemorrhaging money and can't keep up with the bills. Despite being a rational person, it feels like the world is out to get you. Yes, Lady Luck owes you, big time.
Having no one to talk to -- we all need someone to talk to every now and again. Whether that be to discuss a festering issue, or simply to air out our frustrations from the day. But the people you'd normally talk to are busy with their own problems, or no longer around. Or maybe you find it difficult to open up to anyone at all. Either way, you're bottling and at some point, you're going to overflow.
Overachiever -- busy, busy, busy. You're always running late and there's never enough time to get everything you want done in the day. After all, life is too short to sit down and do nothing, right? But not providing yourself with adequate down time leaves you scraping the bottom of the barrel far too often. And we both know the quality of those last few dregs, don't we?
Stuck in a rut -- you've spent more time moping this week than actually sitting down to figure out what's wrong. You assumed it would be something you just snapped out of when you're ready, but in fact, it's become a bit of a habit. An unproductive one.
Feeling vulnerable, fragile -- your partner has a moan and you take it personally. Your boss pulls you up over something small and you have to fight not to fall apart. Things that you would normally take in your stride are hitting you much harder. This is because your life worn exterior has been temporarily replaced with a softer, more fragile skin. The cause, though, is less obvious.
Beyond your control -- powerless. That sensation of negative things happening all around you, despite your best efforts. You feel small, almost as though you're a small fish trying to navigate its way through a raging current -- in the wrong direction. Whether you want them to or not, bad things happen to good people. And it sucks.
Putting others first all the time -- helping people is what you do. In fact, people seem to be drawn to you, laden with all kinds of problems and woes. Of course, you always do everything in your power to help them out. Even if it means skipping your coffee break every now and then, or dragging yourself out after a long, hard day. That warm bath and glass of wine will still be there tomorrow. That is, if someone else doesn't need it more.
What writing can do for you
Declutter your mind -- as you go through life, your mind will inevitably collect its fair share of junk. And like a messy desk, it's almost impossible to find the one particular thing you need amongst all that clutter. So, how do you stop this from happening? That's right, by keeping a diary. Even if only for a week or two, dumping the small, trivial things down onto paper will do wonders for the cluttered mind. The important things will stick with you. Do this on a regular basis and you will find that not only do you have a much clearer head, but that all that useless junk is right there in writing, just waiting for you to pick through at a later date.
Make the invisible visible-- remember all that clutter you dragged from your mind and put down onto a blank page? Well, guess what -- it may not all be junk. The average passing thought is there one second, then gone the next. Lost to the depths of your mind, where sometimes, it festers in a dark corner. Small and unnoticed, but most definitely still there. Make time to read back through your previous entries. Your subconscious may be trying to tell you something. Maybe that you're unhappy with your current situation, or that you're pushing yourself too hard. Or maybe it's time to swallow your pride and make peace with that old, stubborn friend.
Take a proactive approach -- being able to see your problems isn't the only benefit to writing them down. Take everything that's bothering you, no matter how small each thing may seem, and write them all down in one list. Then work your way down the list, taking each problem one at a time. Find a simple solution for each and write it next to the problem in question. Now, not only have you made a great start on banishing those things that are dragging you down, but you also have a point of reference if you decide to come back to them at a later date.
Acknowledging a problem -- how are you supposed to fix a problem if deep down, you're still denying its existence? The short answer is, you won't. Now, it may be hard to accept the need for help, or that you have an issue that needs attending to, but try to think of your problem simply as a bump in the road; you can go around it, but only if you notice it in time to do so. When you don't, it will take you by surprise. It may even damage you in the process, but the only way to fix a problem is to first acknowledge it. You'll be surprised at the relief you feel from this alone. Your subconscious was never fooled. Write down your problem in as much detail as you can muster. Don't hold back or cringe at your own thoughts, just allow yourself to say what it needs to.
Simply unload -- sometimes, taking the opportunity to get things off your chest can make you feel lighter. Write a letter or draft a blog rant, for your eyes only. You can always decide to publish at a later date if you feel it will help others in your shoes. Also, recording your thoughts on a regular basis will help you to pick up on any unhealthy patterns, if there are any. Reading your entries back with hindsight can often provide some much needed clarity.
Speed up the healing process -- your brain is amazing. There has been so much uncovered about it and yet, science has barely scratched the surface of what the human mind is truly capable of. Take your subconscious, for example. After acknowledging an issue through the method of writing, your mind will immediately start to figure out what to do next. You may have dismissed it from conscious thought, but working away in the background while you get on with your life, is your subconscious mind.
Extra benefits -- The simple action of writing is therapeutic in itself. This fact is not well known, but it has been proven again and again through many different types of research. I'll say it again -- writing is therapy. Writing down your thoughts and feelings on a regular basis can boost your mood and lower stress levels. It can encourage you reflect on your life, both the good and the bad, and help you to move on from a particularly traumatic event. Fiction writing can also have the same positive effects, which I can personally vouch for.
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What are your personal experiences with writing?
IF YOU'RE anything like me, then you'll know what it is to struggle with time.
There are so many things that I want to accomplish. My first novel is mid-revision. I'm working on a collection of short stories, while maintaining a blog. There's also a tantalizing idea for a novella, just begging to be written, buzzing around in my mind. Not to mention those half-finished stories just sitting on my hard drive and the five dozen books on my to read pile. Phew!
Having a full-time job, though, takes up a lot of my time (after all, a girl's gotta eat).
So what do you do?
First of all, check out this blog post. Today's post is an extension of that. Or, if you can't be bothered to click away, check out these five MORE ways to make time for what you love -- writing. :-)
1. Make up lists -- I tend to be more productive when I'm working through a checklist. Not only does it give you a sense of accomplishment, but you'd be amazed at how much difference a little scrap of paper can make on a busy day. It can be hard keeping track of what needs to be done and when. Your poor multitasking brain can't possibly be expected to retain all the information it's fed. At the end of each day, take some extra time to list all the things you'd like to accomplish tomorrow. When you wake up the next day, you can then work your way down your list, leaving your mind free to focus solely (almost) on the task at hand.
Wunderlist is a great task managing app that you can use with pretty much any device. Using one account, it will sync to all your devices so that you never need be without your daily lists. I can also recommend Trello, which is what I've been using for the past couple of weeks. Of course, good ol' pen and paper will also do the trick!
2. Set realistic goals -- When you have unrealistic expectations, your productivity is only going to plummet. You know where you want to be, but there's so much to do before you get there. You can't seem to make yourself focus. You put it off, promising yourself that tomorrow will be a better day. But that day never comes.
Stop, and envision where you want to be. Take a step back and start mapping how to get there. Planning is the key here. You're not being productive because you're overwhelmed by the sheer size of your target. Break it down into manageable chunks and take it step by step. Remember- slow and steady wins the race.
3. Time Management -- It's your lack of time that is holding you back. Surely, you just need to wait until you have more time, right? Wrong. You will always feel like you need more time. The fact is, you will never get it. Stop waiting for the right moment and make the present moment work for you. Manage your time to fit more into your day. What inessential things can you cut from your day, or your week, to maximise your time?
4. Pre- activity rituals -- You finally have an hour to yourself. But getting into the right frame of mind when you're not already there can be hard. It doesn't have to be an uphill battle though. By having your own pre-activity rituals or routines, you can retrain your brain to work for you. Doing the same few things before you begin each session will help you get into the right frame of mind to write. It doesn't have to be much. It can be something as simple as making yourself a cup of coffee, or setting your work space in a certain way. Make a playlist of songs that get you motivated and listen to it for 30 minutes. What ever works for you. You may subconsciously already have one. Embrace it!
5. Take time off -- Finally, take time to refuel every now and again. It's okay to push yourself. Hell, sometimes the only way to get anything done is keep going after you hit your limits. But you can't do this indefinitely, certainly not without sacrificing quality. It's important to take a step back every once in a while. Take some you time. Read a good book, have a hot soak, treat yourself to a lie in instead of setting the alarm to work on that project. When you reach burnout, it can take twice as long to refuel than if you'd just stopped a little sooner.
Here's some food for thought -- you accomplish more when you enjoy what you do. Find your passion and stoke the fire at every opportunity. Do what you love; smile, laugh, always aim for more.
Never settle for anything less.
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This past couple of weeks, I've been listing the different ways you can re-inspire your muse. Today, I'm completing that list with the final eleven points.
Missed a post? Catch up with part one here and part two here.
Give me your thoughts in the comments below!
THERE'S NOTHING worse than wanting to get things done, but feeling creatively dry. You're ready to write, but the words won't come. You sit down to paint, but your vision just doesn't flow. It happens to us all at some point or another.
That doesn't mean we have to accept it.
Like this post? Catch up with part one here and look out for the final part next week.
Give me your thoughts in the comments below!
Sometimes, we push ourselves too much. If you insist on doing this frequently, at some point you will reach burnout. This is bad news for your muse.
But fret not. If you're stuck, this list should help your creative self get back on the right track.
Like this post? Look out for the second part next week.
Give me your thoughts in the comments below!
It's important to take a step back every once in a while and take a look at the big picture. Why are you doing what you're doing? Is it because you enjoy it? If so, are you still enjoying it? If you can't answer that question, then it may be time to reassess your life goals.
In my case, I'd written myself into a rut. I was doing the same things every week, writing in the same two places all the time and I wasn't really enjoying it. Don't get me wrong, I DO enjoy writing. I'm passionate about the words I write. Writing is a big part of who I am today. But I stopped experiencing new things and became almost mechanical, closing myself off to the world when I write. As a direct result, I wasn't allowing myself to be inspired.
Standing in Roath Park, it's hard to believe that you're in the city. Cardiff has lush greenery to rival any countryside view, but step outside of these bubbles of tranquillity and you'll find the concrete jungle you'd expect from any city. It seems to have the best of both worlds.
That, my friends, is about as much as we can hope for. Because once we lose inspiration, we become lost ourselves. So, seek it often and everywhere. And know when to step away.
What have I got for you this week?
Well, the subject of this post is a bit of a giveaway -- no pun intended! ;-) That's right, I'm running a competition.
Win a lifetime license for Scrivener writing software!
For those of you that don't already know, Scrivener is the ultimate writing tool. Used by beginners and professionals alike, Scrivener packs everything you could possibly need into one gigantic programme, placing a wide array of tools at every writer's fingertips.
You can visit the Scrivener website and read all about it here.
Then, you can pop back and enter the giveaway, as well as increase your chances of bagging the ultimate writing tool here or here.
I stumbled upon this old blog post and felt that it perfectly summed up my my reason for being a writer in a way that I can't currently top. It also gives a little insight into the process of writing a book, starting with no previous experience and the simple need to write.
IT'S HARD TO imagine how you'll feel after finishing a long-term project, especially one that really means something. Will you feel relieved or sad? Elated, or put off the whole experience for life? Well, while plugging away at my first novel, picking it up and playing with it like a cat with a half dead mouse, only to drop it again (rinse and repeat), I never thought that I'd get to the end.
Looking back, it's easy to explain my wavering commitment.
The Wrong Frame of Mind
Crimson Touch began its life many years ago, not as book of any kind, but as a form of therapy. At the time, writing was the only thing that could give me the release I needed. I could take all the negativity in my head and pour it into the page, turning it into something positive in the process. The result of this was an amalgamation of everything I had been through -- converted into the form of a fictional character.
Years later, that same character still buzzed around in my mind. He haunted my daydreams and plagued my thoughts, never too far away. I frequently found myself wondering what his story was. When I finally did commit to taking the character further, it was to get him out of my head.
I had no idea what I was in for.
In it for the Long Haul
I don't know about you, but before I started writing I was a different person. Aimless and bored, I found it hard to be passionate about anything. I was average at most things I put my hand to and had picked up the nasty habit of getting by on minimal effort. This made me lazy.
I wrote half a draft, then gave it up as a bad job.
It's difficult to pinpoint the exact moment I decided to give a damn. But that was the moment when everything changed. Starting from scratch, this time I was in it for the long haul.
From that point on, I became someone I wanted to be. Focused, driven, passionate; I had purpose. I told anyone who would listen that I was writing a book. I got the same reaction from most people -- doubt and, god forbid, sympathy. They didn't believe I could do it. But the more people I told, the harder I was making it for myself to turn back. I read book after book on writing advice, articles on plotting and magazines that talked about style and voice. I read novels through the eyes of a writer, as well as a hungry reader.
Slowly but surely, the words were filling the screen. What I didn't realise, though, that I was still holding back. Emotionally.
'There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed'- Ernest Hemingway
It's natural to want to shield yourself from emotional discomfort. But going to that dark place in your heart and actually living it, feeling it, is necessary if you want it to be real for others. After all, how can you convince anyone that your characters are worth the emotional investment if you're not willing to go there yourself?
Writing the first draft of Crimson Touch has been a journey of self-discovery. I've learned what kind of person I am, as well as how to write a book (and how not to!) and actually finish what I start. Of course, writing a book is only the first step. The next few will be just as hard -- and just as rewarding.
IF YOU want your characters to jump off the page as your readers progress through your story, they must be believable. In fact, there are many key ingredients to creating vivid, life-like characters. I've covered the subject of character development in a previous blog post, (you can check that out here,) but today I'm talking about fatal flaws.
First, let's make sure we're on the same page. What exactly is a fatal flaw?
Fatal Flaws -- a Brief Introduction
Fatal Flaw -- a literary device that can be defined as a trait in a character leading to his downfall. The character is often the hero of the literary piece. This trait could be the lack of self-knowledge, lack of judgement and often it is hubris (pride).
No two characters in your world are alike. They have likes and dislikes, obsessions and fears. Their point of view of the world is unique. Their minds work in different ways. Their past experiences dictate the individual way they respond in any given situation, and it's this that makes a fatal flaw so deeply rooted within your characters.
So, why is this important and how does it fit into my story?
I'm so glad you asked.
The Varying Types of Flawed
Despite its misleading name, fatal flaws don't always have to be fatal -- they can range from minor inconveniences to major impediments. However, whatever degree of flaws your character possesses, they will always interfere with his or her journey.
Your character's fatal flaw (or flaws) will be a part of them, a negative trait or quality that comes as naturally to them as breathing. They may or may not be aware of them. They can like or dislike them, but they can't run away from them. Examples of such flaws are a quick temper, jealousy, pride or cowardice. And they don't always have to be a directly negative trait, either. Sometimes you can take a positive quality and amplify it, until its crippling effects become indirectly negative. For example, selflessness, ambition, perfectionism, and self-preservation.
Despite its origin, though, there will come a time within your story when these fatal flaws become obstacles in your hero or heroine's path, preventing them from succeeding. Your characters will have to overcome their own personal flaws in order to achieve their main goal.
Choosing the Right Flaws
In order to choose the right flaws for your characters and their story, you need to know them intimately. For the most part, writing the first draft of a story is an act of discovery. Whether you outline first then write, or make up the outline as you go, (the age old pantsers vs plotters conundrum, my friends, which is another blog post!), you may not immediately have a good idea of what flaw matches up with who -- especially if you're working with multiple points of view.
But sticking any old flaw on whichever character happens to take your fancy is not the way to go about assigning a tragic flaw. Think about your character's personality, their strengths and weaknesses. The right flaw not only enhances your perfectly imperfect hero, but the story, providing internal and external conflict as a result. Play with different combinations, see how they pan out. You may find that assigning the right flaw to your character unlocks a piece of the plot you didn't even know was missing.
Having imperfect characters with a clear weakness and blind spot also helps your readers identify with them. Think about it -- no one is perfect. Creating the a beautiful, brave hero to fearlessly jump in and save the day in every scenario may look and feel great your head, but why would we cheer him on when we know he can't fail? How can we relate to a character that seems to be perfect in every way? We as human beings don't know how to relate to perfection because we're not perfect. But failure is something that we can all relate to.
Flaws are vital part of any vivid character. They bring us closer to them and allow us to relate, or even sympathise, with that character. Fatal flaws are essential to plot, as well as character. They provide obstacles for our characters to overcome, or not, in order to reach their main goal. They also provide many internal and external conflict opportunities that enhance the overall reading experience.
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SOME PEOPLE suffer from a lack of ideas. Their well of creativity has run dry and so, they must take the time to replenish it before they try to squeeze out any more water.
This blog post is not for them. This post is for those who suffer from the opposite problem -- too many ideas.
But wait, you might say. How is it possible to suffer from too many ideas? Surely, that's a good thing.
Well, picture this. Your ideas are coming thick and fast. You're excited, inspired even. They are all you can think about. At work, going to bed... Buzzing around inside you. Finally, you sit down to work on your many enticing ideas. Where should you start? Which one is most deserving of your attention? As you work on your novel, that short story idea pesters you constantly. A poem sits at the back of your mind. Oh, and don't forget about that self-help book you've been meaning to write for a while now.
You'll need a doppelganger or three to get to get everything you want to do done.
Yes, having too many ideas can be just as crippling as having none. Indecision, that feeling of being overwhelmed by your hefty to-do list, procrastination -- some of the many negative side effects of having too many projects on the go. (Even if you haven't started them yet!)
Are you listening now? Good, because I have some tips for you.
*NB -- Indecision is not a real person. As much as I like to picture a little blue creature with a notepad running from idea to idea in our minds.
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UPDATE: My journal Get Organised! An Idea Tracker For Writers is now available to buy online. If you've struggled with the above issue, then this may help.
"Get Organised! An Idea Tracker For Writers is the perfect way to keep track of those moments of inspiration, strange dreams, daydreams, creative ‘aha!’ moments and project ideas that you don’t have time for now, but don’t want to forget.
Each idea section contains prompts to guide your thoughts, space to doodle or brainstorm, a simple idea rating system and plenty of lines to expand on those valuable ideas.
With this book, you need never lose an idea again!"
WHETHER YOU write fiction or nonfiction, novels or how-to guides, you are a writer. You put words on a page, one after the other, and you do so on a regular basis.
But why do you write? Is it an enjoyable hobby? A steady source of income? Do you have a message that people need to hear?
Do you write for you, or for them?
Writing for You
Writing for Them
Can You Do Both?
What do you think?
Author of bite-sized stories, with debut novel Crimson Touch out 2019.