Tag Archives: Writing

Kafka Gives Me Hope…

It has been a long while since I last posted, many apologies to all. Especially to those who had begun to make reading my blog a habit.  I had a cold that dragged on and on, and by the time it was done, I had completely fallen out of the blogging habit. And so followed the usual pattern of good habits being hard to make, and especially hard to remake, so here I go…

But on the front of the procrastination station of non-blog writing on my writing (which by the way has been moving steadily forward, like an iceberg into the Titanic, but more on that later), my beloved BF sent me this inspiring article in Slate on how Kafka was one of the truly great procrastinators, and it has given me a spark of hope. Procrastination may not be all bad… alternatively, I could try getting the BF to tie me to my writing chair akin to Italian author Vittorio Alfieri, pictured above. I have not yet ruled that one out entirely.

Be Your Character – Literally.

RedditThey say that to write a book, you need to get into the head of your character. What better way to do that than be an online persona of your character and have people interview him/her/it.

At the IAmAFiction Sub-Reddit, you can log on as your character and interact with readers who will pose questions and help you to add flesh to your ideas.  A few of my favourite proposed characters I’ve come across are:

To be honest, I’m a complete novice with Reddit, and I don’t quite gettit (*excuse the pun* – couldn’t resist. Honestly,  you have my sincerest apologies, please don’t go…). The premise seems good. All you need to do is submit your character as an interview subject, and you can give your character a test run in the forum with avid readers. The Reddit peeps say:

If you are working on developing an invented character for creative writing, roleplay, or pure novelty, this is the place to expose your character to the world and subject them to questioning to help you flesh them out.

IAmA posts work just like a regular IAmA post, except the poster assumes the role of his/her character.

Please be a good IAmAfic citizen and comment on other people’s submissions as well as your own. Remember, they’re not real people — so no need to be shy!

my own character development

I may well make use of this in future – when I finally figure out Reddit.

My current state of affairs with Four and Twenty Blackbirds, and character development thereof, is a bit of a shambles. Embarking on my current plan of 4and20BB without a huge amount of novel- writing experience was a trifle ambitious. I have been aiming to write 3 separate and distinct storylines in a world of my own creation and weave the stories so that they all tie up nicely. The only problem was that although I have characters and a world and a few dramatic scenes inferring an over-arching storyline. The truth is, that I have been making it up as I went along. I have no story. It was all very well for a while, but I am now thoroughly lost, with a whole bunch of scenes, but no plot to speak of. Just a bunch of curious characters meadering through their strangely eventful lives.

I’ve been ill the last few days, and although it hasn’t been fun being stuck abed, it has given me ample opportunity to think and plan. The good news is – I now have a plot! The bad news is, for the moment at least, I need to cut the majority of what I’ve written. Ouch! Ah well, at least now I have a path, much better than the frustration of being completely lost and listless… into the woods I go!

Write for 15 Minutes a Day

StopwatchNo pressure.

15 minutes is entirely do-able. Sit down, set a timer, ready, steady….. WRITE! Don’t stop to think and worry, just go – edit later – this way there will be something to edit.

I think that this is a really good exercise to do when you’re feeling like there is no time for writing in your life. I tried it out this morning. I woke up, made a pot of tea, sat down and just wrote. The short time frame I allowed myself was quite freeing, and it’s amazing how much I got done.

Currently, I am still world building for Four and Twenty Blackbirds. Today, I was plotting the relationships between the many city states in my fairy tale fantasy world. It has made me reconsider the longstanding name of my main city – Farway. I really do like the name Farway, but there has been mention that it sounds a little close to Far Far Away from Shrek. Another name has cropped up on me this morning – Yore, to be referred to as ‘the city of Yore’, etc. Any thoughts?

Writing Mood Board

Just a few sparks of inspiration that keep me going. Enjoy.

Keep Calm and Write HemmingwayPlotting

Cummings Writer DefinitionPlan ATwainComfort Zone

Editing Fantasy – Words are Wind

A friend “book-bombed” me the other day. By that, I mean that she sent me a book she just read through the post and labelled it – a w e s o m e. I dropped all my other reading material in favour of this newly acquired and well-thumbed tome – The Night Angel Trilogy Book 1 – The Way of Shadows by Brent Weeks. (Thanks Lex, you rock!)

The Night Angel Trilogy

trust the reader

It came out in 2008, and a cursory search online tells me that it has a bit of a following. I’m about a third of the way through thus far, and the characters and the world are really well developed. There is some great use of language, imagery and scene setting. But I find myself frustrated as I mentally edit the book as I read. At the moment it’s good, but it could have been great. An example below:

Chapter 9

The following is told from Solon’s point of view. The scene has been set. My editing is as per the strike through

               “Men!” Logan said to the guards loudly to cut her off. “Lady Gyre is tired and overwrought. Escort her to her chambers. I’d appreciate it if one of you would watch her door this night in case she requires anything. We will all dine in the usual room in the morning.”

               Solon loved it. Logan had just confined his mother to her chambers and put a guard on the door to keep her there until morning, all without giving her an avenue for complaint. This boy will be formidable.

Trust the reader. Show don’t tell. The reader knows that this (the language that has been struck through) is what Logan’s done, he’s just said it. Brent Weeks didn’t need to repeat what he meant all over again. I find it really frustrating and distracting, because this sort of clumsy language is repeated throughout the book. It’s almost as if there should have been one last pass of editing that was never done. I am enjoying the depth of the story and the characters, and may well end up reading the full trilogy. But at the moment, it is only my friend’s recommendation that pushes me through the frustration to believe that the book will deliver.

lessons learned

This is a book that has been published by a major publishing house. I’m not sure that it means that their level of editing is inadequate, or it’s simply a lesson to all us unpublished authors that we need to get our level of editing right before our work is submitted.

For me, Brent Weeks’ world is inspiring, because there is so much depth to it. It encourages me to focus on my back story, and world building. But it also reminds me that I need to edit like hell and be ruthless with cutting material. Every word needs to fight for its right to be in my novel: Four and Twenty Blackbirds

There’s No Such Thing as an Original Story

It’s often quoted that there are only 7 stories in the world that all basic plotlines can fall into:

  1. Overcoming the Monster: Hero learns of a great evil threatening the land, and sets out to destroy it.
  2. Tragedy: The flip side of the Overcoming the Monster plot. Ourhero protagonist character is the Villain, but we get to watch him slowly spiral down into darkness before he’s finally defeated, freeing the land from his evil influence.
  3. Rebirth: As with the Tragedy plot, but our protagonist manages to realize his error before it’s too late, and does a Heel Face Turn to avoid inevitable defeat.
  4. Rags to Riches: surrounded by dark forces who suppress and ridicule him, the Hero slowly blossoms into a mature figure who ultimately gets riches, a kingdom, and the perfect mate.
  5. The Quest: Hero learns of a great MacGuffin that he desperately wants to find, and sets out to find it, often with companions.
  6. Voyage and Return: Hero heads off into a magic land with crazy rules, ultimately triumphs over the madness and returns home far more mature than when he set out.
  7. Comedy: Hero and Heroine are destined to get together, but a dark force is preventing them from doing so; the story conspires to make the dark force repent, and suddenly the Hero and Heroine are free to get together. This is part of a cascade of effects that shows everyone for who they really are, and allows two or more other relationships to correctly form.

with this rather limited range, it’s unsurprising to find that ideas are often repeated.  This is something that I’m struggling with at the moment. Whenever I think of a cunning new angle to take on fairy tales for my story Four and Twenty Blackbirds, a cursory amount of research informs me that someone has come up with that story arc already (Thanks Wikipedia).

It’s highly frustrating. But I think I’m just going to have to accept that not all of my ideas are “original”, and go with my best ideas even if some of them are already out there. They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. I can only hope that the angle I take on various folklore will be the best constructed.

Video

Do What You Love Doing

What if money didn’t matter? What would you love to do?

I came across this today, and I think that it’s one that everyone should watch to help refocus and make sense of the world. I’ve found it a good reminder to keep going.

Writing 1,000 Words a Week?

One of my belated-resolutions was is to write 1,000 words a week for my book Four and Twenty Blackbirds. As my belated-resolutions began on 1st February, and I’m counting a “week” as a calendar week starting on a Monday (playing it fast and loose, I know)… that means I have until the end of tomorrow to write my week’s quota.

writer’s block

As much discussed in i.am.sophus., I’ve been suffering from writer’s block for a time now. I started this blog to address this, I’ve also attended a drop-in session at an Anne Aylor writing class. Both of these things have helped in revving my mind up. I’ve picked up a pen for the first time in an age and have started working on my novel again: the background, the characters, the world in which it is based. No actual word count increase yet, but I’m moving in the right direction. In writing this blog, I’ve reminded myself of my novel writing rituals, which is helping me get back in the groove. I’ve even gone out and bought a scrub stick because I associate the scent with sitting down and writing.  I’ve included a photo of my sage-burning and character background planning, below.

Char Dev

It’s an outline of the Twelve Families Harbottle – the 12 families that make up the Harbottle tribe of brownies. A brownie is the point of view of a little less than a third of my narrative, so a comprehensive background is really important. By brownies, I do mean the small elf-type individuals (and the fairy tale/ folklore type of elfs that live under toadstools, not the elves from the Lord of the Rings/ Forgotten Realms vein).

slash and burn editing

Writing from a brownie POV for an adult novel is challenging, and my aim is to make the brownies very dark. I’ve written about fifteen thousand words or so thus far, and very sadly, it’s too light and fluffy. I do really like what’s I’ve written. However, having restarted my writing brain and dedicated some proper time thinking about 4&20 (I think that the sage burning helped too), I’ve come to face the fact that it’s going to have to go. I’m going to have to start again. It feels like I’m severing a limb. But better to do it now than later on. Still, it is very dispiriting.

I will be counting my rewrite as going towards my 1,000 word a week count. Not to do so would be far too depressing. I will keep planning this evo, and get cracking on the rewrite early on tomorrow. Wish me luck.

Writing Routines and Rituals: with an Ode to Toni Morrison.

I always get and make a cup of coffee while it is still dark—it must be dark—and then I drink the coffee and watch the light come.
Toni Morrison

There’s a 1993 interview in the Paris Review by Elissa Schappell, where Toni Morrison dispenses her long-learned wisdoms on writing.

It was the start of the interview that really struck me. The idea of routine to get into writing. Even though I have never managed a long-lived writing routine, I Smudgedo realise that at my writing peak, I did have a sort of ritual – I used to burn sage. It’s called a smudge stick, which fairly resembles an illicit drug. I now know that smudge sticks are strongly associated the earth-mother-kind of spirituality, and I’m not at all a hippy-dippy type (though I have a lot of good friends who are). I discovered the background RE burning sage when a hippy-dippy friend made a comment about warding off evil spirits, the cleansing of auras, and such. It may well do that too, but for me, it was the ritual of the thing. The subconscious connections that the smell makes in my mind. 

A writing teacher of mine – Anne Aylor – used to burn sage in her classes, and I will forever associate it with being inspired and writing. It is amazing what the association does. It’s not often, but whenever I’ve chanced by the scent of burnt sage I feel the compulsion to sit quietly at a desk with a pen. It’s amazing that I forgot about it this strange association, but burning sage is something I’ve not done in quite some time. I need to re-enact this bizarre habit, and get back to a ritual and routine of writing.

Thank you Toni Morrison for reminding me.

Realism in Writing Goals

Reality Check aheadOK, I have an admission. Although I did enroll in Coursera’s Science Fiction and Fantasy course with the University of Michigan. I’m realising that it’s one commitment too far, there are simply not enough hours in the day for me to do this, my blog, my novel and all the other extra-cirricular activities that I am involved in. It’s one thing too many, lest all the balls that I am juggling come tumbling down.

The reading list is great (and I think it I will follow it), the course materials are great, but enrolling late and trying to launch myself into it was a little optimistic. I think that I will definitely enroll into another course where I have prepared myself  timetable-wise. In fact, Online Games: Literature, New Media, and Narrative, a Coursera course with Vanderbilt University which starts in the summer looks particularly entertaining (one of the classes is held in the LOTR MMORPG), but I digress…

Progress with writing 4&20

As far as crafting long-form fiction goes, I am a slow writer. I spend hours agonising over every word and phrase. Constantly fact-checking and looking for better suited synonyms to make my writing just so. Although I would say that overall my standard of writing is fairly good, there isn’t very much of it and to put it frankly, a snail would easily outpace me.

Blog-assisted inspiration

I’ve been blogging for just under 2 weeks, and I really feel that it is helping me. Helping to give me focus in my writing. I have been in a writing slump for nearly half a year: I set aside my novel 4&20 and my fairy tale fantasy world, and they’ve been gathering dust in a shadowy corner. Although I have not yet added anything to my word count for Four and Twenty Blackbirds, it has been foremost in my thoughts this past fortnight. I have been world building and developing my characters, something that I have not done in an age. I’ve also signed up for a drop-in writing class this Thursday with the very awesome Anne Aylor, which I really think will help get my proverbial ink flowing.

100-Word story: jeffrey archer short story challenge

On other fronts, I have finished my 100-word story for the Jeffrey Archer Short Story Challenge, entitled FreeCycle. I will be going over it with my writing group WLWG on Wednesday, and will post it here after submitting it to the competition.

Happy writing, one and all.