Tag Archives: fiction

Lock

Last week, the washing machine started to make a loud noise during the spin cycle. When I say loud, I don’t mean “Oh, it squeaked a bit.” I mean it shouted out its death throes like a Shakespearian actor trying to steal the show.

Then the door stopped locking and when then door doesn’t lock, the cycle won’t start, therefore rendering it less washing machine more wet place to put clothes.

How does this relate to writing?

Sometimes things don’t click in a story and it won’t lock and this stops you going any further, just like the door on my washing machine.  Sadly for my washing machine, the fault was terminal, but the beauty about writing is that a little hiccup doesn’t have to be fatal.

Here’s some things you can try when you get stuck:

Free writing.

Write something else. Get words out. Doesn’t matter what they are. You may find the answer comes to you during one of these sessions when you are really thinking about it. 

Handwrite something in a journal.

I love handwriting. I love notebooks. Combine the two and keep a journal for those moments when you’re stuck. Usually I find that the journal entries reveal things I didn’t know about my characters and myself. However, resist falling into the “angst trap.”

Do five minutes of plotting.

Write down what you do know about the scene in bullet points. Write down anything else relating to the scene. This should help to get your mind in a place where you can write the scene itself. After doing the washing, having a cup of tea, eating a snack, rearranging your desk etc etc.

Write through it.

It’s not going to be pleasant and it’s not going to be easy, but puttting In an hour or two of hard graft might produce that scene you needrd to glue it all together.

Leave it and come back later.

I work chronologically so doing this is my least favourite way of doing things. However, if you write scene by scene then glue it together at the end, this way will work really well for you.

Whichever you choose to do, don’t give up on that novel. Your characters deserve a voice, and you don’t want to stop the world from knowing as much about them as you do, do you? Don’t let one little lock stop you from giving them a chance to be heard.

Why I write.

 

Some bits from my first draft

Hello, first draft!

When the wonderful Michelle from The American Resident asked if anyone would like to answer some questions about writing, I jumped at the chance. There’s one thing you can always guarantee about a writer: they LOVE to talk about writing. This is because it feels like we’re working on our writing while we’re doing it. So, having been passed a very exciting and prestigious baton, I’ll tell you what’s been going on.

 

What am I working on?

Actually, there are two projects on the go right now and both are taking me out of my comfort zone.

The first is the remnants of the most recent Camp NaNoWriMo in April and is a twisted fantasy where I’ve been making up the rules as I go along.

Writing fantasy is hard.

I’ll say it again: writing fantasy is hard.

The most challenging thing I’m finding is remembering the new rules of physics and making the novel clever enough to return to previous storylines.  I’m finding the twists more difficult in fantasy because there is an expectation that nothing is as it seems. It is entirely possible that my first draft is more poop than your average first draft and all first drafts are poop.  However; it’s most of the way to the end and the rest is plotted out so some may suggest the hard work is done.

We all know that writing the damn thing is just the beginning of the hard work.

The second project is a piece of non-fiction which I’m procrastinating about writing. It’s a research project that I have “accidentally” been doing for years and it’s time I put my data to good use. I love to study people and I’m fascinated by the Internet and our interaction with it.  I’ve written fiction about it a few times and I’ve decided that now it’s time to take what I know and what I’ve found and all the other things that are flying around in my head and dump on the page to see what happens.  It  might work. It might not. You don’t know until you try.

 

How does my work/writing differ from others of its genre?

I’m not certain that differing is always a good thing. People like familiarity.

In short, my work differs because it is mine and no one else’s. I write about very personal memories and try to bring in a real depth to my characters. I also think this is a trait shared by all writers.

The fantasy I’ve written is accidentally similar to Pratchett. I think that’s more because his books hold the standard for fantasy and I’ve just followed the cut and stick guidelines for standard fantasy writing.

 

Why do I write what I do?

I write because I love the challenge. I like to try different genres and styles because I like to push my abilities and see where my boundaries lie.  Bits of the non-fiction book are going to be written as you would write an academic paper because I want to try it, although I realise this style is heavy to read. (The research requires me to read a lot of academic papers on the subject so I know how much of a headache that can be. Maybe it’s time we stopped the world of academia churning out heavy papers and gave them a standard that they could share with the rest of the world? No one said research results have to be difficult to understand unless you’re privvy to the ways of Higher Education.)

I write what I do because I get images in my head. I get snippets of dialogue and faces and actions. Then I sit and write and get more and more things about my darlings until they’re there, on the page, fleshed out with personalities I had never even considered for them. It’s quite fascinating how it all comes together.

 

How does my writing process work?

I start with a vague idea. I generally have five or six of these brewing at any one time. Sometimes I do a brainstorm of things I might like to happen. This process starts way before I even think about the first words.  I have a journal that I keep, not regularly, but I like to write my thoughts in there and sometimes, these thoughts include ideas for the story. I also keep a lot of notes on my phone.

When the big day hits, I begin and try to keep up a steady pace.  This never happens and I end up binge-writing — writing nothing for two or three days then writing 4000 or 5000 words in an evening.

I usually prepare a playlist of songs that bring on the most visual imagery relating to the story for me. This becomes my music for the writing phase.

The plan after that is to go with the flow. Stick to the basic outline but don’t worry too much if it meanders.  I have stories where I’ve written things in and out of chapters and left loose ends dangling.  The most important thing for me is to get those words down, get the scenes out of my head and let the characters reveal themselves.  Once they’re out there and I’m beginning to know them it makes writing their stories much easier.

Non-fiction writing seems to consist, so far, of research. I’m reading a lot of blogs and papers and having a lot of discussions with friends about the subject. Nothing is set in stone yet, although I have the odd question I have jotted down to try to answer. I should imagine my best ideas are coming out in (quite ironically, given the subject matter) chat sessions online. We shall see. It’s all in its very early stages and a very new adventure.

 

If you’ve enjoyed this, please go and look at Michelle’s blog. I know Michelle through our online writing group and our trusted feedback group. She is a valuable member to both and an extremely talented writer. Her experiences as an expat add a broad and deep insight to her writing.

Sadly, I haven’t been able to get people to agree to continue this trend, which is a shame, because it’s a lovely bloghop to do and a great opportunity to think about what we’re writing and why we’re writing it. If you’d like to know more about the people in our feedback group and how fabulous they are, read this.

Lull

As the starting line for the next NaNo draws closer, we get restless.

We want to get started on our next big thing. We want to finish it too, although the reality is that life will get in the way and some of us will have to leave our stories unfinished.

Its scary and exciting, this NaNo thing. When you see that blank page for the first time and think “I have to fill you with 50 thousand words,” that can be a little daunting.

That’s why we have the Lull.

The week or so before a challenge, I stop all novel type activities. Mainly because my head is buzzing so much with new ideas that trying to concentrate on anything ongoing is futile, but also to give myself a chance to step back, reflect, stare at the blank page in a panic and wonder if I have what it takes.

This is the only chance we are going to get to doubt ourselves before we are thrown in and left to swim.

Thing is, you won’t drown. You will write. And even if you only write a few thousand words you wrote something.

That’s what actually counts.

A storyline

As writers, we often have moments of amazing clarity. We can find hope when our characters are at their darkest, we can evoke empathy for an evil soul, we can put together twists which shock even ourselves, so it’s no surprise that from the depths of a void, a storyline can materialise, complete with a subplot.

My normal tactic for a 50k word challenge is to write an emotive, self-absorbed first person monologue about love or loss or being crazy.

This new storyline came to me a couple of mornings ago. I didn’t really know how this was going to go until then. I knew it had to lead into another story, and I didn’t have a clue how it was going to get there but then – BAM – it was there in its entirety.

Oh, yes; there’s love, loss, crazy antics and maybe a little bit of hanky-panky… And dragons.

Yep, dragons.

And a hero who is a bit of a cocky bugger.

And some pissed off Gods.

I’m very excited now.

Being consumed

When we write something, we expect it to have an appropriate emotional response in our audience. What I didn’t expect was to be completely consumed by the characters.

This can be a dangerous game.

They are omnipresent. You find yourself thinking “what would my character do if I gave them this situation?” Sometimes, they can consume us so much that we all but disappear until they’re finished.

Some characters provide an excellent outlet for all of the feelings that we as adults have been taught to suppress. In fiction you can play with scenarios; what would happen if I didn’t go to work, drove into the sea, screwed those people (metaphorically and physically). A character can take a hidden part of your personality and exaggerate it, expanding it into someone you wish you could be. They can be inspirational and lead to a lot of discoveries (not always pleasant) about ourselves.

For my first NaNoWriMo attempt in 2011 I wrote about bullying and mental health but began the story with a dramatised scene of one of my own life events. This took me down a path of self-discovery and acceptance, which forced me to re-evaluate some of the critical relationships in my life.  

The character I began toying with more recently made me realise I had tipped over the edge of another unpleasant facet of my own personality, and although I am not as obsessive as my character appears to be I found I was putting more and more of my own experienced emotion into the monolgue. 

I began to dislike the character, her focus, and her energy. She was (and is) too intense and all encompassing.  

She makes for a difficult read. 

She makes for an even more difficult write. 

She was in danger of consuming me so I felt the need to distance myself from her. 

Being a writer can sometimes feel like you’re going a bit mad, but in the most glorious fashion.

Commitment

Writing a novel is a big commitment.

What are we committing to when we give in to the nagging and start to put pen to paper? (or fingers to keyboard. Pick your poison.)

We are committing time.

Writing a novel takes time. A lot of time. Even if you do a NaNoWriMo challenge, you’re still going to be looking at putting between 10,000 and 30,000 words on the end of your winning total. Don’t forget that the actual writing takes place after the planning and research, which in itself can take months.

We are committing our thoughts

Character and plot development take a lot of working out. We might not look like we’re doing anything when we’re staring blankly at the wall, but in fact we are running over a piece of dialogue or a scene and working out those kinks.

We are committing our headspace

Once that character is there it’s like a permanent stain. And even if you can control it during your waking hours, be prepared to be waling your character through their lives while you dream.

We are committing ourselves to heartache

Yep, when you write the words The End on that first draft, it’s going to hurt like hell.

We are committing ourselves to our characters

You, Writer, are the only person alive who knows this character. They deserve to have a chance at the world.

A couple of weeks ago, I reached the commitment stage with an idea I had been playing with for a while.  My character is much more messy than I intended and she was there, loud and proud and I was ready so I took her in and started to write her story.

Now I want a divorce.

She’s a nutter.

Not only is she a nutter but she’s left me and I’m considering some flirtatious antics with another novel.

Looks like I wasn’t as committed as I thought!

The Accidental Novel

Limbo, drifting, lost, wandering. 

The next project is calling; it’s almost there. Almost.  

It’s like a name on the tip of my tongue – I can feel it, taste it, but it’s not formed, not cooked, not ready. 

So I wait.  Keep it churning, keep it moving, keep thinking about it. I’ll know when it needs to escape.

Until then I need something to keep my idle creativity active, lest it takes off into the real world and causes all manner of unpleasantness, so I have been writing… well … Things. 

I have a character. She has no name, no face, no age. She’s a manifestation of feeling. She has nothing in her life apart from the way she feels about him: her Delicious. 

Her thoughts go from examining the things he says and does through to examining her own behaviour, both towards him and in front of others. 

I write about her almost daily. 

It’s her fault I have an Accidental Novel.