Monday, November 29, 2010

NaNoWriMo Complete!

At last the pressure is off! I've completed the 50k words in 30 days challenge. Wootiness! I still have another 10-15k to write before I finish the first draft but I'm excited how much I've achieved. It's the most I've ever written in so short a time.

Things I've learned from the challenge:

1. There's no point comparing yourself to other people, you have to find what works for you. I watched some of my NaNo buddies plough through the challenge. Some finished in the first or second week. At first I panicked. I wanted to be able to pump out a story like them. I envied their focus. Then I realised I'm not like them. I accepted I can't work that fast. I just can't. And that is okay. Once I found my own rhythm I was happy again.

2. Perseverance pays off. Midway through the challenge I struggled. I wanted to give in and go play some mindless game on the xbox. It was all too much hard work. Well, I'm so glad I stuck it out. This feeling of achievement is awesome!

3. Outlining Rocks! Without NaNo I probably would still be snubbing my nose at outlining. I thought I'd give it a go. I didn't expect to like it, but I thought it might at least give me a head start on the story and prevent me from stumbling halfway. Maybe. Well, it turns out that outlining works for me. I LOVE it. It helped me be more creative in the plot.

4. I can do it. Set your heart on anything, put a little hard work and passion into it, and it can be done.

How are the rest of you going with your current writing projects? Do you celebrate when you've hit a milestone?

Friday, November 26, 2010

Danny MacAskill - "Way Back Home"

This post is a slight departure from my usual themes, but I had to share it. This short film has been beautifully shot, great music with an amazing, breathtaking performance.

If we work hard enough, driven by passion for whatever it is we're doing, we can all achieve great things.

Have a great weekend, everyone. I’ll have my head down in a scramble to finish the first draft of my latest novel.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

7 Things to be Grateful for in Writing

Jeffrey Beezler is hosting an Early Bird Thanksgiving Blogfest. Participants are asked to discuss what they are most grateful for. Pop on over and join in the fun.

Below is my list of things to be grateful for in writing:

1. I am grateful my characters can’t come to life or they might come for me in the middle of the night with flaming torches and pitch forks.

2. I’m grateful for the invention of word processors. I don’t think I could write a book without a spell checker and the automatic insertion of extra words and paragraphs.

3. I’m grateful for the internet for quick and easy access to information for research.

4. I’m grateful I have an outlet for storytelling otherwise my brain might implode from the pressure.

5. I’m grateful for my muse even though she only visits me at the most inopportune times.

6. I’m grateful for all my blogging friends. This is one of the most generous and supportive communities I’ve come across.

7. I’m grateful I don’t live in the worlds I create. They always seem to be on the brink of destruction. I’d die from stress before the hero saved the day.

What are you grateful for in writing?

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Many P’s of Publishing

We all know the Four P’s on the journey to publication:





Can you think of other P’s associated with publishing?

For example:

Panic: Did I send the right cover letter with my manuscript or did I send my grocery list? Did I remember to save that document before my computer crashed?

Polish: wax on, wax off, wax on again. We all know the hours of hair-pulling fun we have to endure to achieve a ready manuscript.

Pioneering: We hack and slash our way through the murky jungle of ‘what publishers want’ in search of that something special, that unique twist, the next best thing since sliced bread (without the clichés).

Poor: It’s a good thing we love to write because we’re certainly not in it for the money.

(Yes, my writing project is sending me a little crazy)

Friday, November 19, 2010

Awards n Writing Project Update

So many of us are busy with the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) or other writing projects that sap our time and drag us into a huge black hole where our friends and family start to think we’ll never be seen again. My project is coming along slowly but surely. Yesterday I tidied up an outline for the later part of the novel because I needed to see the story with a clearer vision. I needed to put my characters in more danger. How about you? How are your projects coming along?

Next week I will continue my series about the writer’s conference I attended last weekend, but right now I wish to thank my lovely blogging friends for the awards they passed on.

The Magical Blog Award: This one was designed and created by Alexia. It’s a fantastic award and I’d suggest everyone go to her blog and say hi from me. Thanks so much Alexia.

The Beautiful Blogger Award: This one was given to me by L’Aussie. If you haven’t already guessed, she is another Aussie writer like me. Please check out her blogs. She has many to choose from. Go here for her writing blog.

From Me to You Award: Thanks so much to Margo. Again, please visit Margo and say hi from me. This award came with rules: list 7 things about yourself and pass on to 7 people. So here goes: I’m a short writer who loves words and dreams big and easily gets distracted, but owns a cute cat and a gorgeous husband who look after me. Hmm, technically that’s 8 things. Oh well.

And now for the passing on of the awards: Because there are three here and I don’t have time to check everyone’s blog to see if you have a particular one already, please pick the award you want.

Dezmond @ Hollywood Spy (also known to me as Dezzy-baby-hun): I know you have heaps of awards already, but you are a legend. You have a cool blog and you always have something intelligent to say.

Carol Riggs @ Artzicarol Ramblings: While you post only once a week, it’s not about quantity, it’s about quality. You’ve become a great blogger friend.

Christina Lee @ Write-Brained: A relatively new follower, but not a new blogger, I enjoy your fun posts and great comments.

The Golden Eagle @ The Eagle’s Aerial Perspective: Another great blogger who is celebrating her 200 plus followers. You’ve finished NaNo already and I’m so jealous. You always have great and interesting posts.

Susan Fields @ Susan Fields: You are another great blogger friend who deserves an award. Thanks for your fun posts and great comments.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

6 Tips for Writing for Young Adults

As some of you know, I went to a Writer’s Festival on the weekend. The second speaker was a Young Adult writer,
William Kostakis. He wrote Loathing Lola when he was only 17. The story is about the ups and downs of being Australia’s newest teenage reality TV star. Sixteen-year-old Courtney Marlow struggles with friends, fame, love, loss and... Lola.

Below are some writing tips he offered for writing for young adults:

1. Write with passion. When William first started writing he often heard the advice, “find your audience”. But William suggested that “You are your own audience.” There is little point writing what you think will be popular. Many writers write what they think will sell but they aren’t necessarily writing from the heart. When we write with passion, we find our voice.

2. Try to capture the joy of youth. The appeal of youth is the joy of life, so even if you are writing a sad story, try to find the joy of life.

3. Write with honesty. When you write, don’t try to emulate someone else’s writing. Be confident enough to find your own voice. This will resonate with your readers.

4. Avoid being called an imposter. Sometimes it’s clear an older writer has written for a younger audience. William used the example of reading someone’s work where the author had described Facebook as the Facebook. Get at least one young adult reader to proof read your manuscript.

5. Not every character needs to be 3 dimensional. He suggested that sometimes stereotypes are true and gave the example of his grandmother who is “crazy, old and ethnic”. Also, we don’t have to spell out a character’s history all the time.

6. Write how you speak and keep it simple. You want people to understand you so write small words to reflect big ideas.

Do you have any other tips for writing for the Young Adult market? What's your favourite YA book at the moment and why?

Monday, November 15, 2010

Writing for Children

On the weekend I attended a writing festival in my local area. The first speaker was a successful Australian author of children’s books: Deborah Abela. She has been writing for children for 17 years. Below are some tips she shared:

1. If you want to write for kids then you need to be around kids. Run workshops for them, go to their schools, learn what they are reading, what they like, how they think.

2. Never write a book for children with the intention to teach them something. In other words, don’t lecture them and don’t be condescending. She had a great way of saying it: “Write as if you were looking them in the eye.”

3. Kids books need to be kid focussed. They should be about kids with the kids finding the solutions to their problems. Adults should remain peripheral to the story.

4. Kids like pace. You need to cull anything in your story that doesn’t drive the plot forward.

5. The book needs to start with a hook otherwise the kids won’t read past the first page.

6. Stay away from fads of language because it only dates your book. What the kids are saying now may not be how they say it when your book is published.

Deborah offered many more great tips for writing which you might see in another post.

Can you think of other tips that might be helpful to anyone wanting to write for children?

Friday, November 12, 2010

5 Causes and Solutions to Writer’s Block

Every writer experiences the dreaded writer’s block at some point in their career. Sometimes it’s a hiccup in the flow and sometimes it’s a mighty wall to surmount. Whatever it might be, there is a reason for it and there is a way through to the other side.

1. When self-doubt causes the block:
We may tell ourselves we aren’t good enough. We may think we are failures if we can’t get our first manuscript published. We may learn a new writing rule and try to apply it only to find our words sound worse, not better. All these damaging thoughts can fool us into thinking we’ve gone backwards without any hope of moving forward again. At these times we need to be kind to ourselves. We need to remind ourselves why we write. We need to remember the passion. And we need to keep writing.

2. When our characters cause the block:
Sometimes our characters will cause us trouble. They’ll refuse to behave in the story. No matter how much we wrestle with them they won’t budge. At these times we need to try to listen to what they have to say. We need to try taking them down the path they wish to travel. But keep writing.

3. When the hard slog causes the block:
Sometimes we might wonder why we put ourselves through the pain everyday. When we catch a free moment, rather than putting our feet up, we write. Rather than spending time with friends or family, we write. We begin to grow resentful of our writing career. At these times, take a break. Spend time with friends and family. Relationships are important. They are often our inspiration for writing. Yes, writing is hard work, but we need some play time as well.

4. When distractions cause the block:
As I mentioned in my last post, distractions will happen. When they become so great they cause a block in our creativity. We may have to pay attention to why we are getting ourselves distracted. If the reason is to avoid writing, then we have to get over it and refocus. If the reason is because we’ve hit a slow point in our story and we’ve grown bored, then we need to either jump ahead, or reassess what we have written. In these cases the key is to keep writing. Of course, if the distraction is the kitchen on fire, then I’d suggest the key would be to deal with that instead.

5. When lack of time causes the block:
At times we may have to face daunting deadlines or tight schedules. We may be to struggling to juggle all our commitments. At times like these we may have to prioritise and reassess our schedules. We may have to accept we aren’t superhuman and either ask for help with the non essentials like cleaning the house and cooking dinners, or reschedule so our goals are easier to reach.

Do you have any other techniques for breaking through the wall? What are the things that block you most frequently?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Things that Hold us Back

In the midst of our writing projects we can loose steam. It becomes a struggle to keep going. I’m a master of procrastination and excuses. Here are just a few:

I’m too tired to concentrate. I’m not good enough. I’ll just eat this one chocolate first. The house needs cleaning. I need another snack. I have to get ahead with my blog posts. I just want to switch off for a while. I’m not feeling well. I’m too hot. I’m too cold. The house is too noisy. The neighbours are too noisy. My brain is too noisy.

I could go on, but I’m guessing you get the picture.

Distractions will happen when we write. They aren’t insurmountable. We just have to be careful they don’t turn into excuses to avoid writing.

Get over it, decide to write, even if it’s a few words and don’t let anything hold you back.

What are some of your worst distractions? What are some of your lamest excuses?

Monday, November 8, 2010

NaNoWriMo + Awards

This is a short post because I'm both busy and exhausted.

The NaNo bit:
The first week of the challenge to write 50k words in 30days is complete. I’m still excited about my writing project and I’m pleased I haven’t pumped out drivel. Yes, I’ll need to do some heavy editing after November, but I don’t know anyone who can write a perfect first draft.

I’m excited about the story. I’m thrilled with my characters. I even love the setting. I’ve chosen to write a Young Adult steampunk fantasy about friendship and duty. I’m using a time consuming method though: I first handwrite the scenes then transcribe them into the computer. I would probably write a lot faster if I just typed it all straight into my computer, but lately I’ve found so many distractions on the computer.

How about you? How’s your writing projects coming along? What do you like about them? What don’t you like?

The Award Bit:
I’d also like to officially thank a couple of blogging buddies for some awards I’ve picked up. Please visit their blogs and say hi from me. You won’t be disappointed.

Thanks so much to N. R. Williams for the “Honest Scrap Award”

And thanks so much to Rachna for the “Blog with Substance Award”

Friday, November 5, 2010

Advice for Hopeful Writers

I was once approached by a hopeful writer who asked: “What do I need to do to become a writer? How do I get started?”

To answer this question I could list the obvious necessities for writing. For example, get yourself a pen, some paper, lots of passion, even more perseverance… and don’t forget the chocolate.

I could advise they learn about the craft – learn about the basics of grammar, punctuation. Learn about plotting and character development. Learn to listen to the words, build a strong vocabulary and understand sentence structure.

I could express the need to also read. Don’t just read novels within the targeted genre, but also read anything and everything. Reading teaches and inspires.

I could warn the hopeful writer to learn about the publishing industry, to know the market, to understand the genre of choice.

I could encourage them to also build an online presence, to start networking, to attend writer’s conferences.

There is so much a hopeful writer can do to become the writer they dream about. They can research copious amounts, attend a mountain of workshops, they can sign up to courses and become a famous networker, but if they don’t write, then they have nothing.

And so, my best advice to any hopeful writer is WRITE. And keep writing!

What advice would you give to any hopeful writers? What's the best advice you've ever received?

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Story is…

Have you ever wondered about story and why it captures our hearts? Have you wondered why storytelling has endured through the ages?

Though it started as a teaching tool to pass knowledge down through the generations, story has evolved into something greater. Story is more than an explanation, an opinion, a vision, or a dream. It’s more than a memory, a journey or a destination.

Story is more than a moment captured in time. It’s more than the mundane and more than the extraordinary. It’s more than reality and more than imagination.

Story is a vehicle to carry not only the plot, a sequence of events, but it’s also the binding agent of character, conflicts and concepts. Story reflects drama, silence, and atmosphere.

Story starts as a spark of creation but then it travels beyond the stage. It reaches into our hearts and plays with our emotions. It’s a glimpse of something grander, whether it’s about a rise, a fall, a comedy or a tragedy.

Story is greater than the writer. It goes by its own rules and is swayed by neither beauty nor ugliness. It goes beyond revelation and delves deeper than secrets. The written story is the essence of each other captured on the page…and more.

For me, story is a dance of many or few steps.

What is story for you?

Monday, November 1, 2010

Don’t Bore Us with the Thesaurus

Have you ever read a piece of prose that’s so chock full of adjectives you suspect the writer may have overdosed on the thesaurus? Many established writers warn against dependence on the thesaurus for this reason.

For me the thesaurus is a tool like any other. I once spent ten minutes searching through the thesaurus because I’d forgotten the word ‘optional’. Times like those I hang my head in shame and wonder why I call myself a writer. But then I recall even the greatest chefs, musicians, and writers need tools to perfect their art.

The thesaurus is handy when the brain begins to fry. It reminds me of the words I need to reach for – the words that hang on the edge of consciousness and tease the flailing mind.

The thesaurus can, however, become a crutch when a writer lacks confidence to find their own words and their own phrases. It can also make a writer grow lazy as they depend more on the reference book. They may accept a suggested word, but it may not be the right word. Sometimes we need more than a single word. Sometimes we have to work for the right phrase, the right description.

And don’t forget, the thesaurus can be used in other ways as well. If you own a hardcopy version then it can trigger ideas for characters and stories through random page selection. It can squash a bug crawling across your desk. You can even balance it on your head to improve posture.

How often do you refer to a thesaurus? What are some ways you use the thesaurus? What are some other references you use when writing?

P.S. Good luck to those starting NaNoWriMo today!!! Exciting times!