Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween

This is just a short, prescheduled post to say 

Happy Halloween

I won't be around today because Jury Duty finally caught up with me and I have to head into the Supreme Court to find out whether or not they want me for a trial. I've been on call for the last three weeks with last minute calls to say they didn't need me. It's been difficult to plan anything. I have no idea how long I'll be gone for if I am picked.

UPDATE: I was dismissed from Jury duty. Probably a good thing since it was a murder trial with some grisly details. Ew. I now have time to take part in NaNoWriMo (50k words in 30 days)

Happy News: On Wednesday I will be rolling out the red carpet for Alex J. Cavanaugh. He will be doing a guest post here to coincide with the Insecure Writers' Group. Be sure to pop in and give him your support. Also, if you have signed up for the group, don't forget to write up your own Insecure Writers' Group post this Wednesday.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Best Kind of Promotion

The best kind of promotion we can do for ourselves is to promote the work of other authors. This might sound counter productive, but when an author promotes their own work and nothing else, then interest often fades. To avoid the urge to spam the internet with news of our books, we should promote each other. Those we promote will often return the favour. Apart from that, praise for a book has far more authority when it's not coming from the author. 

While there are many ways to promote a book, what do you think are the best ways?

Contest: The writers at Scribbler's Cove are running a contest to promote two up and coming book releases:

Open Minds by Susan Kaye Quinn, release date November 1st


Darkspell by Elizabeth Mueller, release date October 31st

Be sure to check out their websites and the contest is found here.

A-Z Challenge 2012
The amazing Arlee Bird is doing it again. For updates pop on over to this dedicated A-Z website every Tuesday.

A huge thank you to Miss Cole of  Miss Cole Seeks Publisher for the One Lovely Blog Award.

And another huge thank you to the lovely Madeleine at Scribble and Edit for the Friendly Blogger Award. Although they are all special, this is one I've not received before.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Energize Your Writing

Writers are so easily influenced by mood. Our disposition, with no matter what we write, will translate to the reader. For example, if we are tired, lethargic, or depressed, then it becomes more difficult to throw energy into our characters, let alone our words.

What's the solution?
Being of healthy body, mind and spirit will help our writing become more succinct, passionate and energised. Succinct because our minds will have a greater ability to maintain focus. Passionate because when we are healthy we care about our work and our stories. Energised because we will simply have more energy and that reflects in our writing.

Exercise: Writing is such a passive pastime that I can't say enough how important it is to exercise. 30 minutes a day isn't too much and that can be broken up into three 10 minute sessions. Tip: If I want to write action I'll get up and jump around for a bit to capture some of the energy needed for the scene.

Stretching: It's also important to regularly get up and stretch. If I'm not paying attention it's far too easy to realise two hours have slipped by and I haven't moved from my seat.

Diet: When we settle in for a writing session it's tempting to snack on treats. (I wish I didn't love chocolate so much). Eating good healthy foods and drinking plenty of water is key to staying fit and healthy, which in turn impacts our writing.

Practise positivity: It's easy to stress as writers. It's easy to let self-doubt take over. If we practise positivity then stress can be managed. Not only will we be less likely to give up on our dreams, but our positivity will pour into our words in the form of energised writing.

Can you think of other ways to energise your writing? What do you do to energise your writing?

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Writers' Tools: Empathy

"Writers don't write from experience, although many are hesitant to admit that they don't. ...If you wrote from experience, you'd get maybe one book, maybe three poems. Writers write from empathy." Nikki Giovanni
Like the trusty pen, not-so-trusty computer and nifty internet, empathy is also an invaluable tool for writers.

Empathy is the ability to put ourselves in the proverbial shoes of others, to understand their feelings, thoughts and motivations. In terms of writing, it's an ability to connect with our readers.

How to improve your empathy:
Observations: To gain a higher level of empathy we need to pay attention to everything that goes on around us. Not just to the people around us, but to all the sights, sounds, smells and everything that makes up the atmosphere of a place and a person. It's so easy to let life pass us by without noticing those details.

Know your audience: This is a classic piece of writers' advice. As much as we start out writing for ourselves, if we want to get published we also need to write for our audience. This means understanding who they are, what they want, and what kind of issues they'll respond to.

Personal experience: To understand others, we need to have an understanding of ourselves. This takes a certain level of honesty because I think it's important to know why we react to certain stimuli, and to know the true motives behind our actions. The truth isn't always what we may want or expect.

Exposure to life: I believe it's also important to broaden our experiences. Because I travelled the world in my twenties, I have a lot of different cultures and people to draw from. If we stay behind our desks and do nothing but write, then how can we learn and enrich our writing?

Imagination: Looking through another's perspective isn't an easy task and requires some practice and imagination. Encourage daydreaming. Take time out to simply think, imagine, role play.

Read a lot: Apparently in studies a connection has been found between reading a lot of fiction and having a higher level of empathy. I believe it's because stories throw the reader into the minds of a huge variety of characters in a broad range of situations they wouldn't have otherwise experienced.

Can you think of other ways of improving your empathy? What have you done to hone that particular writing tool?

Thanks: Debbie Johansson recently gave me the 7x7 Award. Thank you so much!

Pic: A watchful surfguard at a beach at Port Stephens, Australia.

Monday, October 17, 2011

On the Joy of Editing

Or the Freedom of not getting too Attached

Would you put so much effort and attention to detail only to burn it?

Check out the photos on, an annual event called the Burning Man, is held in the Nevada Desert. People come together to build amazing constructions only to set them all on fire.

It's considered the largest outdoor gallery in the world.

The completed Temple of Transition: The builders claimed it was the tallest temporary (ie: no foundation) wood frame building on the planet.

Then it all gets burned in a spectacular display.

My first reaction was, 'That's crazy!' My second reaction was, 'But so cool!' Yes, I'm a bit of a pyro.

Burn, my prettys, burn!

Erm, cough. Anyway, this got me thinking about our works in progress. We throw all our effort into writing our stories so, when we think we are ready to send them out into the big wide world, we're convinced our creations are masterpieces. When our manuscripts come back from our editors, critique partners, beta readers, we realise they aren't.

Our work can only improve when we are willing to set it on fire. I'm not talking about destroying our manuscripts. I'm talking about slashing and burning what doesn't need to be included. We need to be brutal to see the glow. All in the name of art.

And we have the freedom to light the fire when we don't get too attached to those scenes that took us weeks to write. With freedom comes joy. Editing no longer becomes a chore or an agony. I can take great delight in the 'flames' because I know that out of the ashes will rise a phoenix (a shiny manuscript that's closer to publication).

Do you think it's crazy to put all that effort into building those structures only to burn them? Do you have trouble letting go of those precious scenes?


Thursday, October 13, 2011

Ric Elias: 3 things I learned while my plane crashed

I'd been feeling a bit frustrated with my writing when I found this amazing video. If you can spare five minutes, it's worth it. Ric Elias was on Flight 1549 when the plane crash-landed in the Hudson River in New York in January 2009.

If you can't spare the time, I'll summerise: It's about discovering the things in life that truly matter. Ric Elias no longer postpones anything anymore because everything can change in an instant. He regrets letting his ego get in the way and the time he's wasted on things that don't matter with people who do matter. And he realised that above all things his family comes first.

His experience reminded me that life is short and that while agonising over every word is normal as a writer, fretting about pleasing everyone, worrying about getting it right and stressing about achieving 'success' isn't what I should be doing. First and foremost, I love to write so I'll just keep writing and enjoy the whole process. 

If you had an experience like Ric Elias', what do you think you would change in your life?

For the direct link to the video go here.

Thank You: A huge thank you to those lovely writers who offered to critique my short story: Shallee McArthur, Heather McCorkle, M Pax, Rachna Chhabria, Bethany Yeager, L.A Speedwing and Pam Williams. Also to Stacy S. Jensen for spreading the word via Twitter. It is much appreciated.

Jury Duty: my jury duty is on hold for another week so I'm back to my usual posting schedule until the 24th when they may or may not need me. Who knows what will happen after that?

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Ngrams and the Evolution of Words

The beauty of technology is that so much information is at our fingertips. Ever since Google scanned 500 billion books (that's a lot of books) we have even more information available to us. The Google ngram viewer shows us word trends. You can type in some words or phrases and it will show the trend of those words across time. It's been around for a while, but it's still a lot of fun.

One great example is throve vs thrived. As the graph shows, it wasn't until the early twentieth century that thrived (the red line) took over as the popular choice.

I tried young adult vs teen vs teenager with an unexpected result:

And someone else found the point where the long s was disused in the early 1800s. Beft vs Best:
I could spend hours trying different variations on these graphs.  

Have you found any cool results?

Note: I'm still in the jury duty process. So far I haven't been picked yet for a trial but neither have I been officially dismissed. It's likely I'll have to head in to the Supreme Court tomorrow. So again, I may not be around much for the next three weeks, but I'll try and catch up with blog visits.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Style vs Formula

Often the 'rules' of writing a good book can cause a writer to fall into the dreaded realm of formula. Let's all shudder together. *Urgh!*

You know the rules I'm talking about: Start the book with a hook, make your characters likeable, cut back the walls of descriptions, don't load down the story with backstory dumps, show don't tell. And so forth.

All these rules can be crippling. Yes, there are things that work best in a novel, but should we always stick to the rules because we're afraid to veer off the righteous path of thou shalt nots? Should we quash our writing style in the quest for publication?

There's a lot of pressure on new writers to catch the eye of agents and publishers. If we can't follow the rules then how will our books be any good? The rules are there for a reason--because they work.

And yet I think the best writers break the rules--but I will add they do it with caution. They find a way that works for their stories. They hold onto their personal style and create the story only they can write. These are the writers that stand out. For example, China Miéville writes copious amounts of meandering description and yet his work is a delight to read. Suzanne Collins wrote wads of backstory and yet it worked in the Hunger Games.

I'm not suggesting to ignore the rules. I am saying be true to yourself and your stories. Writing is an art. And the best art requires bravery, honesty, and hard work.

Do you agree? Can you think of other favourite novels that broke the rules?

Note: On Monday I have to head to the Supreme Court for jury duty. I'm told if I'm picked it could take up to three weeks. I won't have time to post during that time, but I'll try and pop around the blogsphere a little.

Call for help: I'm looking for some critiques for a science fiction short story I've written. It would be best if you like and understand the genre. I'm happy to return the favour in any genre for the equal number of words (3300). If you are interested please send me an email or leave a comment. A huge thanks in advance.  
M Pax of Wistful Nebulae has released her debut novella, Semper Audacia, this week, available from Amazon or Smashswords. Check it out.

Thank you to The Writing Nut for the Seriously Cute Blogger Award. It's not one I've received before. It's much appreciated.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

6 Ways to Fight the Dreaded Doubts

I knew two sisters who started life with the same opportunities. They grew up in the same town, enjoyed the same education, and they were both gifted with the same level of creative talent. Despite these similarities, only one sister succeeded in achieving her dreams. The other allowed doubts and regrets to rule her life.

My advice on how to beat the doubts:

1. A Positive Attitude: I think doubts have a way of turning into self-fulfilling prophecy. Fight them by staying positive. Remember how much you enjoy writing, painting, dreaming. Believe you will succeed.

2. Perseverance: I believe almost anything can be achieved through hard work and perseverance. So, keep your dreams. Don't give up. Don't let anything hold you back.

3. Try again: When a project doesn't seem to go anywhere, then if you've given it all you can, start a new project. Few authors sell their first novels; few artists sell their first paintings.

4. Don't expect instant perfection: For starters true perfection can't ever be achieved. Our best work, however, can be achieved. Work with realistic, achievable goals.

5. Exercise: Keep the body active, get the blood flowing through the brain, and doubts will find it harder to take a hold.

6. Ask yourself, will I regret it if I quit? I quit once. It's the biggest regret in my life. Memory of that regret now keeps me striving for my dreams.

What do you do to keep your doubts at bay?

Note: this post was written for the Insecure Writers' Group.  It's a bit early, but my posting schedule is out of whack this week due to the long weekend in NSW, Australia.

The group was formed by Alex J. Cavanaugh for writers to encourage each other.