Writing · Writing Process

Writing In a Different Genre.

As an unpublished writer, I have the luxury of experimenting with what I write and how I write it. Recently one morning I woke up with an idea for a story title. I thought it sounded good – if I wrote in that particular genre. And therein lay the problem. Was my subconscious mind trying to tell me something?

For years I have struggled with this. No, I do not write romance, simply because I do not always like to see a happy ending. And right there are two important words – not always. So, sometimes I do like to see happy ever afters. In my teenage years I devoured Sweet Dreams Romance books, was introduced by a friend to Mills & Boon and enjoyed reading Jane Austen so much, back then I wanted to write just like her (yes, seriously). And just for balance I also read a lot of Stephen King (can you see my dilemma now?) 😉 This is why I believed my writing would be more suitable to women’s fiction, and my longest short story so far reflects that as there is no happy ending.

After I left High School, I wrote to Mills & Boon and received submission guidelines and a tape on how to write for them. Try as I might, I just couldn’t do it. I believed I could not write a romance, but perhaps the real problem for me was that they were too formulaic.

Perhaps, also, my greatest resistance to writing a romance is because I always looked at it in terms of the novel. As I enjoy writing in the shorter form and thanks to self-publishing, lately I have some ideas for romances of short story/novella length. It is a starting point to stepping out of my comfort zone and experimenting at the same time. Who knows if it will lead to something or not, but clearly such thoughts have remained repressed for some time. It just needed a little push. 😉

Do you write in different genres? Have you resisted writing a particular genre or are you happy to experiment? Has your subconscious told you something about your own writing and have you acted upon it?

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Image courtesy of Pixabay

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Life Lessons · Up Close & Personal · Writing Process

New Writers: Developing a Thick Skin.

As writers, we are told one of the things we need to have in this writing venture is a thick skin; especially when we are just starting out. The sooner we start giving our work to beta readers and submitting, the better our chances of developing this thick skin. There are, however, certain obstacles that prevent us from doing so. One in particular comes instantly to mind – fear.

For years, I spent the vast majority of my time happy in my little writing cave; my work never seeing the light of day. I had grown accustomed to the outward negativity towards my career choices, be they writing related or otherwise. My best defence was to keep quiet, but continue writing regardless. The only disadvantage to this was that I knew that one day, for me to become published; I would have to let others see my work eventually.

It became a gradual metamorphosis. I attended writing groups, where I always preferred to be the last one to read my work. My hands would shake and I could feel the heat rise in my chest and quite a few times people would ask me to speak up. Yet in the end, I found the others in the groups to be helpful and saw the potential in my writing. It was around this time that I began blogging, gradually putting myself out to an even bigger audience. By doing these two things, I began to grow that thick skin and submitted my work to publications and entering competitions. I had some poetry published in a small publication and won a writing competition. Things were looking up, but I still had a long way to go because the feeling of fear never left me.

The feeling of fear I felt (and still do) was not one of failure, but actually one of vulnerability. Putting myself out there for all the world to see would leave me exposed, open to abuse and ridicule. This was always the dilemma. It was a Catch-22 that I had to come to terms with and develop that thick skin sooner or later.

It has only been within the last twelve months that I might finally be getting better at this. I have some new beta readers who are helpful and encouraging and are only too keen to read more of my work (so thank you). 🙂 Recently, I submitted a short story to an anthology, but received word that I was unsuccessful. Usually I would be down in the dumps for a few days at least, but not this time. This time, I accepted it, shrugged and moved on. I was quite surprised at how calmly I had taken it. Years of study at University taught me that writing is subjective.

I’m still working on developing that thick skin as I have yet to have my stories published, but it has taken me years to reach this level. I usually find, more often than not, whenever I’m afraid of something, things usually turn out better than what I had expected. There is a lot of truth in the saying ‘the only thing we have to fear is fear itself’.

What steps have you taken to develop a thick skin? Does fear prevent you from sending your work out or getting critiqued? Have you allowed the negativity of others to control your life?

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Main Image courtesy of Pixabay

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Writing · Writing Process

What Are Your Pet Peeves When Writing?

This is a question that usually takes me a little while to come up with an answer and it wasn’t until I realised that one pet peeve tended to manifest itself into another, that I discovered there were actually quite a few. So with my answer for this month, I’ve come up with what I’d like to call ‘The Illustrated Guide to my Writing Process’.

1. I’m a perfectionist.

2. Being a perfectionist makes me a slow writer.

3. Being a slow writer means I think about things a lot more.

4. Thinking too much leads to self-doubt.

5. Self-doubt leads to stalling tactics.

6. Stalling tactics eventually leads back to No.1 (no pun intended 😉 ).

Yet, somewhere between pet peeves 1 and 4, I do actually manage to get the writing done (and that includes re-writes), otherwise, there’s not much point. In order to write, one must persevere, despite setbacks.

Realistically, looking at those peeves that I’ve mentioned, these are self-induced. I have allowed myself to believe in the negativity that had accompanied my writing ambitions for many years.

With the writing process, comes a learning process regarding ourselves as writers. And that can be the longest (and hardest) process of all.

Do you have a similar writing process? Are you a perfectionist? Do you have trouble concentrating sometimes? What are your pet peeves when writing?

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Image courtesy of Pixabay

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Writing · Writing Process

Writing & Creating Change.

Recently, I began working on the re-writes of my first novel. By starting with the first chapter, I tried to get an idea of my main character. I sent the first couple of pages to some of my beta readers for feedback and all seemed fine. All was ready to go, but I quickly froze in my tracks.

Re-writes are not always a lot of fun and takes a fair amount of time and hard work. I have reworked my short stories so many times it has almost made my eyes bleed! My most recent short story is just over 8,000 words; the longest I’ve written so far, and my beta readers really like it. For something so ‘short’, it certainly took a fair amount of work. For some reason, the re-writing of my first novel was different. To help work around it, I printed my NaNoWriMo novel from last year (2016) and began re-writing.

I was now faced with a dilemma – do I really want to be re-working two novels simultaneously? It made me realise that this is pretty much how professional authors work – they alternate with writing a new WIP, re-write another novel and plan/outline another. It helps with their productivity. Taking a step back, I realised I had a problem with time management. I needed to work harder and smarter in order to achieve my goal of publication. Some things needed to change.

Trouble is, habits are hard to break and not all of them are good for us. Making any necessary changes takes both time and conscious effort. Continuously coming up with new ways to be productive can be very effective and helps us find new ways to improve. We really need to want the change if we want to succeed.

Perhaps I am too close to my first novel or it may still need some work; perhaps both. I can still chip away at it a bit at a time until I’ve reached a point where I am satisfied with it. Like an artist’s canvas, this is still a work in progress. Pretty much like myself, really. 😉

Do you have trouble with re-writes? Are you continuously coming up with new ways to be productive? Do you have problems with managing your time?

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Writing · Writing Process

Writing: Focus on the Positive.

Recently in a blog post for the Insecure Writers Support Group, there was discussion regarding the thought of quitting the writing life. Quitting because our work gets rejected, because we think what we are writing is rubbish and because we feel we are not going to make it as a writer. But despite all of that, a lot of us still keep going.

Rejections can hurt. I know; I’ve been there too. For me, sending my work out is the hardest part when it comes to this writing process. I’ve entered competitions, sent my short stories to magazines, and more often than not, hear nothing but crickets in reply. Rejections can be seen as a learning curve, because the more effort we put into our craft and the more times we send our work out, eventually, we begin to see some progress.

One of the first pieces I ever had published was regarding the birth of my first child. I had sent it off without giving it a second thought and was pleasantly surprised to receive a cheque and a couple of copies of the magazine as payment with my piece inside. About eight years ago, I submitted a couple of chapters of my first novel to a competition and became one of six successful applicants. The prize was attendance at a writer’s festival, with meals and accommodation paid for, as well as a writer’s workshop. Of-course, opportunities like these would never have happened if I gave up.

There can be a lot of toxic people out there too. People who don’t want you to pursue writing and/or become successful. Speaking from personal experience, it’s hurtful when those toxic people are members of your own family. Because of my obstinate nature, I saw this as a challenge and began doing courses, where I received positive feedback. It was this that kept me going. If you are surrounded by toxic people, you need to do something similar or join a writing group and/or be part of the writing community online.

I think it’s easy to be discouraged when we receive negative feedback. Sometimes, it’s as if we are expecting it! If we tell ourselves we’re not good enough often enough, we begin to believe it. So, when we begin to receive positive feedback, we can be pleasantly surprised and I think they stay in our minds a heck of a lot longer. Write them down if necessary, but keep them safe and close to you, maybe even pinned to your wall at your desk. Since I began this writing journey, these are the ones that stick out the most for me over the years:-

You have great potential. Something I don’t say to just anyone.

I can see this story as a film.

This is like something out of an Alfred Hitchcock movie.

Your writing is macabre.

This is great – no, brilliant!

You’ll get published one day. It’s just a matter of when.

I really like this. I think it’s the best thing you’ve written so far.

Some years ago, a clairvoyant once told me that I would make money from my writing. Now, whether you believe in fortune telling or not, you have to admit that saying such a thing to a writer is a positive thought. 😉

Praise for our writing is encouraging and despite all the rejections and disappointments we may get (and we will), we can always refer to the times when we have been given those small words of hope. It’s little things like these that keep us going.

What keeps you going as a writer? What is the nicest thing someone has said to you about your writing? Do you have toxic people in your life? Do you find it difficult to send your work out?

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Image courtesy of Pixabay

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Writing · Writing Process

How Pinterest Can Help You Plan Your Novel.

pinterest-793051_1280I was a late-comer when it came to joining Pinterest. I was a bit dubious at the thought and found it was a case of ‘not another social network’. When I did eventually join I soon found it to be quite useful; especially when it came to planning a novel.

Recently, I have been working on writing my first novella (or is that a novelette?), and in order to help me ‘see’ what I was writing, I created a secret board. I scoured the internet for pictures of my setting, characters and various articles for research. Once I began doing this, I had a better understanding about my characters (especially my protagonist) and the world in which they live. The only downside to gathering pictures on Pinterest however, is like any other form of research – it can become time-consuming. You get so caught up in it, that the writing side can become sadly neglected.

I currently have about half a dozen secret boards for various works in progress, including the novel I will be working on for NaNoWriMo this year. Just like my novella, I have found having a secret Pinterest board of great help in the planning process. It has helped me to work on my protagonist, as well as establish a time period and location. I have gathered quotes that focus on my protagonist’s state of mind at the beginning of the novel and have a picture I find to be applicable for a book cover. Having a book cover, like a working title, gives you something to focus on while you write your novel as it allows you to keep your theme in mind. Having a secret Pinterest board is a great way to keep you motivated, especially during those times when your enthusiasm starts to wane.

Pinterest has become a popular social network amongst writers and it’s easy to see why. It’s a great addition to researching our stories and provides motivation and an audience at the same time.

Are you on Pinterest? Do you use Pinterest to help research your novels? Do you have secret boards? How do you use Pinterest?

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 Image courtesy of Pixabay

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Writing · Writing Process

Emulating Other Writers

anne-hathaway-in-becoming-janeYears ago when I started taking writing seriously I wanted to emulate a particular author I was reading at the time. By this stage I had done a fair amount of reading and I was doing a couple of writing courses by correspondence. It may sound silly now, but back then I was a Jane Austen wannabe.

In High School, some of my reading involved books such as the Sweet Dreams series (which I bought by the truckload) and borrowing Mills and Boons romances from one of my girlfriends. I was smitten by the ‘love bug’. I began writing my own romances, but I soon abandoned them as my plots were paper thin.

After leaving school, I persisted with the romance genre, despite my poor writing efforts. Romance novels were popular; there must be something I was doing wrong. So I sent away for a tape from Mills and Boon on how to write a romance novel. I went over that tape a number of times; trying to work to their formula, but still I couldn’t master it. It was around this time that I had moved on to different reading material, such as Richard Laymon and Catherine Cookson – I even struggled through Lord of the Rings (and struggle I did, but I eventually made it to the end). I even read the Brontes, re-visited some Stephen King and an old favourite, a gothic romance named Dragonwyk.

I soon discovered I had moved away from being a Jane Austen wannabe. I could never really write a Mills and Boon; there was no ‘passion’ in it for me as a writer (although these days I may still try writing romance – never say never  😉 ).

It took a while, but I found that there’s no harm in emulating other writers when we start out. It helps us to learn our craft through reading; we discover our strengths and weaknesses, our likes and dislikes, our genre or genres, as well as finding our own voice. That’s the time when we need to stop emulating others. Just like there is only one Jane Austen, there is only one you. Let your voice be heard.

Have you found your voice by emulating other writers? Who was your ‘wannabe’ author? Have you tried writing in a genre that just wasn’t really your ‘thing’?

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