This Writer's Life · Writing Process

How are Your 2019 Plans Going?

It’s difficult to believe that we are already over half-way through 2019, which is the time when one can sometimes stop and take stock of how one’s plans for the year are progressing.

For the past few weeks, thanks in part to the winter school holidays, I have been assessing my writing goals for the year. Some goals I have achieved, others I have yet to reach, while others have changed completely. Some of the goals I had made towards the end of 2018 have changed because I have changed. I have been reflecting on who I am as a writer and as a person; what my passions are and what’s important in life.

Previously I had talked about focusing on what we can control, as well as recognising the fact that I am a highly sensitive writer. I guess you could say that lately I have been doing a lot of self-reflection. 😉

Self-publishing is still my No.1 priority for the year, however, I need to remind myself that despite the enthusiasm for experimenting with different genres, I need to remain focused upon just the one for now. This early in the process, I shouldn’t get too ahead of myself and take things one day at a time.

There may be times when our smaller paths may change, but the destination remains the same. Sometimes we need to take a step back before moving forward.

How are your plans for 2019 progressing? Have you needed to take a step back and reassess your writing goals?

Main Image courtesy of Pixabay

Writing · Writing Process

5 Lessons from James Patterson’s Masterclass.

Before the end of 2018, I was given an early Christmas present. It was for James Patterson’s Masterclass. I had heard about this course for some time and had been wanting to do it for a while. I was introduced to James Patterson some years back, when I read his first book, Along Came a Spider, the first in the Alex Cross series. Since then he has produced so many books, it’s been difficult to keep up! It’s no wonder he has gone on to become the world’s bestselling author.

The course covers a lot of information and is great for new writers and for writers like myself, who already have some writing knowledge, but could do with more advice. With that in mind, here are five of the best things I learned from the Masterclass:-

1. Write Fast

In order to get the story down, you need to crash through. If you’re struggling, don’t torture yourself, just write ‘to be done’ and move on. This is helpful to avoid the dreaded writer’s block. The more you write, the better you get.

2. Work with an Outline

Everything needs to be in the outline. The outline should have lots of promise, so you can’t wait to write each scene. When you’re writing an outline, you’re thinking about the story. Write the story! James demonstrates this process in a detailed outline guide, and you will need to do the course in order to learn more.

3. Create Complex Characters

You want readers to love your characters or hate them; make the reader ‘feel’. Create characters the reader is not going to forget. In order to understand your character, you need to see the other side to that character by making them more complex and well-rounded. Villains need to be smart, clever and need to surprise you. The more you humanise the villain, the better.

4. Keep Raising the Stakes

Know your genre – know what’s out there in order to avoid it. Don’t write stuff that’s already out there, put a new twist on it. Find something that’s fresh and new. One of the biggest secrets of suspense is setting up questions the reader must have answered. Keep raising the stakes. Keep the reader guessing. Don’t give the answer away too quick; give it away slowly. Don’t assume that anyone is safe.

5. Stay Positive While Editing

Don’t start re-writing until you’ve written one draft. With the first re-write, try to get to the heart of your story. Keep moving forward; make it so that the pages turn themselves. Stay positive during the edit, break it down into parts to make it manageable. Think of editing as making it better. You didn’t make a mistake; you’re making it closer to what it should be.

The biggest take-aways for me were writing fast and working with an outline. Because I tend to think too much over my ideas, by the time I get to write them down, I can sometimes lose interest and look for the new shiny. 😉 Outlines have always been a part of my writing routines, but after doing this course, I’ve been using James’ method ever since.

The course comes with video and workbook, and you can work through them at your own pace. The video contains about twenty-four lessons and the course also contains access to the Masterclass community, so that you can share work and join the discussion with other students.

Because the course covers a wide range, some information you may have heard already, but it does contain advice you may never have heard of before, let alone considered (the gender breakdown of his readership, and how that influences his content is one example).

I felt one of the drawbacks was that James focused on writing thrillers, which is understandable as that is his genre, but it may not be what writers of different genres want to know about. Also, the course covers the topic on writing for Hollywood, which may be interesting, but not necessarily helpful to writers who don’t plan on going down this path.

If you haven’t done the course and you want to know more about it, you can read this helpful post to find out if it is worth your money or you can jump right in and sign up for the Masterclass.

‘If you don’t love it, you’re not going to finish the book. That’s okay. That’s telling you that’s not what you’re going to do. You have an interest in it, but you’re not that passionate about it. If you are passionate about it, you can’t help yourself; you have to write it. You’ve got to write that book’.

Have you done the Masterclass with James Patterson or are you thinking of doing so? What were your main take-aways from the course? What course have you done recently that you found beneficial to your writing?

IWSG · Writing Process

IWSG: Working With an Editor.

This month for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, I thought I’d talk about doing something I have been putting off for a long time because of my doubts and fears.

This year, in an effort to step out of my comfort zone, I am looking at self-publishing. It’s a huge undertaking, but I’m gradually working my way towards that ultimate goal (I guess you could say I’m being overly cautious). One of those steps I undertook recently was working with an editor.

The first thing I needed to do was to find one and this demonstrated one of the advantages of social media. I asked for recommendations on Facebook and I received a number of replies, including both recommendations and others offering their services. I went through them all and eventually settled on one once I received a sample edit and seeing that their price was reasonable.

Giving my work out to a professional editor made me nervous for a number of reasons: – I was allowing someone other than my beta readers to read my work, and a professional may confirm my belief that I might not be very good at this.

As they are short stories, she emailed each one back to me once she had finished and I was pleasantly surprised with some of the comments I received. Such comments included ‘I liked this one’, ‘you have such a knack for horror’ and ‘what a beautiful story – loved it’. High praise from a well-known Australian romance author, so yeah, I’ll take it! 😉 She said she loved my work and would be happy to work with me again. She also hoped that I was writing a long book and encouraged me to keep writing.

I discovered that editors are there to help you to improve your own editing skills and make your writing stronger, even though it may take some time to find the right one. It also goes to show that sometimes our fears can be misguided, that the old saying is true:- ‘there is nothing to fear but fear itself’.

Have you been fortunate with your choice of editor? Did it take you a while to find one? Are you looking at self-publishing? Do you have any big plans for your writing this year?

The purpose of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group is to share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds.

Main image courtesy of Pixabay

Writing · Writing Process

A Writing Update.

She’s baaack! Well, sort of. 😉

I have been absent for a few weeks and sadly, I have been neglecting my blog as well as all of you, but I have not been neglecting my current work in progress. In fact, I have become so engrossed with my current writing project, that it’s all I can think about. So, this is a quick post you keep you up to date with what’s been happening.

I’m still working on the novel I’ve been working on since earlier this year, but after writing the longest piece of writing I’ve ever done at around 80k, I was not happy with how it turned out. I went over my plot outline and reworked it so much, that I’ve basically had to start from scratch. I deleted an awful lot of words, and yes, it was painful to do, but it was completely necessary.

I began writing a paranormal and my original intention was for my protagonist’s love interest to be the antagonist (no happy ever after here, thank you very much). The thing was, that he was not happy about that at all – he wanted to be a good guy. The more I thought about it, the better my plot became, and I had a more suitable antagonist. So, okay, a paranormal romance it is then.

Now I know I wrote not that long ago, that I don’t like telling others what I’m writing; that I prefer to write with the door closed. And that’s where I will leave it; that I am still working on my work in progress and that it is a paranormal romance.

So lately I’ve been travelling in uncharted waters, but I’m having a lot of fun! And isn’t that what being a writer is all about? 😉

What have you been up to lately? How is your own writing going? Do you listen to what your characters tell you?

Image courtesy of Pixabay

Writing · Writing Process

New Writers: Writing a Series vs The Stand-alone.


When it comes to indie publishing, there are a lot of ‘experts’ out there giving advice, which makes it rather difficult for new writers. It reminds me of that old Far Side cartoon, where the kid in class raises his hand and says ‘Excuse me sir, my brain is full’. Yep, that’s exactly how it feels.

One piece of advice usually touted is to write a series to help build your readership. This is good advice, more suitably aimed for established authors, but what if you are just starting out as a writer or don’t have a series created just yet? I have mentioned before that what works for one writer doesn’t necessarily work for another; as writing is a creative endeavour, we learn through trial and error. Experimenting with different writing styles, including short stories can be a good place to begin for indie authors.

I had heard the advice of writing a series for so long I decided to give it a go and wondered if I could turn one of my WIPs into a series. The more I thought about it, I realised that the possibilities were there, however my subplot tended to work far better than any main plot. Stretching a story out to become a series when it was not really necessary was not going to cut it. When it comes to writing a series, it involves a lot of planning to carry it out.

I was fortunate enough to come across an article recently that suggests it’s okay for new writers to write stand-alone novels. As beginners, we are still learning how to craft and write a novel in its entirety, let alone undertake the daunting task of writing a series. As new writers, our goal should be to practice, learn from the experience and get better with everything we write.

These ‘experts’ tout the series over the stand-alone from a marketing perspective, which I understand because as writers we would like to make money from our words. However, what really gets me is when I hear them say that the stand-alone is not profitable.

These past few months I have been fortunate to have a story idea that could possibly become a trilogy, but we may not always have a series to write. For writers and readers alike, a series represents familiarity and we may like a particular character or characters, but I’d like to think that our readers would be happy to read anything we write. 😉

I currently have a couple of stand-alone novels that I’ve written, novels that I may come back to and try to salvage. Some may even remain my ‘practice’ novels and that’s okay. This is how we learn and not everything we write needs to get published. In the meantime, I’ve worked on other ideas, other possibilities; working on improving my craft. It is irrelevant to me right now if they are a stand-alone or not, my main objective is to get them written.

My husband likes to remind me that a story is as long as it needs to be. Whether that is a short story, novella, stand-alone or a series is beside the point. The more we write and the more we put out there, the better.

Do you think it’s a good idea for new writers to write a stand-alone before writing a series? Do you prefer a series or a stand-alone? With so much information out there for writers these days, are you prone to just go with whatever feels right for you? What are you writing at the moment?

Main image courtesy of Pixabay

Writing · Writing Process

Do You Listen to Music While Writing?

Whenever I write I usually tend to listen to white noise. I find listening to music with lyrics easily distracting as the words that I’m hearing tend to clash with the words that are forming in my head. This is why I tend to listen to such music between writing sessions, as I find music can be a great motivator and can also help if you are experiencing writer’s block.

While writing my most recent WIP, I managed to make a couple of changes. One was to listen to the sounds of nature instead of always listening to white noise. My nature of choice was listening to waves crashing upon the beach, one of my favourite sounds since childhood. I’ve discovered that not only can some of these sounds be relaxing while you write, but some can also help bring about a sense of atmosphere to our scenes.

The other change I made was listening to certain songs that fitted in well with my WIP’s themes and characters. This allowed me to know my characters better, what their motivations were and helped to develop my plot. This would explain why a lot of writers tend to create playlists for their novels.

During the writing of my WIP, I listened to the album A Beautiful Lie by Thirty Seconds to Mars. Almost every song on that album resonated with me one way or another, for both my characters and for myself on a more personal level during the time I was writing. The lyrics from the title song became embedded into my head, not only for the song itself, but because it was suitably suited to my story. The Kill in particular really stuck and how could I not go past the references to The Shining in this video? 😉

Just as much as we need to experiment with our writing, there are times when we may also need to experiment with our entire writing process. Listening to a variety of music and sounds, as well as creating playlists can all become a part of that creative process.

Do you listen to music while writing or do you prefer silence? Have you found music helpful with your writing process? Do you create playlists for your novels?

Image courtesy of Pixabay

 

Writing · Writing Process

Do You Share Your Current Writing Projects?

For some months now I had been working on one of the longest pieces of writing I have done so far. It proved to be a bit of a challenge, including whether or not to mention anything about it on social media.

When we come up with new story ideas or are in the middle of a writing project, it can sometimes be difficult to contain our excitement. We want others to be excited about it too.

Many years ago, I would let my friends read the stories I was writing at the time. My friends were always interested in what I was writing and were eager to read more, but I would eventually reach the point where I had lost interest. I had no idea where the stories were going; there was no real plot and I only had the basic knowledge of my characters. It therefore came as no surprise to me that I never finished these stories, thus leaving my friends disappointed and I had many incomplete stories lying around. I learned the hard way that I was a plotter and not a pantser.

I have seen some authors on social media discuss with their readers about their current projects, but personally I find that can be distracting. Some may think that by telling our readers about what we are currently working on can be a good way of keeping ourselves accountable. I applaud those authors who can pull this off – whatever works, right? However, for writers like me, I have learned the hard way to keep my writing under wraps until the current project is finished.

Talking to others about our projects before we fully understand them ourselves can sometimes destroy an idea before it really gets started. It may be hard to keep a lid on things, especially when we are in the middle of a writing streak or ‘in the zone’.

Perhaps just stating that we are working on a new project or leaving a tiny hint about it on social media may well be enough to satisfy our readers to know that we are writing without giving too much away (and they will be eager for us to finish).

What are your thoughts? Do you tell others what you are currently working on? Do you find it to be a help or a hindrance? Do you prefer to keep quiet about your work in progress?

Main image courtesy of Pixabay