Movies/Television · Writing

Has Film & Television Influenced Your Writing?

Over the years, I have heard many writers discuss certain authors they grew up with and what their favourite book was during childhood and there was one or two books in particular that stands out for me. Mainly, though, I was one of those kids who had a tendency to spend a great deal of their time out of doors and involved in imaginative play, rather than keep their nose in a book. Evenings were a time spent indoors in front of the television and it was this medium that would eventually influence my writing.

My family and I would also spend a lot of time going out to the movies and the drive-in (remember them?). Once, during one of these family outings to the movies, I saw a film that would play a large part in my writing. When I was about eight years old, we saw Picnic at Hanging Rock, and because it remained a mystery, I was hooked. People don’t just disappear; there had to be an answer. This was the first time I had seen a story that did not have a clean ending. Questions remained, leaving the audience to fill in the blanks for themselves. My father bought a copy of the novel for me, which became one of my favourite books; I began to crave the unexpected plot twists and unhappy endings, knowing this was all a part of the suspense.

It wasn’t until I was about twelve years old I began reading in earnest and read just about anything I could possibly get my hands on. Because of Picnic and enjoying such television shows as The Addams Family and The Twilight Zone, as well as such films as Psycho, Rebecca and The Birds from Alfred Hitchcock, I naturally steered towards stories that scared me. Stories full of suspense which kept me guessing with what might happen next, continued to hold the greatest appeal.

It was film and television that made me a reader. And who did I start reading? Why, Stephen King, of-course! 😉

Years later, when I completed my first short story, I gave it to my husband to read, who called it ‘macabre’. When in consultation with the Director of Varuna Writer’s Centre at the time, after having read the first three chapters of a work in progress, I was told that my story reminded him of Alfred Hitchcock. Having myself compared to one of the influences of my childhood, naturally I considered this to be high praise. This, together with the ‘macabre’ label, I knew I was onto something.

After having studied film and television at University, I have learned more about the importance of genre tropes, characters and settings. The knowledge I have gained from this has been invaluable to my stories. These days, with people having shorter attention spans, film and television appears to have become even more popular (hello, Netflix).

It was the influence of film and television that helped made me both a reader and a writer; my imagination was there, all it needed was the spark.

*Side Note: Ron Howard is currently running the #20MovieChallenge on Twitter. Twenty films that have had an impact on you for twenty days – only post a pic, no film title or comment. I’m participating and also posting them onto my Instagram feed, so if you’re on Twitter or Instagram, you can check out my choices there. If you are also participating, I’d love to see your choices, so drop a link in the comments. 🙂

Has film and television ever influenced your writing? Does watching film and television help you with your chosen genre? Has watching certain movies and/or television shows influenced your choice of reading?

Main image courtesy of Pixabay

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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

This Writer's Life · Writing

What Do You do When Self-Doubt Strikes?

I have been absent from writing for a few weeks now; I needed to take a break after writing my most recent WIP and more recently having undergone surgery. With the start of a new week, a new computer and feeling better after surgery, I was ready to start writing again. But then doubt crept in and I even began to question the genre of my choice.

Having suffered from self-doubt previously and as recently as April, I needed to work fast in finding ways to combat it. I started listening to writing podcasts, enrolled myself in a writing course and received a pep talk from my husband. Discussing these issues with other writers on social media also helped to quickly overcome those doubts before they became writer’s block.

On one of the podcasts I had been listening to, it stated that every writer faces doubts with each new novel, so it doesn’t go away. It’s just something we must learn to live with and work our way through.

I’m getting back to writing slowly, but slow progress is still progress, right? 😉

What do you do to keep yourself motivated when doubt hits you? Have you needed to take a break from writing recently? What have you been up to these past few weeks?

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

 

Writing · Writing Process

5 Lessons Learned from Writing a Novel.

For some months now I have been busy re-writing an old novel I had written during NaNoWriMo back in 2015. The good news is I have finally finished writing it and at around 80k has become one of the longest pieces of writing I have ever done. It has certainly been a struggle for this short story writer!

During this entire process, there have been a few things that I have learned along the way.

1. Have a plan/outline

Previous experience has taught me that in order to finish a long writing project I need to have some kind of outline before I start. At the beginning of each chapter, I therefore wrote what I wanted to happen within that chapter in order to maintain my focus. It does not have to be a detailed outline for many pages that some writers are known to do; you may only need a couple of lines in order to get some sense of direction to move forward.

2. Listen to of your characters

Despite having some kind of plot outline, my characters would say and do things a little bit ‘off script’, sometimes making things better than I had originally imagined. This was great when it came to building my word count or to write again when I needed to take a break, however, this would also take me down the path of panster once again, meaning that I may never finish. When this happens, you may need to reassess what you want with what your character wants and take another look at your plot.

3. Use a timer and have a quota

Ever since I tried NaNoWriMo, I have been using a timer to help get the words written, otherwise my internal editor or perfectionist self can sneak in and it can take too long to get the words written down. Start with a quota that you find doable and gradually challenge yourself to go that little bit further. I began with a daily quota of 1,000 words and used a timer in order to get the words down faster. I would set a timer for 15 minutes and would average 500 words each session. As my 1000 word limit would be reached within half an hour, I then doubled my daily quota so that I wrote 2000 words in one hour. I then increased that to 4000 words a day, broken up into two separate hourly slots.

4. Aim to strike while the iron is hot

I returned to this old NaNoWriMo project because the idea still resonated with me. The more I thought about my characters and plot, the bigger the project had become. Sometimes new ideas may have to be placed on the back-burner if we are currently working on something, but the best time to begin writing a new project is while we are still brimming with enthusiasm, so make the most of such opportunities whenever possible.

5. Have a deadline and word limit.

Because my novel was becoming longer than I had anticipated, I needed to create some kind of deadline as well as consider my word limit, otherwise I would never finish. I had read that the average word limit for debut novels these days tend to be around 80k, so that’s what I aimed for (as well as taking my genre into account). Also I began to feel that the longer it took, my enthusiasm began to wane and I therefore needed a break. With a deadline and word limit in mind, it certainly helped to get the words written down faster.

One of my goals for this year was to step out of my comfort zone and by writing an 80k novel, I think I can safely say I’ve achieved that! It certainly has been a learning experience. 😉

Have you written your first novel and what advice would you give? How are you progressing with your writing goals? Have you stepped out of your comfort zone this year with your writing? Are you a plotter or a panster or somewhere in-between? Have you revisited an old NaNoWriMo project?

Main image courtesy of Unsplash

Writing · Writing Process

5 Things Writers can do During Winter (Besides Writing).

It’s hard to believe we have made it to June already. June! Here in Australia, we are now officially in winter, so it’s the season where people like myself usually act like a complete hermit and hibernate for the entire three months.

We are now halfway through the year and it’s time to take stock on what has (or hasn’t) been achieved so far this year. Going over the goals I set out at the beginning of the year, I can see I have a lot of work to get through. So, besides writing, what exactly can writers do during the cooler months to improve their craft and help achieve their writing goals?

1. Read

This one goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway (after all I haven’t done much reading myself this year). 😉 When not writing, we writers should spend a fair amount of time with our noses firmly placed in a book, whether that is fiction or non-fiction. In order to improve our craft we should always aim at reading books on how to make our writing better, or perhaps even read books on marketing and social media. Reading as much fiction as possible in our chosen genre/genres ensures we are aware of our genres tropes and what is currently available on the shelves.

2. Research

Doing research for our novels and stories can either be conducted in our own homes, or we can use the excuse to leave our writing caves and visit the local library. Depending on our stories, we may even venture out completely and visit places of note that may inhabit our novels and perhaps take photos and talk to experts.

3. Do a short writing course

It is always beneficial to keep improving our craft, no matter what level we are at. Short courses can sometimes be held through writing groups and libraries and even on-line. Take stock of your strengths and weaknesses as a writer and take up a course that may be of help, or you may want something a bit more general. For a while now I have considered doing the online Masterclass with James Patterson and will be doing that during these winter months.

4. Listen to podcasts

The advantage of podcasts is that you can listen to them anywhere. So getting away from your desk and having a walk while listening to a writing podcast can be extremely beneficial in more ways than one. There are quite a few good writing podcasts out there, it’s impossible to list them all. You will find a listing here at Writer’s Digest to help get you started.

5. Attend a Writing Conference/Writing Retreat

Attending a writing conference or retreat during the winter months is a great way of getting out of our writing cave and meeting like-minded people as well as recharging our batteries as enthusiasm can sometimes wane during the cooler weather. If there is nothing available nearby, perhaps you can create your own retreat by going away for a quiet weekend and use that change of scene to get some writing done. This is the time when the thought of being nestled away in a log cabin by an open fire can hold some appeal.

Of-course, doing these things can be done all year round, but in the cooler weather, we may need a little bit of motivation in order to keep us going. 😉

Besides writing, what do you like to do during the winter months towards your goals? How are your writing goals progressing so far this year? Do you have a tendency to hibernate during winter?

Image courtesy of Pixabay