Has Your Writing Ever Surprised You?

It’s the start of another month, so it’s time once again for a post for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group (IWSG), a blog hop to share and encourage other writers.

Sometimes as writers our work can surprise us. We may get an idea for a story where our plot can take us in a completely different direction than what we had originally intended. It opens up doors to possibilities that can broaden our research and make our story stronger.

Recently, with a new story idea, I had been struggling with the very beginnings and background to one of my characters. Once I spent some time away from this new story, I quickly found myself down a particular period in history and amongst some shady characters. It was most unexpected, but it has left me excited to pursue this and how it will shape the rest of the story’s plot.

Then there can be the actual writing itself. A lot of the time writing can be compared with pulling teeth, trying to find the right words and wondering what our characters are going to say next. It’s a wonderful feeling when we find ourselves ‘in the zone’; that special place where we are there within the scene as we write it, oblivious to our surroundings. Such moments don’t happen too often (or is that just me?) and such a natural high, that it should be savoured.

Last November, I participated in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). I had a rough outline of what I had planned and used a timer. I think it was these two things that helped me get over the line at the end of the month. Recently I began the task of going over my NaNoWriMo novel, and expecting the usual slush, I was pleasantly surprised when I began reading the first couple of chapters. The descriptions actually made me feel that I could see the setting; the season and the spaces the characters occupied. Sure it still needs a lot of work, but to have made such a starting point when I was racing against the clock surprised me.

Writing, like any creative outlet, allows us to free ourselves from constraints. When we give in to our creativity and just go with it, we can experiment and try different things. If we allow our characters free rein, letting them tell us their stories in their own way (some authors have said as writers, we are just conduits), such things can surprise us as writers, but always in a good way. 😉

Have you ever surprised yourself with your writing? Did you ever come up with a plot device you never expected? Have you experienced being ‘in the zone’? Do you allow your characters free rein?

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Image courtesy of Pixabay

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What Are Your Pet Peeves When Writing?

It’s the start of another month, so it’s time once again for a post for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group (IWSG), a blog hop to share and encourage other writers.

The question for this month took 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 & 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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What Valuable Lesson Have You Learnt Since You Started Writing?

It’s the start of another month, so it’s time once again for a post for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group (IWSG), a blog hop to share and encourage other writers.

When we first start out as writers, there are plenty of valuable lessons we need to learn. These include rejection, criticism and continually practicing our craft; however I think one of the most valuable lessons I have learnt since I started writing is getting my ideas down on paper.

I first started writing during my teenage years when I was in High School. During those early years, I was like an addict. Story ideas would appear and I felt the need to write the whole thing in its entirety in novel form, until the excitement fizzled out and I was onto the next ‘high’ (hardly surprising). Sometimes when an idea appeared, I didn’t write it down, foolishly believing that I would remember it. Sometimes I did, but others disappeared completely.

Ideas for stories can tend to turn up when we least expect it, making it difficult to get pen and paper (really, what is it about having a shower?) Other times, we can be scrambling to get just one little spark of an idea, which is lovingly referred to as writer’s block.

The interesting thing is that the more you write, the more ideas you tend to come up with (perhaps this is why some famous authors don’t believe in writer’s block). It’s getting them written down that can become an issue. Some authors have pens and notebooks scattered throughout their house and in their handbag for whenever an idea strikes. Over the years, I have learnt to use a similar tactic – grab a pen and paper quick sticks and write the idea down and make sure it makes some kind of sense for when you go over it.

In order for us to write, either fiction or non-fiction, we need ideas and plenty of them if we really want to succeed as writers. Of-course life would be a bit simpler if we had one of Dumbledore’s pensieves!

What is one valuable lesson you’ve learnt since you started writing? Do you have trouble coming up with ideas? How do you get your ideas down? Do you get ideas when you’re in the bath/shower and find that particularly annoying?

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Image courtesy of Pixabay

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Writing and the Keeping of Secrets.

How good are you at keeping secrets? Some people can hold a secret for weeks or possibly months before feeling the need to tell someone, while others can keep a secret to themselves an entire lifetime.

People keep secrets for a multitude of reasons. Shame, guilt, fear are just some examples. Sometimes we have been hurt so much that we keep it locked away in the back of our minds, trying desperately to block the pain away. Some experts believe that our greatest fear is not death, but humiliation and judgement. We are afraid of being rejected, of being kicked out of the social group. We are afraid of being abandoned. We keep secrets in order to ‘keep the peace’.

Certainly there can be times when we feel that some things are personal and nobody else’s business (hello, social media), but there can also be times when keeping secrets can affect our physical and mental health. We may feel vulnerable if we expose ourselves to others. We don’t open ourselves up and try to seek the help we need. In some cases this may be caused by a lack of trust in others.

Recently, I began thinking about secrets and it suddenly occurred to me that I have been keeping a secret from those closest to me. In fact, when I come to think about it, I don’t think many people know about it all. An event took place in my life a long time ago that I have since buried quite deep, but the memory is still there. Sometimes I see or hear something that reminds me and the memory of it all comes flooding back and it can be incredibly strong.

I guess this is one of the reasons why I turn to writing; I can open myself up and ‘bleed’ upon the page. Writing allows me the freedom to put my thoughts down on paper and express any feelings I may otherwise find difficult. Writing can force you to be honest with yourself. It is believed that for some people, writing can help with the healing process. Even for non-writers, keeping a journal can be good for your mental health, such as depression.

I’m currently working my way through my first novel that I wrote some years ago. It’s one of those stories that keeps coming back to me; that needs to be told simply because the initial spark for this novel has been that ‘little secret’ (and keeping secrets can be a good plot device). It needs quite a bit of work and I know I have been avoiding it for some time. I guess like many of us, I have to face my daemons someday. I guess the time has finally arrived.

Have you got a secret you’ve never shared with anyone? Do you find writing helps you with the healing process? How good are you at keeping secrets? Do you think some things are better left unsaid?

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Image courtesy of Pixabay

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Why New Writers Should Consider Blogging.

Over the past few months, I have been hearing a lot from other authors about the need for a blog. Some believe that it’s just not worth it; that they are better off staying with social networks like Facebook, or that it takes too much time and effort, which would be better put towards writing. I understand their reasoning as I’ve been there before. I’ve been blogging on and off now for eight years and I’ve often wondered why I even bother. However, over that same length of time I have been reading popular blogs within the writing community and books on the subject. Recently I also attended some social media courses, including one on blogging.

Here are five reasons why I believe new writers should seriously consider blogging:-

1. Blogging Helps Create Your Own Community

A blog helps you to break out of your comfort zone and puts your writing ‘out there’. Readers of your blog, whether they are other writers, bloggers or future book readers become a part of your community. As a solitary pursuit, it’s comforting to know that you are communicating with others and forming friendships. Years ago, I joined a blog hop community that has since folded, but I have remained friends with people I met back then (some of whom have become my beta readers). More recently I have joined the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, another blog hop, and have made some new friends. Because you’ve created a community, when you are ready to publish your books, you’ll already have their support to cheer you on and help spread the word (and word of mouth sells books more than anything else).

2. A Blog Secures Your Place on the Internet

Don’t rely too much on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter when trying to secure your place on the internet. They have a tendency to change things and may even become obsolete in years to come. Having your own space on the internet is safer. Just like having your own website, you control your blog’s content, how it looks, etc. Claim your piece of internet real estate by buying your domain name. Not only does it help you get your name out there, it also proves you are serious when it comes to your writing future.

3. Blogging Allows You to Focus on Your Genre/Niche

I have found that as a fiction writer, blogging helps me to focus on my writing genre and can write blog posts accordingly. Blogging about your genre/niche helps to ‘test the waters’. Is your genre popular? Are your readers interested in your research? By focusing on your genre/niche, you are also focusing on your target audience and what appeals to them.

4. Blogging Helps You Get Used to Working to Deadlines

Whether you plan to publish traditionally or self-publish, you need to get used to working to deadlines. When you blog, you need to set yourself to a schedule and preferably it needs to be one which suits you (even once a week is acceptable). When you have subscribers, your readers rely on you to be consistent, so you need to be someone they can trust. Getting used to deadlines now will help you when the time comes to publish your first book. Google counts attendance, so the more you blog, the more your name gets out there.

5. Blogging Gets You Writing

My husband once told me blogging is not writing. I scratched my head on that one until I realised that what he meant to say was I always wanted to be a fiction writer, not a blogger. That’s true, however, blogging is still writing and it helps to test out our writing skills. Experimenting and trying different writing styles helps to make you a better writer. It may even lead to a different career path!

As you can see, creating a blog makes a lot of sense. The trouble I think some writers have is that they don’t know what to write about. I’ve had this problem too, but when you really stop to think about it, there are plenty of things to blog about (Anne R Allen has a helpful post to get you started). And when this happens, blogging becomes less of a chore and can be a lot of fun. And isn’t this what writing is all about? 🙂

* * * * *

While we’re on the subject of blogging, I have been nominated for the Mystery Blogger Award. It took me completely by surprise, so many thanks goes to Ronel the Mythmaker for thinking that my blog is worthy enough! It’s been a long time since I’ve had a blog award, so I appreciate the recognition.

“Mystery Blogger Award” is an award for amazing bloggers with ingenious posts. Their blog not only captivates, it inspires and motivates. They are one of the best out there, and they deserve every recognition they get. This award is also for bloggers who find fun and inspiration in blogging, and they do it with so much love and passion.

I have also been nominated for The Versatile Blogger Award. To receive two awards in a matter of weeks comes as another pleasant surprise. It’s a recognition of all the work that goes into blogging (and yes, at times it can become consuming), so many thanks to Adam! It’s good to know that our blogging efforts are appreciated.

The Vesatile Blogger Award was created to feature and recognise blogs that have unique content, high quality writing and fantastic photos. The webpage about the Versatile Blogger Award says:

Honor those bloggers who bring something special to your life whether every day or only now and then.

Receiving these two awards goes to show that blogging is not always a complete waste of time. Others recognise our efforts and appreciate what we do. Blogging may not be for everyone and we don’t know until we try. But if we are consistent, make it fun and make friendships along the way, then blogging can be an enormous benefit to us as writers in the long run.

Do you blog and if so, what has been the best part of blogging for you? Do you dislike blogging and what don’t you like about it? Do you think blogging takes too much time away from our ‘real’ writing? How do you balance writing with blogging?

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Main image courtesy of Pixabay

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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?

Enjoy this article? Subscribe to my blog and never miss a post. You can also follow me on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest.

Image courtesy of Pixabay

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