IWSG, Writing

IWSG: Write What You Love.

Some years ago, I woke up from a very strange dream. It was so strange, that I kept thinking about it throughout the day, and decided to write the idea down. It was a horror story, and it became my first attempt at a short story. My husband read it and called it macabre, which I naturally took as a compliment. 😉

Originally, I never intended to write short stories, nor paranormal fiction. When I first started writing, I wanted to write novel-length pieces, but I always fell short. I also think this was due, in part, to the fact that at the time, I wanted to write romances. I fell I love with Jane Austen and continue to admire her work. As a teen, I read a lot of sweet romances and even tried writing a novel for Mills and Boon. Despite my best efforts, I just couldn’t do it. Anything romantic would need to have a dark side. I was well and truly into Bronte territory.

My muse was clearly taking me down some dark alleys.

I grew up watching a lot of film and television. Horror, suspense, and mysteries really caught my attention. I was also fascinated by the paranormal. What was staring me in the face, I chose to ignore, until only a few years ago. I finally gave in to my muse and I believe I have now finally found my ‘voice’.

From that strange dream, I went on to write more short stories, entered short story competitions, and even self-published a couple of them. Later this year, in time for Christmas, I will be releasing a couple more. I am also currently working on a series of novellas.

I love the short form and will continue to write them. Meanwhile, with a lot of trial and error, my novel drafts are slowly beginning to take shape. 😉

Have you written in a form or genre you hadn’t planned writing in? Do you choose a form/genre in advance?

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.

Image courtesy Pixabay

IWSG, Writing

IWSG: Has Your Writing Ever Taken You by Surprise?

As writers, we can tend to become emotionally engaged with our characters and what happens to them. There are times when a theme or topic can move us so deeply, that sometimes we may need to step away.

While writing my short story The Ghost at Willow Creek, my husband and I were having a few issues at the time (which thankfully have been resolved and was nothing really too drastic), but I began to really feel for my main character, Eleanor, and what she was going through. I had put myself in her shoes. In one of my stories for my collection Legacy and Other Short Stories, I wrote about an incident where I began crying. I was going through the same hurt as my main character. Once again, I had put myself in their shoes, and I needed to walk away and spend some time to gather my thoughts.

A few years back, during a session of National Writing Novel Month (NaNoWriMo), of all times, I was doing fine, until I hit a rather awkward moment. I just had to stop, because what happened to my character caught me completely by surprise. I know some characters can tend to take over the stories we create, but as the creator, I did not want my character to go down this route. Although I did manage to finish NaNoWriMo that time by writing other scenes, I have not returned to that novel. It has since evolved into something a bit different, but what happened to my main character in that scene won’t be repeated. It is a subject that I find too disturbing. I wouldn’t want to impose it upon my characters and I would find it too difficult to write.

We need to put ourselves in our character’s shoes in order to empathise with them and if we feel that emotional bond with our characters, then our readers will too. Our characters then become real people to us and sometimes they may even surprise us with their actions.

It is for these reasons that being a writer can be a roller-coaster of emotions, but when we get it right, it can be very rewarding.

Has your writing ever taken you by surprise? Do you become emotionally engaged with your characters? Have you had to step away from your writing when it becomes too emotional?

*Side Note: My short story, The Ghost at Willow Creek is now available as an eBook through Kindle Unlimited. It will be available for FREE from 3-7 February 2020 in Australia, as well as various other countries, including the United States and the United Kingdom.

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 Pixabay

This Writer's Life, Writing

A Sweet Competition.

Recently, I have been working on a project that managed to catch even me, completely by surprise. I stepped out of my comfort zone and wrote something different from what I normally write.

As a member of Romance Writers of Australia, this year, I thought I would enter a short story competition. This year’s theme for the Sweet Romance category is ‘Cupcake’. Being a writer of paranormal, I began to wonder how I could possibly fit such an item in as an integral part of a short story. Using one of the many meanings for the word, I did manage to come up with an idea and went with it.

Halfway through though, I began to have my doubts. I wondered if it was going to work, let alone if I could manage to write something completely different to what I normally write, but I managed to get it finished. I sent it off to a beta reader, who is a romance writer and fellow RWA member. They returned it saying they thought it was ‘a fabulous story’ and ‘can’t believe this is only your second romance’. I’ve struggled with writing romances for quite some time, but now I feel I may be on to something. I guess it has always been a case of never say never! 😉

So how does this all fit in with the stories I have already written and self-published? I believe the paranormal is the common thread. I grew up on both horror and romance; Dragonwyck being my favourite novel, which introduced me to Gothic, a genre in which I love. Recently having read a blog post about the appeal of Gothic Horror, only confirmed this for me.

Before Christmas, I read a post on Anne R Allen’s blog about the 3 Things You Need to Become an Author and it made me think about an issue I had thought about for a while. As writers, we need to learn to be adaptable, and lately, my writing tends to be going down a slightly different path (either that or I’m finally going down the right path). I’m following where my muse is taking me and it’s currently leading me to such stories as Dragonwyck, Jane Eyre, Rebecca and even Crimson Peak. Of-course, it’s not stopping me from writing other things, which I plan on publishing this year. 😉

This past weekend, I went over my short story entry for the last time and submitted it to RWA. Not only is this the first time I have entered a competition through the RWA, but the first writing competition I have entered for quite some time. If nothing else, at least I will be getting feedback, which is something I have never had before from a competition.

And yes, this is the second romance I have ever written. Talk about jumping into the deep end!

Do you plan on entering any writing competitions this year? Did you ever receive helpful feedback from entering a competition? Is your muse taking you into a different direction? Have you jumped into the new year by stepping out of your comfort zone or do you plan to?

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This Writer's Life, Writing

2019: Stepping Out of the Comfort Zone.

Usually, at this time of year, I look back at the year that was and think about all the things I could have done differently; namely, getting published. This year, however, I look back at 2019 a bit differently. 2019 was a year I decided to step out of my comfort zone and finally swallow some of those insecurities.

This is what I did: –

  • I had my short stories professionally edited. My editor loved my stories, saying she would be happy to work with me again and wants to know if I’m writing any novels. 😊
  • Re-joined the Insecure Writer’s Support Group.
  • Prepared short stories for publication, including contacting professional cover designers, and setting up an account with Amazon.
  • Attended a local readers and writer’s festival.
  • Entered a short story competition with the Romance Writers of Australia. Although I didn’t win, I did get some great feedback.
  • Enrolled in five – yes, five! – online writing courses.
  • I became an indie author, by publishing a short story and a collection of short stories.

Yes, that last one makes me look back at the year and I feel happy knowing that I finally did it!

Pressing that ‘publish’ button for the first time was more difficult that pressing it for the second time, but I’m feeling greatly relieved at having accomplished that. Now, however, is the ongoing battle of ‘discoverability’ and marketing, but that’s a whole lot of new insecurities and a completely different post right there! 😉

I’ve already made plans and begun working on, my upcoming projects for the new year, so there’s plenty to write and re-write!

Yep, all year round!

Of-course, I wouldn’t have got this far without the continual love and support from my husband and the online writing community. I can’t thank you all enough!

I’ll be taking a break from blogging over the next few weeks and return on 8 January 2020, posting for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group.

I wish you all a Happy Christmas and best wishes for the New Year. Stay safe!

Did you step out of your comfort zone in 2019? Is there anything you would have done differently this year? Do you have any big plans for 2020?

Main image courtesy Pixabay

IWSG, Writing

IWSG: Creativity is in Your Control.

For the past few weeks I’ve been feeling a bit like a rabbit caught in the headlights; I’d like to move forward with my writing, but fear keeps me in place. I’m planning on self-publishing this year and with every small step forward I tend to come to an abrupt halt. Lately, I began to worry about things that were out of my control.

Once our work is out there, there are a lot of expectations that go along with it. With all the pressure on writers to maintain a regular output, I worry that I may not be able to meet that expectation of others. Once I press that ‘publish’ button (which is my greatest fear of all), I fear I will be proven correct that I’m not as good at this writing gig as I think I might be.

It was fortunate then, that I made a few recent discoveries. I read a recent article on JA Konrath’s blog on why your book marketing plan won’t work. I found it an interesting read from someone who has made a success from self-publishing and there are plenty of things to consider. Not only did I get some good advice, but one of the big takeaways I got from it was to stop worrying about what was out of your control.

The other discovery was while I listened to an interview with author Jane Harper on the podcast, So You Want to be a Writer? (yeah, it was a while ago, but I’ve been a bit behind 😉). She mentioned a talk she had given where she gives advice to other creatives. I’ve found her advice helpful and have included the video of it below. She, too, advises to concentrate on the things you can control.

As recently as last week, it took me about fifteen minutes to write an short email of a few lines to my editor, asking for an endorsement for one of my short stories. Yes, I agonised over every word, but I sent it anyway, coming to the decision that there was no harm in asking. I received a reply that same day, saying simply ‘Of-course!’ (Happy Dance! 😊)

Fear has held me back my entire life and I tend to agonise over many things, yet I have found over the years that sometimes when I ignore the fear and do it anyway, things are not half as bad as I thought they would be. The saying is true that ‘there is nothing to fear but fear itself’.

We can’t control if other people will like our writing or not and if they don’t, then perhaps, they’re not our audience. Focusing on what we can control, that is our writing, makes for a less stressful and more enjoyable journey.

Do you worry about things out of your control? Have you found that ‘there is nothing to fear but fear itself’? Have you found advice recently that has helped you to move forward?

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

IWSG, Writing

IWSG: What Is Your Favourite Genre to Write In?

I’ve always followed the old writing advice that in order to write, you need to read – a lot. Over the years I’ve read so many genres, that when it came to actually writing, I could never decide where I actually fit. It wasn’t until recently when I had my short stories professionally edited that I may have realised what was staring me in the face. I was told I had a ‘knack’ for horror.

Growing up, I watched a lot of television and movies. Watching the Gothic horror and mystery of Picnic at Hanging Rock at the cinema (yes, showing my age now), fascinated me and I leaned heavily toward lots of horror movies, including anything from Alfred Hitchcock. I fell in love with The Addams Family and anything Gothic. I was about ten when I accidentally discovered the Gothic Romance novel Dragonwyck and I was hooked. From there I went on to devour any book from Stephen King that I could get my hands on. And the 1980s was very big for horror! 😉

I guess horror was a natural fit as I was always fascinated by the paranormal, especially ghosts. In more recent years I have visited some haunted places and have come away with experiencing something.

It’s the thrill of being scared; an adrenalin rush. Like being on a roller coaster – it’s a high! Monsters can be scary, but also fascinating. It’s the unknown that makes one curious and question our existence. It’s not just monsters either as horror can also take the form of mankind, leaving us to wonder what we are truly capable of. Horror can also lurk within the natural environment too.

Horror is surrounded by suspense and mystery; you’re too frightened to know what lurks beyond, but at the same time you’re curious to find out. Alfred Hitchcock is famous for building suspense, which is a handy skill to know when it comes to writing. We really want our readers to keep turning the pages and not put our stories down until they get the answers they seek.

My writing may be a mix of genres, but so too is horror. And besides, I think it’s a fun genre to write in and shouldn’t we be writing what we enjoy? 😉

Do you enjoy horror? Are you fascinated by the paranormal? What is your favourite genre to write in and why?

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

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?

This Writer's Life, Writing

Follow Your Muse.

Recently, as I was making enquires into having my short stories professionally edited (yes, I’m finally making this big step forward), one asked what genre they were in. This was an interesting question because I really had to think about my answer. Lately, my writing tends to be a variety of different genres.

When I asked my husband, this is how the conversation turned out:

‘What genre would you say my writing is?’

‘Dark’.

‘That’s not a genre’.

‘Okay. Macabre’.

‘That’s not a genre either’.

As you can see, this was not getting me anywhere! In the end, I put the genres of my short stories down to paranormal, crime and general fiction.

This question certainly gave me pause for thought, because lately, I have been wondering this myself. Many years ago, when I first began writing, I recall reading somewhere that in order to write I needed to read and read widely. So, I took up that advice, which is why now, I’m finding it difficult to place my writing into just one ‘box’. This demonstrates another good advantage to indie publishing, as one has the freedom to experiment with their writing.

Of course, all this thinking can be seen as another stalling tactic. Who me, overthink things? My fear is so great that I am using my writing as an excuse to prevent myself from moving forward. I also believe that platform anxiety has also played its part.

I truly do envy writers who write in one genre; at least they know which way their muse is taking them. For writers like me, I’m still finding my way. So, for now, I have decided that I should just go wherever my muse takes me. All I know for certain is that my muse prefers to take me down some dark, deserted paths. 😉

Do you follow wherever your muse takes you? Do you find your writing fits in more than one ‘box’? If you write in more than one genre, do you use a pen name or stick with what you’re already using?

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This Writer's Life, Writing

What Would You Have Done Differently in 2018?

Towards the end of 2017, I concluded that if I could do it all again, I would have written more during that year. I needed to remove a lot of distractions, especially those that I could control, mainly the internet and social media.

So, what about this year? When it comes to 2018, I’ve done a few short writing courses, began setting some boundaries (which has been very liberating), joined the Romance Writers of Australia (where I think I’ve finally found my ‘tribe’) and stepped out of my comfort zone by writing an 80k paranormal romance.

And it is with that last point, the 80k novel, that gives me pause for thought. This novel (where I still need to come up with a title), I had basically spent the entire year writing, which in this era of instant gratification is far too long. Stephen King recommends about three months, which I think is reasonable, provided of-course you have your plot well sorted out beforehand. I thought I did, but I wasn’t happy with it, so I started all over again. I learned the hard way that this story idea needed more time to simmer.

So basically in 2018, I should have written faster. The only way I believe I can really achieve that is to work harder on those distractions, stop with my perfectionism as well as stop thinking so much and just do it! Our time is short enough as it is without worrying about the little things. Self-doubt has plagued me for so long, that there are times it can be crippling and that is why it was so good to remove some of those boundaries. It’s been a long, slow process, but I think I’m finally getting somewhere.

Of-course, I did not self-publish this year, however, I’ve been reading up about the subject, done a short course through RWA and have been looking into copy-editors and cover designers, as well as coming up with some kind of plan. There’s a lot to self-publishing and I want to make sure I make as few mistakes as possible (yes, that’s the perfectionist in me talking once again). Either way, I will be making the plunge in 2019 (takes deep breaths)!

So that’s the year that was and my hopes for the year ahead.

Let me take this opportunity to wish you all a Happy Christmas and enjoy your holidays. Thank you so much for reading and being a part of my blogging community. I look forward to seeing you all again in the New Year. Let’s make it a good one! 🙂

As you look back on 2018, with all its successes/failures, if you could backtrack, what would you do differently? Have you learnt something about yourself this year? What are your plans for 2019?

Images courtesy of Unsplash

This Writer's Life, Writing

6 Signs You May be a Writer.

Lately, I’ve been working on my current work in progress and now I can finally say that I’ve finished!

It’s the longest piece I’ve ever done, so it has been quite a challenge. I have wrestled self-doubt and there were times when I didn’t think I would actually make it, but I finally got there. This got me thinking about the writer’s life in general and some of our special habits. 😉

You know you’re a writer when:-

1. You’d rather be with your imaginary friends than with real people.

2. You have a habit of staring out your window to solve some of your problems (or even just to daydream).

3. You keep adding books to your ‘to be read’ pile (besides, some of that is research).

4.You have a love-hate relationship with paper.

5. You collect various stationary, even if you don’t need it (but it sure looks pretty).

6. You’d rather write than be in a ‘real’ job (whether you have one or not).

What do you think are some of the special quirks of being a writer? Do you consider yourself to be a ‘slow’ writer in a fast-moving world? Have you managed to achieve your writing goals this year?

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