This Writer's Life · Writing

Making Plans for the New Year.

It’s difficult to believe that it’s that time of year again. Christmas is almost upon us; it happened so fast in fact, that this year I was caught completely unaware. It was a good thing then that I had already begun to make plans as far as writing is concerned.

Looking back over 2017, this has been quite a personal journey for me. I have high hopes for 2018 and whether I accomplish all that I intend to remains to be seen, however, I have come to believe that small progress is still progress.

I seem to have become a slave to social media and the internet. I tend to spend a lot of time, if not on it, then thinking about it. Listening to all the advice of ‘experts’ telling us what we need to do makes one want to tear one’s hair out. My husband tells me to take these people’s advice with a grain of salt. Just go with your gut and do what works for you. I have seen other people lately take a back seat to social media and prioritise their writing, their families and their health. This will also be my plan for the coming year. I will continue to blog and be involved in other social media, but not quite so much.

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 the blogging community. You guys make this all worthwhile!

I look forward to seeing you all again in the New Year. Let’s make it a good one! 🙂

What are your plans for 2018? Do you hope to have more time to write? Will you also be spending less time on the internet in the new year?

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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As an unpublished writer, I have the luxury of experimenting with what I write and how I write it.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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This Writer's Life · Writing

What Would You Do Differently in 2017?

Looking back, 2017 has been quite a personal journey for me. It began with an operation that helped with a long-standing medical condition. Recovery took longer than I expected, but in the end, the result was well worth it. I went on a diet, lost a few kilos and still have a long way to go to reach my ideal goal, but I’ll get there! In more recent months, I have reached a milestone birthday, saw my favourite band as well as discovering that I may be a ‘sensitive’ and I’m keen to find out more about such things. 2017 was also the year when I came to the conclusion that I needed a change in direction when it comes to writing and will be going down the path of self-publishing.

In 2017, I did a couple of courses, found some helpful beta readers, submitted stories to competitions and tried my hand at writing a novella only for it to turn out to be a long short story (the longest I’ve ever written). I also have a clearer picture of my genre.

So what will I do differently?

Write a heck of lot more than what I have been doing, that’s for sure! Unfortunately there are a couple of things that continually get in the way. One is called life, the other is time management. As a writer who has a family and household to maintain, there isn’t much I can do about the first one, but the other I can control. I’ve struggled with time management for a while now and I know that if I really want to get anywhere as a writer, especially on the self-publishing route, I have to lift my game and make some big changes.

One of those changes will be cutting back on time spent on the internet. Over the past few years I have become a political tragic (sad, I know), but with two teenage kids, I do worry about their future and that of the planet. Also, with social media lately, I have become a bit sporadic, so I have at least started to cut back on that and may need to start using a timer for this as well as my writing. Of-course I will continue to blog – it is still writing after all! 😉

Breaking some of those old habits is not going to be easy, but I enjoy the sense of accomplishment when I have reached one of my goals; and for me right now, the biggest goal of all is publication.

As you look back on 2017, with all its successes/failures, if you could backtrack, what would you do differently? Have you learnt something about yourself this year? Do you find yourself struggling with time management? What habits have you had to break to get more writing done?

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Life Lessons · This Writer's Life · Writing

Writing: A Change in Direction.

For the past few months, I have been submitting short stories to competitions. I have been doing this on and off over a number of years and despite the continual knock backs, I have been successful once. Perhaps this is why I continue to persevere; after all, when it comes to writing, we do have to be in this for the long haul. However, there also comes a time when we have to admit when something isn’t working and need to consider our alternatives.

It was very timely, therefore that I read a couple of posts by Kristen Lamb Pay the Writer 2 – Out Hustle the Hustlers and Writing Exposure – Gamble or Grift? that got me thinking. The rules of publishing these days have changed. Many writers like myself are of the old belief that if we write and get exposure we are helping to build our CV. This will eventually lead to work coming our way. These days, however, the old rules no longer apply and that older way of thinking can be a bit hard to shake off.

The reality is that by sending my work out to competitions, I’m still waiting for that ‘validation’ for the gatekeepers to accept me. Because I allow my fear and insecurity to hold me back, I need someone to tell me whether I’m good enough for this game and each rejection adds to those insecurities. At the same time, though, those knock backs are a good way to help develop that thick skin. We keep holding on for that win. But the competition is fierce and the win may never come.

Writing for exposure is fine when writing is a hobby, but when it comes to taking your writing seriously and being paid for it, we may need to be a bit more selective. We should be the ones benefiting from our writing and not giving our work away so freely in order to benefit others. My one and only ‘win’ at least taught me that there can indeed be benefits.

One of my beta readers suggested I compile my short stories and self-publish. I’ve been thinking of doing exactly that for some time, but it is fear that is preventing me from doing so. I know that I have now reached a point in my writing where self-publishing is the road I will be travelling. It’s a long road and to begin with it’s going to be pretty rough. In the end though, I do believe that the journey will be worth it. So, who’s with me?

Does fear and insecurity hold you back? Will you be going down the path of self-publishing? If you’re self-published, has it turned out better than you expected? Have you won any writing competitions? Have you become more selective when it comes to your writing?

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Image courtesy of Pixabay

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Writing

Do You Finish Your NaNo Projects?

I’ve participated in NaNoWriMo a couple of times (failed once, succeeded twice) and the end result has always been one giant mess. I guess that’s the purpose of the whole exercise though isn’t it? Just get the words written down!

To be perfectly honest, I have not finished any of my NaNoWriMo projects. I start with a rough outline and let the characters determine how they wish to get there. Last year’s efforts, although incomplete, has been the best so far when it comes to re-writes (so I might just be getting better). Only a few short months ago I went over it and can see the potential in it, so that is one I will keep working on.

Recently, I began working on the re-writes of one of my other NaNoWriMo projects, however as I began working, I soon discovered it was in dire need of an overhaul. The more I looked into it, the more questions arose. I wanted to know more about my characters backgrounds, which in turn made the project bigger than it was before. The more research I undertook, the more possibilities opened for both plot and character development. Overwhelmed, I decided to begin by writing a short story for one of my major characters. I felt the need to take a small step backwards in order to move forward.

This year, although I won’t be participating in NaNoWriMo, I will be working on one of my previous efforts. I have a bit of a backlog to finish and tidy up before it comes around again next year. Participating has certainly been worth it; even though I have been left with a bit of a mess, I at least have something to work with and know what my limitations are.

If you’re participating in NaNoWriMo this year, I wish you the very best of luck!

Do you finish your NaNoWriMo projects? Will you be participating this year? Do you have a back-log of projects to complete? What have you learned about yourself as a writer after doing NaNoWriMo?

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Image courtesy of Pixabay

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Writing

Do You Use Personal Information in Your Stories?

When it comes to writing stories, we tend to put a little bit of ourselves in our characters as well as certain situations. For example, at some point in our lives we have all experienced love, anger, happiness and pain. These things we can write about and readers can relate to such emotions. There can be other events and emotions we have experienced that can make such a profound effect upon us that whether consciously or unconsciously, can turn up within our own stories.

One of my stories in particular is based upon a situation that took place during my teenage years and all these years later, I still feel the need to write about it. In fact, this particular novel has been written, but is currently undergoing extensive re-writes (be it ever so slowly). The event is used as the trigger for a bigger plot, but it helps my main character evolve and help her find her own path to redeeming herself.

My characters can sometimes be a part of me, which can cause problems as I’m too close; however if we put too much of other people we know into our fictional characters, we could end up in all sorts of trouble. The novel that I am currently re-writing may have originated from a personal experience, yet I don’t want the main character to become a mirror image of myself; adding some quirks and putting her into some difficult situations creates distance for myself as a writer and makes the character less ‘Mary Sue’. It’s a matter of mixing things up and finding that right balance.

Writing is the way I express myself; I’m more comfortable expressing my thoughts and feelings in written form rather than in the spoken word. This is why I am a writer. I believe that writing what we are passionate about makes for better writing. Anything I feel strongly about will show up in my writing one way or another, and that includes personal situations; for example, hurt feelings can manifest themselves into stories that involve revenge (Warning: I have a tendency to ‘bleed upon the page’ so that I can do away with you as a character). 😉

Have you ever slipped any of your personal information into your characters or stories, either by accident or purpose? Do you find that writing what you are passionate about makes for better writing? Have you found a common theme in your stories? How do you create distance with some of your characters/stories?

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Image courtesy of Pixabay

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Writing

Has Your Writing Ever Surprised You?

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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