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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Back to the 80s: Q is for Queen.

There was never any doubt which band I’d use this time around for my A-Z Challenge. Queen are one of the all time greats and an old favourite. Sadly, I never did get to see them in concert, which would have been awesome.

Queen were formed in London in 1970 and released their debut album in 1973. In 1975, they released their fourth album, A Night at the Opera, featuring ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, which has been voted one of the greatest songs of all time.

Queen released three more albums during the 1970s, making them an international success. They toured the US, Canada, Japan and Europe and performed a free concert tour in Hyde Park, London. The 1980s were a time of experimentation for the band, including the use of synthesisers, writing movie soundtracks (Flash Gordon) and a collaboration with David Bowie on the single ‘Under Pressure’, reaching No.1 in the UK.

In 1985, they performed at the Live Aid concert, with a television audience of over one billion. In 1986, they released the album A Kind of Magic, which proved very successful and included songs from the movie Highlander. That same year, they went on tour, which was also to be their final one with Freddie Mercury. Freddie’s health was brought into question in 1988, and despite being diagnosed with AIDS, he denied anything was wrong. The band continued to record during this time, releasing two more albums and a second compilation album.

Within hours of confirming he had AIDS, Freddie Mercury died in November, 1991. A year later, a concert was performed in his honour, raising money for AIDS charities. Their final album featuring Freddie was released in 1995, reaching No.1 in the UK and has sold over 20 million copies world wide. A statue of Freddie was unveiled in 1996 in Geneva, Switzerland. In 1997, John Deacon chose to retire, while Brian May and Roger Taylor continue to perform to this day.

Of-course I had to put this song on my playlist (love Highlander)! And yes, there can only be one Freddie. We may never see his like again. May he rest in peace.

Other bands formed or who had hits in the 1980s starting with the letter Q include:- Quiet Riot.

Are you a Highlander fan? What other bands of the 1980s that begin with the letter Q can you think of?

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The Slow Horror of The Orphanage.

When I was younger I used to watch a lot of horror movies, but I soon tired of the slasher films and stopped watching altogether. Recently, though, I’ve gone back to watching some more horror movies and one of those included The Orphanage.

The plot involves a couple and their adopted son, who move into the mother’s childhood home, which was once an orphanage. The mother, Laura, plans to turn it into a home for disabled children, but at a party for the opening of the home, their son goes missing.

I was pleasantly surprised with this movie and I’m glad it is an old-fashioned ghost story in that the horror is revealed by the building up of suspense. As I grew up on Hitchcock, this type of horror appeals to me more. To be perfectly honest, one thing that I did find disturbing was the young boy, Tomas. The way he followed the mother around was rather creepy; however, his story is drip-fed to the audience that one eventually feels sympathy for him.

The film is in Spanish and I didn’t have an issue with having to read sub-titles, as I’ve watched quite a few foreign films and television shows over the years. I enjoyed the cinematography, which helped create the atmosphere of isolation, darkness and abandonment. The only problem I had with the movie was self-inflicted in that I didn’t see the ending earlier that I may have done otherwise. I was clearly taken along with the ride and when the resolution was revealed it all made perfect sense. The ending was satisfying and rather poignant.

Even if you are not a fan of the horror genre, this film is still worth watching. It portrays a message of love between a mother and her child and for those less fortunate than ourselves.

Have you watched The Orphanage? Do you prefer the slow build of suspense or slasher flicks? Do you like to guess the ending or prefer to just go along for the ride? Do you have problems with watching foreign films?

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New Writers: Developing a Thick Skin.

As writers, we are told one of the things we need to have in this writing venture is a thick skin; especially when we are just starting out. The sooner we start giving our work to beta readers and submitting, the better our chances of developing this thick skin. There are, however, certain obstacles that prevent us from doing so. One in particular comes instantly to mind – fear.

For years, I spent the vast majority of my time happy in my little writing cave; my work never seeing the light of day. I had grown accustomed to the outward negativity towards my career choices, be they writing related or otherwise. My best defence was to keep quiet, but continue writing regardless. The only disadvantage to this was that I knew that one day, for me to become published; I would have to let others see my work eventually.

It became a gradual metamorphosis. I attended writing groups, where I always preferred to be the last one to read my work. My hands would shake and I could feel the heat rise in my chest and quite a few times people would ask me to speak up. Yet in the end, I found the others in the groups to be helpful and saw the potential in my writing. It was around this time that I began blogging, gradually putting myself out to an even bigger audience. By doing these two things, I began to grow that thick skin and submitted my work to publications and entering competitions. I had some poetry published in a small publication and won a writing competition. Things were looking up, but I still had a long way to go because the feeling of fear never left me.

The feeling of fear I felt (and still do) was not one of failure, but actually one of vulnerability. Putting myself out there for all the world to see would leave me exposed, open to abuse and ridicule. This was always the dilemma. It was a Catch-22 that I had to come to terms with and develop that thick skin sooner or later.

It has only been within the last twelve months that I might finally be getting better at this. I have some new beta readers who are helpful and encouraging and are only too keen to read more of my work (so thank you). 🙂 Recently, I submitted a short story to an anthology, but received word that I was unsuccessful. Usually I would be down in the dumps for a few days at least, but not this time. This time, I accepted it, shrugged and moved on. I was quite surprised at how calmly I had taken it. Years of study at University taught me that writing is subjective.

I’m still working on developing that thick skin as I have yet to have my stories published, but it has taken me years to reach this level. I usually find, more often than not, whenever I’m afraid of something, things usually turn out better than what I had expected. There is a lot of truth in the saying ‘the only thing we have to fear is fear itself’.

What steps have you taken to develop a thick skin? Does fear prevent you from sending your work out or getting critiqued? Have you allowed the negativity of others to control your life?

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Main Image courtesy of Pixabay

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Back to the 80s: P is for The Promise.

This week for my Back to the 80s Challenge I’m focusing on a band that remains a bit obscure. To be perfectly honest, I didn’t even remember them and once again my husband had to help me out. I guess this is all part of the fun of undertaking research – that it is not always easy and it can be a voyage of discovery.

The Promise was formed in Brisbane, Australia in 1983. The band’s first single ‘Heart to Sell’, released the following year was well received, reaching the Top 30 in their home town. The follow-up single ‘Walking with a Weight’ in 1985 reached number 67 nationally. Two more singles followed and the band built a considerable live following. They supported Australian bands such as INXS, The Angels and The Divinyls and released their first album in 1987. Believed to be on their way to becoming another Australian success story overseas, things fell apart for them on the eve of their American signing, never realising their full potential.

With that keyboard and bass guitar, ‘Heart to Sell’ has a real 80s sound. 😉

Other bands formed or who had hits in the 1980s starting with the letter P include:- Pseudo Echo, The Proclaimers, The Police, Pet Shop Boys, Party Boys, Psychedelic Furs.

What kinds of difficulties have you had when undertaking research? Do you enjoy the prospect of learning new things while researching? What other bands of the 1980s that begin with the letter P can you think of?

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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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Back to the 80s: O is for Oingo Boingo

Another week, and it’s time once again for my Back to the 80s Challenge – my very own A-Z Challenge! This time, we’ve made it to another one of those awkward letters, where I’m left scratching way back into my memory banks – and this is where the help of my husband usually comes in. 😉

The Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo were formed in 1972 and were a musical theatre troupe. In the late 1970s, they shortened their name to Oingo Boingo and released an EP a year later. They released three albums during the early 1980s and their music began to appear on a number of movie soundtracks. Their best known song ‘Weird Science‘ was written for the movie of the same name and appeared on their album Dead Man’s Party. Song writer and front man Danny Elfman, then began composing for major films. They released three more albums and explored different musical directions, but eventually played their final concert in 1995. Danny Elfman continues to compose for film and television and has been nominated for four Academy Awards.

I always thought that the song ‘Stay’ was a love song, but when I looked further into it, I’ve come to the conclusion that it may be about suicide. And as it is from their album Dead Man’s Party, it seems to make sense.

Other bands formed or who had hits in the 1980s starting with the letter O include:- Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark.

What other bands of the 1980s that begin with the letter O can you think of? What are you thoughts about the song ‘Stay’ – do you think it is about suicide? Is it just me or does Danny Elfman have a creepy looking vibe going on in that video and do it really well?

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