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

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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?

IWSG · Writing Process

IWSG: Working With an Editor.

This month for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, I thought I’d talk about doing something I have been putting off for a long time because of my doubts and fears.

This year, in an effort to step out of my comfort zone, I am looking at self-publishing. It’s a huge undertaking, but I’m gradually working my way towards that ultimate goal (I guess you could say I’m being overly cautious). One of those steps I undertook recently was working with an editor.

The first thing I needed to do was to find one and this demonstrated one of the advantages of social media. I asked for recommendations on Facebook and I received a number of replies, including both recommendations and others offering their services. I went through them all and eventually settled on one once I received a sample edit and seeing that their price was reasonable.

Giving my work out to a professional editor made me nervous for a number of reasons: – I was allowing someone other than my beta readers to read my work, and a professional may confirm my belief that I might not be very good at this.

As they are short stories, she emailed each one back to me once she had finished and I was pleasantly surprised with some of the comments I received. Such comments included ‘I liked this one’, ‘you have such a knack for horror’ and ‘what a beautiful story – loved it’. High praise from a well-known Australian romance author, so yeah, I’ll take it! 😉 She said she loved my work and would be happy to work with me again. She also hoped that I was writing a long book and encouraged me to keep writing.

I discovered that editors are there to help you to improve your own editing skills and make your writing stronger, even though it may take some time to find the right one. It also goes to show that sometimes our fears can be misguided, that the old saying is true:- ‘there is nothing to fear but fear itself’.

Have you been fortunate with your choice of editor? Did it take you a while to find one? Are you looking at self-publishing? Do you have any big plans for your writing this year?

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 · This Writer's Life

IWSG: Withdrawing from a Conference.

This post is my first in a return to the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. It’s been a while, but I look forward to reacquainting myself with some old friends and making new ones. 🙂

The Romance Writers of Australia (RWA) hold a conference every year and this year it will be held in Melbourne. In my efforts to make 2019 a year to step out of my comfort zone, I made arrangements to attend my first ever RWA conference. I had the accommodation all booked and when the programme came out, I looked to see what seminars held the most appeal. The only trouble was I hit a snag.

I want to make it clear that this is not in any way being critical of RWA; I have been a member for almost a year now and they have been one of the best organisations I have encountered. The problem was mine; the more I learned about the conference, the more I realised I could not afford to go.

I guess you could say I’m a struggling writer; that person living frugally as they pen their works. I have read a few blog articles from different sources of late that suggests this scenario is just a myth. I don’t know how they came up with that idea, but speaking from experience, the struggling writer still exists. Being a one income family and raising two kids, it’s not exactly easy.

When telling some fellow writers that I have had to withdraw from attending the conference, they have been very helpful and understanding. It was suggested that I could attend local author talks or other conferences closer to home. These don’t have to be in my genre, just as long as I’m immersed in the joy of writing. Also setting myself another writing goal would be beneficial. It was a good reminder that there are plenty of other writing opportunities I could focus on.

I have stewed over my decision for weeks. I came close, but unfortunately, it is not to be. After having come this far and then having to cancel, I feel as though I have let myself down as well as others. I have met some lovely people online through RWA and I was really looking forward to actually meeting them, but unfortunately, it is not going to happen.

Stepping out of my comfort zone this year will not involve the RWA Conference. Instead, I will have to remain focused on my other goal, which is self-publishing. And that is my biggest challenge of all.

Have you ever had to back out of something you said you would do? How did that make you feel? Do you have plans to try something different this year? Have you stepped out of your comfort zone recently?

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

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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Life Lessons · This Writer's Life

A Slow Start to 2019.

Happy New Year everyone! I hope you all had a good Christmas and relaxing break. I know mine has been so relaxing, I’m finding it difficult to get back into my writing (including blogging). 😉

Just before Christmas, my household had no internet (I know, great timing), and we went without it for about sixteen days. The kids weren’t quite climbing the walls, as they were aware of the issues. They managed to survive alright though! This is where I managed to relax and catch up on podcasts and watch some DVDs.

Just when I thought I could get back into writing once again, the temperatures began to rise, and I began to get sick. After a few days of abdominal pain, I spent some time in hospital, was told I was very dehydrated and had undergone a variety of tests. My health improved about a week later after taking some antibiotics.

The main take away from this experience was that sometimes life throws us some unexpected curve balls. We have to learn to adjust and be flexible (and in this case, I had to be more careful with my health). I had all my plans for the year worked out and ready to go, but I needed to take a step back for a little while. Now I’m getting back into it, slowly but surely. Which is also a very good reminder that when it comes to writing, it is a marathon, not a sprint.

I’ve tried to lower my expectations a bit this year, but as usual, I can’t resist making some big plans, such as losing weight, attending the RWA Australia conference in Melbourne and self-publishing. Sometimes having big plans can not only help us to stay motivated to achieve our goals, but also help us to get out of our comfort zones.

It’s hard to believe we are half way through January already! Let’s get moving! 🙂

Did you have a relaxing Christmas/New Year break? What are your plans for 2019?

Main image courtesy of Unsplash

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?

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