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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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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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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Listening to Audio Books.

After finishing reading a book on my Kindle recently, I decided to try something a bit different. I wanted to read more books, but minus the hassle of physically reading one. I visited the library and grabbed a couple of audio books (okay, four to be exact).

I’ve listened to audio books once before, but they involved CDs, which made it a bit awkward when it comes to being portable. This time around, all I need to do it put in one AAA battery, my headphones and I’m off and running. Much easier to operate, so I guess it’s a matter of finding what kind of device is more suitable to our needs. What I also like about this new selection of audio books is that on one side it has all the play buttons, while the other has a book cover (so cute) – and it fits perfectly into the palm of my hand.

So, why audio? As I am currently working on re-writes of two of my own novels, as well as outlining and researching for a new short story which will pan out to become something bigger, I felt I needed to read a book that was easier on my time. With audio, I can either sit and listen, listen to it while I go for a walk or listen in while doing household chores. I enjoy the flexibility of audio, and as a writer there is also the added bonus of actually hearing the book being read. Using our sense of hearing, rather than continually seeing the written word helps with our own use of words, especially when it comes to imagery.

At the moment, I am still at the experimental stage when it comes to audio books, but so far I have found them to be a great alternative to physically reading a book. After all, Frank Zappa did say:

Do you listen to audio books? What do you like about them? As a writer, do you find listening to books helps with your own writing?

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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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