Planning for Annual Writing Retreat

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Great excitement as our second annual writing retreat comes closer. I am actually counting the sleeps until we get there.

No phones, no Internet and a focused writing buddy for five whole days.

But what will I write?

Last year I worked on my fantasy novel, which I am currently editing the final chapters of (and trying not to let the next project interfere with). I am so close to the end but it is hard going at the moment.

By the time we reach the retreat this will be out with readers and so I can focus on something new. And it is hard not to start planning now and ignore my editing.

I have several project ideas bubbling away but I want to focus on just one and it is looking like it will be the medieval fantasy trilogy. This story has been itching to be written for a while now.

Before I reach the retreat I would like to have the rough outline currently in my head clearly laid out and character sketches complete so that I can spend my uninterrupted days drafting. I have the (possibly crazy) plan of writing around 50,000 words over the retreat this year so a clear outline will be essential.

Over the last week I have been reviewing articles and books on structure and outline and will upload a structure template into Scrivener before I go. With the structure clear and a good idea where the story is going, drafting should be quite easy and fun. I’m also looking forward to the freedom of a first draft, which is something quite magical that I don’t get to experience often enough.

There are lots of stories competing to be written, ideas that bubble away and fight for attention. Some growing quickly while others fizzle out. What makes you write one story over another?

Editing to the End

 

Image courtesy of Nic McPhee (via Flickr)
Image courtesy of Nic McPhee (via Flickr)

 

I am very focused on editing the end of my story at the moment.

There is more work needed at the end than I initially thought there would be but I know why. It is all the little changes that I have made throughout the manuscript have resulted in bigger changes needed at the end. And the current ending isn’t very satisfying either.

I have turned to research (partly as a little procrastination) to look at what others are doing to edit manuscripts. There is so much information out there about editing, starting from brief outlines to whole books on the subject.

A key factor in editing is knowing what you are editing for, such as consistency in the story and characters, active voice, missing bits or characters. I found this link useful – and very comprehensive.

When it comes to how you work through this process is personal. I lack confidence so I’m not going to do one read through/edit and then send any story out into the world. I edit a chapter and then read through it again to make sure the changes made make sense and I haven’t accidently cut out half a sentence which has left the reader completely lost.

This isn’t the first edit of this manuscript either and possibly not the last. I’m reading each chapter and noting what needs to change. Then make the required changes, read through to check and then move to the next. Once I have the entire manuscript completed I will read it through as a whole to see if it works before sending it out to the beta reading group (some spaces still available).

The aim of the read through is to get an idea of the story from the reader’s point of view. To check that it is on the page and not just in my head. This isn’t as easy as I would want it to be and one of the reasons I’m using a beta reading group. This is because each reader brings their own interpretation to the story depending on their culture, experience, beliefs and emotions. So when I write and read the story I will read it differently to others but I want to make sure it is engaging.

Being able to send writing out for others to not only read but respond to takes a certain level of confidence. Can you edit your work on one pass through, or do you need several, like me?

 

 

 

 

Using “To Do” Lists to Reach Your Goals

To Do List

This week I have continued with my editing, but I’m not utilising my time as well as I could. Part of this is due to fear. I can feel it creeping in as I try to rework the ending wondering if it will be any good.

On the days when I have been editing I have been working for longer than I planned…so it is moving along at a reasonable pace, not that I’m rushing. I am currently working on the last five chapters and so it needs a bit of focus.

In trying to keep my focus and ensure I continue to write and work towards my goal, I have been researching lists, in particular to do lists.

I do love a list and I’ve used various types before. I want to ensure that I don’t just make these lists but work through them and mark things off.

One suggestion I came across was to create one big list with everything you want to get done, but can’t get done today. This list is to include ideas, projects, plans, and should cover all aspects of your life.

I don’t want this revision of my processes to take up time that could be spent doing things. Once I sat down to make up the big list it didn’t take very long at all, and I’m carrying it with me and adding to it when I think of things. It is a rough, single page, working document as any list should be.

Nearly every post or article I reviewed mentioned using a weekly and daily list. I have been using these for a while, but I am making sure that I now capture everything I need to do on those lists, including investigations I would like to make and even shopping reminders.

The aim of this review and small change in my practice will hopefully lead to working more efficiently and reduce any chance for procrastination to creep in because I know where I’m going. Although the road is a bit steep or rocky at times I know this is that path I want to take.

 

Creativity Time

 

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

I have been very focused on my editing over the last few weeks and it is taking up most of my creative energy.

Recently when drafting a new story I enjoyed the creative freedom that creating something new brings with it. The new story itself is still pretty rough, with holes in the plot and a lot of work to get it to something good. But the drafting process has been a lot of fun.

It can be draining editing full time and so I have decided that I need some more creative play time.

A few ideas have bloomed lately and I’m playing with options for more stories, characters and some general unfocused scribbling. I love it and it’s not too much to draw me away from my serious editing but enough to give me a little breather.

Part of this distraction time has included reading how authors find ideas. Neil Gaiman would have to be my favourite:

‘I make them up …. Out of my head.’
People don’t like this answer. I don’t know why not. They look unhappy, as if I’m trying to slip a fast one past them. As if there’s a huge secret, and, for reasons of my own, I’m not telling them how it’s done.

Neil Gaiman

I fully believe this way of thinking, we all take a little something we see and twist it or add to it, to create something new, something us…

My daughter is a great starting point, she often comes up with weird pronunciations or cutesy names for her pets and these new words have sparked all sorts of ideas. The most recent of these names along with an image I saw on someone’s blog has inspired an idea for a short story.

The point behind this creative time is to relax and let the ideas come. Some ideas won’t go anywhere, some may start and falter and others may grow into something special. I’m willing to enjoy the process to find the ideas and see what happens.

Where do you find ideas?

Finding the tools you need to achieve

Image coutesy of Wikimedia Commons
Image coutesy of Wikimedia Commons

I have been reading a lot lately about writing, motivation, goal setting, confidence, business practice, editing, and more about writing. This focus on non-fiction is to find new tools to improve my writing practice; and in part to research what tools could work for others (that’s you dear reader). We write differently and use different processes. Although I may do some things like you do, I may do others like someone else. And what works for me may not for you and what works for someone else may be good for you and not me, or both of us…

Anyway, amongst this reading I came across website that is a supportive network to help people build resilience and confidence in working at what they love…it could be termed self-help (if that title works for you).

One post discussed people that read all the books, do all the workshops yet find that life is not getting any better and that things are not improving.

The author’s words of wisdom: Don’t just read the books, act on the book, don’t just sign up for the course or the workshop, you must do the activities and find the tools that work for you and use them.

“Well duh!” I hear you say, although one or two of you may have mumbled something like “Oh, really?”.

 “Knowing is not enough, we must apply. Willing is not enough, we must do.” Bruce Lee

Not everyone is prepared for the work that goes along with following your dreams. That to meet your goals you have to take action on them. Lists alone will not get you there and reading a book is not a quick fix.

We also need to be careful not to get so caught up in finding the tools to make it through the day that we have wasted the time we could have spent doing or changing or acting.

I know this can be a struggle, for I have struggled myself at times to take action but we won’t get anywhere without it.

“Do or do not. There is no try.” Yoda

There is only one person that can act on your goals – you.

It is up to each of us to find the tools to help us take that action. There are no quick fixes and there is no easy route. Because we are working toward something we care about then that action should also be enjoyable. Half the fun is in the journey after all.

Do you have a useful toolbox to help you take action on your goals?

How to carry your writing desk with you (and not look like a bag lady)

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I am living with my parents. Not still living with my parents, I have returned home to save, build resilience, etc. while I prepare to build a house. So I am learning to share my space with others, or at least share their space and it isn’t always easy.

My father kindly cleared a desk in his study, which I have piled with considerable amounts of stuff. But I have found that when I take my laptop away, I return to find other (not mine) things on the desk.

To ensure I keep writing I have found a simple way to not get lost in the shared space.

I carry it with me.IMAG0179

Not all of it, that would be a bit much, but the key elements.

Most importantly, and it the easiest to carry with me is a flash drive. This my current drafts and scribbles, and some back-up copies of other things.

Then there is the physical stuff:

I have several folders. One of those fantastic pocket containers (pictured) that has different notes, in plastic sleeves inside, including my monthly goal lists, annual goals, notes and ideas (which despite my best efforts end up on various scraps of paper that are then pushed into the file) and short stories.

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Until recently this was all I needed.

The Flow of Ink has grown a bit. I have added a slim folder with all of my “Flow of Ink” stuff – from posts, ideas, plans, outline of ebook.

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And given my current editing time frame for Snow I have another slim folder with my current editing.

This way I have what I need with me at all times. If I have a quiet moment at work, a free lunch break, time between meetings, or two hours during my daughter’s dance class on Saturday mornings; then I have all I need to spend time planning, plotting, editing or writing.

Whether I have five minutes or an hour, I am prepared.

Writing space is very important and I know I can make that space anywhere I need it to be because I have everything with me. If I need quiet I can head to the library, not so quiet, a café, or the corner of my desk, or the lounge room, ballet waiting room…You get the point.

If you haven’t got a space of your own, make it.

What do you always have with you? And what could you carry that you don’t?