How your own quirks can help your writing

chairI’m a hoarder.

You wouldn’t know it by looking.

Not the kind that has to climb over piles of things to get into the house – but I hang on to things longer than I should. I hang onto things that other people wouldn’t.

This is because everything has a story, a connection to an event or person or point in my life and so I find it difficult to let go. I’m getting better but I’m not good.

I recently read an article about attributing meaning to an item to help build your fiction. I have talked about my interest in immersive writing and this tool could assist in providing that experience. Linking objects to the story or using objects in the story, can be a way of bringing the reader in. The use of everyday items can help ground them, particularly in a different world or different culture.

For me everything has some meaning. For example, I cried when we threw out my grandfather’s saw horse. It was no longer even distinguishable as the thing it was created to be. It was actually disintegrating and sitting on the trailer to go to the tip it looked just like a pile of old wood. Nothing special at all.

But for me it was the memory of it in my grandfather’s back yard as well as his use of it. It was a connection to the past, to my childhood. Many days were spent running around that yard, or climbing the trees that grew within it and the saw horse was always in the background, a familiar fixture in that setting.

This is just one example. I have furniture and trinkets that date back further than my grandparents. And of course I have lots of stuff I have bought myself during my own travels and adventures. These items form links to the stories of those people, places and times.

Some say that I need to learn to let go. But I can use that hoarding trait for a character or story. I can link something to a memory or event. I can use it as a trigger for a flashback or conversation in my story. Use it as an aid to describe a character or give insight into her world or personality.

Do you have special items that you could use in your writing, or could you take something ordinary (like the saw horse) and make it something special in your story?

How to beat procrastination by finding focus

therock focus

Image courtesy of www.whiteknuckleiron.com

I am currently editing two projects (as discussed last week), my day job is crazy and we are sharing a vehicle at home. And so my mind is probably more full than overwhelmed but it has had the save affect. I’m procrastinating.

The realisation that I was actually procrastinating struck during the week when I spent my entire morning hour watching videos on how to improve my web presence. I find that when I am overwhelmed I can become a bit distracted. Distraction can be one of those problems that feeds on itself.

The videos were very interesting by the way and I’m sure that when I can justify the time I will be trying to implement what I learnt. But what is the point of a web presence if I haven’t got any writing to share? If I have an author page with no books? And who would read writing tips from someone who watches videos instead of writes?

If I were to spend the time I’m currently wasting on my current projects I would be finished much sooner. Yet the mind is a crazy thing or a strange thing at least.

To beat procrastination I have found two things help. The first is focus.

Thinking about getting focused always makes me think of the Rock. He is the focus king. I try to channel the Rock while I’m at the gym (my hands are even starting to look like his – although not as big, obviously) but I should also be using this mindset for my writing.

Life intrudes and for many of us writing around a day job or family (or other equally important aspects of our lives) focus is required to ensure we getting the writing done.

Focused time is essential. Since the realisation of my procrastinating I revisited my diary and blocked out periods of time to write. It isn’t always easy, especially living with other people, and if you can’t find the time try negotiating for some. Even if you simply say “I just need half an hour, can you give me that?” or “Can you watch the kids or hold the dog so I can finish this chapter?”

The second is self awareness.

Seeing the signs before procrastination becomes a big problem can help you prevent it. Being aware of your writing practice and processes is a part of this. When you know what is coming and why then you are better able to deal with it.

Part of self awareness is to know what you really want to achieve. Knowing what you want makes it easier to work towards.

 

Revisit what you want to achieve and when you can make the time to do it. Family can be just as crazy as everything else in our lives but we have the bonus that they love us. Don’t be afraid to tell them just how important your writing is and how they can help. You never know, your partner hanging out the washing might be just what you need to lift the pressure and increase your chance to focus on the ink flowing over the page.

How focused is your writing time? What would help you focus?

The long road to editing success

thelongroad

Or so it seems. As I work my way through two editing projects I thought I would share where I am up to…

For my larger work I am trying a new process, aiming for one serious edit and then it is done. To do this I am using a process mapped out by another writer, taken from a Holly Lisle workshop, Susan Dennard has simplified the process and set it out, with worksheets, how it works for her.

In a recent writers group meeting we discussed those writers that tell us that we have to do it their way because that is what works. An insistence that the process will not work in part and that we must follow their instructions completely. And it is interesting the variety of authors we have read, or completed workshops with that give us this view for a range of writing practices. Covering everything from drafting and editing to the whole writing process.

I thought it was about time I attempted editing with a serious plan. I am trailing this process to discover what parts of it work for me. We are all different and I believe we should take what we can from other writers as we develop our own writing practice.

I have started at the beginning of Susan’s process and I’m reading through the entire manuscript. As I read I make note of the issues I come across. This is ideally simplified on the hard copy with a reference in the margin relating to the type of issue I find. Then in my notebook I make a detailed note of what that issue is. I am focused on four main areas: plot, character, setting and other (doesn’t fit in any of the others).

It is much slower than I thought it would be. The amount of time required has made me realise just how out of sync I am at the moment; how I have not been concentrating on my writing as much as I would want to and that my set writing times have slipped.

Anyway, once I have read through the entire manuscript and made note of the problems I will have a good idea of what needs to change and hopefully how I can fix it. I am also using my beta-reader notes during this process as well. Several of my readers have marked the manuscript for problem areas and provided a summary at the end detailing major issues and what I could consider as options to fix it. This is a very useful process, and one that you need to do with an open mind and a thick skin. It is essential to remember not a personal attack it is constructive criticism of the work.

Just yesterday one of my readers was telling me how she had wanted to provide honest feedback. I agree that honesty is the main point of the exercise. If you don’t want honest feedback don’t put your work out there.

I find that writing and re-writing a story I am too close to really see where the problems are. The feedback helps ground me and see the story from the readers’ perspective, which is essential because I am writing for readers. If the audience doesn’t like it, then they won’t read it, or buy the next one….

Susan’s notes describe how we should first determine what we have written and then look at what we wanted to write. I am still looking at what I have and although it is taking time, I know it is worth it for I want this to be the best story it can be. Once that part of the process is complete I can start on what it needs to be – or what I want it to be.

Have you trialled someone else’s system? What did you learn from the experience?

A taster from my next book

Searcher Cover-page0001

I may have got a bit carried away now that the parents are home and my time is (more or less) my own again. I have started the major edit on my fantasy novel (and that is scaring me silly) and trying to finish off Searcher for release.

I am hoping I haven’t pushed myself too far too quick. While I edit away I thought I would introduce you to my next story and share a taster from Searcher.

 

As the siren sounds I join the queue at the nearest machine. I pull the translucent white cup from the allocated space where three small pills sit innocently in its bottom.

One green. One white. One red.

I gulp them down and reach for the small cup that sits in the second compartment of the food machine. It contains not quite a mouthful of water but enough to help rinse the food tabs down. As I move away from the machine to let the next in line take their turn, I chew on the edge of the cup but there is no flavour. There is no flavour in anything.

The tabs satiate but I still hunger.

Food in its tablet form has no substance and I often wonder if the colours are meant to indicate something. Someone ahead of me received two green and one white. He lived through the experience.

I once licked a colleague on the return from a search. A desert planet: hot and dusty. At least the dust had flavour, as did Brin. Salty dust. He did not approve and I did not get to try again. Licking colleagues does not fit the Searcher brief.

I promise this isn’t too far away but given my recent puppy sitting it is a little further away than I had hoped. The edit on my fantasy novel is going to be much bigger than I originally hoped but the story needs the work and it will be much better for it. As I get underway I will let you know how it is going and the strategies I’m using.

P.S. Check out my new page My Books. There are more books on the way.

 

What happens when you can’t write…

My usual evening position - trapped beneath dogs.
My usual evening position – trapped beneath dogs.

My life over the last couple of weeks has been a bit crazy. My parents are away and I am chicken watching and puppy sitting. It has not been quite the two weeks I thought it was going to be.

I had plans. Great plans of what I would do with my evenings alone, my free weekend and my uninterrupted mornings. But alas life does not turn out as we wish it would… mine certainly hasn’t this week.

Two days before my parents left on their great adventure one of the above mentioned puppies broke his leg and he needed to be kept quiet. It was harder than I thought to explain that to the puppy, or his brother. And the two of them have turned my life upside down. They have cried all night, clung to me all day and made doing anything very difficult. I have been so tired that when they do go to sleep (usually on me) I don’t have the energy to do anything.

Amongst all of this we have had the usual school and dancing stuff and I still have to go into work (which is a welcome relief other than my eyes slamming shut at my desk).

So I sound a bit whingey. I feel whingey. I am not writing and I want to be and that makes me grumpy – to the point I can see my daughter pause before she asks me anything in case I don’t react quite right, which just fills me with guilt. And certainly does not help.

I will make it up. It is just the frustration that I can’t put in what I want to. I had hoped to have my next short story ready for publication over Easter but it won’t be. I feel behind with my blog and I am working through the last week of an online course which I feel I can’t give my all.

The parents return in a couple of days. I can hand back the house and the chickens. The dogs will be handed to them at the airport (OK, I’m fantasising now) and I can shut myself in my room and sleep for two days to catch up and then I’m ready to go again. But it also means that until my house is finished I need to find better ways of writing while the parents are home because waiting for them to holiday hasn’t work well at all.

So cute when they are sleeping...
So cute when they are sleeping…

So while I count the seconds until their return I will work on ways to get at least a small amount of writing done to keep some form of sanity. Maybe a little sneaky time during the day job (it is how this post was written), it saves trying to fend off small dogs determined to chew the cord or screen or me while I try to work at home…

I’ll be back when my sanity returns (hopefully before Christmas).

Tell me I am not alone – what do you do when life gets in the way of your writing?