Don’t Do That! – Five for Friday

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I’m running so late today.

It’s been a frantic week as we’ve had builders working on the house.

‘The noisy one’, was sent home from school with chronic earache and ‘The bitey one’, is teething and as a result, extra bitey. He has also become a fan of early wake up calls, the most recent being 3am.

So I apologise as this may well become Five for Saturday which really doesn’t have the same ring to it, but at least my intentions were good and my caffeine levels high  🙂

I’m currently knee-deep in editing my novel and really enjoying it, even if I am lacking a little in time and focus.

I began reading my draft I’d completed in November during NaNoWriMo. This brought me to the horrible conclusion that I’m a terrible writer and should probably take up woodworm breeding as I seem to have little talent for anything else.

Therefore, I decided I would make this week’s Five for Friday about,

5 Things to avoid when Writing a Novel.

1. He grinned, he shrugged, he smiled…

Apparently I seem to write first drafts full of these. Everyone is shrugging, grinning and smiling at each other so much that it’s a wonder they haven’t all been committed. All that’s missing is a little maniacal laughter a maybe a shopping trolley full of tins.

Don’t do it. It’s not clever. It’s repetitive and lazy writing. Instead hit yourself on the head with your keyboard twice and go lie down with a damp flannel over your face.

2. She decided to run as he would probably kill her. 

Okay, this one’s a little clunky, but you get the idea. I see this a lot and it’s just bad, bad, bad.

NEVER warn the reader what’s going to happen before it happens. It’s annoying and WILL result in me flinging the book across the room, or, if it’s my kindle, trying to close the page down, miss, and end up hitting the screen repeatedly like some kind of zombie typist.

3. Really, very, suddenly…etc,

…and a number of other weasel words.

If you ‘d like to see a list, that’s by no means exhaustive, take a look under ‘Writer’s Resources’ on my page.

My first drafts are littered with these and I pull out every single one unless they are absolutely necessary. Especially ‘Suddenly’. This word should be tied to a chair and left watching re-runs of ‘Keeping up with the Kardashians’, until it’s very sorry.

4. Bad formatting. 

I have read so many kindle books where the words stop abruptly and begin again half way down the page, or they have large random spaces between words like the book suddenly forgot what it was talking about.

Go through your book again and again. Re-check when you add it onto kindle and then bore all your friends to death by making them check it too. It’s worth it.

5. I don’t know/I think you should/Why is that?

I hate wooden dialogue.

There’s nothing worse than wading through a page long conversation between Data from Star Trek and The Terminator, or worse, a book full of characters that ALL sound the same.

I have a wonderful acting friend who helps me with mine. She runs through it over the phone or highlights potentially hazardous wording via email and returns it to me, accompanied with a recent entry to the Eurovision Song Contest, to teach me a lesson.

Either way, read through all your dialogue out loud. Get a friend to read any opposing parts and it will become clear where needs work.

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That’s it for today. It’s now 1am and officially Saturday.

Thank you so much for reading, and good luck to anyone else on the long road to Editville.

Have a great day and Happy Writing!

 

 

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Five for Friday – Things I’ve learned so far!

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Nope I haven’t left the country, fell down a well or been eaten by cats. I’m doing NaNoWriMo and am sooo behind I’ve taken to drinking more wine and walking round graveyards to prove to myself that things could be worse.

The first week was fantastic, I was full of energy and enthusiasm and flew along, each day creating more than I did the day before.

Then…

I slammed into the wall.

Some days I do above and beyond and others I do nothing at all which translates to me barely making the daily quota and me thinking I should have probably stayed in bed and watched Come Dine with Me.

I am terribly late in my Five for Friday today, but determined to do it anyway I thought I would write a note on Five Things I’ve Learned So Far!

  1. 1667 words are more difficult to write than I thought. Especially when you’re managing on three hours sleep, not brushed your hair in two days and forgotten where the children are.
  2. Some days the words just aren’t there. In which case, I make another cup of tea and write absolute rubbish till something manifests. And if it doesn’t at least I’ve added to my word count. Result!
  3. I love word sprints. It’s possible that I have become an addict and that will probably be the main thing that gets me to 50k.
  4. I need short term goals to keep me going. Just the act of going onto the NaNo site and updating my word count or adding a badge gives me a sense of satisfaction and helps when I’m really struggling to find the motivation.
  5. There’s lots of writers out there like me. You’re not all poised with quill in hand staring off into the distance with a look of the muse about you. Your in your pyjama’s, eating dry Coco Pops, possibly crying, just trying to get through the next 500 words.

So that’s my Five for Friday, rapidly written as I’m still behind and the wine’s running out.

Speak to you soon and Happy Writing 🙂

Five for Friday – Interview with Pleasant Street

Welcome to Five for Friday!

I’ve decided it’s time for a regular spot on my blog. So every Friday (or at least every other Friday) I will write a post.  It can be anything from 5 tips to sell your novel or 5 reasons you should eat as much cake as you can.

So to kick off my new spot I am beginning with an Interview from the lovely Pleasant Street. You can find her blog here – In My Parlour – which I love. Full of beautiful poetry and fantastic prose, take a look if you get chance, you won’t regret it.

Pleasant Street is undertaking NaNoWriMo for the third time and as you probably know, I am joining for the first time. So I asked her some questions on her experiences to help newbies like me get acquainted.

So here we go:

  1. Had you ever completed a novel before joining NaNoWriMo?

No I hadn’t.

In fact I never wrote anything longer than a poem prior to NaNoWriMo, not even a short story. I don’t think I considered it. I’ve written poetry since childhood. Much of my reading consisted of biographies and history. I usually missed the popular novels, opting to read classics.

The great thing about the classics is that many of them give you a good model for what a great novel is. I think the first year I tried it, 2013, it was more of a lark. It was a gimmick online that others were doing and it sounded fun.

Could I really do it? I had to try!

  1. Did you decide on a process before you started, i.e. a certain word count per day/write at the same time every day? Or did you develop this as you went along?

No way, I had no idea of any process at all. I had a title and a basic idea.

In 2012, I started NaNo but never even got half way. I lost that manuscript, so I started over in ’13 with the basic concept. I mean I had a goal, the goal that NaNo puts out- 50k words in 30 days, which amounts to 1667 words/day. But the writing just came naturally and organically. I had no plan other than keep the coffee pot full and write my ass off.

  1. You say that you’ve done NaNo a couple of times before. What are your reasons for coming back this year?

I’ve come back because even though now I’m writing every day, it offers an incentive to finish. There is a great feeling at the end finishing with your buddies, and of course, your own good feeling of accomplishment.

Speaking of buddies, I do visit the forums some and sometimes participate in discussions, especially the ones that involve sharing snippets of our work and getting/ giving feedback. This is enormously helpful, getting that kind of response, good or bad.

Also the folks at NaNoWriMo have v-logs on youtube, sometimes with a live feed and interaction with us, asking questions, etc. A big part of NaNo for some people are the word sprints, you can find these on twitter at @NaNoWriMo. Someone sets a time and everyone writes until the time is up and says how many words they wrote. This can be fun and exhilarating. It can also help you not to give up.

  1. Is there anything that didn’t work for you, being on such a tight schedule?

That’s a good question.  I’d say reaching back to the last question, though the social aspect of it is fun, I find too much social interaction is distracting.  If I interact with others on a daily basis, it is before I start writing, maybe a stroll through one of the discussions, reading and offering replies. Occasionally I’ll join in a word sprint on Twitter. I think the interaction is great but if I get too involved socially I don’t write as much and I lose my train of thought where I am going in the story.

  1. Finally, what is the one piece of advice you would give to anyone taking on NaNo for the first time?

This is a good one. My advice is this- ignore the constant criticism of NaNo and the people that want to drag it down. They have their reasons and they will tell you that it isn’t good for writing a good completed novel; it is too fast with no editing, etc.

They have some good points but even NaNo doesn’t claim that the manuscript you have after 30 days is going to be a finished novel. But you will have a first draft. Without the second-guessing and constant editing, your creativity really flows. Oh, there will be typos and you’ll want to delete some of the crap, but I find it very satisfying once a year to write like mad and form a first draft this way.

Do talk to others and see how they run it. Do they write an outline? Do they write by the seat of their pants and let the story unfold? But ultimately you should run it how it works for you, and you’ll pretty much know in the first week if it is working. Don’t worry about the naysayers. It is 30 days of your life and you’ll have 50,000+ words that did not exist before, which I think is an astounding feeling. I love that accomplishment.

Thank you so much to Pleasant Street for giving up her time to answer my questions.

I’ve found them very helpful, especially the information about the social aspect, which I knew very little about. And I have to admit, I’ve heard a lot of negative things said too and I was starting to worry whether I’d made the right decision, so it was good to put my mind at rest about these issues.

To anyone looking at joining NaNo this year, I hope you  find this post helpful and I wish you the best of luck. Maybe we’ll see each other in the forums at some point.

Thank you so much for reading and Happy Writing!

If anyone would like more information on NaNoWriMo, visit their website here.

I don’t like Coffee!!!

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Well, actually I don’t mind it every now and then. But a good cup of tea is the way to go, for me.

You have to make it right though, ‘as it comes’ is definitely not an option!

I like mine milky, but not anaemic, dark enough to tell its tea but if you’ve hit the colour of David Dickinson’s tan, you’ve gone too far.

It’s been a while since I wrote an update…mostly because I spent the summer working on the same sentence. (Don’t worry, it will be a kick arse sentence when its done!).

The kids are back at school. I now only have ‘the wakey one’ home in the day, whom I’ve decided to rename ‘the bitey one’ after a number of incidents leaving me resembling Jasper from the Twilight books.

So I’m ready and raring to go.

I’ve begun clearing out old notes for my novel. It’s taken on so many changes over the years, I’ve literally got pages and pages of stuff that’s no longer relevant. I’ve also just changed from Writeway Pro to Scrivener so I want to get everything organised before I begin transferring.

I’m in the process of converting a sci-fi short story into a radio play. I think the format will serve the idea well and will get it across better.

I’m doing the ‘Writing 101’ course with Blogging University. They give you prompts each day to get you writing. I’m two weeks in, incredibly behind, but enjoying every minute of it.

Whenever I do anything like this I’m always taken aback by the sheer amount of talent on here. So many great writers, phenomenal sites and wonderful posts that either lift you up or make you think…or make me hungry and dream of cake.

And finally, I have signed up for NaNoWriMo. I’m both excited and scared about this. As many of you know, I’m not the best when it comes to focus. So I thought I’d change it up this year and try something different…lets be honest, it can’t get any worse, I’ve already been working on my book for the past six/seven years.

Anyways, that’s what I’ve been up to.

So, how are you?

Buried Treasure

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Image courtesy of Pong at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Find yourself in a creative slump? Stuck for ideas?

I’m reluctant to use the term ‘writers block’. But every writer gets stumped from time to time. The white of the paper gleams, taunting you. That inner voice sneers. ‘You’ll never think of a good idea again’.

This time, skip the crying and eating all the biscuits in the house. Try something inspired by The Artist’s Way, by Julia Cameron.

I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in fuelling their creativity. Full of helpful assignments and exercises. One of which is very helpful when it comes to ‘writer’s block’.

You write stream-of-consciousness for about fifteen minutes every morning. It can be absolutely anything. If nothing comes to mind, just write ‘I can’t think of anything to say,’ over and over until something comes to you. Eventually it will.

I recently stumbled on one of my notebooks from 2011 and decided to have a read.

Apart from being quite cathartic, looking back at all my worries and stresses of the time, coming from a position now where I know everything worked out was a lovely feeling in itself. But I was also reading ideas that I’d totally forgotten about. This inspired me to write something now.

Keeping any kind of journal is, in my opinion, essential for any writer. There is a wealth of material desperate to make it onto the page. You just have to be present.

So, if you do happen to find yourself experiencing any kind of block, write stream-of-consciousness for a week, even better, for a month. Resist the urge to go back and read them at this stage. You want a pure outpouring of ideas, worries, strains, anything and everything.

Leave them for at least a week – the longer the better. Then start looking back over your work. Is there anything that jumps out at you or inspires you? You’ll be surprised what hidden treasures are hiding in your own words.

10 Things I haven’t done yet!

As part of the “Writing 101” course, we’ve been asked to write a list. So here’s my list (by no means complete), of things I haven’t done yet 🙂

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Image courtesy of Photl.com

  1. Stuff chocolate cake in my mouth and then smile at a stranger.
  2. Finish my book. (Or, in fact, any project that I ‘ve started in the last five months).
  3. Bake a lemon meringue pie that isn’t brown or inedible.
  4. Finish reading one of the four books I’ve started reading during the past four weeks.
  5. Wear a sombrero to a parents evening.
  6. Laugh loudly in a lift full of people for no reason. (This is made slightly more difficult since I’ve got a buggy and not so many people can fit in the lift).
  7. Finish an important poem I’ve been working on for the last three years. (I fear there may be a pattern forming…)
  8. Meet some of my favourite authors without coming across as a crazed stalker.
  9. Find where the large spider in my front room has gone (while secretly hoping its made its way out of the house and far away and took all the other spiders with him).
  10. Eat dinner. I’m starving and now struggling to think of anything besides food.

How do you do it?

With pen and paper?

Straight to screen?

With a sparkler…or perhaps an Enigma machine for the extremely paranoid?

Each writer has their own preferred method of working.

Stephen King writes longhand onto yellow legal pads. J K Rowling writes longhand then transfers it to screen – editing as she goes. George R. R. Martin writes straight to computer using an old DOS machine.

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When you first start out, the writing process can be a little daunting. So I thought I’d talk about how I do it and hopefully some of you will weigh in on the comments later about your favourite ways too 🙂

I write with a good ol’ pen and paper. A biro suits me best, although I’m partial to the Parker fountain pen when I want to pretend I’m a really real writer.

I used to work straight onto the computer, but my children have been fitted with an alarm system that only they can hear. So if I go near a computer, open a book, or try to stuff a chocolate bar in my mouth before they make it to the kitchen, THEY KNOW.

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I also feel I’m a little less creative using a computer. It’s great for editing. I can sit there, nose pressed up to the screen with a slightly desperate expression, and most people know to keep a safe distance.

But when I’m in the first stages of a story or script I prefer the pen and paper. It feels more natural to me and I’m likely to think more about what I’m writing as it takes me longer to write than it does to type.

I write in fifteen minute bursts. It roughly adds up to about an hour and a half per day. I set the timer on my phone and I get as much down as I can. When the time is up. I put down my pen and do something else.

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I think writing this way keeps it fresh. I come up with all sorts of ideas I would never have thought of if I was doing one long stint. Plus if I can’t think of anything, I’m only staring at the page for fifteen minutes…This drastically reduces the time I sit crying, leaving more time to console myself with cake.

So that’s how I do it. How do you? Would love to know your thoughts, especially if you do it with a sparkler.

In the meantime, Happy Writing 🙂