The Writer’s [Inner] Journey

Merr-pensiveThe Writer’s Inner Journey is an essential confidence-boosting blog by Meredith Resnick. She describes herself as: “I’m an artist and writer; a right-handed right-brain type who responds beautifully to deadlines… Creativity PRN is the intuitive work I do to help creatives and writers unblock. And always seeking ways to prove, see and understand that “the process” is different for everyone.”

Blog posts I have enjoyed include:

“Pull up a chair. You’re here because you’re fascinated by the creative process. Showed up because you’re intrigued by the breadth of originality of contemporary writers. And mostly because you, too, have a voice that is original and pure. You’ve got a pocket (or drawer, safe, trunk, notebook, mind) full of stories you want to write (tell, share, draw, paint, collage, or sing). And, yes, you want those stories to be heard. 

On The Writer’s [Inner] Journey, we relate. My hypothesis was simple: There is no one way—one right way—to create, to write.”

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http://writersinnerjourney.com

P.S. Sorry, comments are off on this post, as I prepare for NaNoWriMo

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morale boost

 

Giving Antagonists Depth and More Effective Roles in Plot Resolution

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Source: A Lofty Existence Blog on WordPress: http://tinyurl.com/blmdl2g
Source: A Lofty Existence Blog on WordPress: http://tinyurl.com/blmdl2g

Whether you want to believe in personality typing or not, for writers building characters, the enneagram is one of the very best gold mines you’ll ever find. It is similar to a road map for human behaviour, which shows our basic motivational needs, strengths, weaknesses, temptations and what we can do to balance out our negatives (and thus resolve interpersonal conflicts in plots).

Using the Enneagram has been a wonderful tool for fleshing out the motivation of my antagonists. It’s given them depth. Instead of the good guys just being good, and the bad guys inherently having to be bad, now the bad guy is bad because he is a Reformer (the 1). He is compulsively motivated by a need to make things better, but he’s handled the challenges he is facing the wrong way. It has created fights and barriers, not change. He is out of balance (the enneagram shows you how to create balance) and is a danger to himself, as much as he is to others. I have a relatable, humanised bad guy, who doesn’t mean to be a rat and has no idea why people are opposing him, but he can’t stop himself. He isn’t a one-dimensional, one-task piece of the novel puzzle.

Let me give you another example of how this can work. Let me use an intellectual personality as an example. They are referred to as the Thinker or Observer (the 5). Out of balance, they can be withdrawn, thought-driven, self-motivated, happy to be alone and have a strong need for independence and privacy. Often they don’t fit in with social groups. This is a weakness of their personality type. Problems for fives include isolation, pride, power-seeking and their intellectual approach can drive people in the other direction, seeking friendlier company. The five can become one very frustrated, lonely individual, with answers no one will listen to.

No one has just one type they solely fit into. They have parts of all the types and two other, less dominant types which are called wings. They balance the psyche out. A five will have the wings of a four: the romantic, withdrawn ideal-seeker who wants authenticity, self-expression and who can also be deeply empathetic; and a six wing, which is the attachment-making loyalist. They can work towards balance by utilising their ability to empathise and be loyal, alongside their need to think, rather than coldly retreating.

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One-dimensional villains, who simply exist, as a bad guy is needed for the story line to work.

Enneagram research will also give you lists of ways that the various types can get along with other people. It flags sources of conflicts, how to approach them and other techniques which will have writers in seventh heaven! This is a mystically based theory which has been around for centuries. At it’s simplest level it is an excellent idea generator, that you will find useful and intriguing.

Enneagram Resources

http://www.9types.com/writeup/enneagram.html#FAQ
http:// www.enneagraminstitute.com/  and   http:// www.enneagram.com.au/


This article / blog post is Copyright Cate Russell-Cole 2014. All rights are reserved Internationally. You may not reproduce it in any form, in part of whole, without Cate’s prior written permission. That includes usage in forms such as print, audio and digital imaging including pdf, jpg, png etc. A fee may be requested for re-using her work if it is for a commercial venture. Link sharing and Pinterest pins are most welcome as long as Cate is the attributed Author.

Getting Your Characters Help! The Character Therapist

BLOG BUTTONThis is one of the most original writer’s resource blogs I have discovered, and it’s a goldmine of information on many topics including:

  • romantic scenes, break ups and all the soppy stuff
  • amnesia
  • mental illnesses of all kinds, including some you’ve never heard of
  • attachment
  • character archetypes
  • body image
  • backstory
  • character flaws and criminology
  • comic relief
  • conflict, defence mechanisms etc
  • social issues such as domestic violence, cults,
  • physical illnesses including autism, Down’s Syndrome and many things
  • dialogue and character inconsistency
  • emotional revolution
  • marital issues

… and if those haven’t piqued your interest, go look up Fascination by Mystique, countertransference, the Cotard Delusion, Nazism and Paris Syndrome. Plus, it is Christian friendly.

Screen-shot-2013-03-13-at-9.20.59-PMLink: http://charactertherapist.blogspot.com.au

The blog and accompanying services are run by Jeannie Campbell, who is a licensed and highly experienced marriage and family therapist. She has turned her skills into a helpful resource where she “diagnoses make-believe people” to assist novelists. Jeannie also has a newsletter you can sign up for.


Need more help?

“Creating and Resolving Conflict in Fiction,” dissects conflict into its component parts; looks at how it works and helps you generate conflict plot-lines and themes which will add richness and realism to your work. The principles apply to any kind of fiction, regardless of the length, characters or genre.

CRCF4DimCover3lowresThis book is not a “how to write” text. It is a user-friendly, introductory reference on the topics covered, which will enable you to write about them effectively. You don’t have to read it from cover to cover, it can be used as needed.

Some of the topics covered include:

  • How to Fuel Conflicts and Misunderstandings
  • What Character Traits Go With What Type of Person?
  • Human Behaviour Is All About Patterns
  • Using Power Dynamics
  • Making or Breaking Character Relationships

Available in Kindle and pdf formats from this site: http://virtual-desk.com.au/conflict_in_fiction.html


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This article / blog post is Copyright Cate Russell-Cole 2014. All rights are reserved Internationally. You may not reproduce it in any form, in part of whole, without Cate’s prior written permission. That includes usage in forms such as print, audio and digital imaging including pdf, jpg, png etc. A fee may be requested for re-using her work if it is for a commercial venture. 

Link sharing and Pinterest pins are most welcome as long as Cate is the attributed Author.

Writer Beware

Gold class sites

http://www.accrispin.blogspot.com.au

“Writer Beware® is the public face of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America’s Committee on Writing Scams. We also receive sponsorship from the Mystery Writers of America. Like many genre-focused writers’ groups, SFWA and MWA are concerned not just with issues that affect professional authors, but with the problems and pitfalls that face aspiring writers. Writer Beware, founded in 1998, reflects that concern.

Although SFWA and MWA are US-based organizations of professional fiction authors, Writer Beware’s efforts aren’t limited by country, genre, or publication history. The Writer Beware website and blog can be used by any writer, new or established, regardless of subject, style, genre, or nationality.”


REBLOGS WELCOMED

This blog post by Cate Russell-Cole is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. You are free to share and adapt it.

#Romance University for Writers: A Gold Class #Writing Site

Printhttp://romanceuniversity.org

Purpose: Dedicated to helping writers establish and advance their careers, introducing readers to a variety of authors, and delving into the ever-inscrutable male mind.

Monday: Crafting Your Career
Most writers begin writing because they love the process–using just the right word, crafting the perfect sentence, giving life to imaginary people. However satisfying the writing process, many writers begin to want more. The want people to read about and love those imaginary folks. Okay–they want people to pay to read about those imaginary folks. Join us each Monday at RU where we’ll discuss the business of writing or career topic. Visiting Professors (guest bloggers) often stop by the school to offer advice.

Wednesday: Anatomy of the Mind
This is the day we explore every facet of writing, reading, and men.

Friday: Chaos Theory of Writing
On Fridays, RU Faculty along with industry professionals and established authors will focus on the elements of manuscript writing. Tips to help you hone your craft and write a damn fine book. After all, it will be your writing that will catch (and retain) the interest of a lucky agent or editor.We’ll tap into our own experiences, share what’s working and what isn’t as we chase our dreams of becoming published authors. We’ll also discuss advice from our favorite writing reference books and websites. So join us each Friday to experience the chaos of writing.”

Gold class sites

Writing Historically Based Books: Author Philippa Gregory

The-Other-Boleyn-Girl-by-Philippa-Gregory“Philippa Gregory was an established historian and writer when she discovered her interest in the Tudor period and wrote the novel The Other Boleyn Girl which was made into a tv drama, and a major film. Now, six novels later, she is looking at the family that preceded the Tudors: the magnificent Plantaganets, a family of complex rivalries, loves, and hatreds.” Sourced from her web site, http://www.philippagregory.com

These videos are on how she researches her books and is drawn to work on the main characters. It’s a fascinating process, which I enjoyed hearing about. If you are a lover of research or historical fiction, you’ll be inspired by watching these clips.

Please Help a Fellow Author Who Has Suffered a Serious Stroke

1527836_10151884844036127_532640268_nThe greatest gift blogging and social networking has given me is the people I have met, some of whom are very dear to my heart. This post is an appeal to help Rags Daniels, a fellow Author who has suffered a stroke. He is in his early seventies and has a long road to recovery ahead. Obviously, he is offline, so I am asking all of you to help out by sharing / tweeting about Rags’ books and/or buy some to help him with the medical costs his family are undoubtably inundated with.

Rags is one of the few proper gentlemen left! He has the heart of a lion and has become very special to me in the months I have known him. He has given generously to charity work over many years and has also taken a child into his home to care for. If anyone I know deserves the help, he does. You just have to look at the love left on his Facebook wall to see that he’s gained a special spot in more hearts than mine… and he is an awesome writer with incredible life experience from which to draw his novels!

Please share his books on your social media accounts and/or buy a book… or two! For those of you so inclined, I am sure prayer would be welcomed. Please go to Amazon in your country and search for Rags Daniels. His book descriptions are below with links to the United Kingdom site. They come in Kindle and paperback and are perfect for crime lovers.

51oYw8O9BSL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_SX342_SY445_CR,0,0,342,445_SH20_OU02_Lallapaloosa: October 8, 1967, ‘Che’ Ernesto Guevara was executed… Or so the world believed. Inspired by a true sequence of events, ’Lallapaloosa’ tells in flashback the story leading up to the betrayal and ‘capture’ of the worlds most famous revolutionary and master of disguise. Original, fast moving, and atmospheric to the last whiff of a Partagas cigar, it begins thirty years after the event with a series of sinister murders against a fraternity of retired mercenaries who, having fought alongside ‘Che’ in the Congo, grouped for one last mission in the jungles of Bolivia. For thirty years, Richard Strang, thought he shared the worlds best kept secret with no one. Then one summer evening, the tap of a blind man’s cane, and a nose for the toasted Cuban leaf, changed all that.

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Click on image to go to Rags’ Amazon Author page.

Foxy Lady:Lady Carolyne Dryden is a brilliant and gifted young woman operating a policy auction house in London for her father. Late one evening she is brutally assaulted, robbed, and left to die. A few days later two bodies are found in the same house the assault took place. Others follow, and a sewer of corruption contained beneath the razzamatazz of a General Election leads to shattering revelations and murderous passions; causing her well-organised world to turn into an arena of pursuit and terror, and where the only certainty is that nothing is certain. Bursting with insight into the seedy, sleazy world of political funding, Foxy Lady leads the reader totally believing through all its unbelievable twists and turns until its astonishing climax. Optima corrupta pessima. ‘The best things corrupted become the worst.’

51HAqZGFfbL._SY445_Groomed to Kill: Group 13 aka Pegasus, the Government’s assassination and dirty tricks squad some say still exist. Others vehemently deny its existence.‘Groomed To Kill’ is a well crafted high velocity tale of intrigue, sex and betrayal. Dialogue driven, it is a story taken from the journals of James Sutherland and spans over fifty years of one mans life, a life dedicated to serving without question those whose responsibility it is to defend the realm by any means at their disposal. Jimmy Sutherlands’ story begins in post war ravaged Salford and tells of his schooling in weaponry by Owen Kelly, a WW2 veteran sniper. Throughout his distinguished career, Jimmy carries out numerous assassinations for his taskmaster and controller Frank Steadman. Then on retirement, Jimmy gets news of the release from prison of crime lord Hector Cicero, brutal murderer of his brother, Billy. The scene is now set for what becomes a searing quest for vengeance, culminating in a vicious gangland battle for supremacy in England’s northwest. Aided by Andy Cassin, his old and trusted childhood friend and whose brother was also murdered by Hector Cicero, Jimmy Sutherland takes on both the Cicero and McGuire crime cartels with devastating consequences…

30sex Hours: ‘Operation Spanner’ was the codename of an undercover investigation carried out by Manchester City Police, in 1988. The police had obtained a video which they believed depicted acts of sadistic torture. Convinced the people in the video were being tortured and killed, a murder investigation was launched, a number of properties were raided and several arrests were made. Now meet the voluptuous and delectable, PC Koral Devine. Dark, sultry and according to her superiors, a bit of a handful, she had been tipped by her Commanding Officer to win the prestigious award of undercover policewoman of the year. But first she had to infiltrate a ring of local luminaries lead by amateur film maker ‘Uncle Albert’ and resident Magistrate Hilda Carstairs, who were believed to operate a lucrative business catering for the slaves of ‘leather and steel’. Her assignment is both a perilous and intimate initiation into the world of sado masochism; and PC Koral Devine will do absolutely anything to get ‘her man’.

51YeTX3qqLL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_SX342_SY445_CR,0,0,342,445_SH20_OU02_Salford Sunrise: Salford Sunrise is a well-crafted, brilliantly witty, high velocity tale of intrigue, sex and betrayal. Dialogue driven, the story has been taken and adapted from the chronicles of James Sutherland and spans over fifty years of one man’s life, a life dedicated to serving without question those whose responsibility it is to defend the realm by any means at their disposal.


Meet Rags

Rags_croppedRags Daniels aka Trevor Timbs, was born into a working class family, the second of four children,  Salford 1944.  He migrated South 1956. Wild and curious, he ran off to London, where he met the majority of the characters he writes about.

The swinging sixties and early seventies played a major roll in his insatiable thirst for adventure, and against a backdrop of mini-skirts, mod’s, rockers and Muhammad Ali, bore witness to an era of crazy fads, culminating in  Britain’s first ever woman Prime Minister in 1979. And of whom Lord Acton said, ‘Absolute power corrupts absolutely, ’ and by the end of her era, Thatcher was case in point. And while the Nation paddled through rubbish, bodies unburied, strikes, power cuts, spiralling inflation, limited working weeks, abysmal production, etc, etc, the real money was going into the pockets of fraudulent corporate boards and City Yuppies. (Groomed to Kill), his first book was written against a backdrop of inner city poverty and tells of lad who  became a government assassin.

Rags worked in Norway on timber frame construction, where he met John Millen, a naval architect who designed Pearl Harbour after the war. He became a ‘minder’ for his mother-in-law, both on and off his motor yacht in which he and his wife toured the world. Returning home,  he then attended Brunel University and passed I.O.C.W.(GB)inc,  exams. Rags started working with Borough Architects Dept.; resigned; got married and built his own house in South Devon while running several companies. He has also constructed a steel mill in India  and a tiger compound in Nepal for the World Wildlife Trust.

When widowed, he returned to writing and investigative journalism… It is from his diaries of the 60’s and 70’s he wrote ‘Foxy Lady’, creating a fictional account of one such tale of political intrigue, and one for which he was interviewed by MI6. His latest book ‘Salford Sunrise’, is available in Amazon Kindle and ‘Lallapaloosa’ is currently being scripted for the silver screen. He resides with his son, an A level English teacher, and Roxzan, his 13 year old adopted Granddaughter.


Follow Rags

Myths, Mists and Magical Tales… Arthurian, Mediaeval and Celtic Information Sources

Celtic Dreaming Image Copyright Protected
Celtic Dreaming
Image Copyright Protected

Earlier this year I started to study the history of Ireland and the Celtic people, including Wales, Scotland, Basques and the Picts. The more I studied, the more I became intrigued by the rich cultural heritage, strong characteristics of the people and their legends and beliefs. Then I found myself engrossed in Mediaeval history, castles, weapons… It’s been fun!

If you are a fantasy, paranormal, romance or historical writers, you will find a generous helping of inspiration on these pages. Please also explore the sites these pages belong to for more information.

Arthur: http://www.uiweb.uidaho.edu/student_orgs/arthurian_legend/celtic/celtic.html

Druids: http://www.celtic-twilight.com/otherworld/druidism/bonwick/index.htm

Seers: http://homepage.eircom.net/~shae/chapter16.htm

Faeries: http://www.timelessmyths.com/celtic/faeries.html

Animals: http://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/celt/rac/rac17.htm  and http://www.celticheritage.co.uk/articles_animals.cfm

Nature Worship: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Celtic_nature_worship

Celtic Religion: http://www.celtic-twilight.com/otherworld/celtic_religion_overview.htm

Bards: http://www.pbm.com/~lindahl/articles/onbards.html

Other Worlds: http://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/celt/ffcc/ffcc260.htm

The Pale: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Pale

Sexual Equality: http://www.examiner.com/article/new-age-101-brief-history-of-the-celts-major-precursors-to-new-age-beliefs-part-2

Sacred Groves: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sacred_grove

War: http://www.applewarrior.com/celticwell/ejournal/beltane/warfare.htm and planned warfare: http://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/celt/gafm/gafm07.htm

Cult of the Severed Head: http://www.celticheritage.co.uk/articles_headcult.cfm

Invaders: http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/british/middle_ages/ireland_invasion_01.shtml

The Tuatha de Danaan: http://www.greatdreams.com/reptlan/Tuatha_de_Danaan.htm ;
http://www.danann.org/library/arch/irishmyth.html and
http://www.danann.org/library/arch/chronol.html

Resources on Castles

From http://www.flickr.com/photos/finefella/ Creative Commons Licence.
From http://www.flickr.com/photos/finefella/ Creative Commons Licence.

These links will will assist you in designing and writing about your own. Some of the information is introductory level. The free Project Gutenberg books should be very helpful.

What you are up against when storming a castle, thanks to Horrible Histories.


Purchased iStock Image not for reuse for any reason, commercial or otherwise unless you buy it yourself.

This article / blog post is Copyright Cate Russell-Cole 2013. All rights are reserved Internationally. You may not reproduce it in any form, in part of whole, without Cate’s prior written permission. That includes usage in forms such as print, audio and digital imaging including pdf, jpg, png etc. A fee may be requested for re-using her work if it is for a commercial venture. Link sharing and Pinterest pins are most welcome as long as Cate is the attributed Author.

No images on this blog may be copied, captured, or altered for your own purpose without the consent of the originating owner. 

NaNoWriMo: Planning and Tracking Tools

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I was involved in NaNoWriMo last year. These are some of the most useful tools people were looking for in the lead up to the big month. I hope you find them useful.

If you’d like inspiration on novel planning, here are two excellent Youtube videos from writer, Johanna Harness. I loved the second one, but both are inspirational and full of useful ideas. Please visit her at: johannaharness.com


This blog post by Cate Russell-Cole is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. You are free to share and adapt it.

The Ultimate Scrivener How-To: Video Treasure Chest

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This is straight from the makers of Scrivener, Literature and Latte. Raid this link for all their videos. The software in available for Mac and Windows. A starter video is below. You are also most welcome to reblog this post.

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Seeing is Believing: Developing Characters in Unlikely Places

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Character gathering has always been a hobby of mine, either by conversation technique, observation, or a combination of both. There is a certain skill attached to observing human behaviour and, I have found, being the cat-curious person I am, the perfect breeding grounds for observing everyday life and the creation of character fodder I use in my writings.

I use the plural ‘grounds’ because my sources are wide-ranging and differ greatly. Albeit they have one thing in common, and that is where potential subjects are usually so deep in thought as they go about their business, they haven’t a clue they are being observed, or for that matter overheard when they engage in occasional animated conversation.

Rags_cropped

By now you have probably guessed my sources of character inspiration. And yes, they are the mundane superstores where the world and its brother appear to drop their inhibitions and concentrate on the job in hand, totally oblivious of yours truly and others around them. Each is a vast coalface of quirky human mannerisms, ranging from the hilarious to verging on the pan-faced-robotic. And each a bottomless pit, deeper than an Abyssinian watering hole, of intrigue and curiosity. So whether it is the lowly ‘Pound Shop’ or Harrods, and everything in between, each has its own strata of humanity waiting to be mined and put to good use.

Time consuming you may say, but the weekly results meticulously filed away for future character formulation can lead to both imaginative and arresting storylines. Dickens had the knack of creating masterpieces involving characters with quirky, memorable names. Let’s face it; do you know anyone who has been sued by by Messrs Bumble or Fagin? So to negate libel action and still create a vivid image for your reader, avoid naming the person with a wooden leg, one eye and a propensity to spit a lot, Mister Smith. Because should a Mister Smith exist and display all these unfortunate attributes, your bank balance could take on a lighter shade of anthracite.

Humanity in abundance will always conceal a misfit displaying mannerisms before gone unnoticed, whether it be dress, behaviour, insobriety, deportment or the absurd.

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Click on image to go to Rags’ Amazon Author page.

e6f4bbb0a8290a22d17bdc.L._V149783332_Meet Rags

Rags Daniels was Born into a working class family, the second of four children,  Salford 1944.  He migrated South 1956. Wild and curious, he ran off to London, where he met the majority of the characters he writes about.

The swinging sixties and early seventies played a major roll in his insatiable thirst for adventure, and against a backdrop of mini-skirts, mod’s, rockers and Muhammad Ali, bore witness to an era of crazy fads, culminating in  Britain’s first ever woman Prime Minister in 1979. And of whom Lord Acton said, ‘Absolute power corrupts absolutely, ’ and by the end of her era, Thatcher was case in point. And while the Nation paddled through rubbish, bodies unburied, strikes, power cuts, spiralling inflation, limited working weeks, abysmal production, etc, etc, the real money was going into the pockets of fraudulent corporate boards and City Yuppies. (Groomed to Kill), his first book was written against a backdrop of inner city poverty and tells of lad who  became a government assassin.

Rags worked in Norway on timber frame construction, where he met John Millen, a naval architect who designed Pearl Harbour after the war. He became a ‘minder’ for his mother-in-law, both on and off his motor yacht in which he and his wife toured the world. Returning home,  he then attended Brunel University and passed I.O.C.W.(GB)inc,  exams. Rags started working with Borough Architects Dept.; resigned; got married and built his own house in South Devon while running several companies. He has also constructed a steel mill in India  and a tiger compound in Nepal for the World Wildlife Trust.

When widowed, he returned to writing and investigative journalism… It is from his diaries of the 60’s and 70’s he wrote ‘Foxy Lady’, creating a fictional account of one such tale of political intrigue, and one for which he was interviewed by MI6. His latest book ‘Salford Sunrise’, is ready for publishing. And ‘Lallapaloosa’ is currently being scripted for the silver screen. He resides with his son, an A level English teacher, and Roxzan, his 13 year old adopted Granddaughter.


Follow Rags


Copyright Rags Daniels 2013. All rights are reserved Internationally. You may not reproduce it in any form, in part of whole, without prior written permission. That includes usage in forms such as print, audio and digital imaging including pdf, jpg, png etc. A fee may be requested for re-using this work if it is for a commercial venture. Link sharing and Pinterest pins are most welcome as long as Rags Daniels is the attributed Author.

No images on this blog may be copied, captured, or altered for your own purpose without the consent of the originating owner.

Ten Lessons Learnt On Becoming An Author: Alberta’s Adventure

In the few years since I began this last adventure of mine, it occurs to me I have done nothing but learn. Here are a few lessons learnt:

1) Writing is the easy part. Really, it is.

419960_295545063834907_398500026_n2) After that comes ‘editing.’ Is a quick read through should be enough? No. Be prepared to read, re-read, put aside, read, re-read. Despair, look again, line by line, word by word, read, tinker, eliminate, add, change. Despair and begin again. When you are sure, very sure, all is well, send it off, received the proofs, be prepared to find a glaring mistake on the first page!

3) The first time I had ever tried to write a book was 20+ years ago. I ignored all advice about writing what you know. I had an idea, set it on the east coast of USA (I had never been there, and it was before Google Earth), using the Police Force as its setting. I know nothing about the police here, let alone across the pond. Still I did get some great holidays over there doing my research. That story lingered in a box in the attic as a mistake! With Ellen’s Tale, at least I was writing on a subject I have some passion for and knowledge of. It is a good piece of advice, write what you know: it is amazing what we all know.

4) This old lady was brought up with a strict understanding one sorted problems oneself. You did not seek or accept help from others. Yes, well, maybe.  Twenty years travelling the world alone I learnt the limitations of that upbringing. Sometimes one needs help. Sometimes others enjoy helping. It is no different in writing. Hours spent living in another world, speaking only to make-believe folk, is an isolating experience. What cyberspace has allowed is for all of us isolated people to make contact, and to receive advice, support and counsel. I found it scary at first but, so much generosity was offered. Ask and receive graciously, give willingly. “Writers rock” as they say.

5) The second book is harder than the first! But surely the third? Nope, no easier. Maybe as time goes on the editing becomes easier, but after the first, there are expectations. Dreadful word that. It hangs like that confounded sword, poised and ready to strike. If one is lucky and people enjoyed that first book, the sense of foreboding grows like a pernicious weed. Failure! Possibly.

6) Be prepared to have Despair come visiting. An unwelcome guest who never seems to know when to vanish. Have a deadline? “You’ll never get there,” Despair whispers. Read a fantastic book written by someone else? “Yours is rubbish,” chuckles Despair. Write a steaming love scene, a heartbreaking death scene? Despair rolls on the floor laughing at your attempts.

Sometimes one need to be firm, to be strong! To banish said Despair stamp your foot, point your finger and in ringing tones declare, “darken my door no more, you misbegotten cur.”

414ip947v1L._AA160_7) You will not be master in your own house. Characters are renown for taking matters into their own hands, if they are not satisfied with the author’s attempts. Plots have been known frequently to vanish and be replaced by changelings, who romp home with the glittering prize. Master of your novel’s fate: think on, poor deluded one.

8) Be prepared for long hours hunched over the machine, into the small hours. The deadline is a a few days hence. The manuscript polished to a shine which will blind. The hours of muttering, of sorrow when heartbreakingly beautiful words are deleted. The boredom of checking spacing and font sizes. The anguishing over which cover A or B or would a C be better? The desperation when a satisfactory blurb eludes you. All that remains is to upload to Lulu or some such site, convert to Kindle, upload to the Smashwords meatgrinder. No problem. Sure? The transition from one software to another can cause earthquakes, tsunamis or maybe just cracks in your baby. Check, check and tear your hair out.

9) There will be times, when you ache to hurl machines through windows,  howl at the new moon, chew edges of carpets and generally ‘lose the plot’. Stress points include:

  • Blank page, blank mind: this is common.
  • Computer crashes, loss of the last 10,000 words of perfection.
  • Unexpected, unwanted guests arrive, complete with chocolates and schemes of days out with you.

Most importantly:

10)  Enjoy, enjoy, enjoy. Finishing a book is the most amazing, addictive feeling. Your name is in print, your book is on bookshelves, in the library, on reading groups lists, It is exhilarating. There is nothing quite like it.

Holding the first ‘proper book’ in your hand is like childbirth, the pleasure and joy of it, drives all thought of pain, anguish and despair from your head and heart.

Time for a second go?

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This blog post is Copyright Alberta Ross 2013. All rights are reserved Internationally. You may not reproduce it in any form, in part of whole, without the author’s prior written permission. That includes usage in forms such as print, audio and digital imaging including pdf, jpg, png etc. A fee may be requested for re-use if it is for a commercial venture.

Coping with a Cynical Critique, by Sandra Nikolai

Equator-1-Gallery-300x225Like any writer who wants to succeed, I spent years learning about the profession and refining my skills. I attended writers’ conferences, studied how-to books on writing and publishing, and read piles of novels in a variety of genres.

Armed with a draft of my first mystery novel, I took the next step in the process: I found a mentor through a writers’ group I’d joined. My mentor offered to review the first and last thirty pages of my novel and email her comments to me after a month’s time.

At the end of the session, her email arrived and I was eager to read it. As my eyes flew over the words, disbelief stifled enthusiasm. Her remarks were sarcastic and stung as much on screen as if she’d read them out loud in a room full of people. She proposed drastic changes to the characters, settings, and plot. She even advised me to re-write the entire story in the third person. (I’d written it in the first person.) In closing, she defended her position as a “tough editor” and hoped her comments would help me write a better book.

You’ve got to be kidding!

My next reaction was to send “Miss Sarcastic” a nasty email but I decided against it. It wasn’t worth the time or energy to respond to someone who was inconsiderate and rude. I’d just file a complaint against her on the evaluation form I had to complete and send it off to the writers’ group headquarters. And yet…

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Available from Amazon Kindle http://www.amazon.com/Impressions-Michael-Elliott-mystery-ebook/dp/B0086WMMZ0/ref=sr_1_6?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1338295012&sr=1-6

I read Miss Sarcastic’s comments again. Her mocking attitude had dealt a serious blow to my ego, but what if she was right and my story did need a revamp? After all, she had a handful of published mystery novels under her belt and had mentored other writers. I was…well…green. Surely she must know what she’s talking about. And so I conceded, knowing that the revisions to my manuscript would entail a major upheaval. In fact, the task proved a lot more difficult than writing the book in the first place and took months out of my life. After I’d finished, I put it aside. When I read it a week later, I was disheartened. It was no longer my story. The changes I’d made had sucked the life right out of it. I hated it.

Not one to accept defeat, I reviewed Miss Sarcastic’s comments again—this time from an unbiased perspective. I dug out my original manuscript and integrated the changes that I felt would benefit the story and ignored the rest. After I finished, I had to admit it was a stronger novel.

I recently heard that my mentor has abandoned her writing career. Her book sales weren’t doing well, so she accepted a job with a media firm. If anything, I owe her a modicum of gratitude. The experience inspired me to set up guidelines that I’ve since followed when reviewing critiques of my work. I’d like to share them with other writers in the hope they might find them useful too:

1. Take the time to review a critique. Let it ferment. You might interpret it differently later on.

2. Try not to take a negative critique as a personal insult but consider it with an open mind.

3. A negative critique gives you a choice: either fix the problem or ignore it. Consider how any change will affect your story. Will it strengthen or weaken it?

4. No one knows your characters or plot as well as you do. If a suggestion for a change doesn’t fit— no matter how good it might sound, don’t force it into the story.

5. Growing as a writer means heeding your inner voice or gut feelings. Trust your writer’s instincts more often. If you believe that a change will improve the story, do it. If not, move on.

Happy writing!

CWC-Member

Meet Sandra Nikolai

Bio-234x300Sandra was raised in Montreal, Québec, and graduated from McGill University. As a young girl, she loved reading the Nancy Drew mystery series and was determined to write her own stories one day. Her career choices didn’t exactly lead her along the “yellow brick road” to writing mystery novels—though working in a bank and experiencing a string of armed robberies did ingrain terrifying memories worthy of a story!

In 2002, Sandra won an Honorable Mention in Canadian Writer’s Journal short fiction competition. She has since published a dozen short stories online and in print. False Impressions is her first mystery novel in a series featuring ghostwriter Megan Scott and investigative reporter Michael Elliott. She is currently working on Fatal Whispers, book two in the series.

Sandra is a member of Crime Writers of Canada and Capital Crime Writers.

You can catch up with Sandra at her beautiful website and blog:


This blog post is Copyright Sandra Nikolai 2013. All rights are reserved Internationally. You may not reproduce it in any form, in part of whole, without the author’s prior written permission. That includes usage in forms such as print, audio and digital imaging including pdf, jpg, png etc. A fee may be requested for re-use if it is for a commercial venture.

Getting to the Heart of Your Story, by Rossandra White

Jans-house-9-20-121At 49 I felt compelled to write a book. Not something I’d always wanted to do. I figured maybe it was just time to finally record all those stories about my ancestors who had been in South Africa since the 1800s, as well as my own stories about growing up in a small Zambian copper mining town; plus a two-year stint on a sisal plantation in Zimbabwe. This was before the two countries were independent, when colonial power held sway, when the bush was full of animals. And then there were all those road trips my family took to the Congo, Malawi, Kenya and Tanzania. The time an elephant chased our car for over five miles, forcing my dad to reverse down an excuse for a dirt road before the elephant gave up. The time we spent in the shadow of Mount Kilimanjaro with a crazy Belgian who kept wild animals for film-makers’ use; as well as that episode in Kenya when the Mau Maus attacked the cattle ranch where we were staying with a family my dad had befriended along the way. I had a lot to write about. What I didn’t know was that I intuitively chose writing “to take fuller possession of the reality of my life,” to paraphrase Ted Hughes.

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Mau Mau

So I started writing, most days after work and on weekends. I agree with Kurt Vonnegut who said writing made him “feel like an armless and legless man with a crayon in his mouth.” Three years later I ended up with a 500 page memoir of flashbacks. The poor volunteer reviewer from the National Writer’s Association I joined penciled these little round faces with downturned mouths in the margins, complete with dialogue: “Oh nooo, not another flashback.” The other reviews I received convinced me just how much I had to learn about writing. Starting over, I bought and read a library of how-to books and took classes; I learnt about structure, plot, conflict, pacing, and theme. I joined critique groups and re-wrote.

This time I started with an incident when I was poisoned by rebels as a six-year old in Zimbabwe and turned my messy tome into a young adult novel and sequel, with two teenage protagonists, a black boy and a white girl. The story had political and spiritual overtones, lots of action, but the white girl and her family were essentially me and my family. The black protagonist represented Africa and her people.

An interested agent told me that the story was a good one, except that it lacked a unifying purpose; I hadn’t found the heart of the story. I didn’t know what that meant. I didn’t know how to pull it all together, how to find that elusive heart. I kept writing. Only now I began to realize that I hadn’t connected in any meaningful way to my characters. I had plumbed the depths of the story’s message and meaning, I had plot points and a climax; I had my people say words that revealed character and furthered the plot, but I didn’t know how they felt about all the conflicts they were going through, how they felt about each other – not in any meaningful way. That was because I had avoided my own feelings from the past. It was too painful. But in order to find the heart of my story I had to do so.

africaI immersed myself in the past and all those feelings I had suppressed. The white girl became more vulnerable, a little less reactive and rebellious; her mother more loving and sympathetic than my own distant mother had ever been; the father more fallible than I’d always believed my own father to be. Overall every character grew, including Africa, a country with which I’ve always had a love-hate relationship. In the end, what I managed to produce was a fully realized coming-of-age story. Both for the protagonists, but especially for me. Through the power of words, I had set down roots in time and explored my own personal myths, uncovered their purpose and grounded myself in a way I might not have been able to do otherwise.

You can follow Rossandra’s blog: “A former bushbaby’s take on writing, appreciating life and everything in between” at http://rossandrawhite.com

Rossandra lives in a Hobbit house, along with her two Staffordshire bull terriers, Fergie and Jake, where she writes about them, her life in Laguna Beach and her African past.


This blog post is Copyright Rossandra White 2013. All rights are reserved Internationally. You may not reproduce it in any form, in part of whole, without the author’s prior written permission. That includes usage in forms such as print, audio and digital imaging including pdf, jpg, png etc. A fee may be requested for re-use if it is for a commercial venture.