Wednesday, 31 October 2012

A scary (true) story for Hallowe'en

Many years ago, long before I met my husband, I lived in a bedsit in a house that I shared with a disparate group of strangers. There was the couple in the room next door who would row every day to the point of violence. Sometimes I would return to the house to find 'she' had thrown 'his' belongings down the stairs. There was the young man whose mother would send him food parcels each and every weekend, convinced that he would starve without her. In the other first floor room was a young woman whose 'boyfriends' would let themselves into the house in the early hours and tap on all the doors, calling for her, until she let them into her room.

None of us said more than a passing hello to each other. Each of us drifted around the others, separate in our own worlds. If the door bell rang, the person who was nearest (or the one who was in) would answer it. If the gas and electricity meters needed to be filled up, the one who noticed would take the key and card to be recharged. We could have been alone in that house for all the notice we took of our companions.

One a frosty day one winter, I found myself alone in the house. It was a Thursday. I was ill. The house was silent. Until the other tenants returned (I had no idea when that would be), I could pretend that the place was my own. I stayed in bed with a book.

The door bell rang. I considered ignoring it. Perhaps the caller would go away. The door bell rang again, longer this time. I imagined a finger pressed to the button, knuckles white. My room looked over the rear of the house so there was no way I could tell who the caller was, salesman or neighbour. I wrapped myself up in my dressing gown and padded down the stairs.

Through the frosted glass of the front door, I could see a short, grey figure peering through. The bell rang again.

When I opened the door, the caller stepped back. She was indeed grey, a short elderly woman dressed in a grey coat and scarf, a shopping bag slung over the wrist of one arm, a navy leather handbag grasped in the other.

"Is this the key cutter?" Her voice was dry, like rough skin on silk.

Her question took me by surprise. She asked me again, raising her voice and taking a step closer.

"No," I said eventually. She looked cold, grey hands trembling. I thought about asking her in so she could warm herself. "There's a hardware shop on the high street. They might cut keys."

"Are you sure?" Closer still, she stared up at me, then beyond me, considering the interior of the house.

"Yes, I'm sure."

She grunted, then chattering to herself about the cold and her aching feet, she turned away.

It was then that I saw it, except I couldn't quite realise what I seeing. It made no sense. I almost could not believe my eyes.

As she walked away, I could clearly see that her back, from the top of her head to the hem of her coat, was covered in matted, coiled cobwebs. This was not a single cobweb that had been brushed off a hedge or even one that had been spun on a hung up coat. This was a concoction that could not have been missed, a structure that would have taken months to construct.

She slammed the gate, glared at me once, then started up the path, still chattering to herself. "Keys," she said. "Keys."

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Tuesday Choice Words

On beginnings from Carrie Ryan of Magical Words discusses how to balance an inciting incident with an introduction to your characters at the start of your story.

Don't Make Your Character a Victim from Writerly Life suggests that however many hardships are thrown at your protagonist, they should never be a victim.

In Mojo, Steven Pressfield discusses the acquiring of this magical element through commitment to our writing (amongst other things).

Get Your Butt In A Chair And Write is an interview with author Jonathan Maberry on the Galleycat site.

Finding Characters Wherever You Look is written by Misty Massey on the Magical Words site. This is a piece of advice I faithfully adhere to, people watching to find characters.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

7 ways to survive NaNoWriMo

1. Plan your book

I don't necessarily mean write out a chapter plan but at the very least sketch out an idea of where your story will go, the barest bones of its plot. You don't have to keep exactly to this plan but at least you'll have a guideline to start from.

2. When will you write?

It's all well and good to announce that you're going to take part in NaNoWriMo but when during each (and every) day in November will you fit in that writing? Be realistic. You will still need to eat and sleep, go to work, have a bath and so on. Don't sabotage your writing month by not working out when in your current routine you can fit in this creative onslaught. Look at the things you have to do in November. Reschedule if you can. Juggle. Delegate. Beg mercy from your family. Find your slot and stick to it.

3. Where will you write?

You may already have a perfect corner to do your writing or you may be one of those people who writes where they can, or wherever they like. Again, be realistic. If you write every day for a month, where can you park yourself? To create a continual flow in your writing, it will probably be best to set up your creative station in the same place each day. Where can you do this without disrupting the rest of the household or your life (unless of course you want to disrupt your life)?

4. Park the internal editor

One of the joys, and demons, of NaNoWriMo is the need to write as much as you can, hopefully 50,000 words. This requires that you do not go back and edit. It's ok to read back but even this can raise the head of your internal editor. There will be plenty of time to call on him (or her) once December begins. For this month of 'literary abandon', send the IE on holiday.

5. Warn your family and friends

Yes, of course we fellow writers understand what NaNoWriMo requires from you but your loved ones may be unaware of the time, strong coffee and 'being left in peace' requirements that the month cries out for. Warn them in advance. More than that, tell them how important the process is to you. By all means, promise them the world in December once you've returned to the land of living - life is all about negotiation after all - but give them fair warning of your unavailability during November.

6.Seek out fellow NaNoWrimers

The month is all about writing as much as you can but it doesn't have to be a journey you take alone. There is a wonderful community of fellow travellers to call on. Visit the NaNoWriMo website to share your experience with all those other writers braving it along with you.

7. Finally, do not get hung up on word count

Yes, I know that there is a lovely little device on the website to record your word count and of course word count is what the month is all about but set yourself this rule. For the period of time each day that you write, do not check your word count. Stopping to check will  interrupt your flow of writing. Write, write, write and when you can write no more (or time runs out), stop and then see how much you've written.

Good luck, fellow travellers. On your marks...

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Tuesday Choice Words

Daydream Yourself into Your Work by Geoff Hoff discusses a method I use to prepare each section of my writing.

Be a Tree is another exercise in creativity by Geoff Hoff. Give it a try.

You'll Have to Go Through Me: Eliminating Filter Words from The Other Side of the Story is an excellent post on tightening your writing.

Mapping Out Your Story from diy MFA presents a new way to 'map' your storyline. It appeals to me particularly because of my experience of writing plays that I bring to my novel writing.

How To Revise Your Novel from the Prolific Novelista is a series of posts which have dropped into my notice at just the right time as I'm about to start the second draft of my novel. I have the first two parts of this series for you:
Part 1
Part 2

Monday, 22 October 2012

A Bit of Bookish Fun

I recently came across a range of accessories by Lulu Guinness that appeals to my book-habit.

I may have to invest in some early Christmas presents. Shush - don't tell my husband.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Tuesday Choice Words

Although How to Turn Your Author Website Into a Resource Center Your Readers Can't Live Without from the bookbaby site is targeted at ebook authors, the advice it provides could be applied to any writer website or even their Facebook page. Have a look.

Forcing the Issue: Adding Conflicts to your Scenes from The Other Side of the Story talks about inner conflicts.

The Secret To Your Next Creative Breakthrough from Jeff Goins discusses the balance (or imbalance) between your art and your life.

5 Archetypes for Supporting Characters from DIY MFA talks about the role of the other characters in your stories.

Writing as Catharsis by Nathan Bransford talks about channelling our own emotions and life experience into our writing.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Where the creators gather

A British writer friend of mine recently made the comment that she had little idea where and when writers' conferences took place. I was sure that there must be a way to track these events down so from a trawl on the internet, I came up with the following.


Winchester Writers' Conference
Milford Writers' Conference
Edinburgh Wold Writers' Conference
Get Writing Conference
Swanwick Writers' Conference
Southern Writers' Conference
Northern Writers Workshop, York


Paris Conference
Williamette Writers Conference

Wikipedia  has a list of writers' conferences too. Have a look.

In the UK, you can also find news of writers conferences on the British Council website.

Other places to look are writing magazines, online and on noticeboards at libraries.

Finally, you can read about the benefits of attending a writers' conference here.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Tuesday Choice Words

More on Fear and Writing, part I: Confessions of an Idle Writer from Magical Words talks about the fear of starting the next book.

The second part of this series - Imposter Syndrome - discusses the fear that we're a fake.

PR Daily's Seven Habits of Highly Effective Writers is a short but interesting post from BookBaby.

How to Become an Exceptional Writer from the Copyblogger site looks at what makes a writer.

Shh! It's a Secret: Raising the Tension and Conflict in a Scene is an excellent piece from The Other Side of the Story.

Monday, 8 October 2012

Making the impossible possible

Many of the books I've read over the years, in fact the ones I've enjoyed the most, have been fantastical. They have been peopled by cyborgs fighting for their freedom, time travellers and fairy folk. Their characters have journeyed between dimensions, fought monsters and defeated aliens. Some have been fantasy stories and others have been science fiction (my preferred genres). On occasion, I've dipped into horror novels and quirky contemporary fiction. What all of these stories have done well is to create worlds where the fantastical elements do not detract from convincing me that these characters are authentic, feeling, living beings.

In the novel I'm writing, magical powers are an accepted part of society and yet Steve Haven still finds himself shocked by what he finds - a man who can travel miles by using a door, any door, to transport himself to a separate building, a woman with magical healing powers and children who can create light orbs. What earns his acceptance is the people behind this magic, the courageous shopkeeper, the protective mother and the loving daughter.

There's a lot of advice out there about how characters should be created. Some writers create a grid of set questions to answer about each character. Others find photos. Some just launch in and see how their characters develop. There's no right answer here. Trial and error will show you how to people your stories.

A reader will believe anything is possible if the characters in your stories are fully-fleshed out, genuine people (even if those people are green, tentacle-clad aliens). Their backgrounds, their attitudes, their slants on life will decide how your characters react. Will they fight or flee? Will they protect the small guy or join the bullies? Get to know your characters so well that you can reel off their life history in your head and they will develop a depth that your reader will love.

"Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?" Albus Dumbledore

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Tuesday Choice Words

25 Inspiration Sources for the Discouraged Writer from Cheryl Reif Writes is an encouraging list of what to do when the muse goes on strike.

Jumper Cables - Kick-Start Your Writing Life from DiY MFA is a fun introduction to your writing journey via the route of a do-it-yourself equivalent to a masters degree in the arts (specifically, writing). Have a read.

How To Create A Killer Marketing Plan For Your Book Launch from Socialmouths is an informative and interesting article that I'll be bookmarking for future use.

Thinking in Blocks of Time from Steven Pressfield is all about pacing and resistance.

Wordsmithing: Backloading for Power from Magical Words discusses word order in your writing.