Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Photo Inspiration for March

Inspired by two trips to the zoo, one in the autumn last year and one this spring.

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Tuesday Choice Words

Be Your Own Book Doctor from the Other Side of the Story discusses how to analyse your own book.

Time Management for Writers Who Work From Home on the Bookbaby site has some useful suggestions for handling your writing routine.

Endings is an article by Misty Massey on the Magical Words site. Guess what it's about?

What changes when you become a published author is a thoughtful podcast from Ian Broome on his Chat Broome site.

And finally some wise, writerly words.

Saturday, 23 March 2013

Writing All Over The Place

Last year, I read an article from Writerly Life called Write in a New Place. It suggests that our location affects our mental state and that as writers we should occasionally switch our writing station for somewhere new.

This year, I decided to take the challenge a little further and find lots of new locations for my writing. I like to write alone and usually in silence. Normally, I write at the computer in the dining room/study on a morning. The house is empty with my husband at work and my children at school. I'm aware that this can be distracting however - the sounds of the washing machine, dishwasher and guinea pigs are all audible from there - and my drift of thought is often interrupted. So far this year, I have picked up my writing pad and a pencil or pen and relocated to:
  • the sofa in the lounge (TV switched off),
  • my  bed (when I'm not  tired but the rest of the house is taken by my family),
  • my local library (got a few strange looks there - I don't think they're used to people using the place for anything other than book browsing and borrowing),
  • a couple of nearby cafes and McDonald's (which, when relatively empty, are fine but the noisier they get, the less I can concentrate on my writing and the more I people watch, surreptitiously of course),
  • and the doctor's surgery (again with the people watching).

The most successful  by far is the sofa. I can spread out with my notes and easily spend a couple of hours writing non stop.

In the summer, I plan to set up a writing station for myself in the garden and when I go on holiday, I shall be packing a pad and pen.

Where do you write? Do you relocate or have you a set writing location that you're faithful to?

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Tuesday Choice Words

You Have Pacing Issues, My Friend is a guest post by Rebecca Ethington on Finding Bliss.

Handling Cliffhanger Endings with Multiple POVs is a thought provoking and informative post from The Other Side of the Story.

What Writers Need To Know About Tumblr from the Galleycat site offers tips on how writers can use this social network.

Although Show the World Your Magic is approaching creativity from the vehicle of art, this article on the Etsy blog by Mati Rose McDonough is well worth a read for writers too.

Planning Trilogies/Series is an interesting post  by Diana Pharaoh Francis on the Magical Words site.

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Write Handed Thinking

I follow the writer Anne Rice on Facebook. Putting her wonderful books aside, she often offers informative and well balanced advice for writers. This is what drew me to her page initially but what she also shares through her Facebook page are some truly insightful questions and topics.

Today, she wrote this,

"Question: almost all writers today use two hands to write - drawing on the left and right side of the brain. This is after thousands of years of one hand (one side of the brain) writing. Why is it no one is studying this and what effects it might have on writing?... I'm asking how have keyboards influenced artists? Not just writers, but musicians who compose on the piano? And for the piano? Anyone else curious about this?"

As a trained typist, typing with both hands is second nature to me. I've been using this skill since my early twenties. Before that I was trained to use both hands to play piano. I'm typing this article now using both my left and right hand. Does this affect my writing or am I simply transcribing the thoughts that have already been created and edited in whatever part of my brain creates those kind of thoughts?

According to this article in the Huffington Post, writing by hand "uses more complex brain power" than typing on a keyboard does. In my own experience, the writing I do by hand is revised in my head mainly before I put pen to paper. When I type, I probably haven't thought through the words so extensively and hence most of the revision happens on screen. This is backed up by another article, Hardwired for Writing which suggests that writing by hand encourages a 'flow' of writing whereas typing is more of a stop start process.

My daughter is right handed. My son is left handed. Both create wonderful stories, whether typed up or written down. The same goes for their artwork.

When I was a child, I spent several weeks in hospital. One of my injuries was a broken right arm. While it was in plaster, I couldn't write using my right hand. This was quite a few years before computers and tablets were available to me (okay, decades). If I wanted to write, it had to be with a pen or pencil. I used my left hand. The result was a scrawly, barely legible mess that looked as if I'd dictated it to a spider running through a pot of ink. I wrote nonetheless and the quality of my writing was none the worse for using my left hand.

I type because it's efficient to do so but I also know that, personally, my writing is of a much better quality when I write by hand using a pen and pad. I use my right hand to do this but my left hand is working too, holding the book, supporting my head. Maybe it's some other aspect of the process of writing by hand that improves my writing, my level of concentration or the intent of sitting down to write and only write.

The discussion on Anne Rice's page has thrown up very few answers but some interesting articles. You'll find the links to these articles at the end of this post.

What about you? What do you think?


Left Brain, Right Brain: An Outdated Argument - Yale Scientific
Why Does Writing Make Us Smarter? - Huffington Post
The left brain/right brain myth - CERI
Hardwired for Writing: The Intelligence of the Hand - Oak Meadow

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Tuesday Choice Words

Thinking about Plot is a guest post by author Stuart Horwitz on Jane Friedman's site.

I've applied Three Questions to Get to the Heart of Your Story to my own novel and it raises some very enlightening queries. Try it for yourself. This is a post by Janice Hardy on The Other Side of the Story.

Why Some Books Are Harder To Write Than Others from The Other Side of the Story discusses growing pains as a writer.

How To Win More Readers With A Powerful Close is an interesting article from Write To Done.

Deleting is a guest post by Jennifer R Hubbard for The Sharp Angle.

Monday, 11 March 2013

I dream of books

Part of being a writer is a love of books. My house is overflowing with books - mine and my family's. I'm running out of places to store them but wouldn't it be lovely to have some of these options?

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Tuesday Choice Words

Little Things that Yield Big Results is a post by David B Coe on the Magical Words site.

The Benefits of Talking Through Your Scenes from The Other Side of the Story is a method that I use myself with my long suffering husband.

How To Identify Flat Scenes from The Other Side of the Story is an interesting read.

How To Write a Scene is an infographic from GalleyCat on, well, how to write a scene.

On Endings is a post by Carrie Ryan on the Magical Words site.

Friday, 1 March 2013

7 Ways To Keep Your Writing Rich

That's rich like a good coffee, sumptuous chocolate or the deepest red of a velvety rose, not rich as in financially overflowing (although that one would be good too). How do you achieve and maintain that quality within your writing?

1. In the competitive world of Nanowrimo-esque word counts, it can be tempting to write as much as possible in one go. This can be a useful approach when creating a first draft or tackling NaNoWriMo, just getting the words down, but there is another option that I've recently found to serve me much better. Try to write a little at a time, concentrating on those words, until they are as 'right' as they can be at that moment. I've taken to writing 3-500 words in one sitting, taking my time to reach the correct tone. That might only be a handful of paragraphs but there is nothing to say that you can't have more than one session like this in a day.

2. Don't 'info dump'. Do you like that phrase? I recently came across it on the Magical Words site. To quote Faith Hunter from Magical Words, info dump means,

"...the places in a novel where a writer dumps way too much info on to the page, thinking that the reader needs all this stuff to understand what is going on. In the writer's head, they are paramount to the reactions of the characters and the forward motion of the story".

I've been guilty of this myself. What I do in that situation is put my 'play writing' head on. When I write my murder mystery plays, I make a list beforehand of what I need to reveal (mainly motives for doing away with one of the characters) and then find a way to work this information into conversations and actions in the script. Similarly, in my novel, I find a way to portray what I need to reveal through conversations and the characters' actions rather than through a narrative voice. Rather than say, "Steve didn't want to be there", I suggest his reluctance and nervousness through his actions, (pulling at his collar, fidgeting, etc). I suppose this comes down to 'show, don't tell'.

3. Reading through the first draft of my novel, I came across a number of scenes that do not move the story on. They are mainly 'resting' scenes where the protagonists and supporters gather their thoughts but don't do much else, perhaps have a meal and a drink, but nothing truly constructive. All that this does is interrupt the flow of the story (and perhaps give the impression that several of my characters have serious drinking issues). Ensure that each scene you write aids in the progression of your story in some way. It may only be a tiny piece of information that will prove instrumental in your protagonist's journey or it could be a massive turning point. What matters is that it is adding to the equation of your novel.

4. Cut out unnecessary words. All too often we find ourselves including words in our writing that serve no purpose. We are blinded to them because they are so mundane - 'had' is a perfect example, 'began' is another. These words make our writing bland. "He began to feel sick" is weak and non-involving whereas "His stomach churned" is stronger.

5. Use alliteration. Now, I know that alliteration is generally thought of in connection to poetry and tongue-twisters but it can work wonderfully in prose. From Virginia Woolf's Mrs Dalloway,

"A breeze flaunting ever so warmly down the Mall through the thin trees, past the bronze heroes, lifted some flag flying in the British breast of Mr Bowley..."

Can you see how that adds to the flow of reading? In my third draft, I have a "curious crowd", a "peeling painted sign" and "powdery plaster".

6. Ensure that each character has a unique voice. This is another lesson I learned from writing plays. When I think I have finished a play, I will read it with the characters' names covered up to ensure that I can tell who is speaking by their words alone. Listen to conversations you hold, or conversations around you, and you will notice that most people have something individual about the way they speak. It could be a mixed accent or particular words or phrases they use. Apply that to your characters. Make them sound individual.

7. I'll leave this one to novelist, Sue Grafton to explain because I couldn't say it any better myself.

"You've got to write and revise every sentence, every paragraph, and every page over and over until the rhythm, the cadence, and tone are properly attuned to your inner ear."