Write2Write: day 4

Three little words…

One interesting thing that has started to happen as I journal throughout the day while simultaneously blogging and working on my novel is that I am starting to dream more. I don’t remember what my dreams are when I’m awake, at least I can’t grab the pen quickly enough to jot them down before they evaporate from my conscious mind, but I am aware it’s happening. I suspect that I’m unlocking something. The more I write, the more my brain wants to show me things.

Today’s blog post is subtitled, “three little words,” because I have realised something important in the last few days. No, I’m not about to say, “I love you,” but rather, quite simply, “I need help.” Writing is such a solitary past time that it’s extremely difficult for us to do it on our own. The Bronte sisters would walk around their dining table reading their work to each other, Jane Austen would write letters to her sister, Steven King is all over Twitter. There is something magical that happens when creative people come together to share their work, to brainstorm ideas, and to dream dreams.

That’s what I need. It’s what makes me feel most alive. My dream is to write a story about a girl who is a workaholic, over-achieving perfectionist. Tragedy strikes her family, she crashes and burns, and finds herself in a magical place that people only find when they need it the most. That is what Finding Freodholm is all about. That’s what I’m doing when I sit down and write every day. What about you?

What are your hopes, your dreams, your struggles, your fears? What ideas do you have that need fleshing out with an interested ear? How can we help each other? I need your help. Do you need mine?

Liv

Write2Write: day 3

The thin veil between worlds

I’m really tired today. I’m trying to come off caffeine which doesn’t help. It’s bad for the joints and I’m waiting for some natural anti-inflammatories to arrive in the post. I also woke up two hours before my alarm. That’s the second day this has happened. Perhaps it’s one of the side-effects we should put as a warning on the label that is journaling.

But my productivity is much better than it was before I started all this. Today I began writing before I went anywhere near social media, and right after journaling a short paragraph. I put on my evocative writing playlist, stuck on my noise-cancelling headphones, closed my eyes and allowed my imagination to take me back to the fictional world that is Freodholm. I picked up the thread where I left my heroine, Lily, and watched what she did next, what she saw, smelt, heard, tasted, touched and thought. When I felt like I was back in that world I opened my eyes and started to type and the words flowed pretty well.

The chapter is now finished and I can moved on to the next stage. I need to stretch, go swimming, get something to eat, and come back refreshed and ready for the next stage. If I continue to bash out words now they will be a disconnected string of forced phrases born of this world and not the world that is Freodholm. They will be an imposition rather than an exposition of what is going on there.

It can be a challenge for me to move between different worlds – the crazy world we live in today, and the magical world of my imagination. I have to take my time, meditate on it first, and let myself fall into it. Yesterday I did my research, today I wrote. It felt good, and I can’t wait to go back there. How do you move between those different worlds? How is your writing going today? Hope it’s going well.

Liv

Write as you write: day 2

Tea and Herbal Remedies

So here I am on day two of journaling, blogging and writing my novel throughout the day. It’s going really well so far but one thing I’m realising is how easily I’m distracted. Whether it’s a family member coming in to ask me a question, a WhatsApp message from a friend, or even a lawnmower starting in a neighbour’s garden, I find my mind wandering, and then journal about it and pull it back to the subject at hand.

Today that subject is research! This is actually one of my favourite things to do when writing a novel as I get to learn something interesting and new. As you can see, my current research subjects are Tea and Herbal Remedies. The first is because there is a Tea Emporium in my fictional world that features heavily in the story, and secondly because of the Apothecary who does likewise. She’s Spanish, and called Carmen, but bears no resemblance to the opera of the same name.

It’s also proved useful as I’ve realised I love Assam Tea, and am going to try a herbal remedy for the inflammation in my knees. Better than popping pills any day. I think I’ll treat myself to a new teapot and cup and saucer. The bigger the better. I could even knit a funky tea cosy to go with it! But I digress. How has your day gone? Have you given the journaling a go? Is it working? What interesting subjects have you been looking into?

Here’s me signing off until tomorrow,

Liv

Write as you write: day 1

If it’s good enough for Mark Zuckerberg, it’s good enough for me

I’ve recently been suffering from a bad case of procrastination. I normally love to write, in fact I live and breathe to write. Lately, however, I have been finding almost anything to do before actually sitting down with the manuscript and getting some words on the page. Tomorrow, tomorrow I will start and become a hard-working, serious, accomplished, brilliant, and of course, perfect writer.

And the cursor remains flashing on the blank page.

I’ve tried many things. Some have worked for a while – changing location, setting a timer for ten minutes, writing by hand rather than on the computer, dictation, yet after a while the inevitable kicks in, the malaise ensues, and I’m left feeling like I’m under-achieving with the elusive bubble of getting this book out just beyond my reach.

Today I decided I needed to give myself a good talking to. I picked up one of my many partially-used journals and began writing. I decided that this journal would be my writing buddy, my genie in a bottle, my higher power, my cheerleader and my friend who would help me to be the writer I was destined to be. I set myself small goals. I told my journal what they were and checked back when I’d done them. I congratulated myself on my accomplishments and chivied myself along when I got stuck. It’s been fantastic, and there are now words to accompany the flashing cursor.

Here’s an except from today:

Dear diary, I need you. I cannot do this without you. I dream of a brighter future but it won’t come unless I’m prepared to work towards it today. Please give me the kick up the backside I need to get myself in gear and just do the next thing…

I’m reminded of the scene in The Social Network where Mark Zuckerberg is blogging at the same time as he is giving birth to Facebook. If it worked for him, why can’t it work for the rest of us? How about I check in every day and say how it’s going? Even if one person reads it and says hello I’ll be happy. Maybe you’ll decide to give it a go too and we can share with each other? Are you willing to go on this journey with me and to see where it collectively takes us? Pen’s poised? Then let us begin…

What’s stopping you..?

Why getting an editor was the best thing I ever did

I’m terrified of releasing my work on the world. There, I’ve said it. I’ve had an idea for a novel which has been percolating in my head for the past eleven years and yet it is still not published. I’ve written countless drafts, some of which I’m ashamed to say I’ve deleted in moments of pure insanity. I’ve renamed, restructured, reversed and rebelled. So what’s stopping me from giving it a go? One word. FEAR!

I’ve nothing to compare it to. I’m an avid reader so surely I’m a reasonable judge of what is good and bad literature? For me, it’s quite simple. I want to get lost in a story, be transported to another world. I want to connect with the characters, to care what happens to them, to experience the highs and lows of their journeys and to really miss them when I close the back page. That’s what I want from a story and that’s what I want to give to the world.

Yet when I read my manuscripts I get some glimpses of light coming through the cracks of my own incompetencies, but the awkwardness of the prose and unnaturalness of the dialogue rips me apart and I can’t see the light anymore. Is it good enough? Will it pass muster? I doubt it.

I long since decided to self-publish. I love social media and marketing and figured if my work is meant to be read it will find its way into the hands of the right readers. What I haven’t had until now is an editor, that is until I approached Ros. Ros is a friend who has an ability with language akin to a music maestro’s ear or a mathematician’s brain. She just knows when it’s grammatically correct. It sounds right. She agreed to take me on.

We’re working together one chapter at a time. I send it to her and she edits it, not with red pen, but the completed edited manuscript. I trust her to retain the integrity of my writing as she goes. Now here’s the catch. She won’t return it to me until I send her the next chapter. I’m chomping at the bit to know what she thinks each time, and desperate to see the finished result, but I hear absolutely nothing from her until I send her the next one. It makes me keep going and forces me to at least release my work to one person.

When I do, it’s always a joyful occasion. She tells me I’m a great storyteller and she can’t wait to hear what happens next. She encourages me to keep going. The chapters that are returned still sound like me, but I know they are cleaner and easier to read. Ros is a miracle-worker in my life and I know, because of her, that I will reach my goal of releasing my work on the world this year. Getting an editor was the best thing I ever did. What about you?

The Warm Up Act

Why writers need to behave like athletes

A couple of months ago I went searching for a new writing app, and stumbled across Novlr. One of the things I like about Novlr is the dark background which is easier on my eyes. I’ve been using it for my work ever since. It also has a fantastic free writing course, the Couch to 80k Boot Camp by novelist and poet, Tim Clare.

In my experience it’s all too easy to forget how important it is to warm up with our writing every day. I’ve wasted countless hours staring at a blank page or screen, groaning under the strain of trying to force my writing muscle into action when it very clearly wants to sleep. Yet since discovering this course, with just ten minutes of writing a day, I’ve found that when I do now sit down for the main event I’m so much more limber and agile and I have a new-found confidence in what I’m doing that I never had before.

It really is a brilliant course. I can’t say enough about it. The clever way in which it slowly builds on itself and navigates so many areas of the creative writing process without you even realising how much you are growing is simply thrilling. Clare is a master when it comes to teaching, and listening to him prattle on a bit only makes it more disarming and accessible.

The fantastic news is that there’s more even after the course has ended. Clare is a prolific podcaster and his Death of 1000 Cuts podcast is available online and via iTunes. This is such a gift to us as writers and I’m extremely grateful to him for providing us with so much inspiration and for helping me warm up my writing muscles.

There’s more inspiration to be found all over the Internet and in many book shops, if you know where to look. For example, the San Francisco Writers Grotto have produced a book called “642 Tiny Things to Write About.” Whilst a bit more random, and not as sequential, as Clare’s warm ups, they can certainly breath new life into a tired mind.

Above all else, warm up! It’s not wasted time, quite the contrary. It helps you save time later by giving you the life and energy you will need for the big race. It has helped me learn how to play, have fun, and think outside the box. It has helped me grow in confidence, and not to strain my brain in trying to force it to run before it can walk. What I find it prefers to do now is dance. I hope you find it works for you too.


Reflections of a NaNoWriMo Winner

My sister recently won a ballot place for the London Marathon. Being more of a country stroller and book shop browser I was interested to learn more about the psychology of running such a long way. Sara Kurth has written a fascinating article on the Eight Stages of Running a Marathon. I had these stages in mind when I embarked on the gruelling journey that is NaNoWriMo this year.

1. Days One – Three – Starting Nerves

The build up to NaNoWriMo is quite similar to training for a marathon. We plan, we dream, we order in food and drink, we clear our schedules as much as we can. Now day one has arrived and we are full of excitement. There is the temptation to go too fast off the blocks in the first three days and set a pace we cannot sustain throughout the month. I was really nervous, but at the same time excited, when I began, but I didn’t let myself go over the 1,667 words per day during these days in order to set a realistic pace.

It felt weird to be writing every day like this, especially when my writing has often been haphazard and spontaneous before. I also felt overwhelmed and intimidated to read the enormous word counts coming in from others, and felt pressure to go faster. However, I didn’t, and stuck to the basic word goal.

2. Days Four – Nine – I’ve Got This

By now, I’d settled into a routine of writing as soon as I woke up every day. I didn’t even let myself get a cup of coffee, but instead made do with the water that was by my bed. Once I’d reached my word goal, I could get on with other things with a clear conscience. It also meant the inner critic, who is much slower to wake than me, could be bypassed and I could just get the words on the page. I actually felt confident during this time period.

3. Days ten to fifteen – Settling In

The routine continued into days ten to fifteen. However, on one day I got distracted by a phone call when someone woke me up early, and ended up getting a coffee before sitting down to write. The words didn’t flow as freely that day. The next day, I didn’t feel like writing at all and started to feel the burn so to speak as I realised I wasn’t even half way. To combat this I just pushed through, recreating the routine over the next few days, making sure I didn’t skip meals or not get enough sleep, and kept on writing. It wasn’t a very pleasant part of the writing journey but I persevered.

4. Days sixteen to eighteen – The Wasteland

I actually started to get bored at this stage. The inner critic didn’t seem to sleep and was constantly whispering in my ear how utterly droll my story was and how no one would be interested in reading it. I ceased to be interested in reading it. It felt like every word I put on the page was a blur of nothingness and tedium. But having been warned that this might happen, I kept going, just putting one word in front of the other and reminding myself that it could always be improved in the edit.

5. Days nineteen to twenty-one – The Dark Night of the Soul

Talk about mental anguish. This was when I almost gave up. The only blessing that helped to keep me going during this time was the fact that I went away on a Writing for Wellbeing course which inspired me to get excited about my writing all over again. This is definitely a good time to go away or join a write-in if you can.

6. Days twenty-two to twenty-four – Wow! I’ve Come a Long Way!

I seemed to get over a mental hump at this stage, probably spurned on by the retreat. I spent a few moments reflecting on what I had achieved so far and I kept looking at my daily word count and thinking, “Wow, I’ve come a long way.” I allowed myself to get excited at the prospect of completing the challenge, but this made me think more about the finishing line than the next words I needed to write. As a result it started to become difficult again for me to get the words on the page. Instead, I reminded myself to keep it in the day and to only do my 1,667 words. This seemed to help me to keep going. I also created a new playlist of birdsong and bubbling brooks, and ordered some Bergamot which seems to ignite my creativity.

7. Days twenty-five to twenty-nine – I’m Never Doing This Again!

These were the days when I cursed ever having signed up to do NaNoWriMo. Every day was excruciating. I felt like I couldn’t breath, much less write. But when I look back on my word count I see I actually started going over the daily target at this point and reached my goal early. However, I didn’t want to stop there as my other goals were to finish the thirty days and to eventually finish the first draft of my novel.

8.  Day thirty – Collapsing in a Heap

Okay, so maybe not literally, but definitely metaphorically. I only wrote ten words on the last day but it didn’t matter because I’d achieved my goal and had become an NaNoWriMo Winner! I’m proud of what I’ve achieved but I know I still have a long way to go. I have about ten thousand words left to write on this first draft and then the hard work of editing and re-writing will begin. I’m looking forward to it though, but have planned a trip away for a few days before I sit down with my big red pen.

This has been an amazing journey and I’ve got to share it with some wonderful people for which I am thankful. I have taken from it the need to write every day, although I don’t think I can sustain 1,667 indefinitely. I’m probably more of a 600 word girl myself. That being said, this blog is already over 1k so I’d better draw it to a close and ask, what are your reflections from your NaNoWriMo experience this year? Do you think you’ll do it again? I, for one, am all in and can’t wait.

Susie