Friday, December 31, 2010

Delicious Beginnings

I've been watching lots of lovely films lately and the latest has been Miss Potter.  The scenery, those gorgeous pictures of animals, the amazing costumes and the delectable Mr Ewan McGregor (who could resist a man with THAT moustache?).

But the thing I love most about the film is the opening (and closing) line.

"There's something delicious about writing the first words of a story.  You can never quite tell where they'll take you."

And although my current wip has already been started, I'm applying the essence of those lines to the upcoming New Year.  There is definitely something delicious about a New Year.  It is a new beginning.  Packed to the brim with possibility and promise - like a firework, ready to light.

I agree with Kate Walker (in her post over at The Pink Heart Society) when she said she didn't agree with the whole 'Brand New Me' thing.  I don't want a brand new me. I like the me I am.  That's not to say 'me' couldn't do with a few tweaks.  So I'm going for a 'Better Me' approach to my resolutions.  I'm going to:
  • appreciate things and people more
  • share more of myself
  • take the time to breath deep
  • treat every day as a special day
  • forgive more and forget the stuff that doesn't matter
  • believe
  • never, never, never give up

So get ready world!  I've struck my match and come midnight I'm lighting that magnificent cracker and my 2011 is going to erupt in a shower of magic and romance and delight.
Happy New Year everyone!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

I've Been A Good Girl!

Well I must have been.  Look what Santa left in my stocking.........

Now that's a seriously sexy pair of heels, my friends.  On New Year's Eve a few minutes before midnight, I'll be standing on a large tiled balcony.  Only the moon and the stars, winking at themselves in the placid waters of Lake Como provide any light. And my insides will be doing their own impersonation of those bungee dancers from Cirque du Soleil because any minute now HE will walk out - drawn to me.  Because of those shoes.

You heard it first here, folks.  These are my Kissin' George shoes!

That's him - practising his puckering up approach.  Wish me luck!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

No Mary-Sue, Thank You!

Ever heard of the Mary-Sue concept?  I hadn't.  Not until I started doing some research about what makes a heroine likeable.  Wikipedia have a detailed explanation of what a Mary-Sue is which you can read here.  But this quote just about sums it all up:
     "A Mary-Sue....is a fictional character with overly idealised and hackneyed
     mannerisms, lacking noteworthy flaws, and primarily functioning as a
     wish-fulfilment fantasy for the author or reader."

I stumbled upon a Mary-Sue litmus test (apparently there are a few different versions) and in my usual 'what-the-hell' way I took the test.  Luckily my heroine escaped the dreaded label.  However, after more research I found that the term has been bandied around by a lot of critics and it has been suggested that its very existance may have stopped some writers from writing out of the (real or otherwise) fear that they had created 'just another' Mary-Sue character.

So go on, take the test.  You can do the Univerisal Mary-Sue Litmus Test or the Original Fiction Mary-Sue Litmus Test.  You can use it to test one of your characters or someone else's or even yourself.  One test claims Bono from U2 is a Mary-Sue.  ?  Go figure.

Apparently Bella Swan from the Twilight series is currently holding the title of Queen Mary-Sue but what about other Mary-Sues (Lara Croft from Tomb Raider comes to mind, Elizabeth Swann from Pirates of the Caribbean, Ginny Weasley from Harry Potter transforms into a Mary-Sue and James Bond would have to be the Emperor of Gary-Stus - the male equivalent of a Mary-Sue). 

Just remember there is a lot of discussion about what makes a Mary-Sue and the test being flawed.  The main gist of it is that your female protagonist can't be better than perfect or you run the risk of alienating the reader.  We have to be able to relate to the protagonist and who amongst us can claim perfection?

Aside from Mr Clooney, of course!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas 2010

Oh my Lordy me!  What a Christmas!  And it's been over a week since I posted and I feel like I've been starved of chocolate for the whole time.

Well I hope no one else had a Christmas like our family get together.  We had our BIG family meal scheduled for Christmas Eve (all of our family meals are big but this one is usually HUGE).  By HUGE I mean the food to people ratio.  Honestly.  We normally have enough to feed a small nation but it means most people get enough to take home and use over the coming days when the idea of cooking is just so beyond you that it's akin to dragging yourself through putrid crocodile infested gloopy mud *shudders at the thought*.  But my poor old Dad wasn't feeling well because of what he said was a pulled muscle.  Later on he developed a high fever and we were all a bit worried about him.  When he refused dessert we knew something was seriously wrong.

Christmas morning my brother drove Dad to the doctor who sent him to hospital for scans.  Those scans showed not only did my darling Daddy have pleurisy but also a clot in his right lung.  So he's been admitted into hospital and is on treatment but he's not a happy camper.  He hates hospital and everyone making a fuss of him and asking him "personal" questions and (God forbid) touching him!!!

So our Christmas has been the weirdest one yet (and trust me that's saying something).  But it has had it's highs as well.  I had several long delicious cuddles of my newest great niece (my niece and I are quite close in age) and her youngest baby is so cute I could just eat her.

My great-grandmother's pudding (that I made by myself for the first time this year) turned out perfectly, except I forgot the threepences to put in it before we cut it up.

I certainly hope that your Christmas was less 'exciting' than ours.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Writing is Like.....

Writing is like cooking - you get an idea and then you go off and maybe you research lots of other recipes or you visit cooking blogs or you talk to people who have cooked (or tried cooking) and you tell them about your idea and they in turn give you their opinion about your ingredients, methodology, equipment etc and eventually you bite the bullet and you do it and then you taste it.  It might be too sweet.  Too sour.  Not quite cooked all the way through.  It may even give you food poisoning but it's a starting point and from there you can either choose to cook more or quit forever.  Even if you found the perfect recipe book and followed it to the letter, there are so many variables (your oven, your produce, your timer, your taste buds) that there is still no guarantee of perfection.  But if it tastes good and it doesn't choke, burn, sicken or kill you then you can call yourself a cook.

Apparently lots of people have written similes to do with writing.  Here are some I found trawling the net (please note none of these are my work and I have attributed the work to the author where possible):

"Writing is like lemons" (cute article read here) by Amy Schultz.
"Writing is like Mountain Climbing" (quote) by Jonathan Lethem.
"Writing is like prostitution. First you do it for love, and then for a few close friends, and then for money."  Moliere
"Writing is like sex" (fresh and frisky article) by Terreece M Clarke.
"Writing is like a Parasitic Catfish" (a somewhat uncomfortable article) by Jeremy Luke Hill.
"Writing a novel is like Man Flu" (a very funny and accurate article) by Julie Cohen.
"Writing is like dropping feathers down a well.  Any echo is appreciated." John D. MacDonald
"Writing is like taking a s**t - sometimes it comes out easy, other times it takes patience, and it's painful."  Comment on this blog by Farmboy.
"Writing is like making love.  Don't worry about the orgasm, just concentrate on the process." Quote by Isabel Allende (the quote starts this interesting post) by Andrea on her blog.
"Writing is like dancing" (a motivational post) by Lulu.
"Writing is like driving at night in the fog.  You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way." E.L. Doctorow.
"Writing is like good sex.  You get caught up in the moment and afterwards, with a few glistening beads of the good kind of sweat, you sit back and smugly say to yourself - Woo Hoo!" (on this blog)
"Writing is like driving.  Many know how to do it, but it doesn't mean they should.  And only the professionals can break the rules and get handsomely rewarded for it." (same blog as above).
"Writing is like a baby.  It calls to you at inopportune times and is selfishly driven.  Some days it doesn't matter what you put into it, all that comes out is crap."  (same blog as above).
And while it's not a pure simile this post How Writing Can Be Like Great Sex is very good reading as well.

So there you have it - to sum up: Writing is Like Great Sex While Driving, Dancing and Dropping Feathers (and S**t) Down a Well With Man Flu Before Becoming a Prostitute and Climbing Mountains Holding Lemons and Dealing With Parasitic Catfish.

No wonder we love it!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

A Few Things I've Learned About Dialogue

Don't:
- Use any other tag other than 'said'.  Well okay every now and then you can throw in a 'replied' or 'asked' but make sure it's only sparingly.  Kind of like that book about the boy who ignores the vet's advice about feeding his fish "just a pinch and no more" and ends up with a fish bigger than Moby Dick........soooooo unless you want your ms harpooned, follow the advice above.
- Add any -ly words after the dialogue tag 'said'.  You're writing a novel, not a screenplay so you don't need to tell your actors how to say the line.  So no 'said adoringly'.  No 'said grumpily'.  No 'said quietly'.  Not even 'said slowly'.  Nothing.  Just 'said'.  Apparently the human brain just skips over the word 'said' without really registering it but if you add an adverb then it makes the brain stumble.  Here is where you go off and read more about showing not telling..........

Back again?  Great.


Do
- Find your primary school teacher who taught you to find 65 different ways of saying 'said' because "repeating 'said' over and over again would just be boring" and "make sure to include lots of adverbs because they make a story much more interesting" and repeated that advice so many times that it became an ingrained habit that is almost impossible to break and when you find that teacher, slap them.
- Resist the above urge if that same teacher was the one to teach you how to write the mechanics of dialogue correctly.  That is, using " " instead of ' ' and knowing when to use a comma, a full stop (period), and other punctuation marks correctly.  Instead, kiss them.  Knowing how to punctuate properly is a skill to be rightfully proud of.  If it's something that you have to learn.......well then I think you should be able to slap your teacher twice.
- Make sure your dialogue is realistic.  There are lots of exercises you can do: like transcribing a small segment of dialogue from a sitcom you've taped. (I say sitcom because they always have lots of dialogue but you could use any show really).  Look at the pauses, the interruptions, the hanging endings, the language etc.  Analyse a scene containing dialogue in a book that you think works really well.  Why does it work?  What parts of it stand out to you?  Did you notice anything during a second or third reading that you didn't notice the first time?  Do the same for a scene you think stinks.
- Read your dialogue out loud (or if you're much braver than me, ask some friends to do it in front of you).  How does it sound?  Is it realistic?  Is it stilted?  Does it flow smoothly?  Is the language appropriate for the age/gender/background of your character?

These are just a few pearls of wisdom from the oyster I call my brain.  Not a definitive list, you understand, just a selection for your enjoyment.  An amuse bouche, if you will :)

Sunday, December 12, 2010

A Writer's Christmas Wish List

Dear Santa,
I've been really, really good this year.  I actually finished a whole book this year!  I wrote a beginning, a middle and an end.  What's more it had conflict, emotional tension, fantastic sex scenes, a black moment that was truly masterful and a happy ending that made me whoop with joy!!  I got off my butt and entered my book in a ginormous writing competition and when I didn't win OR named in the top ten OR included in the list of writers the publishers wanted to hear more from - did I rant or rave or even throw a teensy weensy tanty?  I did not.  I sat down and started to write a new book.  A single title book.  A romance.  It's beautiful.

So because I've been SUCH a good girl* I think it only fair that my Christmas Wish List reflects that by being somewhat on the large-ish side.

For Christmas I would like:
  • More time in the day - now before you tug your beard three times and whisper magic Santa words I just want to clarify something: I want more time in the day for me to write.  Not for housework or phone calls or visitors or grocery shopping or other mundane, low-priority stuff.  Just more writing time.  Uninterrupted, undisturbed, undistracted writing time.
  • A magic keyboard.  It has to have flashing lights and a speaker system and everytime I commit one of the squillion writing sins I've been reading about while procrastinating researching for my book, my magic keyboard will let me know and then in George Clooney's voice tell me how fabulously sexy I look and offer a brilliant solution to my literary blooper.
  • Lots of followers for my blog.  I know this request is shamelessly selfish but I love being liked and it would make me so happy to have lots and lots of people leave comments on my blog boosting my ego and wanting to be my cyber friend.  Besides all the agents who read writer's blogs keep saying that already having a solid following is great as far as publicity goes so it's not just for me - it's for my agent too (whoever that ends up being).
  • Either to no longer like chocolate OR the ability to eat truckloads of the stuff without it contributing to my writer's butt (please see the point below).
  • No more writer's butt.  I would like to wake up on Christmas morning and have the butt of a sixteen year old track and field star and because I know how ridiculous that would look alongside the rest of me, you may as well just give me the rest of the track and field star's body as well.  But I don't want to have to do any hard work to keep it looking that good.  I don't have time (please see the first point).
  • A real, actual working internal switch for my inner editor so I can turn her off once and for all (until I need her and then she can't hold a grudge and do something nasty like purposefully overlook all the adjectives I've added to my dialogue tags).
  • A muse that turns up when needed.  That does not mean making an appearance when I'm in the middle of a story that I'm really quite enjoying writing and start whispering about this super-shiny new idea that I should probably start writing like, right away and just forget about that other one for a while.  Nor does it mean leaving me stranded when I'm in the saggy middle of my story and need something uber cool to transform my droopy midriff into a wordy sixpack (like literary liposuction).  It means that as soon as I start foundering for the perfect word, or wondering what my heroine should do next, or if my hero suddenly develops vampire tendencies, tells the heroine he's actually a fallen angel and has travelled back in time to save her then I want my Muse to step in and gently steer me back onto the right path - preferably with some seriously clever suggestions.
  • I'd like my Muse to look like George Clooney.
  • The world's most perfect agent just waiting for me - without applying any pressure - to finish this book and then to treat it (and me) like their favourite child and to lead us through the minefield of publishing and making us feel like it was a visit to an amusement park.  Then they will secure me deal after seven figure deal - again without any pressure - for whatever I choose to write next.
  • The world to decide that while e-books were sorta cool for a brief moment there (like hypercolour t-shirts or acid wash jeans or legwarmers) now they're just passe and books are the new black.  (Tip: It wouldn't hurt if a few glamazons were seen at red carpet events carrying or even wearing a book - if Lady Gaga can wear meat, then Heidi Klum can wear a book).
  • Feedback.  For every writing competition I enter (and if you do your bit then I promise to enter lots more of them next year) I get lots of helpful constructive feedback.  An email would be okay, a long letter even better, a phone call would be great but a personal visit with a detailed dossier in a sexy faux-leather bound folder that I can refer back to later on would be amazingly fab.
  • George Clooney (what they hey - might as well ask).
And of course if there's anything else you think I might like, that's fine by me.
Yours sincerely
Elissa G



*For the purposes of this Wish List, the term 'good' is understood by both parties to be a subjective measurement and is a comparison to past behaviour of the first party and is not to be confused by comparing the first parties' behaviour to other parties like Mother Theresa or work colleagues or fictional characters or really anyone else.  Okay?

Monday, December 6, 2010

Saint Alexandra Sokoloff and My Sucky First Draft

Now I know that I usually do an alert for a great article on Wednesdays (and lately that's been a little off by a day or two) but I'm running early this week.

Alexandra Sokoloff is an amazing writer whose blog provides 'Screenwriting Tricks For Authors' which is just perfect for me as I totally get the whole scene and act analogies because of my own theatre background but also because of how I visualise my book.  Anywho, I've been busy and only just got around to visiting Alexandra's blog again - she's been busy promoting her new book, running a workshop, starting a new book and as a result didn't blog in November.  But now she's done this fabulous post about the things she covered and new things she learned from the online course she ran.

Of course there's a goldmine of advice but right at this point in time the thing that jumped out at me was number 14: Your First Draft Is Always Going To Suck.  I'll let you read the entry because it's so motivating that she 'gets' it when you get stuck and her advice is no-pulled-punches and in your face but I like that.  And best of all, there's advice for what to do to make your ms not so sucky after you've written that first draft.

But the line I took away from the article that I think I will write on a post it and stick to my monitor was actually in the comments.  In response to a commenter, St Alexandra replied: "IMO, the only thing a first draft needs to be is done".  Simple.  Insightful.  Beautiful.

It's so nice to be given so much hope from a writer who has crossed over (not in the dead sense but in the published sense) and is now plopped gracefully on a fluffy white cloud, draped in blindingly white robes, harp in one hand while the other taps out mercifully glorious advice. 

At the moment I feel like if I complete my ms it will be a miracle but if it does then I'll be contacting the Vatican to have Alexandra canonised - she could be the patron saint of Blocked Writers. 

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Well Worth a Read Wednesday

Yes I know today is Thursday but I'm choosing to ignore that fact for the moment.

So I'm jumping on the bandwagon.  If you haven't heard about the Emotional Thesaurus yet then let me give you the skinny.  You're writing away and realise your characters are using the same old boring emotions over and over again and, worse still, you keep using the same words.  And that inner editor whispers: you're telling not showing.  Eeeeek!!!  So how do you write something new and fresh that's show-ey instead of tell-y?  The answer is located at The Bookshelf Muse.

Go and have a sticky - I promise it will be worth your while.  And check out the other thesauruses as well: colours and textures, settings, and symbolism.  No longer will you be confined to stock standard "sky blue eyes"  now your heroine can eyes the colour of curacao or frostbite.  Too fabulous!

Friday, November 26, 2010

I'm Baa-aack!

That's right.   You heard it here first.  Elissa's got her groove back!  Whoop whoop *high five myself* (which btw looks ridiculous).  I lay on the 'therapy' couch and read lots of motivating articles and posts and took bits from this one and bits from other ones and had a good old think and voila - I had a break through.

It was all to do with point of view (or as the hip people like to call it: POV).  I was trying to keep everything in the POV of my heroine but in order for the story to work, some of the secondary characters needed their time in the spotlight as well.  Now there's lots of advice about not letting your secondary characters taking over and/or making sure you don't confuse your reader about who the story is really about but I'm sure that won't be a problem.  Once the secondaries are introduced they seem to be happy to play subordinate roles and so far the heroine is enjoying having a breather.

In two days I've managed over 4000 words and also completed a plotting outline that's helping me work out the last few kinks in the story.  All in all I'm kinda chuffed with myself.

Anyone else conquered something or had a break through?  Feel free to use my couch if you need to.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Well Worth a Read Wednesday

Writers may be an intense bunch of people but no one can ever say that we're not creative.  Or funny.  This week's suggestion is a light-hearted look at what can go wrong with writing your novel.  Many thanks go to the extremely talented Nathan Bransford whose post on The Nine Circles of Writing Hell made me laugh as I recognised my reactions to my WIP in recent weeks.

Also check out Nathan's post on What is Your Greatest Fear as a Writer - the responses (264) are deep, touching, sometimes funny but all are inspiring

I especially like the Eighth Circle.

Enjoy!

Monday, November 22, 2010

What Kind of Heroine Are You?

I've been spending a bit of time thinking about my heroine and what kind of person she is.  I'm looking for some hints at conflict areas for her but she's being a bit cagey so I'm resigning myself to writing my way to knowledge.  Works for lots of writers and I think I'd better add my name to their roll call lists.

Anywho, I thought to myself "Self, what kind of heroine do you think you are?" and then I was really surprised because it was actually an interesting question.  To be honest I think I would swing between a couple of "types":
  • Catherine Zeta-Jones' character in Zoro with Antonio Banderas (that feisty I-can-use-a-sword-too kinda gal)
  • The swooner (I mean if George Clooney [current hero-in-residence] were to suddenly swing in on a vine in a leopard print loincloth I think fainting would be very high on the list of reactions)
  • Unfortunately also high on the list would be saying something cheeky (not crass, just saucy).  I do have a tendency to be verbally flirty and it has landed me in trouble on more than a few occasions
  • Wimp.  As much as it pains me to say it, when I'm watching heroines struggle in a movie or read about them in a book when they reach that black moment I always find myself thinking how I'd just lay down and cry forever (and then they shame me by doing something really brave or selfless) and I'm left thinking "that's why I'm not a heroine"

So in my quest to find out what kind of heroine I was I thought I would turn to the internet - that all-encompassing receptacle of mankind's useless bits of trivia - and I got bupkis!

But I did find some very interesting quizes.  Ever wondered which Dr Seuss character you were most like?  How about Twilight or Anime or Pokemon or X-men?  There are quizes for Star Wars, South Park, Shakespeare, Jane Austen and Disney characters.  I did take one that purported to inform me which literary heroine I was most like (Jane Eyre???) and another on regency romance heroine which gave me a very funny response and which I recommend you take by clicking here but make sure you answer based on the kind of heroine you'd most like to be.

And that led me to Quizilla a really quirky site with all sorts of quizes.  Ever wanted to know what kind of board game you were most like?  How about what holiday or movie you were?  Don't do the shoe one - so far off the mark it made me cry!

Anyway have fun quizzing and tell me what kind of heroine you are!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Well Worth a Read Wednesday*

* For the purposes of this post, the part of Wednesday will be played by Friday.

After wandering in the wilderness of Procrastinacia and fighting off attacks of the native black crows, like any heroine worth her weight in Godiva chocolate, I struggled and resisted and finally......I won.  Well at least I've found a way to move forward which in my books is just as good as winning!

I know you're all wondering......"Ooo what did she find?" and the answer, my little truffles, is: *cue fanfare* Plotting.  Now please control your disappointment.  I know you were all expecting some magical spell, or artefact that once uttered or waved over a manuscript would instantly correct mistakes, tighten up storylines, polish lacklustre character motivations, banish imposing secondary characters and add that certain je ne sais quoi to your work but no can do.  It's like in Fame where Lydia Grant says:

"You've got big dreams?  You want fame?  Well, fame costs.  And right here is where you start paying....in sweat!"  (love that line!)

Anyway, enough of my rambling.  For those of us who are not pantsers (found that out the hard way) here is an excellent article (with examples *claps hands like a three year old*) for your edification.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Writer: Heal Thyself


It has struck down thousands of people across the globe.  It doesn’t discriminate against age, race, religion or gender and it can strike without warning.  Cures exist but something different is required for each victim it attacks making it impossible to issue an across-the-board antidote.

On any typical day, your average person will be going about their business when all of a sudden they are overcome by this fearsome affliction.  Some episodes last for as briefly as a few minutes but the more serious occurrences can last for weeks, months and some cases have lasted years.  

The medical profession prefer to ignore the problem rather than classifying it so sufferers are forced to struggle on their own or secretly sign up to clandestine support groups where they speak in hushed tones of the symptoms of their condition.

It is a hideous malady that steals precious time from otherwise healthy, functioning people. 

Hello, my name is Elissa and I have scribus procrastinus.

There.  I said it.  I thought I would feel better, but I still feel guilty.  And slightly silly.  But it’s true.  I’ve been avoiding the WIP since last week.  I have come up with some especially clever excuses, like:
·         I’m allowing my story to brew in my mind (like fine coffee) before I write it down;
·         I’m working through the plot points (would fly better if I didn’t already know what they were);
·         My story is like a good wine and needs time to breath (even I had a hard time swallowing that one!);
·         I need to work out useless pieces of backstory that no one else will ever read and that have no bearing on the story (like the heroine’s mother’s maiden name etc);
·         Other people’s blogs will disappear if I don’t read them every day…….and comment…..and read everyone else’s comments;

But the real truth is that I’m plagued with doubt.  Which is pure lunacy because it’s not as if as I type my words are being shown on some huge screen in Times Square New York, available for instant disparaging.  Maybe if they were, I would be inspired to write better.  No, I’m just having an attack of the blues and it’s filtering through to my writing.

So here’s the plan.  I’m going to give myself enough time to clean my house (which I’ve been avoiding like the plague while I’ve been focused on the WIP and the result is, ironically, now the house is so disgusting it will probably give me the plague) and I will do a bit of mental cleaning while I’m at it.  All you actor types out there will be familiar with my Stanislavsky approach.

And then it will be business as usual.  Without the need for an intervention or a support group!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Well Worth a Read Wednesday

Writing is usually a solitary task - unless you count the phone calls, emails, fur kids, real kids, partners, parents, BFFs, bosses, colleagues, housework etc that stick their bib into your business whenever you're trying to write,  If you don't count all of those.....it can be quite an isolating occupation.  And because there's just you (mostly) it's easy to lose faith and start doubting yourself, your work, your talent, your calling, your goals, your choices, your future.  Actually everything.  You start doubting everything.

So it's nice to find an article written by a writer for writers that gives you that little boost.  It may not dispel all your deepest darkest fears (that's what therapists are for people......that or writing a novel) but it goes a long way to making you think "hey maybe I can do this or at least give it another shot".

There are two posts by the same author - Po Bronson.  The first is called Advice on Writing and the Writing Life and the second is called My Basic Philosophy (as it comes to Writing).  Both are beautifully written and have given me the lift I needed today.  Hope they do something for you.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Shushing Your Inner Editor

Firstly, the Puddings turned out great and I'm happy to report that not only is my Mama proud of me but she's on the mend!

Secondly, I've been feeling somewhat defeated over my lack of flow with my WIP.  I know some writers will say when it's not flowing it means you gotta change something but I know it's not that.  It's my inner editor taking over and stifling my creativity with ungentle reminders of what I'm doing wrong.

So last night before I went to bed I thought I'd do a bit of reading, just to relax and guess what?  The writer made all the mistakes that have been sending me loopy over the last couple of days.  So then I thought, well if this one has these mistakes, who else is making them?  Cue insane investigation of novels searching for broken writing rules.  With each discovery I felt a bit better and eventually (leaving a very messy pile of books all over the floor) I went to bed promising myself that when I next sat down to write and my inner editor attempted a coup I would delightedly show her my evidence (and then strangle her).

Well I tried it and while it wasn't as satisfying as I had imagined it, it worked better than trying to ignore her for no reason.  And what's a girl supposed to do when she's feeling a tad on the bluchh side?  Why go shopping of course.  Don't mind if I do!  Here's what I brought home.  Like 'em?


 
















Apparently they grew up together and I just couldn't bear to part them!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Pudding Weekend

I'm taking a bit of time out from posting about writing - just because I want to! 

I'm cooking Christmas Puddings today.  They were supposed to be cooked the first weekend in October but due to a family issue we're all dealing with at the moment, the Pudding Weekend slipped by unnoticed.  But all is not lost because I ordered my suet (yes all you vegetarians can faint with disgust - suet is the fat surrounding the kidneys of a cow and is an essential ingredient in my recipe) and last night I got all my bits and pieces weighed out and this morning it was all systems go.

This recipe has been handed down from my German great grandma to my Gran to my Mum and then to me.  I have two sisters, neither one of whom were interested in carrying on the tradition (but they both eat the pudding!) and my Mum has two sisters and she was the only one who made the pudding in her family too.  Funny how things have a way of repeating in a family isn't it?  Anyway about ten years ago I started helping Mum make the puddings with a view of slowly absorbing the methodology and one day making them myself.  As in on my own.  Alone.  Which frightens the jingle bells out of me because the pudding is the one thing in my family that everyone loves and looks forward to so if I get it wrong I will be taken out the back and thumped with a large blunt object. 

So every year Mum has been letting me do more and more on my own and the last few years she's had her three wishes stirring the pudding mix and then just sat, cradling her cuppa, watching as I mix and pour and wrap (with my Dad employing his superb knot tying skills) and submerge the puds.  It's a family tradition that once the mix is ready to go into the cloths, each person in the house gets to have three wishes while stirring the mix.  It's whacky but we all do it (even my brothers who pooh-pooh anything sentimental) and I think watching everyone do it is the best part.  Then we talk about Gran making the puddings and Christmases past and Christmas this year and we usually have Christmas music on (little known fact: like plants, Christmas Pudding do much better if they have appropriate music played to them).  Mum and Dad used to stay all day, with Mum telling me when I needed to add more water to the pots etc and Dad would help me get them out and we'd oh and ah and then they'd go home.  But all day my house has the undeniably quintessential smell of Christmas.

If I take a deep breath now, I can inhale Christmas - at least what it signifies to me: family and giving thanks for another year full of blessings.

Except this year it's different.  This year my beloved Mummy is sick with bronchitis and she couldn't make it.  So the dreaded year has arrived.  The first year I did it all on my own.  Throughout it all I had to imagine my Mum sitting at the table with me, her confident voice telling me what I needed to do next and how much beer to put in and if the mix was wet enough and reminding me to pull all the ends of the cloths in.  And I remember how we normally share our horror about the time Gran didn't pull them all in tight enough and the puddings leaked out into the water.  This year I had three generations of women whispering advice and encouragement in my ear and even though I was doing it by myself, I didn't feel alone.

Family traditions are a beautiful thing.  I hope your Christmas Puddings turn out as good as mine normally do!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Well Worth a Read Wednesday

It's important to know your own voice.  And the only way you're going to know your voice is different from other authors is to read.  At the moment I'm reading authors in the same genre as my current WIP and taking notes about what they do, how they use words, the tone they use, how they include things like humour or if they include it at all.  And then I come back to my work and I do little comparisons.  It's very interesting and I have to say, enlightening.

Anyway during the course of my 'research' I came across this blog post and honestly I haven't laughed so much in a verrrryyyy looooong time (as evidenced by my use of elongated words).  What impresses me most about Allie's blog is her language: it's simple, straightforward, entertaining, descriptive and genuinely brilliant.  Check out how many replies she gets (folks I'm stoked if I get even one comment but this lady regularly has comments in the hundreds and the post I linked for you racked up over a thousand - yep you read it correctly - over A THOUSAND comments)!  So she's got to be doing something right.

It may not be a usual writing tip or trick but I hope, as a writer, it will make you think about your own writing style..........and even if it doesn't, it's as funny as all hell.

I'm going to eat cake now. 

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Letting it Flow

Most writers, after they have been writing for a while, get to know their own style.  Some writers edit as they go so by the time they are finished they have an almost perfect manuscript.  To me, these kind of writers belong in the same category as women who can just go into any clothing boutique, grab something off the rack and whoompa! they look like it was tailor made for them - in other words they blow my mind (and okay make me as jealous as hell)!  I wish I could shop like that, but even more so I wish I could write like that.

Then there are the writers who write a few chapters and then go back and tweak and twist here and there and then continue - going backwards and forwards and then they too end up with a nicely polished first draft.  These are the writers who grab things off the rack, add a belt and you've got instant smokin' outfit.

And then there are the writers who write like something possessed, the words gushing from them like a veritable fountain of verbosity and when they are finished, they go back and are more than likely surprised by some of the things they read.  You can often hear them murmur "Hey that's pretty good," or "Did I write that?" (which can either be a good thing or a bad thing), or "What the (insert expletive of choice)!!!!"

This is me.  I'm the kinda girl who has given up on doing anything more than window shopping in certain shops because I just know that nothing in there is going to fit like it's supposed to and I'm only going to come out empty handed with a insatiable craving for hot chips and chocolate  fudge ice cream.

I've described my writing process before as me watching a movie of my story in my head and I just write down whatever I 'see' happening.  I know writing is a craft and over the years I've learned sooooo much so I know that after the great release has occurred and my first draft is down, I then have to go back and add details, layer in the five senses, remove the stuff that is just filler-talk and *inhales sharply*......edit.  See all that other stuff, that's not editing to me, that's just process. it's almost instinctive.  You read it and that little voice in your head goes "Ahhhh.  No".  Editing is what I call the new bits of knowledge I have gathered recently.  And that's where I'm coming unstuck at the moment.

My current WIP is a lovely story.  A gushy-romantic-feel-good story (all in a good gushy romantic feel good sort of way).  Think Notting Hill.  If you like Notting Hill that is.  If you don't like Notting Hill then think of some other movie you like.  It's that nice.  And I was having a really great time writing it.....until *cue dramatic music* I started reading some blogs about the most common mistakes that new writers make.  You know the ones they preface by saying: "It's always easy to pick a new writer because they:...." and then they go on to list all these hideous sins that new writers make.

I've dreamt about those lists.  Woken in a sweat promising some faceless agent that I won't ever do numbers 2, 4 and 9 ever again.  They've tormented me at night and even picturing Hugh Jackman in and out of a tuxedo can't get them out of my mind.  I find every time I type the words: 'had', 'was' or 'felt' I cringe and then spend precious writing minutes trying to think of how I could say it without using those words and by the time I create something reasonable, I've lost my flow.  Editing as I go just doesn't work for me.  I stumble and stutter and the result is stiff and cold.

So, great fan that I am of giving myself permission to do things, I've given myself permission to write what comes naturally and for me that includes using 'had' and 'was' and 'yelled' and 'mumbled' and 'felt'.  And telling too much.  And not showing enough.  And ....oh the list goes on.  Forgive me father for I have sinned; it's been three pages since my last confession.....

And my self - great wise woman that she is - has given me (not quite) papal dispensation to collect all those rules and guidelines and tips and tricks and lay them down very neatly in a beautiful box lined with tissue paper and tuck it away under my desk until AFTER I have finished my first draft.  Then I'll drag it out and apply them liberally to my manuscript - transforming it from large interesting looking rock to brilliantly faceted so-sparkly-you-can't-look-directly-at-it diamond.

I think sometimes we get so caught up in the fear of making mistakes that we cramp our own style.  We lose our flow.  We hobble ourselves and make writing a chore or worse still, a tool to chip away at our confidence as a writer.  How many times have I caught myself thinking: "I can't do this.  I keep writing all those things they say not to.  They'll label me as a newbie straight away."  I forget that no one is going to see my first draft except me, so I can make every mistake in the book and it's okay, as long as I have the knowledge to fix them before I submit. 

Writing is hard work.  Success is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.  But you know what, I figure it's that 1%, that small part of art, not craft, that makes each book different.  That's voice.  That's style.  That's me.  And you can take courses, attend workshops, read 'How To' books until the cows come home, and you can learn all the craft stuff.  But that 1%, that's up to you, and for me: well, I just gotta let it flow.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Motivation

First and foremost, I am not a psychologist, just a writer trying to understand the writing process and if I'm lucky, maybe make it a little easier. 

Perhaps later, I will post about character motivation but after having a very satisfying squizz around at other blogs, and the nearness of NaNoWriMo, I thought I might discuss what motivates writers.

The motivators for writers fall into the same two categories they do for characters: external and internal (or in psychology speak: extrinsic and intrinsic).  Let's talk about external motivators first.  External motivators are things like: money, fame, good opinions/reviews, seeing your name on the cover of a book etc.  People can also be external motivators.  Editors.  Agents.  Even critique partners can be external motivational forces.  All of these things can be extremely powerful motivators but as most agents will tell you, there are only a few writers who make the kind of money that J K Rowlings did from her Harry Potter books.  As for fame, well you either have to have that one in a million (or more) book that literally turns the literary world on its head or you have to consistently churn out high quality books over a period of time and build up a following.  Or your ex-boyfriend could be George Clooney (oh I wish) who is naturally happy to endorse your book in all his interviews.......hey a girl can dream can't she?

Here's where I talk about deadlines.  I'm an unpublished writer.  That means the only deadlines I have are the ones I set myself.  And if I miss them *shrugs shoulders* who cares, right?  But I have it on very good authority, that when you are published then someone else sets them for you and then there's no shrugging shoulders (no matter how cute you look).  No siree Bob!  Deadlines are the kind of external motivators that you either love or hate.  Some writers say they couldn't write without them (too easily distracted by lovely things like blogs or ebay or twitter or TV or Facebook); other writers feel like their deadline is a great looming boogeyman, ready to pounce and devour them alive, kicking and screaming and flailing and....well you get the picture.  So when someone says they thrive on stress or work well under pressure, it's probably a safe bet that they don't mind deadlines.  (I would like to add here that just because someone says they work well under pressure does not mean they produce quality work.  I once worked with someone who proudly declared she thrived on stress which was actually her way of saying: "I'm absurdly incompetent and I will cause you immense amounts of stress which I will find very enjoyable.")  So just be careful throwing those old chestnuts around (especially around me).

On the other hand we have internal (or intrinsic) motivators.  These are the things like: increasing your knowledge or skills, learning things, improving yourself, proving to yourself you can do something or do it better than you have before, doing something because it makes you happy. 

Now some very clever people (scientists of some sort or other) have done lots of research on what kind of motivator works best for creative folks like writers and apparently the answer is: internal.  External motivators like money only work when the kind of work you are doing isn't creative but once that part of your brain is involved, people want to feel like they've progressed in either knowledge or skill or that they are on their way to achieving a goal.

Personally I think most writers (note I said most, not all) operate from a base where they are motivated by a combination of external and internal things.  Honestly, who's not going to say they haven't dreamt of swanning around at some fantastically swish cocktail party and overhearing the following conversation:
Ogler 1: Oooh who's that gorgeous young thing?
Ogler 2: Omg!  Where have you been?  She's only the newest, hottest author in the world!
Ogler 1: Does she make more than J K Rowling?
Ogler 2: (winking) Much more!
Ogler 1: I must get her autograph.......

or is it just me who has that dream?  Whatever.  The point is, at least a little part of us wants the fame and the fortune and it can make for very nice day dreaming material........

George Clooney:  I have all your books.  I was wondering if I could whisk you away to my fabo little 6 storey shack on Lake Como and you can sign them all for me?

See?

But I think it's the internal motivators that really keep us going and it's those that we need to examine when we lose focus or get a case of the blahs.  What motivates us to write?  By identifying that, we should be able to address our lack of motivation in a more meaningful way.  It could be that our internal motivators have changed or we have put too much stock in an external motivator. 

I'd happily confess that my motivators are roughly 80% internal and 20% external but that changes depending on my mood and what's happening in my life.  Let's just say that what started as an external motivator has become an almighty powerful internal motivator and on the days when I think "ah I can't be bothered" my internal motivator steps up and slaps me upside my head, stares me straight in the eye and says: You what?  (For some reason my internal motivator always talks with a Southern American drawl - strange but then that's me!)

And yes that 20% is mainly taken up by pathetic fantasies of gorgeous men so far out of my league they might as well be a constellation, absolutely falling over themselves trying to get my autograph.  I've spent many happy hours conjuring up what to write in the front of George's book.  And Tom Selleck's.  And Chris O'Donnell's......and sadly the list goes on. So, what about you?  Are you an externally or internally motivated writer?  And what do you do when your motivation goes AWOL?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Well Worth a Read Wednesday

A big thank you to Sally Clements for directing me to Alexandra Sokoloff's blog which you can find here.

NaNoWriMo is looming.  Anyone taking the plunge this year?  I'm thinking no because my current WIP is clunking along nicely and I'm enjoying all the research I'm doing along the way far too much to put it on hold and concentrate solely on the word count.  I may use JanNoWriMo to help with edits if I'm that far along (she says already knowing she won't be). 

But if you are contemplating the November writing marathon then you simply must visit Alexandra's blog.  She's doing all these amazing posts about preparation and they are nothing short of fabulous.  Lots of juicy-sink-your-teeth-into-OMG-this-is-sooooo-helpful kinda stuff. 

I think I have a girl-crush 8)

I don't know how other people write but I tend to visualise my story - and by that I mean I really see it.  Like a movie.  It's probably because of my theatre background (yes I am/was a frustrated actor) but that's the way I roll.  I get the whole thing - the actors, the settings, the score, the whole shabang.  I even took a unit of Scriptwriting in my Masters degree (as yet unfinished) because it's so much a part of my writing process.  So for me, Alexandra is a dream come true.

Now don't worry if you're not as...well let's just say cinematically focused as I am because Alexandra talks about writing novels as well.  She's a very talented woman (who's gushing?) and I'd be surprised if she didn't have a pearl of wisdom to offer every kind of writer.  Go on, prove me wrong.  I dare ya!

Monday, October 18, 2010

God Bless Generous Writers

And I mean that sincerely.  There are some people who, when they come into knowledge, clutch it tightly to their metaphorical chests, guarding it from prying eyes.  For unknown reasons they prescribe to the old adage that 'Knowledge is Power' but they miss the point.  Knowledge is power; it's a heady, thrilling, liberating feeling to learn something.  To know something is a wonderful thing and the more you know, the more wonderful it is.  But, and here's the part that of which the Knowledge Grinches are ignorant, it becomes even more wonderful when you share that knowledge with someone else.  When you share that knowledge with a multitude, then that feeling is magnified as well.

Which leads me back to the title of this post.  Anyone who has read my previous posts will know how highly I esteem my blog mentors - those writers (both published and unpublished) who have the generosity of spirit to share what they have learned in order to smooth the path for those of us that choose to tread this road as well. 

Shirley Jump has blessed us with part two of a post about Showing Not Telling and generally how to improve your writing so that it flows like honey on the page (as opposed to congealing like cooking fat as mine seems to insist on doing).  But by sharing her experience, Shirley is guiding and mentoring me, helping me grow as a writer and improve my craft.

So bless you Shirley (and all my other blog mentors) - the road ahead looks smoother already!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Well Worth a Read Wednesday

Apart from the narcissistic element of this blog (and let's face it - no one who writes a blog can claim NOT to be narcissistic) one of the things I wanted to do was help other apprentice writers.  Now I've got a pretty healthy ego but even I'm not so impressed by my own skills that I would think that I could do that on my own.  What I meant was by finding articles or essays or books or films or whatevers that may be able to help with those things that always seem to trip up a newbie.

So I thought a regular feature of my blog should be highlighting some of the amazing posts I've found while researching/procrastinating/hiding from my WIP.  My only gripe is that I always tend to find things AFTER I need them.  Take for instance the recent New Voices competition.  I thought my entry was okay - nothing spectacular (I'm not practised enough for spectacular just yet) but I had hoped that the eds might see a spark and ask to see more or something else.  They didn't.  And after reading Shirley Jump's article, I now know why.

I don't know many writers who, when they were starting out, didn't have a problem with the whole 'Show Don't Tell' concept.  It's not difficult to understand - pretty straight forward really - but it's really hard to do.  And by 'really hard' I mean the hair pulling out, swearing at inanimate objects, keyboard tossing kind of hard.  But fear not because the amazing Shirley Jump has come to our rescue (see there where 'I' just became 'we' - we're in this together now whether you like it or not)!

Shirley's article is fabulous not only because it explains HOW to Show Not Tell but best of all - it gives examples!!  I love examples.  And even better, she gives non-examples (for those of you unfamiliar with this term it means how not to do it - aka Elissa's NV entry).  So rush over and have a read and then print it out and pin it somewhere near your writing nook.

If only someone could invent a keyboard for writers that:
  • makes a loud Doom-doom noise every time I modify 'said' with an adverb; 
  • shrieks like a banshee every time I use the verb 'to be' or a form of it;
  • tsk-tsks every time I include the phrases 'looked' or 'felt'; and
  • says "oh no you didn't" if I forget and use anything other than 'said' for a dialogue tag.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

A Little Dazed and Somewhat Confused.....

I think that aptly describes how most people are feeling after reading the second List from the NV comp.  I will admit that I had my fingers crossed that the editors saw something in my writing - enough to warrant a "please can we see more", a "please can we see something different" or even "please can you fill in for a temp in the typing pool".  Alas my name failed to appear.  But what surprised me the most (and yes I probably should have learnt from the first List) was that names I was positive would be on the second list - weren't.  In fact I didn't recognise any of the names on the second list (not that I'm saying that I know that many people) but given the quality of some of the entries from people I do know, I have to say I was a little stunned.  And of course disappointed for them.

So my decision to take a break from M&B writing for a wee bit has been reinforced.  If I hadn't a newly started chapter for my Single Title to focus on and feel all excited about, I think the disappointment about the NV second List would have been much greater.

I am going to imagine there's a third List, entitled: Writers To Keep An Eye On and that my name is on the top (a lack of hubris?  Moi?  Never!) and that all my far more deserving and worthy blogfriends and mentors are right there too!

Ego sum a scriptor.  Ego mos persevero scribo.  Ego ero vulgo.
I am a writer.  I will continue to write.  I will be published.

Now I'm heading over to the Minxes blog for a pre-breakfast cocktail.  Hmmmm now what will I wear......?

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Perfect Opening Line

It's every writer's dream isn't it?  To write that line that impels people to read on.  The one that hooks the reader so firmly that they forget where they are and what they were doing.  It's a tough job and plenty of writers have lamented over their opening line.  I'm kinda stuck there myself at the moment which is what prompted this post.


There were some great examples I read in the chapters submitted for the New Voices competition and I've been back through many of my favourite books, just focusing on that first sentence.  But none of them stand up to the opening lines entered in the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction contest, where entrants are encouraged to write the worst opening line of a fictional novel.  You can read the results of this year's competition here but I thought I would include my personal fav - just to give you a laugh (or maybe not if your humour isn't a little twisted like mine)!


Winner: Purple Prose
The dark, drafty old house was lopsided and decrepit, leaning in on itself, the way an aging possum carrying a very heavy, overcooked drumstick in his mouth might list to one side if he were also favoring a torn Achilles tendon, assuming possums have them.
Scott Davis Jones
Valley Village, CA

There are certainly more that got me giggling.  I suppose they're a lesson in how NOT to write a great opening line.  The most depressing thing is that you have to be a really good writer to write something so awesomely bad.  Bad writers just write crap - not clever crap but the kind that make you wonder if the writer has the kind of friends who think it's funny to say things like: "Are you kidding me Hershel, that's got to be the best damn thing I've ever read!  Of course you should enter the competition" while trying not to laugh or maybe......just no friends at all.

Monday, October 4, 2010

And The Award Goes To......

Imagine my surprise when it went to me?  A lovely lady by the name of Madeleine Maddocks, who writes a blog called Scribble and Edit, left me a message to say that she was presenting me with an award with the quirky little name: One Lovely Blog Award.  I was taken aback to be sure because I've only been writing this blog for such a short time and as far as I knew only a few people have popped over to visit and Madeleine's name wasn't one I recognised.  Over the course of the morning, I've been thinking.  Now bear with me because the way my brain works (it does? I hear someone mutter) is a strange and wonderful thing.  I've been reading, following and posting on blogs for over twelve months now - blogs from all over the place and it's fantastic picking up little turns of phrase or sneaking peeks into people's writing, and personal, lives.  But for some reason, the idea that someone from the other side of the world (omg omg omg) has read my blog, really blew me away!

Anyway after coming to terms with the reality of my work (albeit mostly bathering about shoes and competitions and writing) being of interest to others, it suddenly struck me how amazing it must feel to have a book out there.  Now I'm REALLY (yes it does deserve all caps) pumped about writing!!!! (and yes it does deserve all those exclamation marks).

So getting back to the award.  Now (anal retentive that I am) I did a bit of research and I was able to trace it back to the lady who created the award back in 2008.  Her blog can be found at Works of Art by Sara.  As it has been passed on the rules have been changed slightly so I'm going to follow Sara's rules:
1.Add the logo to your blog
2. Link to the person from whom you received this award
3. Nominate 7 or more blogs
4. Leave a message on their blog, letting them know they have "One Lovely Blog"

I've done 1 and 2 so here's my seven or more nominations and my reasons for nominating them (not necessary according to the rules but I always like to add my two cents worth):

Maisey @ Maisey Yates
Maisey is an incredibly talented women who manages to combine motherhood to three gorgeous kids, a hunksband (her description, but let me tell you, it's very apt!) and dishing out spoonfuls of delicious wisdom on her own blog and over at the Seven Sassy Sisters blog while churning out amazing books at a truly dizzying pace.  What a woman!  And my guru. (and my hero but don't tell her I said that).

Lacey (of course) @ Lacey Devlin
Lacey is one of the sweetest bloggers you'll ever meet.  While we were all sweating over our NV entries, Lacey was busy making badges for us to display on our blogs and setting up a Wall of Fame for us.  And then she put in her entry and boy was it a doozy (that's another way of saying 'fabulous' in Australia).  So thanks Lacey, for all your efforts and for dedicating part of your blog to others - so unselfish and truly deserving of a Lovely Award!


Nicola @ Nicola Marsh 
Nicola blogs almost every day and for blog junkies like myself that makes her a dream come true.  But along with all her insightful tips and inspirational stories, Nic also gives a lot of herself: what's happening with her family, her health and her football team.  All of which goes to make her a very special, talented lady with a great deal to offer.

Jackie @ Jackie Ashenden
A sinfully sexy blue knitted octopus.  A Voice of Doom.  Crows of Doubt.  Dr Jax.  All these elements go to make up Jackie's blog - an intriguing, beautifully honest and generously offered blog that captures all of Jackie's highs and lows on her way to being published.  And take my word for it, we will all be sitting around smiling smugly to the irritation of our friends and saying "Oh I knew her BEFORE she was famous!" very soon.

Romy @ Romy Sommer
The South African beauty with an alter ego (gotta love that!) with a penchant for the 1920s and doesn't mind being called a Minx.  Romy's blog is a warm, comfortable place to have a chat and she is always promoting South African (I can't abbreviate it or people will think I'm talking about South Australia) writers.  Additionally Romy took the time (when she really didn't have to) to provide a newbie with some pointers on my NV entry.

Lorraine @ Lorraine Wilson
I've only just started reading Lorraine's blog and I'm hooked.  She has such an honest, fresh take on things and I really love her voice (did I just hear someone groan? must be a NV entrant).  But seriously Lorraine's blog is a great read and I have really enjoyed going through her archive and I've laughed and learnt stuff - winning combination in my book.

The Girlfriends @ The Girlfriends Book Club
The Girlfriends are relative new too (just like moi) but boy what they don't have in longevity, they sure have made up for in content.  It's a blog for women writers and they have guest bloggers posting something new very regularly and it's not fluff and nonsense stuff either - really meaty, get-your-teeth-into topics as well as providing some great things-I-have-learned-as-a-writer stories.  And I'm not just saying this (why would I?) but they do actually treat you like one of their girlfriends - definitely worth a lurk and then you'll be hooked.

Now all this talk of awards has me thinking (I know, I know - two lots of thinking in one day, I need to slow down before I do myself a damage) BUT I have encountered such wonderful, talented, generous people since I discovered blogging that I'm tempted to create an award myself.  I'll let that one simmer for a while and post about it soon. 

Off now to let my nominees know about their award!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Change of Plans

A girl's allowed to change her mind.  And I've changed mine.  I'm still going to start something new and enjoy writing something longer, exploring characters in greater detail (including secondary characters) and allowing myself to indulge in describing scenery and the weather and maybe food, who knows.  But when I've had my literary holiday, I won't be returning to Aiden and Emily. 

I've decided to give them a holiday of their own.  Like any good comfort food, they need to be allowed to simmer on low heat for a while and then I'll come back, add some seasoning, stir things up and serve up a partial for consideration. 

I'm still having problems deciding which of my ideas is the best one to dive into.   Each time I read through my plot outlines for the ideas I get caught up and think "Yep this is the one" but then I look at the next one and think exactly the same thing.  Remembering Potter Moon and Amiata are the two oldest ideas and Dear Miss Preston and Queen of the Fey are more recent gifts from a newly discovered muse.   Honestly I think it's down to Amiata and Dear Miss Preston but they're so different but both really exciting ideas..........maybe that's it: I can start both and then see where they take me.

Okay off to find photos of maisonettes in Holland Park in London and research Italian donkeys.  Go on admit it, you're intrigued aren't you?

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Carnival is Over

....and what a ride!  But after having spent so long rewriting and editing and polishing the same 4000-odd words, I feel the need to focus on something new for a week or so and then I can dive back into my ms and tidy it up to submit the old fashioned way.

I've been blog trawling and having a great time (albeit wasting precious writing time) doing it.  Found some new sites that I've bookmarked and some new books that I will be adding to my "I Want To Read This" list.  Lots of people are blogging about post-comp blues and giving great advice about subbing the old fashioned way which made me think about a post I read on a blog months ago.  Don't you hate it when you can remember some of the post and/or blogger but not enough to find the blog/post again?  Anyway it was about the four Ps of writing and I can remember one of them was Perseverance but I can't remember the other three!  I think one was Planning but I'm only guessing now.  So I went in search of said blog remembering vaguely it had a blue background (helpful? not at all) and it was by a woman who wrote YA novels (handy? again, not so much). 

But in my trawl I did come across an interesting post by Mary Danielson called Your Book is Different and you can read it here in full if you're interested.  But it did get me thinking about a story I had all planned out until a VERY famous author wrote a TV series with a plot VERY similar to mine.  I was crushed and had shelved the idea until I read this today and now I'm thinking: maybe time to unshelve and start writing?  Given Mary's points about voice and my characters vs her characters etc.  What pisses me off the most is that I had this story mapped out years before the tv series aired but I was being Scardey-Pants Elissa back then and figured tomorrow would be a good time to start - and you know how effective that argument is to a procrastinator don't you?  So for the last eight years or so I have been collecting ideas, writing down the plots and characters and then......well nothing.

And therein lies my current conundrum - which of my ideas do I start?  So I said to myself; "Self, make a nice, neat list and then pick".  And that's what I'm going to do.  Hopefully I'll be able to wave some techno wand and I can magic up of those very attractive word count thingys to sit over there *waggles thumb and rolls eyes*.  Just don't pay too much attention to the goal on account of the fact I'm going to be guessing that bit, okay?

Monday, September 27, 2010

Time to Shine

Not me - my manuscript. 

It's Monday 27 September here and because we're ten hours in front of the UK (roughly) it won't be long until the ten finalists for the New Voices comp are announced.  I can't wait because I'm so excited to see if any of my blog mentors and g-url-friends have made it in.  I'm positive that some of them will due to the level of talent and skill they demonstrated in their chapters.  Of course, it raises an interesting point about voting - are we only allowed one per person or multiples.  Because if it's only one, then it's going to be torture.

Which brings me to the shining reference.  I got some lovely comments about my chapter and the accomplished Romy Somers pointed out that there was a bit too much backstory, not quite enough dialogue and Emily may need a little softening.  So I'm getting out my polishing rag and I'm gonna clean up that sucka until it's so shiny I can see my face in it!  And then?  Well then I'm going to take a huge breath and I'm going to submit it.

Eeeeek!  Did I just say that out loud?  

Thursday, September 23, 2010

A Little Something for Ms Ashenden

A while ago I promised the lovely Ms Jackie Ashenden a pair of cyber shoes from my next shopping spree.  Well I got her the sassiest pair I could find but then came the problem of how to get them to her.  So I've resorted to having to post them on my blog and letting Jackie know they're here for her to pick up.

Here they are, Jackie.  Are they sassy enough for ya?

They're made out of python leather (and the fluffy stuff is Mongolian Fur).  Of course I saw them and instantly thought of you (don't ask).  And no, I didn't forget Hoo, although he is difficult to buy for. 
ME:  Five pairs of Gucci loafers, size 10 please.
SALESMAN: Cinque? (Gucci shoes = Hot Italian Salesman)
ME: That's right, five.
SALESMAN: Your five boyfriends are very lucky, Signorina.
ME: *giggling coquettishly* Silly man, I don't have five boyfriends.........I'm buying shoes for my friend's octopus *winks*

Sadly I had to decline a very tempting offer of a ride on his vespa because I had too many shoe boxes to carry!  (Hoo you owe me the phone number of a hunky young Italian man with connections in the shoe business).  Here are Hoo's New Shoes (sounds like a kiddy book):

Understated style - has Hoo written all over them doesn't it?

Oh and I owe Lacey a pair too for getting her fabulous entry in before the NV comp closed.  Well she did it and what an entry it is!  Makes me wanna crawl under a desk and wait until my own Mr Dare turns up ;)  These are for you Lacey - consider the shoebery settled.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Life is Too Short to Wear Bad Shoes

So I've donned my bestest, most expensive, most bewdiful pair of heels and I've strutted my New Voices entry up to the Inbox, pasted it in there, prettied it up (as best as possible) and waved goodbye to it. 


And boy do I feel good!  No, seriously.  I feel the kind of great that words really can't describe.  Not because I think my entry is so fabulous that it's going to knock the socks off anyone lucky enough to read it .....although....!  No just kidding.  I'm feeling so good because I took the risk.  I enjoyed myself so much during the writing process that it felt positively naughty.  I enjoyed researching how to polish and edit my work and then enjoyed applying that knowledge (a big poster-girl salute here to my blog mentors Jackie Ashenden, the Sassy Sisters, Maisy Yates, Nicola Marsh and all the talented people who write for QueryTracker).  But most of all I enjoyed entering it because even if I don't win (and let's face it in the face of the talent that's already up on that board, I'm being optimistic if I say my chances are at best anorexic) I've done it.

I'm not wearing bad shoes.  I'm not accepting that this burning passion inside of me to write is just something to keep to myself.  I'm not going to put writing off for when I have more time, more money or less demands on my attention.  I'm not going to add writing to a list of regrets, a list of I-wish-I-hads.  I'm not settling for less than what that little voice in my head keeps whispering I could have.  I'm not allowing the fear of what other people might say or think or do control my actions.  I'm not letting my negative thoughts (or what Jackie calls the Voice of Doom) ruin my moment.  I'm not wearing bad shoes.*

I know it's Sunday and who knows when my entry will appear in all it's nekid glory but you know what - I don't care.  I'm going to continue in my quest to be positive and so it's time to start polishing chapter two (The Elevator Scene) and THEN because I've been such a good girl I'm going to start on a new ms.  A chicklit book, the idea for which came out of nowhere and has been singing its siren song to me while I've been busy with Emily and Aiden.

But first I must show you the newest addition to my closet family:

Sooooo pretty!!

*Bad is, of course, a subjective term and you can take it to mean ugly, or ill-fitting, or old-fashioned, or tacky or whatever.   As a metaphor, it works for me.  What works for you?