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.


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 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 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.