Tuesday, June 14, 2011

21 days of writing

There's plenty of reference to research that shows it takes 21 days to form a new habit, or lose an unwanted one. So I figure it's worth applying this idea to writing.

I know I'm not alone in struggling to find time to write fiction around all the other things that go on in your life - work, family, friends, pets, gardening, exercise, cleaning, etc, etc. Because I write for a living, I've used that as an excuse that it's even harder for me to commit to my fiction projects.

So, starting 13 June, I work on the WIP I got all inspired about last week for one hour a day. Doesn't matter if I have to split that hour up, whether it's completed in the morning or at night. I just have to do it. Every day. For 21 days.

Sounds simple, huh?

Oh, and I'm also doing 21 days of yoga practice too. Nothing major, starting with 15 minutes every day of the sun salute routine we learnt at class last year.

I can do it. I want to do it. I am doing it!

There are numerous interesting posts online to read on the whole habit-forming concept. Here are some that appealed to me:

Do you really know what you want? The law of attraction really works when we are clear about our intentions. If we merely wish for something to happen, it won’t. You have to be able to feel it, smell it, see it… 

According to yoga teachings , it takes:
    40 days to change a bad habit into a positive one;90 days confirms the new habit in you; 120 days allows the new habit to become who you are; 1,000 days ensures you have mastered the habit.
An online tool to help you form your desired new habits.

What would you like to change about your life - writing or otherwise - where the 21 days of practice concept could help you?

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Finding inspiration anywhere

A seemingly random thing has pushed me back into wanting to work on one of my WIPs - which is a very good thing, as it's been some time since I've pulled the laptop out with fiction writing in mind.

We went to drinks for a friend's birthday over the weekend and I realised that her new partner was totally hero material -- well, he has the physical characteristics I want my former Special Forces hero to have. During a plotting session a while back, I thought actor Daniel Craig would provide enough inspiration -- and he certainly provides plenty, but  I don't know him personally. I've never had the opportunity to be in his physical presence (more's the pity, but then you think what the heck would I ever talk about with Daniel Craig, so never mind...)

So, as the friend's boyfriend and I chatted over drinks, I was mentally cataloguing the sheer weight of muscle on his arms, the intricate tattoos on one arm which he'd told me tells the story of his son's life, the chiseled jaw, his stature and presence -- they all added up to provide me with a real live person on which to base my hero.And that was certainly an inspirational moment and shows we can find ideas for our books anywhere, and why going out into the world can be a very good thing for writers.

The second piece of inspiration came from reading a Nora Roberts book, The Search. This fantastic story was set in the San Juan Islands off the coast of Seattle, a place I wondered whether it might be possible for my characters to slip back into the US without having a border control passport check. Still not sure about the border control aspect, but it sure was great to read a really enjoyable book - just as you'd expect from Ms Roberts - set in an area that I had already started to research as a possible setting for a couple of scenes of my WIP. That was very cool and unexpected.

These discoveries inspired me to think hard about this book, about what I'd done with it so far, where I wanted it to go and why it appealed to me then and now.

Of course I will be very careful not to make my hero too much like the person I know, but it's amazing how real I could make my hero seem to me by picturing him via a kind of overlay on my friend. (No offense to the friend intended - he's a wonderful guy and I was listening to our conversation, honestly!) Never before have I met someone who could inspire aspects of my fictional character, so that's been great.

The other funny thing I discovered this morning while I was reading through the plot outline I started developing with First Draft in 30 Days was that when I had been working on this WIP pantser-style, I'd already written several scenes that now I realise do not add anything constructive to the story. It was like writing your way through a maze and hitting the dead end. So, right now, I'm inspired by the thought that I really am onto something with this whole concept of plotting and developing characters before I write too much of the story. I think it might end up being a blend of plotting/planning and then drafting scenes and/or chapters. Well, that's the process that appeals at the moment, so I can feel that I'm making real progress on the actual story, while also keeping the story going in the right direction. We'll see... it's all a fun learning experience, isn't it?
Happy writing, all.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Another useful book: The Novel Writer's Toolkit

Just a quick note this morning about Bob Mayer's The Novel Writer's Toolkit.

Ever since I participated in Bob' Warrior Writer workshop a year or so ago, I've been following his comments on writing and publishing. I bought the Warrior Writer book too, but must admit became completely distracted by the fact that it's not properly formatted, could do with a massive tidy-up and be presented professionally. If you can get past that, there are many really interesting things to think about, particularly about you and what you want out of being a writer.

The NWT also covers much of the same ground, but that's okay, as I needed to think seriously about what I want out of being a writer on this road to publication. (It's also professionally edited, formatted and laid out, which is nice!)

When I did the WW workshop, I, like many others, was writing goals such as wanting to be a New York Times bestselling author within 5 years and the like. Okay, it's got the first part of the SMART goal concept right - it's specific and measurable - but is it achieveable? Well, maybe, but there are many, many things outside my control when it comes to making it onto the NYT bestseller list!

So, it's proving valuable to relook at ME as a writer. As Bob says: It all begins with you, the creator of your novel.

In this first chapter about you as a writer, Bob also says that the more you write, the more you will become a fan of outlining and doing a lot of work before you write the first sentence. Naturally, this resonates with me given what I've been doing with First Draft in 30 Days.

Bob talks about patience and self-discipline (not my strongest characteristics), the ability to organise (sometimes), an active imagination (sure!), the mind (well, I do have one), contentment and desire where he talks about money vs the desire to write and that balance we're always working on (yes, that's a balancing act for me too), setting objectives (I'm very good at setting them; sadly, I'm not a proven completer), writer's block (where I agreed with Bob's assessment that much of the time writer's block is another name for procrastination and I am a Master Procrastinator!), open-mindedness or willingness to change (yep, I'm willing to change), the writing routine (sometimes good, mostly not), and passion for your story (and that's what I keep losing).

It's all good stuff! Currently I'm working through the section of turning an idea into a story. This may be where I find my ideas haven't been strong enough which could be why I lose passion and stop working on them. Or, hopefully, as I think FDi30D is showing me, that the hard work developing plot and characters needs to come first for me.

All I know is whenever I think about giving up the idea of writing, I get really, really sad. The natural optimist in me says "you CAN do this, you're a smart woman, come on!"

So onwards and upwards on this fascinating learning process.
Happy writing all

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

A very useful book: First Draft in 30 Days

It's a well-known fact - writers' groups are frequently the source of an incredible amount of useful information. I thank Bronwen Evans, of my writers' organisation RWNZ, for mentioning in a recent Heart 2 Heart newsletter that she had found the book First Draft in 30 Days a useful resource. Bron credits a chat with award-winning, prolific author Stephanie Laurens as sparking her own successful use of this book.

With FDi30D duly purchased, I'm now part way through the intensive plotting process for a romantic suspense I've been dabbling around with for...hhmmm...about three years.  It's described as 'a novel writer's system for building a complete and cohesive manuscript'. I have to admit to initially thinking it would guide me to write an actual first draft, but Karen's right when she says her detailed plot outlines are virtually a complete first draft. I can see that it's possible to write a very clean, well-structured manuscript from this detailed outline knowing that all the hard work on vitial plot twists, multi-layered characters, settings, black moments and much, much more has all been done.

As I started working through this indepth process, I had a real lightbulb moment. I'm not a 'pantser', I'm a plotter who simply didn't know how to plot!

I know many writers who would be horrified to know exactly what's going to happen in their stories before they've written them. The thing is we all have to find our own ways to achieve that wonderful feeling of writing The End and so far, it's looking promising that this method is something I can learn from and develop my writing skills around.

Best I keep at it...
Talk soon

Just get on with it...

I've made an important decision.

After several years - 5, 6, maybe 7 years - I am now serious about writing a complete novel.

I've been phaffing around at this novel writing business for TOO LONG! Life is too short to keep saying I'm going to do something without actually doing it. So the phrase of the day is: Just get on with it!

So here I am. A published writer, sure, with numerous articles, newsletters and magazines to my credit. Literally thousands of words written over the past ten years I've had my own business as a freelance writer and PR consultant.

But have I finished writing a whole book??? No... I've got chapters and plots and notes and character interviews and that's all very well, but all that does not make a completed, readable, potentially-saleable novel. And that makes me seeth with annoyance at myself. All I'm doing is letting myself down and this will stop. Now, today, this very minute...

As a member of Romance Writers of New Zealand, Romance Writers of America and RWA Mystery Suspense Chapter, I've been tapping into some serious veins of excellent knowledge for some time.

Now is the time to put that knowledge to good use -- for me -- and if you're working on writing your first novel too, perhaps some of these ideas, comments, facts and references will be of use to you too.

So let's get started.

Let's take this fantastic, magical, challenging, heart-stopping journey towards writing THE END...with about 80,000 finely-crafted words before that wonderful phrase, of course!

Happy writing