Why are some writer activities so hard to get started?
In your head you visualise doing them with ease…and then you sit down at the table. An hour later and you are still sat at the table staring at what you are supposed to have started.
The frustrating thing about the activities we find difficult to start doing is that they are always the ones that are going to be of most value to us. *Eye roll*
Here are some writer activities that fit this bill:
Writing Everyday (even when we don’t feel like it). This is a challenging activity to start doing because things like TV box sets, books, films, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest always seem far more appealing and its amazing how that feeling of tiredness can occur just as you decide to start writing. The only way to improve at our craft is to write everyday.
Self Promoting. I have been trying to promote my podcast. Oh my goodness this is so bloody hard to start doing! Respect to all you authors out there promoting your books. Self promotion is yuk! It makes me cringe. I can tweet the life out of my blog posts but I struggle with anything else that I have created. I would rather stick pins in my eyes than start doing a spot of promotion. The trouble with this one is that if you don’t promote yourself and your work – who will?
Editing a First Draft. My first draft has been waving at me from across the room for a few weeks now and I have been struggling to start editing it. It just feels like a mountain of work and my initial reaction is to go lie on the sofa with a cushion over my face. If I don’t edit, my novel won’t move on and develop.
Interacting With Readers. Oh this is a tough one to start doing! I did this through Wattpad and it took some guts to get going. Real life readers scared me for years. Readers are your customers at the end of the day. They are the ones who will hopefully buy your books. At some point you do need to start interacting with them.
Telling Close Friends & Family That You Are a Writer. This is a tough one to start doing. I don’t know why it is so challenging and stressful but it is. By doing this people around you start to understand you a little more.
Choose Your Mindset. My creative mood swings can be likened to a roller coaster ride at a theme park. One day I am up, riding high and feeling positive about my work and the next day I am down, glum and wishing I didn’t have such a creative passion. Recently I have learnt that you can start to choose your mindset with writing and take control of your feelings. It is not easy to start doing as its like your mind wants to languish in that self loathing and negative state. The other day I was suffering from creative doom and gloom early on in the morning. In a grump I did some Yoga, meditation and then decided to select another mindset. I made a real effort to switch it. Well, my day completely changed. I had a really positive and upbeat creative day. It was all down to choosing my mindset. I am glad I started doing this.
If you have some other writer activities that you struggle to start please share.
In my serialised fictional podcast – The Diary of Roxy Collins, the main character Roxy has flown to Greece to persuade her hell-raising cousin Maggie to return home. The big question is whether there will be some romance for Roxy out in Greece?
I am a BIG fan of holiday romances in films, fiction and in real life too (pre wedlock days obviously). Holiday romances can be both life changing and memorable.
So, as a writer I thought it would be good to capture the key ingredients for bringing your characters together romantically, in a magical and faraway place.
After some extensive research for this blog post (which involved quizzing friends about their holiday romances – very tough!) I have drawn up the five stages for the standard holiday romance.
Holiday Excitement / Go wild. This is the stage where your character realises that they are on holiday and free from the drudgery of normal life. It is an amazing feeling to be stepping onto a golden beach, looking out across a crystal clear blue sea and hearing that little voice inside you whisper “oh my goodness I am on holiday!”. Suddenly you get this powerful urge to go wild! Cue an excited shriek and a leap into the air, quickly followed by an energetic swim, a variety of fancy cocktails, a bit of a dance and topped off with some stinging sunburn and a sore head. Your character needs to let their fictional hair down and start to enjoy themselves. In Roxy’s case she’s rocking her brand new string bikini, ignoring some nagging doubts about those wobbly bits on her thighs, drinking cocktails and dancing on tables. Sigh!
Unexpected Meeting of Potential Holiday Love. This is the stage where your main character will have an unexpected and unplanned meeting with their holiday love. These situations are even more magical when your character has not gone looking for love, as they might have other stuff to do or have more pressing things on their mind. Love needs to take your characters by surprise! In Roxy’s case she’s rescued a couple of times by a handsome stranger, who she initially finds annoying. I love romantic unions which start off with mild irritation.
Holiday Romance. Holiday romances usually start two days before the other person has to fly home, so you have to jam pack – moonlight walks on the beach, kissing over cocktails, reading romantic poetry on a sun lounger and playing endless games of Travel Chess into a cheeky forty eight hours. By the time a holiday romance comes to an end you are normally in need of another holiday to recover…after all that Travel Chess! Sigh! So, during this stage you want to be coming up with an array of romantic activities to keep your reader and characters engaged.
Delusion. This is the stage there you are in the middle of your holiday romance (normally around 6 hrs in!) and delusion strikes! Your holiday love will live 300 miles away from you back home and might even work at a different time of day or night to you. This does not stop your imagination from running wild and visualising an idyllic future for you both. Your brain will cleverly miss out the arduous five hour journey to see each other every second weekend, the lonely nights and the stab of jealousy when you see them enjoying a party back at home. So, as your characters both sip cocktails and gaze lovingly into each other’s eyes they need to be thinking about how this holiday romance will definitely work back home and how much they adore long distance love.
Heartbreak. Even if you decide to carry on the holiday romance back home there is always heartbreak at the airport. You are both tear stained and clinging onto each other like its your last day on Earth. They promise to write and call you everyday. In my experience your holiday love flies home days before you and the rest of your holiday goes downhill as you can’t face life without them. You end up consoling yourself over a few cheeky cocktails and then falling into the arms of some else and crying into your pillow. The heartbreak continues as they NEVER contact you again, despite you showering them with letters, poetry and voice mail messages – sigh! So for a realistic holiday romance you need to be capturing this final stage of heartbreak for your characters. I love a tearful goodbye at an airport. Make your characters fall apart emotionally as they wave farewell to their holiday love.
Please let me know whether your holiday romance carried on back home or were you like me writing War & Peace every week and not hearing a thing? Obviously this was back in the day when we sent handwritten letters – sigh.
I hope these handy tips on writing a holiday romance have been useful. I do like to share my own experiences in my blog posts.
Please support a blonde writer and tune into the latest Roxy podcast episode – ten minutes of holiday romance fun!
Start with the ‘The Hero’ Episode which lays the foundations for a holiday romance and then nip into ‘Cocktails, Hangovers and Ankles’ where emotions really run wild.
Many months ago you ditched your unfinished draft. Writer / draft relations sadly broke down at 56k words. In your head the story was amazing and definitely a literary masterpiece, but reality was very different on paper.
There was something wrong with the draft but you couldn’t work out what it was. Instead of thinking it through you hit the ‘ditch draft’ button!
After wiping away your tears and taking a couple of deep breaths you placed your unfinished draft in a folder and vowed to never open it again.
After a few weeks of wandering around like a lost soul you started to rebuild your writing life; creating a new story and making some new character friends.
One day out of the blue you find yourself going back to it.
There are 5 stages to returning to an old and previously ditched draft:
Echo from the past. You will be enjoying your new writing life; working hard on a brand new story and socialising in your head with some enchanting new characters. Your unfinished and previously ditched draft will just be a distant memory. Whilst doing something unrelated to writing (house work, shopping, driving etc) you will get an unexpected echo from your literary past. It will come to you in the form of a memory from your old unfinished story or you might meet a person in your daily life who reminds you of one of your old characters. Whatever forms it comes in, the echo will make your literary ears prick up.
Denial. It really is amazing how something like your old draft, deemed as dead and buried, can overnight come alive again in your mind. Soon you find yourself thinking about it whilst sat in traffic or matching your loved one socks. You will tell yourself that all these thoughts mean nothing. It was ditched for a good reason.
Revelation. Your relationship with your old novel came to a grinding halt over a plot issue. Back then it seemed insurmountable. From nowhere you suddenly get a powerful literary revelation. The answer to the problem with your draft hits you whilst hanging washing out to dry in the garden. Gasp! The sequence of events in your plot was in the wrong order – that’s why it didn’t work! You wonder whether the answer has just been given to you by some higher spiritual being. After staggering about looking confused and getting some raised eyebrows from the neighbours you realise that your old draft could be rescued. It will just require some reordering and a bit of rewriting. You roll your eyes and exhale loudly. Your mind recalls all the literary pain you went through just after Christmas when everything felt bleak and there was a growing sense of doom associated with your half-finished novel. All those tears and creative tantrums now feel like a waste of time.
The Return. You remove your old half-finished novel from its folder and dust it off. After a few deep breaths you start to read. It’s not an enjoyable task reading something you wrote months ago as time has passed and your eyes will now be seeing what you failed to see when your literary love was blind. Grammar issues, typos, poorly constructed sentences and dodgy physical descriptions will be jumping up at you. Ugh! It will feel similar to wading through a foul-smelling bog! You may even find that whilst reading you are letting out some groans, sighs and a couple of ‘was I on medication when I wrote this?”
Hope. There is hope because after reading it you decide that it’s not that bad. Yes it is smelly in places and there is a serious structure issue but it still gives you that old magical feeling. You just needed time (a lot of it!) to be able to see the error of your ways.
Never delete old half-finished drafts. Sometimes your creative brain needs time (months) to stew and work through the literary issues.
I am taking another week off interviewing this week as I just want to share this special post with you. It has been building up inside of me for sometime.
As you know I have been regularly interviewing authors about their writing practices and experiences. In each interview I have also asked the authors to tell me what they wear whilst working on their novels.
This valuable insight into a writer’s life deserves a summary blog post!
So, let’s see what 20 authors wear whilst writing their books:
I am really enjoying watching the Rio Olympics. It has been a really inspirational sporting event and…one which one makes me feel guilty for sitting on my sofa, wedging another slice of pizza into my mouth, as some poor athlete belts around the track.
The Olympics has also provided me with a creative boost which I thought I would share. There have been a couple of times recently where I have been slumped under a black cloud of creative doom and gloom (my face resembling a bulldog chewing a wasp). In a fit of desperation I have tuned into the Olympics and regained some positive vibes.
An hour later and I have been energetically bounding around my living room crying out “I can do this!” and “this rewrite will NOT beat me!”
I believe there are a few things that writers can learn from watching Olympic athletes.
Getting back up and carrying on after failure. Whilst sat on my sofa I have watched Olympic gymnasts fall off various pieces of apparatus and…..get back up smiling and carry on! I have been really impressed with their reaction to something going wrong. As a writer I struggle with failure. My standard response is to go in a mood (some might use the term ‘tantrum’) and then talk about quitting. I know I am not the only writer who gives a knee-jerk ‘I quit’ response. My creative journey will contain setbacks, this is inevitable. After seeing these athletes handle failure, I think there is a lot to learn from picking yourself up after a knock down, smiling and carrying on. I think I might try this.
Ferocious work ethic. Olympic athletes work like crazy in their training sessions. Some of the athletes have talked about their gruelling training programmes in interviews and I have found myself feeling tired just listening to them. Hard work pays off. These athletes even train when they are not feeling a hundred per cent. I doubt very much whether they are like me when I don’t feel hundred per cent about my passion i.e. writing. On these days I choose to sit on the sofa, in pjs, working my way through a packet of chocolate digestive biscuits and watching hours of my Sex & The City box set. If we are serious about our writing then we need to put the hard graft in…even when we are not feeling like it. I think I might try this as well.
Never giving up on dreams. Some of the Olympic athletes have remarkable stories about the journeys and life obstacles they have overcome to get where they are today. No matter what life throws at them they have not given up on their dream. I have been really inspired by Olympic gold medal-winning diver Chris Mears who won the men’s synchronised 3m springboard final. In 2009 he was given a 5% chance of survival after contracting the Epstein-Barr virus. He never gave up on his dream. We shouldn’t give up on our literary dreams, no matter what life chucks our way.
Focus and not get distracted by the competition. I have heard a lot of athletes say in interviews they just ran or swam their own race. They focused on their bit of the track or pool and did got get distracted by their competitors. As writers we do get distracted with what other writers are doing / not doing and this can dilute our focus. You heard it here first, I am just going to stick to my lane of the literary track! I don’t care what fancy athletic moves you lot are doing in your part of the track🙂
I enjoy writing and reading romantic comedy. I have written The Diary of Roxy Collins series and turned it into a fictional comedy podcast (live on iTunes and SoundCloud) which has to be one of the most enjoyable things that I have done as a writer. Plus this week I am starting work on the second draft of my debut novel ‘Instructions For Falling In Love Again’ – which has gone down really well with my reviewers.
My bookshelves at home are filled mainly romantic comedy and chicklit novels. Whilst my loved one reads serious spy thrillers I settle down with a lighthearted romantic comedy and annoy him by giggling, sighing and occasionally blubbering (when the two main characters realise they love each other – always sets me off!)
So I thought it would be good to celebrate this fab literary genre and record all the reasons why I love writing and reading romantic comedies.
As a writer getting two emotionally incomplete characters to overcome comedy obstacles, endure testing personal situations and unite romantically by the end of a novel can be a pleasurable challenge.
Romantic comedies are a form of escapism. For a couple of hours I get to dive into a story filled with laughter, tears, waves of delicious sexual tension and a guaranteed happy ending. Sigh!
They bring out the inner hopeless romantic in me.
I hate surprises. So I like knowing when I start writing or reading a romantic comedy that love will triumph at the end and the right two people will get together.
I love the sexual chemistry between the two main characters. I like the way the characters try to deny their feelings for each other, keep a lid on their secret desires and cast some smouldering gazes.
I like the ‘feel good’ factor they bring. After a bad day where nothing has gone to plan, my hair has not looked right, I have felt fat, frumpy and my hormone levels are off the scale I can read or watch a romantic comedy and feel a lot better.
I love reading and writing comedy situations. I love crying with laughter at a character’s mishaps. I think its because my life seems to be full of unexpected comedy situations where I do or say the wrong thing. I think this is why I love my character Roxy Collins so much. The episode where she goes on a date with Kevin plumber and has some unexpected issues with her contact lenses mid date, which brings on absolute chaos, is fab!
Romantic comedies make you believe that anything is possible.
Life changing romantic moments always happen in the rain or the snow. I was on the edge of my seat when Bridget Jones ran after Mark Darcy in the snow.
They are cheesy and riddled with cliches! As a reader and a writer I am attracted to cheesy stuff and cliches!
Romantic comedies are the modern fairytale.
They have pretty book covers. Sigh!
I love reading about others experiencing mayhem and chaos.
I love the ‘post romantic comedy’ daydream where you stare into space and wonder what the new fictional couple are doing now. Did their relationship work? What was married life like? I have had many messages from my Wattpad Roxy fans telling me that they are suffering from these daydreams and are keen to know how Roxy and Marcus are doing.
I love how you can get totally carried away with reading and writing a romantic comedy and find yourself in floods of tears. There is nothing quite like a good tear jerker!
As a writer I love how I slowly start to morph into my female characters. You would not believe how many fake tan disasters I have had since Roxy hit iTunes.
Think I need to go lie down in a darkened room after creating this list.
Have you ever had a powerful itch to share something you have created or written…and then post sharing spiralled into writer panic mode?
Perhaps it wasn’t your best work or it was something very different to what you have done before and you were nervous about how it would be received? Maybe you are like me and just get carried away with the excitement of showing the world your literary wares and then crying about it later?
The itch to share their creative work can vary amongst writers.
Some writers will only experience a tiny itch – it will take the form of a faint voice in the back of their mind saying “maybe I should share this short story or poem that I have just written?” After a strong coffee and a deep breath these sensible writers will dismiss the urge to share and go back to their creative work.
At the other end of the spectrum there will be some writers who will be itching to share their work. They are an excitable bunch and the itch to share never leaves them. It will take the form of a loud booming voice inside their head barking “I MUST SHARE MY PIECE OF FLASH FICTION ASAP!”
The only way to stop this tortuous itch is to press ‘publish’ and watch your piece of literary art go flying off into the literary universe.
Here are the tell-tale signs that a writer is suffering from this special kind of itch…
The writer will be staring at their short story or poem whilst saying things like “I just want to get it out there!” and “I can’t keep something like this to myself!”
The writer will find it hard to concentrate or sit still. This restlessness will only go away once they have shared their latest creation.
Watch out for key phrases from the writer such as “someone somewhere in the world will like it…it’s a big planet you know!” and “I feel like the universe is urging me to share the contents of my Word document!”
The writer will be seen pacing up and down the room with a troubled look on their face.
The writer will feel a rising sensation inside them and the voice will start to chant “SHARE IT NOW!”
The writer will be seen making a mad dash into Writing Corner with a look of glee on their face.
As the writer hits ‘publish’ they will have a crazed manic expression on their face and be muttering things like “must get this flash fiction out!” and “the voices will stop once I share this podcast with iTunes!”
The writer will make out their sharing urges were due to them being controlled by some some greater force. This will be reflected in phrases like “I don’t know what came over me!” and “that was weird…couldn’t stop myself from pressing publish!”
Huge waves of relief will wash over the writer once their creative work has been shared with the world. They will say things like “I can rest now!” and “my work here is done!”
For some writers these euphoric feelings will quickly be replaced with a look of terror, a piercing scream, a hand clutching at the chest and a screech…”WTF HAVE I DONE???” and “WHY DO I LOSE ALL SELF CONTROL WITH MY WRITING?” They will turn around to shocked loved ones and ask “why the hell didn’t you stop me from publishing that half baked piece of flash fiction?” Loved ones will shrug and say “you told us you were going to be the next J.K. Rowling!” Cue the writer’s emotional breakdown culminating in large chocolate chunks being shoved into their mouth. Little do they know but the itch to share will creep up on them again..soon.
Keep sharing your work writers!
We were put on this planet to make the world a better place.
In each interview I asked for some handy writing tips for aspiring new writers. I thought it would be great to summarise these in one useful post.
These are great tips from people who have actually written books. They have all experienced the many challenges that come from writing a novel and have come out the other side …smiling and proudly clutching their beloved book. Sigh!
So, here are 20 writing tips from the first 20 authors interviewed as part of my blog series – Author Interviews.
Helen Treharne. Write for you. Stick at it. Listen to advice but write to a schedule that suits you.
Kelsey Horton. Start a blog. Share yourself boldly, over and over again.
Tom Hocknell. Read novels. Lots of them. Be in love with the joy and potential of picking up a novel in a shop and buying it.
Helen Jones. Start writing. Once you start writing you are no longer aspiring.
Geoff Le Pard. Don’t over analyse and don’t compare. It doesn’t matter if the first thing is rubbish. Diamonds are shit until cut!
Don Massenzio. Keep writing and don’t be afraid to let others read your work. Find someone you trust to read it early on.
Nicholas Rossis. Be patient and don’t quit your day job just yet. I know a lot of aspiring authors (myself a lifetime ago included) dream of the day we can write full-time, but it might take longer than you hope. If you start with an unrealistic goal, you will only get disappointed and quit. As I constantly say, it’s a marathon, not a sprint.
S.K. Nicholls. Let most of the advice you hear on writing run through a filter or you’ll go insane!
Anita Dawes. Keep it real. Don’t copy or imitate anything. Find out what works for you.
Icy Sedgwick. Watch films not necessarily for the structure but because they can do things book can’t since they are a visual medium. They are great for getting insight on character arcs and dialogue.
Aila Stephens. Join a local writing group. I found and joined a writing group that meets once a month, and while I don’t make it to every meeting, going and soaking up the energy from other writers and having that kind of support from people who know your struggles is priceless.
Some great tips from a fab bunch of authors! Get writing all🙂
In the next few weeks I will be doing a ‘what do authors wear whilst writing?’ blog post which will bring together all the writer fashion insight gleaned from these interviews. I can’t wait for this post!
If you would like to feature on my blog as part of this series please get in contact with me.
When we set out to write our literary masterpieces we swear blind that our book will not contain a mid-novel dull filler chapter. We shake our heads and tell ourselves that every single chapter will be meaningful and propel the story forward so there will be no need for filler chapters or as they are sometimes called ‘literary fluff’.
If only this was the case – sigh!
So we make all these bold claims about not having to turn to using a dull filler chapter and then desperation strikes! It is like the dull filler chapter sits and waits for us in the shadows, getting ready to pounce when we feel vulnerable.
Here are some situations where we find ourselves resorting to using a dull filler chapter:
Our draft has not met our word count expectations. We stare glumly at the word counter wishing it would magically increase. It doesn’t – so we think of ways we can make it longer – cue glorious idea about adding a random chapter mid-way through to bulk up word count!
At editing stage we realise that we haven’t told the reader about our main character’s love of flower arranging – a vital ingredient for the end of our novel. Cue wonderful idea of baking in a chapter dedicated to our main character’s obsession with arranging pretty flowers in vases.
At editing stage we decide that our reader will need to calm down and take a break from the action mid-way through. Cue light bulb moment and the idea of adding in a fun-filled chapter designed to act as a ‘literary pit-stop’ for our emotionally drained reader.
We are mid-way through our novel and in true pantser style decide to take a magical detour or go off on a wild goose chase for a chapter.
At editing stage we make the decision that our reader needs to know about our main character’s ancestry. If we are truly honest with ourselves the character’s family tree has nothing to do with the plot but we enjoy making up stuff like this. Cue magical idea of writing a chapter dedicated to the main character’s blood line.
These dull filler chapters are a curse because they rarely improve the literary situation, even though they seem like a great idea at the time.
As a reader I have developed a naughty habit for flicking through filler chapters – eeek! They are one of my reading pet hates.
However as a writer …I am guilty of this terrible curse; adding unnecesscary and plot halting chapters is one of my personal literary strengths. If anyone plans to read my future books, make sure you go for a cup of tea at about 45k words and come back at 50k – you won’t have missed much. Sigh!
So I have been looking at how I can stop falling prey to this curse:
There seems to be only a few solutions:
Delete! Ask yourself – does this chapter advance the plot? If it doesn’t then get rid of it. Gasp! This is really hard to do but we have to be cruel to be kind. Even if you adored writing reams about your main character’s family tree – if it doesn’t advance the story – press delete!
Don’t resort to adding a filler chapter. Even if it seems like an easy fix don’t go there! There are other ways to fix your issues. Don’t do what I do and create a dull and random filler chapter for no reason other than to let the reader know that my character likes to wash her hair on a Thursday. Find other ways to convey this throughout the rest of the book.
Get tough at editing stage. Look at the purpose of each chapter during editing as this will alert you to those dull filler chapters.
Take it easy out there writers!
Have a fabulous day!
I have been wanting to connect with my inner biker chick for sometime. If I am honest I don’t have the time to connect with my inner biker chick what with being a mother, a wife, a pet owner, working full-time, being a writer, a blogger and now a podcaster. There are not enough hours in the day. Anyway you will all be glad to know that I have now resolved this situation.
Your inner biker chick is your wild, leather clad, rebellious side which sometimes needs to come out to shake things up a bit.
We all have an inner bike chick inside of us and sometimes we get a powerful urge to connect with her, even though there might not be a motorbike in sight.
Through my writing I have connected with my inner biker chick. My fictional character Roxy Collins, in the latest episode of the ‘Diary of Roxy Collins Podcast’ on iTunes and here on SoundCloud has a date with Gordon; a biker and the lead singer of a rock band. Her best mate Shaz advises that she should use this dating opportunity to connect with her inner biker chick. I would like to point out that I had a lot of fun with this episode. Useful Kim has to be one of my favourite new characters for 2016. I can’t wait for listener feedback on Useful Kim!
After writing it I felt like my inner bike chick and I were much closer. Within an hour of finishing the podcast I was hot footing it down my local department store’s makeup counter asking to be taught how to do smokey eyeshadow, I browsed leather jackets in the Women’s Clothing department and I declared to my family that I wasn’t planning to do any ironing or sock matching for the rest of the weekend as I was a free spirit. (Rebellious huh!).
So, I thought I would do a blog post on how you can connect with your inner biker chick:
Biker Chick Mindset:
Take action! Biker chicks don’t sit around waiting for something to happen – they do it themselves. So start writing that book, launch that blog or record that podcast TODAY!
Shun the expectations! Strong badass biker chicks don’t worry about what others think of them. So lose the concern over what people expect you to do or be in life. Focus that concern on being you and defining who you are!
Think confidently and act confidently. Imagine you are leather clad and sat on a monstrous bike – you can’t look uncertain and troubled in this scenario. Get that badass biker chick look in your eye, take some deep breaths, wear a stern smile and look like you ready for anything!
Exercise your free spirit. Practice freeing yourself from daily drudgery – in my book this means housework!
Biker Chick Wardrobe:
You want to be rocking the classy / edgy biker style.
Aim for the iconic black leather biker jacket, white t-shirt and skin-tight leather trousers. Roxy struggled with this look but fair play she gave it a go!
Finish off with some black shades and killer heels (in my head killer heels sound fab but in reality I will be crippled within half an hour).
Here are some celebs channelling their inner biker chick: