Are we just all soft?

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I have recently downloaded the trial version of Scrivener. I haven’t played with it yet so have no idea what it’s like, but I am hoping it helps me organise my writing a bit more and therefore will lead me well up the path to greater creativity and productivity. Well, that’s the theory anyway. We’ll see.

It did make me think, though, that maybe I am completely soft as a writer. Back in the ‘good ole’ days, there were no such things as computers, let alone, specific programs designed to help you. Fancy being a writer when all that was available was pen and paper?! Gasp! How did they cope???

What is dawning on me (yes, I am obviously a bit thick!) is that, really, in reality, what counts is the story. The originality. The uniqueness. Whether written on a fabulous new MacBook Air (still love it!), a dusty old typewriter, or longhand in pen, what is going to resound with the reader is the story, not the mode of transportation it had from the writer’s brain to the pages.

Having said all that, I am very thankful that I live in a time when it is computers with lovely purpose built programs to help me – my longhand is terrible 🙂

Anyone out there use Scrivener? What’s your opinion on it?

In other words, what’s your secret weapon – let me in on it. Please. I need all the help I can get.

Who are you most like?

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I read somewhere recently (I read soooo much writerly stuff, I can’t remember where it was exactly) about how, as writers, there is a little bit of ourselves in all our characters. That started me thinking and I realised that there is quite a bit of truth to that, with just a little bit of difference, for me. I see many aspects of myself within my characters. All of them, protagonist, antagonist, major, minor, have a piece of me that is there, naturally, because they came from inside my brain.

The other thing I noticed when ruminating about this topic, is that they also have a lot about them that I wish I had. My current protagonist is gentle, kind and thoughtful but can seriously kick some butt when she needs to. I’d like to be a little more like that. My other main character is headstrong, fiercely loyal and sometimes over-zealous. And  I could use a bit more of those traits sometimes too.

I think the reason we find it hard to let go of our characters (and the reason so many authors feel a certain amount of grief at the completion of a manuscript – hopefully I will feel that someday!) is that there is so much of ‘us’ in them. Our good bits, our bad bits and all the things in between that we ‘wish’ we were like; they’re all there.

How about you? Do you relate more to one of your characters than another? Do you see more of yourself in that one? Or less?

Scary post.

Okay. So here we go. I am posting a bit of the beginning of my MS. *deep breath* Here goes nothin’! NB. Respectful, helpful feedback is most welcome, tearing it to shreds (no matter whether it’s justified!) is not 🙂

She looked down to find her hands slick with blood, the knife falling with a clatter from her slippery fingers.

They say the first is the hardest. Andria marvelled at how it could be anything but hard; watching the eyes roll back in the head, the tongue lag. The flickering shadows from the torches lining the cavern cast a terrifying glow on the body as the blood pooled at Andria’s feet. Her ragged breathing echoed, sounding harsh in the quiet after the struggle.

She felt chilled, numb. The unseeing eyes mocked her, threatening to drag her along the path of Transcending in her wake.

“Oh no. It is only your time, not mine,” she said softly.

Hearing the thud of feet beating their way along the tunnel towards her, she bent over the body, wiped her hands on the woman’s skirts and tucked the knife back into her belt. She straightened as the owner of the footsteps rounded the corner and stumbled into the cave. The stone she had plucked from the corpse burned in her fist.

“Andria.” He took her shoulders, bending to look her full in the face.

“I’m okay, I’m okay.” The tremor in her voice proved the words were false. “She’s dead. I killed her.”

“Do you have the stone?”

“No…it wasn’t on her.”

Andria’s heart hammered from the lie as she watched Mikhel run his hands over the dead woman, cursing under his breath. She took the opportunity to slip the stone into the concealed pocket of her coat; sickened more by the lie than the killing.

Satisfied the stone was nowhere on the woman’s body, Mikhel turned to Andria, concern written in his eyes. Taking her hands to stop the trembling, he stared at her for long seconds, willing his strength into her.

“I’m fine. Really.” Her voice was steadier now, her breathing normal. Thankful he could not read her thoughts, or see the black spot of her deceit now blooming across their union like ink on wet paper, she squeezed his hands. “Let’s go. There’s nothing more to do here.”

They had followed the woman for days since being told by the sage that she carried the stone. She had proven an easy target, her predictability and lack of instinct her ultimate downfall. And now I have the stone, thought Andria, fingering it’s hardness through the fabric of her coat.

They made their way back through the underground tunnel, their footsteps breaking the silence between them.

“How could Sapere be wrong? He never has been before,” Mikhel wondered aloud as they broke through into the forest bathed in the dusk.

Swallowing the taste of guilt on her tongue, Andria steered the conversation to safer ground. “More importantly, where is Brackley? He was supposed to be here.”

Mikhel’s childhood friend, while a trusted ally in their task, had yet to prove himself wholly reliable. As fond as she was of Brackley, his tardiness and ability to forget details frustrated Andria. Mikhel laughed away her worries, forgiving his friend all and any transgression. Andria sighed inwardly at the ties that caused Mikhel to be so blinded where Brackley was concerned, and sat down on a fallen log to wait.

A slight rustle of the branches and Brackley stood before them, grinning that infuriating grin. Seeing Andria’s dishevelled state and blood stained hands, his face quickly became anxious, a frown creasing his dark forehead.

“Andria, what happened to you? Are you hurt?” Despite her annoyance, Andria was grateful for his concern, knowing that his devotion to her as well as Mikhel, far outweighed his shortcomings.

“I’m fine.”

“She killed the woman.” Mikhel said, the pair exchanging looks.

Brackley stared hard at Andria. “And the stone? You have it?”

Mikhel spoke for her. “No, it seems Sapere was wrong this time. The stone was nowhere on her. Back to square one, I guess. Any suggestions, Andria?”

“Well, I…we…” Both men looked at her questioningly. “We need to get back to Sapere, I suppose. See whether our interpretation of the runes was wrong.” She bent to adjust her boot; hoping they would put her vagueness down to what happened in the cave. And if the truth be told, it had set her off kilter; this task was forcing her to do things she had not thought she would be called upon to do. If the lukos had not sprung from the bushes, Mikhel would have been the one to follow the woman into the cave and not her. The injuries he sustained were mere flesh wounds; while hers burned a hole inside her, the knowledge of what she had done sinking in and settling itself deep within.

“Lead the way,” said Brackley, sweeping into a mock bow.

Mikhel looked thoughtfully at Andria’s back before following her along the path. When she was a little way ahead, he felt Brackley’s hand on his arm.

“Is she really okay? She seems a little weird,” Brackley whispered.

“I don’t know. She did just kill someone, Bracks. I think that might have some effect on a person, don’t you?”

“Yeah but she’s tough, Mikhel. You know that. Maybe she’s just disappointed about the stone.”

“I can hear you, you know.” Andria’s voice floated back down the path. Shooting each other a wry glance, Mikhel and Brackley hurried to join her.

Me and my new friend

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So. I have a new friend. Her name is MacBook Air and I think we were made for each other.

She is smooth to the touch, light-weight, lightening fast and has a back-lit keyboard…..I’m in love. I have a special place in my heart for the whole Mac tribe, but this little one is definitely the darling of the family as far as I’m concerned.

And you know what? I reckon I am going to get heaps more writing done, now I have my silver mistress to help me. It’s funny, isn’t it, how a new ‘gadget’ can give one’s motivation a little kick-along?

Anyway, if you don’t mind, I’d like a little time on my own with my new friend, so off you go. Go find something else to do and give us some privacy 🙂

Simplicity rules

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I often have favourite sentences that jump out at me when reading a book, or dare I say it, when writing myself.

One such sentence I read today was:

The sea was settled.

Wow. Such purity in that one small sentence. Perfectly describing in just four words a complete atmosphere. Immediately, you get a picture of how it looked; what the day felt like. Well, it does for me anyway 🙂

I saw that sentence while at my daughters parent/teacher interview today. In her story writing book. Oh and did I mention she is seven?

Okay, so maybe I’m biased but I think we could all learn something from the simplicity of the sentence and the elegancy of it’s construction.

Sometimes the sentences I love most are ones with unusual words and a certain poetry to them. Most often they are simple too, either in the idea they are conveying or in the structure itself.

A sentence I like of my own is:

The right words were nowhere to be found, leaving her at the mercy of the truth and all the wrong words that now came too easily.

For some reason, I like the melody of it and, I guess, the truth in it.

What’s your favourite sentence, either yours or someone else’s? I am a sucker for a great sentence, so…hit me people!

Combining the arts

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Lately, I am realising how important music is to my writing. Come to think of it, it was always the same when I was painting; it seems I need music to be creative. I vacillate between heavier bands eg Guns n Roses, to the epitome of mellow eg Angus and Julia Stone. No matter what it is, it has to be loud!

For me, it depends on what scenes I am writing at the time and the ‘feel’ of where the story is at. Sometimes, I spend as much time trawling through my itunes list for the right ‘fit’ as I do writing! If the music isn’t right, the words just won’t flow.

Often when I am in the car and a certain song comes on, I am overwhelmed with a desire to write. Music certainly inspires me. And, occasionally, if I allow myself to dream really big, I can even imagine what music goes with what scene if it were to be made into a movie 🙂

Some of my other regular favourites are:
My friend the Chocolate Cake
Bon Jovi
Mumford and Sons
Whitely
Adele
Delirious?

So, what music gets your creative juices flowing?

Write anyway

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I have been inspired, amazed and challenged by certain writers of late, whose determination and tenacity is seemingly tireless. People who, in the face of ‘rejection letters’ simply keep going! I like to think I will be like that once I have written those two magic words at the bottom of my MS but I do have some nagging suspicions that I won’t.

I have a sneaky feeling that I will crumple in a heap in a spectacular manner and cry things like “I knew it was no good anyway!” and “Why did I even think I could write anything!” and “I should have stuck to gardening!” (which, btw, I am not very good at either!) and generally drive my little corner of the world completely bonkers with my whining and wailing.

So, for me, it comes down to confidence. How do you know when to give up on an MS? How do you know when it truly is crap and you should start something new? How. Do. You. Know.

I guess then, it depends on who you have surrounded yourself with during the writing torture…ahem, process. Are you surrounded by people who don’t want to tell you the truth about your story because you will either fly into a rage, dissolve into tears or never speak to them again? Or, are you surrounded by ‘truth-speakers’ who will be honest in their appraisal of how your writing is going? Or are the people around you just not that into reading (God forbid!) or your genre in particular?

Friends and family are definitely a good place to start but some may not be comfortable telling you how it really is – the good and the bad (some family members may have a severe case of ‘tall poppy syndrome’ and would not even be enthusiastic about a draft from JK Rowling! NB – whatever you think of the Harry Potter series, the woman sells books!!).

The best thing I ever did was join a writing group. We share our work and give honest appraisals. And I am even luckier that they are all polite, genuine and lovely ladies, so even criticism is said with kindness. Without them, I think I would have given up on pressing forward with my MS. Without them, I wouldn’t know what the strengths and weaknesses are in my story, and indeed, in my writing in general.

It is still quite a distinct possibility that I will come completely undone by my first, second, third….seventy third rejection letter but at least I will have my writing buddies to help me pick up the pieces and hop back on that horse 🙂

Writing tips

There are a plethora of writing tips around but I particularly like these:

http://www.scoop.it/t/indie-writing/p/188703045/the-only-12-1-2-writing-rules-you-ll-ever-need

So far, I have not written any more on my MS since five days ago BUT there is still writing going on in my head. Sometimes I do find it useful to let things ‘stew’ for a little and then when I come to write, it’s all there. I just need to be more disciplined at actually scheduling in writing time, which is why I like these tips and the reminder they provide to just write, to use everything around us as writing fodder and to set aside specific time.

Hoping to write some tomorrow, might even get up early after being inspired by my writing buddies who are doing just that. It would be cool to be up at 5am knowing others are doing the same 🙂

Encouragement

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Let’s face it, we all need encouragement. One of the main ways I am encouraged is through my writing group. The girls are always there to listen to a rant, rejoice at a new word count, and, above all, understand when I hit a brick wall. The amount of encouragement from these fine writers is truly staggering – and so completely necessary.

Recently one of the girls shared a link and I would like to share it here, too. If you are after some solid reasons why you should not give up on your writing, you will find them here:

Enjoy! I know I did 🙂

Just do it!

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The copywriters for nike certainly knew what they were doing back in the day when ‘just do it’ was their slogan. I must confess to have stolen it for my own private use in my motivational speeches to my self 🙂

I have felt stalled in the writing of my MS (manuscript) for some time now but have been wanting to pick up the threads of my fantasy story and continue writing. I feel quite awful for my characters who have been in a state of limbo for some months now!

A writerly quote I came across recently was “The first draft doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to be written.” I love that.

As my main role in life work-wise is editing, I find it very hard to just write and not edit as I go along. Now, a certain amount of that is okay, I guess, but when you combine that with my slightly perfectionist side, what it actually amounts to is not much writing getting done. Lots of ‘select and delete’ but not much to show for a couple hours in front of the screen.

So, a couple of nights ago, I organised myself with red wine, laptop, music of choice (Guns n Roses) and sat down to write. If it wasn’t for the constant reminder that it didn’t need to be perfect, just written, I never would have managed to write over a thousand words on my MS. And, boy, did it feel good.

Hopefully, if I join my two mantras together, I will get much more writing done over the coming months 🙂