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“Wednesday” Writers’ Cafe: the best novel ever written

Friends, Countrymen, Fellow Writers…

I must beg your pardon on posting your Wednesday Writing prompt so late (so much so that we’re already greeting Thursday  here in the UK!). My feeble excuse is that my dear old laptop is at last showing its age this week. Wouldn’t you know it would kick in during our Annual Writing Retreat? Ah well… builds character, right?

But before it can act up again, here is a prompt that caught my eye whilst skimming the Jeff Gerke guide we’ve recommended to all you Novel in November participants, Write Your Novel in a Month. This one’s brilliant if you’re still searching for that spark of an idea that gives you tummy flutters of excitement & makes your fingers just itch to start typing. But even if you’re not quite ready to take the plunge of a month-long challenge, this exercise will get you dreaming about that perfect novel you hope to write…some day.

Hey, it all starts with a spark! So here it is:

Imagine you are given the key to the Room of Wonders and allowed to retrieve 10 items that you believe belong in the best novel ever written. What items will you collect?

Now go wild! Close your eyes and look around that Room. Then write down the 10 items that caught your mind’s eye & hang on to the list! It might just be the beginnings of your next awesome novel!

Oh yea, & need I mention we would LOVE to hear about your lists in the comments below? You know how nosy we are by now. 😉

Wednesday Writers’ Cafe: the art of ‘No’

You may have read Bri’s tips for success in Novel in November earlier this week. They mostly involve carving out time, ’cause let’s face it: Time is one ingredient every writer requires. No novel has ever been written without it. But if you’re like me, Time is something of a slippery friend. Next to impossible to pin down.

Hence Bri’s top tips for carving out time in November!

But I got to thinking about this problem, universal to all writers, of making time. I think it’s where rubber hits the road for us — it means sacrificing other opportunities. It means saying ‘No’ to people and things that inhibit our commitment to our craft. And it’s particularly hard to say ‘No’ when writing isn’t your full-time, income-earning job (yet!). Few people understand that an inspiring writer IS WORKING even if he/she hasn’t landed a publishing deal just yet. Many such misinformed folk will expect you to drop your ‘hobby’ at any and every request or invitation.

This is where the art of ‘NO’ becomes a vital weapon. It is possible to be polite and forceful, but it takes practice! And most of all, it takes confidence in the work you’re doing – belief that it’s worth the sacrifices you’re making.

So I thought today, as we ready for Novel in November, I’d open up the floor to your thoughts and experiences in this challenging area.

What sacrifices have you made for the sake of your dream of being a writer? How have managed other people’s expectations, & learned to say ‘no’ when your writing time is under threat?

We’d love to hear about your struggles and your victories in making time. Share in the comments below – let’s get talking, & as always, KEEP WRITING! 🙂

Wednesday Writers’ Cafe: when your story grows fangs…

I had a moment of epiphany last night. I was lying in bed, musing about why my story & I haven’t been getting on so well lately. Why has my enthusiasm for spending time with it waned of late? Why, when I have a snippet of time in the busy day to open my notebook and dive into my beloved story world, do I procrastinate and find distractions? Why, when visiting my story used to be a source of joy and escape from to-do lists, has it become a drain, a task… a dread?

And then it hit me. My sweet little pocket-sized story which has tagged along with me everywhere for years now, always there when I wanted to take it out for a bit of amusement or quiet contemplation… my tame little darling…has grown into a monstrous dragon and sprouted fangs!

My own story has grown too big for me, and I start shaking in my boots each time I face it! It’s taken on a will of its own. A wing-pumping, fire-breathing vitality I never anticipated. And it’s still growing! Wilder and more unwieldy by the day! What am I to do with this monster I’ve created?!

But wait… maybe I’m overreacting. After all, haven’t I always dreamed of owning a dragon? Of epic flights and adventures? I mean, the fluffly little story in my pocket was sweet, but now it’s grown and stretched its wings, it’s no less wonderful! The difference is in my experience of it. Instead of stroking its cute little head as I did before – jotting down a note here, musing a little there – I now get to RIDE my story! It’s big enough to transport me to places I’ve never yet dreamed of!

Hey, this is GREAT! … if a little terrifying at the same time.

Maybe this is what being a writer is all about… nurturing your little story. Loving it, feeding it, enjoying it until, one day… it grows up, spreads its mighty wings and invites you to jump on its back and fly! This is the make or break point. There’s no turning back now. This dragon is wild, but it’s still mine. I can still tame it. Somewhere behind those fiery eyes is the little fluffy thing it used to be. And I still love it!

So here goes. Stepping onto its back. Holding my breath for the ascent… Let’s fly!

I realise this has been more of a writer’s confession than a question for you all. But please, jump in and share your own experience in the comments below! Have you ever found your story growing too big and wild for you? How did you tame it, or grow to love & enjoy it for the beast it had become? How did you find the courage to mount and ride it all the way to the words “The End”?

I’d love to hear your tale of story-writing adventure. It might be just the motivation Bri & I need this week as we press on to the deadline for our manuscript exchange in just 8 days!!! We hope to share our own successful dragon-taming tales with you later this month!

p.s. – Here’s a dragon-riding/writing song that’ll put courage in your heart & a jig in your step: Something Wild (by Lindsey Stirling & Andrew MacMahon) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ytMqO-WQpQ4

Wednesday Writers’ Cafe: where’s your dream writing spot?

The lone writer packs up his typewriter, his pipe and his Panama hat and bids adieu to the churning cogs of everyday life. He hails a train, a ferry, a sail boat… through tranquil doldrums and raging storms, his notebook is in hand, taking every profound thought, every insight into life’s meaning captive for future use on the way.

And then at last, he sees it, glittering in the afternoon sun – the pristine, untouched, perfect writing spot! In no time, his kettle is piping away while his type writer churns out the sort of prose people will be quoting for centuries…

Ernest Disapproval
Photo by Lloyd Arnold/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

We all know this romantic Hemingway type – the writer in his secluded sanctuary, evading all distraction and soaking up his surrounding inspiration to turn it into literary gold dust. But for most of us, we don’t even have the luxury of writing for a day job… it’s squeezed into the leftover time & space of our rather exacting daily schedules.

BUT, what if you could get away from it all? What if you could float away to your dream writing location?

Where would you go on your Dream Writing Holiday?

Earlier this week, Bri & I announced the location for our Writing Retreat 2016. We count ourselves pretty lucky to be “getting away from it all” and staying in a place like Lyme Regis that is positively blooming with literary history and inspiration. So in light of our excitement – because after all, this is a DREAM COME TRUE for us – we’re inviting you to dream.

Go on. Give it a go! Dream big & let us know where it takes you. You never know… Someday that dream may sprout wings & actually take you there!

Here are some funky actual writing retreats out there if you need a little help: http://thewritelife.com/writing-retreats/

Wednesday Writers’ Cafe: what’s your tune?

Last week Bri posted a Dragon Cloud on something that’s entirely familiar to us all, and yet effects each one of us in different, wonderful ways. The sound of Music!

Many a writer requires background music to create a rhythm or set a mood for writing, but in my experience, the music is never content to remain in the background. It has a life and a force of its own. It can quicken my pulse or put me at ease. It can bring back a memory &, with just a short string of notes, bring me to tears. And inevitably, it makes its way into my head, out through my finger tips, and into my story. Having a soundtrack changes my writing flow…I being to “watch” my own scenes unfold, like a film. Music brings my story to life!

No doubt about it, Music is a powerful agent & a potential key to unlocking creativity for us story-spinners. But it works a little differently for each one of us, so here’s our question for you, dear fellow writers:

What’s your writing tune?

What kind of music unlocks your creativity? Do you prefer gentle instrumentals, or banging beats? Or do you set Spotify on a station to suit the scene at hand? OR, are you a silent writer, preferring to compose your scene in peace before adding in the epic soundtrack?

Leave a comment below, & share your favourite writing tunes with the rest of us– maybe together we can compile the ultimate writing playlist for Novel in November!!!

Wednesday Writers’ CafĂ©-

A writer sits at his desk, words flowing easily from his mind to his fingertips to his computer. Word after word, line after line, perfection appears on the screen. In no time, he has reached his quota for the day and he is able to spend the rest of his hours relaxing by the pool with a book. Because writing is easy and simple.

How may of you can relate? Yeah, me neither! Writing is difficult.

Let me repeat that.

WRITING IS DIFFICULT!!

What is the hardest part for you? Is it the planning? Researching? Can you write an awesome end, but the beginning is rewritten ten times? Does writing dialogue make you cringe, while description comes easily to you?

For me, it’s action scenes. Any fights or battles, especially ones with more than two characters. Whenever I have to write one, I feel like an ant staring at a wall, and if I can just get over it, the rest of the story will be waiting. But first, I have to get through the action scene that is scaring the daylights out of me.

What aspect of writing is the most difficult for you?

Fortunately, we live in an age where there is information about everything. If there is a part of writing you have a hard time with, check to see if there are any books, blogs, or websites to help you through. You are not alone in the struggle!

 

Wednesday Writers’ Cafe: rebel or rule-lover?

Raise your hand if you’ve ever read a book or blog titled something like “The Rules of Writing”.

Alright. Hands down. Now raise your hand if you religiously follow those rules you’ve read about (if you raised your hand previously).

You needn’t look far for “guidance” on what is and isn’t permissible in today’s publishing arena. In fact, if you start searching in earnest, you will soon find yourself inundated with an inexhaustible list of no-nos that will land your manuscript straight in the slush pile!

Thing is, whilst many of the “rules” of writing make sense and  come from the hard-earned experience of those seasoned in the industry, other rules just sound so arbitrary… faddish, even. For example, “don’t write any long sentences”, or “don’t over describe your setting like Tolkien did.. nobody has the attention span for description anymore,” or “whatever you do after, you must start your book with short, punchy, edgy paragraphs or you’ll lose your audience…better yet, you’ll never have an audience, because no agent will touch it if it’s not edgy enough for 21st century readers”… Really? 

And I’m pretty sure I’ve read some rule breakers that aren’t suffering too badly for it. I mean, G.R.R. Martin has more POVs in one novel than I can count, his descriptions make Tolkien’s sounds like haikus, and he describes the sunrise as “the fingers of dawn”(apparently a notorious no-no in the literary world). Has rule-breaking inhibited his career? Well, as my grandad used to say, ‘I’ll bet he cries all the way to the bank.’

But then, for those of us not so well-established in the publishing world, it’s tricky, isn’t it? We want to prove we’ve done our homework.. we want to tick the right boxes for our would-be agents… whilst somehow remaining “original”.  So here’s my question for you, dear writers:

Are you a writing-rule-keeper, or a total rebel? Which rules do you consider to be “musts”… & which are “really more like guidelines”?

Let the conversation begin!

*Want to read more on this subject? Check out this article by writer Andrew Toy.

Wednesday Writers’ Cafe: To blog, or not to blog? That is the question.

We like blogs. Obviously. They serve a pretty great purpose along with lots of other social media platforms: creating a network of like-minded, kindred spirits… knitting us into a community where we can learn from and support each other in our otherwise lonely creative endeavors.

BUT, there is a dark side to the blog & social media world, and I’ve certainly felt its force. I’ll bet you’ve felt it too. The effect  goes something like this:

“I could work on that sticky scene of my book I’ve been putting off… OR, I could just quickly hop onto my blog and check the stats. Oh, and while I’m at it, I’ll just sneak a quick peak at facebook in case a few more “likes” have come in. And come to think of it, I haven’t uploaded any new images to Instagram in days now, so…”

And at the end of the day, when you finally look at your blank story page through screen-blearied eyes, you despondently ask yourself, “Where did the day go?” Then, drained of creative energy, you shut it down & wait for another, more inspired opportunity. Again.

Are you familiar with this vicious cycle? Have you felt the power of the Dark Side of Blogging/ Social Media? and if you have wrestled with it, have you found a healthy balance between blogging & actually writing your book?

If so, PLEASE SHARE! This is one time we could all make the most of the Light Side of the our social networks to help one another in the fight to write better. Let’s get chatting!

And just for fun, here’s a little video clip about the addictive POWER of social media over your brain (ie. your most important writing instrument!): http://writerscircle.com/social-media-brain/

 

Wednesday Writers’ Cafe: that magic moment

Do you remember it? That moment you just knew you HAD TO WRITE?

I’ve always felt a little intimidated by those authors who claim they’ve been writing since they were old enough to hold a pen & set out on their pathway to a writing career in the early days of Primary School.

That wasn’t me. I knew I loved stories. I knew I loved playing make-believe with my older brother & sisters, putting into action all our far-fetched narratives barefooted in our back yard. That’s when I learned resourcefulness – that a plank in a tree and a rope ladder can transform into the Swiss Family Robinson’s tree house, and a rickety old barn serves brilliantly as the ruins of a haunted castle.

But did I know in those formative days that I wanted to write my own stories for a living? To be honest, I don’t think it even occurred to me that such a thing were possible… that real books were written by real people, and not by some special Guild of Story-Makers from a far away land. You may as well have asked me if I’d like to raise a herd of unicorns when I grew up (not a bad alternative). But the seeds were sewn.

It wasn’t until later (around 12 or 13), when a character popped into my head one day during a solitary forest jaunt, & I knew I had to write her into a book. Not just for my own amusement, but for the world!

That character has been living with me ever since, growing & changing with me over the years. But she & her story have come into much sharper focus, & I hope (really hope) she will be ready to spread her wings & greet the world very soon indeed. For with her, the seeds of story have grown into a forest, the landscape of my daily life. And I’m quite sure, at the ripe old age of 28, that writing is the very occupation I was designed for. Fame & fortune are no guarantee in this business, but the glory of belonging to that illustrious Guild of Story-Makers is all the incentive I need!

That’s my story. how about yours?

Do you remember the moment you knew you wanted to be a writer? Did you ‘always’ know? Or, like me, did you get there on a journey?

We’d love to hear a snippet of your story. Share below in the comments, or feel free to spill it all out in your own blog & link us in!

 

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