Sunday, 29 December 2013

A Year Of Doing Nothing

A New Year approaches and a mirror is put in front of our faces so that we can reflect on the year that has passed and resolve to make the next year bigger, better, faster, stronger (or maybe I'm confusing new year resolutions with the Six Million Dollar Man). But anyway, as you go hurtling into 2014 is it with a sense of 'look out world I'm coming' or are you just up for more of the same old same old.

I'm very tempted to list a string of resolutions that will make me a better person, a slimmer person, a happier person and maybe even one who can afford to pay the rent. But do I need the added pressure?

As it is I've already accumulated several caps for this one head, have one too many irons in the fire and rely too heavily on cliches for my own good. So for 2014 I have only one resolution and that is to do everything. Now that might sound pretty vague or that doing everything is too much for one person so maybe I should explain my thinking.

It struck me that during this year I spent a lot of it saying that I have so much to do, so much to think about and not enough time. But then I thought about all the times I sat procrastinating, watching a crap film or television programme, read a dodgy book to the end just because I started it or sat talking about the things I want to do instead of just getting up and doing them. So this is where everything comes into it.

I could do everything if I cut out the rot. I will stop wasting time planning, pondering, dreaming, hoping or wishing and just do.

With this attitude, in 2014 it will mean writing new songs, finishing my second novel, having a fabulous launch party for my first novel and finding myself an agent.

So in 2014 if you make a new year's resolution to do one thing - make it everything.

Happy New Year!
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Wednesday, 11 December 2013

The Real Secret To Writing

Came across this poster that you might like to copy, print and keep in your writing space for motivation.Bestseller Secret

Happy Writing!

Friday, 6 December 2013

Drunk Writer, Sober Editor!

Since my last post I've hardly come up for air. Firstly because of all the reading I'm doing for my Creative Writing MA and secondly in the past week I put the research to one side and got down to some serious writing of my second novel. I'm now just over 17,000 words in and the ideas just keep coming - maybe a bit faster than I can cope with but I'm getting it all down just the same.

I'm being inspired by all the memoirs and text books I've been reading on the craft of writing and finding your voice. I probably would never have bothered if they hadn't been on the recommended reading list for Uni.

Here are the ones I've read, liked and would recommend:

1. On Writing: a memoir on the craft by Stephen King
Cover of "The Writer's Voice"
 2. The Writer's Voice by Al Alvarez

Cover of
3.  Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
Cover of

4.  Finding your voice Les Edgerton
5.  Bestseller: secrets of successful writing by Celia Brayfield

I have to say that reading about the experiences and advice of some of the above didn't always sit well with me but if you do read books like this then you have to take what suits you as a writer and not believe or accept every piece of advice to the letter. You'll go crazy if you do!

Following the advice I'm writing every day and not stopping to edit as I always have done and it's very liberating. I will also not let anyone read anything until after I've completed my second draft. Whilst this happens I'll let the book sit and brew and hopefully go in for a final edit after all the comments are in. We'll see. I don't want to be too strict with myself and feel like a failure if I don't stick to the plan.

I've just picked up this one:

It's by Theo Pauline Nestor and is making for a good read so far. I'll let you know if it rates with the others when I get there.

But, Dear Writers, to sum all the advice up:
  • Write with the office door shut, edit with it open
  • Write like a child, edit like an adult
  • Write drunk, edit sober
  • Listen to me, don't listen to me
Happy Writing!
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Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Being Heard Above The Noise

Writers, have you ever had a manuscript rejected because the editor/agent did not like your 'voice'?

All new writers are told that in order to make it as a writer you have to find your Writer's Voice. And did that ever make you think, well of course I have a voice. If I didn't then I wouldn't be able to tell a story, right? Well that's true in a way but in some respects as a writer you owe it to yourself to consider what your voice is, how you can develop it and how to avoid mistakes in your telling of the story.

As a new writer myself, my first novel is being published on 14th March 2014, so somewhere along the line I found my voice. Luckier still a publisher thinks it is one that readers would like to hear.
Writer's Stop
 My biggest tips to finding your voice:

  • (I hate to bring it up again because everyone and his dog puts this one first but...) READ. Lots, often and think about what it is that made you like/dislike/love/loathe/feel indifferent to the piece.
  • Write often. A lot of what we start off writing should not be seen by anyone. They are trial runs for the real thing. Don't be in rush to get editors etc to look at your work until you can describe the type of writer you are: witty, quirky, full of angst, easy going, fast paced action, poetic and full of imagery. You get the picture? If you don't know who you are as a writer, chances are any agent reading your work won't know either
  • Write what you believe in and don't follow trends. By the time you've finished your story a new trend will have started. Who knows - if you stick to something you have faith in you may well start your own trend. 
  • If a story is not sitting well with you and you find it hard to continue and ideas that were flowing seem to dry up, consider whether this piece really suits your voice. If you can't imagine yourself enjoying it then no-one else will. Leave it on a back burner. You may be able to resurrect a character, plot line or scene to use somewhere else. Don't be afraid to stop writing a story.
  • Read your work aloud. If it does not sound like you in conversation with your ideal reader (more often than not that person is you) then something is not quite right. Re-work it so it feels right to say out loud. That's you, your writer's voice is there when you know it sounds good.
But don't panic. Every one who claims to be a writer has a voice. Discovering what yours is and what stories it tells best is a satisfying and truthful feeling. So keep at it.

For a useful article about Finding Your Writer's Voice Click Here

Happy Writing

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Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Writers on Research - When Enough is Enough

Researching information for your novel can be one of the most enjoyable things you can do outside of writing it. Or it can be one of the most tedious.

When I sat down to write my first novel - Holding Paradise - I just opened up the laptop and started to type away. I had the general idea for the story in my head and just let it pour out onto the pages. It was the most liberating feeling in the world. I was making it up as I went along but at a certain stage, and because my story harks back to 1936 and comes forward to 1998, there came a a time when I needed to check some facts to make it authentic.

At a time when the writing is getting too much and you need a break, if you need to research a subject for the novel, this is a good time to do it. As I wrote several drafts of Holding Paradise and took the novel through so many changes before I was happy with how I told the story, there was plenty of time to stop and research. But with Holding Paradise the story didn't rely on too much historical detail as it really is a story about relationships.

As I begin novel number two, and knowing how much the story will rely on local history (starting from the 1950s) I really need to be clear on my stuff.

My first port of call has been the trusted Internet. Whilst a lot of writers can find out practically anything sat in front of a computer, I find a good book gives me something very in depth and detailed. On the Internet I find I jump and change sites and get confused by the end of the session. A long laborious session on-line can sometimes lead you nowhere or with very little solid information. Books have been researched already! All you have to do is read the relevant parts.

So 1950s West London - where to start? My story will take us through to the 1970s and as I was just a little girl then I can see myself needing those history books. For me it is important to research a lot of my material before I make a proper start on the novel (I've got some opening lines, characters, an in my head outline and outcome of the story). But I want to get the feel and atmosphere spot on from the word go so research comes first this time.

My Plan For Research before I begin to write:
  • Look up my subject areas on line
  • See what books or magazines this leads to
  • Go to the local library in the area my story takes place and research local history and look at maps of the time
  • Take walks in the parts of West London the story takes the reader
  • Find anyone with sound historical information on my themes and interview them (might be a relative or friend or someone they know so will do some asking around
  • Dip into further research as required as I begin to write
Research no-no's:
  • Don't be tempted to throw in great facts you find if they are surplus to your story
  • Don't let your novel read like a lecture or history lesson
  • Your story is made up so let your researched data roll off your tongue as if you were there
  • Keep it to the minimum your subject will allow - writing is far more important
  • Don't get frustrated if you can't find exact details, if your story sounds realistic then no-one will take you to task over a minor detail
Most of all, have fun and write. I'll keep you posted about my research
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Friday, 15 November 2013

Write Time Write Place

Some writers might say that the week I've had was just par for the course for most writers. As a new writer I couldn't confirm this but it has been one of those weeks.

Let me break it down.

  • As you will know I have been beavering away at novel number two. I started it with gusto earlier this year and then a case of Writer's Block had me stumped. I summoned up my best attempts (see previous posts) and continued on, determined to power through to the end. But alas. Nasty novel number two has me beat. I gave up on it! *gasp* But when I did so I had no knots in my stomach, no wrenching feeling that it was a mistake I'd regret for the rest of my life. No - it felt right. 

My Tip: Don't be afraid to put your idea in a drawer somewhere. You might be able to come back to it or use some of the ideas or characters, settings, themes etc on another story. Or maybe not. But if it feels right - give up.

  • Novel number one will be published in Spring 2014! So come March I will finally become a published author and I can't tell you how excited, nervous, happy, dizzy and extremely proud that makes me. Yoohoo!
My Tip: If you believe in a story you'll feel it and even if you suffer from writer's block you will finish it and with enough determination you will get it published too!

  • I have had another idea for a new novel number two! So very different from the one I ditched. I need to do a lot of research for this story as it looks back on 1950s London and I want to get it right. I'm very excited about this story and it is going to be truer to my voice than the one I gave up on. (More about this in future posts).
My Tip: Write the story that feels right for you at the time. Don't just hammer away at an idea that does nothing to feed your soul.

Happy Writing Folks (and reading - lots of that to do on my Creative Writing MA!)

Writer Wordart
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Saturday, 9 November 2013

When The Writing Gets Tough

On Writing
I'm at that sticky first draft stage with my second novel and trying to get to the finish so that the real writing can begin. I seem to be reading an awful lot of books about how to write a novel but seem to be avoiding the main issue of actually just writing the blessed thing! [Note: On Writing by Stephen King is quite a good one.]

I still have a few books in the wings that tell me how to write but nothing beats just getting down to it. My plot is straightforward but I have lots of characters so every now and again it seems a bit too much. This week I got tough on my plot and characters and tried to get them all in shape. I'm seeing some good results.

My list on how to stop dithering and WRITE:
  1. Turn off all Social Media, the TV, your family, the oven and the phone (land & especially mobile).
  2. Stopping for cakes and chocolate (add wine and any self indulgent treats to this list) is not a way to limber up the brain for writing.
  3. Re-examine the plot.
  4. Name your characters, write their CV onto a post card. Write another post card detailing what happens to them.
  5. Write out main events in the story still to cover.
  6. Write out minor events in the story still to cover.
  7. Write these events into chapters.
  8. Voila, your fist draft is complete.
  9. Leave it to simmer.
  10. Read it all through and gear up to starting the second draft.
  11. Pat yourself on the back and eat comfort foods (but don't get carried away) then get ready for the real writing to begin.
I hope this helps you - it certainly helped me. Everyone is out this evening and I can't wait to write some more.

Happy Writing Folks!
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Monday, 4 November 2013

Guest Author - Carol Fragale Brill

It is my pleasure to welcome Women's Contemporary Fiction Author, Carol Fragale Brill to the blog today. Carol will be talking about two of her novels and some of her experiences as a writer.

What was the thing that influenced you to start writing?

I have loved stories ever since my parents read me Grimm’s Fairy Tales and Black Beauty at bedtime when I was five or six. I know Grimm’s may not seem like the stuff sweet dreams are made of, but mostly they read the ones about princesses being rescued by the prince. I started dreaming about writing a book when I was 20-something. It took me another 20 years to join a creative writing critique group and get started. And, I’m still a sucker for happily-ever-after love stories.

Tell me your success stories in terms of publishing/self-publishing?

Most of my writing time is devoted to my novels, blog, and book reviews for New York Journal of Books, with a little time left over to write and publish the occasional short story. After writing and rewriting my novels many times over a 15 year period, self-publishing both in less than a year is a huge accomplishment for me.
My favourite successes regarding shorter works include an excerpt from my newest novel, CAPE MAYBE being recognized by Poets and Writers as the Maureen Egen Prize first runner-up for fiction—so close! One of my writer friends referred to the prize as my best rejection to date.
My short story “Violets”, a reimagined excerpt from PEACE BY PIECE, was published in The Best of Philadelphia Stories after being voted a reader favourite.
What are your top writing tips for any aspiring writer?

Put in the time to study craft—characterization, plotting, show don’t tell, creating a sense of time and place. When I started writing creatively, I had no idea there were so many elements to writing craft. Once you start to understand craft, grab a few books in your genre and read them like a writer, dissecting how the author uses craft to create emotion and drama. Also, the support of other writers is so valuable. Find critique partners, join a writing group, and open yourself up to feedback. Perhaps the most important lesson is learning that writing is just the beginning, rewriting and working with a professional editor is where the story becomes what it is meant to be.

What are you working on now?

I just wrapped up self-publishing CAPE MAYBE in both paperback and e-book. Now I’m neck-deep in marketing, encroaching on my writing time. I am thrilled— and a little intimated—that many PEACE BY PIECE readers want a sequel. It’s funny because from the day I started writing PEACE BY PIECE, I was always sure the story ended where I ended it. Now, readers have me wondering if there’s more in store for Maggie, Thomas, Izzie, et al.

What do you draw on for inspiration?

About 15 years ago, I read Julia Cameron’s THE ARTIST WAY, doing one lesson per week over the summer. The week after I finished the book’s twelve week course, I joined my first creative writing group. I often go back to the wonderful tools in THE ARTIST WAY—like morning pages, where you do a mind dump on paper to clear the cobwebs so the creative juices can flow, or an artist date, where you take yourself out to play to recharge your batteries.
I can’t remember if it is Julia Cameron, or Anne LaMott or Natalie Goldberg, but I heard one of them say writer’s block isn’t about being blocked, it’s about being empty. I try to remember that and do the things like walking on the beach with my husband, reading women’s fiction, watching humming birds and dolphins, that fill me up and rekindle my creativity.

Please tell me anything else you'd like the reader to know about you.

I keep a box of 96 crayons—a gift from my husband—on my desk. There’s a line in PEACE BY PIECE where the main character, Maggie says, “I never had a box of 64 crayons.” After reading that line in a very early draft, Jim bought me my box of 96—complete with the built-in sharpener. That green and yellow box is a constant reminder of his support, and I often skim through the box reciting the names of the colors when I need creative inspiration.

And, I enjoy interacting with readers and hope you will comment here, and on my Facebook page and My Blog

I am also available for in-person and virtual book club visits and talks.

Thank you Carol!

Follow this link to find out more about Carol's books on Amazon

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Ernest Hemingway - I'm Listening

Life, as usual for me, has been pretty hectic lately. So what do I do? I enrol on a Creative Writing MA, of course. A mountain of reading to get through, lectures to attend, workshops to take part in and not to mention the homework.

One of my big projects, and it pains me to say this, has taken a back seat because of the hecticness, hectivity? I'm talking about finishing my second novel. I stopped writing it this summer and haven't been able to get back to it. I've written lots of other things so I can't put it down to writer's block. I thought it was because I didn't think the idea strong enough but since starting the MA, the creative juices are flowing and I'm missing those charaters terribly. I want to find out what happens to them. I'm still convinced I have a good story there.
English: Hemingway posing for a dust jacket ph...
But how to begin - again? Enter Ernest Hemingway. 

You might be familiar with his writing tips but one in particular stands out and could be the tip that helps me get that elusive second novel written.

Hemingway suggests you read what you've written before from the start and then continue from there

The best way is to read it all every day from the start, correcting as you go along, then go on from where you stopped the day before. When it gets so long that you can’t do this every day read back two or three chapters each day; then each week read it all from the start. That’s how you make it all of one piece.
So that's what I will do and I will post my progress as I go. Who knows, I may have writtien the first draft by Christmas!

What is your writing challenge? Post it here and we can all encourage each other by visiting blogs and giving words of encouragement.

Good Luck fellow writer!

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Monday, 14 October 2013

Guest Post - G. L. Tysk

It is my pleasure to welcome author G. L. Tysk as my guest as she discusses her latest novel The Sea-God at Sunrise

I didn't set out to write a book that needed a sequel. I actually tried my hardest to write a book that didn't need one, a book that stood on its own with no need for an epilogue, a book where the characters would fade off into the sunset like fond memories. That was part of why The Sea-God at Sunrise was so long. When I finished it, I thought that was it. I'd told everything that needed to be told.

Then I realized I'd only told about one-fourth of the story.

I based The Sea-God at Sunrise on the story of John Manjiro. Manjiro was a young Japanese fisherman rescued by American whalemen in 1841 from a typhoon. He grew up in southern Massachusetts, and in his late teens embarked on another journey around the world in the opposite direction, returning to Japan and later becoming one of the shogun's English interpreters during Commodore Perry's opening of Japan to the West. When Sea-God was little more than a concept, I was fascinated with Manjiro's tenacity and open-ness to new cultures, heading out for a strange land and a strange language without second thought.

After my novel was published, I had some time to reflect on Manjiro and his comrades aboard the real whaling ship. Manjiro had four friends aboard his little fishing boat when the typhoon hit. He was the only one who made it to America. What happened to the rest of the four? When the whaling ship docked in Hawaii - the Sandwich Islands, as it was known then - they went ashore and settled in Honolulu. Two of them returned with Manjiro to Japan (they were arrested when they arrived, a very warm welcome). But the other two stayed.

I always wondered about the ones who stayed. One of them was very ill and eventually passed away, so he had no choice in the matter. But the other guy had no health problems; he stayed because he had married a Hawaiian girl. He'd built a life there, just as Manjiro had built his elsewhere.

It became clear to me as I wrote The Sea-God at Sunrise that Shima was not really a Manjiro-type character. Unlike his brother Takao, he's reluctant to trust foreigners, he's not great at language learning, and he has a hard time leaving the old life behind. In the sequel, set in 1849, about eight years after the first novel, I wanted to explore how Shima and Takao had both changed. Did the lives they built for themselves outside of Japan have room to let their birthplace back in? Would they think about returning? Or would they not consider that possibility, and want to stay in the new world?

A lot happens in eight years. Even if Shima's and Takao's lives had never moved on, the world did - historically, 1849 is the first year of the American Gold Rush. I was faced with doing more research for a sequel that I had never thought would happen, and then integrating that new research seamlessly into the world of the first book, which is harder than it sounds. It's frustrating to want to introduce huge dumps of information in the first few chapters. It's more frustrating to realize that you can't, for the sake of the narrative flow. My hat is off to authors who write book series and deal with this all the time. Whaling vs. the Gold Rush sounds interesting in theory, but is hard to write in practice.

At the same time, writing this sequel is like coming home. Even though it's been a while, Shima and Takao and Ellis and the rest of the crew haven't changed so much as to be unrecognizable. Sometimes as I'm writing I slip back into old habits, but I have to remind myself that it's been eight years, and everyone changes over time (if only jobs and fashion sense). I'm faced with the conundrum that all historical fiction authors must face at some point: where do I take them from here? At what point do I diverge from the historical context and create my own narrative?

I'm still trying to answer those questions, but a lot of other questions are, happily, resolved. The first book takes place, except for two chapters, exclusively at sea. The second one, by comparison, will explore a lot more of the land. I can say that the Gold Rush will play a large part in the overarching narrative, but not a huge part in the day-to-day lives of the characters as the story continues. I'll explore more of the old city of Honolulu and its people as well, as we return to the Sandwich Islands.

In the end, writing a sequel is just as much work as writing the first novel. I've also learned that I missed these characters, and I'm glad to have them back. I hope all authors feel this way when writing a sequel, because it's definitely warm and fuzzy and I like it. New friends will be made, old friends find each other again, and there is definitely whaling. Wherever my protaganists go, the sea-god is never far behind.


Ger Tysk is the author of The Sea-God at Sunrise and is currently working on the sequel. She lives in Boston with her husband and a menagerie of plush whales.