Well, I've had a busy week. My dad has been poorly for a month. For the first time in thirty plus years I managed to get him to see a doctor. Now he has made three visits with a trip to the hospital thrown in too. he isn't better yet, but he might just be on the mend.
As you can imagine, all the worry had an adverse effect on my writing. Consequently, I haven't done as much work on the final read through of my latest novel this week. As you will have gathered from earlier blog posts, I am learning to avoid self-flagellation and, although I do plan, some times you've just got to take each day as it comes. There are times when even the best laid plans fail, or need to be changed.
One plan that didn't change this week was my lunch date with two dear friends, one of whom came up from Kent. I first met her when I worked at our local Council. Not only is she a much loved friend, she also used to be my hypnotherapist and has helped me immensely in my private and professional life. Thus, it was no surprise that she had some mighty words of wisdom.
As we pondered life and gossiped over our gnocchi and merlot, she told me that life is to be embraced. It is to be lived. She has just returned from a mindblowing trip to China and Nepal where she was blessed by a Buddhist monk and suffered a bout of altitude sickness.
We discussed her adventures and much more. One question we did ponder was, if you could do something that you never had the chance to do before, be it through lack of funds or opportunity, what would it be?
I would have liked to be an archeologist. I find the subject fascinating and wish I could find something valuable (historically not financially) in my back garden, instead of worms, lizards (however cute) and bits of broken brick from when the houses were first built.
Of course, we came full circle and decided that we were happy with our lot. Okay, I would like to sell a few more books, just to keep the leeches happy, and I'd like days with no interruptions so that my muse praises my genius, rather than rants at him.
However, this is life. This is what it is all about and, my ever astute friend informs me, it has to be embraced. This is true with writing. I mean, if I hadn't had to make that trip to the doctors and hospital with dad, I would never have spent time sitting in crowded waiting rooms pondering the life stories of those fidgeting and waiting in it. You see what I'm getting at fellow writers?
Yes, everthing you see is material, inspiration. Life is full of inspiration and nudges of ideas for us to utilise. We just have to open our eyes and minds.... and notebooks. We have to grasp them and run and, as my friend advises, whilst we're doing this we have to remember to live like a lion, not die like a mouse.
Well, it's that time of year again. The cold is creeping in, (although to be honest, I think it's marched in this weekend), the daylight hours are fading fast and the leaves on the trees are starting to change and drop.
I have to say, I love this time of year. Not for the cold and damp. Oh no! However, I do love the myriad of colours that slowly emerge. Mother Nature puts on a magnificent show to enjoy. Of course, it goes without saying that I also love it when the heating comes on, or you can put the fire on and snuggle down with a cup of hot chocloate, a glass of fine Merlot, and lose oneself in a good book - Not that I ever need an excuse to put the fire on or dip into a book. (So hubby would tell you!)
I also see this as the time of year to begin sorting out my writing. Oh, I'm not talking about edits and the every day motion of applying the BOCHOK method and actually writing. No. I'm talking about looking back and assessing how my writing year has been.
Some would say that this is not a good idea. The past is just that. Wrong! As someone with a BA in History, I believe that the past is an integral part of who we are today, and that goes for every aspect of our lives.
Okay, I never actually set myself yearly goals to be strictly enforced the minute Big Ben has finished his chimes. Nor do I look back on the year slipping by and begin a needless exercise of self-flagellation for any missed deadlines or too many lazy days - I have a low pain threshold!
However, I do take it as a means of helping to boost my self confidence and self belief. How? Well, every event in my writing world teaches me something. It could be something as simple as a word I haven't come across before, or discovering a new, useful Website or Facebook page (yes, there are a lot out there). It could even be something as monumental (for me, anyway) as teaching myself how to index and add hyperlinks to an anthology of short stories, not forgetting formatting manuscripts so that they can be published as ebooks on Smashwords and Amazon KDP.
You see where this is going? Yeah yeah, I've entered short stories comps and submitted to magazines without as much success as in past years, and I've had my little tantrums. What writer doesn't? But, (and it's a big but with shiny bells on), all these aren't failings. Not really. When I look back on these last few months, I don't see myself as the Fall Gal (apart from liking the colours on the trees). I don't sink into a fit of despair and bemoan my lack of success.
Nope. Not anymore. These days, I look back and see someone who is growing stronger everyday as each separate writing journey helps me take another step closer to fulfilling my dreams. So tell me, what are your successes this year? What are your proudest moments of the last year? I mean, this time last year I didn't have a clue how to format an ebook, or blog for that matter. So, at least two successes there! And, after all, you know what they say - from little acorns......
Every writer loves the feeling when the words are flowing and everything is all right in the little fictional world you created, and when you put the last word on the page well, it's a bit of a slam dunk moment, even if I often experience a pang of sadness along with the relief and joy. This is especially true if you are close to your characters.
So, this is my question in this week's Blog : How much reseach do you do? How close are you really to all those fictional people in your work?
I was always told that it's easier, and best, to write about things that you know. I suppose, as a romance writer, that's pretty straightforward as we deal with emotions on a daily basis and that is the main ingredient in a romance novel.
But what about writing about things that you don't know much about...Crime? History? Science Fiction? All these genres, and probably many more, have elements that you possibly know nothing about. That's where the above maxim fails. In fact, if I'm honest, I tend to believe that sticking to writing about what you know could be quite constraining. Why not broaden your horizons? Dig a little?
And that brings me on to the second question....How close do you feel you are to your characters?
I'm something of an organic writer, in that I do a little planning and plot structure before I get started, but once the ink is flowing and my muse is running with the wind, I let my characters dictate events. Okay, I confess, I have spider maps and list of chapter contents, but I tend to try and let my characters tell the story.
However, I have learned from one big mistake....You need to know your characters for this to work. I used to do all of the above and then write. I had an image of my characters in my head and used to just stick to that. The trouble was, this made my characters seem one dimensional and difficult for the reader to visualise or get to know, never mind fall in love with. It also often left mw with the inevitable saggy middle.
The answer? Well, I now have what I have labelled "Character Profile Sheets". One of these is completed for every character, even the minor ones. It includes everything from their physical attributes, their likes and dislikes, their strengths and weaknesses and anything else that will help me get to know the character. I also clip a picture of the character to it. These are obtained from the Net or catalogues and magazines.
I might not use all this information but it is there in case I do, and I think that my characters are more rounded now that I take the time to do this. How do you get acquainted with your characters? It would be great to hear any tips that you have.
Getting back to research...I was chatting to a lovely man called Josh, from the RSPB, earlier this week. He asked if I could include him in one of my novels. He also asked if I could set it in rural Lichenstein, a place I know very little about so might have to broaden my horizons...Hmm....me thinks there could be some research to do there!
Well, I now have two weeks off work. Actually, when I say time off, I really mean that I don't have to go and do my little part time cleaning job for a fortnight. This doesn't mean that I can take it easy like our cat Stan.
We usually jet off to Bitez on the Bodrum Peninsula in Turkey. However, this year we are having a stay-cation. Okay, this opens up tons of possibilities- namely involving my writing. Why? Well, I'll tell you.
I have this theory that writers never, ever, get a day off. Even when you follow Stan's example above, your brilliant writer's brain never shuts down, and the characters in your head never shut up! When we go on holiday, I usually take a couple of notebooks with the intention of scribbling notes and observations in the sun, (of course, anything more would simply add to the luggage allowance and one that is, in my view, meagre enough as it is!).
Anyway, I don't have that problem this year and I fear that my head might just explode - not literally, of course. That would make a terrible mess and would distract me from my writing! However, I don't have to go so very far from my office. That means I can finish my edits without feeling guilty that I have jetted off and abandoned my characters to suffer the cooling evenings and shortening days alone.
Or does it? How do you switch off, if you ever do at all? I visit a hypnotherapist. I think I have mentioned it before. She does a wonderful job at helping me. As well as keeping me focussed, she also helps me to relax when I need to. I shall be paying her a visit this coming week.
Do you feel guilty if you don't write anything, or do you subscribe to the belief that your brain is always working, even if you're not aware of it? Let me know. I tend to go through phases of both schools of thought. Right now, I'm hoping to finish my current edit and take a couple of days out, at least. Of course, my notebook will be my trusted companion, whatever and wherever and, as it's my birthday on Wednesday, there's a perfect excuse to relax and eat cake!!
Well, it's been a good week on the writing front. I posted some competition entries and also made a start on the final edit of my latest romance novel. I am about half way and am pleased with it so far.
Other things have been pretty stressful. My dad was taken poorly and I managed to make him see a doctor. This is no mean feat when he hasn't made contact with a doctor in over thirty years. He is slowly on the mend now, but the bad chest infection really scared us all.
So I didn't feel too guilty taking a day off yesterday and visiting a "Stars, Cars & Superheroes" Exhibition at a local venue. There were lots of fantastic exhibits from Dr Who, Star Wars, Batman, Knight Rider, and many many more. As you can see, I had a wee encounter with Iron Man. Now I know that he isn't real, it's a man in a suit, but he's my favourite Marvel Hero. However, I wasn't expecting him to turn round and face me like that. His 7ft to my 5ft 3'' was quite scary.
And this brings me nicely round to writing...
As you can see, the title of this post is "iron determination". I just wanted to ask, how much determination do you have to succeed? To write?
I recently read an article that advised that if you are having a bad day and the words and ideas just aren't flowing, then you should step away from your work and do something else.Of course, this goes against the other, more common, belief that you should just push on. After all, you can't edit a blank page.
Which view do you subscribe to? Personally, I tend to believe that it could be both.
Take today, for example. I have woken up with a really bad head and feeling quite nauseous. Do I force myself into my study and work on my manuscript, or do I take the day off in the hope that I will feel better tomorrow and I will probably produce better work? Of course, if I had woken up and was just feeling lazy, then perhaps I would tell myself to get in my study and work. See how both points of view can be applied at different times?
It is a quandary all writers face at some point and, it has to be said, it is a vicious circle. Let me know your thoughts on it. Ultimately, a writer's dream is to produce a good piece of fiction that people can read and enjoy, and earn some money of course. But we give ourselves a hard time trying to achieve it.
And on that note, I think I might just have to pop a couple of pills, snuggle up on the sofa and have a lazy Sunday. My Dark Side is calling.