Archives for category: Learning

I’m having a little bit of difficulty at the moment. And of course it’s coming right as I write the last few thousand words of my novel. Typical.

I’ve pictured the ending of my novel for so bloody long now, that as I write it, I cannot for some reason or another write coherently, it’s all coming out as word vomit, and not the good kind either. I don’t know if it’s a case of my brain, saying, “Missy, just put all your ideas out here, then we’ll come back to it later” or if I’ve suddenly just become a goddamn awful writer. Some of the last few sections have been really good, and this vomit at the moment has just been, well, vomit.

It could also be a case of rushing. Although I don’t feel like I’m in a hurry. I’ve given myself a deadline of October 31st to finish writing Solace. This is not taking into account, time for edits, cover work etc. So I’ve still got a number of days ahead of me that will allow me plenty of time to work on the material at hand.

I think I’m just excited to be writing the final closing stages of the book. Because after this, well book 2 has been written for almost years. The majority of it, that is. And i’m itching to get started on that.

Obviously at times like this, it would be amazing to have an editor, to bounce ideas off. This is one of the harder parts of self publishing, the loneliness that accompanies your project. I haven’t established an online presence in relation to my writing, I’ve been so busy with the other side of things, that I thought leaving it until the novel was written would be a better decision. Now I’m slightly regretting it.

It also doesn’t help that the book you’re currently reading, the prose seems to be so effortless. Simple descriptions look like Joycean written passages. Goddamn.

What do you do to combat self doubts and bad writing?

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Yesterday I went to the cinema to see Now is Good with three of my girlfriends. I’d read the book, differently titled, Before I Die by Jenny Downham last year as I traveled home from Spain. I remember crying sobbing my heart out on the airplane, the lady seated next to me giving me strange glances. My grandfather has passed away earlier that year from cancer, and the book and its characters rang true to me, so that as I sat there reading the book, thousands of feet in the sky, I felt my heart break again.
Watching the movie last night ripped all those feelings open again, this time my beloved grandmother had only passed away 4 months ago. Her death came as a shock to the family and to all those around her. I sat in the cinema, and let the tears stream down my face, I desperately wanted to open my mouth and wail, but it seemed too personal.

The row, which consisted of just my friends and myself, shook with our sobs. Our noses running, sniffling back the lumps of pure unadulterated sadness that encapsulated us all. As the final titles appeared on the screen, we all looked at each other and began to giggle. The sight of 4 grown women sobbing their hearts out to dying Dakota Fanning is quite a sight.

This post is also to remind me of the emotions that are attached to our characters. Yes we can create sad scenes, a break up, a death, a sad goodbye, but it is the characterization and the reality that make it so important. If we can identify with the character, we’ll follow them on their path, breathing their air, fighting their fights etc. As Oisin McGann said earlier in the month, we need our characters to be emphatic. This has never been more true than last night as we followed our brave heroine on her struggle with cancer and love.
Caution: A word of warning to those going to see the movie. Bring an entire book of kleenex. It’s unbelievably sad. This is my new notebook.

My personal life has become a tiny bit haphazard. Whereas nothing was happening up to 2 weeks ago, suddenly I’ve gotten myself a voluntary position that is out of this world and excites the hell out of me.

The new position means a lot more researching and trying to organize meetings and blah blah blah.

So I have cumulatively written next to nothing. Awesome. That novel of mine is just totally going to write itself.

So perhaps now is a good time to discuss Time Management cause I don’t have a notion…

Personally. I like to relax in the evenings after work. I like to check Facebook, float around the kitchen, catch up with the familia. That’s just a normal night. Then I’ll eventually sit down and write from 9pm to around 11pm. I think it’s something to do with winding down my brain and getting into that relaxed stage where I’m just about ready for bed, but not quite.

But then life interrupts, trips to the cinema, tea with friends, socializing at the weekend and thus being far too hungover to even contemplate writing. So I’m making the decision now. Right now goddammit.

To be a better person. To a} write more b} blog more & c} spend less of my weekends hungover. I really want to do this, I’ve been meaning for so long to finish this novel, that I just want it done, and ready to leave my brain. It trickles into my subconscious daily and lingers there waiting for it to be released. Naturally as a procrastinator I ignore it and leave it to fester. But fester no more.

Oy vey.

On Sunday I attended a workshop conducted by Oisin McGann, wearing a ‘Be careful or you’ll end up in my novel’ t-shirt. It was workshop for those interested in writing for children and it was absolutely phenomonal. I remember sitting there, scribbling notes and trying to take it all in, secretly wishing it was 3 hours longer. I haven’t met anyone like that before, who was able to dispense really good solid advice. Absolutely brilliant. AND it only cost €25 too! For 3 hours of brilliance. And it ran over by 30 minutes too.

I have reams and reams of notes that I took down from it, I apologize if this doesn’t necessarily flow well. I’ll do my best to make it as cohesive as possible.

Again, like the Independent Publishing seminar, we started off talking about the Cover – this is where it all starts. If you can attract your reader by having a fantastic cover, you’ve already won half the battle. The point of the cover is to attract them, then hopefully they will turn over and read the blurb on the book, then the 1st line on the page and so on and so forth.

The 3 crucial points to any good story are the  3 P’s: 

1. People – Characters/Life/Personality

2. Place – Setting/Location for the story

3. Problem – to make it interesting. It’s a challenge for your characters to overcome

The location and the people are linked. The location in some stories is a factor the main character, it’s the geography they know extremely well, they know the backstreets and alleyways, they know where to get a pizza at 5am. The problem could be, that the characters have suddenly been dropped into a territory that they aren’t familiar eg. Kid wakes up on Mars etc.

The thing with story telling is, we want to see our characters at their most extraordinary. We want to meet the characters on their most challenged day of their lives. Think Katniss on Reaping Day in the Hunger Games. Think of any of the Harry Potters.

Character:

We want a character that we can empathise with, someone with whom reawakens feelings and makes us care for them. We want to be concerned about our protagonists should something happen to them. For plot driven books, readers don’t empathise with the main characters, instead we focus our attentions on the plot around them which is driving rapidly forward.

In order to develop a character, and to make them human, look around at the people surrounding you. Take traits from them, such as the friend who sucks her thumb and twirls her hair when she gets tired, or the friend who makes awkward situations funny and brilliant by breaking the ice with terrible jokes. Look around you and insert real life situations from the people you’ve met.

Show don’ts tell. If a secondary character is nearby, get the main character to tell the secondary characters their feelings, rather than letting the main characters thoughts take over the scene. It becomes more human.

Place:

Keep the pace of the plot going, think of it almost as if there is a film crew following your main character through the room etc. Yet keep the description and action going. Observe  in real life, look at your environment and pick up on the little things that you’ve never noticed before. The environment is a very handy tool for plot development, it affects the behaviour of the character etc. However make it grounded, so that the environment feels real to the readers. This makes it relatable for the readers. Don’t delve into an imaginary world, leaving the readers bewildered.

Plot/Problem:

Pose a question….and then answer it. This is the stripped down version of how to write a story. Leave a trail of crumbs for your readers to follow by dropping hints and clues along the way.

There are 10 steps to a formulaic plot.  

1. Start off with a bang {a dramatic scene – heighten the emotions}.

2. Slow down, introduce characters and setting.

3. Establish the main problem.

4. Make a plan {Make the character involved in the action, if they stand back, they will be less involved and the story won’t be interesting}.

5. The plan goes wrong.

6. Have to improvise.

7. Will they succeed?

8. All is about to be lost!

9. They succeed! Or Fail!

10. Wrap it up. The readers should want more, but be glad that it is resolved.

And that wrapped up the workshop. Oisin then went over a little bit on cover writing, advances, the market etc. It was fantastic and I left with a big grin on my face. If you get the opportunity and want to write for children, I highly recommend any workshop he conducts in the near future.

Phew. I suppose I should get back to writing now! Make my own stamp on the YA world.

 

A big hats off to those who organized the Mountain to the Sea Festival, it was bloody brilliant. My only regret is I didn’t go to more talks/workshops etc. I can’t wait for next year.

On Saturday I attended the Independent Publishing Seminar conducted by Vanessa O’Loughlin of Inkwell Publishing and Writing.ie and joined by Catherine Ryan Howard, Arlene Hunt and Adrian White. It was fantastic. It was great to see how these writers have done with self publishing, their results and the tips they shared with the audience. I got a whole lot out of it.

Catherine Ryan Howard runs an extremely popular blog on her thoughts and experiences of self publishing. I urge everyone to go and read it immediately! It’s that fantastic. She covers everything you could possibly think of. I’ve just bought her book on her tips to self publishing and can’t wait for it to arrive.

Adrian White was traditionally published 10 years ago and had a deal with Penguin. He has since written a new book and decided to go down the route of self publishing.

Arlene Hunt was a very successful author with 6 books under her belt, and when offered to extend her contract to a further 2 books, she politely declined and decided to self publish instead. She even admitted it was an insane and scary decision. Incredible brave if you ask me.

Anywho so onto what I learn’t from the chat/talk/seminar:

I think the most important thing gleaned from it, and what every member of the panel all said, was that the writing of the book is not the hard part. The hard part is what comes after. Now this is in terms of self publishing. I think for the majority of people who do take it on, it’s a lonesome process. You don’t have the editors and publishers to fall back onto when times get tough, it’s solely up to you. The formatting is strenuous and will make you pull out your hair in fistful of clumps.

Money has to be spent, if you want to make money. If you have spent hours writing this book, hard long hours pouring your very soul into the book, don’t you want to reap the potential rewards. The panel all advised that in order for it to be successful, you need to spend money on cover design, editing, proofreading etc. Catherine put the figure at around €1000-€2000. Yikes. 

You can choose from the covers that are offered at SmashWords and Amazon, but they are of really bad/cheap quality. Unless you are a whizz at creating seriously jaw dropping covers, or a graphic designer, fork out the money to someone who is good at their job. After all, the cover is where it all starts, if you can attract your potential readers with your cover, you’re earning a potential sale.

In terms of sales its really about Marketing, get a twitter, get a Facebook account, start a blog. Get on every social media platform there is. Make friends with fellow writers, but do not spam your followers on these platforms with your potential new titles. It will make them want to block you. There are also opportunities to do bog tours something I hadn’t come across. Basically a free, do-from-home, tour of blogs, publicizing your book. Great idea. Hopefully will get one of those started, maybe get people on this. That would be brilliant!

Copyright not a major issue, unless your Stephen King, the panel said they don’t even considered it to be a problem for low level writers like themselves. Again it only becomes a problem when you’re hugely successful.

Pen Names Google yourself and see where your name appears on the Google search. Catherine added ‘Ryan’ to her name because if you just Google ‘Catherine Howard’, you get results for Henry VIII’s wife. So do be creative and Google yourself!

There was also chat about KDP Select which I really like the sound of. However by limiting yourself to KDP Select, you are loosing out on a huge market. But I would definitely like to give it a go. The panelists  didn’t have much luck with it.

There was a ton more stuff, but I shan’t bore you any more. I really enjoyed the event, and now I just need to motivate myself to writing again. I have seemed to have stumbled into a bit of a ditch in my YA novel, I can’t seem to figure out what happens next. Ahhhh!