Posted in anxiety, characters, Courses, creativity, Cross Hatching, Drawing, Drawings, Editing, life drawing, Sketches, skillshare, visual diary, Water Colour, Water Colours

Ramping up my Art Practice

In the last month I’ve ramped up my daily art practice. Sketching and using water colour paints in my sketch books most of the time. I’ve also been to another life drawing class, attended my first water colour painting class and today, I have just finished a Sktchy course on cross hatching.

So if you’re interested… here is some of my work.

The cross hatched portrait below is my first one using black pens. It is the image the teacher used in the Sktchy course so you may see it around and depending on who drew it, it might be better rendered than I’ve done here. But having said that, I’m pretty happy with the way it turned out. I just need to practice the art of seeing and capturing shadows with fine cross hatching marks.

Below is my graphite pencil sketch of the guy we did in the Sktchy course. I put him in a frame as I needed to mark out lots of lines to get his features down on the page with accuracy.

IMG_0489

A lot of people like this pencil cross hatch and I’m super happy with it.

I went to a beginners water colour class and learned about blooms and glazes and all sorts of other techniques. I’m a bit heavy handed with the delicate medium but it’s fun to learn, make mistakes and see where they lead.

IMG_0452

Above is my finished water colour mushroom. I had a lot of fun creating this small art work on the paper we stretched. It was a great class run by Holly from Life Drawing Caloundra.

I’ve been doing a botanical workshop on Skillshare and that’s stretched me a lot. Here’s one of the pieces. It’s a vintage inspired flower with petals and stem.

 

IMG_0431

I think I like the stem and leaves the best. It’s all water colour and took a while for me to layer. I’m not the best realism artist but you got to start somewhere right?

IMG_0479

Above is my botanical alphabet project from the skillshare workshop. It turned out pretty good, but I’m not a big fan of fancy fonts. Maybe one day I will embrace them but it irritated me a bit because I kept making mistakes with the pen and had to keep starting over. For me that’s too painful to do and I doubt I’ll become a calligraphy lover… at least not someone who does calligraphy, but I’ll always have respect for anyone who does the art form!

Then it was off to life drawing class on the 29th May to celebrate their first year of regular classes. It was a great night with every spare spot taken up by artists trying to capture the gesture of the model. Above are two of my pieces. I gave drawing on black paper a go and it worked out pretty good. Quite a few people liked that drawing with the soft pastel.

IMG_0474

Then, totally inspired by Sketchbook Skool, it was time to sketch book my way through my life and capture everyday moments. This image as you can see is of my M&M slippers which I picked up in London in late August 2018. I love them and taking time to draw my feet on the coffee table was excellent fun. No need to feel precious about my lines and marks. It was just an impression of my life and an opportunity to practice drawing what I am seeing rather than what my brain thinks it can see.

I intend to keep practicing and learning new techniques. I hope that as I grow as an artist, I will also be able to create better skillshare courses of my own. I’d like to pass on things I’ve learned but only after I’ve practiced enough and made the techniques my own. I’m not very comfortable in front of the camera yet and it has taken me a long time to learn how to video my art as well as to think about the classes I could teach and how to teach creative writing from my own perspective. I face a lot of internal fears every time I come to create a skillshare course, but I’m moving through my fears and into creativity. I even made a course to help other deal with their fears around creativity based on the tools I use to manage anxiety.

They say one of the best ways to learn is to teach and I’m on that road now too.

On the creative writing front.. I’ve been chipping away at my edited manuscript and had to change a few characters which has lead to a chain reaction of changing what they do and don’t do. I’m about a third of the way through my manuscript and I’m so grateful I’m doing lots of art because it stops me from having anxiety brain.

When I write, I feel a lot of angst to get things right. But when I do art, most of the time the angst just vanishes. I can spend hours and hours doing drawings and not even realise time has sped past. I love writing, but it is a different experience for me. It’s a complex and sometimes analytical experience which somehow triggers off the inner critic in me more than art ever has.

I guess this is all part of a learning curve for me. I’d like to publish my story and I’ll keep at it, and I’ll keep drawing every day because the practice is so good for my mental and emotional well-being.

Until next time, happy creating!

Posted in characters, Creative Writing, Editing

Contest, Critique & Editing

Contest Critique Edit.png

I’m proud to tell you that my manuscript, The Living Death of Toddy James, was ranked 19 out of 127 submissions in the apprentice level of the 2018 Ink & Insights contest. As far as I’m concerned, that’s a fantastic result.

The 2018 Ink & Insight Contest was the first major critique contest I have entered and even though I was nervous, I stepped out of my comfort zone and put my words out there for constructive feedback from people I do not know.

There were four judges. Three of the judges were excellent, giving me constructive feedback to help me to develop my story structure and my writing while helping me to feel that I am doing a good job at learning and applying what I have learned about the art and craft of novel writing.

The fourth judge wrote comments that came across as if she had twenty plus years of editing experience, providing me with a particularly harsh set of comments. It wasn’t that she had given me difficult feedback so much as it was the blunt delivery of her words on the page that stung.

After reading her critique, I checked out her CV and saw that she is a super-keen newby editor with only one year of experience. That irritated me. And I admit my ego got its back up and I thought, “How dare she judge my work so harshly?” But then I took a deep breath and did my best to see the intent behind her harsh words and to reconcile my feelings. Maybe she was just keen to share what she knew?

Processing the feedback took a while and in the end, I’ve come to realise that all feedback is valuable to the writer, even brutally delivered feedback has hidden wisdom for me to consider.

So overall I am grateful for each judge and the guidance they gave me. But if I’m truly honest, my ego is still a wee bit miffed. I’m just being honest about how it made me feel and the struggles that I am sure every creative writer (and artist) goes through when critiqued.

I think as a creative person you have develop a thick skin for feedback no matter whether you are writing or creating art. Even when I was in art school all those years ago, I had to come to terms with other artists critiquing my work and toughen up as I was galvanised by the process of receiving feedback that was helpful but maybe difficult to hear.

So, since receiving my contest results and struggling to reconcile four different perspectives, I realised I needed the guidance of one editor. I needed to work with someone I trust completely to steer me in the direction of improving my manuscript for publication. That’s when I submitted my 80,000 word manuscript to Lauren Daniels for a professional structural edit and a taste of line editing.

Within a couple of weeks I received my manuscript with the first three chapters line edited and an overall professional structural edit. It was excellent, informative, and each comment was delivered with care for my growth as an author.

Below is an example of my story and the comments and line edit from Lauren. It looks overwhelming, but when I started going through the process of considering each and every comment and deletion, I found the changes made my prose come to life on the page.

LED editing sample for blog

Not once in all the comments and feedback provided to me by Lauren Daniels have I felt down or depressed or like I wasn’t moving forward with my writing skills.

Lauren Daniels is simply a fantastic editor who has twenty years of experience behind her and the depth of compassion needed to nurture authors to reach their potential.

Since receiving the structural edit, I have been able to pinpoint areas that need to be worked on my manuscript.

Each time I open my manuscript on Scrivener, I have cut out un-necessary ‘stage directions’, cleaned up dialogue so it is relevant and no longer a rambling mess, removed rhetorical questions and put an outline together to ensure my plot action and character arcs are adhering to the rising action/climax story structure format.

Below is a slightly blurred visual of my manuscript synopsis/outline for The Living Death of Toddy James. I’ve added a section to capture an important observation by Lauren about some of my female characters and how they relate to each other. I’ve blurred it because I don’t want to give away too many secrets of my story!

TLDTJ Outlining process on Scrivener 3

After wading through emotional confusion, I have allowed myself space to contemplate and compost my story. Processing emotions takes time and I think it’s good to give myself space to do that.

Now I am finding my editing feet and taking consistent steps toward polishing my novel for the next round of feedback and development.

I’ll have an outline with the plot points sorted in a structure that works and I will have a tight cast of characters to carry the story.

I have learned once again that not every reader is from my ‘tribe’ and that’s okay. I’ve also learned that composting feedback and mulling things over is also an important phase of the creative writing process.

It’s exciting to share my ups and downs with you as I go from the dream of writing and publishing a story, to writing the story, editing the story and to one-day publishing it for readers to read and review.

Posted in characters, Courses, Creative Writing, Fiction Writing Courses, Travel

UK here I come

Tomorrow I fly out of Australia and will be on my way to the UK for a month.

I am super excited to be starting my holiday.

So it’s packing time and Miss Poppy decided it was time to check out the interior of my suitcase. Rocket tolerated some photos with me which I took with my new selfie stick. And Jack spent time inspecting my suitcase as I considered what I might take with me.

My companions are so sweet to look after me in this way.

I’ll miss them while I am away but I feel good that my best friend will be caring for them during that time.

My partner is set to jet off and meet me in the UK a couple of days after I go because I’m going to Oxford to do my writing course.

I’ve got a couple of new ebooks downloaded for the trip:

  1. Three Bedrooms One Corpse by Charlaine Harris
  2. Maim Your Characters: How injuries work in Fiction by Samantha Keel
  3. Play It Away by Charlie Hoehn

So that’s one fiction novel, one writing how-to, and one non-fiction book on how to overcome anxiety through incorporating play in your everyday life.

I’ve also got a few digital puzzles downloaded and I’m currently listening to Voyager by Diana Gabaldon.

It is going to be a big adventure for me. I have a fair bit of character development done on my fantasy story, although there is always more I could do. I’ve got some setting sorted. Conflicts sketched out and an idea of the plot. I wouldn’t say that I’ve got all the novel puzzle pieces in my head but it’ll come as I relax and enjoy this travel adventure.

I’m not sure if I will have an opportunity to post here during my travels but if I can, I will.

UK here I come!

 

Posted in characters, Creative Writing, creativity, Dragons, Editing, fiction, Fiction Writing Courses, Paranormal

Writing – Paranormal and Fantasy Fiction

soul seeker 1A couple of weeks ago a new character came into my imagination. I knew what she looked like and I had a good sense of who she was. It was like being visited by a the soul of a real person.

I grabbed my iPad, opened a new Scrivener project and jotted down everything I’d seen, heard, smelled and tasted in that first meeting. It got me excited because I loved this character immediately and I wanted to know more, to learn more and experience more of her paranormal/normal life. I wanted to learn more about the conflicts she has over her abilities and how her paranormal abilities complicate her career, her love life, her sense of self.

On and off since the first time she showed up, I’ve had visits from her and each time I learn a little more about who she is as a ‘real person’ in my imagination.

Then last night an antagonist walked out of the mist of my imagination and I saw exactly what he was wearing, the gate of his stride, the tilt of his fine boned face.

So once again, I opened my scrivener file and jotted what I’d experienced down. I don’t have his name yet but I’ve got the essence of who he is and the darkness that emanates from him in a seductive manner. And I know he is the opposing force to my female protagonist.

I love it when this type of thing happens. For me this is part of magic of writing fiction. I’m always learning and growing as a writer and story teller, and when a character comes forward and wants to be put down on the page, I get excited. It’s almost as if the character is whispering in my inner ear and I am writing their story from their perspective.

So, now I am a bit over three weeks away from my trip to the UK and I now have two stories growing inside my mind. After a period of feeling creatively fallow, these ideas are a delight.

One of my stories is a paranormal romance, which is probably my absolute favourite genre to write, and if this story goes the way I am plotting it, then it will be my third paranormal story with romance beats. I’m excited to write this story.

The second story is my fantasy novel which features dragons and a few humans that can use magic. I’m enjoying learning how to put an epic fantasy story together. I’m not yet sure how this story will go. Sometimes I feel frustrated that I don’t have all the puzzle pieces and other times I feel inspired by the ideas I have. Most of the time I am considering: How can I take this idea beyond cliche?

So far I have discovered writing a fantasy world is an in-depth adventure in itself. There is so much for me to think about, to brainstorm and to create. My thinking includes:

  • Characters – who is my protagonist, my antagonist and other roles
  • Conflicts – the major conflict and smaller conflicts for all characters and how they will play out
  • World building – there is so much involved in this part, sometimes I feel overwhelmed
  • Plotting how it will all pan out
  • Themes I want to touch on
  • Treatment – do I want to write this story from first person point of view or third person point of view?

So I am going to really enjoy my Fantasy Fiction writing course with David Farland in Oxford, and I am very much looking forward to learning about all the layers and nuances I need to consider to bring my ideas to life and create a believable fantasy fiction world that readers will want to experience via my characters.

When I return from the UK, I hope to finish writing these stories and to work on editing Tuppence Weatherstorm and The Living Death of Toddy James so that I can move them toward publication. It would be good move my writing to the next level, even if being published is a scary step.

 

Posted in characters, Creative Writing, creativity, Editing, fiction, Paranormal, Story, Wattpad

Phases of Writing my Novel – A Discovery

IMG_1294

I’ve learned there are many phases of writing my novel. Some phases are challenging as I struggle to birth the words and scenes that will make my story come to life. And some phases are filled with excitement and joy as my creativity soars and the words spill onto the page without effort.

In this post I’m going to tell you about some of the phases I’ve been through so far as I have been writing my novel, Tuppence Weatherstorm.

Back in early 2016 I was sitting on the train on the way out of the city and gazing out the window. It was a hot and humid day. The sky was mottled gun metal grey and overcast.  The train pulled out of Fortitude Valley and my eyes came upon thee old brick buildings with pointed roofs. The brick work reminded me of a church I’d once seen and then my creative mind was off and racing.

The first character, not the main character, appeared inside my imagination. I opened my iPad and started to type what I saw. I grinned as he formed on the page and the setting grew around him. I had no idea where the scene was going but I knew he had appeared for a reason. And I knew it was the start of a story, so I decided to go for it.

What did I have to lose? Nothing. By giving my ideas space to breathe, I had everything to gain, so I plunged in and wrote as much as I could when I could.

This marked the beginning of the first draft phase of writing my novel.

It took me five months of writing, developing my characters, developing the plot, thinking about internal and external conflicts and considering the treatment I’d use to tell my story. For those who are not familiar with the term ‘treatment’, it means whether I’d write it in first person or third person close perspective.

At the time I was also experiencing a high level of anxiety and creative writing gave me a way to express all the things I couldn’t in my real life on the page.

This was also the ‘no self-censorship’ phase of my writing.

I gave myself permission to write as freely as my imagination would allow. I chased ideas down rabbit holes, filled my manuscript with cliches and wrote it on Wattpad.  This was a great fun phase as I received encouragement from the people who read my first draft as I wrote it and shared it with them. Their kind words and support meant the world to me and it still does. I feel blessed to have their input into my novel.

Once I’d finished my first draft of my novel, I had about 80,000 words and no idea on how to proceed.  I’d never got this far with a story before. So I contacted an editor and asked her to take a look at the manuscript and paid her for her time.

This was the editing report phase of writing my novel. 

It was a time of vulnerability for me which was probably heightened by the extreme levels of anxiety I was experiencing in my personal life at the time. But I sat on my hands and waited for my feedback.

I received the feedback and it was great. I received lots of comments, all geared toward helping me to write a stronger story.  The editing review looked at holes in character, plot structure, conflicts, treatment and theme. It gave me added insight into cutting cliches. Cutting overwriting. Cutting tangents.

I also learned that I was trying to write two stories at the same time. This meant that I was consciously writing a paranormal story but my subconscious was dealing with the theme of anxiety.

I hadn’t seen that in the manuscript and was grateful for that insight as it helped me to consider if anxiety was really the theme I wanted to focus on in the story.

It took me about a two months, nearly three of digesting the comments in the editing report before I was ready to start rewriting. The editing report was one of the most valuable learning experiences I’ve had in the process of writing my novel. I used their feedback to help move forward with rewriting. I took one comment at a time and tried to focus on what they had said and see how I could create a stronger story by using that knowledge.

The editing report comments were gold. Pure gold.

I still return to my editor’s comments because they help me to stay on track and focus so I no longer write tangents into my story.

This marked another phase of writing my novel. The second rewrite. 

It was time to do a thorough rewrite. I had to learn to write stronger verbs. I had to start cutting adverbs by 90%. I had to replace cliches with my original prose and come to terms with cutting all the tangents that did not move the plot forward.

I had to focus and tighten and learn to cut out repetition while shaping the plot around the changes. It was a challenging phase and at times I wondered if I’d ever get through it. This phase was akin to going up a grade and learning at a higher level.

Challenging is good.

But I admit, there were times when my anxiety grew into a monstrous entity in its own right. I had to see my psychologist about it and discuss the way my ‘monkey mind’ attempted to sabotage my creative writing. And that was very helpful.

This phase of rewriting took me about three months of focus. When I finally finished the last chapter, I was so happy. I’d made it. I’d not only written and finished the first draft – the bones of my story, but I’d done it a second time and now it had some muscle.

At this point I entered into my current phase of writing my novel… another rewrite! 

Basically, as soon as I finished my second draft, I circled back to the beginning of my story and started reading and writing again. This time I looked at how I could bring out the secondary characters and write the scenes in such a way as to bring out the paranormal themes.

This is the phase I’m in right now.

So, during the week, I focus on rewriting a chapter at a time. Usually this is on the train on the way to work or going home.  (I travel for an hour and 15 minutes each way and use my time to progress my novel or to read and learn).

Once I’ve added missing detail, brought out the senses and developed character circuitry and peeled back another layer of conflict, I move onto the next chapter.  At the end of the week I go through all the recent rewrites on my home computer.

I open Scrivener and use the speech tool to listen to what I’ve written. I found using the audio function helps me to pick up sentences that don’t sound right. I instantly pick up incorrect words and missing words too. It also helps me to hear the cadence and to correct it as I go.

So far I am half way through the third rewrite.  Once this phase of writing my novel is complete, my writing buddy in Melbourne will read the story for the first time and provide me with valuable feedback. He’s my next beta reader and I’ll be integrating his insights when I receive them.  So that’ll commence rewriting phase four.

Going forward, I know there are many more phases of writing my novel yet to come. So, to help me prepare, I have spent time brainstorming a list of editing topics that I will concentrate on as I keep combing through my story and polishing it.

Here are just a few of the editing topics I will be focusing on as I move forward with Tuppence Weatherstorm:

  1. Have I captured all the senses in my story?  Do I favour one or two of the senses over the others? If so, I need to write in the missing senses to help bring out the ‘show’ aspect of the story.When I say senses, I’m talking about: sight, sound, smell, taste, touch.
  2. Have I caught all the repetition in every scene?  What else can I cut or rewrite to build tension and suspense in the story and make it flow better?
  3. Are all of my character’s voices individual?  If not, I will need to go back and do more character work, maybe interview my characters until their voices surface and then write that into the manuscript.
  4. Do I have any words that repeat that I need to vary?  I already know that I like to use the word ‘scream’ a lot. I think that’ll be one for the search and rewrite list.
  5. Do I have ‘tell’ words rather than ‘show’ words in my prose?  I’ll be searching for the word ‘felt’ and doing my best to rewrite the sentence so I show what is happening to my character in the situation.

There are so many more editing topics on my list but I won’t put them up here until I’ve been through them. Some I can’t put up here as I’ve learned them through private courses and the method belongs to the teacher.  But I’ll give you what I can once I know it works.

So far, I’ve been writing Tuppence Weatherstorm for a year and three months. I think that’s pretty fast for me, even though at times it feels like an eternity.

People ask me how long does it take to write and publish a book?  

And I have to say, “I don’t know.”

Right now I’m doing the work. I haven’t got to the stage of publishing my novel yet. And I think every writer is different. Every story is unique and even though there may be deadlines, a story unfolds in its own time. At least that’s how I look at it right now.

What I do know is that once I’ve exhausted all of my editing topics on my list it will be time to submit my manuscript to my editor again. That will be another phase in the birthing of my story as I discover what else needs attention and continue the process of crafting and polishing.

When my story is ready for publication I know it will be the best I could do with the knowledge, experience and guidance I had at the time.

And that’s all I can hope for.

Happy writing and reading!

Posted in characters, Creative Writing, creativity, Literacy, Story

On Stephen King and Writing Characters

Last year Stephen King received recognition for his work in literacy from the Librarian of Congress at the 2016 Library of Congress Book Festival in Washington, D.C.

They recorded his talk and loaded it up to YouTube which is awesome because I had an opportunity to watch it.

Stephen King did not disappoint. I love this guy! You know … in the ‘I’m a fan girl’ kind of way.  He talked about the Dead Zone and how he foresaw Donald Trump – scary that his work of fiction could have overtones to reality but there it is.

He told funny tales about being a famous author and discussed how to increase literacy in the community. This was very inspiring as he talked about reading for fun, about falling into other worlds and living through characters.

He said (and I’m paraphrasing) that people who do not read live one life and it may be a great life, but people who read, live thousands of lives.

I loved that message because whenever I read a story I get to experience what the character is going through but I don’t need to live their pain in my physical life.

And when I was younger (in my early twenties) I didn’t read much. It took me a lot of practice to learn to read well and then to enjoy the experience. I didn’t grow up loving stories mainly because I didn’t understand the joys of other worlds and characters. I found reading difficult but over time my literacy jumped and I found that I LOVED reading and I loved writing.  And that, in a nutshell, is how I came to be writing my own fiction.

Now, when I read books I have an opportunity to change my perspective on important topics and I learn that not every person who does ‘bad’ things is acting from a place of malevolence. Some characters have motivations that stem from a place of thinking they are acting for the highest good. And that makes the character complex and far more interesting to read about.

So a lot of what Stephen King talked about resonated with me, both as a person who once did not value reading and as a person who is so in love with reading I am never without a novel or a non-fiction book now.

Another interesting thing Stephen King talked about was how odd it was to see so many people in the crowd because writers are supposed to be secret agents. He said, “We’re supposed to observe you, you’re not supposed to observe us.”

I thought that was a great comment because as a writer I find myself observing people. Sometimes I’ve thought that I shouldn’t do that, but to write authentic characters and to gain inspiration for stories I realised that I needed to be engaged in the world around me (to a degree).

Mostly, I look at people’s emotions and how emotion impacts behaviour and the decisions and actions taken.  It’s endlessly fascinating to me.  I often contemplate behaviour and the principle of cause and effect as I write.

A number of my writing teachers have encouraged me to observe body language; to watch people and to do my best to notice the small giveaway signs of their thoughts and emotions too. I do this, but sometimes I think I do it more subconsciously than on a conscious level because I don’t sit across from people and just watch them. I listen to what they are saying, I do observe their body language from the perspective of being present with them and engaged in the topic at hand.

Yet I must admit that watching people teaches me so much about how to write believable characters with congruent and incongruent emotions and body language. Observing people (on TV and in real life) is fantastic way to develop my creative imagination as well as a vital skill for creative writing. So I reckon Stephen King, with all the years of experience and writing success, has a good point about writers being observers.

So, I thoroughly enjoyed watching Stephen King’s talk. He’s an inspiration both as a writer and as a mentor (even though he wouldn’t know me from a bar of soap).

And if you have time and you’re interested in Stephen King, literacy, creative writing or just interested in having a laugh because he is an entertaining speaker, that you’ll take time to watch his talk on YouTube too.

 

Posted in characters, Creative Writing, creativity, Dragons, magic, Story

Merlin – My New Obsession

I’ve found a new love and it’s the Merlin tele series.  I’m a bit slow on the uptake of some of these shows but when I fall for a show, I fall hard.

 

I think I like Merlin so much because I like a hero who has to deal with living in the mundane world while also struggling to hide and come to terms with the magical world they truly belong to.  I enjoy characters who  live two lives in one. And I enjoy stories filled with magic and monsters.

For years I avoided watching this show because I couldn’t handle the haircuts. Yes, I’m that shallow. But in my mind Camelot would not have a king, prince or mage with short hair styles. It seemed … wrong.

It irked me, but after watching the first episode, with heaps of encouragement from my awesome partner “to give it a go”, I was sucked into the story.

Basically anything with magic in it will get my attention but what really sold me on the series was the dragon.  The dragon character (voiced by the late John Hurt) is a guide to Merlin and a support to him as he grows into his powers. But the dragon is also a contagonist in that he has his own agenda. He is not aligned with the antagonist and initially encouraged Merlin to take actions that would be in the dragon’s best interest and not that of the antagonist or the protagonist.

The contagonist characters are fascinating because we do not know where their loyalties lie and they can switch sides as it suits them but eventually there is a moment in their story arc when they commit one way or the other.

When I got to the episode when the dragon committed his loyalties chills of excitement rushed through my body and my heart opened. For me, it was a pivotal moment in the story and one that I loved.

The other fantastic thing about watching Merlin is that it inspires me with my creative imagination.

I learn so much about the art and craft of story telling from watching these shows.  And I feel inspired to jot down my own dragon stories that have been bouncing around inside my head for years.  I have written parts of stories with dragons in them but I have not spent the time delving deep and developing them.

I think this year, after I complete Tuppence Weatherstorm, I’ll put my mind to the dragon that lurks in the dark spaces of my mind and give her life on the page.

Thanks Merlin for your inspiration.