Posted in characters, creativity, doodle, Drawing, Drawings, illustration, portraits, portraiture, Procreate art, Sketches, visual diary, Water Colour, Water Colours, watercolour

Sunflowers and the Arty Lifestyle

I couldn’t walk past a trio of sunflowers while out shopping for essential groceries. The bright yellow drew my eye and I whisked the sunflowers from the bucket and into my basket without a second of hesitation.

I new the moment I saw their pretty faces that I wanted to draw them and paint them with watercolour. And here they are. 03B68C32-EAB2-4F5F-87F3-A26BEA9174E3

I spent all day sitting on the veranda sketching these beauties into my watercolour visual diary and the rest of the day painting them in an attempt to capture the life of they beamed at me.

It was a day of pure creative happiness. Blissful time spent drawing and painting without worrying about anything at all.

I did several other drawings/watercolour paintings of my sunflowers. They were too beautiful not to capture them from various angles.

Earlier in the week, I played around with more black ink and watercolour to create this beautiful King Protea. Unfortunately, while I was outside sketching it something small and green fell on the page. F7FD804E-8CC6-46AA-8EBA-69C61BD43D3C

I thought it was a seed pod from the over hanging tree. When I brushed it off the page it squished a small insect creature into the paper and so this one is very close to nature.

I’m so sorry little nature bug – I didn’t mean to turn you in to art collage in my visual diary!

It was so delightful to see this flower evolve on my page. I do love it.

My arty lifestyle has been developing each day and each time I draw. I’m still doing my 100 portrait challenge but needed some time out to focus on drawing other subjects. Since my last post, this is the only portrait I’ve done.

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This guy is from Sktchy app and he’s an artist too. A brave guy willing to allow others to draw him in the ‘all-together’. I did this one on Procreate (I’m still learning the program – it’ll take me my whole life time to figure it all out I think) and practiced foreshortening as well as anatomy drawing and getting a likeness.

Then it was on to drawing my partner’s motorbike. It’s his pride and joy, and he is so happy that the Government have allowed riders to go out on their bikes again. Although that’s for a test period to see if we can ease some restrictions and still reduce the amount of cases of COVID-19.

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So I probably won’t see him much over the weekend as he’ll be hitting the road with this baby.

I drew his motorbike on my iPad with Procreate too. It’s my first go at drawing his motorbike. It seemed too complex for me at first but then as I slowed right down and focused on negative space and then just the shapes – circles, squares, curves etc – came together on the virtual page. I am very happy with this first go and am thinking of developing a series of drawings all about his motorbike. It could be fun and that’s what art is really about for me.

Now my arty eye has been draw to illustration and in particular how to create characters on the page using objects (as well as myself ūüôā ). I am having so much fun with this style of drawing and it is so freeing for the imagination.

First you start by drawing what you see and going for some accuracy. Check out my drawing pens.

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Then you start to be playful with the pens and pencils, creating joyful characters of them.

Here’s a page from my A5 visual diary. On the left you’ll see my ‘Playful Pen’, then you can see how my imagination is starting to grasp the idea of turning pens and pencils into playful characters. ¬†On the other page, I have more realistic drawings – my Lamy Pen and my watercolour pallet which I did from observation. Down in the bottom corner, I drew my own eye watching my drawing to show how much I was looking, looking, looking at what I was doing.

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Lastly, I’m learning how to turn myself into a character. Here’s me showing my art and writing to my fan base – my fur-babies, Jack, Rocket and Miss Poppy.

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This was soooo much fun. You can expect to see more doodles like this showing up on my blog as I keep playing around with ideas and documenting my daily life in fun ways.

Until next time, I hope you are staying safe and indulging yourself in a creative life. Creative expression, no matter what form it takes, helps you to come home to yourself and see yourself through the things you make.

Go get some ‘Big Magic’ like Elizabeth Gilbert talks about and just have fun!

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.

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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.

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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.

 

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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?

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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.

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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

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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.

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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!

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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

Phases of Writing my Novel – A Discovery

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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!