Posted in fiction, Journal, Paranormal, Sketches, Travel, Travel Writing, Water Colour, Water Colours

Art, Writing and Scotland

I’m circling back around to my arty side this year.

In recent years, I have taken a big break from painting and drawing. I needed a breather but now I have realised just how much I have missed my art practice.

So, I got myself a moleskine art journal (my first one) and have started sketching and water colour painting in it. I am totally inspired by author and illustrator Kate Knappe with her cute little birds, so you will see an image that I drew to honour her artistic expression in the photos below. If you see her work around – there are a lot of greeting cards with her artwork in Australia – do support her if you can and if you like the art of course.

I’m all for supporting living artists who can do with the dollars in their bank account so they can live life and continue to do what they love.

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This is a page from my new moleskin art journal with another little bird inspired by Kate Knappe. It also has an orb, inspired by a walk along the beach today.

Here is one of the pages out of my moleskine art journal.

I’m going through a reflective stage and wondering what I should do next?

Do I keep focusing on writing my novel and slogging away attempting to get it published?

Or do I study something? Something else? Should I study art? Should I study something that will help me in my day-job?

So many questions.

So much inner confusion.

I love art.

I love writing.

I love coaching.

I do enjoy learning but I am not sure what to do. What is next for me?

So this piece of artwork is a true reflection of the questions and confusion whirling around inside of me.

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This page of my art journal is a reflection of how intricately interconnected we all are.

At least, that’s how I see the world.

I have recently decided to sponsor two young girls through World Vision and, hopefully, make a difference for them and their community. I didn’t do this lightly. I feel very strong about young girls having the opportunity for a good education and waiting until a decent age to be married. It is my hope that my sponsor children and their community will embrace this opportunity to have more choices and be lifted up and out of poverty.

As I was drawing this image, I was thinking about my sponsor children and how we are worlds apart, both geographically and with regard to quality of life style and education and choices. But I believe that all beings are interconnected and there are threads that connect us. I believe that one act can have a multitude of effects. A lot of the time, I do not know the effect I have on people, but it is my hope that my effect is a positive one for all concerned.

So, I’m getting back into my art. I’m thinking about things outside of my fiction stories but I am still drawn to my writing. I love it.

I’m just not keen on editing.

Editing is hard work.

I’m not averse to hard work.

I just think I’m a bit creatively burned out at the moment.

But despite my burn out, I am still returning to The Living Death of Toddy James and day by day I am making editing progress. I’m up to chapter six so far. It’s a matter of small daily habits that add up to big changes.

I won’t give up. I’ll rest and I’ll refocus, and I will edit my novel. It takes grit and determination to get these things done.

Now, as promised, here are some more photos of my awesome UK holiday from last year.

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In the above collage, Dave and I went to Edinburgh and saw the city, Edinburgh Castle. We also visited a fabulous historic place called Torphichen Inn for dinner and a show.

Wow, what an amazing place. I was in love with the atmosphere, the friendly welcome and the life size cardboard cut out of Jamie Fraser from the Outlander series, written by Diana Gabaldon. The ladies at our table were a little shocked at how excited I was to see the cardboard cut out, but I had only just finished listening to the audio book and watching the series, so in my mind, Jamie Fraser had come to life!

I still love David, but it was Jamie Fraser!

I think David was in love with Torphichen. I think he wanted to immigrate and live there for the rest of his life. It was green and homey. The Torphichen Inn was filled with friendly people and the services was excellent. We had haggis. I actually ate some and David had a bowl-full.

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The photo above is the Torphichen Inn.

The show had bag pipes, singing and excellent hospitality. I truly loved Torphichen and felt very warmly welcomed.

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We saw the Kelpies sculptures several times as the bus took us from the hotel to Edinburgh and back on our visit. They were spectacular and it was the first time I’d heard that Kelpies were shape-shifting water spirits that take people and drown them. As an Australian, when I hear the word ‘kelpie’ I think of a type of dog, so this revelation was endlessly entertaining to all of the Aussies on the bus.

Dave and I also visited the cafe where J.K. Rowling wrote the first Harry Potter book – OMG, I almost wet myself with excitement. It’s called The Elephant House. We had coffee and cake and then we entered the toilets which were completely covered in Harry Potter fan scribblings. It was surreal. I didn’t like the way people wrote all over the toilets. It was oppressive. I think being a fan is great, but defacing property falls outside of my boundaries for appropriate ways to show adoration.

Anyway, of course, I had to buy a mug to remind me of this special opportunity to dine in cafe where one of the most famous writers of today did her plotting, characterisation and writing. I was hoping some of her inspiration and determination to finish writing would rub off on me. I’m still hopeful.

In the photos above, you can see us at The Elephant House.

We also visited Greyfriars Bobby where this little loyal dog is honoured and remembered. This church was fabulous, but for those who enjoy a bit of ghost hunting and paranormal thrills, I have to say there was a crypt there that gave me the shivers.

It’s the circular one with the dome roof. It had two doors with square windows made of wrought iron. I was too scared to get too close to this one. I kept getting the shivery sense that something was inside watching me. My writer’s imagination went wild, wild, wild with exciting ideas for creating paranormal wonder in my stories from this experience!

Okay, for my last Scottish highlight, here’s a super short video where Dave and I went hunting for the Loch Ness Monster and caught a glimpse!

Happy creativity whether you write, dance, make art or create music. Whatever you do, I hope it brings you joy and happiness.

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

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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!

Posted in #FrightFest2016, Creative Writing, fiction, Horror, Paranormal, Story, Wattpad

#FrightFest2016 – Wattpad

I am super excited to share that my work in progress, The Living Death of Toddy James, has been awarded the Bronze award for #FrightFest2016!

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During the month of October, two great authors, Finn H. Arlett and Gavin Hetherington are running #FrightFest2016.  It’s a Wattpad competition and they’re looking for scary horror stories, paranormal frights and mega ghoulish mysteries.

So, if you are on Wattpad and have a story that you would like to enter or you know of a frightful horror or ghoulish paranormal story that you loved reading, then get on board and submit or nominate.

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To check out how to enter the competition and read the host’s stories click the links below:

Finn H. Arlett’s story, The Sinister Fate of Joseph Redding is here.

Gavin Hetherington’s story,  Fen of Stagnant Waters: A Ghost Story is here.

And, if you’d like to read the first three chapters of The Living Death of Toddy James (my work in progress) please hit this link to go to Wattpad.

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Check out the other winners:

The Devil’s Tree by @SBMcCauley

Four Words, Four Kills by @Oliver8

What’s Done in the Dark by @LLSanders

Other Side by @April_Parr

Survive by @LizPer7

Congratulations everyone!