Posted in Creative Writing, creativity, fiction, Story

Stephen King’s top tips for writers

StephenKing Image by the USO, via Flickr Commons_10968905154_140c71b403_m

Image by the USO, via Flickr Commons

I was surfing Facebook and found this great article on Open Culture. It was titled, Stephen King’s Top 20 Rules for Writers and I had to share it with you.

Of course I’ve read On Writing by Stephen King. It’s a must read for anyone with a passion for writing fiction (in my opinion). I loved reading it so much that I bought the audio book and enjoyed listening to him read his own work.

In the article by Open Culture, they list the top 20 rules Stephen King has for writers.

Below are four that resonate for me:

1. First write for yourself, and then worry about the audience. “When you write a story, you’re telling yourself the story. When you rewrite, your main job is taking out all the things that are not the story.”

5. But don’t obsess over perfect grammar. “The object of fiction isn’t grammatical correctness but to make the reader welcome and then tell a story.”

8. Don’t worry about making other people happy. “If you intend to write as truthfully as you can, your days as a member of polite society are numbered, anyway.”

14. Stick to your own style. “One cannot imitate a writer’s approach to a particular genre, no matter how simple what that writer is doing may seem.”

Just those four rules or tips make my heart burst with creative joy.  It feels like I’ve been given permission to go forth and be as creative as I like. Then when it comes to rewrites I’ll cut out what isn’t the story.  That is so freeing.

I also love how honest Stephen King is. He is his own person. He writes honestly, even in fiction and that’s cool.

If you skip across to Open Culture for a look-see, I hope you enjoy and that you find these rules/tips as inspiring for you as they have been for me.

Happy creative writing.

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 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.

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!

Posted in Courses, Creative Writing, Editing, fiction, Fiction Writing Courses, Story

Brisbane Fiction Writing Courses

Creative Writing Courses Brisbane 2016

There are two excellent quality creative/novel writing courses coming up in Brisbane in August and September, 2016.  I’m pretty excited and wanted to recommend them, just in case you have a book you’ve always wanted to write or know of someone who might like to enroll.

I’ve been personally taught by Lauren Daniels from Brisbane Writers Workshop and David Farland from My Story Doctor and I highly recommend both of them as teachers who can help you take your story ideas and bring them into a novel manuscript and assist you with taking steps toward publication.

I can’t recommend either of them highly enough.

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3 Editors Set To Smash It: Fiction Blitz: 28 August

Who is running the course: Brisbane Writers Workshop and professional Editor, Lauren Daniels

Lauren Daniels is a professional writer and editor who has been working in the publishing industry since the ‘90s.  Most recently, her manuscript for her novel, ‘The Serpent’s Wake: A Fairy Tale for the Bitten’, was shortlisted with The Half the World Global Literati Award.

Lauren is the Senior Consulting Editor for Interactive Publications and the director of the Brisbane Writers’ Workshop.  She’s also edited over 60 fiction and non-fiction titles, many of which have attracted awards and recognition.

More details about her upcoming Brisbane Writers Workshop course can be found below:

When: Sunday 28th August 2016

Length of course: One day course

Cost: $165 per person

Venue: Arana Hills, QLD

What the course covers:

  • What the big publishers seek in a hook
  • Unpacking lingering questions about style and literary devices
  • Examining rhetorical devices
  • Characters: Quick—Make Them Stick!
  • Keep It Real: No Melodrama or Cliché, thanks
  • Themes that are not Love, Hate, Death or Illness
  • What Editors do.

This course will be run by three professional editors – Lauren Daniels, Josh Brockbank and Geneve Flynn.

Josh Brockbank is a freelance manuscript assessor with a track record in novels and memoir.  He has a BA in Journalism and has worked as a journalist for The Westender and Brisbane Arts Guide.  He’s passionate about writing and teaching too, and loves Crime Fiction, Realism and Magical Realism.

Geneve Flynn is a freelance editor with a love of speculative fiction.  She loves helping writers craft characters and stories that resonate with their readers.  And, very exciting, she’s been taught by Fiona McIntosh (who is one of my favourite Australian authors).

Max number of Attendees: 10

More info and website are listed in this reviewhttp://www.weekendnotes.com/fiction-blitz-brisbane/

 

DF-profile-imageWriting Million Dollar Outlines with David Farland

Writing Stories that Sell  

Who is running the course: David Farland will be running this course.

About David Farland:  He’s an award-winning, New York Times bestselling writer in Sci-Fi and Fantasy genres, a professional Editor and author the Runelords series.  He’s also a judge for the Writers of the Future competition, and he’s been a green light analyst for Hollywood movies as well as a story consultant in the games industry.

And now, he’s coming to Australia (from the US) specifically to teach us how to write stories that sell through developing outlines aimed at a wide audience.  He’ll be teaching in Brisbane – Writing Million Dollar Outlines, and then he’ll be teaching in Sydney – Writing Enchanting Prose.

More details about his Brisbane course are below:

When: Monday 19th to Thursday 22nd September 2016

Length of course:  Four day course – 9am to 5pm

Cost: $599 USD per person

Venue: Virginia, QLD

What the course covers:

  • What makes a bestselling story
  • Audience analysis with a focus on how to write to a wider audience so your stories will capture more readers
  • What is a story and why people read them
  • Elements of story
  • Brainstorming settings
  • How to build characters and the roles they play
  • Themes
  • Plotting and plot devices
  • And heaps more – too much for me to mention here.

This course will be run exclusively by David Farland and it doesn’t matter what genre you would like to write in, he can help.

Max No of Attendees: 16

More info and website are listed in this reviewhttp://www.weekendnotes.com/writing-million-dollar-outlines-david-farland/

I hope these course recommendations help you bring your creative dreams to fruition.

Happy creative writing!

Posted in Creative Writing, Editing, fiction, Story

Lauren Daniels notes from the Writers Group Convention 2016 Presentation

Lauren Daniels of the Brisbane Writers Workshop gave an excellent talk at the Writers Group Convention 2016 on the following topics:

  • The Marketing Side: 3 Elements of Your Publishing Pitch
  • 7 Tips: Strong Synopsis
  • Unpacking the Editor: What You Can Expect

I recommend checking out this blog post (link below) from the Writers Group Convention 2016 to find out more.

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Lauren Daniels, BA MFA Creative Writing

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Thanks to Lauren Daniels of the Brisbane Writers Workshop for her excellent talk at the Writers Group Convention 2016. The Marketing Side: 3 Elements of Your Publishing Pitch Bio, marketing platfor…

Source: Lauren Daniels notes from Sunday 31st August 2016