Category Archives: Tools to Help You Get Started

Don’t Let ‘Stuff’ Get in the Way of Your Writing

Jeff Goins has a point!

Jeff Goins has a point!

I’ve written about the importance of resting and also about finding time, even in a hectic day, to write. But, as we all know, balance is the key to allowing the flow of creativity to remain constant as it reduces that awful guilt when we don’t do at least a little bit of writing every day. It really is okay when you miss a day here and there because there will be days when you can’t stop writing you feel so inspired and energised. But if you’re not inspired don’t stress; there’s nothing like worry to kill the Muse.

But today I’m writing about those things in our lives that take up time that should be dedicated to our beloved craft, and as I write this I am, of course, speaking to myself as much as I’m speaking to you, dear Writer. I can procrastinate brilliantly. Actually, I believe I’ve made it into an art form. The only justification I can give my lax attitude is that I’ve just finished doing an epic rewrite of my last epic fantasy novel in my tetralogy and now it’s time to face the mammoth task of editing. My other three books I’ve written and published in a year. This last one is way overdue because I’ve moved to the UK. Talk about stressful! Unfortunately, I’ve used this as an excuse to take my time with Book 4 (The Sword Bearer’s Ascension) and now I regret procrastinating so fervently. People are waiting impatiently for my last installment and I feel awful about it!

Cover for Book 3

When life gets busy we tend to shift our focus onto the external and neglect the internal. What I mean by that is, as soon as our external environment takes up all our attention we lose touch with that spark inside us that ignites our creativity, our passion for storytelling, our inspiration, our desire to get it down on paper so that we can share it with the world. The external, monotonous, stressful, rushed world – professional and personal relationships, careers, responsibilities – keeps our attention away from what makes our hearts sing with inspiration, that part of us that gives us a reason to get up in the morning.

It is vital to understand that if we do not allow ourselves to be revitalised with the fire of our passions then life becomes meaningless and dull. We have to feed what makes us laugh and dance and sing because then we can deal with the external world – all that ‘stuff’. As a writer, you know that the only place you can find the buzz that makes you get up in the morning is turning inward and basking in the power of creativity. This is where your true life resides, not ‘out there’ but only inside where it’s quiet and peaceful and where all the answers will be found.

This is a lesson I’ve learned since moving to the UK and dealing with the ‘stuff’ that snatches away my attention from that which I love to do. It’s easy to lose sight of what is important (inside) by focusing only on the external world and being drained physically and emotionally by circumstances. I’ve gone days without writing because there’s been so much to do – unpacking, finding work, settling down in a foreign environment, new relationships, missing home and friends and family, etc. ‘Stuff’ got in the way of my passion and I truly resent it, which adds to my stress, which in turn drains me of creative energy.

Find your inspiration within!

Find your inspiration within!

Separating myself from the external and being alone and inward-focused has proven a creative lifesaver. I encourage you to not only find time to write, but to remove yourself from the external world and sit quietly with yourself and remember where your inspiration really comes from. You’ll never find it ‘out there’ only inside you.

I’d love to read your thoughts and if you’ve had similar struggles with the external world draining you of creative energy and stealing your passion and inspiration. If this is still going on in your life then I encourage you to step away and remove yourself to a quiet place where the only thing you can hear is your own heart speaking to you.

How Do You Face the Page When You’re Exhausted?

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Editing Book 4 of my epic fantasy tetralogy, The Sword Bearer’s Ascension, has been going slower than expected. The reason? We’re in the process of moving to another country, and for the last month we’ve done nothing but pack and make arrangements for the movers to first come over for two days to wrap and then take our stuff, hoping we’ll see everything in one piece and all present when we get there! Sorting out what we want to take with and leave behind (and the fact that once you’ve decided, even if you’ve made a mistake, once it’s done it’s done!!) is mentally and emotional draining, to say the least!! This includes my entire life of stuff accumulated over 45 years that I must now fit into a few boxes and what’s left gets thrown away, the latter being more stressful and painful than can be described in simple language.

It has taken a few months to make the final decision to move to the UK and leave behind all I know, including my poor mom. During this chaotic time I have done very little work on my book, and with teaching ballet (my afternoon/evening  job) five days a week, finding the time to sit down for a couple of hours and get something significant done has been nigh impossible.

Now I know some of you will say that even getting in half an hour is better than nothing and I agree. But what level of quality will my work exist at if I just squeeze it in quickly here and there? Surely I need a good 2-4 hours at least to lose myself in my story once more and connect heart and mind to ensure it doesn’t become superficial and amateurish? Doesn’t that cheat the reader out of the best of me?

You see, I know myself too well. I need that full emersion to get the entire spiritual experience. I have to live my story and my characters, to see their world and partake in it again every time I sit down at my computer in order to feel what I did when I wrote that frenzied first draft, when the true magic of creation happened.

Everything you do has the potential to be brilliant - but if you're too tired to see it then you and your readers won't experience the magic you've created!

Everything you do has the potential to be brilliant – but if you’re too tired to see it then you and your readers won’t experience the magic you’ve created!

No, I MUST find the proper amount of time to spend on the book, to edit it well so that my existing fans, and future ones, will not be cheated out of the final installment that I worked so hard to create. They deserve all of me – all of my emotion and attention and creative force, that which makes magic on the page and leaves them wanting more. Isn’t that our duty as storytellers, anyway, to ensure that our readers get what they want from a story – laughter, tears, love, joy, excitement, fear, adventure… It is vital we bring our readers what they want and need, and to do that we need to invest all of ourselves into every word. Therefore, I will make the time to edit and edit well so that I and my readers are completely satisfied.

What do you say, dear Writer? Do you write when you’re tired? I have heard it works and I have experienced an interesting emotional effect when I do the same. But when it comes to editing, that extremely detailed process that requires a clear mind, isn’t it preferable to be more alert? I’d love to read your thoughts. Please leave a comment and let’s discuss.

 

Why Writing is Like Flamenco Dancing

Flamenco Dancer

For the last two weeks I’ve been doing Flamenco. As a dance style it has always been one of my favourites. It’s fiery, passionate, rhythmical, powerful, sexy, and as much about the music as the steps and movements. The last time I did Spanish dancing was at Art School thirty years ago and I missed it a lot when I matriculated and ended up in a classical ballet company. Don’t get me wrong, I love my ballet, but there’s something about Flamenco that stirs that ancient part of man that feels and desires and recognises earthy rhythms!

Now, it’s extremely difficult to do Flamenco if you aren’t musical. The time signatures, the syncopations, the pauses, silent beats, co-ordination of body, skirt, and castanets has to be flawless in order to do Flamenco well. Fortunately, I was born musical; I hear rhythms very easily. I started my dancing career as a tapper at the age of 5 so it’s part of me. It’s different to the intricacies of classical music; the rhythms and phrasing in Flamenco can get pretty complicated. But once I allow myself to become engrossed with the sounds and beats and nuances then it takes over my movements and I am led by it rather than trying to manipulate the music to follow me.

Stephen King Quote 2

It is the same with writing. Finding the rhythm of my writing, the ebb and flow, the cadence of the story, is vital to the creative process and the development of the story, especially in the beginning. When I allow the story (music) to take control of me then the words (steps) become easy and the story tells itself.

When you watch a professional Flamenco dancer, she doesn’t count her music 1-2-3-4, but rather the music weaves around her and she becomes one with it and in so doing tells her story effortlessly, drawing her audience in, creating emotion and passion and excitement with every step, every twirl of her skirt, the undulation of her hands, arms, and body, the beats of her castanets, the emotion on her face.

As a writer I have to use my words, the core energy of the story – its passions, colours, visualisations, characters, environment – to captivate the reader and draw him in. And to do so effectively I have to have the perfect rhythm, a rhythm that doesn’t break or stop or become annoying or disturbing because of an unnatural style which the reader will sense instinctively.

Just as a dancer has to create movements that are effortless and as close to perfection as possible so as to hypnotise her audience, so, too, does a writer.

Ebb and flow, rhythmic perfection, minimising mistakes in language, grammar, punctuation, and style, is how the writer creates the performance his readers will applaud!

Music Fades by Billy Alexander1 sxc

As a more experienced writer, after three published novels and a short story, I still have to work hard every day to perfect my style and rhythm. While I edit I ‘listen’ to my story, sometimes reading it out loud, to hear if there is a break, something that will distract the reader and pull him out of his trance. The goal, dear Writer, is to keep the reader entranced from page one. Do nothing to disturb the rhythm of your story or you will lose him to discordance.

What are your thoughts on writing style and rhythm? I love reading your thoughts. Please share!

Last image courtesy of Billy Alexander

What Would You Attempt To Do If You Had No Fear?

QuoteWith the new year spread out before me and nothing yet written – both figuratively and literally (and I am talking new works here) – I have the power to create not only new literary works but my very life, and the message I’ve been reading and hearing about the most since 2014 began is that I have the power to decide what I want and how to go about getting it.

Whatever your faith, whether you believe in God or the Universe or your own creative power, I know that this is possible, and therefore I have presented myself with a challenge: This year will not be a year of negating or doubting my skills as a writer, creator, student, teacher, and wife. I want this year to be different to last year. Oh, I accomplished a lot last year, but by the time December rolled by I had a distinct sense of non-achievement. I could have done more, achieved more, written more, learned more, and become more.

The Cover Image for The Sword Bearer's Ascension: Book 4 courtesy of Jon Sullivan

The Cover Image for The Sword Bearer’s Ascension: Book 4 courtesy of Jon Sullivan

So, this year I am going to achieve great things. I am going to improve my writing skills; I’m going to finish rewriting and editing The Sword Bearer’s Ascension: Book 4 and get it published, and then rewrite and edit the book I wrote for NaNoWriMo in 2012! Yes, I haven’t had time to do it yet because my tetralogy had to be completed first and I’ve never been the kind of person to handle two writing projects at once. That’s just how my brain works! I give all my attention to one main project and if an idea comes along for another book I jot it down to come back to it later.

Now, some of you may think that all this is a simple case of procrastination, but, unfortunately, it’s worse than that. Feeling despondent because I’m not selling as many books as I’d like, or because more people are interested in 50 Shades of Grey than epic fantasy, is quite simply an excuse to not to keep focusing on what I want! I began writing my Sword Bearers tetralogy because it needed to be written; it needed to be read and shared with the world – even if that world was only a handful of people.

When I started, I wasn’t as skilled as I am now. I made mistakes and I had to learn as I went along. I read excerpts from Book 1 now (The Sword Bearers) and I pick up those small mistakes, things that a rookie might do their first time out. But you know what, I’m so proud of that first book. I nicknamed it The Beautiful Monster because it was both beautiful and a monster in that it took so much out of me – blood, sweat, and tears, as it were. But I did it! It was one of the greatest achievements of my entire life! I didn’t give in to the fear of public opinion or my lack of knowledge or the fact that I was writing in a genre that wasn’t as popular as romance or thrillers or the paranormal.

Book 1 in The Sword Bearers tetralogy

Book 1 in The Sword Bearers tetralogy

My writing career began in 2009, and by the time 2013 came along I had read hundreds of blogs by experienced writers and editors and publishers, enough to make me doubt myself that the fear I defied writing Book 1 suddenly reared up and took hold of me and I started slowing down. There were too many people telling me what I was doing wrong and, the worst, not to publish until my work was perfect! Perfection? Really? I didn’t know that perfection actually existed in the human race!

Thank goodness I didn’t listen to those ‘perfect’ bloggers and experts but rather to the writers who had tried and failed, tried and failed, tried again and failed again, and how they kept going and finally succeeded. Those are the people I gravitated towards because those are the people who were like me. They had faced their fears and had snubbed their doubts and had pushed ahead and had conquered not only their fears but their shortcomings regarding their skill as writers.

So, this is what I have decided for 2014: No resolutions, but rather a decision to approach my year with the same fearless tenacity I had when I decided to write my first novel. I have grown so much as a person and a writer since The Sword Bearers: Book 1. I am a better writer – more skilled, more knowledgeable, braver, and more confident – and armed with these truths and a determination to create my future, I will accomplish a lot more than I did last year and the year before that and the year before that!

My message to you today is to defy your fears, your doubts, your concerns, and those people who say you can’t and press forward with new determination. If you need more knowledge then go get it; if you have a weakness then face it and deal with it; if you have lack in a particular skill then find out how to improve it. But whatever you do, do it with no fear!

Truthfully, there isn’t really anything that exists that you can’t accomplish this year. You just need to believe it, and then hold on to it as you approach every new project.

Personally, I have to rewrite and edit The Sword Bearer’s Ascension: Book 4. Writing this incredible story, a story that began in 1978 when I saw Star Wars for the first time, has been a thrilling, joyous, and often tearful journey as I’ve told the tale of the characters that have lived with me for over thirty years! Coming to the end had me sobbing, and I mean sobbing! But typing that last sentence filled me with such a sense of accomplishment and joy and all because I started it with no fear!

I love hearing your thoughts! Tell me about your fears and doubts and how you overcame them. Do you still face any? Maybe I can help.

Life’s Craziness Can Lead to Great Productivity and Progress . . . If You Take the Time to Rest

 

Life gets crazy sometimes!!!

Life gets crazy sometimes!!!

What a week!!! What with finishing NaNoWriMo before the deadline, and then chaos erupting in my life as though it was waiting in the shadows for days, watching and preparing for an all-out assault, it didn’t get me down when it finally attacked! Instead, it showed me that no matter how tough things appear they’re not really so bad. All I have to do is stop and breathe.

Since last week Wednesday, when we had an insane storm with hail the size of tennis balls sending Joburg into chaos, hubby and I experienced the added fun of the following: first, his hard drive decided it was done with life and shut down permanently, therefore we had to fork out money for another; secondly, our internet went down and knowing how notoriously slow our phone company is we phoned them with pretty low expectations. And our fears were justified when, five days later, we finally got the internet back only to be told that we now need a new modem because they’d upgraded our line to make it faster and the old one was no longer compatible! Aaarrgh! Another lot of money gone just before Christmas!! Then, (I think this is fourthly?!!) our outside drain decided to get blocked and our delightfully friendly chairlady of the Body Corporate told us it was our drain and at first she wasn’t prepared to do anything about it and basically told us to sort it out ourselves. That is until I got all huffy (hubby is way too nice!) and explained why it couldn’t be our drain as it was spewing out huge amounts of toilet paper, brown water, which smelled a lot like sewage, and cigarette buts – but we don’t smoke, she does!!! Eventually, she called out the complex’s plumber, who quickly discovered that the blockage was being caused by roots and he sorted it out at cost to the complex not us! Hallelujah!!

Jaque by asterisc21 sxc

Now, it’s so easy when things like this happen in quick succession to think that life and everything about it sucks, but when we realised that what we got out of it was a new powerful hard drive, a new powerful modem and faster internet, and a clean drain at no cost, hubby and I were very grateful, indeed. Sure, we are out of a pocket a bit, but my in-laws helped us out with the modem so, fortunately, we managed financially better than expected. All good!

Drawing a lesson from this chaotic, unexpected week, if I viewed the bad days – the frustrations and slogging that writing and promoting and selling my books sometimes bring me – I can either choose to wallow in misery or I can use my irritation to rethink and refocus, even if it means taking a few days off from writing (something I hate to do); I can step back and view my situation from a fresh perspective with a clear head.

It’s important to recognise when you need to step back instead of focusing on what’s not working. The act of such intense focus on what you don’t want will bring down your mood and mess with your creativity and clarity of thought.

I’ve blogged about this before: rest is as vital to your writing process after weeks of intensive writing – like NaNoWriMo brought you. If you have that novel done, or even the start of one, then step back and take your time assessing what you did and rest from the insane, nonstop process to allow yourself to breathe and really see what you’ve created.

Everything you do has the potential to be brilliant - but if you're too tired to see it then you and your readers won't experience the magic you've created!

Everything you do has the potential to be brilliant – but if you’re too tired to see it then you and your readers won’t experience the magic you’ve created!

As the holidays approach, make time for yourself by going to a spa or for long walks or spending time with your family, who no doubt hardly saw you during November – if you did NaNo 🙂

I have the first draft The Sword Bearer’s Ascension: Book 4 to finish, and I’d like to do it before next year, but I’m not going to push too hard, not after I wrote most of Part 3 during NaNo and got pretty far. It’s the end of the story and it needs me to be fresh and clearheaded and excited and re-energised to write the ending of a powerful, incredible story that has taken me four years to write! I plan to do it slowly and to do it well, and I urge you to follow my example and rest, then approach it with love and respect and a fresh perspective that will enable you to finish another masterpiece 🙂

I love reading your thoughts! Please leave a comment and tell us about your creative process and if you agree with me or not about resting in order to produce better results.

You can find my works here! Great 5-star reviews for Books 1-3 and my sci-fi short story, The Door. Enjoy!

NaNo and 36 years of Preparation!

The Cover Image for The Sword Bearer's Ascension: Book 4 courtesy of Jon Sullivan

The Cover Image for The Sword Bearer’s Ascension: Book 4 courtesy of Jon Sullivan

It’s been just over a week of NaNo and I’m ahead of schedule. Yay!!

Last year I decided to write an entire novel in a wad of different genres – sci-fi, urban fantasy, western, fantasy, and horror – and the precious file sits awaiting a rewrite and edit since then. Now, this isn’t because I’ve been procrastinating or anything, it’s because I had to finish The Sword Bearer’s Awakening: Book 3 (published in May this year), and then I needed to complete The Sword Bearer’s Ascension: Book 4 by the end of this year, the final installment of my epic fantasy tetralogy.

This year, NaNo for me is about drawing to a close the 36-year project that has lived with me, grown with me, evolved with me, and then, finally, was birthed from me when the pen-to-paper journey began in 2009. And this November is the month I complete this incredible story and lifelong adventure. It’s a very emotional time for me because these characters, especially Khyri/KC, my main character, have lived with me nearly all my life.

English: Opening logo to the Star Wars films

Star Wars was the catalyst of this marvellous, exciting adventure and I have to give praise and thanks to Mr. George Lucas for inspiring me to the extent that the future Sword Bearers tetralogy bore me through tough times, good times, happy times, and, most especially, the sad times. That kind of inspiration that makes your heart soar and your soul sing is very rare, indeed. But I was blessed beyond youthful understanding when I beheld the magic, mystery, and thrill of Star Wars.

Movies like Star Wars and the countless books and superhero comics I devoured as a child, all contributed to helping me develop into a successful, “genius, brilliant” (the words of friends and reviewers) storyteller and I couldn’t feel happier and more fulfilled! So, thank you Marvel Comics, DC Comics, all movie makers of sci-fi and fantasy films, authors of great adventure stories, and mom, who allowed me the freedom to discover my passions and pursue them. Mwah!

This November sees me finishing 36 years of one story that I have had the incredible privilege of writing. It came to me with great power and it is being completed with great power – magic, mystery, adventure, facing demons and monsters and defeating them, and then, when the ending is ready to be written, I will be in tears as I write that which must happen the way it was always meant to happen. By the end of November Khyri’s story will find its rest and so will I. It’s been a long journey, and my life has dictated this story’s path from the very beginning – all my trials, victories, challenges, and losses are all part of Khyri’s journey, as are my beliefs and the knowledge about the mysteries of life I have gained along the way. Book 4 is an ending and a beginning, for Khyri and for me, and to find out how and why you’ll have to read all four books!

Pen on Paper

I wish you all the best, Dear Writer, as you face this month-long challenge. Remember why you love writing when things get tough and your eyes can’t focus and you just want to sleep; go back in time and revisit that exact moment when you knew with absolute certainty that you are a storyteller. Then, use that passion to cross the finish line and celebrate yet another great accomplishment.

I’d love to hear about your 2013 NaNo project. Please share in the comments and let me know how things are going!

Trust your passion and talent and let nothing stop you!

Visions, Understandings, and Prophecies

Magic by Gioradi sxc

No, I’m not getting all religious on you, but I am going to chat about the absolute vital act of believing in yourself and your abilities, because unless someone makes you think about it and ponder it, you most probably won’t even give it a second thought.

When I started writing I was so new and so ignorant of many things that my first novel, The Sword Bearers: Book 1, began as an act of love and passion that slowly bloomed into a project of obsession that taught me how to be a good writer. I made a few mistakes (and I’ll probably end up rewriting and editing somewhere along the line), yet not for one second do I second-guess my abilities and my passion to be a storyteller.

In just about all my posts I have mentioned at least once that you, dear writer, have to have absolute faith in yourself if you want to make that dream come true. Now, hearing that cliché makes me want to roll my eyes. Yes, yes, yes, I want to make my dream come true, but until I do it creates a certain frustration inside me because it hasn’t happened yet. And that is where the problem lies. As soon as I begin to focus all my attention on what I don’t have yet instead of what I want and where I want to end up, I establish a habit of bad thinking and self-doubt that only escalates and, on bad days, gets totally out of hand!!

My first novel and my greatest joy!

My first novel and my greatest joy!

You see, if we perpetuate wrong thinking and allow self-doubt to permeate every waking thought then that is what we will end up getting. If I look at my first novel and focus on what I left out or didn’t do as well in Books 2 and 3, I can make myself go crazy!! Instead, I learn and change and study and read as much as I can and focus on the successes of the greats and in so doing slowly but surely begin changing into a better, more knowledgeable, more masterful writer every time I sit down at my computer and write the next line, chapter, book.

Daily I take time to imagine where I want to end up, what I want to achieve, and what I want to accomplish. I envision the future with as much clarity as my limitless imagination can conjure, and I bathe in the joy, excitement, and glory my visions bring. And as I connect to my bigger self, the one that is without ego and, in fact, my true self, then I begin to understand my place in the universe and I begin to see the big picture. It takes but a few minutes out of my day to imagine the biggest dream I can and allow my emotions to stir into a frenzy. Doing this every day brings me encouragement and a deeper understanding of my abilities, that they are in no way limited, except if I get in my own way and sabotage the destiny I have been given.

This is not fantasy, dear writer, but truth as I have personally seen this work in my life many times, and I believe absolutely that I will reach my end goal, and then go beyond it. As I’ve also said many times in other posts, I am constantly learning and improving my craft, and I make sure I do it passionately and without limiting my thinking in any way, no matter how tough or frustrating it gets.

The greatest gift you can give yourself is this: Always be teachable! Never think you’ve arrived. Believe that your talent is limitless and your potential eternal. Do not put your mind or spirit in a box and say you have nothing left to learn, but rather crave knowledge, crave insight, crave a deeper connection to your Source – whatever or whoever you believe that to be. But never stop being open and willing to receive even more than what you already have.

I started small, and today I can truly say that I have become someone bigger, stronger, and way cleverer than that very first day I put words on paper.

Even the Superstars Started at the Beginning!

Even the Superstars Started at the Beginning!

NEVER despise the day of small beginnings!!! You can only go higher, further, deeper, and wider from there.

I hope this post has inspired you. It was something I had to share because I know we all need to hear as often as possible that we’re awesome and beautiful and gifted, and that there is nothing we cannot do or achieve if we but believe in ourselves and the gifts we’ve been given in never-ending abundance.

And what exactly is prophecy? It is man seeing and understanding what’s on God’s mind through His eyes as it pertains to His creation. You’ve been made for greatness. You’ve been born to impact the world. You have been gifted with a unique voice, and it is up to you to use it. Either it can be small and insignificant, or it can be heard across the world and beyond. The choice – the amount you believe in the truth – is entirely up to you.

So, what are you going to choose: greatness or a mediocre existence? Create your own prophecy. Choose to make your life and career as glorious as it was meant to be the day you were conceived. Me? I’ve chosen greatness because I believe that it is my ultimate destiny.

I love hearing your thoughts. Do you have any self-doubts? Do you need to chat about them? I’m here if you do. I’ve been through every high and low you can imagine, and learned to recognise when I’m pulling myself down with wrong thinking. Sometimes it takes work to pull yourself out of a slump, but it is so worth it!!

Top image courtesy of gioradi

Passion, Knowledge, Failure, and Success – What I Learned About Writing

“I used Grammarly to grammar check this post because, as you will read below, passion must always be balanced with knowledge!”

Writing Inspiration

I never had a clue! Going into my first ever major writing project held great excitement, and my passion was never in question. I was, however, keenly aware of my lack of knowledge when it came to punctuation, which was (and still is) a constant challenge to get just right, including other details regarding grammar and style.

I did have one thing going for me, though, and that was the enormous amount of reading I’d done since I could read as a child, and the conscious, and unconscious laser-like attention I paid to how a writer wrote, how he/she brought across his/her story, and how he/she pulled me in by using only words and no pictures. I was fascinated with the ‘how’ every time, and it didn’t take me long to realise that I had developed a burning desire to do what they were doing, too.

The Six Golden Rules of Writing

But the last time I went to school was over twenty years ago, and there was no way I remembered all that boring English stuff. So, I had to start from scratch and pay more attention while I read. To my great advantage, the writers whose works I read were superb in their craft, masters and word technicians to envy, and that is literally (pun intended:) ) where my re-schooling began.

Paging through my first novel, I sometimes cringe when I come across things that I now know – with my vastly increased knowledge – that need to be rewritten and changed and re-edited. Grrrr! Why didn’t I see that when I wrote it? I ask myself. Because you just didn’t know there was a better way, I remind myself.

Now, I could rant and rave and die of embarrassment, or I can laugh about it, learn from it, and simply become better. And that, dear friends, is what I decided to do. The Sword bearers: Book 1 is fantastic story – to which my 4 and 5 star reviews will attest – and that’s what gives me peace and encouragement about being a storyteller. I am good at it and my readers love what I create and how I deliver it, but I can always be better at it!

I have spoken often in my blogs about having a balance between passion and knowledge and I still stand by that. I write my first draft with my heart leading the way, and then when I rewrite and edit I let my mind, and all the knowledge it has gained to this point, take control and make it sharper, clearer, tighter, and even more fantastic.

I, for one, don’t write for the critics. I have always been passionate about making my readers excited and enthralling them and taking them on a journey they will never forget. I’m good at that; I’m a natural storyteller. However, the nitty-gritty is what makes my books greater. I have to pay attention to the details – the punctuation, the flow, the style, the correct language usage in the right way. Simply put, how I present my work to the world is as important as the story if I want to make my mark on the world.

Re Criticism for Writers

I don’t actually see the small mistakes in Book 1 as failures; I see them as learning curves, and I encourage you to do the same. It’s easy to give in to feelings of regret and embarrassment, but once you go down that path it is very difficult to see yourself as a talented, significant writer with something important to say and share with the world.
My first novel is brilliant the way it is because it represents all of me and who I was at the time. It contains my heart and soul, tears and blood and as such cannot be better than what it is.

People might be quick to criticise and point out the faults in your work, but don’t listen to them unless their observations are valid and you can improve your writing as a result. As an example, when I published my first sci-fi short story, The Door, and another author read it, he was quick to point out that I used the word ‘wander’ instead of ‘wonder’ and it appeared on the very first page. I was mortified and angry with myself for missing it during editing and I quickly corrected it, feeling much better and relieved for doing so. Now, initially I was peeved about someone pointing out my mistake because my ego loves to wallow in self-pity and self-recrimination, but then I told myself to grow up! This man had helped me improve my writing and had helped me become more dogged in finding such errors, ergo be a lot more meticulous in the future. Because of him I now pay more attention to all those words that look so similar.

The point is, when you learn from your mistakes then you are already a success. When your writing improves because you listened and took note of constructive criticism, then you are a success. You only fail when you refuse to pay attention, when you allow your ego to control you, because then you can move forward instead of standing still!

It takes a lot of conscious effort to not allow my past lack of knowledge affect me now when I am so much better at what I do. And I am getting stronger and better every single day I sit in front of my computer and write! You’ve got to believe in your ability to grow and learn because when you do there is only one direction you can go from where you currently find yourself: Up, up, and away to greater success!

Freedom!

Have you allowed past mistakes to affect you? Do you cringe and berate yourself because of them or do you stubbornly refuse to acknowledge what can cripple your creativity and keep you from becoming a master of your craft if you let it?

I love reading your thoughts. Please share your personal experiences with us.

The Hidden Sadness of Joyful Things

Praying Hands

Feebledum and Feebledee

my brain it says to me,

“I’ve had no fun these past gone days,

to rant and rant and spree!”

*

I try not listen too much to brain

’cause I’m in pain, you see;

No cash to pay yon fickle hand

that reaches for its fee.

*

Learning how to change my thoughts

without the brain’s aware,

makes it a tricky, sticky thing

enlightenment to dare.

*

‘Believe in truth: you are a god!’

makes conscious brain a-freak!

“Such blasphemy I cannot take!”

is its constant tweet!

*

If I such power do possess,

new teachings reveal to me,

then how can this god make it work

when self-suff”ring’s all I see?

*

Here I sit all a-scare

’cause faith’s what makes all right;

but when one’s bills cry “Feed me now!”

my heart beats tight with fright.

*

Writing may my pleasure be

but tears bills do not get,

faith’s all good and glorious ‘t seems,

yet still no relief, not yet.

*

Blood and sweat and tears made book

and heart’s still filled with joy;

I wonder tho’ when faith will work

and reveal Universe’s real ploy.

*

If I am great then believe I must

for love and faith are real;

trust in god and God’s silent trust

in me to finally feel.

*

We’re great, you know, listen well,

all artists big and small,

if times tough are and seem unfair,

then listen to heart’s squall.

*

Feebledum and feebledee,

your brain might say to thee;

listen not to dark mumblings there

’cause power lies not in see.

*

Your power lies down in yon heart,

in trust in your deity;

make no mistake believe in faith (unseen)

and it will set you free!

*

Muse or God or god or self,

whate’er belief thou declare,

make sure your skill and talent divine

no suffering it ever bare.

by Monique Rockliffe

 

So, you can tell by this contemplative poem that my days of woe are many!!! Nah, being overly dramatic is all, but, boy, sometimes it’s tough when all I want to do is make a living writing and things seem like they’re just not working out. But, hey, those days come and, thank goodness, they go! Although today I’m in the ‘darkness’ at least it produced an amateurish poem that I hope gives you some hope (and even some amusement) if you’re facing a tough day or situation.

Don't ever doubt the magic within you!

Don’t ever doubt the magic within you!

The bottom line is, don’t give up on your dreams or aspirations or goals, especially on the bleakest of days, because that’s when you need to keep your chin up and keep writing, or doing whatever makes your soul sing, with every bit of creative power you have. Whether it’s faith or love or the joy found in nature, a friendship or a pet, grab onto it, hold it close, and just keep going. Everything passes eventually, my friend. And you can always tell me about it if you feel like having a rant, and we can first mope and then get over it together. So drop me a line and share what’s up with you, even if it’s good news. It’ll lift my spirits and give me the encouragement I need to get through one of life’s tougher days.

Happy creating!

 

The Magic of the Mountains: Why You Need Time-Out to Write Better

 

Champagne Sports Resort - the beauty of autumn!

Champagne Sports Resort – the beauty of autumn!

I’ve just returned from another blissful break in the Drakensberg mountains, Kwa-zulu Natal, South Africa, and the feeling of peace and stillness within gives me the tools and energy to continue with Book 4 without a tired brain and feelings of “I don’t feel like doing this” getting in the way. That’s fatigue talking, and to a writer fatigue – brain, body, and will – is never a good thing. Creativity disappears and the will to go looking for it, or the desire to try to conjure it up from that deep place within, is too much like hard work.

Taking a break, and not feeling guilty about doing so, is as vital to your writing processes and creation abilities than sitting for hours hitting the keys in a frenzy of trance-like passion, finding that wonderful, unexplainable flow that nothing can stop. Just like your body, your brain needs rest and to be surrounded by tranquillity in order to rejuvenate and remain connected to the Source of your creation magic.

A tranquil waterfall on one of our hikes

A tranquil waterfall on one of our hikes

After just finishing The Sword Bearer’s Awakening: Book 3 and seeing to the final checks before printing goes ahead has been exhausting, to which I’m sure many of you can attest. Being who I am, I wanted to continue immediately with Book 4 and keep the flow of the story moving rapidly ahead because the final book in the tetralogy, The Sword Bearer’s Ascension, is jam-packed with action and great emotion and culminates years (in the writer’s life and that of her characters’) of awesome adventure across time and space, thrills, tears (again, the writer’s and her characters’), loss, love, great joy and great sorrow, and I didn’t want to have a break because I was absolutely convinced that if I stopped then I’d lose touch with the story and my characters.

But I was wrong.

We packed up – my laptop was my top priority, naturally – and when we arrived in this glorious setting I was fully prepared to spend a couple of hours each day writing.

But then a wonderful thing happened: nature took me over and the magic of the place infused me so completely that wonder replaced that constant urgency to get in front of my laptop. Instead, I allowed my surroundings to inspire me, and slowly, after giving in to the calm, I began to see different ways to make the final and most important book even more powerful and moving than the previous three. Instead of only seeing the one linear path I had decided to take, quite a few more options opened up. My mind began to play and enjoy the variations, tossing them about like a juggler would his colourful, hypnotic balls, and slowly I began to see the story and characters from many different angles and viewpoints, adjusting, rearranging, and approaching scenes from a fresher perspective rather than that single, linear train of thought I’d had before the holiday.

My handsome, wise hubby

My handsome, wise hubby

It was on the second day, after fighting hard to stay away from the laptop (gotta thank the hubby here for making me go on long walks), that this freshness of thought made me realised how stuck – visually and creatively – I’d truly been. The stunning views, the autumn smells, the birds, monkeys, buck, and even the feral cats wandering around the resort made me understand just how vital it is to find time to move away from my story, to escape the desperate clinginess (is that a word?) of my characters and, in fact, move away from the entire project to enable me see it so much better.

I urge you, dear writer, to find the time to distance yourself from your stories at least once a month and escape from your writing environment and from your current story, and fly away on the wings of nature, of tranquillity, of things that have nothing to do with writing, and once you are there to just breathe deeply, close your eyes, still your mind, and then, when you’ve achieved perfect peace, allow your story and characters to return, but view them, as it were, from afar so that you can be an observer and not a partaker for once, and perhaps genius and true revelation will find you!

A mind at peace sees clearly

A mind at peace sees clearly

I hope I inspired you to take it easy once in a while and not to fear letting go in order to find greater perspective and perhaps the answers to whatever has you stuck. Give your brain a break – it’ll thank you 🙂

What experiences have you had regarding this issue? Do you agree that having a break can only do your creative functions some good, or do you have to slog away, fiercely intense and inward-turned, until that first draft is done?

I love hearing your thoughts! Please share them with us.

 

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