Blog Archives

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.

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NaNoWriMo: It’s Here Again! Will You Be Joining In?

NaNoWriMo Participant-2014-Web-Banner

Yup, it’s that time again and I’m ready for it! I wasn’t sure if I could handle NaNo and still work on my novel (The Sword Bearer’s Ascension: Book 4) and get it finished for publication early next year, but I think a specific goal of reaching 50 000 words in 30 days will encourage me to set aside a few hours every day to do both NaNo AND Book 4 and complete them by the end of November. Hey, I’ve never done anything in small measures in my entire life and I’m not about to start now!

The South African Flag

The South African Flag – SA, my first home on this earth.

Moving from South Africa to the UK was utterly exhausting, as you can imagine. Picking up your entire life and dumping it in another country is not for the faint of heart and should not be attempted too often in one’s life. Exhaustion aside, I am thrilled to be here in a country that appreciates fantasy and science fiction authors more than they do in SA. Sad but true. I was told by an agent in SA that the fantasy genre is a difficult sell in our country, local author or not. As it is, there isn’t much room for the arts in any form there unless the community does all the work and finds private funding. Thankfully, there are the handful in each field, including a few corporations, that have the passion to make things happen in the face of ignorance and apathy; our leaders have no idea that without the arts a nation has no soul and will soon die. They are oblivious to the enormous potential of its highly skilled and talented people, of which there are thousands, therefore these struggling artists get no recognition or support from their useless, unaware leaders.

I have many South African author friends and they are doing fantastic things on their own and raising awareness in their field. They love what they do, and despite how hard it is to be an artist in SA they are thriving because they’re doing what they love. They make me proud to be a writer and an artist.

Make time to write every day even if it's just for a few minutes! Feed your soul!

Make time to write every day even if it’s just for a few minutes! Feed your soul!

NaNoWriMo is growing in leaps and bounds, and I am proud to be part of it again this year. South Africa did brilliantly last year and I just know they’ll do even better this year. I will always support and encourage them. This year I am thrilled to be part of a huge writing community in the UK that is participating in NaNo. Hello, Kent! This year I am sticking to a scifi novel. As I work on finishing my epic fantasy tetralogy I am looking forward to having new projects to focus on next year, and since I will have two novels – one, a mixed genre of fantasy, scifi, horror, and western from 2012 – and this year’s scifi, along with another horror/scifi short story, I will have lots to keep me busy in 2015.

So tell me, dear Writer, are you participating this year? I would love to hear what you have up your sleeve and which tactics you will be implementing to succeed. Do share. If you need to chat and discuss issues and even your fears of not making the word count goal then let’s chat about it and encourage one another. I wish you luck and word count success by the 30th! I will keep you updated on my own progress right here. Now, go write!

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!

You Never Lose What You Gain – as a Writer or a Dancer

Polina Seminova

Polina Seminova

Yesterday I did a ballet exam for the first time since I was 17. It was an interesting experience, as you can imagine. At 44 one would think a person done with such intense exercises, but I wanted to get fit again and have a goal to work towards for the end of the year, besides finishing Book 4 during NaNoWriMo, of course 🙂 I was just informed that I got the highest mark and a fantastic report, which makes me smile and nod sagely to myself because although I am no longer as subtle or fit as I used to be there is one thing I retained after all this time and that was the technique required to pull off an exam of that level. It’s called muscle-memory, and depending on how good your training was as a kid you never lose that knowledge.

This goes for writing, as well.

It should please you to know that as you constantly learn you become better and better at your craft, never worse. This, of course, depends on whether you develop bad habits and faults and allow them to perpetuate your writing. The same principle applies to ballet. Bad habits are hard to break unless, with steely determination and a lot of hard work, you attack them with the very opposite and completely remove said bad habits and replace them with a good, solid foundation upon which anything is possible to achieve.

Having the right mindset is vital, naturally. You must want it badly enough, and by ‘it’ I mean perfection. I want to be a perfect writer, knowing this is impossible just like being the perfect dancer is impossible – but with regards to both careers I can get pretty close. It is up to me, however, to create an environment in which to work – at home and inside my head – that creates optimal achievement.

Writing Inspiration

I must gain knowledge in order to improve, to achieve, and, ultimately, to succeed and reach the heights I’m aiming for.

As a ballet teacher my goal is to train my dancers to think correctly. I have all the knowledge to turn them into better dancers, but they must want to receive that knowledge and apply it, then make it part of not only their dancing but themselves, for what they learn in the classroom they can use in all aspects of life. Knowledge empowers them to become better dancers and thinkers, and as their teacher I must make sure they understand that knowledge and then show them how to apply it.

As adults we may no longer have tutors to guide and nurture us, but we have learned the responsibility and discipline to make sure we continue our own education to the best of our ability. Even though I received the best training as a dancer there were still things I needed to be be reminded of and become more conscious of again nearly thirty years later. As a writer, I keep learning and reading and gleaning from the experts because I need and want what they have in order to apply it to my work and become better and better. I still need reminders of the details, the intrinsic stuff that makes the whole picture look so much more professional and appealing to my readers. It is my responsibility to keep learning and relearning so that I can keep growing and improving.

The learning never stops! Please remember that!

I’ve spoken before of being willing and open to learn and gain knowledge, and of finding the balance between knowledge and passion – it’s what this blog is really about. Never stop learning and you’ll never stop improving. It’s as simple as that.

I love hearing your thoughts. What are your opinions about continuing your education? Do you feel pretty confident where you are in your career as an author, or are you constantly aware of the need to keep honing your craft with more knowledge?

If you’d like to read other posts on this subject of passion verses knowledge please check out my Archive.

Remember, you can find all my books right here Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, and Goodreads.

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!

Writing is my Drug. Without it I’m too…normal!!

My Escape

 

Only writers will get this, but when I can’t sit at my computer everyday and write I feel disconnected from the universe, from myself, and from my characters. Reality crowds in and I start getting irritable and my husband thinks someone else has taken up residence inside his wife.

Sometimes life and work crowd in and take over; well, they actually take me away from where I really want to be and from what I want to do. Working to pay the bills and put food on the table is necessary, but if I had a choice I wouldn’t do it. It’s days like that when I envy professional writers their freedom to not have to do another job besides their beloved writing.

I’ve been bogged down with dance festivals for the last three weeks, and even though I’ve had a few days where I’ve managed to get down around 10-14 pages, they came too seldom. I enjoy choreographing and creating dances for the kids I teach; I love seeing the end product on the stage and watching my girls, with whom I’ve been rehearsing for months, performing their hearts out and getting rewarded for their hard work and dedication. Now, this used to be my entire life – dancing, performing, rehearsing, choreographing – but when writing came along and my dance career slowed down it became my entire existence. I couldn’t believe that creating with words was as intoxicating, if not more so, than dancing. Oh, believe me, nothing beats being on stage in front of an audience and drawing them in and making them laugh or cry or applaud – it is definitely an art form where you get instant gratification and recognition – and even though writing produces the same results it just takes a little longer and a lot more (and a different kind of) work.

Pen on Paper

Writing when I’m exhausted is also hard and it takes great effort to sit down in front of my computer and make the start. But what I’ve learned as a reasonably new author, is that once I begin, once I set my imagination free, then there’s no stopping me. Tired or not, I can write all day. The adrenaline, the force that pulses through me, is addictive and one drug I hope never to give up.

Dance and writing are very different and very similar: they are both visual art forms and require the observer to use their imagination; they both take the observer on a magical journey, an escape from reality that the observer craves; they both grab the observer’s attention and hold them captive, and here is the first major difference: dance incorporates music, lighting, costumes, sets – basically, all the visuals are physically provided to help the observer become engrossed in the atmosphere created for them – whereas in a book the observer, with the author’s help, is left to create their own world, their own physical interpretation of the story, all taking place in the mind.

I thank God for giving me the ability to create and imagine. Albert Einstein is quoted as saying: “Imagination is more important than knowledge…” He understood the power of imagination, that it is limitless whereas knowledge is not, and as a dancer, dance teacher, and a writer I understand and acknowledge and welcome its power, and I’m grateful for the ability to use it to its fullest extent – tired or not 🙂

When I danced professionally it consumed my world; I could not even contemplate doing anything else. But time past and life, too, and when I discovered the world of writing I realised that dance isn’t all there is. There were other ways for me to express and share what was inside me, what was inside my mind and heart, just that now it was with words. I approached it tentatively, this new, scary thing, and once I tried it and discovered that putting down on paper what was in my head was just a little harder than creating a dance piece (choreography is as natural to me as breathing!), and it slowly started taking hold of me like a powerful drug coursing through my veins and setting my heart and soul on fire! Never did I think that writing would consume me so, and I allowed it to because it replaced my passion and love of dance, soothing the pain of leaving that world behind.

Image courtesy of blackballerinas.tumblr.com

Image courtesy of blackballerinas.tumblr.com

Teaching dance is my job; writing is my new passion, and I cannot think of doing anything else. It’s a good thing I can write ’til I drop dead one day. I don’t think this body would be able to do leaps and turns as well as I used to as the decades go by 🙂

When I write I feel invincible, I feel alive and full of joy, so when the ‘normal’ stuff of life encroaches I get very grumpy. I even hate stopping to have food when I’m in the flow. Ask my hubby; he’s had full on conversations with me while I’ve been writing and I haven’t heard a word!! He’s slowly learning not to mess with me when I’m in the zone 🙂

Tell me about the things that you’d rather give up than have your writing interrupted. I love reading your thoughts! Please share!

Is Your Writing Style a Tango or a Waltz?

tango dancers

This is such a frustrating and curious topic that many either ignore it altogether or pursue it with fervour with the single-minded goal of perfecting it. Style is spoken of as the most important thing a writer can have in order to possess a unique voice. I don’t know if I agree. Style to me is superfluous when it becomes the be all and end all of the way you approach your work. If it’s all you’re concerned about at the exclusion of other things then I believe it brings limitation and not freedom.

Stephen King Quote 3

When I read a famous author’s work I don’t analyse every nuance and slant and approach, I just get on with reading the story, hoping to be sucked into another world, another existence, for hours. Although I recognise Stephen King as someone who writes with no fuss or gimmicks or fancy words and phrasing – this makes my reading experience pleasurable and easy – and someone like Tolkien, whose use of language I find complicated and fussy, I still appreciate their very different styles. But, again, I read to be drawn into a story not to be caught up with so much fuss and so many big words that I start focusing on the way it is written instead of on the story.

I’ve been told my style is very much like Stephen King‘s, and no wonder: I love the way he expresses himself and gets to the point with so much emotion and clarity that I can do nothing else but lose myself in every scene. This is my goal as a writer. Even in epic fantasy it’s important not to lose the reader in too much jargon and waffle as though I’m trying my best to show off, to show what a fantastic, accomplished author I am aiming to get selected for many writing awards. All I want is to be a storyteller that blows people’s minds with my vision and emotion and passion.

I think I write like a waltz – easy, flowing with just enough light and shade to hold my reader captive, and with enough crescendos and quiet moments to make them hold their breaths. My style is not an Argentinian tango – intense, demanding, at times too loud, broken with jarring phrasing and rough handling. There is no doubt it is beautiful and passionate and seductive, but a little too rushed for my taste!

Stephen King Quote 4

But again I ask if style is that important if as a writer you succeed in getting your story across to the reader the way you want. Perhaps the answer is that style changes with each story you write, unless it’s part of a series, of course, where the feel and voice must be consistent for the sake of the reader’s comfort and happiness. They love their comfort zones, after all, and like to know exactly what they’re gonna get before they read the next book in a series they’ve come to love and trust.

Personally, I like writing as differently as I can with every new story I approach. My epic fantasy tetralogy flows and moves and expresses like a Viennese waltz, while the Vampire novel I wrote for NaNoWriMo last year has an entirely different feel – more like a tango 🙂 It has to be because the characters are COMPLETELY different to my characters in my epic fantasy. They’re harder, rougher, more dangerous and earthy, and therefore they demand that my writing (style) matches their temperaments and unique personalities.

This is why I say that perfect style is not the ultimate goal and achievement of a writer; being able to tell a powerful story effectively with conviction is.

I know many will disagree with me on this, but, hey, that’s what makes debating such fun 🙂 What are your thoughts about style and its relevance? Is it relevant or not? How do you identify your unique style, and what exactly is it?

I love reading your thoughts so please leave a comment.

Visualisation: The Art of Drawing Your Reader In

Action and Visual Perfection - the art of creating emotion

Action and Visual Perfection – the art of creating emotion

There, that’s the moment you’ve been waiting for, the climax, the explosion, the huge secret reveal, the plot twist to make you gasp and scream “No! That can’t be happening!!!” And that’s why you sit through a movie you’ve been dying to see since they announced it was being made two years ago!

And that, dear writer, is what your reader wants at the end of your novel!

BUT before they get to the end they need the build-up, the lead-in, the gradual and almost painful journey to the point they can scream or cry or jump up and down and yell either “Bitch!” or “Bastard!” at you. Yes, that ‘George R. R. Martin‘ moment, that’s what makes your reader and future fan come back for more. And I’m sure you know exactly what it is: the ability to paint with words, to enable your reader to ‘see’ the entire story in their head like a movie, to see it clearly and become emotionally hooked from page one.

My Escape

Now, every book I’ve read approaches this differently because the writer has her own idea of HOW the story should unfold and how quickly or slowly. There are many masters of the Build-Up, my favourite being Stephen King, and I sit with bated breath waiting for the ending, devouring his books at a furious rate because I want to know. I have to know, dammit!!

When I wrote my first novel I had to learn how to paint with words. I have always been extremely visual in my thinking, thanks to about 40 years of dancing and choreography, and when I took the plunge to go from professional dancer to writer I had to teach myself how to express the glorious, exciting, moving scenes in my head onto the page. It took patience and practice, but by the time I found my own style and the words began to flow faster, I experienced the joy of expressing myself to my future readers in a way that I knew would move them and enable them to join me on my epic fantasy adventure! They would ‘see’ what I ‘see’ and feel what I feel, and to me that made me a successful storyteller.

In the big blockbuster movie we go to have a visual feast – to gasp at the latest CGI techniques and the hot actors in tight costumes 🙂 – and we expect to be entertained and get our money’s worth. If we are not satisfied we gripe and moan and complain on Facebook and Twitter, and soon the movie loses its punch and becomes a flop. This, as you know, happens with books, as well. As writers, we have to learn to draw our readers in or we run the risk of being flops ourselves.

Saying that, it’s vital to know your audience and pay attention to your reviews – good and bad – and learn from both. If you want to be popular you need to give your audience what they want. BUT, and a very big but here, never compromise your skill or style or passion to write and tell your story your way in favour of pleasing everybody. As I’ve said in so many of my previous blogs, ALWAYS HAVE BALANCE!

Pen on Paper

There’s nothing I love more than hearing a fan tell me how they couldn’t put my books down, how they were drawn in and got so involved with my characters and their dramas that they had to keep reading until they finished. And my epic fantasy novels are long books! How wonderful to know that although I’ve written such a big story that not once did my reader become bored! Now that’s a compliment I can bathe in for the rest of my life 🙂

Do you have a particular way of approaching your story that paints the most vivid picture for your readers? Is it important to you to grab the reader from page one or do you prefer the gradual Build-Up? I’d love to read your thoughts. Please leave a comment and share.

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