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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.

 

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When Life Interferes with My Passion

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!

So, those of you who follow my blog might have noticed that I haven’t written a post for a while. The reason? My job, and I don’t mean writing. I mean that thing I do that pays the bills. And every day I cannot get to my computer and focus on my first love, my passion, my creative outlet, and drug, to put it mildly, makes me grumpy and miserable.

I enjoy teaching ballet, but there comes a time when it all becomes too much, especially when I can’t find time to spend writing or editing for even just a couple of hours. My mood sours, my husband complains I’m not as cute and cuddly as I usually am when I manage to spend a few hours a day feeding my addiction, my hunger to create and unleash what churns inside!

I share my teaching week with another teacher, who is also an international examiner and tutor. As a result of her status, she frequently travels all over the globe  leaving me with more classes to teach and less time to write. The month of March was insanely busy for me as I taught six days a week as opposed to the usual three. Hey, I received an incredible salary at the end of the month so no complaints there, but I can’t help but feel robbed of time with my beloved characters; you know, spending quality time with them in their world.

I know I don’t really have to ask you this, dear Writer, but do you not also feel a sense of separation when you cannot be with your characters, especially those you’ve written four or more books about? For me, it hasn’t only been the last five years of penning their story. No, try thirty-seven years!!! Yup, my epic fantasy tetralogy was born when I was a wee kid, and the story has evolved over all that time, growing, morphing, evolving, until it eventually found its voice in 2009 when I decided to share it with the world. These characters have lived with me practically my entire life, so when I can’t spend time with them every day it feels like I’m ignoring them and my relationship with them suffers. I lose the connection with them and their story, never a good thing when writing an emotionally charged tale!

My writing and blogging have taken a back seat this past month but I hope now to finally kick it up into gear again and finish editing The Sword Bearer’s Ascension: Book 4, the final installment and the end of a thirty-seven year journey. My characters are waiting for me to finish telling their story so that the world can read it, so that they can become part of the hearts and minds of those who choose to read it. I also hope to blog more regularly, and I want to thank all my followers for your support and interest in what I have to say. It means a lot to me that you read this humble blog, and I hope that in some way you are inspired to never stop writing every day no matter what life throws at you.

I have determined to make an effort to write every day even if it’s just for a few minutes. My soul sings when I create; how could I be so cruel and deprive it of  such joy and expression?

I love reading your thoughts. Have you also had times when the mundane necessities of life have interfered with your first passion? Please share!

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

Rewriting and Editing is Not for Sissies!

 

Dream Landscape 1 by Chris H index17 sxcLast week I started reading my first draft of The Sword Bearer’s Ascension: Book 4 after months of creation without looking back to do any rewrites or edits. I took the advice of seasoned authors and wrote with the single-minded goal to finish the story and not check back on what I’d written (as I’d done with my other works) until it was time to do a rewrite. And what I discovered took my breath away!

I’m a Pantster. I do not outline or have a storyboard with cards and post-its all over my wall. I have one notebook which I use to remind myself of particular details I need to include in the story relating to characters or descriptions or vital plot twists that will make the story better and more exciting. Those thoughts come to me when I’m not writing but doing other things completely unrelated to the craft like brushing my teeth, washing dishes, watching TV, or when I’m just about to fall asleep – the latter being the best time to come up with great ideas. When I sit at my computer I allow the story to tell itself without any interference from my perfectionist brain. I do not have a muse (that I know of), but I do believe that my stories come from a place I cannot describe, a place where the magic happens – that source you cannot explain to someone who has never had the privilege of creating magic with words.

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

Whenever I write and allow this inexplicable process to take over, I am always left dumbfounded by what comes out of me. So, when I began reading from the beginning, I was amazed with the incredible detail and power and beauty of the story. “Did I write that?” I frequently asked myself as I tightened up my style, got rid of extraneous words and redundancies, and checked spelling, grammar, and punctuation. I have been drawn into the story anew; I experience the turmoil and chaos of the battle scenes, the love stories, the grief and joy of the characters I fell in love with – the characters that are so much a part of me that to say goodbye to them is a special kind agony reserved only for storytellers, I believe.

Rewriting is hard work; it requires an unemotional approach because it is meant to remove the detritus that accumulates, the bad habits that have crept into my writing I’m still trying to get rid of, and the stuff I know my readers won’t be interested in. Sometimes its a brutal process, especially when you have to get rid of entire scenes or delete a sub-character you really love. But it is necessary in order to create a product as close to perfect as possible. (You do know that no work is ever perfect, right? That would remove the soul of any story.) Rewriting and editing polishes up the frenzied creating that went before, that first ‘pen to paper’ moment when the fire in your belly and brain is urging you to create just like an addict’s urge to satisfy his cravings. The latter is the most exciting part of writing – for me, anyway. I have no inhibitions, I do not concern myself with perfect spelling, grammar, punctuation (my typing skills are not fantastic as it is), and I do not get in the way of whatever/whoever is working through me. And that is when the magic happens!!

Pen on Paper

My readers are going to be blown away by the final book, but before they get their hands on it, it’s my responsibility to make it a smooth experience for them. It is my duty to make sure nothing creates a bump as they lose themselves in the story. My goal is to take them in so deep, to hypnotise them so completely, that when they are rudely pulled back into reality by the demands of normal life, they cannot remember the passing of time. All they do remember are the emotions of getting lost in a story so completely that time stood still for a little while.

Don’t you want power like that? I do. I have never received a greater compliment than when one of my readers tells me they couldn’t put my book down until they finished it – all 700 pages!

Rewriting is not for sissies, it isn’t for those who are only interested in the emotional aspect and who do not care enough about the quality of their craft. I have posted on this before: Balance between passion and knowledge is vital. It takes experience and patience to rewrite in a way that keeps the passion/emotion/magic in the story alive and then compliments it with great grammar, punctuation, and style. If we can learn to find the balance then we can be better storytellers. I make sure I learn something new ever day to improve my craft. I encourage you to do the same.

I love reading your thoughts! Do you agree with having balance between passion (that first frenzied, magical draft) and knowledge (the more emotionally removed process of rewriting and editing)?

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!

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.

Hearing the Heartbeat of Your Story is Essential for Realism

Dancers have to feel and express the rhythm of the music in order to interpret it correctly and thus deliver a convincing performance the audience can FEEL and experience with them!!

Dancers have to feel and express the rhythm of the music in order to interpret it correctly and thus deliver a convincing performance the audience can FEEL and experience with them!!

We’ve all experienced it: We get a great idea for a story, and then we begin writing it down. Is it that simple? Yes and no.

Anyone can get a great idea – a twist on a classic or a recent movie or a song – because they’re all out there for the taking. So, what turns a great idea into a masterpiece? Right from the very beginning, as the words take form and the outline reveals itself, you must find the unique heartbeat, the specific tonality, the feel of the tale that separates it from every other story out there. And to hear that singular ‘voice’ speaking to you from wherever you believe stories come, you need to have the ability to listen, then recognise it, then express it in words.

It has been proven time and time again that if a group of say twenty kids get given the same sentence with which to begin their story you will invariably end up with twenty different stories. But the one that gets the A+ is the one that went outside the box and found a place so different from where convention dwells that the reader (in this case, the teacher) is blown away and immediately identifies the unusual/unique potential of that student. It’s not that the student had any special educational advantage over her peers, it’s rather that she lives her life by exploring the unconventional and opens her mind to things that most kids do not. The dreamers, the inventors, the ones that usually get into trouble for not concentrating in class – those are the kids the innovators of the world should be paying attention to and helping them expand those gloriously open, unfettered minds.

There are no limits to the imagination!

There are no limits to the imagination!

A great tool to use when writing – and this is fantastic if ever you find yourself stuck for an idea – is to ask: “What if?” What if the laws of nature didn’t apply to this character or this situation? What if there were no morals or ethics binding a character to act a certain way? What if reality wasn’t reality but mere illusion? What if the impossible was possible?

Many writers would say that getting to know your characters as if they were your best friends helps to make the story more real even if they’re writing about fantasy or the paranormal or science fiction. To imagine themselves where the characters are, to get in on the conversation and feel and hear what each unique personality is saying, lends greater passion and realism to a scene, even if they’re talking about swords and sorcery.

Every story has its own rhythm. Every character has his or her unique style and personality. But to get all this to a place of realism you need to live your story through every word and action. Place yourself in their position – the good and the evil characters – and try to understand them as though they were you. ‘See’ how they move and ‘hear’ how they speak (the inflections and nuances in their voices – including what they’re thinking), the way their faces move, the way their bodies move, and, of course, every single emotion they experience, whether expressed in the scene or secretly thought and felt. If they are angry you must feel angry. If they are upset or weeping then you must share in it with them, for if you can experience it all then your reader will, too!

There's great magic in realism!

There’s great magic in realism!

When writing in the same genre there is a danger that an author can end up having books with similar characters who have similar behaviours and find themselves in similar situations. I find this happening even among the greatest authors of our day. Their stories are all different, but I sometimes have a sense of knowing a character too well like I’ve met them before, and then I realise they’re a lot like another character in another book by the same author! It never fails to disappoint.

Have you written many books? If so, have you made sure that each new story has its own voice, its own heartbeat?

I urge you to spend time getting to know your new characters intimately, giving them their own existence, and making sure they don’t have a clone lurking around somewhere in another book. Take the time to make them unique, from their looks to the way they speak and act and interact with the other characters, because, believe me, your reader will pick up on a fake character just like they pick up on a fake actor who has not immersed herself in her role. It’s painful and distracting and makes the viewer want to stop watching because it’s impossible to get totally absorbed in the story when it feels unrealistic or fake.

Surrender to the power of the tale and allow it to direct you instead of the other way round! This is a quote from a friend on Facebook that is just perfect for what I have spoken about today: “Authors do not create characters. We open our minds to the unknown worlds and allow them to tell us their stories through these unseen doors. Then we write it all down for those who do not have the ability to open the doors on their own.” ~ Beth Fullaway

I love hearing your thoughts! Tell me about your experiences as a writer and creator of unique tales, and if you struggle – or don’t – with bringing your characters to life in a way that makes them as real as possible!

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