Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Find your inspiration

I have heard many authors complain that they do not have time to read.  That on top of the demands of a job and a spouse and a child, or four, finding the time to sit down and relax in the evening with a book is as likely as finding the missing link between man and monkey buried in your back garden.  But likewise I have also heard many writers claim that to not read is tantamount to claiming that you have no interest in the written word. That not having the time to read simply means you do not have the time to write.

I see the argument for both sides, although I have pretty much set up camp in the latter stronghold.  I know my writing limps along when I am not reading, and I know that equally it stops flowing if I am reading something that I am not enjoying.  It as if the melancholy I feel whilst reading something I am not fully engaged with attaches itself to my ability to write, and all I manage to get down on paper/screen are words that fail even to inspire the mind from which they originated.

Since I got my Kindle for Christmas it is much easier to try something new, and this has also conversely increased my passion for printed books.  In fact I have ordered more paperbacks, and even a few hardbacks in the last eight weeks since the arrival of the Kindle, just because browsing for eBooks has reminded me of some of my old favourites.

But in spite of my reading going into overdrive just lately I have still struggled with burnout when it comes to the work in progress.  As an indie author I have to take a lot of responsibility for my work, a lesson learned right at the start when publishing was swiftly followed by unpublishing whilst I fixed the errors in formatting and sneaky typos.  It would seem that I edited Psychophilia until I was drained of all writing ability, which left nothing much for the WIP once Psychophilia went off to the editor.

The last couple of weeks have been tough on the writing front.  I have turned up each day and put in the hours, but nothing seemed to grow into quite what I wanted it to become.  But there always comes a point when you find the right thing to inspire.  Books might be my craft, they teach me about the use of words, and I digest them to provide me with renewed energy for writing.  But today, stuck at home with a hellish virus and a husband with man flu taking up residency on the sofa, my writing has been easier and flowed more than the last two weeks.  Maybe it's the drugs, but as far as I was aware Panadol didn't have any hallucinogens in.  What I am sure it is, is music.  I stuck my headphones in, cranked up the volume to the music of my youth and started listening to Slipknot, Stonesour, and Megadeth.  All the music that seems frantic and far too loud for somebody with a headache.  But there is an energy about this music, and a freedom of speech that isn't replicated in other music genres with the exception, maybe, of rap.  

Metal, rock, whatever you want to classify it as, is full of emotion.  Most times the themes of the songs are about difficulties, struggles, emotional turmoil and pain that people struggle to communicate.  The feelings are raw, insular feelings ripped open and bled into the music and lyrics.  Sounds much like the life of a protagonist to me.  What are our characters in fiction if not representations of human struggle with which readers can connect with?  

I think it is so important to read, and it would always be my first piece of advice to any aspiring author.  But maybe I should also offer them something else.  Find your inspiration.  Whatever that is.  Find what helps you to search inside of yourself for the words and the ways to express that which you are trying to get out.

Thanks Corey! 

Friday, February 7, 2014

It's all in the detail

Some of you will have read my posts from around the time of NaNoWriMo, a great motivational month for an indie writer.  I got off to a flying start, even though I began four days later than planned thanks to a nasty bug that wiped me out.  I wrote my little fingers ragged for the duration of the event, and when I wasn't writing I was thinking about writing so that when I actually came to do some writing I didn't do a lot of thinking.  And therein lies my little problem.

Yesterday I was reading an excellent article about keeping a timeline when plotting a new novel.  It focussed on how helpful it can be to stay on track with the changes in your plot, the progression of your character's lives, and so that you know that what is happening in each scene is happening at the right point in time.

It got me thinking that I would love to write a book that is constrained by the time in which it is set.  I think it would be a really fun challenge, and in the context of a thriller it could really help to focus the action.  A great modern day example of this would be the television series 24, or the movie Momento which I am ashamed to admit I still haven't seen and think that this weekend I will try to rectify that.

But what this emphasised to the unashamed pantser that I am, is that it is all in the detail.  This kind of book writing experience would force me to change my ways, to start making (good) notes, and to know my characters pretty well before we even take the first step into chapter one.

Looking back on my NaNoWriMo efforts with this thought in mind, I realise that the details themselves are what is important about this story, and some of them are, let's just say, not quite on the money.

Now whilst I did plan this book better than I did the others, the other books were written at my pace.  Write a bit, think a bit.  Scrap a bit, revise a bit.  This gives me a chance to check on the details as I write.  Instead, NaNoWriMo just became a race to the finish, and I wrote like a juggernaut without actually, at times at least, engaging the whole of my brain.

So here I am half way through a major edit, and I realise now that I have used a building in London, but I have gifted it an extra 50 stories!  The action is set on floor 90, but there are only fifty floors.  Doh! This is just plain stupid!  So before I get any closer to the end, I now have to go back and make the facts, well, ur, factual.

This is yet more damning evidence to add to the haul already stashed away in an unused compartment of my brain that my pantsing ways must come to an end.  I am considering writing the sequel to Identity X soon, and there is no way I can glide my way through that without some pretty hefty notes.  This weekend I think I need to go out an buy a nice big A3 note book and start doing it properly.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

How to edit.........

This is today's motto.

Thanks for summing it up Don Roff.
I did my ripping, now it's off to the editor. Bye-bye Psychophilia. I'm done.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Bookstore excitement? Yes please!

It's not very often that I get much time to myself at the weekend for blogging/reading/editing/writing/breathing, and this weekend was no exception.  If I had found a moment to myself I would have already shared the fact that my local bookstore has agreed to stop copies of Identity X. 

Previously I wrote about my trip back to the UK (read this post) and how I was planning to make a visit to the local library and to the local bookshop.  I had previously taken the decision that the best way of getting them to look at my work was simply to give them a copy.  I think when you are asking a local bookstore to stock your book it is a bit much to expect them to make a decision based on an eBook.  Or even worse to expect them to buy a copy.  How can they see what it looks like?  How can they know that the quality of the print is?  How can they judge the work in the capacity that they would sell it in?  From an eBook this is impossible.  So I ordered a few copies and handed them out without really knowing what to expect.

I cannot say that I thought the initial meeting was very positive.  It seems that the local people of Warwick, my home town, are a busy bunch.  According to Keith, the owner of Warwick Books, he had three visits from local authors all asking him to stock their book the previous Saturday, and told me there was no way to stock them all.  Regardless, I gladly gifted them the book, and he promised that he would hand it over to his wife and co-owner, Frances, so that she could take a look at it.

Within less than a week Frances has emailed me back, telling me that she was finding Identity X very exciting, a bit like a futuristic The 39 Steps!  And add into that the fact that she also gave me a couple of suggestions for the next set of reprints, advice that I am always happy to listen to and see if I can improve the quality of the product.

So thank you Warwick Books for taking a chance on a local indie author.  The first shipment is on it's way!