So, You Want to be a Writer?

Some of my favourite books

Some of my favourite books – I’d love for my name to be here one day. Don’t you want the same?

You poor, poor fool.

I’m just kidding. Kind of. Regardless of how old you are, where you’re from or what you currently do, you’ve got a burning desire to tell stories and that just isn’t being fulfilled right now.

Maybe you’re writing something in your spare time; novels, short stories, poems, scripts and such. Maybe you want to but don’t know where to start. Well, I can’t tell you I’m an expert on the subject since, you know, I’m (at this stage but if you read this years later I may be) not a published author right now.

What I do have are experiences, insights and tidbits of information that may help in some way. I’m going to share these with you here. They won’t make you a writer but if it helps you pick up that pen or open that word processor, I’m counting it as a win.

What a better way to start 2016’s blogging than this? Precisely.

You’re a writer. Deal with it

Not everyone has a problem with this but it can come up every now and then. Calling yourself a writer – or having someone else call you it – is fine, but actually feeling like one is something completely different.

Maybe it brings a sense of pressure to produce or do something. Perhaps you feel guilty because it doesn’t feel like a job or bring the same stability other careers do. Or, you might just find it frees you and you can relax at last.

Whatever it is, you’re going to have to deal with it. It comes down to feeling comfortable with who you are, maybe not your entire being but this aspect of it. It might strike early on or later, but just remember, you’re not alone. Proof of being a writer doesn’t mean you have to be the next Tolkien, King or Rowling – far from it. Just be yourself, write the way you want to and, most of all, enjoy it!

Plan, plan, plan and plan some more

It’s dull, it’s boring, it’s mind numbing.

Sound familiar? Then you’re doing it wrong. Planning your work is the first step of a challenging, rewarding and enjoyable process. I love writing books but at the same time, short stories and blogging are hugely enjoyable. Each needs different levels of planning and it’s different for everyone.

My novels need a lot of planning. I develop characters, settings, plots and subplots usually before writing anything (although sometimes I write little extracts that do or do not feature in the story later). Once I understand the world I’m writing in, I start. My plan is usually a list of points per chapter and I play connect the dot. Whether you storyboard, mind map (or whatever the PC term is for it now) or use audio notes, it helps keep you on track.

Short stories need less planning but just as much research. Don’t fool yourself into thinking otherwise. On the flipside, if you get a flash of inspiration, go with it and then come back to your plans later, then work out how to use it.

Writing is actually fun!

Yes! Yes, it really is. It’s the most enjoyable part of it, but if you’re doing this solely to make money, turn around right now and pick another career.

Don’t get me wrong, we all (those of us who choose this) want to earn a living as a writer but if you’re writing for money, your writing will suffer because it’s not what you want to do. People are smarter than you think and they can see through the façade, so write honestly, about something you like and are passionate about, and the success will come.

I’m a great believer in the best job is the one you love doing, day in and day out. If you enjoy writing, whether its books, poems, web content, blogging – whatever – you’ll write better, build a bigger and more genuine audience and achieve the goals you want.

Don’t put undue pressure on yourself

It’s the ‘p’ word again – no, not publishing/ers. Pressure. It’s one of the biggest killers to any good story or project. If the pressure mounts up and you can’t deal with it, you’ll come across that infamous writers block.

I’m no believer in ‘writers block’ although I do use it as an umbrella term. There are a number of reasons why you might suffer from it. Pressure is one, tiredness and stress are others. A lack of focus or concentration, illness and many other factors can all stop you in your tracks.

Social media can be a big one. Too much time mindlessly clicking on Facebook’s timeline or Twitter’s newsfeed can destroy hours and days and – whoops – you’ve lost a week, then a month. That’s when the pressure builds. It’s a vicious cycle but if you put small steps in place to build a routine, you’ll get there.

Don’t get me wrong, some days you’ll write 20 words and others 5,000 but that’s okay. I try to write for at least one hour every day. The routine helps.

Find real feedback

This is tricky. Real, constructive feedback is essential to help you grow as a writer, and to develop your work. Other writers are great but they can often be busy. Readers are good but a reader doesn’t always make for good critic.

AVOID family and friends. They’ll have the best of intentions, no matter what you say to them beforehand, about what you expect and would like from them. You’ll get a “it was really good” or “I really enjoyed it” and that’s about it. Occasionally, you’ll dig and dig and dig and get a little nugget but it’s not worth THAT level of effort.

Find a writing group, in person or online – they exist everywhere. Follow the rules and be respectful. You won’t always like or agree with what they say but it’s for you to decide how to use that criticism. Throwing it back in someone’s face and going in a huff won’t help you and you’ll find feedback disappearing.

There are rules. Follow them or don’t – it’s your call

Every genre of writing has rules. So does every medium or format. Some people will tell you to stick to them at all costs while others will tell you not to worry and break them whenever you want. In the end, you have to decide.

It depends on what you’re hoping to achieve with your writing, the genre, context and so much more – it’s why planning and research are important. It will help you figure out which rules to follow (if any) and feedback will help prove or disprove your decisions. Be willing to adapt to meet the story and expectations of your reader to an extent. It’s a very fine line.

At the end of the day, it’s your call.

Editing…

It’s. So. Much. Fun.

Not.

However, it’s essential. You’ve written your book or script or poetry collection and you send it off straight away, so proud you’ve done it. Now you just have to wait for the phone to ring for hours on end with publishers offering you deals. Right?

Wrong.

You’ll make mistakes – spelling and grammar included, no matter how hard you try to spot them – and there will be plot holes, lines that don’t make sense to anyone but you. This is why you need to edit your work. Read it over and over and over again, and then get someone else to proof it as well. The repeat. Iron out those mistakes BEFORE you send it anywhere. It might take a full year to do this. Be patient.

Publishing, agents and rejection

There’s so much to say on this but you are going to face more rejection than you are success – at least, early in your career. The worst thing is, it’s not always just plain rejection. Sometimes you hear nothing at all in the months you’re waiting. It’s awful but that’s the way it is.

Get used to ‘no.’ It might be in a nice way but that’s what it is. Dust off and try again. It takes many, many tries to get someone to even acknowledge you. So many writers have what could be successful books or stories and give up after a few no’s.

Bear in mind, a ‘few’ in this instance can be hundreds. It only takes one yes, however. For more info on dealing with rejection, check this post out when you get a chance. It might open your eyes a little more.

Further Reading

Hey, look! Homework!

There’s so much reading you can do, from people like me to the ones who have done it. It’s important to remember that you’re not me, and you’re not them. What works for one person won’t necessarily work for someone else so don’t get caught up on an idea if it doesn’t work out.

That being said, it can’t hurt to know about what people have gone through and use it to help, if you can. I’ve started you off, or given you some encouragement (or maybe I’ve put you off entirely – sorry!).

Either way, it’s a long and hard journey ahead of you. Stick with it and you’ll get there. Honest.

I read this article recently, on how to smash through seven writing roadblocks writers come across at various times. It’s quite interesting and worth a read, either now or later.

Good luck!

Preparing for National Novel Writing Month

 

It’s almost that time again. It’s the one month where I curse myself for choosing to be a writer and basically put my social life on hold for 30 days straight (okay, occasionally I give myself a break but only if I get enough work done).

I am, of course, talking about National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo. I spoke about this briefly in a previous post

So, what is it?

My workspace

This will be my home in my home (and away from work) during November. Messy? No! Pretty well organised for me

Basically, the goal is to write 50,000 words of a novel, or as a novel, in November. That’s just under 2,000 words a day. That can be challenging enough in itself – any writer will tell you that some days you can write a stupid amount in a short period of time while others you’re lucky to get ten words down. It’s tricky and consistency is the key to doing this.

It helps to plan out in advance what you want to do but that’s just something I find easier. Others I know just want to let it flow and see where it takes them. The point of this month isn’t to come away with a polished novel you can get published but to get your ideas down on paper (or screen) and then you can edit it later.

I’ve tried it every year since 2007 but I’ve only completed it once. That was 2010 when I was in my second year of uni. Ironic that I could do it then but in the times before that when I had more time, it was harder. Even now, I probably have a better chance of doing it because of my daily work routine. Strange but it’s true.

There are also meet ups and groups you can find where you can get support and encouragement through this crazy month. Do a search, ask around, register on the website and check social media. Trust me, they’re out there.

Me in November

So what does it mean for me? Well, I’ll be working five days a week and writing every night. I’ll spend weekends playing catch-up if I fall behind and getting ahead of myself so I can relax a little at designated break points in the month.

I’ll post one update a week, either on a Friday or a Monday – I’m not sure which yet – which will basically let you know how I’m doing. I’m hoping this will help keep me motivated better than previous years. It will also let you find out how I’m doing and how I’m coping with it. It’s not an easy task on its own so your support would be most appreciated!

As a little bit of background, my novel this year is actually going to be the sequel to the one I wrote in 2010. That, believe it or not, is still in first draft. I’ve not found the right motivation and inspiration to take it further. I’m hoping that by doing the sequel, I’ll have the drive to push both the first one and the second on to bigger, better things.

Clean page

Time to start something new!

Time will tell but I have big plans for this story, these characters and the world it’s set in. I don’t want to say series but, yeah, that’s what I’m hoping.

Want to know more?

Of course you do! You’re just as crazy as I am, right? I mean, that is why you’re reading this blog, after all. You could just Google NaNoWriMo (oh boy, I used Google as a verb – someone help me!) or go here and save yourself that effort.

Should you decide to pass on it, I can’t blame you – and won’t! If, however, you do decide to give it a shot then I wish you the best of luck and do keep in touch to let me know you get on. In theory, it sounds easy but you’ll soon learn it’s anything but.

Then again, if everything we did in life was easy, we’d probably get bored. I know I would. Happy writing.

My Life as an Other

The Night Watch Series

The Night Watch Series

So, this is my final post on Sergei Lukyanenko’s The Night Watch series – well, unless there’s another book in the future. Rather than focus on the books themselves, as I have done in the last three in this series, I wanted to do something different. This isn’t about the films either, I’m not a fa of them and that’s not what I focus on here. Instead, I want to be a little more creative since that’s what I’m good at and you guys seem to like it.

Don’t worry; it’s not fan-fic. I just want to put myself in that world and figure out what it’d be like to be a part of it. Most of us have imagined this at some point with our favourite films, books and games, so let’s see how this goes.

Going over the basics

So, what is an Other? Simply put, they’re human beings who are able to enter the Twilight, a word made up of different levels. The magical temperature of Others is lower than a normal human, who gives off the energy consumed by the Twilight and this means they can absorb it and use it in the form of their abilities and spells. There are more technical explanations and terms, but that’s the gist of it.

Vampires and werewolves also exist but they operate under somewhat different rules. Others take on various forms, including magicians, shapeshifters, healers, witches, enchantresses, prophets, clairvoyants and many more, with male and female variants existing. Witches tend to be dark while enchantresses light and there are other rules. A Light Other will disappear into the Twilight if they do things befitting a Dark One and vice versa so there is always a risk to being an Other.

This closest example to this we see is in The Day Watch with Igor and Alisa. We don’t know how people fade into the Twilight but Alisa dies by Igor’s hand. While he is eventually found innocent, he still fades into the Twilight by his own choice. Whether this is always the case or if there are more forceful events that could make this happen is unclear.

Would I belong to the Light or Dark?

I’d like to think of myself as a decent guy, I help people when they need it and I’ve done plenty of things that I’d say, on first glance, would make me a Light Other. However, after reading these books I have to question whether I could ever live that kind of life – especially for hundreds of years.

The Dark Others are not necessarily evil. Some are, most definitely. There are plenty of them who are just going about their business and daily lives, enjoying the benefits of being an Other and having things work to their advantage – who wouldn’t want that kind of edge? I know that I would.

The big difference I’ve seen is that Dark Others put themselves first and Light Others put other people first. This is not arbitrary for every situation however and the more I think about it, the more I think that while helping people is important, especially those I care about, I can’t do anything if I’m in no position to help them in the first place.

There’s always the Inquisition, which basically keeps the balance and peace between the two sides. That’s an option and while there’s an appeal, it would take some time for me to reach that point. Even then, those in the Inquisition are still Light and Dark, they just see things differently.

Being objective about it, I’m pretty sure I’d be a Dark Other. Not an evil one (hopefully), but most likely a Dark One. Interesting.

Could I be involved in the Watch?

This is another question altogether. At first, I’d have honestly said yes. I can keep the balance between the two sides, increase my power and have a productive life. The more I read, the more jaded I got – in terms of what the Watches represent.

It’s a constant balancing act but neither side can win, wants to win or ever will win. It becomes pointless, just for show and people still die as a result. The schemers like Gesar and Zabulon are playing a game but with real Others and humans. I felt like Anton was beginning to get fed up of it by the end of The New Watch too and I think it takes a certain kind of person, Dark or Light, to be able to take part in that for such a long time.

Maybe, at first, I could be a part of it. Regardless of how strong I became, I think even I would lose interest in such a battle. Then, the idea of doing something productive in the Watch would fade away.

I could go into much more detail but I think I’ve covered enough. It’s one thing to imagine what it would be like and quite another to write myself into someone else’s story. Interesting to think about and I’d love to know your thoughts on this so please get in touch!

Writing Opportunity

This is one of my impromptu posts. Compared to the others, it’ll be much shorter and it has a clear point.

I’m not one to seek out every writing opportunity out there – I definitely do things my way, and it’s different from many other people. I’ll go into that in more detail later. I have been pointed to an opportunity that I think is a good shout, and hopefully you guys will find it interesting, or at least know someone who might! The link to it is at the bottom of the page.

So what is it? The publisher Salt is looking for novellas between 20 and 30 thousand words about life in the city for adults between the ages of 18 and 24. This DOES NOT mean you have to be in that age bracket to enter, rather that’s your target audience. They want relatable characters that tackle the issues faced by this audience, no matter how controversial or dark. That gives you a lot of scope but a direction as well, which is no bad thing.

There’s no closing date, so it’s an open call. That gives you time to plan, research, write and edit. This looks to be a damn good deal so it could give you a chance to break into the writing world if that’s what you want.

Hell, even I’m starting work on this! I’m expecting some strong competition so good luck to you all!

http://blog.saltpublishing.com/2014/01/03/modern-dreams-calling-for-submissions/