Writing a book? What you’re doing right.

A blog post popped up on my computer today that angered me. Designed for writers, it was headed, ‘What you’re doing wrong’. It’s not the first time I’ve encountered headings like this. I just won’t read negative blog posts. Tell me, how to do something, yes, but negative nancies can go confuse someone else.

Why must we constantly focus on the word ‘wrong’? This insinuates writing is going to be marked. We’re not in school, it’s not, readers will decide when they flick to page 1 and then buy our book. If it’s not their taste, well, that’s life.

It annoys me when someone tries to impose their opinions on another. Just because someone disagrees with someone else’s style, it doesn’t mean that person is right, and by implication that the other person is ‘wrong’. There’s that word again!

Stylistic decisions are individual, that’s your voice, don’t let someone else say you’re ‘wrong’, because as Neil Gaiman says: “Remember: when people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong.”

Writers are already plagued with self doubt, why must we make it harder for ourselves to navigate the writing path? Writers do not need to be told their writing voice is ‘wrong’.

If you’re doing some or all or more of these things, you’re on the right path:

  1. “Read, read, read,” to quote William Faulkner (heck, A LOT of people say the same thing a variety of ways).
  2. Write everyday: writing everyday makes your writing flow. Set up your “tortoise enclosure”. And if you don’t know what that is, and are curious, Google: “John Cleese, tortoise enclosure.”
  3. Learn your craft. Learn the difference between passive v active voice, learn grammar, learn pace, learn point of view, learn dialogue, learn character development. And just when you think you’re grasping the basics, you’ll find there’s even more to learn. There’s always room to grow. There’s always someone who you can learn from, no matter their age.
  4. Read aloud: this allows you to pick up missed words and listen for lyricism.
  5. Write something you love, not something for the market.
  6. Get involved with the writing community and have your work critiqued. My work improved exponentially after I joined in, after resisting for damned too long. I wish I’d done this step differently. And remember, when you critique, praise the good as well the confusing. If we don’t know what the heck is working, how on earth do we develop the good stuff?

Can you think of anything else?

Every been so scared, your heart jumped?

Welcome to one of the after-effects of my stroke. If someone abruptly coughs, or puts plate on the bench, or there’s an unexpected bang on the TV, like a T-bone car crash, or a dog bark, or a dropped plate, I literally jump through the roof. No joke, my heart jumps so much, this condition kindly bestowed on me post-stroke, will not just make me jump one day, it will trigger a heart attack.

They’ll write ‘died of fright’ on my tombstone.

I’m sure there’s a medical term for this, but a term doesn’t describe what it’s like to live with this.

For example, I cringe anytime someone drives a car in TV or movies. T-bone car crashes are such cliches, any car shot, I anticipate a crash, no matter the genre. And I certainly make sure I don’t drink. If I jump while holding a drink … well, it’s not pretty. My hand violently jerks, water spills from my cup –  taking on a life of its own – and leaps into the air. Water splatters my clothes and drips over my wheelchair. Then it hits the floor like thrown paint – a Pro Hart masterpiece. I’m surprised water hasn’t ended up in my hair yet. My husband laughs at me, but gets just desert – he has to clean it up. Ah, there is sweet justice.

And my wonderful kids take pleasure in seeing me jump. They laugh and laugh and laugh. Soon, they’ll start scoring who makes me jump the most. Lucky for me, it’s too ‘cringe-worthy’ for them to read my blog, or I would’ve just given them a new game.

On the weekend, I binge-watched a show on Netflix. I won’t say which one and give spoilers. They happened to walk on the ledge of, say, a ten story building. It was obviously fake. Did that matter? No siree. Even typing about it days later, recalling the image, I’m woozy. Thankfully, with Netflix, I can just jump forward. Not so with a movie.

Going to the movies is a real fun time for me. I know Hollywood uses a green screen, but you try and convince my brain of that. Movies with heights? I end up watching the ‘Exit’ sign or my shoes. Any height, no matter how fake, makes me jump so much I nearly fall out of my wheelchair. As if being in a wheelchair didn’t come without enough challenges.

I’ve been startled in the movies, and I wear choc tops, slurpies and popcorn. In truth, movies are’t the greatest choice for me. I should start wearing an apron. Imagine the looks that’d earn!

The earth-type shots of End Game (or was it Captain Marvel?), those taken above the atmosphere, are just too much for me. I try to look, but even they overwhelm me. Of course, I’m a movie-goer at heart, so I’ll just grin and bear the dizzying heights. It is what it is. I have this ‘perk’ for life.

Game changer

There are a plethora help books for writing. We all glean information in different ways and these books are necessary. What works for one person may not resonate with another. That’s the way of the world.

Bearing that in mind, I’d like to share my recent journey that has turned my 300 words a day (my right hand is dead, so that’s one-handed) into 1,000 words a day and I’m aiming for 2,000 a day – and to spend less time in front of my computer.

My journey began with Nanwrimo. I found Kristen Lamb’s Wana tribe and started sprinting every night. Even after Nanowrimo, I still sprint with them almost every night (their morning).

Around the start of the New Year, I read Chris Fox’s Lifelong Writing Habit. The book recommended a few different things. What I took away from it began the change to my writing habit. I purchased the app “Things” and started to use it everyday. I organised my calendar with reminders to write. I freed brain space in order to think only of my book.

Then I read Jessica Brody’s Save the Cat Writes a Novel and I started to calculate numbers (percentages) based on when a beat should happen i.e. making sure the inciting incident is around 10% of my book. And this is an area we may vary, because I want to limit my book’s word count. I’ve always struggled with confidence, and as a writer wanting to debut (if I sell), I think I’ve more chance at selling a novel if I give publishers what they want when it comes to word count. You may be be confidant than me. I’ll vary my words v percentages a little, but I mostly try to stick to beats in the right places.

After, I read another of Chris Fox’s books – 5000 words an hour. I knew I wasn’t physically capable of this, but I was curious. Around this time a gaming keyboard was recommended to me from someone within the Wanatribe (thank you!). And within Chris’s book, he recommended the Game Changer for me.

Rachel Aaron’s 2k to 10k.

What a brilliant method to write. I love it. It’s my game changer. It may not be yours, but if it can help you in a small way, heck, that’s awesome, yes?

What’s even funnier, I’d already heard of Rachel Aaron through a totally separate source. Back in 2017, Rachel was on the Creative Penn here. I was impressed then, imagine my surprise when I realised the author of 2k to 10k was one and the same person? The writing community is a small one as much as its a big one.

I’ve recently created “mood” playlists on Spotify, thanks to James Scott Bell’s, Voice: the secret power to great writing who inspired me.

To top of my journey, I’m reading an incredible book Kristen Lamb recommended – Larry Brook’s Story Engineering.

I’ve lost count of how many books I’ve read on the craft (they’ll be on Goodreads) and I’m sure there will be more, but at the moment, this is the path that will push me to finish my book (at least, ready for beta readers) by the end of March, hopefully mid-March. I’ll check back and let you know how I go.

Fingers crossed!

I’m a tad slow to the party

Admittedly, I did have a stroke and spent 16 months in hospital, but that still doesn’t excuse my tardiness. For what you ask? For Dexter.

This show has been my guilty pleasure of late. Why? There is a twisted sense of expectation about a serial killer in the police force. And not just your average serial killer, one with a specific code of ethics. Again more specific, he’s not just a cop, he’s a blood splatter analyst.

I’ve now added the book to my ‘want-to-read’ list on Goodreads. The author, Jeff Lindsay, has a new superfan. I undoubtedly join millions of other people.

He’s taken an ordinary premise and has drilled down deep. He concocted a protagonist we like, despite Dexter’s heinous crimes. Heck, give us a ‘D’, give us an ‘e’, an ‘x’, a ‘t’, an ‘e’ and an ‘r’. What do we have? “Dexter!”.

You’re probably thinking, “tell me something I don’t know!”

Well, last Friday I started watching a show my best friend recommended to me. By Saturday night, I’d finished 3 seasons. The show is on Netflix and is tarred with the same brush as Dexter. It’s the same, but different, a favourite Hollywood saying.

This time we’re not cheering for the family-man serial killer, we’re cheering for Gillian Anderson’s character. And, man, she looks AMAZING for her age and she’s a superior actress from her X-Files days. This serial killer has a different path from Dexter, but his path is compelling. Not to the same extent as Dexter, but still riveting.

It’s a nice trick, both shows give the serial killers a family, which helps the viewer like them.

I’m looking forward to the next instalment for this kind of protagonist.