Why trust me?

There is a plethora of writing advice out there. So much to choose from you virtually get lost in a sea of advice. And who do you trust? Why even trust me?

Let me give you some background and let you decide.

I’ve been writing since eleven. Those first years were more plotting than writing. For the first decade after school, I paused writing in order to study law. After passing and being admitted as a lawyer, I started writing again. My first book. A romance. Written without a clue. Afterwards, I wanted to try my hand at fantasy. So, I began to learn the craft. I’ve followed blogs like Nathan Bransford’s blog since way back then. All the while writing that fantasy. This time I wrote I following the three Act structure. I even received a place in a writing contest.

And I finished my fantasy.

But, by gosh, it was rubbish. So I scrapped half, and tried again. I finished again. Still crap. Scrapped the new half again. I finished again. I told the story from three points of view. I wasn’t up to that challenge yet. I paused to have three kids.

A stroke only 10% of people survive derailed my legal career. Not my hopes of writing. After 15 months in hospital, I wrote my memoir which was signed by an agent in a week. Unfortunately, although publishers loved it, they felt it was for too much of a niche market to make them enough money. So, it’s now self published upon my agent’s recommendation.

Back to my fantasy, typing with three fingers on my non-dominant hand. I realised, I needed to concentrate on one main character. I’d bit off more than I could chew. I wrote a main character and discovered, it wasn’t his story! So I scrapped another 60,000 words. I needed to learn how to tackle one character first, before I tried more than one. I needed to learn so much: character arc, show don’t tell, recognising passive voice, dialogue, subtext, character motivation, character goals, foreshadowing, writing the antagonist and the list goes on. And I needed to twist any tropes to make my story interesting.

I think I ended up deleting those 20,000 words I’d kept too.

The last two years I’ve spent reading books on the craft, reading blogs, critiquing manuscripts, watching YouTube videos on the craft and writing. And seeing as I can’t walk, that’s two years 9-12am, bum in seat. Plus, the first half of this year I’ve also been involved in a weekly critique group.

As a side, the most recent books to transform my writing? Dazzling Dialogue and How to Write a Dynamite Scene.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned on this journey, it’s when I begin to type, “Harry killed the zombies to clear the path.” I stop and consider the “to clear the path” (anything that follows ‘to’). Do I need it? Am I telling too much (chances are, it’s a yes)? Shouldn’t I let a reader infer what’s happening (chances are that’s a yes too)? ‘To’ and what follows can be justified, but it’s a question of judgement. Unless this is a first book (and it’s not), I’ll stop myself. It helps I’m forced to type slow. I can’t speak for all the able bodied writers out there.

So I ask, can you trust me? There will those who think ‘yes’ and there will be those who think ‘no’. And that’s fine. Either way, happy writing!

 

ARE YOU WATCHING FOR YOUR SHIP? – Marilyn Armstrong

Are you looking for your writing voice?

Serendipity Seeking Intelligent Life on Earth

I was out in Arizona talking to a Blue Corn Navajo lady who made jewelry. She had carefully given me her tribal affiliations and all I had to say was “Eastern European Jewish,” which lacked panache. I don’t seem to have much of an ability to show a lot of dash in casual conversation. Whatever talent I have, it’s more introverted.

Nonetheless, it was a good conversation. I casually said I was ” … waiting for my ship to come in and hoped it had a fortune on board for me.”

She asked me, seriously, whether I’d been out on the docks looking for my ship.

Looking for my ship?

She said “Yes, you have to watch for them. Otherwise, they can pass you by and you’ll never know you missed it.”

Navajo … the sky really does seem bigger.

I’m sure I forget for years at a time…

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Puppyzilla

Butter wouldn’t melt in Hannah’s mouth. A puppy brings such glorious days! These days  she’s settled down. Although she has moments of regression, like stealing tissues from the bin. But we didn’t name her ‘puppyzilla’ for nothing, let me tell you.

This is Hannah… as the puppy from my book, where all her antics brighten the page, including the destruction of my wedding shoes. Glorious puppies, heh?

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Writing is easy, isn’t it?

Have you ever thought, “I could write a better book?” as you read your latest book? If this sounds familiar, it could be a sign you possess the drive to be writer. The question is, do you have the perseverance too?

Writing fiction is like creating fine art. Or like a chef creating a ten course degustation menu. Or like the determined Olympic athlete.

Did the Michelangelo sculpt David in a few months? No. It was 2 years. And he was only 26. So young? Let that be proof … age should never be a barrier to talent. However, does a Michelin star chef say, “I’m going to open a Michelin-starred restaurant,” and overnight expect success? No. The journey can be decades. How about the athlete? Will training an hour a week cut the grade? Will talent be enough? If it is enough, if this does happen, I’m yet to hear of it. Please correct me, if I’m wrong. Although decades of learning is a rule, it’s a rule made to be broken.

Writing too requires more than just “writing”. Everyone was taught to write in school. To express ourselves. And yet, more is required of a fiction writer. More than mere expression. A writer needs to know an endless list in order to craft an entertaining novel. They need to understand basics of grammar, genre, how to flesh out a character (if character driven), how to plot a plot (if plot driven), then there’s things like ‘show-don’t-tell’ (which goes against the grain of the way we were taught in school), subtext, dialogue, point of view, foreshadowing, worldbuilding, conflict, subplots and voice. Just to touch on the major points.

Does this happen quickly? No. Not usually. Don’t get me wrong, all writers need to all shoot for a great novel first go. But writers need to utilise the tools available to them. To learn as fast as they can. Is it an easy apprenticeship? You tell me… talking to fictional characters (in our heads or aloud), battling isolation, forever questioning the crap you’re spewing onto the page (or keyboard) – sometimes for years. Is it worth it?

Who will write the next Harry Potter? Honestly, writers are more likely to sprout pink hair. But that doesn’t mean they can’t try. Someone will. That doesn’t mean a writer should stop writing, shouldn’t believe they’re writing the next Harry Potter (or whatever book you admire). A writer needs to forever learn. A writer needs to write like they’re writing the next Harry Potter. A writer needs to persevere.

For me, that perseverance involves typing with three fingers on my left hand (I’ve improved, it used to be one finger). Next time you want a challenge, try figuring out how you do a capital ‘P’ with one hand, lol! Only a love for writing and a love for creating keeps me on track. May a similar love guide every writer. And next time you think, “I could do better?” Ask yourself, do you possess the perseverance needed to finish that book?