"I am the author of my life."

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All packed for Camp NaNo!

You know I’m serious when I set my alarm for 7.a.m. Really, really serious.

It’s the last hour of June here in Sydney. It’s only been a little over a week since I shackled myself to the decision of doing Camp NaNoWriMo. It’s just hit me that this is as ready as I’ll get.

I’ve been good about my preparations. I trained myself into writing 1,000 words for the past week. I managed it quite consistently at first, hitting 1,500 a lot of the time. Using Svenja Liv’s word count spreadsheets kept my motivation high (I really recommend other Campers to check them out!). I haven’t been that good the past two days though. I still wrote but it wasn’t clicking. I was pacing a trench in my room. This can’t be real. Am I going to get blocked hours before Camp?

My writer’s reflection in the mirror rolled her eyes at me. “Does it really matter?”

Oh. Now that you mention it. No, I guess it doesn’t.

After all, wasn’t this the whole point of doing Camp? I’d get blocked, give up and never finish that story I want to bring into this world. Didn’t I want to go wild and return to the good old days, where I’d smash through writer’s block with obnoxious boldness?

So yeah, I’ve hit a rough patch. The scene is hard. Going from fanfiction to original stories, it is so hard for me to face the first chapters. But hey – that’s what first drafts are for! I’m not feeling good about the list of things I know I’ll have to come back and completely rehaul, but I’m not going to stop for them right now. I really have to train myself hard for this. My inner editor is as fussy as a mandrake.

But you know what? In spite of everything, I think I’ll be fine. Even if I’m not, well, I’ll have to be because I just announced it to you guys! My pride is reliable like that.

To my fellow Campers out there – there are days where we will feel terrible about our writing and our goals. When that happens, I hope that we can look back at the current me, forty-five minutes before the campfire starts up, and be comforted by the knowledge that at least you got stuck during Camp. This silly girl ran headlong into a wall before Camp even started. But it’s okay. She’s got a rock-hard head. She’ll get her 31,000 words done and with any luck, they might not be the worst 31,000 words she’s ever written. She’s going to remember what it’s like to love the writing process, word by word.

I’ve added a progress meter on the right for you guys to follow as I scribble away. Please feel free to prod me any time you think I’m slacking off, because chances are I’ll need it! I’d love to stick this tough month out with you guys, so let me know if you’re doing Camp as well. The writing life doesn’t always have to be solitary! All the best, everyone!

Now please excuse me while I set my alarm.

✎ Seize the Plot Bunny: The Importance of Getting Your Ideas Down

Yesterday, I went to bed a little earlier than usual (that is to say, while it was still p.m.). Lights were out, blankets perfectly arranged and alarm set for an early writing start. Perfect. I closed my eyes.

Thirty seconds later, a teensy detail about my story lit up against the darkness of my eyelids. I frowned. I can’t be bothered getting up. I’ll remember it. It’s just one little thing. I’ve memorised whole essays before. Easy.

This is a classic scenario. Haven’t we all had this before? ‘Yes Mum, I’ll vacuum later. Oh, we need to buy some toothpicks. I think my main character’s uncle should have a peg leg.’ Most of the time we tell ourselves we’ll remember these minor things – because they are minor. We tend to remember the really big things. But if it’s just something small, we’re sure it’ll occur to us as we get up to writing the scene. We’ll know to include that wonderfully witty dialogue we thought up while waiting to pay for our toothpicks. Sometimes we do remember it and we’re reassured of our mental health. Other times?

Well, let’s just say that we are creatures capable of being distracted from hunger and bursting bladders. We don’t. stop. thinking.

Write it down, everyone says. Carry a notebook, leave a voice memo on your smartphone, write it on the back of your hand, on index cards, on shopping receipts and, in my case, on napkins. It’s really basic advice, expounded to the point of irritation. But I really can’t stress it enough.

I was inconsistent about recording my ideas for so many years and it cost me. I was lazy. But because Camp NaNoWriMo is coming up and I’m schooling myself into a good writing habit, I dusted off my notebook and put it on my bedside table. Just in case. When that plot bunny ran wild while I was about to sleep, I grumbled, turned on the light and scribbled it down. Then I went back to a blissful sleep. Except, of course, it happened again. So I repeated the process, albeit drowsily and reluctantly.

But convincing you to take notes isn’t why I’m writing this post.

See, I had an epiphany as I was writing down those pesky thoughts in the middle of the night. It was about why it was so important to write your ideas down on the spot – and not just to stave off dementia.

It’s because, when that awesome idea first falls from the sky, it gives us a one and only inspirational moment for that idea – a creative window. Each idea has its own window, that only exists at that moment. It won’t stay open for long. Once it’s closed, you will never have the same epiphany for that idea again. Why?

Because everything after that becomes a memory. If you wake up the next morning with the plot bunny thankfully still with you, you are actually remembering that creative window. If, sadly, you forgot the idea overnight then you will just remember that you have to remember something. So chances are, you will not realise the idea with the same freshness again.

In other words, your first experience of a particular idea or thought only happens once in a lifetime.

As with everything else in life, wouldn’t you naturally want to capture that moment?

At least, that was the conclusion I came to (while in PJs and feeling dumb about my silly brain’s timing).

Have you had triumphant moments where you actually remembered the list of things you were thinking of, and wrote them down? It feels good, doesn’t it? For me, it’s a great relief. But it also feels rushed. I’m paying less attention to each point in my hurry to get the rest out. It feels like a burden off my chest. But writing is supposed to be something I enjoy. Hmm.

Another reason to get your ideas down immediately is because your mind is probably more engaged. The window is at its widest. While you write down that one idea, you might suddenly know how to tie it in with everything else, or snap up another idea. Your planning may move along faster. Of course, you can still do this elaboration afterwards, whenever you like. Just pray that it does not happen while you are trying to remember it for later. Just imagine: thinking about idea A and realising ‘hey, this leads into idea B and that character and wow, it parallels idea C here with – omg, I just came up with the best sentence to end the chapter on and-‘

Yeah. It happens. To me, at least. It goes both ways. Linked ideas make it easier to recall because they are related. On the other hand, forget one detail and the whole thing may fall apart.

So please, please, please write down your awesome ideas if you’re not certain you’ll remember it later. If not for future reference, then perhaps for the special ‘once in a lifetime’ experience. I admit I’ve got random notes all over the place. They’re in my Scrivener project, my notebook, err… another notebook, napkins, my iTouch, uni lecture notes, shower door (bad idea; steamed over and I ended up having to painstakingly remember what I’d written). The super quick ones, the ones that help me the most, are actually the ones at the bottom of the Word document I’m working on. I write down dialogue, ideas and reminders for future scenes in the chapter, even if I’ll be up to them in the next two minutes. These scattered ideas probably aren’t the best solution. I forget what I’ve written down, where I’ve put them, when I need them. I’m working on it. But it’s quite nice when I’m scrolling through these places and am surprised by what I’ve written. Then I remember writing it, remember the special moment that idea came to me. And it feels good. Now I can open the window whenever I want.

Of course, I’ve successfully remembered ideas without writing them before (yippee!!). Yes, there were times where I wanted to write them down but literally had no way of doing so. And a big fat yes to having forgotten things. I don’t know how many but even one is one too many.

I’m always saying that all writers are different. It’s a wonderful thing. So do things your own way! Fold a paper crane if it helps you remember. Memorise it if you know you can. Tell someone else to remember it for you (so you have someone to blame if both of you forget). But the next time you’re visited by a plot bunny – or any thought – just try, once, to hold onto that moment the way you would the last ten seconds of December 31st.

We’re having once in a lifetime moments every second of every day, if you think about it. It’s impossible to capture all of them. I’m going to treasure the few that I can :)

P.S. That night was one of the best and worst sleeps I’d ever had.

✎ Writing prompts (Week 8)

1

It hit her as she stared into her watery reflection, that so many things would not have happened if she had never been born.

2

“It’s either her, or your car. Choose!”

3

The first time I picked up a pencil was…

4

Make your favourite character do something that you hate and despise. Remember that no one is perfect, and no one loves someone every hour of every day.

5

I screamed at them so many times, but all I heard was their false laughter echoing in the twisted chambers of my mind.

6

Try listening to a piece of music with an empty mind. Hear the emotions and atmosphere; let them create a brand new scene for you. Use it as writing material.

To get you started, this was my inspirational song (and also what inspired this prompt):

✎ 15+ Wallpapers for Writers

This is my first time reblogging one of my own posts to update something, haha. Just wanted to let you guys know that, thanks to Erica at Rubber Ducky Copywriter, I’ve been able to add more motivational wallpapers for you guys! I added five more but there are still others at WinePressPublishing that I recommend checking out. Be sure to leave a word of thanks if you liked their stuff!

Plotting Bunnies

Many authors and writing guides say this: make writing a part of your life. Make it routine, make it a job, make it count. Sound advice. But sometimes you need a shortcut to help you take the first step…

Like seeing it every time you turn on your writing space, the mother of all procrastination: the computer.

Months ago, I made this simple wallpaper for myself:

I wouldn’t say it helped me achieve zen and spit out chapter after chapter. In fact, it didn’t make much impact on my lack of writing routine. But there was something about seeing this reminder when I turned on my laptop, whether it was to do schoolwork or go on youtube. It made me want to write something, or at the least spend some time with my characters and find out the latest gossip in their lives – lives that were waiting to be…

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“This is gold!” – Rediscovering my earliest stories

So there I was cleaning up the apocalypse I call a room, and I come across an old exercise book. There were two things in it: my mother’s lotto numbers, and a story written by my eight year old self. Or maybe I was nine. It probably wasn’t my first story but it’s still pretty ancient!

Just for giggles, I’m going to share it with you guys, totally unedited. Please excuse a kid’s poor grammar and ignorance of paragraphs!

The Secret Cave Full Of Gold

Once upon a time, there lived a boy in a little village who was kind and obedient. This boy’s name was Yugi. Yugi lived with his mum and dad, his uncles and aunties and his grandparents. His family was really poor and Yugi had to find a job to survive. The only job left in the village was delivering heavy sacks of rice to a list of families. His salary was $200 and 10 cupfuls of rice. Yugi loved this job because of his salary and lifting things. One day when Yugi was heading home he found a piece of paper with a lot of lines and looked like a map. It was a treasure map. He was so exciting that he ran as quickly as he could, nearly tripping over his feet. When he got home everyone was very excited about the treasure map. They decided that if they found the treasure and it was full of gold they would share half with the village. Yugi thought that only he should go and find the treasure because finding treasure could be dangerous, so it was settled. Yugi went to work the next day and told the boss that he would be away for a while to find treasure he promised to share half with the vllage and him if he didn’t make him lose his job. The boss agreed and Yugi went home to pack up the things he would need. When he was ready he waved farewell to his family and set of. 3 days later, Yugi found the entrance to a secret cave that bore the treasure but it was covered by a big boulder so he began to shove the boulder out of the way, after a few hours work the boulder moved aside. Yugi went inside the cave and found a treasure chest full of gold so he took it home with him. When he got home he shared the gold and continued with his job. He and his family lived happily ever after.

My reaction:

  • “HAHAHAHAHAhahaha… hahah… ha…”
  • “That kid earns a lot.”
  • “I remember I got ‘Yugi’ from the Yu-Gi-Oh series I used to love.”
  • “Huh, my spelling actually wasn’t that bad. But I can teach this kid a bit about being interesting.”
  • “Pfft! ‘exciting’, ‘of’ – good try, kiddo. I’m proud of you.”
  • “It’s decided. I was in grade 2 when I wrote this. I don’t want to believe it was in grade 3 or 4.”
  • “… Dang. This kid’s handwriting is better than mine!”

Anyone else found their childhood writing and got a kick out of it? :P

My mum's lotto research. She's cute like that.

My mum’s lotto research. She’s cute like that.

On an unrelated note, this is how my cleaning day turned out:

Untitled-1

✎ Word Count Spreadsheets by Svenja Liv

Word-Tracker-2013-HuntsmanWith Camp NaNoWriMo coming up, I’m starting to get hyped up about word count (as one does in NaNo-land). Finding writing resources motivates me like no other, so off I went to my trusty friend Google. A minute later, I struck gold.

A generous artist and writer, Svenja Liv, has been making and sharing yearly word count spreadsheets for free! Check them out here: CLICK ME!

I was already amazed that she had prepared different themes for us to choose from. The one I chose was the Huntsman theme (depicted above) but there are also others such as Steampunk, Pirate, Forest Fairy and more. A talented artist, Svenja Liv drew these illustrations herself and designed a massively comprehensive spreadsheet that I am in awe of.

How comprehensive? Let’s take a quick run through of the key features, shall we? I’m quite new to the sheets myself so I strongly suggest visiting Svenja Liv’s site to try them for yourself!

  • Not just a one off thing – the Excel spreadsheet file comes in a Workbook that spans all twelve months. Each month has its own spreadsheet.
  • But can be used for just one month – handy for NaNoWriMo! Also useful for setting short term goals for yourself rather than procrastinating on long term ones. The maker has kindly included instructions to help you with these settings.
  • Choose your unique target word count – anything goes!
  • Updated live – you get to see the fruits of your labour immediately. That, and you don’t have to do a single complex techie thing – simply enter in the numbers and voila!
  • Real time – the June spreadsheet really does begin in June, and the spreadsheet is so smart it knows this. Gives me a strange sense of companionship.
  • Tells you if you are on track to meet your target – a status bar at the top will let you know the average number of words you need to hit each day to meet your special number.
  • Shows percentage completeI love this feature for its holistic view of your project. It reminds you that all your words don’t just stand alone; they add up to something. Seeing that percentage inch higher is a wonderful incentive.
  • Graphs a pie chart and a column graph (or is a histogram? Blergh, maths) in the header visually inform you of your progress. NaNo-ers will recognise the column graph – it shows your daily word count against the predicted average. This way you easily tell if you are meeting the quota.
  • Flexible the creator has simplified our job by only requiring us to enter a few fields (marked in dark blue), but variety in those few fields can greatly customise your spreadsheet. For example, you may be aiming to finish your novel in less than a year. By October, for example. To make the stats reflect this more accurately, you can go to the November and December pages and pledge a 0 monthly word count. That’s my quick solution anyway!
  • Did I mention free and nice on the eyes?

Needless to say, I’m a big fan of this resource. I realise being halfway through the year will affect how useful this spreadsheet is to your work, but it’s still worth it. Especially if you’re doing Camp NaNo with me! To those who dislike the idea of word counts (I know you exist, and that’s perfectly okay!) you might want to skip this resource. Or try it out and be converted. Muhahahaha!

I encourage you to visit Svenja Liv’s site and take a look around. If you are an artist, she also has some nice tutorials for you. If you like her work, please drop her a word of thanks. I’m off to do that myself! If you really like what you see, consider leaving a small donation to help with website charges.

Here’s the link once again: http://svenjaliv.com/category/resources/spreadsheets/

As always, all the best with everyone’s writing!

Christine :)

Caring for Your Writer – 10 Easy Steps for Friends & Family

Just a spot of fun. I love this little instruction manual. So much that I’m going to tell you a story about it.

I shared this post with my boyfriend, just to let him know the package deal, and he approved. We’re hitting the gym more often as part of #6. I told him his little writer would be working very hard this holidays. Then he said, “I like your working ethic. Another reason why I love you.”

And I stopped.

Did he say ‘working ethic’? WHAT working ethic? I had one?! He must not have seen me dazedly mashing at Skyrim this morning and screwing up my save point, which of course meant I had to procrastinate on youtube for another two hours, and naturally I was obligated to kill another half hour on the awesome Despicable Me: Minion Rush app. Yeah, he really didn’t. Except he might’ve noticed me challenging him to rushes.

So um, you might want to rethink that, honey. At least, I was about to text him that. Then I thought about it for another millisecond.

Sometimes there are things about yourself that others know better than you do. Quite often it’s because you’re so in tune with yourself that the small details fly off your radar, and even more often it’s because we don’t want to self-praise ourselves and end up with twice the disappointment afterwards. Then again, I might really be as bad as I think. But at least my favourite boy doesn’t think that, and I’ve got some good friends behind my back. I boldly tell my parents that I’m writing a novel when they ask what I’m doing. It’s out there. I can’t imagine living with myself if I gave up, either. That means I’d better get my act together.

So I didn’t tell my boyfriend that I had no work ethic.

Instead I noticed he had bought a limited edition costume on Minion Rush without telling me and I keyboard smashed out a capitalised reaction that changed the topic quite subtly.

(But really, the moral of the day is to try believing those who believe in you. Let’s start of with me, who believes in you guys – YOU CAN DO IT! Make the munchkin proud!)

Word Savant

Congratulations!  You are now the proud owner of a writer!  Your writer will perform amazing tricks for you, such as spending hours and hours by themselves working on something that they may never finish. Or, accumulating a small collection of editors who thank them for their work but it’s just not right for this publication.

You may be wondering how to feed and care for this moody and reclusive creature, who is “writing a novel” but won’t tell you what it’s about.  Writers need specialized care, so here are 10 easy Do’s and Don’ts to take care of this special breed.

  1. Do give them a minimum of 1 hour of writing time per day.  For many writers it may be more, but this is the minimum for a writer to stay healthy.  Also do not make your writer feel guilty about this.  It is really hard for them…

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On Parenting your Characters: How Authors Treat Characters Like Toddlers

Interesting perspective on raising your characters and how to take better care of them/keep them in line. Wish I could bring a few of my characters back to the hospital and get a new one!

Creative Writing with the Crimson League

738051_attitude_1Have you ever thought about how characters are like toddlers? Or how, in order to be successful, an author has to treat characters, to some degree, like great parents treat their kids?

Seriously. Great parenting can be a model for great authoring. This post is all about why that is, and how to get the most from your characters.

THE CENTER OF ATTENTION

Have you ever lived in a household during, or heard horror stories about, the adjustment period a toddler goes through when a sibling arrives? Why is this?

Simple: toddlers enjoy, and are used to being, the center of attention for vast periods of time. When baby brother or sister comes, that changes all at once, and a toddler is hurt, confused, and angered by the new addition’s impact on his or her life.

No matter how much you try to prepare a toddler for what a new…

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5 Tips for Writing Multiple POVs

Great checklist of useful things to remember when writing a story with multiple POVs. I’ll be carefully scrutinising each POV of mine with glasses now!

...and then there was Sarah

h1DE1B460I’m a shameless fan of writing in multiple POVs. My series has a large, diverse cast of characters and I’m all about giving each of them a voice, where possible. I also believe that telling the story through the eyes of varied characters gives a well-rounded perspective on the tale that you would not get otherwise.

Of course, this is not always a popular narrative choice. Some readers are very vocal about their dislike of this style. Does that deter me? Not even a little. But it does evoke a stubborn desire to want to do it right.

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✎ Writing prompts (Week 7)

1

He didn’t know she was dying until she put on the yellow dress.

2

“Whoa, hang on. There’s something really wrong about this scene…”

3

If your characters each kept a garden, what would it look like?

4

I couldn’t tell if the light was fading or if my eyes were tired of seeing.

5

Deciduous.

6

Your antagonist suddenly has a deja vu. What of?

7

8

interesting_traces_stone_01

images from designswan and therealworldgalleries
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