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Sunday, May 29, 2011

Oh yes, those cold, unfeeling keys....

I've been trying to think of some words of wisdom to offer writers who, like me, often get stuck (technical term - writer's block...). 
It happens to everyone and can make you feel pretty isolated and inadequate when everyone else around you is forging ahead.
What I would advise is:
Find a good group of people who you can go to for honest support and advice when you need it (this works both ways and you also have to be there for them when they need you!)
Even if you are blocked, try and write every day.  It doesn't have to be about the book you're working on - what about some poetry?  Your life and how you're feeling?  You'll be surprised what's lurking in the back of your mind and something could be the trigger that gets you moving again!
Read as much as possible.  This not only gives you an idea of what is going on in the market, it will increase your word power and give you fresh ideas for your work.
Try to relax - ideas will come to you and you will finish that book!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Dead Time Management For Writers

A recent conversation at Writebulb has raised an issue - there seems to be less and less time to write with work, personal committments, self-promotion duties, etc.

Preserving time for writing is key no matter if you're blogging, tweeting, writing articles, or polishing your novel - and some people do all of this every single day!

Many people will tell you to cut Internet usage, TV surfing, and so on, but I wanted to address making the most of dead time.

It's so easy to tell yourself that starting to write in that fifteen minutes while you're waiting for a meeting to start, while you're in a queue, or while you're waiting for your kids to get out of school, but all that seemingly dead time adds up. I bet you that using that dead time would easily get you at at least one hour of writing every single day.

If you think of your writing the same way as you do your day job then you'll make it a priority. After all, you'd get laughed out of your boss's office, if not sacked, if you dared tell your boss that you didn't complete a project because you were dusting your sideboard.

So, make use of your smartphone if you're out and about - most of them have some sort of note-taking facility. I use my iPhone for quick note-taking and my iPad for sofa-bound writing (it's more portable than my laptop).

If you're a technophobe then stick to at least one notepad small enough to carry everywhere with you. (Take a tip from all those disorganised asthma sufferers who squirrel inhalers all over the place - many notepads beats none!)

Happy writing - you could have written something while you read this...

Friday, May 20, 2011

Fact or Fiction?

At our last Writebulb meeting we had the pleasure of welcoming Bruce Kennedy Jones as our guest author, a crime reporter by trade with two published novels and a third in the pipeline.

He is an engaging man with a wonderfully dry sense of humour who told tales of his experiences with great comedic effect.  I was entranced by his stories of gangsters and thugs and he had me hanging on his every word.  I must admit that the world of organised crime both fascinates and frightens me.  It is a world very different from mine and one that I hope to never experience first hand!

And that, for me, is the joy of reading and writing.  Reading transports me to other worlds – a place in time, a different planet, a tricky relationship or a whodunit; the possibilities are endless, as can be seen by browsing Waterstones’ shelves.  I like most genres, but all my favourite reads have a common theme:  a tale that is interwoven with a strong factual background.  This makes the story believable and one with which I can identify.

Writing allows me to be nosey in the guise of ‘research’ and to weave the fabric of truth and fiction together in the hopes of creating a believable, fictional story.  Bruce Kennedy Jones has done this incredibly well with the title of his book, The Last Straight Face - a term he invented to mean an ‘honest’ criminal, one who lives by the ‘criminal code’ (whatever that may be!).  There may be such a thing as a criminal code, or there may not, but he’s got me believing!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Almost there!

It's not often anyone surprises me but yesterday the Writebulb group managed to do just that. We held our monthly meeting and in the break they produced a very, very large cookie with a very, very long message of congratulations on and a couple of bottles of non-alcoholic bubbly stuff (well, we were in the library!). I couldn't believe they'd gone to so much trouble and was totally overwhelmed by the feeling they must be meaning someone else! Yes, I've self published an ebook but it's not as if it's been successful (yet - think positive Kate!) and it's not as if I'd exactly been talent spotted by an agent or anything like that.
But I think that the four of us who set up Writebulb have actually achieved a huge amount in a small period of time. I've got to grips with (okay, still trying...) social media networking and digital media formatting; Brigid is now sub editor of a magazine, joined the NUJ and is incredibly busy; Jane's novel is pulling together and she's doing a huge amount of research and Stu is also busy writing, constructing his novel, getting involved in reviewing and has been asked to write web pages, etc . We are each of us now being acknowledged as writers in one form or another. That's a huge achievement and I'm very proud of all of us.

Light on, Write On Bulbs - we're half way up that mountain!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Is it a Journal or a Diary?

I have kept a journal for years.  And I like to call it a journal rather than a diary.  The word diary, for me, conjures up images of schoolgirl days (entries such as:  ‘Wow, he smiled at me today, he’s so tasty!  When will he ask me out…..’) or images of the day job:  ‘Please put that in my diary would you, Jane?’.  And by the very nature of them, diaries mark the days, which always leaves me feeling defeated – instead of focusing on what I’ve written, the blank pages jump out at me and I realise I ‘could try harder’ (there I am, back at school again).
On the other hand, a journal opens up so many possibilities.  I like pages free from printed text so I can add my own timeline with thoughts, ideas, what I’ve done, what I hope to do.  Perhaps I’ll jot down a line from a song on the radio or a snippet of an overheard conversation.  In short, I like the freedom to express myself in a personal way in words that are not edited or crafted (I cringe at the thought of anyone else reading my hurried scrawl).
And is the style of journal I use important?  Hell, yeah!  The notebook needs to be half A5 size so it can fit easily into my handbag and the paper needs to feel right.  What is ‘right’?  I don’t know.  It’s the same with the cover, though.  It must be a notebook that feeds my senses as it will become a part of me until all the pages are filled.  And sometimes I like to write with a fountain pen, at other times a biro will do fine.  The whole point of my journal is that it is unstructured and writing in it should indulge my emotional state.
I recently entered a travel writing competition and first I looked to the Internet for pertinent facts.  But it was my journal that held the real treasure, the little nuggets of information that can’t be found in a reference source.  My journal contained my feelings about the place and the sounds and smells.  I had descriptions of people, local events and my thoughts on their way of life.  It wasn’t written in a literary way or with any structure (except the date at the top of each entry) but was a mass of narratives containing spelling mistakes and missed words as I’d hurried to get it all down.  How often are we allowed to write like that?
Do I think I’ll win the competition?  Probably not.  But what a wonderful time I had revisiting that journal.
Do you use a diary, journal or any other method for recording your thoughts?  I’d love to hear.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

We're all in this together

On Sunday I went to a BBQ hosted by my best friend Jaz who recently started a very successful photography business and was voted the UK's Funkiest Photographer.

But what made this BBQ special is that it was largely attended by her peers in the photography industry - and they fret about their work just as much as we writers do!

Just listening to their conversations was like listening to writers. They compared themselves to each other, as well as their heroes. They worried that people might realise they lacked confidence. They realised that they lacked a certain skill and wanted some help. They wanted to critique each other's work in a safe, supportive atmosphere.

Later that night I played Singstar: High School Musical with my goddaughter and we sang a song called We're All In This Together. It dawned on me that we are. All creative people fret. (At least they should, in my opinion. If you're not being critical of your own work then I think there's something wrong.)

I left feeling as energised and inspired as I do after a Writebulb meeting.

So, what do you fret about?