KKTypeWriterFeatured-Inspiration

My muse is a tease

My muse has been distracting me this week. I have been teased with images of exotic locales that want to be settings in new stories. This happens to me every time I open my mind up to creating, which is what I have been doing this week. Suddenly I am teased by random pieces of inspiration whether they be, images, words, articles, media – you name it but the doors to inspiration are wide open.

I read an article today that says the average brain has 12 000 thoughts every day and it can run to having up to 60 000 thoughts a day. This does not come as a surprise. Our brains are always off on tangents even when and especially when we are supposed to be concentrating and working. I know mine is.

People always want to know where story ideas come from. It is the no. 1 question that readers like to ask writers and even writers like to ask other writers. My ideas come from anywhere and everywhere, the ordinary, the mundane, the strange and the extraordinary. I have had ideas come to me in vivid dreams. I have heard something on the radio, watched something on television or read something and it has sparked an idea. But the main thing that always starts me on the scent of a new story is: What if? I love teasing out the answers to that mysterious question.

I am lucky enough that I am never short of story ideas. I have two huge lever arch files of story ideas and story inspirations. But the annoying part is that my story ideas come to me while I am working on another current story idea. They never wait their turn politely. Unfortunately too I have a low patience meter so the minute a new idea comes to me I really, really want to drop everything and play with the new idea.

Is this wrong? Should I rather ignore it?

No, ignoring it does not make it go away instead just the opposite. If I actively try to ignore the new story idea, I can think of nothing else. Believe me I know this from experience. Even if I fill my waking hours with work and distraction, the idea will enter my sleep. It tugs at me constantly.

So I have now learnt that the most effective way to deal with new story ideas, to quieten their cries of need just long enough to hear myself think is to write them down and then file them. This way they feel acknowledged and don’t take their creative anger out on me or my sleep. Instead after writing the idea down, I can get to work on the story I am meant to be working on and that new idea has a chance to percolate in the to-be-done file of my imagination.

  • Pinterest is a fantastic tool to accomplish this. I can pin an image from the post that caught my attention and that way I can go back to that article when I am ready to play with it. Pinterest is also fantastic if you are more a visual thinker than a verbal thinker.
  • Evernote is fantastic for quick note taking/idea filing. I have the application downloaded onto both my laptop and my iPod so that even if I get an idea from a dram I can roll over, pick up my iPod and without turning on the light type in the note.
  • Then I also have my trusty Moleskine notebooks: I have a bright green version for my new story ideas and a deep blue one for my current WIPs. (Any excuse to buy more stationery 😉 )

I am truly thankful for an abundance of story ideas but I need to teach my muse to be more disciplined and to wait his turn in bringing me the ideas. But it is a catch-22 because I would hate to get to the spot that I don’t get ideas any more. So for this week, I have shelved the new story idea (it is a very tantalizing one) to percolate and see what comes of it.

Now it is back to work on the stories that need to be written and worked on.

Do you find you have too many ideas clamoring for attention?

How do you handle the new ideas that you just don’t have the time for?

Where have your ideas come from?

KKTypeWriterFeatured-Writing

The Writer’s Achilles’ Heel | Part 1

The Achilles Heel

Image by texmex5 via Flickr

There are two words that strike fear and tension into a writer’s mind:

Synopsis

Query

But if you want to be published, these are two steps that you will need to take to walk through the gateway of publishing. 

Why do these seemingly simple processes strike such fear into most writers?

It is time to take the arrow from Achilles’ Heel and use it to point you in the direction of Success.

After all haven’t you already achieved something incredible by creating a plot, writing a story and finishing a manuscript. Why then should these words stop so many writers in their tracks? Why are these two steps sometimes the ultimate Achilles’ Heel in a writer’s path to publishing success?

There are so many different “standardized” versions of a synopsis and a query. Perhaps this is one of the reasons that these two words can turn a confident creative into an unsure person filled with doubts. Wouldn’t it be fantastic if there was a definitive list of rules of writing a good synopsis and thereby insuring an effective query. 

Most writers will try to put the SYNOPSIS off as long as possible until eventually we get that magic call/email that our manuscript has been found interesting enough to submit it. The excitement is soon paled by the looming terror of having to sit down and write a synopsis.

Perhaps as writers we are looking at this process back to front. Perhaps instead of leaving the synopsis to the end of the manuscript completion, we need to start compiling the synopsis during the writing process or even before we even start writing the story.

This is what I do. I start writing the synopsis while I am writing the first half of my first draft. For me a synopsis is not just a summarized version of the story that I am creating but it is a map that I am using to help plot my journey to my final destination: the climax and resolution of the story. 

There are no fail-proof methods to attack a synopsis, but here are some points that help me create a synopsis.

Every story I write or read starts with a character. Whether this be the Antagonist or the Protagonist, a story cannot happen without the main characters. You cannot stage a play without the principal actors. Once the main character is introduced, the story can begin. Everything else is just back-story that helps set a scene for the character to step into. Every protagonist needs an antagonist. This creates the CONFLICT which leads to the CLIMAX. The antagonist is usually the spark that sets the whole story alight. He/She is the reason that the Protagonist needs to ACT.

  • Think: Climax | Resolution | Beginning


This is the ultimate breakdown of your story. These are the most important points in your story, no matter what genre you write. Funnily enough, when I first get a story idea, what comes to me first is the crisis point then the what ifs start happening. That’s when I dig some more to get the beginning of the incident/story. Everything else in the plot arc of a story is just padding of these three plot points.

  • Voice & POV (Point of View)         

Who is telling this story? Are you, the writer, narrating it? Is your Protagonist telling the story? Is your Antagonist telling the story? Or is there a secondary character telling the story? These are the questions you need to think of to hear the VOICE of the story. The POV and the Voice gives the story and the characters life. Depending on which POV (who is telling the story?) you choose, the Voice will change. Like chinese whispers, each different person never tells the same story. The core elements may remain similar but the story is guided by who tells it.

  • The Story Arc | Conflict

This is your check list to make sure your story makes sense. Fiction must make sense. Truth can bend the rules of sense vs nonsense but fiction needs to be believable. Your story needs to have a timeline that works smoothly and each step in the journey needs to lead both the writer and the reader into the next step.

Once I have these four points worked out, I can write my story’s synopsis. Sometimes if I find that I am not sure of my character’s pathway to this story or their motivation, I will also use these four points to write a character synopsis. The synopsis does not need to be difficult nor does it need to be put off until the last unavoidable minute before you have to scratch one together in a wild panic. I also find that when I write a synopsis at the beginning of my first draft, it keeps me from hitting a block or stumbling point. Like a map, it gives me a clear path to my final destination. There may still end up being unexpected roadblocks but with just a few minutes looking back at my road map (SYNOPSIS) I am back on track.

If your story’s synopsis has become your Achilles’ Heel, try simplifying it for yourself. Even if you find you struggle with road blocks in your story, this way may just help you past them. By targeting these four points you may just find that writing a synopsis can in fact be a key to the difference between a good story and a great story. Don’t complicate things for yourself by over-analyzing the synopsis. You already have enough to do with writing and finishing the story as well as submitting it for acceptance or rejection.

Part 2 – Query will be posted on Friday so look out for that.

Coming up on Thursday, there is a guest post on a very common writing road block: Middle Book Blues.

My visit to Rachna’s Scriptorium | Part 2

Part 2 – My visit to Rachna’s Scriptorium

Last week I spoke about my visit to Rachna’s Scriptorium.

This week Part 2 of the interview has been posted.

In this interview I talk about the critiquing process and my a bit more about my own writing process.

If you missed Part 1, it is under related articles at the bottom of this post.

Thank you to Rachna for the great questions and the warm welcome on her lovely Scriptorium.

nVrkvW2

Writing Conference 101

Writer Wordart

Image by secretagent007 via Flickr

It has been a week since my annual writing conference. It has taken me this long to have all the conference workshops marinate in my mind. This year I was in 2 minds whether I would even be attending this year’s conference. It all came down to the cost. Could I afford to splurge on the writing conference? Would the workshops be valuable to my writing? But in the end, I decided to attend because two favourite authors were going to be key-note speakers. There were also a few agents and editors that I was looking forward to meeting. On top of that, I knew that the weekend would be worth it because I would be sharing the weekend with my writing partner and close friend. I was also influenced by other online writer friends who had just recently attended writing conferences and been completely inspired by them. After a hard two months of work to finish up both my current WIP and editing my writing partners’ WIPs, I was looking forward to some fresh inspiration. There are great advantages to being a full-time writer but I found that I had disappeared into my writing cave and needed some vitamin A in the form some writing workshops.

I had attended conference last year so was a little more prepared this year. Things are always better the second time around. Recently I had been asked whether I thought writing conferences were necessary for writers to attend. My answer was: Yes. But it got me thinking that sometimes you need a helping hand before going to a conference. So I have put together my list of Writing Conference Necessities/Requirements 101. Some of these I adhered to, some I wish I had, some I wish others had. Ah, the value of hindsight.

Writing Conferences 101

  1. Be Prepared.
  2. Choose your list of workshops you want to attend before arriving at the conference.
  3. If you have the opportunity to pitch your WIP – take the chance. Even if nothing comes of it, it will be great experience to have a face-to-face pitch session.
  4. Make sure you catch up on all your sleep before the conference.
  5. Check with the hotel if you can have an early check-in before the conference starts, that way you can settle in to your room without having to carry a whole lot of bags around.
  6. In the same vein, check with the hotel if you can have a late check-out on the last day of the conference: You will need it. By the last day, you are pretty heavy on your feet from all the stimulation and it is a good idea to be able to still have a bed to go lie down in or your own bathroom to freshen up in.
  7. If you have been given books by the keynote speakers and want them autographed, carry them around with you right in the beginning of the conference and ask the authors to sign them as soon as you get a chance. Not all conferences have signing times scheduled in. On top of that, some authors/keynote speakers do not remain for the whole conference and it would be a shame to miss out.
  8. Mingle, Mingle, Mingle. It is so easy to get all clicky at conferences and hang out only with the people you know. But there may be a quite a few newbies there who don’t want to intrude on your little cliques so help make them feel welcome.
  9. Ask questions. This is your time to have a 101 with your favourite author or mentor. Take the opportunity to ask them questions. You may not get the chance again. 
  10. Buy bottled water and take it with you to the hotel. Saves on using the hotel mini-bar and will save you from dehydration from hotel air-conditioning.
  11. Check your room temperature before going to sleep. Hotels notoriously crank up the heat in the evenings in hotel room. This may just save you from a very uncomfortable night.
  12. Take your own pens and paper. I keep a conference notebook that I started for last year’s conference and continued you with this year. Also, the hotel pens are not always the best.
  13. Talk to other writers and ask them what they do,besides writing. You will find out the most fascinating things. I met a writer there who is qualified as an embalmer. Believe me the ideas started by that were endless.
  14. Print up some business cards. Easy to hand out to people and keep in touch. (Failed to do this, even though this is one thing I wanted to do. Next time.)
  15. If you get the chance, talk to the keynote speakers outside of just the workshops. These are some conversations that can really motivate you and can also be easier for the keynote speaker as they are more relaxed and have no time/subject restrictions hindering them.
  16. If there are workshops you want to attend but they clash with another you are already attending, get yourself a conference buddy and ask if they would be interested in switching notes for workshops you both did not get to attend.
  17. If there is a cocktail event, make sure you wear comfortable shoes. These are usually standing events and you might be standing there for hours. Take it from me, you will want comfortable shoes ladies.
  18. Make sure you know what times your pitches are and in what rooms they are. If you are not sure, ask one of the conference organizers. Pitch appointments are times when you want to be your most prepared and professional.
  19. Keep an eye on the pitch appointments. You may find that someone cancels and you can slot in their appointment even if you had not got a pitch with the agent or editor in question. (My writing partner did this and she got full requests from that pitch. So take the chance if you get the chance.)
  20. Make sure you get to the dining areas quickly. Most conferences are buffet  and if you get there late, you may be waiting a very long time in line for some food.

 

I will be posting a few more posts over the next few days about the workshops I attended so keep your eye on this space. 

What are you favourite conference 101 tips?

My visit to Rachna’s Scriptorium

Interview

A couple of weeks ago my good friend and one of my writing partners, Rachna Chhabria, asked if she could interview me on her lovely blog: Rachna’s Scriptorium. Rachna and I became friends through an online writers group called Scribblerati that we both belong to. Very soon we were Facebook friends and this year we became writing partners.

For those who follow my creativity blog, Dragonfly Scrolls, you will be aware that I am usually the one asking questions in the interviews. Asking the questions is the easy part. Rachna turned the tables on me this week and put me in the “answer” chair.

The interview will be posted in 2 parts. In this first part, posted today, Rachna asks me about my writing process and the NZ publishing scene. My thanks to Rachna for a lovely interview. If you have not visited her Scriptorium before, bookmark her blog because one visit will soon turn you into a fan.

Part 1 – My visit to Rachna’s Scriptorium.

nVrkvW2

I am a Writer – Full Time

I am a writer.

Image by DavidTurnbull via Flickr

 There are people who put their dreams in a little box and say, “Yes, I’ve got dreams, of course I’ve got dreams.” Then they put the box away and bring it out once in a while to look in it, and yep, they’re still there. These are great dreams, but they never even get out of the box. It takes an uncommon amount of guts to put your dreams on the line, to hold them up and say, “How good or how bad am I?” That’s where courage comes in.  – Erma Louise Bombeck

 

They say Friday the 13th is a bad day in the luck department. I have decided to fight against common thought and turn it into good luck. 13 has always been a lucky number for me. This year, Friday the 13th, May 2011 is incredibly significant.

Anything’s possible if you’ve got enough nerve.               – JK Rowling 

Friday the 13th, May 2011 my job description changed to:

Full Time Writer / Author

A year ago I decided that by 2012 I would be a full-time writer with at least 1 story published. The story is busy being published in Tales for Canterbury as I write this. I also decided in January this year that one of my goal-resolutions would be to go full-time writing this year. As of 13th May, I can tick that goal off my list.

 When we set goals, we are in command. Clearly understood goals bring our lives into focus just as a magnifying glass focuses a beam of light into a burning point. Without goals our efforts may be scattered and unproductive. – Ezra Taft Benson

 

After much thought and contemplation, I decided to put my goals on the line and go full-time writing. This was not done lightly nor was it done alone. I have the support of an incredible family and amazing friends behind me. I also have the wider support network of some amazing online writer friends. 

Now I know that there are many writers out there who can’t give up the day job as of yet. I made the decision because it is something I have been working towards for 10 years now. I had also got to the point where my writing turned from being something I did in private to something I know that need to do to feel fulfilled. It is sad that of all the professional careers in the world, the creative careers of Artist, Writer, Sculptor, Musician are not taken as seriously. 

 Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. – Mark Twain


For me, writing is a calling and a gift. It is something that succours my soul and nourishes my spirit. It is something that lifts my heart and fuels my mind. But over the years I realised that if I was serious about this calling, I needed to get serious with it in public. So I sat down a year ago and wrote up some goals. I believe in goal setting but more importantly I believe you must write down your goals and your dreams. Writing goals down cements them in our minds. 

When I was offered an opportunity to submit a short story to an Anthology, I jumped at the chance. Something deep inside told me this was my chance to put my writing out there in public. This was my chance to show the world that I was serious about being a writer. It was a nail-biting time waiting to hear if I had been accepted and when the good news finally came – I literally jumped for joy. The final moment of realisation hit me when I received my contract. Here it was. My first actual publishing contract. 

I believe that every person on earth is born with a purpose, a gift, a talent. Some people never find that purpose and tend to jump from thing to thing, searching all the while for something they know is missing from their life. Some people know what their purpose and their gift is but choose not to pursue it. Then there are those few who know what their purpose is and pursue it at any cost.

Not fulfilling your dreams will be a loss to the world, because the world needs everyone’s gift — yours and mine. – Barbara Sher

 For me, writing is my purpose, my passion, my gift, my need, my longing and my fulfilment. In my mind, I have always identified myself as a writer. But in the real world there are bills to pay and sometimes life throws you curveballs that take you slightly off the track from your purpose. I have had my fair share of curveballs thrown my way. I have also had normal day jobs that I have worked in to pay my bills. But through this all, I have continued to write. But it has been in the last year that this writing has reached a feverish pitch. After working a 40 hour job in management in my day job, I would get home and write every day deep into the late hours of the night and the early hours of the morning. The last 9 months I have survived on little more than a few hours sleep at night. 

Somehow I can’t believe that there are any heights that can’t be scaled by a man who knows the secrets of making dreams come true. This special secret – curiosity, confidence, courage, and constancy, and the greatest of all is confidence. When you believe in a thing, believe in it all the way, implicitly and unquestionable. – Walt Disney

Some people in my life wondered why I persisted in working myself to the bone. How could I describe this burning need to write? How could I explain that even though the world ticked my career as something else, this did not change the fact that in my mind I identified myself as a writer? Eventually the only way I knew that people would learn to understand and accept that I am a writer is if I became a Full Time Writer. 

Be willing to be uncomfortable. Be comfortable being uncomfortable. It may get tough, but it’s a small price to pay for living a dream. – Peter McWilliams

This brought me to my decision 5 weeks ago to resign from my day job. Am I nervous about jumping in head first into being a Full Time Writer? No, I am not nervous. For the first time in my adult life I feel secure in my decision. I am not doing this for anyone else or to please the people in my life. I am not doing this just to pay the bills. Now there is no hesitancy for me to tick my profession in official forms. All the other day jobs I have had are just those: jobs. They were not how I defined myself. Now people will also define me by this decision.  I am doing this because this is who I am. I am proud to say:

I am a Full Time Writer.

 

Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills, countless ideas and endless plans: That the moment one definitely commits oneself then providence moves, too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance which no man could have dreamed would come his way. Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it! Boldness had genius, power, and magic in it. – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe


© All Rights Reserved Kim Koning.

Creating a Magic System – Contest Alert!

Might and Magic

Image via Wikipedia

Creating a Magic System Final and Contest.

So you would know from a few posts this year that I am on a Short Story roll right now. I am loving turning an idea into a short story. At the moment I have so many ideas flying around in the Aether of my imagination that I am hard pressed to capture them all. So instead of turning all of them into potential full length fiction, I am turning some of them into short stories.

Above is the link to a wonderful short story competition about Magic.  The contest will start from today, and run until May 31st, which should give you plenty of time to plan and get your submissions in.

Contest Part 1 – Create a magic system, using roughly the format outlined here. 2,000 words is the goal.
Contest Part 2 – Use that magic system to write a 5,000 to 10,000 word short story, and submit both it and the magic system to L.M. Stull. She’ll blind them and pass them on to the judges, and we’ll pick which ones are the winners.
Prizes – And the part I’m sure you’re all wondering about. We’ve got a $50 Amazon gift card for the first place winner, and a $25 card for second place.

So not only do you get a chance to practice your short story writing skills but you get to play with a new magic system that you have created. On the original contest link you will find a series of posts on magic systems and what they can consist of.

So let’s weave some story magic and tell a tale that is short, magical and entertaining. Win yourself an Amazon gift voucher.

– Kim