We have all been there. You are halfway through your WIP or halfway through your edits and suddenly there are a whole lot of pressing tasks that come up that have to be completed before you can continue with your writing/editing on the WIP. In steps our old frenemy “Procrastination”…
Frenemy, I hear you say, scratching your temple? Yes Frenemy. Not all Procrastination is necessarily bad. Now, don’t get me wrong I hate procrastination even while I find myself slipping into its slippery clutches again and again. Why do we procrastinate?
We procrastinate when a task becomes too difficult or too boring or feels too routine. As writers, we have all reached that part in the novel when you just want it written to get to the next climactic scene. In editing, you may have found that scene or two that needs to be cut but you just don’t want to cut it because every time you attempt to you remember how much work that scene took to write. So in steps our frenemy “Procrastination” and we go willingly hand in hand down a slippery slope of time-suck.
Procrastination can come in many forms. It can come in the form of household errands that just have to be done because if you don’t fo them, they will just pile up. It can come in the form of checking and responding to emails. It can some in the form of our favourite buzz-word: social networking. It can come in the form of perfectionism.
Perfectionism is the ultimate procrastination for a writer with a perfectionist Type A personality. A perfectionist is never happy with their work, it is never good enough for them. So they will write and rewrite a scene 100 times and reading over it, they will still find something to perfect, correct and change. Don’t even get me started on the editing process.
I confess I am a Perfectionist. It is a gift and a curse. It also makes me my own worst enemy. My work is never good enough and never quite edited enough or grammatically perfect enough for me to step away feeling happy. I get a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach because I see all the glaring faults – whether they are actually there or not. It is not fun.
So what do I do to ward off this facet of Procrastination? Do I need to ward it off? Surely it is good to be a perfectionist and want the best manuscript to go out into the public eye. Yes I do want to ward it off. If I don’t stop perfectionism in its tracks, I will not ever let go of my WIP. I will still be making changes 20 years from now. Seriously, I am not kidding.
So if your Procrastination comes as Frenemy “Perfectionism, here are some ways you can counteract this or use it to your benefit…
Set yourself a minimum times you will rewrite a scene. (Three is usually a good number for me. It appeases the perfectionist professor in me but also makes sure I don’t procrastinate with the perfectionism for too long a time.)
Have at least three writing buddies who will make you turn over your WIP to for a read-through.
The writing buddies will also come in handy in making you accountable. (Your butt may get a tad tender from the kicks but it is worth it.)
Set yourself both writing and editing time in the day. (The editing will again appease your Perfectionist.)
Join in something like NaNoWriMo to turn off that internal editor.
Practice Morning Pages – these are 3 A4 longhand written pages that you write first thing in the morning and do not go back over. (This will help the creative flow in your brain and put a stopper in the perfectionist.)
Start a journal – this will have the same benefits as the morning pages in blocking creative thought.
Write in shorter spurts of time. (You will have less time in front of the screen to be losing focus on trying to nitpick faults.)
Critique someone else’s manuscript – or even read a book and critique it – focusing on someone else’s faults will leave you less time to focus on your own faults.
Try writing your first drafts longhand. (I don’t know what it is about the effort of longhand writing but I am less eager to find fault with it then on the screen with the ease of a delete button or a backspace button.
If all else fails, step away from the WIP and take a walk outside. Going to the gym or going for a run will also work. Both the fresh air and the physical exertion will tire out the perfectionist in you. The outside air and exercise will also give you positive vibes which means you will be less inclined to look at your work negatively.
How does Procrastination come packaged in your world?
What tips or exercises do you use/do to ward it off?
Do you procrastinate more in the drafting or the editing stage of your WIP?
Welcome to your first episode of Warrior Wednesdays. Today is an exceptionally SPECIAL day for this girl with a quill. (Thanks Aditi Sarin for the Nickname)
Today is the 100th post in this blogosphere for this girl with a quill and a dragonflyscroll.
To mark the day I have released the debut episode of Warrior Wednesdays with the erudite and dazzling Roz Morris also known as the enigmatic dirtywhitecandy. This is a lady that is the owner of the website – Nailyournovel and author extraordinaire of the book called: Nail Your Novel – Why Writers Abandon Books and How You Can Draft, Fix and Finish With Confidence. She is a successful Editor who also moonlights as a successful Ghostwriter with 11 books under her Ghosting – 8 of these bestsellers. How did I get to know this Red Dynamo of a lady?? I came across a tweet by a tweeter called dirtywhitecandy. Of course, the name had me intrigued – who was this enigmatically named creature and why did she seem to tweet so many words or wisdom. I started following her and this led me to her website. The first thing I searched for was what was behind that enigmatically unique twitter moniker.
When she mentioned on her website that she chose an 18th century candy made by Fortnums and Mason in London because she loved the idea of such a surprising and unpredictable name – she knew she had to make this funky name her new online moniker. Does she fit the bill? Definitely….but without giving too much more away…let me bring the lady herself in. Let me tell you she does not have a shy bone in her body and she loves to chat…..So help me give a warm welcome to the lady herself – in she sashays, bright dazzling locks of the sun just tucked under a cornflower blue winter beanie and a smile effervescent in energetic warmth….
girl with a quill: Welcome Roz…..
dirtywhitecandy: Phew, brilliant questions, Kim! Thanks so much for hosting me and I’m really flattered to be your hundredth post! You’re such a creative dynamo you definitely deserve a telegram from the Queen.
A pic or two is enclosed, with a different interview hat…
girl with a quill : Tell us a little about you.
I’ve ghostwritten eight bestselling novels which I can’t name because they’re a trade secret. I freelance edit, mentoring other writers to help them shape up their novels to a state where they can be presented to the market, and I’m coming out from under the ghostly sheet with novels of my own. I’m represented by Jane Conway-Gordon in London. The rest of the time I work as a freelance magazine editor – and occasionally as a movie extra!
girl with a quill: Do you remember the moment you wanted to become a writer?
Not really. I’ve always been very creative and when I was a child I liked making up music and drawing comics. But the thing I enjoyed most was writing. It didn’t really matter what it was – stories, school essays… I had a number of pen friends and they got very long letters! I’ve always had a feeling that when I put words on a page it is more important than writing, it is a performance. I can never dash off even a short email, it has to be ‘right’.
So, to answer your question, I have always been a writer really.
girl with a quill: What inspires you to write and why?
Good writing. Any beautifully executed novel makes me want to get at my desk and make something!
girl with a quill: Where do you do write?
A lot of my writing goes on in my head – pacing about, or out running, or driving with the radio on. I also scribble a lot of notes to work out story problems. Thinking time is crucial for me. But when I’m getting the words down I have two official places. There’s my study, which has the whizzy internet computer and all my pictures, music, and all you intensely interesting people out on Twitter and blogs. Sometimes, though, I need to get away from all that. For those occasions I have a tiny laptop that folds into a handbag. I take it to a room in the house where none of those things will tempt me, and snuggle down with my manuscript.
girl with a quill: How do your stories find you? Are they character-driven or story-driven?
I would say they’re story driven at the moment. I’m most inspired by people doing odd things. I then ask myself who would do it, and why, and where it might go, and who they might draw in. So the story comes first – and then I seek the people who need it.
girl with a quill: An interesting fact about you is that you have successfully ghostwritten 11 books for other people…What led you into this form of writing?
I got into it by a lucky break. I was doing a full-time job on a medical magazine and in my spare time was writing short stories and attempting a novel. My husband is a full-time writer and he had a commission that had gone wrong – the publisher changed their mind about the brief and wanted him to rewrite. He had other commitments so he gave the job to me and I wrote an entirely new novel for them. It was accepted and once I’d done that I was on their list of useful writers. The ghostwriting followed on from there.
Most ghosting jobs are circulated around people who publishers know and my name must have landed on the right desk at the right time!
girl with a quill: I know you cannot divulge who you ghosted for but can you tell us a little about the process? How does ghost-writing differ from your own writing?
Ghosting is writing a book pretending to be somebody else – mostly celebrities. Perhaps they’ve already published their memoirs (possibly also ghosted) and have branched out into novels – but need help with the craft of fiction writing. And they’re not always non-writers. Sometimes the megabrand established novelists use ghosts, outsourcing some of their early draft work to keep up with demand. And if a mega-selling author dies, a publisher might hire a ghostwriter to keep their brand alive beyond the grave.
Ghostwriting is a colloboration. The actual details vary from project to project, but when I ghost I’m writing a book that is someone else’s idea, to please their readers – who wouldn’t necessarily be the same readers who would like my own work. I can’t use my own voice I have to develop a voice and style that is appropriate for the author I am ghosting. Also I can’t always take a story in the direction I want it to go, and if I have a blinding blast of inspiration I may not be able to use it. Also, if the ‘author’ (the person whose name is on the cover) doesn’t like what I’ve done, it’s their book and I have to rewrite it. That’s not to say that I can’t put something of myself into the book, but I must always remember the book is not mine.
girl with a quill: I have read that you started out as a journalist. I studied journalism as well. I often battle against which hat I am putting on: the hard-nosed journalist’s hat or the free-form writer’s hat. Did you find the switch from journalism to fiction a difficult one?
I had to learn different ways to write. A journalism story is detached, as though it’s written by a machine. It condenses when a fiction writer should expand and draw you into a scene. I’ve always been quite sensitive to styles and narrative voices so I didn’t find it difficult, but you raise a good question because many journalists find it hard to slip off their analytical, detached voice. They find it particularly hard to inhabit a flawed character or be an unreliable narrator. I still do some journalism and switching back is amusing sometimes. If I’m editing a news story I often get the urge to spice up the interviewees’ quotes (and call them ‘dialogue’…)
And by contrast, when fiction writers have to include a news story in their narrative, they can’t get the tone right. I’m sure you must have noticed that, Kim!
But journalism has helped too. Journalism lives by deadlines – you find something to write and you get the words down. That’s great discipline for any writer. I don’t have to worry about grammar and punctuation because they’re ingrained. Also I’ve been a sub-editor, editing and proofing for press, so I can proof and copy-edit my own material to a professional standard (and often do this for others).
girl with a quill: Journalism and Fiction Writing are two different sides of a coin. One could almost say they directly oppose one another. Did being a journalist first help or hinder your fiction writing? How?
(See above, sorry, answered 2 questions in one go!)
girl with a quill: You have a fantastic website called Nailyournovel This is where most people get to know you. Can you tell us what the phrase “Nail your novel” means to you?
Great question! Novel-writing is complex. To do it well is a life-long process of learning. I believe in learning as much as I can about how stories work and how they are derailed, so that I can throw together a narrative that will do exactly what I want it to do.
That may sound like it’s churning out predictable stories according to formulae, but in fact it is not. Story rules are like laws of physics; they are a natural order derived from the way we all make sense of the world. Humans see patterns, and that is where stories come from. The more deeply we understand this process, the more inventive, creative and daring we can be with the stories we create. Novel-writing as an intensely practical craft learned from the nuts and bolts of the world around us. I regard everything I see as potential storytelling tools, hence the rather practical name of the blog!
The short answer is this: I’m trying to nail my novels – so I reckoned other people might be too!
girl with a quill: This brings me to the publication of your book by the same name. This book is available at Amazon. Can you tell us why you wrote this book?
dirtywhitecandy: So many people start a novel and drizzle to a stop. it’s a job that can get the better of you. Most of the beginner writers I talk to need to know how to organise all that business of characters, plot, using research and so on.
Also a lot of the writers who come to me for editing help struggle with revising a novel. Because of this, they also can’t assess their novel’s structure – which is essential to whether it works or not – and they don’t dare to make major changes because it all looks too complicated. I disembowel my drafts quite blithely because I’ve developed ways to take control of my manuscripts. So I thought the most helpful thing I could do for people was to write a book about how I do that. Its full title is Nail Your Novel – Why Writers Abandon Books and How You Can Draft, Fix and Finish With Confidence. Rather a mouthful, but that’s what it does!
girl with a quill: Can you tell my followers where to get a copy of your book?
girl with a quill: Along with your website, you also have a twitter account. Many people in the know in the publishing industry push how important it is to build a public platform through social media tools. As a published writer, would you agree that a public platform is necessary for pre-published and published writers alike?
It is absolutely, one-hundred per cent essential. Books only sell if they are publicised. But that doesn’t mean ramming your book down everyone’s throat. When you buy a book it’s usually because you want to spend time with the author. When you build a platform you are reaching out to find people who might want to spend time with what you write. It’s a slow process, as it is if you get to know anyone in the real world. When you build your platform that’s what you’re doing – being yourself and finding the people who enjoy your company.
Also, social media is a two-way street. You find the people whose company you enjoy too. Before I started blogging and chatting on Twitter and Facebook, I was holed up in my study, bashing away in isolation. Now I have the camaraderie of thousands of other writers out there. They’re writing posts and sharing links. If I need advice, I can send out a tweet and someone will tell me what I need to know. It’s like having a brilliant set of colleagues – we’re all writing, and we’re all in touch. More than that, I have made many genuine friends through Twitter, Facebook and my blog. In short, it’s great fun.
girl with a quill: What would be 3 pieces of advice that you would share with pre-published writers? Maybe even things you wished you had known as a young writer?
1 You will believe your first novel idea is brilliant and unique. It will probably not be. But when you learn what is wrong with it you will write a much better one.
2 Find critique partners you trust and who understand the kind of novels you want to write
3 Even if you write a brilliant novel, that doesn’t mean you will find a conventional publisher. Mainstream publishing is governed by marketing departments and what is in fashion.
girl with a quill: Share a little of your writing process with us. Are you a plotter or a pantster? and Why?
Plotter, definitely. I have to know where I’m going, and also I find it very creative to make a detailed plan. The structure of the story is just as important as the moment-by-moment words.
girl with a quill: They say that a picture is worth a thousand words. A little bird told me that you are an exhibited artist as well as a published author. What type of artist are you and where have you exhibited?
(Laughs, very loudly…) Hardly. I took part in a self-portrait experiment at the rather smart Twentytwenty Gallery in Much Wenlock, Shropshire. Purely as a laugh, because I can never make pens do what I want them to do. I had a few goes in rough first. The first one came out far too small and squished in the corner, but at least there was room for more.
After some time I had managed several versions of myself if played by Ruby Wax, Matt Damon or someone with the wrong nose and a beard. Finally I ran out of space and stamina, so handed in the rough with a title: A Writer’s Quest for Control Over Hand and Pen. Not sure what the gallery made of it…
girl with a quill: As both a writer and an artist, which statement is more true for you. A picture is worth a thousand words. (Napoleon Bonaparte) (or) It is the function of art to renew our perception. What we are familiar with we cease to see. The writer shakes up the familiar scene, and, as if by magic, we see a new meaning in it. (Anais Nin)
Both! But I can’t do pictures, so I tend to use the 1,000 words.
girl with a quill: If you could choose 1 artist and 1 author to have dinner with? Who would you choose and why?
I’d have Tracey Emin, because she’s so self-absorbed. Who would think anyone would want to see her old bed? But she does, which means she’s very different from me, and I’d like to chat to her to see what makes her tick. Incidentally a friend of mine went to a ball with her boyfriend, and it turns out Ms Emin likes some of my ghosted books. So maybe we would have something in common…
As for authors, I’d have Ian Fleming. He has such a sense of the extraordinary and the flamboyant. Plus I think he’d know what wine to order.
I’d have to have him separately from Tracey Emin as I want to see each of them one on one, not watch how they mixed, rivaled or networked. That’s a thing about writers; in their books you have them to yourself, so that’s how I would most enjoy them.
girl with a quill: Who has had the greatest influence on you as a writer?
Everyone I read influences me. I have to be terribly careful who I read when I’m writing particular books as piece of their style or their way of seeing the world can easily derail me!
girl with a quill: What is the one piece of writing advice you would give to yourself as a young writer?
You will never feel you write well enough!
girl with a quill: What in the one piece of writing advice you would give to yourself 10 years from now?
Look back and see how far you’ve come!
girl with a quill: What do you want your lasting legacy as a writer to be?
I want to make books that people love. I’ve had that with some of my ghosted books. I’ve seen forums where people have discussed my books and there are readers who write, in great bold letters, ‘I LOVE these books and these characters’. When I see that, it hardly matters that someone else’s name was on the cover.
For interest’s sake, Roz has kindly posted the recipe for her own delicious and delectable “dirty white candy” here. She has also included small side servings of some writerly advice washed down with a wine whose vintage is rich in brevity and aged with a dry humor.
Now that the she is out of the hot seat…I am going to help myself to some of her delicious dirty white candy and offer compliments to the chef of this speciality.
Thank you for being my 1st Warrior for Warrior Wednesday.
Remember….wield your quill with wit and wisdom for….
Monday has rolled around again and another week has begun. How are your Mental Muscles coping this year so far? Is 2011 being a kind year to you creatively? Are you feeling inspired? Is your Muse in daily attendance?
Today I have decided to post and share writing exercises that our favourite authors use. Often times the best way to learn a craft is to follow in the footsteps of those who have gone before us. So I share their words of wisdom here with you today…
Ernest Hemingway’s Exercise / Challenge
Tell an entire story in only 6 words.
His story was:
For sale: baby shoes, never used.
Gabriel Garcia Marquez
One of the most difficult things is the first paragraph.
Choose 5 of your favourite books and study the first paragraphs. What has the writer done that hooked you? What can you learn from these paragraphs?
In his book “On Writing” he says that he writes 10 pages every day without fail.
Challenge: This week set down a task to write 10 pages every day without fail.
Joyce Carol Oats
She writes in the morning before breakfast. She writes in longhand. She writes for a minimum of 45 minutes to an hour.
Challenge: Set aside 45 minutes in the morning to write. Put away the laptop, get out your pen or pencil and write.
Unclutter your story. JK Rowling is famous for creating Harry Potter. But she is also famous for being a plotter. She used a 1 page gridded outline.The grid outlines the chapter, month, chapter title, explanation of how that chapter relates to the over-arching plot of the book, and then columns for each of the book’s six subplots (prophecies, Harry’s romantic interests, Dumbledore’s Army, Order of the Phoenix, Snape and crew, and Hagrid and Grawp).
Challenge: If you have not outlined your story. Outline your story using JK Rowling’s method. Stick to only 1 page for the outline.
Well I trust these tips and exercises from great authors will keep your mental muscles supple and flexed this week.
In July last year I started this WordPress Blog and not long after that I signed up to Twitter. Since then I have joined 4 online writing / creative groups. I remember wondering how I would develop any sort of following either through this blog or through my tweets. But I have a following and I have learnt a lot about myself as a writer the last 6 months.
I have been reading a lot of blogs online from agents, editors, publishers and writers that developing an online presence is essential to the success of any pre-published writer. I had heard about it quite some time before deciding to build an online presence myself.
Initially I was fairly resistant to the idea. For me it seemed improbable that I would be able to build any sort of following. I also did not know anything about being a blogger let alone about being a successful blogger. Yes, I had a Facebook profile but that was for personal use. I knew that my blog would have to be at least interesting and maybe even useful. The other deterrent to starting a blog was that it felt like I was throwing a very small pebble into a very large ocean. With so many blogs out there, why would people choose to come to mine.
Eventually though I signed up to WordPress and I wrote my first post. I remember being absolutely amazed when people commented on that first post. By then I had signed up for twitter and after following a few people who returned the favour by following me, I had a small following.
Since then my following has grown. I am more confident in the direction that I want my blog posts to go. I am also more confident on Twitter. Although I must admit, it was quite addictive just sitting watching tweets from all over the world. It fascinated and amazed me, sometimes even shocked me, what people were willing to tweet about.
I mentioned the 4 online writing / creative sites I joined. They are:
I have grown to enjoy blogging and tweeting but it is these 4 groups that give me the most joy in my online presence. I have “met” friends through these sites and found mentors. I have been inspired, supported, encouraged and always felt included. Any creative pursuit can be very lonely. As much as your friends and family want to support you, sometimes they have no idea how much energy your creativity can take from you. The people in these 4 groups do know and understand because they are in exactly the same pathway in life. It is through these online friendships and mentorship that I have both grown as a person and a writer. I am still growing and learning more each day.
So yes I would say that building an online presence is vital to the success of a pre-published author. But I am not saying yes for the same reason so many other people say yes. I am saying yes it is vital because of the support, the networking, the friendships and the mentorship that you gain through an online presence. For me this was the impetus to take up the challenge of NaNoWriMo 2010 in November. I knew that I could do it because at any time of day or night somewhere in the world I would have a supportive voice who understood my frustrations, my excitements, my stresses and my wins.
NaNoWriMo also brought me into contact with another inspiring group called:
The Word Warriors
This was a group formed by the creator and developer of Scribblerati, namely an amazing dynamo of a lady called Lia Keyes. Through the drive of this group I managed to complete NaNoWriMo in the first 2 weeks of November. Many of the writers/members of this group have become firm friends and beacons of inspiration and creativity.
I am a firm follower of Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way. In her books she talks about the importance of forming creative clusters. In this spread out world we live in, it is sometime difficult to form creative clusters in the real-time. The wonder of this age is that it has become such a digital driven world. So I am proud to say that 2010 I took up Julia Cameron’s wise advice and now belong to 5 successful creative clusters.
I have a feeling though that 2011 is the year when I am going to really be leaning on these inspirational and creative friends. 2011 is a year that is going to be devoted to creativity and branching out into more and newer forms of creativity. For this I am going to need the support, encouragement, challenging, critiquing, mentoring and friendship of my creative clusters.
So I am taking the time to tell you – no make that to urge you to develop an online presence this year. It may take some time and effort on your part but at the end of it the reward of having the support of people who are creative too far outweighs any effort it will take you to build that online presence.
Thank you to my creative clusters and to all the members of the 5 groups I belong to: You have my appreciation and admiration. Thank you all for pushing me on and encouraging me these last 6 months whether it was for Blogging or for NaNoWriMo or any other creative ventures and goals I set myself. You have all become friends of the truest nature. I treasure and cherish my creative clusters. I look forward to many years of friendship,mentorship and support.
Make 2011 the year of the Online Creative Clusters.