Where do you keep your observations?

This week, I have taken the executive decision to start keeping a little observations book.

In the past, my observations have been all over the place, either just left unrecorded in my head or jotted down onto scraps of paper. As a writer, things often strike a chord with me – whether it’s a particular character trait or some sort of societal issue – so it’s important to capture all of this for future reference, as anything that I observe could be used as material for my stories!

Since creating an exclusive place to record things, I have been making more observations than ever. I now try to take my notebook wherever I go because you just never know who or what you might encounter on your travels! A wry observation about mothers with prams, the way that people tend to ignore beggars on the street, an overheard snippet of conversation – anything could catch your attention!

So why not keep it all in one place? Human memory is terrible at the best of times, so it’s well worth writing stuff down. Hopefully, in years to come, I should have a wealth of notes to spark my imagination and bolster the reality of my worlds. Already, I have made some very interesting entries and I’ve only been doing this for a week!

If you want to write, then bloody well do so!

There is nothing that should stop you from doing what you love.

Life is too short to live in regret, so stop making excuses and dive straight in there! You may be busy, you may be encumbered with responsibility, you may be limited by ill health, but no obstacle should stand in the way of your goals. Many writers suffer great hardship to create their work.

Other writers, however, have a relatively easy ride. I am among this group of writers, who have very little responsibility and can devote a lot of time to their craft. But regardless of how much spare time you have, you can always put some time aside for your hobbies, even if it’s just a few minutes per day. A long-term project like a novel requires patience and persistence to complete, so all writers need these qualities.

Another thing that shouldn’t hold you back is what other people think of you. Don’t worry about the opinions of others… you don’t need their praise or approval. You should write because you want to, not to impress your peers! So if you’re new to writing or you’re an existing writer who is doubting themselves, then please do not worry. Deep down, you know what you want to do with your life and you should not be embarrassed by this.

Nurturing your writing voice

To write efficiently, you need to call upon your writing voice.

If you are not in tune with your inner writing voice, then you can lose track of how the prose flows and sounds. But when you use your writing voice, you kind of narrate as you go along, which helps you to gauge if your writing is good enough. In other words, you are being both the writer and the reader at the same time.

I’m not suggesting, of course, that you read out loud. Just acknowledge what you’re writing in your head, rather than just spewing any old nonsense onto the page. Authors speak in a certain way on the page, which differs from how people speak orally, so it’s important to get into that zone.

On days when my writing voice is absent, I find it very difficult to string sentences together and produce quality writing. To remedy this, I usually grab a notepad and do a writing warm-up, spewing words onto the page until the sentences become more coherent and I rediscover my writing voice.

How much description is necessary?

I suppose it depends upon the type of book that you’re writing!

Traditionally, authors usually did a lot of description along with massive preambles, which most readers today would find quite cumbersome. These days, most people simply don’t have the time or the concentration for too much description and prefer to be thrown straight into the action!

So far, the description in my books has been very minimal, as I am acutely aware that the patience of most modern readers hangs by a thread. Of course, if you hook your readers with the story and characters then they’re more likely to stick around, but nobody wants to be bogged down by too much description! As long as you paint a clear picture for your readers, then you have done your duty as a writer.

The description should enrich and supplement the story, not distract from it! If I ever feel that the description is going off on a tangent then I reign it back in, unless it’s important to the narrative. However, some genres naturally lend themselves to more description, such as science fiction and fantasy. In these cases, the readers usually crave as much detail as possible about the world that you’ve created.

But regardless of where your story is set, try to keep the story flowing at all times and prevent your description from stalling things. Rather than have a solid paragraph describing something, try feeding the information to the reader in dribs and drabs. Not only will they appreciate you for it, but they’ll probably remember the information much better too!

The Magic of Inspiration

As a writer, inspiration is very important to me. Without it, I do not get any ideas and I can’t proceed with any new projects.

What I’ve found is that I receive much more inspiration when I stop chasing ideas and just let them develop naturally. When I open myself up, ideas just flow through me as if I’m tuned into some sort of cosmic radio station, tapping into a wealth of inspiration. When I’m connected like this – when I’m in “the zone” as some people call it – stories grow and mature all by themselves!

Some ideas develop more quickly than others. Some form overnight while others take a while to ferment before they grow legs and spring to life. What’s important is that you don’t push an idea until it is ready to enter the world.

The wonderful thing is that all of us have an imagination. All of us can receive creative ideas and get inspired. So I would urge you all to have fun with this mighty gift and push the boundaries of what what you can create! Keep your creative juices fueled by reading books, watching films or whatever else gets you inspired!

The Fires of Resolve

You can have all the tools you need to write, but without determination, you won’t get anywhere.

If you don’t have a burning desire within you to proceed with a project, then you need to ask yourself whether it’s something that you’re truly passionate about. Sometimes, you might just need a break. Or perhaps it simply isn’t the right time to work on that particular project. Whatever the reason, it is difficult to work on something if you do not have the fires of resolve behind you!

Time is precious, so don’t waste it! You may have the best idea in the world, but if you can’t muster any passion for it, then you’re going to struggle when working on it. I’m not saying that you won’t be successful, but the road to success will be more arduous for you. So make sure that you are passionate about what you do.

As a writer, I come up with many concepts for books, but I only proceed with a project if it truly resonates with me. If I get a strong urge to develop something, then I trust my gut instinct and go for it. This saves me from pursuing fruitless projects and just focusing on the ones that I know I’ll follow through with.

Determination and passion carries you through from start to finish. When you are spurred on by the fires of resolve, the journey to success is truly effortless.

Knowing when to stop

Sometimes, it is very important to take a break, even if it is from something that you love doing.

This month, for example, I took part in a writing challenge called NanoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), where you try to write 50,000 words of a novel throughout November. I was doing very well for the first three weeks, but then I started to grow weary and decided to call an end to the challenge. For the sake of my health and the quality of my book, I simply had to recuperate and stop writing for a few days.

However, with 40,000 words in the bag, I don’t feel like I have “lost”. There is no losing when you take part in NanoWriMo, as any word count that you produce is better than what you started with! And without the challenge, I would not have been spurred on to write such a large quantity of material.

But of course, it’s not all about the quantity. I’m a great believer of getting something right the first time, and so I put a lot of effort into producing an excellent first draft, which saves time later on when redrafting. This month, after three weeks of intense writing, I started to feel the quality of my work begin to slip, which is when I knew that I needed to rest.

Now that I have recovered from my mental exhaustion, I feel ready to carry on writing. I am nearly halfway through the book now, so I’m very excited to deal with the latter half of the narrative =)