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!

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Writing Warm-Ups

If you find it difficult to get your cogs turning, then this post may help.

Just like with our bodies, we need to warm up our “creative muscle” before we begin to exercise. Unless you’re very inspired, then it can sometimes be difficult to get lift off. But worry not, for there are ways and means to get your imagination flowing!

Do you have six minutes to spare? Good. Do you have pen and paper? Of course you do.

The first part of the warm-up is called “clustering”. It involves picking a word at random (or getting someone else to pick a word for you) and then spending three minutes writing down as may words as you can. The words that you write down can either be linked to the original word, words that follow off from other words, or completely random words that pop into your head – just keep going non-stop until the three minutes are up!

For example, if I started with the word “egg”, then I would come up with words like “chicken”, “farmyard” and “yolk”, as well as more abstract words like “beginning” and “philosophy”. By now, your mind should be warming up, so now it’s time for the second part of the exercise!

From your cluster of words, choose the one that jumps out to you the most, without hesitating. Once you have picked the word, then don’t change your mind about it. And from there, spend the next three minutes doing “free writing”, which involves just putting pen to paper and writing whatever is triggered by the word you have chosen. What you write doesn’t even have to be related to the word and you certainly shouldn’t worry about the quality of the writing. Just write for three minutes straight without stopping or hesitating.

Hopefully, when you have finished this exercise, then you should feel slightly more alert. Now that your cogs are turning, you should be able to apply yourself to any task that requires focus. Or at the very least, this warm-up should make it easier to start something!

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!

Fantasy: A welcome escape

Once again, inspiration has struck me, this time in the form of fantasy.

I have always loved writing fantasy. During my teenage years, while facing the trials and tribulations of high school, I used to find solace in the mythical lands that I had created. However, I never managed to finish the story, despite working on it almost every night after school.

For whatever reason, my first two proper books were very much anchored in reality, but now I yearn to create something more fantastical. I have been receiving inspiration for characters and plot-lines for well over a year now, but recently it’s all clicked into place. In other words, the pieces of the jigsaw have finally come together!

Creating a new world is truly liberating, but it’s also a massive undertaking! To my delight, I’ve managed to work in some elements from my original fantasy tale, so that the spirit of my childhood brilliance lives on! And also, it’s going to be a trilogy, so that means that extra care needs to be taken with weaving the narrative together.

Quite simply, I’m thoroughly enjoying the challenge. It’s a great opportunity to go crazy with my imagination, creating different kingdoms and religions and creatures and characters. Okay, I’m inspired again… imagination land, here I come! 🙂

Speak to you soon, guys!

Should I self-publish?

Before yesterday, I would’ve said no.

But since then, things have been put into perspective for me. Someone made me realise that the odds of getting published the traditional way are very slim, and that I could be waiting around for a very long time before an agent accepts me! And also, only 0.01% of books are given a marketing budget, which is much lower than I expected! So rather than waiting around for what might never happen, I’ve decided to take action.

I don’t want fame or fortune. I just want to share my books with the world and make a living from doing so! So I’m going to make my books available and see what happens. Hopefully, people will like what I have to offer 🙂

The decision to self-publish has opened up a lot of doors. I must decide which platforms to use, how to market myself, how to format the book etc. I already know the answers to some of these questions, as I’ve quietly been wondering about self-publishing for a while. I’ve always tried to find out information about it, just in case I ever decided to go ahead with it. And now is that time.

The reason that I tried to get published the traditional way was because I wanted to set myself apart from the sea of self-published authors out there. In this day and age, anyone can publish a book, and I didn’t want to get lost in the crowd. But I know now that there are ways and means that I can distinguish myself 🙂

At the end of the day, I want people to read my books. They’re just gathering dust at the moment, so I’d like to share them! And if they do well, then a publisher might even offer to take me on anyway!

Watch this space, guys!

Why do I write?

Writing is something that I thoroughly enjoy doing.

Quite often, I get caught up in the dream of getting published and forget that I write simply because it’s something that I love doing! Of course, it would be fantastic if I could share my books with the world, but remembering the real reason that I write takes the pressure off a bit.

I love creating different worlds and characters to fill them. I love telling stories and putting my characters through difficult situations. When I remember that I write for the fun of it, I’m less questioning of my ideas. It frees me to pursue whatever project I want, without worrying what other people might think of it.

It is important to pursue what you love. Hobbies and passions give you a sense of purpose and enrich your time here on this Earth. Even if I never get published, I’m pretty sure that I’ll be writing until the end of my days.

The Woes of a Writer

Why am I made to feel like a failure for not having a job? Why am I judged for following my passions? Every day, I work towards making my dreams a reality and yet because I’m not earning an income, nobody seems to agree with what I’m doing. Some people probably think that I’m taking advantage of my girlfriend – that it is unfair that she has to work and I don’t – but I didn’t create these circumstances. If there were jobs out there, then I would take one and help contribute to the household. I have done this before and I would happily do it again.

I truly admire my girlfriend for keeping a roof over our heads. When she gets frustrated with her job, I feel her pain because it dismays me when she is upset. Yes, the situation is unfair, but I can’t pluck a job out of thin air. And the last three times that I’ve landed myself a job, I haven’t even passed the probation period… what does that tell you? Dare I say that I’m not suited to certain working environments? Is it so wrong that I thrive best when I am my own boss creating my own work? Traditional employment has not worked out well for me so far, so where is the harm in me exploring other options?

Many people would tell me to grin and bear it, just because that’s what everyone else does… but I refuse. I refuse to submit to something that goes against my way of life. Sure, I might get jobs to help pay for the bills, but I will never give up on my dreams. My heart will never be invested in workplace politics and mundane tasks. There is a reason that I keep failing my probation and it has nothing to do with how much effort I put in (because I always give 100%, even when my heart isn’t in it)… the reason they keep letting me go is because I’m not suitable.

So why would I want to apply for certain jobs that I know I’m not suited to, just because they’re available? Must I apply for every job vacancy just because it’s a job? Will I only succeed in life once I become employed? Somehow, I get the impression that I will only be viewed as successful once I have a job, no matter what the job happens to be. And even if I become a published author, then I strongly suspect that some people still wouldn’t acknowledge my success, as it wouldn’t fit in with their ideas about traditional employment. But that doesn’t matter because I plan on following my dreams anyway.

Life is short, my friends! Do what you can with the time that is given to you. If you have a hobby or a passion, then don’t neglect it. I usually don’t care much for the opinions of others (especially those of naysayers) but occasionally, a narrow-minded remark can slip through your defenses, which is why I produced this angry rant. For those of you that can relate to my frustration, know that you are not alone. The problem lies not with you, but with the way that society works. Our greatest challenge in life is being ourselves in a world that wants us to be like everyone else… ignore the judgement of others and take the path that’s right for you.

Art is never finished, only abandoned

These wise words were spoken by Leonardo da Vinci.

At some point, we all must say goodbye to our project, whether it be a book or a painting or anything else that you might have created. There is always the danger (especially for the perfectionists among is) that we will keep on polishing our projects forever, because it can be scary to announce that something is finished. You want to do everything you can to ensure that your masterpiece is perfect before you send it off into the world, where it will face the judgement and scrutiny of others.

But there is no such thing as perfection. Perfection is an ideal – something that can never be attained – because everyone has a different opinion on what constitutes perfection. So there’s no point chasing perfection because everything is imperfect. Of course, you want your project to be presentable and outstanding (who doesn’t want their work to be amazing?) but at some point, you have to move on.

Recently, I finished the third draft of my first book. After the major corrections were done, I nitpicked with grammar and punctuation for a while, but I eventually called it a day. In theory, I could have carried on redrafting forever, but I had to draw the line somewhere. I had to accept that “art is never finished, only abandoned” (thanks Leonardo) and finally say goodbye to my project.

It can be particularly difficult to move on if you’ve spent months (or even years) working on something. Nevertheless, life goes on. You must be brave and let your baby go. Soon enough,  you will find something new to take under your wing.

Hooray!! My second book is DONE!

After six accumulative weeks of writing, it’s finished!

Even though I knew that I was approaching the end, it only properly sunk in once I wrote the last sentence. I then realised that I have written two books in the space of a year, which is quite the achievement methinks.

Compared to the first book (which took eight months to write), I bashed out this latest yarn in no time! This is partially because the story is quite close to home, but also because my productivity has greatly improved. In all honesty, I am very relieved that this book took less time to write, as I would like to churn out as many books as I can during my lifetime! I have lots of ideas in the pipeline, so it would be nice to breathe life into them all.

But as most writers know, it would be impossible to develop every idea. There are simply far too many – ever-growing in number – and they can threaten to distract you from your current project. However, I have very good tunnel vision so I always give me full focus to my current project.

Now that the second book is done, I am sure that my next project will present itself to me. Out of my idea bank, I always go with the idea that naturally develops in my head… the one that resonates with me the most. At the moment, I’m developing a fantasy series, but another idea may well jump the queue in the meantime.