Category Archives: Writing Curves

If You’ve Got Nothing to Say

SONY DSCLet’s talk about dialogue. That good old he-said-she-said back and forth. The daily vocalisation of thought, feeling, need and want. We are the only creatures to vocalise in the way that we do. Animals use their bodies and sounds to express their feelings – anger and love and fear and curiosity. But we are the only animals to have names for those things. Continue reading

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Taking a Walk with Death

DeathIf I’m writing, Death usually shows up. It’s just the way we work together – he deals it and I write it. And, as a rule, we work quite well like this (I’m better at death scenes than love scenes – that’s why Cupid doesn’t hang around much). Now, in most cases if you’re writing about people (or animals or creatures of any kind), you’re going to have to get along with Death. Them’s the breaks. Continue reading

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Never Work with Animals…

ParrotI love to add animals to my stories. I have a great affection for them. But they’re not easy to work with. Continue reading

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It Begins with a Dead Body

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASo my previous fear about starting my WIP with a horrid cliché is over! Rather than begin at the beginning, I’ve decided I’m beginning at the end. So to speak. Continue reading

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Could it Be a Dark and Stormy Night?

Dark and Stormy NightYou know that notorious opening of “It was a dark and stormy night”? Well, it’s also notoriously difficult to avoid (as previously discussed here). I have fallen victim to dark-and-stormies many a time trying to write a decent opening. I have such a clear idea of the middle, or the third paragraph of the first chapter, or the last third of a trilogy, that sometimes simply getting the story started is the hardest bit. Continue reading

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The Writing Swing-of-it

There’s nothing like a fellow writer to inspire you/kick you up the proverbial and get you back into writing again. I have to thank J – my resident Writing Conscience – for providing that inspiration.

My novel – ignored, unloved and abandoned for the past few months – has had the dust blown off, and laid out for inspection and renewal.

Isn’t that exciting!

Indeed, the hastily written tumble of 35,000 words that began the whole saga has got up, stretched its legs, and looked at me very expectantly. “Forget the research; you’re not doing it anyway,” it tells me. “Just get on and WRITE!”

So I have to be honest. My ‘research’ – if it could be called such – has stuttered and stalled as well. Oh, believe me, I definitely need that notepad of scrawls to tell me who my characters are, where they from and why they do what they do. This vast land I have created for myself, with great enthusiasm, is far too big for my meagre writer’s mind. It needs to be pinned down, moulded into something I can really use.

But, in the meantime, why am I not writing? Can I really use my job as an excuse anymore? I’ve been there nearly a year for goodness’ sake! Yes, I’m still busy, but no, it’s not eating up my evenings.

Okay, so yes, I’m now running in the evenings, but not every night. What about lunchtimes? Weekends? What about a snatched hour of word-wrangling before dinner?

This is what J has reminded me of. This is what I lost when I left my writer’s bubble in Bath (lawdy I miss you guys!)

Just get back to the basics and get writing again. Stop throwing open your laptop on the dinner table, working around people and getting distracted by TV, and then an hour down the line finding you haven’t written anything at all, you’ve just spent it on Twitter. Find a quiet corner, create your own little den, and just write. Get into the swing of it again.

I make all these grand promises on this blog about getting back to it, about reasserting my writing habits and being completely serious about writing again. But a couple of weeks or months further along, I find I haven’t really moved on from the promises stage.

I can’t really promise that I will even finish my novel. You can’t promise anything with writing, let’s be fair.

So instead I’m just going to get back into the swing of it. And see how I go. Plus, I now have J to remind me to get on with it…

There is a slight issue however. Those 35,000 words need some attention after so long hidden away. I need a writing group, stat! With a severe lack of fellow writers (save J and SP) available for such duties, I may just have to blunder through it on my own – and occasionally turn to my wonderful blog followers to help. I hope that’s okay…

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Manipulating Inspiration

Following on from the re-blogging spree I’ve recently had (and the post that explains why) I have found myself drawn to my Writing Shelf. This is a very particular shelf – and the name sort of implies the purpose: this shelf is filled with books bought with many a good intention – “how to” writing books, books on how to create plotlines, where plotlines come from, ideas for writing various genres, and memoirs from famous authors (the kind of authors I wish I was instead of mediocre me). This shelf sits alongside other abandoned shelves – with dusty volumes of diet books, recipe books, books on art for beginners, how to find your way around a car engine, starter photography, books on creating a wildlife sanctuary in your back garden (unfortunately Sophie-cat rather spoils that dream).

Anyway, I digress.

There are several books I bought all at once from Amazon just after I finished university in an attempt to keep the writing mill churning. Clearly, it failed. But these new re-blogged blog posts have shown me that inspiration from nowhere generally remains, well, nowhere. You can’t force imagination, but you can direct it.

I can’t give up my fiction reading – it’s one of the things that gets me through the manic day of reality – but I might have to pick up one of these books at the same time.

First on the list: The 3 a.m. Epiphany, by Brian Kiteley. This book provides over 200 writing exercises designed to get you thinking about your writing and, most importantly, writing in the first place.

The idea is I write one of these exercises once a week. Just like my Story Cubes, I need things to spark my writing off. I feel if I can get back to the basic routine of writing, the ideas for my novel will just evolve and appear. Not in some hippy, fluffy way – the way I always imagined – but in an organic, honest way where something I write shows me a direction, a character, a thread to the plot I hadn’t thought of before. Where something written down in a scrambled writing exercise is more imaginative than anything that is forced onto a blank page in a frantic realisation that I have been staring at the computer screen for 3 hours.

Anyway. Now I’ve been staring at a computer screen for 3 hours and FINALLY panic-written this post, I am sneaking away to bed (with my fiction book instead of the 3 a.m. Epiphany – I’m not quite ready yet for that, of course).

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The Art of Writing Fantasy

I’m always a little wary when people find out I’m a writer and ask me what I’m writing. Mainly because I know I will get one of the following reactions:

1. A look of disbelief and a disappointed “oh”
2. An overly false “oh wow!” and “that sounds… er… interesting”
3. Blank look
4. “Will you dedicate it to me? I mean, I don’t really read fantasy, but I’ve always wanted a book dedicated to me.”
5. “Oh sweet, are there dragons/wizards/unicorns/elves in it?”

I do have a lot of fellow fantasy readers and/or writers who do express their enthusiasm for it – cue over-excited conversations about every single fantasy novel ever written and the advantages and disadvantages of fantasy writing… But if I’m telling friends of the family (this is generally who I have to tell as I have been advertised by family as an “author” and now have to gently let everyone down that I’m not going to be as rich as J.K Rowling) I can guarantee I get a reaction as above.

Fantasy writing is almost one of those niche things that people don’t really get unless they’re writing it themselves. What people don’t get is that it really is about observation as well as pure imagination. You can’t create a fantastical world without observing the real world around you. The one thing I’ve discovered by doing my “research” beforehand, is that observation is key. It’s taking me longer than I expected simply because every time I write about one thing I find myself being faced with yet another question about the world I’m creating – and then I have to find a real-world example to help me. For example, I’m now having to create a religion (I know, I think this might be getting out of hand too), so I’m having to read up on the history of religion in the real world in the vague hope that it will help.

I can kind of understand why a lot of fantasy writers are hermits. Life is a lot easier when there is no one to look at you in a confused way when you explain that no, your novel is not full of elves, and you are only faced with a blank page to answer to. Because you really have to concentrate when it comes down to writing fantasy. Okay, tell a lie, it’s not the actual writing of it… it’s the preparation of it. Writing it seems much easier than it is answering all the questions you might get asked and therefore have to know the answer to before even writing a word. I’m starting to wonder if I’ve really done the right thing, attempting to write a fantasy novel. The great fantasy writers make it seem so easy.

So what is the art of writing a fantasy story? Is there a magical secret that makes things so much easier?

Probably not. It’s just a matter of finding a dark corner with your laptop/typewriter/pen and paper (whichever you so choose) and working it out all by yourself… and trying not to tell anyone you’re doing it until it’s done. So I’m off to find another dark corner (mainly in a vain attempt to get rid of my headache more than anything else).

Any fellow fantasy writers out there struggling like me?

*Huge amazing shout-out to Rob Alexander, whose an outstanding artist, and I have used one of his images above!

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The January Slump

So the year has started, not with a bang, not with anything very interesting happening at all really. In fact, apart from starting a new role at work, life has fairly plodded. This is great! you think; this means lots of time to dedicate to seeing friends, drinking tea, attending to blogs and even (dare I say it) doing some writing! I am, after all, a social animal with a penchant for tea, blogging and writing. Yup, you’d think so.

Instead, I had forgotten how exhausting it is actually doing something each day. Nearly two weeks off with nothing better to do than eat and vegetate, and my “writing muscle” has gone weak, limp and useless. I’m the writer’s version of a flabby ex-gym-bunny. From time to time I push myself to blogging, if I have any energy left after throwing myself into my new job. (Serene as a swan on top, paddling like mad underneath). The new job is exciting, busy and completely and totally NEW. Learning on the job, for some reason, seems more tiring than anything else.

I have reached the January Slump – that quiet, forgotten bit of the year where everything and everyone takes a huge breather. Including, it seems, writing. The only bit that hasn’t slowed down is my five-cups-a-day tea habit (I think it’s around five cups a day now anyway). Even now, on a Sunday afternoon when I have nothing better to do, I am sat here with a cuppa instead of a pen.

How do you get out of your January Slump? Do you even get one?

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The Edge of the World

I created a map of the world I was writing about the last time I attempted to write this novel (although I think I actually mentioned that a good few times before). And what with the whole “starting again” thing I thought I’d start again with my map.

I’m far too lazy to re-draw the maps (took me freaking ages last time), but I am looking at it in a new light. For starters – what happens at the edge of the map?

The biggest issue there seems to be with fantasy worlds is that they just finish when the map does. I know that it might only show a bit of the world (LOTR-style), and therefore you don’t have to envision the whole lot, but I naturally made the naïve mistake of drawing a whole world… call me an idiot later.

So for a fantasy map, is there a section that says “here be monsters”, or can you sail around the world and end up in the same place you left? Which would you rather when you read a fantasy novel? I quite like the idea of having a big old edge to my world – but then what’s beyond it? A big waterfall going into space… but then that kind of reminds me of Pratchett’s giant turtle.

And then there’s the whole question of time to consider… after all, time for us is decided by rotations of the Earth. So if my world is flat, how does time move? And if it’s a globe, how fast does it turn? It kind of makes my brain hurt to take into these considerations – which is why I’m sort of tempted to just have “here be monsters” and leave it at that, but then I just know I will get asked about it (Law of Sod).

What do you think?

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