Beginning The End

Those of you who follow me on Twitter (handle: @ewardharris) will know about my devastating findings last week. The end of my story (2 and a half chapters) was gone, disappeared – and no amount of digging was bringing it back. Tauntingly, even my notepads were void of this elusive ending, my notes cutting off at the same point as the revision before me, like a clever trick I’d played on myself.

I had to start it from scratch. (sob)

It’s been quite a game.

Endings bring about resolution, conclusions, which is why they’re endings. Even in series, the individual novels have their own resolution at the end.

I knew exactly what was going to happen, it’s been on the cards for a few months (years, for me) for the main cast, but that doesn’t make it an easy thing to accomplish. There are a lot of characters, each who are impacted in different ways by the climax of the story.

Each of their actions and responses have to be emotionally compatible with their individual wants and goals, and that can hinder the process in getting it rounded off swiftly and as realistically as possible. This might be a fantasy world, but emotion and desire are real.

I’m two chapters in now, with half to go. Maybe one more. The ending is still at it was, but I have found that it’s changed in many ways, for the better. I’m closer to my characters and every action is true to them, so I’m a lot more comfortable with the entire setting.

What started as something tragic for me has turned into a blessing, I don’t think I’d have gotten this “finish” as clearly if I was just editing it. You know how it can be, your eyes scan the same words over and over, and it can be difficult to tell what *needs* editing and what is just nitpicking.

I’ll finish off here with just a little reminder that even on our bleakest writing days, there is a silver lining.

Don’t let little human errors kill your desire to write, to own your story. Have a day or two if you need it, then jump back in there.

You’re the one who started this thing, and you’re the only one who can finish it. Have the courage to do so.

Stay positive, stay determined and, most of all, enjoy it.

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Inspiration – Look or Wait?

Hey, guys! Another month is swinging into bloom, and I figured it was time to dip into my mental pool of all things strange and gift you with a piece of my brain juice.

Okay, maybe not the juice. I need that, probably, but you can enjoy the concept.

Inspiration seems to be a mythical creature that enjoys working in opposition to our needs. What I mean by that is; how often do you sit, willing and rearing to write, and suddenly everything goes eerily quiet?

Ok, so how often do you find yourself preoccupied or going to bed and suddenly your brain says “Hey! Look at all these cool ideas I’ve got!”

I don’t have time for that. I have my son, dogs, farm animals, house cleaning, fish, reptiles–AAHH. There’s no time in my day to sit and wait for my mind to get with the program. I have 45 minutes to sit and write, so that’s what’s going down! (Hmph!)

Unfortunately, as the saying goes, easier said than done… Or is it?

Our brains are trainable. We’ve been taught to work to routines and schedules, so why couldn’t we do that with something creative, too?

This is the interesting part. We’re all different, we have different needs to get into “the zone”.

Music or no music?

Outside or inside?

Notepad or computer?

I have my routine every afternoon; my son goes down for his nap, and that is my silent, uninterruptible time to get some work done… But sometimes it can work against me. I can get too comfortable, too tired, too energised — it’s during these moments, where the stage is set and I’m still struggling, that plan B comes into play.

I figure out my comfort zone. Why do I like it? Why does it make it easier?

Then I’ll throw myself into opposition, get out of the comfort – I trick my mind into thinking it’s “too preoccupied” to write and, funny creature it is, inspiration comes a-knocking.

Perhaps it’s just one of my quirks, but it sure works for me and maybe it can help some of you, as well.

How do you hunt the mythical creature of Inspiration?

Writing – Look Back & Push Forward

pexels-photo-747964I’ve got to say, I think January has been my best writing month for many, many months.

Admittedly, it’s been a bit of a tough year, so I’m proud of any work and progress that I’ve been able to achieve.

I re-wrote my novel last year, too. For the fifth (or is that sixth?) time (and the last, I hope!). In all honesty, though I’ve started other projects during this period too, this is the story that’s stuck with me since I was seventeen.

I have countless notebooks and piles of random pieces of paper from when I’ve needed to write something quickly on the move, along with the different variations of the manuscript itself. All of them show my growth as a writer, learning as I go.

It’s important for me to keep the old notes and original versions. During times of frustration with my current work, it’s really helpful to look back and see how far I’ve come. A gentle nudge to keep going.

What’s really helped me this month is this; I’ve been offering myself up a challenge (almost) every day, where I take a few good sentences and try and take them past that, my way. It’s not always easy, weirdly fun if your brain’s odd like mine, and it’s really helped my writing voice to blossom.

Overall, this last month I’ve found that looking back can give you the kick you need, and challenging your mind with almost-evil games can help to get you going.

A Writing Community

Around August of last year, I decided to have another go at Twitter. I found a whole community of other writers, pushing for the same things I was, struggling with similar struggles as we fight our own doubts or plotholes that seek to destroy us.

I needed to connect with other writers, but I hadn’t really realised that until I started. Truthfully, I’m not very good at speaking to people I don’t know, but I can appreciate good writing when I see it. If even a like or retweet from me can push their confidence and recognition, then I’m bound to do it.

The reason I’m writing this is because something so simple as having a community of other writers around me has pushed me to do even better. It shows in my current writing and edits how much something as a simple game on Twitter can help to improve so much.

I think sometimes we can become lethargic and sluggish with our WIPs, but having other writers rooting you on while you go is a tremendous help, as well as giving you the ability to encourage as well.

I’ve found inspiration and motivation, accomplishing in 1 month what had normally have taken me 3.

However you find your Writing Community, whether it’s on Twitter, Facebook, Forums and so on, know that it is going to help you grow, as well as give you a few like-minded friends. Enjoy!

Writing Around Conflicting Advice

Hi, everyone! It’s been a good while since my last post, between wrestling flus and colds and then preparing for Christmas around trying to finish my novel – phew! It’s been hard to keep on top of everything.

I wanted to share a few of my thoughts about something I’ve seen writers asking within writing groups, forums and the like. When buying books on writing, or following writing advice that top-selling authors share, there’s a lot of “But I’ve been doing this instead!” or “I’ve seen this other author I love doing the complete opposite!”

I think that’s fine. It’s ok. At the end of the day, our stories are unique and it’s important to know “the rules” before we break them, because of course we can break them. 

Don’t agonize over the finer details of writing, focus your attention on driving your plot and characters forward. Make their growth or downfall believable, be sure you have a solid conclusion / resolution.

The rest can be fixed, added to or trimmed as needed later, and even then keep your worries at bay.

Are you doing the opposite of what a famous author advises?

If it doesn’t add to the plot, does it enrichen the experience? If it doesn’t show your character’s personality, does it give you an insight to how others perceive them?

Breaking the rules is fine, just as long as you do it thoughtfully. We don’t have to have the same novel writing checklist to make a great story.
I hope I’ve managed to help in some small way at least, and I will start posting again after the New Year – maybe with some new ideas or short stories to post!

Until then, keep confident, enjoy your work and have a great end of year everybody.

Doubts and Fears in Writing

I find myself seeing a lot of posts about self-doubt and fear as a writer – fear that swings from “what if I never finish it?” to “what if I finish it and everyone hates it?”

Well, today I’m hoping that I will be able to help alleviate these fears – mostly because they’re baseless and only exist because of your roaring (awesome!) imaginations.

Firstly; the fears surrounding whether or not you will finish your work depends on you and you alone – yes, it helps if someone gives you a motivational kick up the butt, but what do you do when there’s no one around to do it? Kick yourself. This is your story idea. Does it give you excitement just thinking about where the plot could go? Do you understand and hate/love your characters?

Take your story and own it. Even if you write it poorly, write it anyway. Get the idea down so you can edit it to a fine shine later, so long as the important parts are essentially there – and quit worrying about overusing words, adverbs, etc etc. Again, you can and will be editing it later anyway. Get it written.

As for the fear of your story being rejected by the readers we are trying to impress? You can’t count on one bad review being a shared feeling with everyone who touches it.

We’ve all read stories. I’ve had friends give me books that I didn’t enjoy, books that may have been their favourites. It will happen every time, because we as humans are complicated and varied.

Love your story, be passionate about it, and the people it is right for will find it and hopefully love it as much as you do.

I guess, really, writing is all about how we perceive the world or emotions and how we’d like to see them portrayed, so instead of worrying about what others may think of it, all I will tell you is to enjoy every step of the world and people you create. If you loved writing it, it will show in your work and the people will love it just for feeling your passion alone.

So, what are you waiting for? Get back to work – a masterpiece cannot write itself!

What I Learned From A Writing Contest

I’d never entered a contest before – frankly,  I’d never gone public with any story I’ve written.

I learned of the contest through The Write Practice, and I’d watched a few of their contests pass me by in the past. This time I decided to give it a go. It was a Love + Fall (Autumn) theme, with a maximum word count of 1,500.

Needless to say, I felt a little out of my depth from the moment I signed up. I’d never written a short story before, not without it turning into a full-blown novel, but I felt it calling to me as a challenge. I’d never experimented properly with 1st person, and I certainly never write romances (fantasy/adventure lover, me!), but while I was in the throws of editing my novel before unleashing it to the world, I decided to take a break from my writing… by writing something completely different.

So…

What did I learn?

There’s so much I can list, but what I think is most important of all was the writing community itself. Workshopping and working together to give each other encouraging feedback and support, it was truly a great way to meet new people – from novice writers to experienced, all sharing our tales together and sharing whatever knowledge we had freely.

I don’t think this will be the last contest I enter. It was fun as hell (yes, I’m weird) working towards a deadline, and it really pumped up my motivation to get my novel completed.

Although it was a short story, and a far cry from what I’d normally write, the sense of accomplishment at having written, finished, and revised a story within 2 weeks has done the world of good for me – and I think for any writer who’s been working on the same project for a good while. It’s nice to have a break.

For those who might be interested, I’ll insert a link here to my short story which has been published on Short Fiction Break as a part of the competition. You’ll find all the other contest entries there too – and don’t forget to vote for your favourite!

Real Life In Fiction

It’s been a while between blog posts – computer troubles! But it hasn’t stopped me from doing what I love most, which is writing.

I’m constantly learning and trying to perfect my writing craft, and I’m the worst (best?) self-critic.

Do you ever find yourself reading your own material and, while a part of you feels that parental love towards it, you’re finding that some areas are falling flat? By all means love your novel or nonfiction masterpiece, but don’t hold back tearing parts to shreds when your gut tells you something’s off.

For me, my biggest issues were the dreaded “Show Don’t Tell”, and the emotions / relationships portrayed between my characters. I completed the draft and had a sound plot, but now is the most important part – I want my audience to feel what my characters are feeling. I want them to question alongside my protagonist who to trust. I want them to agonize over a decision that could have dire consequences. 

But how do I do that?

The secret… By delving into my memories, all the relationships, decisions, the feelings I’ve experienced.

What is happening to my protagonist? Have I been in a similar situation? How did or would I feel – truly? And I’m not just talking emotion here. 

If my character is feeling fear and doubt, that can show in many ways – and the great thing is that we as individuals can all react differently in the same scenario, but we feel emotion equally. When you’re scared, how do you feel physically? A few examples: Cold, trembles, your muscles tense like you’re braced to run for it. Emotionally? Fear has an uncanny way of stopping logical thought, panic grows alongside fear. What will you do, what will you do, what will you do!

We’ve all been scared. How did you fight the urge to get out of there? Did you manage it? Is there a scarier consequence if you don’t do this frightening thing? And how does that affect how you cope with the situation?

This is why I love writing. I’ve always been quiet and observant from a young age – mainly due to fear of my own – but I learned a lot about people, their quirks and how different people react in the same situation depending on their personalities. It fascinates and intrigues me, and people themselves offer a whole world of mystery.

A good way to practice this and bring your characters to life is to write small paragraphs about people (or your own characters) that you know very well. One-by-one, put them all in the same situation and I’ll wager that not one of those paragraphs will be the same.

Happy writing!

Dismounting the Writer’s Block

notepad pen

Now, I’m not entirely sure if I’m making this up or if someone actually said this, but it is a quote that resonates with me:

Creativity goes where creativity flows..

The scary thing is: writer’s block will hit you eventually, and it will smack you in the face and take a tumble with you until the point comes that you’re on your knees screaming “I don’t want to be a writer anymore!”

You had a brilliant idea for a story – even better, as you began to write even more ideas came pouring in. A stroke of brilliance. “This is going to be the best story ever!”

Then suddenly…

**BAM. SPLAT. KAPOW.**

Where have all those creative juices gone?

You don’t understand. The initial idea is brilliant and now – somewhere along the way – the flow of absoloute awesome has vanished… But has it, really?

Yes, writer’s block does affect each and every one of us. Sometimes for just a week, at other times for a month – or even longer. What can we do to overcome this? I’m going to share a couple of nuggets from my secret horde of writing genius (sorry, that does sound a little egotistical, doesn’t it?) to help you get out of this miasma of sorrow and pain.

First off: take a deep breath. Calm down. Shhh. It happens to us all.

Second: I want you to take a look at your writing – what is blocking you? For me, it was a sense of boredom and feeling like the story was going nowhere. I took a leaping step back, re-evaluated and changed a lot.

Third: What if your story is brilliant and there is nothing to change? Take a few days off then jump back in… “Wait!” I can hear you cry. “What if I’m still stuck?!”

Talk about it. A friend, a family member, anyone who might care enough to listen. I’m lucky in that while my partner isn’t a big reader, he is a big fan of movies. They’re stories, too.

I will tell him what’s happening and wait for his appropriate comments and questions. If the questions don’t come? Maybe you need a re-think. Are you giving too much away and the story has lost the intrigue that it began with?

I find that as I’m talking about my story, explaining my characters and answering questions, I’m also now considering things I had never thought out before. “Why are they there, instead of there?” Because.. “Why is he like that?” Because. “How does he know where to go?” Because…

It’s strange, but as I answer questions automatically to things that I hadn’t considered before I am also discovering more about my story, my world and my characters. I write it all down.

Now it’s time to go detective mode: who’s in conflict? Why? Is there another back-story in there that will affect your character now? Are you portraying it?

Suddenly, my excitement is rekindled and I want to answer each and every question – maybe not all at once, I’ll hide a few sweet nuggets until right at the end (who can resist a good twist?), but that’s what brings around new questions. New answers. New ideas.

Just remember….

You can’t force this. When you’re pulling your hair out looking for a sentence then I have one thing to say: Get your fingers away from the keyboard. Step back… BACK, I SAY!

If your words aren’t flowing as naturally as breathing, then you are pushing words to paper rather than following the flow of your own creative juice. If we read it, we’ll know.

Keep an open mind. Consider every option, every character, every emotion. What if it happens like this. “Yeah, but, I don’t want him to-” Shh, shh. It’s up to your character, not up to you. Go with the flow – you may find that your characters have their own minds and ideas (scary, isn’t it? Aren’t they supposed to be figments of our imaginations?).

FINALLY:

I want you to just enjoy what you’re writing. I want you to be surprised with what comes through your fingertips. I want you to have an idea, write it and find that you’ve written a different thing entirely. If that happens? Don’t just change it. WHY? Because it’s when you’re in the zone that you’re the best, and sometimes you will surprise yourself with your own genius. Pat yourself on the back.

Written by Elisabeth