A typical writing day for amuteforamuse

Ever wondered how other authors write? What their routines are, and also where they write?

Well, as part of some research that I’m doing for my website, I’m going to be spending a bit of time in other people’s workspace. However, I think it’s only fair that I start with myself but will include some more famous authors in a separate post.

My writing space is the middle room of my house (which also doubles as my office during the day). On my desk at any one time I have a pile of books, a shelving unit (for A4 papers), a 20″ monitor, a 32″ TV, an HP laptop and a DELL workstation – the monitor and laptop are for my day job. In addition to my desk, I have a set of drawers, a comfy char, a gas heater and a bookshelf. Although I have a conservatory to my right and a room to my left, I spend most of my time staring at a brick wall barely three feet away from my face! The only company that I have apart from my dog, Max, is a grumpy gargoyle which I tend to swear at when I’m struggling to come up with that one, perfect phrase. You can see a good picture of him to the right of every post I make.

A typical day for me usually begins at around 0800 with work and, if I’m busy, takes me right through to 1730. If I get a chance over lunch, I’ll browse the web a bit, or read a book. I have dinner around 1800 and visit the gym every other day for a 10k run. Following that, I watch a bit of television with my wife until around 2230, then I turn into a night-owl.

Anytime from 2300 onwards, I’ll be sat at my workstation with either WordPress or Scrivener open – depending on if I’m doing novel writing or blog writing. Over the past month or two, I’ve also been researching world-building as part of getting my website up and running, so I’ll also have a website design panel open.

As you will all know, my word count is usually at the behest of my muse. I’ve tried to keep to a specific word count, but I tend to feel guilty if I don’t manage it. So, on any given night I may drum up a few pages of a novel, or schedule a couple of posts for the blog. If I’m not feeling particularly creative, I’ll drop into the website design and work through the draft web pages.

On the evenings when I’m sick of looking at a blank screen, I’ll decamp to the comfy chair and my e-reader to spend a bit of time in someone else’s world with a good book.

Oh, and sometimes, when the stars align and I’m in bed about to drop off into a deep sleep, that one, perfect phrase will come to me. If I have my notebook handy, I’ll write it down, if I don’t I’ll have forgotten it by morning.

Beginning Strong Part 2 – James Scott Bell

Many writers are aware of the importance of getting the reader hooked from the first page, even the first line. Yet, Bell still points out some basic points that (I at least) had overlooked.
If we stick to the three act structure, it’s obvious that we begin in Act 1. Here, we’re expecting our work to do the following;

  • Hook the reader
  • Establish a bond between reader and character
  • Present the story world
  • Establish the tone of the novel
  • Give the reader reason to want to turn the page
  • Introduce the opposition

In this post, I’ll cover the final three points above as Bell takes us through and gives us information and advice as to better approach our goals (the first post is here).

Establish the tone of the novel

This is us, as writers, setting the tone for the entire novel early on in the first few pages. By doing this, we’re not only making a promise to the reader as to what our novel is going to be like, but it ensures that the reader will understand what to expect.

One of the most important aspects of tone is that of consistency. As stated previously, setting the tone is providing the reader with the understanding of what the rest of the story will be about. Readers like consistency and being too inconsistent risks you losing the reader. Bell quotes Jack M. Bickham here with some examples of how you can still stall your reader if you’re not careful;

  • Excessive description – Bell already covered this and uses the quote to simply strengthen his own statement.
  • Backward looks – interestingly, this seems to jar against the advice from Bell about using the ‘framing the story’ element for prologues. However, I personally think this is more around the constant use of looking back.
  • No threat – Bickham suggests that “good fiction must start with – and deal with – someone’s response to threat”. Without a threat there is no conflict.

Compel the Reader to move onto the middle

As with the Three Act Structure, your beginning has to ensure that the reader wants to continue onward to the middle (and end) of your book. If you’ve done things right, you should have given them (1) a compelling Lead with (2) whom they bond with and (3) whose world has been disturbed. This should provide enough for your readers to want to step through that first doorway of no return into Act 2.

There is little else in terms of advice from Bell here which comes across as a bit of a cop-out when it has been promoted to a point of interest within the chapter of Beginning Strong. However, I think the fact that Bell has already talked quite a bit earlier in the book about this and the fact that the next chapter is about the middle stages of a novel, he’s simply reserving his advice for later.

Introducing the Opposition

As with the section on moving the reader to the middle of the novel, Bell doesn’t really add anything more to this section other than giving out somewhat obvious advice.

Bell suggests that our readers must know who, or what, the opposition is by the time that our Lead makes the transition from the start to the middle. He even goes on to suggest that the opposition doesn’t necessarily have to be fully established at this point, just that it exists.
There are no examples given here, but I would suggest he’s talking about things like;

  • A serial killer in a crime murder novel – we don’t need to know who he is, or what he looks like for us to know he’s our Lead’s opposition
  • A meteor about to crash into the Earth – again, if our Lead is an astronaut or a pilot of a space-ship trying to protect Earth, then we can understand how the meteor is the opposition without having to fully explain what it is, where it came from etc.
  • A love story where the Lead is vying for affection and yet there is another who has similar feelings for the same girl.

As writers, it is also important that we ensure the opposition is a capable foil for our Lead. In that respect, we must ensure that the opposition is as strong, or preferably, stronger than our Lead. Also, we shouldn’t neglect the fact that our opposition should also be given similar attributes to our Lead, such as sympathy and justifications for his actions. We need to ensure that we don’t fully develop a Lead only to pit him against a cardboard cut-out of an opposition.

Losing your publisher

I’ve been meaning to reblog this particular post for a few days now, but work has beaten me down and I had other posts in the pipeline.

http://shannonathompson.com/2015/01/07/ww-i-lost-my-publisher/

For many of us, the chance of getting published is what we are striving for, it’s the reason we sit for hours in front of a blank screen / piece of paper, and it’s the reason we scribble in books, on walls, and utility bills (one of my wife’s particular hates 🙂 ). 

Basically, it’s the end-game…

Shannon A Thompson accomplished that, she beat the odds and woke up one morning a published author.  I doubt it just ‘happened’ (as many non-writers think it does), and a read of Shannon’s blog will show you just how difficult a time she has had over the past few years whilst working towards that goal.

In one of her previous posts about getting published, I joked with her about how life would now be endless days of sitting on comfy chairs, being hand-fed exotic food whilst the books would just about write themselves.

So, you can imagine how sad I felt to read a post about how her publisher had gone under. There are no real details explaining the reason, but there doesn’t have to be.

I, as an aspiring writer, never try to look beyond that locked door that is a first publishing deal, I never imagine there being anything behind there other than good things.  Of course, I’ve often thought what would happen if I did get published and became a one-hit wonder but then that would be my own fault; it would be me taking my foot off the pedal.  Here, in Shannon’s case, that didn’t happen.

I don’t have personal advice for Shannon as I don’t know her, nor would I ever think of offering writing advice to someone who has clearly surpassed my own writing achievements. But I can do my own little bit by providing other people with a link to her blog so they can follow her and, hopefully, get to see her find another publisher.

Start Writing Fiction – Week 2

Week 1 Review

Interesting course so far. The workload is a mixture of watching videos, generating ideas / comments and then discussing them. I think what you get out of a course like this depends on how much you put in – I noticed over 1000 comments on each section so there are plenty of people doing it, and there is quite a bit of communication via likes / follows between the students.

So, onto the curriculum for week 2;

Do It Your Way

2.1 Finding Your Way (Video)

2.2 Other Writer’s Rituals (Article)

2.3 What Works Best For You (Article)

2.4 Imagining Writing Spaces (Article)

2.5 Talking About Writing (Discussion)

Observation and Imagination

2.6 Observation – The Importance of Detail (Article)

2.7 Heightening Your Observations (Article)

2.8 Learning From Other Writers (Article)

2.9 Reading For Character (Quiz)

2.10 Comparing Characters Again (Article)

2.11 How Can I Be Original? (Article)

2.12 Familiar Words In Unfamiliar Places (Video)

The Blank Page

2.13 The Blank Page (Article)

2.14 Searching Your Notebook (Discussion)

2.15 Should I Wait Until I’m Inspired? (Article)

2.16 Finding a Voice (Article)

2.17 More Starting Ploys (Discussion)

2.18 Ideas For a Story (Article)

Rejection

I’m in a rut.  Like every aspiring writer, I’m not only concerned with finishing my novel, re-drafting it and editing it.  I’m concerned about rejection.

Sad face on window

When the muse is bored with snatching the words from my mind as soon as they appear, she switches tact; she allows me to write, but under a cloud of self-doubt and rejection. I understand that you have to write something first to get rejected, so at least you’re still accomplishing something even if your novel isn’t quite what the publishers are looking for but I’m sure it isn’t what apsiring writers aim for.

So, whilst I watch the ice-cubes melt in my glass of Coke and imagine all the rejection letters my novel is bound to attract, I start thinking about how successful authors have had to deal with this.  

Literary Rejections is a website that has managed to collate many of the more famous rejections stories relating to famous authors in the past, or describes the rejection process in more detail (I personally like the Hollywood Script rejections with a staple 17 reasons and all the playwright received was a tick against one of them.

Another website is 100 rejections and, whilst having only 78 on their list makes you wonder if they looked hard enough, it does provide further ammunition to bring down those nagging thoughts.  Interestingly, JK Rowling’s success being down to a CEO’s young daughter had parallels with Tolkien’s Hobbit experience when being reviewed by 10 yr old Rayner Unwin. Maybe children are the best judges after all?!

One last point to finish with is that even though these authors have long since made their names (and assumingly riches), it was only a few days ago that we found out JK Rowling had written a novel under a pseudonym, Robert Galbraith.

Guess what??!?  That’s right – it was initially rejected.

 

R.I.P Iain Banks

After posting about Iain Banks fight with terminal cancer recently, I was saddened to hear that he had lost his fight whilst I was away on holiday (June 9). I understand he did manage to see a final pre-published copy of his final book, The Quarry, which was something he strove to do.  Ironically, the book tells the story of a boy coming to terms with his father who is terminally ill.

Iain was considered one of Britain’s best authors and wrote in both the Science-Fiction and mainstream fiction genres (as Iain Banks and Iain M Banks respectively).

Having first gained popularity for writing The Wasp Factory, he went on to write the extremely popular Culture series.

I have to admit that I’ve not read any of his books, nor did I know too much about him, but I always feel saddened to read, or hear, about an author passing

A website was setup for people to post their support and feelings for him whilst he was alive.  It may sound morbid, but some of the messages are truly inspiring.

If you wish to learn more about the man, and his books, then this website is for you.