Aug 31, 2009

Be the light

“My candle burns at both ends
It may not last the night,
But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends –
It gives a lovely light!”

Enda St Vincent Millar

As a writer, you have to be prepared to burn your candle at both ends. Actually; might be a good idea to get in a few dozen.
While writing, you will be tired beyond belief, excited beyond recognition, and at times, as cranky as a pre-menstrual insomniac. You will have early mornings, very late nights, and, if you’re really lucky and the writing is flowing, you’ll have some all-nights! You will start it, stop it, and understand it, all in the one chapter. You will laugh, cry, and laugh again, all on the same page. You will love it, hate it, and love it again all over again, all in the same hour. Your family will love you, hate you, and praise you, all in the same day. Your friends will support you, defend you, and inspire you, all in the same week. Your editor will love hearing from you, roll her eyes at the mention of you, but bring out the best in you, all in the same book. But, at the end of the day, the reward comes when you see the light in your story. So relax, go with the flow, enjoy the rollercoaster, play with words, and be the light for your stories.

Just a thought

Aug 28, 2009

Bullshit Barometer

Yes, I said what you think I said. This signifies my Bullshit Barometer.
I have one. I honestly believe most people have one. And, I sincerely advise those who haven’t got one - get one.

Apart from being one of those essential little things to save our sanity during these challenging times, it’s every writers must-have.

What exactly do I use my Bullshit Barometer for I hear you ask – well, everything from my writing to reading the daily news of course! And, it will let me know when I have had my fill of bullshit for any one day.

Bear with me a minute while I elaborate on that for you.

When I’m reading, if something doesn’t ring true for me or sit right with me, I will instantly ask myself where exactly I would rate the said piece on my Bullshit Barometer.
When writing, especially in dialogue, if I get the slightest inkling that it’s not real, I ask myself the same question, and I don’t always like the answer I get.
As for editing – my barometer is invaluable during that process.

If we as writers were honest enough to go through every paragraph and truthfully answer where it rated on a Bullshit Barometer, well – suffice to say it would instigate a marked improvement on the finished product.

If you cannot dazzle them with brilliance, please do not baffle them with bullshit - as the wonderful saying goes!

“No one has the right to be read – it is a privilege to be read,” is what Sarah Webb said one day at an Inkwell Writers Workshop I attended, and how right she is. That statement sat with ease in my consciousness and my BB became even more valuable. After all, the onus is on the writer to create the best work possible for the public to read, and I believe the use of a barometer would definitely help in achieving this.
I don’t care whether you use a bullshit detector, or a bullshit deflector, but it is up to the writer to be the publics bullshit protector.

Finally, it would serve us well to remember that at the end of the day, someone is going to rate our writing on their Bullshit Barometer, so it might just be advisable to run it thorough our own barometers first.

My advice: make sure your writing is a bullshit-free zone.

Just a thought


Aug 27, 2009


I love Quotes, I really do – thus, I simply must share with you this little gem by Montesquieu about authors that I came across today.
I do hope you get the same kick out of it that I did.

Authors: A fool who, not content with boring those who lived with him/her to death, insists on tormenting generations to come!

Light & Laughter

Aug 26, 2009

Dive into your story

Some writers are very organized in how the structure a story.

Note – I did say some writers. Second note – I’m not one of them. Third note – I am not referring to the discipline here.

Writing, researching, reading, editing, ect are all part and parcel of the daily discipline of being a novelist. What I am addressing here is how some writers structure their stories.

Personally, I cannot sit down and plan out a book insofar as deciding start, middle, end, how many chapters, how many words in each chapter, where the pinnacle of the story should hit, subplot, back-story ect. This highly recommended formula works for many – but not for me. My brain simply isn’t structured to work that way. When I try it, I find I get so bogged down in details that inspiration and creativity are gone out the window.

For me, a story begins within the creative right hemisphere of my brain with a single thought calling me – niggling at me. Whether based on fact, or fiction, (although all fiction is loosely based on fact of some sort) it begins to call, to whisper to me – to pose possibilities. The – what ifs, how’s, and then what’s, all start to voice their opinion. A melee of whispers link up and thus a scenario evolves. At this stage, the whispers get louder, and try though I might, they just won’t go away. The old, safety in numbers thing has happened – united in their intent, they have joined forces and have momentum going. They niggle, prod, and poke at me. They whisper and suggest, and they are not going to shut up until I write the story. The process is very similar to an itch you simply must scratch. I finally give in, open a blank page, and often shout; “right, out with you” and thus the labour begins. I really don’t have a choice: the story has hold of me and not the other way around.

If you are familiar with the 1989 film, “Field Of Dreams” you’ll know exactly what I mean.

Is this the most structured way to write a book? I would say not – but it’s the way my mind works, so it’s the way I write.
With practise, I have learned to work with the natural flow of my creativeness and not against it. Sometimes, as the picture above suggests, you just have to take a leap with a story and see where you land.

I seldom see the beginning of a story. I usually see the middle or even the somewhere near the end first. I work with what I have and the rest will present itself in due course.
I have learned to write the skeleton of the story first. I write the bones of the story as fast as I can. You have plenty of time to add to the story and bump up the action later.
As you write the frame of the story, the characters will show you where they are taking you. Then, with no preconceived ideas as to how the story should end, you are free to pose questions along the way and even be surprised yourself by the outcome.

My advice: find what formula works best for you.
Don’t be afraid to jump and follow your characters lead – with practise, you’ll land safe.
Just a thought

Aug 22, 2009

The 21st Century Woman

Let’s talk about passion.
Chances are pretty-high that your readers will know a thing or two about passion, so if you’re not telling it like it is – it’s lightly your going to loose the reader on this one. Get real about passion. It’s the 21st Century after all, and there’s nothing worse than a bad passion scene in a book. I know we need a build up, a bit of suspense, and a bit of sexual tension, but at some stage you’re going to have to get on with it, and when you do – use all the senses to capture the scene, and don’t be afraid to let the woman take the lead. With a bit of skill and attention to detail, one can paint a very tantalizing picture beautifully as the shot above depicts.
Whether writing with the bedroom door open or closed, when writing about passion keep it real.
Just a thought

Aug 19, 2009

Dog on the run

Here is a character doing something you won’t see everyday.

Take the dog for a run!

Adding something different, as the picture here suggests, is a wonderful way of showing a real quirky side to a character. Stretch your mind to find ways to show characters personality through their actions.

I have a file on my laptop called, “Show Me” and when I find new pictures, I pop them into it. I refer to it for ideas on how to show characters personalities through unusual actions.

Just a thought

Aug 15, 2009

Grab their attention

The simplicity of kids!

As with the picture here, you have to grab your reader’s attention straight off the bat. You don’t have pages to play with. You don’t even have lines to play with. You need to hook your reader straight away.

We all have a certain genre of reading that we naturally gravitate towards, and we seldom swing too far outside that field. When we do, it’s usually because the book in question came highly recommended by someone whose opinion we value.
But, no matter how highly the praise for the book, if you don’t hook the reader with the opening you run the risk of loosing them.

My advice:
Follow the simple logic of the child above. She knew exactly how to grab her daddy’s attention. Grab your reader with the opening.

Just a thought.

Aug 13, 2009

The Truth About Writing


The truth it lies with all its glory-
That voice from deep within,
Once spoken shatters all the lies –
The tangled mass of sin.
I Roche

If one were not a writer, then perhaps one could be forgiven for glamorizing the art. Images of basking in the sunshine – pen, notebook, or laptop at hand, occasionally sipping tequila, while inspiration flows freely from the consciousness for the next best seller.
Note – I did say if one were not a writer. For those who are the reality is slightly different.

Here are some truths about writing:

You have to be a writer to appreciate the art.
It requires discipline and hard work.
You have to learn the craft.
You’ll make many mistakes along the way.
Self-doubt will haunt you.
Some days it will flow.
Some days, its one painful word at a time.
You should associate with other writers.
You’d better get use to rejection slips.
Having a thick skin will help.
Experience is the best teacher.
The editor really does know best.
You should lighten up on yourself.
You can enjoy the process as well as the result.
Characters really do take on a life of their own.
You need to read Stephen King’s book, On Writing.
You should you write with the door closed, and then the door open.
The second draft = the first draft - ten% always.
To use adverbs is human - to use, he said, or she said, is divine.
You’ll understand the last three points when you read S King’s book.
You have to write something every day.
Only time and practice will sharpen your skill.
No one can learn it for you.
If you want it bad enough you will stick at it.
If you haven't time to read – you haven’t time to write.
Very few make serious money from writing.
A supportive partner is a blessing.
Life will always get in the way, if you let it.
Be true to your own unique voice.
It takes time, patience, and practice to find your voice.
It's wonderful, fantastic & exciting!
Action = motivation = results = confidence.

Feel free to leave a comment, or add your own truths about writing.

Happy writing

Aug 12, 2009


At a glance, I am sure you would agree the train displayed here is just a tad overloaded. And by no stretch of the imagination is it pleasing to the eye. Ok, the train might still bring them all where they are going, (if it doesn’t collapse under the weight) but the beauty of the train is certainly well and truly lost.

In writing, your stories may begin like a powerful train heading in one direction, but if you overload it with hero’s, heroine’s villains, plots, subplots, and endless little minor characters it’s going to end up like the train depicted above.

Can you imagine trying to take a walk down through that train!

I certainly would not like the challenge.

Remember people read for enjoyment – not for the challenge of seeing if they can wade their way through your book.

Also, in the above picture, very few are lightly to stay on board until the train reaches it final destination. Many will hop off along the way.

Let your story follow the few that are going the full distance.

My advice:
Don’t overload your story.

How to correct it if you have:
Edit, edit, edit.

Just a thought

Aug 10, 2009

Add the soft-touch

Adding the soft-touch to your villain makes your story real. Displaying tenderness in an otherwise tough character is portrayed beautifully in the above picture.
The simplicity of it caught my attention.

The onus is on the writer to provide fully developed characters with which the reader can relate. Nobody is all-bad – even the horrific Hannibal Lecter loved music and was a brilliant pianist. The kitten in the above picture shows a different side to a character who otherwise displays the appearance of being in a ready to shoot mode.

Another wonderful example of this is, “Mr Jingles” the Mouse in Stephan King’s book/film “The Green Mile.” In this amazing piece of penmanship, and using simplicity at its best, King adds a mouse to death-row scene and captures the art of making it real with perfection. Mr Jingles is used to draw out the soft side of a murder awaiting electrocution. With the aid of John Coffie, (the protagonist, seven foot tall and built to match) upset over a dead mouse in his monstrous hands, King blends polar opposites impeccably and creates a lasting impression. His ability to weave a mouse into such a wonderful storyline is a testament to his skill.

My advice:
If you haven’t seen The Green Mile, you need to. If you have, I advise you watch it again from a writer’s perspective, and learn the art of keeping it real with simplicity from the best.

Just a thought

Aug 9, 2009

Love and the Devil are in the details!

I have heard it said that love is in the detail – the devil is in the detail, and description is in the details. But, when writing, be careful NOT to give too many details. Description is vital to paint the picture for the reader, but subtly, using all the senses to engage the reader. Show your reader the red hat only if the red hat is important. You can win or loose your reader in the details!
Just a thought

Let the bride do something different!

How many wedding album have you looked at only to see the same style of photo’s. After a while, they become predictable. You know what to expect, there's no excitement to entice one to turn the pages. One longs for something new.

In the above picture, the bride is portrayed in a new refreshing light and it is fabulous too look at. If I saw that in an album, I would have to turn the page and see what she was going to do next. The photographer skilfully captures both her personality and her beauty. The simple act of sitting on the steps with her shoes off beaming up at the camera shows not only how happy she is, but also her easygoing laidback persona. One could easily deduct from such a picture that she is a real woman comfortable in her own skin. She has no pompous false fronts. No heirs-and-graces – easy company one would imagine.

Isn’t it amazing how much we can take from one simple act? Isn’t it refreshing to see a bride do something different?

It would serve us well to keep this in mind when writing. Let our characters show their personalities. Let your hero’s and heroines show the reader who they are in ways they would not expect – in new refreshing ways, just as the bride above.

We learn all the time.

Aug 7, 2009

Flash Fiction

Flash fiction story writing is an art in itself. The complete story is narrated in anything from 100 to 500 words. The shorter the story the better. To construct a complete story within this word count can be incredibly difficult, but beneficial to hone ones skill to make every word count. Basically, flash fiction is telling the story in a nutshell, and for that, you need a collection of great lines.
These stories cross all genres and are becoming increasingly popular.

The following is one I wrote at an INKwell Writers Workshop. The word limit was 50.

For Sale: Wedding Dress, Unused!

“Lost the nerve,” father said. “Had panic attack,” mother said.
“Got real,” sister said. “Have balls,” brother said.
“Leaving the country, auntie said. “Bloody hell,” uncle said.
“Need a life,” the groom said. “Need prayers,” the priest said.
“Need to be sure!” I said.

With a smile.

Aug 6, 2009

How bad do you want it?

Is your novel the first thing you think about every morning and the last thing on your mind as you turn out the light? Are you prepared to do whatever it takes? Do you eat, sleep, and breathe, your novel? Do you make excuses why you can’t write, or find solutions to any obstacle thrown in your way? And, do you have faith – faith in yourself, and in your writing?

Writing in the morning:
On rising, we are firing on all cylinders, so to speak. After a good nights sleep we are refreshed and our creative juices are more lightly to flow with ease. Personally, I begin around five each morning with a mug of tea, my pencil, and my gratitude journal. Apart from being a great way to start the day, I have found it clears my mind to focus on my blessings first. It also gets me straight into the flow of writing. Then I tap away while the world around me sleeps – content in the knowledge that I am not lightly to be disturbed for a few hours. I can handle Emails during the hustle and bustle of the day. I read at night and my last thought as I turn out the light is always my writing. There are those who don’t believe that the subconscious mind is actively working on our last waking thoughts as we sleep, but, just in case it is, I’m all for stacking the odds in my favour. My attitude is; if standing on my head and wiggling my ears will hep, then, (decrepit spine or not) stand well back lads while I give it a go.

Whatever it takes:
At the end of the day, if you really want to be a novelist you have to be prepared to do what ever it takes. It's pointless thinking, you will do X and Y but not Z. I realized a long time ago that I only needed to do ONE thing to succeed, which is – what ever it takes! You can find endless excuses why you can’t get your novel finished, or you can find a way around every obstacle you encounter. And let’s be real here – life gets in the way. Maybe not every day, but it certainly can throw crap in the mix that can complicate the scenario for you, and that’s when you have to get creative and find solutions. That’s when you have to be focused. That’s when you will discover if you really have a passion for writing.
However, once you have decided to do whatever it takes, it can actually eliminate problems.

How does that happen?

If you have decided to do whatever it takes, then no matter what situation you encounter, you know you have to work your way around it and continue writing.
For example – at present I can’t sit, or at least not without horrendous pain that is. Apart from other spinal complications, I have a fractured tailbone (coccyx) and two slipped discs. The medication needed for me to sit with comfort left me like a zombie and incapable of thinking or speaking clearly, let alone writing. Thankfully, I am reasonably OK both lying and on my feet, I just can’t sit. Not writing was not an option, therefore I focused on finding a solution. Thus, necessity became the mother of invention.

I am writing this on the flat of my back on the sitting room floor – knees bent – laptop on a raiser and a cushion. Two screws stopped the laptop from sliding. Why not my bed you ask. Lying in bed is bad for me mentally. I am not sick. My chassis is injured and incapable of supporting me at the minute, that's all. It's all about attitude.
This way I am up, washed, dressed and moving around. I just lie on the floor to write. Most people sit: I lie on the floor. You do whatever you have to. To send emails during the day, I kneel on a cushion and pop the laptop on the sofa, or stand at the counter-top. When you decide to do what ever it takes, you always find solutions.

Faith in your writing:
Belief comes with practice, practise, and more practice. Learn the art, hone your skills, and associate with other writers at workshops and writing groups. Accept that you will make mistakes. Everyone does. We all have good days and bad days. I highly recommend you read Stephen King’s, ‘On Writing’ (fabulous book) and you will realize it’s one word at a time, for everyone.

In a nutshell – focus on the positive, delete negative, eliminate excuses, practise, practise, practise, write every day, have a little faith in yourself and your writing, and decide to do whatever it takes.

Whatever you do, don't wait for everything to be right, to write!

May your pen always be sharp.