Sunday, 23 June 2013

To Improve, You Must Write.

Now if anything I've ever seen applies to writing, this quote  here certainly does. It's right up there with "practice makes perfect" and "if at first you don't succeed, try, try again."

Writing is a craft, an art and it can take some of us years to master it. Not everything you write will be great, but don't let it stop you from writing. If I stopped writing the minute I wrote something sub-par, I'd have stopped when I started.

I've been working hard this year to improve my writing and the only way to do that is by writing. Not everything I've written is wonderful. I too, have penned my fair share of garbage. But I'm still here, and I'm still writing. You want to know what else, I'm getting better at it. I'm not always able to achieve the effect I want, but I'm getting closer. And that didn't happen by not writing.

If you want to be a great writer, then you have to make time for writing. You have to make time to practice and hone your skills. It's not going to happen over night. You may think that you'll never improve. Trust me, you are wrong. One day you'll sit down, like you always do, and you'll write something and think to yourself "Wow, this is miles better than that other thing I wrote last week." And you'll be right, too. It will be better. Did it happen overnight? No. Would you have improved without practice? No. Did you earn that victory? Hell yes!

Writing is hard, so I don't know why people expect themselves to be perfect the first time out of the gate. Sure, some people are writing prodigy's and they just "get it" but for the rest of us there will be blood, sweat and tears involved.

My point is, don't give up. Not everything you write will be awesome. Not every idea you get will be fantastic. But work at it anyway. You won't get better by brooding.

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Poetry: My First Love

I started writing when I was ten years old, but my first endeavors into creative writing were not short stories, novels or even flash fiction. I started out as a poet. I love poetry to this day, all kids of poetry and recently I've developed a certain fascination with the spoken word. Since hearing 'We Are More' By Shane Koyczan at the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games' opening ceremony, I've been hooked. His poem 'To This Day' makes choke up every time I listen to it.

I don't think I'd ever have it in me to be a spoken word artist, and although I've put poetry on the back burner to develop my novel writing skills, I still love to write it. There's a certain joy in sitting down and pouring a part of your soul into something that is only ten lines long. There's a special joy in letting someone know that you know exactly how they feel.

I want to share with you a poem of mine. It's unpublished anywhere else, so you saw it here first. I must have rewritten it and tweaked it about a thousand times, but I'm finally happy with it. (Though I changed the title slightly upon posting LOL) 

Scattering Ashes

Grey black butterflies
float on a breeze.
Dancing in the wind
they hover in the trees.
Sun kissed wings
gracefully flutter,
over sea and hill and dale,
with sweet serenity everlasting,
a beauty that will never pale.
Like bittersweet memories,
with distance they fade.
A scattering of ashes
remembered as a butterfly parade.

If you'd be interested in reading some of my published poetry, visit this list of my work. 

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

The Importance of Being Edit Ready

I haven't really written much towards writing advice on here, mainly because I'm too busy reading blogs about writing advice, but I wanted to take a moment to say something to new writers. I, myself, though I have completed a novel, still fell like a new writer. So, from one new writer to another....
Photo credit-

Please, unless you are skilled in the finer details of writing and can polish up the little nit picky things yourself, like commas and basic punctuation, please...PLEASE do not pay for an editor to go through your manuscript. It will be a waste of your money and the editors time if your grammar is so bad they can't focus on your content.

Proofreading is vitally important. Learn to do it yourself (or have a friend help you) and save your future editor some headaches and eyestrain. You don't have to be an English professor or anything, but you should know the basics. How to structure a sentence, a paragraph, and a chapter. You should know how to use commas and full stops. You should also know the difference between a comma an an apostrophe. If you want to get the best bang for your buck, you will be able to clean these issues up yourself before you send your baby off to the shredders um...editor.

It doesn't have to perfect. If you could make it perfect by yourself, you wouldn't need to employ the services of an editor. But you should work hard to make it the best you can before you pay someone to edit it for you.

Some people are also under the impression that an editor will fix your manuscript for you. No. They do not. You send away your manuscript and what you get back is your manuscript. They suggest changes based upon the rules of grammar, they point out spelling issues and structural issues. Depending on the depth of the edit, they may even make suggestions about content and story arc. But they do not fix these issues for you. What you get back is a more colorful version of your manuscript. Things will be highlighted. Things will be crossed out, there will be notes in the margins. It won't look pretty. But it is SO worth it to have a good editor look at your work...WHEN it is ready.

A good edit can make all the difference, so make sure you have it edit ready before you shell out your hard earned money.

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Love and Love Gone Wrong

I was thinking about the novel I'm working on and I decided it would be fun to assemble a musical play list to listen to while I write my emotionally charged scenes. I plan to send my character through an emotional shit storm and music helps me draw on the emotions I want to portray. It got me thinking about my favorite love songs and of course, my favorite love-gone-wrong songs. There's something so wonderfully tragic about these songs and I must admit, I'm a sucker for a good gut wrenching song.

On my play list so far:

Painted on My Heart by The Cult

Always by Bon Jovi

I Would Do Anything For Love by Meatloaf

Someone Like You by Adele

Kiss From a Rose by Seal

Iris by The GooGoo Dolls

Truly Madly Deeply by Savage Garden

Now, here's where you can help me out. Send me the names and artists of all your favorite love songs and love gone wrong songs. I'm open to any genre so warm up your keyboard and send those tunes my way. You never know, your old favorite might become my new favorite.

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Magic Fingers

I just wanted to share that yesterday was an amazing day for me. I sat down and wrote 2500 words. This is pretty huge for me as I am usually a fairly slow writer, I'm lucky if I can pump out 1500 words a day, and even that is pretty high. Most of the time I average around 1000.

I am also excited about the story this is for. I've been jumping back and forth between two big projects and while some may argue that it's not super productive to divide your attention between two different novels, I think the division of attention is actually good for me and my writing. I will have to wait and see if this new system of mine is working, but for now I'll take what I can get. 

I'm hoping to do another 2500 today. 5000 words in two days...would that be too much to ask? Ideally, I'd like to finish the draft for at least one novel before summer is over. I feel completely confident that I can do this too. Let's hope I can keep the momentum going. 

Friday, 7 June 2013

Literary Loves

Before I was a writer, I was a reader. I grew up in a house of readers. My Dad didn't start reading until I was a bit older, but my Mom was, and still is, an avid reader. I have them to thank for my love of the written word. Though he devours fantasy novels now, my Dad read a lot of Louie Lamour and Clive Cussler. While they didn't really interest me, my mom's choice in books held my fascination, most likely because I was told I was too young to read them. (No, she wasn't reading erotica)

When I was eleven my mom finally relented and let me read a Dean Koontz novel. Hes' been my favorite author ever since. He's just too brilliant to put into words. His stories drag you along at break neck speed and thrust you deep into his dark and twisted imagination. It is impossible for me to select a single favorite of his from among his extensive list of work. I can't do it. I can't choose just one of his books to label my favorite. I do have a list of favorites, but that's another post. 

Lucy Maud Montgomery gave me Anne of Green Gables and I will forever adore her for that. I must have read those books one hundred times by now. I can't help but get sucked into Anne's world. I feel her pain, her sorrow and her joy right along with her. I really feel like Anne and I are kindred spirits.

In grade eight I went into my schools library and searched the shelves for something different, something epic and fantastic. I selected The Count of Monte Cristo and Dumas delighted me with the wonderful, tragic and heroic tale of Edmund Dantes. I've read the book through a couple times and each time it delights me more than the last. 

Finally, a book you've likely never heard of, at least I've never come across anyone else who has read it or even heard about it. I am David by Anne Holm. It's the tale of a boy that escapes a concentration camp and heads north for Denmark. The whole way, he's terrified of being caught and every time I read it I'm terrified right along with him. 

Last, but certainly NOT least is the man of the hour, George R. R. Martin, author of the epic A Song of Ice and Fire, which has been adapted for television and airs on HBO as Game of Thrones. If you haven't read these books, go read them. Martin took me away to Westeros and part of me will never leave. He showed me people I could love, people I hate, people that are so vile it's hard to stomach them. It is unreal to me, that this epic story could come from the mind of one human being. And George, if you happen to read this, could you please hurry up with that next book. I'm dying to read it!!!

Thursday, 6 June 2013

Focus, or Lack Thereof

Sometimes I feel like it's really hard for me to focus on just one project at a time, like I have a writers form of ADD or something. As soon as I start a project it seems like my head gets flooded with other ideas. Suddenly, I'm completely obsessed with my shiny new ideas and my current project seems a bit lackluster. I'm going to try and stop hopping from project to project, it seems like nothing really ever gets completed that way.
I have developed a plan to maintain my focus on my current project while cultivating the new ideas that pop into my brain. I plan to *gasp* outline. I NEVER used to outline. Never ever ever ever ever. And you want to know something, I think that is why I've only finished one book and is most likely the very reason I'm going to completely rewrite it.

While I'm writing my new book (a ghost story if you're curious) I plan to work on the outline for Unbroken. I really want to nail that down. I also have an idea for something very new and exciting for me. This new exciting idea would normally cause me to jump head first into it and start researching things, writing things...then eventually, in a week or two I would become so lost about what I wanted to do, where I wanted to start, that I would shelve it and go back to a different project.

I'm going to maintain focus. I'm going to let my new and old ideas stew in my brain. Maybe if I can tame the wild writer spirit within me, it will be a slightly more productive wild spirit.

So, if you have any tips on how to maintain my focus, please, leave me a comment.

Monday, 3 June 2013

The Agony and the Ecstasy: First Chapters

The worst part of starting any new project, for me, is actually starting. Once I'm past the first chapter I feel fine, but getting through that first chapter is like walking through waist deep mud in rubber boots. It's slow and messy. Everything about my first chapters always feels wrong, but somehow, once I'm passed that first hurdle and into the story, everything seems to get smoother.

I think part of my problem writing that first chapter stems from the fact that I know it's the make or break chapter. If it's not good fantastic, chances are I'll lose my readers, and while I know I have ten thousand tries to get it right, I can't help knowing, in the back of my mind, that I have to get it right.

For the project I'm starting right now, I've already written three different versions of the opening of chapter. Why? I'm searching for the perfect entrance into the world, that perfect moment where everything begins. The shift in my characters world that changes everything. It's like digging for treasure, but there's no big red X to mark the spot, so I guess I'll just wing it.

First chapters really aren't so bad sometimes. There is a certain thrill that I get when I write a new first chapter. It's the beginning of a wonderful new adventure for me and my characters. But it really is the hardest chapter for me. I think I might start with chapter two instead and write my first chapter when the book is finished.

It could work, you never know.

What's the hardest chapter for you to write?