Thursday, December 28, 2023

Reach 'The End'

 


A common problem for creatives can be finishing a project. This can be particularly so if you are struggling and finding it difficult to be creatively motivated or breach an obstacle. Fear of failure, over-editing as you write and writers’ block are a few examples of issues writers can face.

Sometimes it can be beneficial to put a project down and leave it to gestate a while. However, if you find you do this more often than not, and never seem to finish anything you start, it could be time to reassess your approach. Here are a couple of ideas.

Don’t rush yourself. Have patience and trust that you can take as long as you need to complete your work, to ensure it’s as good as it can be and also that you don’t become stressed about trying to reach those infamous words: “the end”.

Familiarise yourself with your productive ‘sweet spot’ – how long you can be successfully creative for in one session. Whether it is 10 minutes or 2 hours, know it and arrange the relevant lengths of time into your daily schedule (in and around your other commitments). This way, if you know you are a 5-minute writer, you can allot 5 minutes and be happy when you finish the time slot, rather than disappointed because you scheduled a one-hour slot and only did 5 minutes!

Finally, have a serious talk with the perfectionist within you. When it comes to redrafting and editing your work, do not allow yourself to go through too many permutations. Agree with yourself at what draft you will send it off for editing and reserve a final draft stage when the editor's results come back to you for finalising the piece. Hopefully you will reach 'The End'!


Thursday, December 14, 2023

Keep Creative

 


I expect we’ve all had moments of lagging creativity, some more than others and some for longer than others. However brief or extended your creative lapse, the first thing we must do is accept it. Creativity cannot be forced.

It is better to honour the fatigue and have patience with yourself. If outside/world influences are to blame, consider Stephen Covey’s ‘circle of influence’ (7 Habits of Highly Effective People). If we cannot personally control it, it is out of our hands and therefore we need waste no energy worrying about it.

Hone your focus: find some replacement stimulation through photographs, music or aroma; work as freely as your mood will allow you (or not at all if it feels best to take time off) and remember to acknowledge even the smallest of achievements.

If you write one sentence, or even one word, praise yourself for it and issue a reward – something as simple as a cup of tea or five minutes closing your eyes and doing nothing. This gratitude will soon cause more creativity.


Thursday, November 30, 2023

See Opportunities

 

When your writing isn’t working out, don’t panic. Set it aside and walk away for a short while. Put the kettle on or take the dog for a walk. It’s not always easy to step back, but even if it’s for a day or half a day it can really help. A moment of light reflection or distraction can work wonders.

When you feel ready to return, ask yourself to see the possibilities; find some alternatives. There will be a way out of that corner you have written yourself into. Somewhere in there will be an opportunity to tweak the story so that it flows again.

If not, be brave. Take the step to side-line the plot you currently have. Repurpose the prose and try a different direction that will still move the story along and take the characters where they need to go. Often these literary leaps of faith prove to be the defining moments in our stories.


Thursday, November 16, 2023

Past Informs Future

 


Writers are often something else first, because many of us are never fortunate enough to become fully-fledged published authors right off the bat. We have been around a while, some of us dipping our toes into more than one profession before finding our writing feet. A plethora of metaphors aside, there was one element of my own past I had not figured into my writing, though I am now grateful for the knowledge.

 

I loved the art of learning Aromatherapy - blending oils and plant essences - much more than learning how to massage people. Like a wise-woman, I could mix potions for rheumatism or scalp disorders or simply create a hormone-balancing face cream. My passion for chemistry (which my 14-year-old self never thought I’d say out loud!) expanded from essential oils into herbology and wild plants or weeds.

Aromatherapy is still one of my main loves, because it speaks to my nature-loving side and my need for natural, organic alternatives to all the modern potions hurled at us today for cleaning our homes or our own bodies. This has provided me with some wonderful pieces in my writing, where characters are able to draw upon essences of nature to cure or persuade.

 

The real surprise, the one thing I hadn’t expected to use, was anatomy and physiology. I’d taken biology at secondary school, but this was more in-depth being as it was for massage use. I explored muscles in a way I hadn’t previously and learned more about bones and bodily systems than a GCSE had given me. It wasn’t a medical degree, but it was detailed enough to become useful when I was writing about Saxon warriors being injured in battles and skirmishes.

There are a multitude of roles a writer must play when creating their written worlds; many hats they must wear as they research and resource material and information on people, food, clothing, transport, topography and more. Anatomy and physiology is one thing I didn’t have to grab a book to read up on, as I had all I needed either still in my head or in work-folders from college. It was a hat I already possessed!

 

It is remarkable how things from your past can inform upon your future in ways you never imagined. And I never imagined I would use this former knowledge to fathom how a sword injury might infect and disable a warrior in early medieval times. Nor how someone might know where to strike their enemy with a sword in battle to kill or merely hinder them.

 

What parts of your past have informed on your future in surprising ways?

Thursday, November 2, 2023

Embracing the New

 


Ring in the new. Ring out the old. As another year draws to a close, we are often talking about what a new year will bring and the elements of the old year we are pleased to leave behind. We begin to sift through our lives to uncover what worked, or did not work for us over the past year. It is a time of reflection and redirection.

This is also the main concept of rewriting and editing your novel. As you revisit your work, you should ask yourself what new things you can bring to your work – what can you allow in and what must be relegated to the reject pile? How can you make this draft of your story better than the last? What IS working and what is NOT working?


As in life, so with your writing always be open to new ideas and changes you can make. Consider amendments that will alleviate plot problems. When something isn’t working or you are at an impasse, ask yourself if there are any new themes you could embrace. Can you alter the fate of a character, or at least a part of their journey, to enable the story to flow better?

Never be afraid to allow new ideas to form and changes to release you from blocks or setbacks in your writing. Be brave and look for alternative solutions. Ring in the new if the old is no longer viable. See light where there had once been darkness.




Thursday, October 19, 2023

Find your Author Power


Empowering yourself as an author has so much to do with mindset. If we believe in ourselves, the hard part has been accomplished. However, this is so often the stumbling block for many creatives. You can erase self-doubt by boosting your self-confidence in a few ways.

If you meet self-doubt down a dark alley in your mind, walk past it; leave it in the shadows and head for the light – work through it by writing yourself away from it. Getting creative will leave your mind little space for sinking into doubts and fears. If it’s a long alleyway, take small steps that can broaden as you gain confidence and therefore move more swiftly to success.


Be comfortable in your creative process. There is nothing more sapping on your creativity than an uncomfortable chair, or a pen or laptop that won’t cooperate! Find the best place and the best method to write, even if your choices sound crazy to others. Write what you want and how you want, otherwise it may not happen at all.

Lastly, never believe you know everything. Creative journeys involve ongoing learning, so don’t be afraid to make mistakes and learn from them. There is continual room for improvement and it is part of the fun of creating!





Thursday, October 5, 2023

Find the Flaws


A good part of writing believable, 3D characters is ensuring your readers find an emotional connection. If your protagonist is too perfect, no one will be able to relate to them. We spend most of our lives downplaying our best skills, hiding behind humility and chiding ourselves for our mistakes. No one can relate to a character who gets everything right ALL the time and truly believes in themselves without exception!


Find the flaws. Weed out the vulnerability of even the hardest villain and toughest heroine. Seek moments of tenderness, where the reader can catch the smallest glimpse of reality behind a character’s usual fa├žade. When I sculpt all my characters, the first thing I do after physical description is list their flaws and weaknesses. It is somehow easier than attempting to list strengths. I prefer the latter to be the shortest list as well.

Try it with your existing characters or give it a go when you next have to design a brand-new character. Flows and weaknesses are much more interesting and will result in more exciting story stakes.