Tag Archives: research

Just Because I Write It, Doesn’t Mean I Do It

11 Apr

Yesterdays post was about learning about what you don’t know, to write what you do know. Today we are talking about the fear of telling what you dont actually know, but your reader believing this is your experience.

(That was quite a mouthful for an opening paragraph, apologies for that).

This is, I believe, is a rookie writers fear. I say that knowing full well I still awake in the night panicking that I have written something that may make others think differently of me.

Who cares you say, what does it matter? You are a writer, your job is to tell a story, it can’t always be ‘truly you’. But you must write what you know, and you must give a certain amount of your self to each  story – at least one of the characters must be you.

I think my head may explode with all the contradictory information out there.

Just because you write about an axe murderer, doesn’t mean you are slightly unhinged and could lose it and carry out your protagonists actions in the middle of the night – just because you think it, doesn’t mean you would do it.

Just because you write about airhead blonde girls who have a vocabulary of five words doesn’t mean that is a reflection of you.

Just because you write about a world where everyone has three hands and the sun is blue, doesn’t mean you have been there.

Just because you write about the death of a child and it makes your readers cry doesn’t show you are sharing a secret that no one knows about.

All of this, and everything else you can think of simply says one thing, you are a writer, and to be honest, if your reader believes you lived it, it means you are one of the best.

You can’t always write about what you know, as per yesterdays post, you can’t always tap into someone elses memory, but what you can use is your imagination, mixed in with a bit of empathy.

In my mind, all this leaves is our own demons, our own self doubt I guess. Can it be likened to our multiple personalities? You know, our face for friends, and our face for family? Is it the same demon that says I can’t post that on Facebook, I don’t want (INSERT NAME) seeing that. At what point, as a writer, do you have to accept by writing we are giving away more than the average joe. As a writer you aren’t tight-lipped, you are always talking, every time someone reads your work, your voice is speaking.

Have I lost you?

The point is, all of that contradictory information is correct. Writing is not like being a hairdresser. At best a hair cut lasts 4-6 weeks, a story lasts forever. You may have a good ability with a pair of scissors, but when writing you use your life, your experience, your memories, your observations, your heart your soul (add more cheese here). Every story is a bit of you, just not the whole you.

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Writing What You Know?

10 Apr

Write what you know – Natasha McNeely spoke about this on her blog titled ‘Life Experiences: Why Not add Them To Your Book’.

Read the post, Natasha is very clever and has an idea to get you used to writing about, well, what you know.

I love writing about what I know, and for many writers that I have spoken with, we have in common a love for music for bringing past feelings back to the fore of our minds, to really encapsulate those emotions.

What if though, we need to write about something we have not experienced? How do we create those emotions, how can we make that scene not just real in our minds, but that it translates to the page also.

Obviously the first thing we need to do is research the particular topic. An example would be I was writing a YA novel with an autistic protagonist, not only did I need to have an understanding of autism, but for this piece, it involved a young offenders institute. I needed to know how such a place would affect a teenage boy with autism, reactions for both the protagonist, and those around him.

I have two full notebooks filled with information on this subject. It wasn’t enough though, my writing was limited as it was imagining an emotion, I couldn’t feel it, I couldn’t see it, it was just…bland.

This can be overcome by following step two, speaking with someone who has been in a similar situation.

There was one problem however, I neither knew a teenage boy with autism, or even just a teenage boy who had been in a young offenders. This particular piece has been put to one side. I may pick it up again one day, I like to think when I am a well-known author and people believe in my writing skills enough for me to ask them about such personal issues. as it stands, I’m just Ellie, wannabe writer but probably just a dreamer.

That doesn’t mean to say I havent employed these techniques elsewhere. Now I will share with you how you can steal those memories, those emotions, and make them your own.

I was writing a novel (unfinished, sigh) that involved a chase across Europe. I have visited many places, but to make the novel more authentic, I needed more experiences – I couldn’t afford to travel around for a while, so hijacking memories was my only option.

Fortunately for me, some friends of mine had found themselves stranded in Europe at the time of the Icelandic volcanic ash. On a mission to get home, they flew short flights, and took train journeys, spending each night in a different hostel.

Sitting down, I asked them to walk me through each hostel. From standing outside right through to the small little details such as the cracks on the wall. I wanted to know about staff, other visitors, the little tidbits of conversation overheard when walking by. It sounds simple, but this task can be somewhat tiresome. Some people just can’t get around to the idea of sharing every detail, thinking that, ‘it was tatty but friendly, oh and the walls were orange’ is enough information for you, but eventually they give you so much you couldn’t possibly include it all. Once you have gone through this process once, they are always eager to share, how many people truly want to hear another’s experience down to the finest detail? They get as much from this process as you, the writer does.

One word of warning, if they offer to show you photos, do NOT accept. It will completely ruin the process, that place you have just imagined will be stripped back to reality and the haze will be gone. Keep the haze, the haze is good.

Whose Point of View?

12 Feb

When I am thinking about No Way Out, in terms of its development in how it is told, I have phrases (yes they are already bubbling under the surface) that would not fit into traditional dialogue. So if working this into a script, how do I get around this?

Traditionally if we are writing a novel, we have the freedom to explore the thoughts and mind processes of our protagonist. Should we wish, we can make them completely open, no secrets, no lies, a soul laid bare.

I entered 'soul laid bare' in google images and this is what I got. i thought it was quite emotive.

When scripting, we are to determine the thoughts either through the dialogue, a verabl expression or action, but there is always the chance they are holding something back from the audience, just as we ourselves may choose to edit our conversation. It is the classic sting in the tale, what is the narrator not telling?

I have two paths I am considering right now in terms of how I write this script. One allows for me to explore the depth of what the reader knows, the other is more traditional in its approach.

Option A

I like the fact that the short story was told in reverse. Taking that, I am thinking that Steves story is told from the hospital bed, where he is in a coma. We can return to the hospital bed from time to time, where we will see visits primarily from Michael (the son) and Becky (the cashier). These will interrupt the flow of the story just enough to allow it to take a sharp turn in what part is being told rather than being about the visit.  Steve will be the narrator of his own story in a kind of Shawshank Redemption style (though obviously not with that finesse – I may be good (ha ha) but not that good!

Option B

The alternative is to tell the story from Poppys (wife) point of view. I think this potentially could take us on a completely different journey and have our expectations and emotions turned on their heads in relation to what we would feel with option A. This story would start from Poppy having the miscarriage, and would not necessarilly require a narrator. We wouldnt know Steves thought proceses, just the devastation of his actions to those that ‘love’ him.

To make a definitive decision, I need to confirm the key plotlines that are to feature. This may sound a little strange, after all, we already have the story, we are just making a short long. No we are not.

I could just take the story and fill in the blanks, but I dont think that would be much fun. I have already drawn the conclusion that for me, if writing is a slog, that is how the story reads. Hence why we are mixing this up, playing around considering various angles. So…

I am going to write a synopsis. Now I am not very good at these, and as I haven’t fully decided which perspective this story is to be told from, it could potentially be too long and unbearable to be worthwhile. I am thinking that I should write several. Obviously they would be the same in many aspects, but likewise they will be very different.

Before I begin however, I would really appreciate your thoughts. Have you ever been in this position before? You know, questioned the perspective of the story? Have you any tips for getting round this?

No Way Out – The Challenge

6 Feb

 

Below I have posted a short story. It is one some of you may have seen in the past. The plan, is to take that story, and turn it into a one hour drama for TV, with your help. A collaborative project, where I am looking for ideas as to how the plot shall develop, whilst posting the stages I am completing.

If something came of it then that would be great, but primarily, it is a step by step process for us all to enjoy, share ideas, and see a full piece of work be completed. A challenge to show that writing does not have to be a solitary pursuit, and that we all have skills in different areas. Plus it may help combat this dont trust other writers attitudes that can sometimes appera through blog world.

I  came up with the idea because I see those in the know share how you get through a project, without actually showing a complete example. that is not to say they aren’t doing an excellent job, I have often popped in to different sites to grab hints, but just sometimes I want more, and I can see others want more also.

This will be a real challenge for me. I am expecting criticisms for my steps, and possibly some arguments about how the plot develops. namely because I am somewhat of a control freak, so this will be an exercise of letting go, learning to accept that just because it is my idea, others are able to give useful insights and advice as to how looking at parts from another perspective can make something truly amazing.

So this weeks task is to read through the story, and identify the parts that make you want to ask questions. And if you wish to share them, which questions come to mind.

NO WAY OUT

Dressed in black jeans and a navy hooded sweatshirt, Steve walked towards the bank. The smell of fried onions and hot dogs filled the air mingling with the smell of his sweat. He really didn’t want to do this but his hands were being forced.  Like a bomb ticking, he could hear the town clock, pushing him forward.  The once cold loaded gun was now warm and clammy tucked down the back of his trousers. Steve could feel his pace slowing. Conscious that he couldn’t afford to lose time; he forced himself forward, pushing the door to the bank open.

As Steve stepped in, he pulled the hood up and over his head. The scent of polish and perfumed air freshener, familiar to Steve from previous visits to the bank, was trapped inside the fabric of his hood; the smell so overpowering his head began to spin. The clock said 16:09. Steve approached the counter.

She was young, maybe 19. Her skin was creamy, and Steve was instantly drawn to her. Her hair was mahogany and framed her face. It emphasised the deep brown of her eyes that pulled Steve in. Smiling, she asked,

‘Can I help you sir?’ She seemed genuine, shame really, they could do with more people like that in banks. Normally they were so stand offish.

Almost in a whisper, Steve lent forward and pushed his blue bag towards the cashier. ‘Fill it up’ Looking confused, the cashier smiled again, ‘Sorry sir, can you repeat that?’

She really wasn’t getting this. ‘I said fill it up, NOW’

Hands shaking she began to fill up the bag, none of the other cashiers appeared to be paying attention, which was lucky as he really shouldn’t have raised his voice. Steve noticed her name badge, Becky. It suited her, another day, another time he may have thought to ask her out for a drink. Grabbing the bag, he turned to run. The bank was now empty. He could hear sirens in the distance. Running to the door he realised she had fooled him, they all had, but that Becky, she was going to get it. The doors were locked. Reaching for his gun he turned back towards the cashiers. Becky was just staring at him, noting every detail (he thought). Holding his aim he pointed the gun at her, just one pull of the trigger is all it would take. From the corner of his eye he could see movement, he was trapped, and there was no way out. He saw the policeman’s gun, he saw the trigger pulled, he heard no sound, he just saw darkness.

***

Looking at his watch, Steve climbed into his blue Audi estate. They had bought the car just last year when Poppy, his wife, had fallen pregnant again. What was he going to do, it was only 2.30pm, if he turned up at home now, Poppy would guess there was something wrong, and she had suffered enough stress recently, she, well both of them, could really do without this.

Driving away from the office, Steve headed towards the town centre. He could park there and work out what he was going to do. The last thing he had considered was that he would get made redundant. There was no escaping it, of course. Every time you turned the news on, or read a newspaper, the figures for unemployment were on the rise. But this was Steve, winner of top salesman last year.  Although they didn’t actually say it, Steve knew he was out because of the amount of time he had taken off recently; consequently, his sales had suffered. Sure they understood at the time, Poppy had miscarried, and then suffered with severe depression. She couldn’t look after Michael, their three year old son, so it had only been right for Steve to take compassionate leave. Strange how quickly things change when financial times get hard.

At 5pm, Steve headed for home. He’d be there just in time to make Michael’s tea. Earlier than usual, but not so early to be obvious. That afternoon, he had visited the job centre, and signed up to the recruitment agencies, but the signs were not looking good, not at all. He had been told in the job centre, he wouldn’t be able to sign on, too much in savings, what they didn’t understand though, was those savings wouldn’t be there in a couple of months without any income.

Approaching the house, all was quiet. Normally he could hear Poppy shouting at Michael for something or another, poor kid, it wasn’t his fault.

Pushing the door open, Michael ran out into the hall, dressed in blue jeans and a red t shirt, he looked more like thirteen than three. His brown curly hair bounced up and down, just like Poppy’s did when she wore her hair loose. ‘Daddy’ he shouted as he ran at Steve to be picked up.

‘Where’s Mummy?’ Steve said, almost to himself.

Putting Michael down, Steve started to look around the house, his heart beating frantically. Last time he had got home and Poppy wasn’t waiting, she had overdosed in the bath, leaving Michael to watch the television downstairs. If Steve had been just five minutes later, the chances are she wouldn’t be with them now. Heading up the stairs, he could hear moaning; not again thought Steve, after all they had been through, he thought they were passed this. Pushing open the bedroom doors, Steve’s legs froze. Ice cold, but clammy, Steve felt like his insides were going to explode. There on the bed was Poppy, with another man.

***

Clambering out of his bed to the sound of the post, Steve felt rotten, the culprit, the empty bottle of whisky by the bed. Looking around the room, Steve felt the contents of his stomach rise to his throat. The yellowing wallpaper, from the previous tenant who was a heavy smoker, was now peeling away from the walls. The ceiling was speckled with damp which left a heavy dank smell in the room no matter if the windows had been opened. All of this was made worse by the sparseness of the furnishings, a bed, a hob, and a single cupboard. Other than his clothes strewn across the floor, that was all there was. Touching his head, in the hope it would stop it spinning, Steve wandered across his bedsit to the door, where a single letter lay. Turning the envelope over, Steve was dismayed, of all the things; it was from the CSA, demanding more money.

That day he hadn’t just lost his job, but his wife, his home, and in a sense his son too. Steve got to see Michael every other weekend now. Each of those visits was like torture, as Steve could not buy for Michael the things he needed, let alone wanted. Steve wouldn’t even consider bringing Michael to the bedsit, as a result, if the weather was bad, Steve would end up dropping Michael home early. It just didn’t seem fair, he had been everything a good husband and father should be, and yet he was being hounded like the guilty party.

The worst part though was the shame that now filled Steve’s every waking moment. Prepared to forgive Poppy for her lapse in judgement, Steve had worked hard to reconcile their differences, and tried to take responsibility for Poppy’s action. What he hadn’t known at the time was Poppy had been having an affair for the past two years, and it was quite possible that the child she had miscarried hadn’t been Steve’s at all. As a result of her own guilt, she had tried to take her own life; for fear that the truth would come out. The truth was she just didn’t love Steve any more.

Steve had moved from the family home when Poppy had finally told the full story. What with the mortgage still to pay, not to mention all the bills, Steve found himself with limited funds. Unable to keep up the repayments on the car, it had been taken away by the debt collectors, and it wasn’t just that. Practically anything he had had been able to claim as his own had been taken. Now, Steve was working in a fast food restaurant, barely making ends meet. With this latest letter from the CSA, Steve now had no choice, find money somewhere, or find himself in prison.

Self – promotion. Are we allowed to sleep?

10 Oct

Today is the final submission day for a Cuppa and An Armchair. I am sure you are all aware of this as many of you have already sent me your shorts.

So far this project has been a real learning experience. You would think, having done a book before it wouldn’t be anything new, but you would be very wrong.

A Simple Guide was a massive flop. One simple reason, I didn’t follow my advice. That book focused on how to do it all, but I wrote it without having experienced it, I had just completed months of research. Now, I will say, my learning was very thorough. I have applied everything I learnt during those months of research, and the bits I have picked up on since, to promoting the submission process of A Cuppa and An Armchair.

What I suspected, but didn’t really understand, was the hard work that promotion involved. I have spent on average two hours every evening trying to get the word out for the project. I have hopped online at every given opportunity throughout the day also. This would have been easier for FB status update and tweets had my Blackberry lasted a bit longer. Since being dropped, I think it had survived longer than could be reasonably expected. All the same…

So what is this promotion?

Well obviously there has been this blog. I have been very wary about just writing project related posts but I am not convinced I have provided enough variation. My main consideration was about not wanting to annoy my regular readers. There is something known as too much promotion. Personally it drives me mad when I am reading other writers blogs and it is all about their current WIP. Don’t get me wrong, this is fine if that is all your blog has ever been. What I’m saying is I don’t want my blog to be about one thing only. That is not where I am at the moment and I don’t want to lose readers because they may think I am.

Sticking with the blog I have tried to spend time reading new blogs, commenting, trying to spread the word. I haven’t been as successful as I would have liked, mainly because I haven’t done it anywhere near enough. promotion scares me, I don’t want to be a spammer…

On Twitter I have become a spammer lol! This was most obvious the day I discovered the problem with the email. Ahem, the day Charlotte told me about the problem. I just had to get the message out there. The only way I could do this was to keep posting the same thing over and to ask for others to retweet. Other than that I sent DMs to many tweeters, and attempted to join in with the conversations. Twitter is definitely my weak point, I’m not sure I fully understand it. Either way I gave it a good go and I am pleased with my progress.

Now Facebook i dreaded. How many times have you been told that Facebook is not the place to promote? Well, sure, the amount of effort I put in, hunting down writers, being inventive with updates and such, may not have been reflected in the ‘likes’, however, we have still managed to get up to 61 likes as of this evening. Bearing in mind A Simple Guide sits at 57, I am certainly not complaining. Now I know many writers have a higher following on Facebook, but I have been at this for a little over a month. We haven’t even put the book together. If the page grows at this rate, by the time the book is released, I shall be ecstatic.

I have dabbled at Google+, thought about LinkedIn and many others, but I decided to concentrate on my three main areas. I am glad I made this decision. I think I would have spread myself too thin otherwise.

So I guess I should get cracking with organising the shorts for the panel to read, plus a little last-minute tweeting and FB updating. I am hoping to take a week off from here, just to re group, and consider the next stages in full before we jump straight in. After all, not only have we had the problem with the email, the submission date has got somewhat muddled also, whoops! It will never run smoothly when you are doing all the running, but I guess a few rocks keep you on your toes. I am just very grateful that I have my Simple Guide knowledge to help steer me through this process.

As always big thank you to all of you who have shown your support, submitted, or just wished us luck.

Time to stop messing around and talk about the important stuff.

12 Jul

Well it would seem based on the lack of response that I was well off the mark with my post about horoscopes. Hands up, I knew it was a bit of a mad thought, but I was just curious.

Similarly, it would seem there isn’t too much interest in keeping a weekly diary of progress with your WIP. I guess there isn’t really much need what with #LifeListClub, #myWANA and the use of the #amwriting hash tags. I have also noticed many people using ROW80 so your needs are fulfilled. For me however, I need something else. so I shall from now on be posting once a week my progress. It is a chart for myself, and a detailed step by step guide for how  complete my work. Kind of a self-study of my writing.

So let’s begin with this weeks update.

I have written 3,000 words, and I am unsure of what to make of my process.

I generally write in a linear fashion. This week, I have bypassed chapters to get the emotion of each character on the page. This would be related to my choice of music at the moment. It has really allowed me to tap into my characters thoughts, and allowed me to describe the way those thoughts affect the way they behave. as a result, there are ‘bit’ chapters.

I have also jumped ahead as I had chapters planned in my mind that I just needed to ‘clear out.’ Thankfully this has paid off and I feel able to start working on the parts I am less sure of.

Finally, I have also secured images for my characters, Bev, Tom, Jessica and Doris. Once I get my hands on a decent scrapbook (I have a very specific type in mind), I shall show you how I am encompassing images to create visuals for both the characters and main locations.

I am unsure of what to make of my progress because it is like taking a leap into the unknown. I am changing the way I work. maybe it is because of limited ‘writing’ time, or maybe it is because I need to do more research, or just blow dry my hair more often for that oh so important thinking time. (I know its mad but my best ideas come when everything is blocked out by that noise).

So that’s my progress. Hope you have all done something productive this week.

My possible plans for A Simple Guide

27 Jun

I have spent  a lot of time thinking about A Simple Guide to Self-Publishing. I haven’t worked on the marketing of it as I should, there has been something holding me back. Just a niggle, but it has been there.

So what is this niggle?

It wasn’t something I was fully aware of at first, I thought it was self-publishing nerves, the doubts that we all inevitably have. What if our work isn’t well received, what if (and you know how I feel about them) you get poor reviews?

It wasn’t nerves.

When I spoke about the guide, I found myself having to explain the book more in-depth than I feel  necessary. Was it that I hadn’t nailed the blurb enough to create a short explanation? Did the fault lay with me?

Nope, not that either.

As I read blogs, and chat on twitter, I find myself (hopefully) advising people on the steps that they can take to make their own self-publishing experience a little easier. There is something very strange about what I am telling people, IT ISN’T IN THE BOOK.

And that’s the problem.

My guide isn’t as comprehensive as my knowledge. It certainly takes you through the basic steps, and I can, quite happily, hold my head up and say my guide does exactly what I set out to do.  It is great for all of those who want to consider self-publishing that haven’t already got a blog – for those truly at the beginning of their long journey. I know this because I have spoken to many people who are at that very stage. I think as ‘bloggers’ we fail to realise the amount of knowledge we gain from one another about various areas of the industry. I am not even convinced when we sign up for our blogs we know what the purpose of that blog will eventually be.

So I’m thinking…

I interact with writers on a daily basis, each at different stages of their career, each with their own goal. The one thing they all have in common is that they have already done the hard part, they have opened up to the world that they write. they want to have their work read. So the question I am now left with is, what can I do for them?

I have 'borrowed' this image. Click on it if you want to know where it came from. (The site itself doesn't provide the source and I am totally confused by the proper way of doing this image thing!)

I have several options;

* Write ‘A Guide to Self-Publishing’

* Forget about the writing a book thing and just continue to throw out advice as and when someone asks

* Update the existing guide, filling it with everything. It will intrinsically make it less ‘simple’, but it will certainly answer all the questions.

So what do you think? I have to say I am slightly stumped by what to do. My gut tells me to make ‘A Simple Guide’ free, once I have written a more comprehensive one. The idea being you will download the first one, like my interpretation of the process, and then buy the new one. However, I really like being free with my information, and I love helping people. At the end of the day, self-publishing is the one industry that says ‘hey, look at me, im free’ but when you take a closer look, free it definitely isn’t.

The problem with writing a more in-depth guide is I know it will be extremely time-consuming. On such a tight schedule, can I afford to undertake a further project? Sure, I say I have more to add, but I would never add the information without checking it several times first. I would say my writing tends to be 90% research, that is a LOT of time.

As writers we are always seeking perfection. Our last draft is never final in our minds (even if it is on the shelves of Waterstone’s). I don’t think my doubts are that. I want to be proud of what I have done, and I am, I just think I could do more.

Am I rambling? I would love to know your thoughts. Oh and yes, this is self-doubt. (For the record I am afraid of  writers that do not show self-doubt, there is something icky about them!)