Archives: Writing Inspiration

Dear Future April

Hey there, future me. I thought I’d just check in and share a few thoughts. I want you to read this later carefully whenever you’re having one of your ‘moments’. Read, take heed, and step away from the brink. 

So, hopefully you’re still carrying on with 1000 words a day. It certainly works for you, and even if sometimes you get stuck, you can write some random stuff just to hit your word count. Most days it’s not a challenge, but some days it is, and having that 1k target keeps the wheels turning. 

Because I know you really well, I KNOW you will have toyed with the idea of writing more, of pushing yourself harder. You know, like those super-fast indies you hear about. But, dear April, do you not remember the time you published seven books in one year and burned yourself to a crisp? Do you not recall your tattered mental health and inflamed wrists? Well, I do. And so should you. 

Furthermore, I’ve done the maths, and if you want to publish even one more book a year (three instead of two), you’ll need to write 1600 words every weekday and cut your editing time from three months to two. That’s a big leap, April. You can write 1000 words every day no bother, but 1600 is 60% more. Will you be able to take the time you need to really think about the story if you’re pressing yourself 60% harder? Yes, maybe two books a year won’t be enough, but you need to at least try before attempting to do more. 

Here’s the thing: you don’t respond too well to pressure, April. Your Muse tends to shrivel up and then you panic, which only scares the Muse more. Without pressure, you can take your time with the story – while publishing two books a year. That ain’t too shabby, April. Not shabby at all. 

Also, take your bloody dictaphone with you whenever you go out. It’s better to record an idea and not use it than forget it completely. 

Also also, you are a headlights writer. Stop trying to be something you’re not. You’re not a super-organised planner or a crazy pantser. You’re a headlights kinda gal. You need to take some time to think out the next couple thousand words or so. It makes the writing fun, and so much easier. 

Last but not least, keep doing yoga, April. Seriously. Your back needs yoga. And maybe drink a little less. No? Okay, I knew that one was a long shot.

Big hugs, 

Past April

Book Babies

Quick update from yesterday: I sorted my cards into piles, then typed out the story as far as I could (in very broad strokes) then talked the rest of it out on a walk. I realised I was lacking a rise in stakes for the final act, so I started brainstorming, and came up with a cool new development for the whole story. This is how a book evolves, my friends. 

Today, I didn’t brainstorm (don’t know why; you’ll need to ask my gut). Instead I opened Scrivener and started writing Chapter One. I had fun. Lots of fun, actually. Well, not WOO HOO PARTY! fun, but just a quiet, solid enjoyment. It felt good. Really good. I’ll keep writing until I get stuck, and then I’ll go back to brainstorming. 

Now, some writers can write their way through sticky patches. Their Muses fire up during the process of drafting. But mine doesn’t work that way, and I’m slowly coming to accept it. If I don’t know where I’m going and I keep writing, all I do is drain myself and make myself miserable. It’s not laziness, I promise. I know the difference. For whatever reason, my brain needs peace, downtime, and some scribbles in a notebook or rambles in a dictaphone to sort itself out and move forward once more. 

Which brings me to the tired metaphor of writing books as birthing children. A woman can be young, fit and healthy, and do everything right during pregnancy, and still have a difficult birth. No matter how hard she pushes, no matter how much pain she can endure, the baby will not come out. It’s not her fault, or the baby’s. It’s just the unpredictable complexity of Life. 

We can readily accept the role of chance in a physical process like giving birth, but it’s more difficult to accept it with regards to a mental process like creativity. Because we can manipulate some of our thoughts, we believe we’re in charge of our brain. Ha! That is a ridiculous notion. We’re in charge of some bits, but mostly, we’re just clinging on for dear life.

Back to writing. Sometimes we can set ourselves up for greatness. We can read widely, study grammar, free-write each morning upon waking, maintain proper posture, block out distractions, and we can write and write and write, even when it’s hard and painful, and still, despite all of this, the story won’t come. It’s not our fault, or the story’s. It’s just Life. 

So if you’re like me, and your Muse doesn’t respond to ‘just push through it’, then that’s okay. You’re not lazy. You’re not weak. You’re not wrong. Take a step back. Seek help. Tend to that story and give it what it needs. More importantly, tend to yourself, because you can’t look after your story properly if you neglect your own needs. 

And so ends my take on this tired metaphor. I’m gonna get back to writing 🙂 

star trek the next generation baby GIF

Mozart in the Jungle

Image result for mozart in the jungle

What a bloody brilliant show this is. I binge-watched all four seasons in like, six days, and then I learned that AMAZON HAS CANCELLED IT. According to the Hollywood Reporter “the move is…in line with the [new chief]’s directive to shift away from niche indie projects and deliver broader, big-budget swings in an attempt to land the next Game of Thrones”.

Well fuck that. God, instead of trying to replicate the last, inimitable big hit, why not do something bloody interesting and new and different – something like Mozart in the bloody Jungle.

I’m mad. And sad. And just…ugh. 

(And this new wordpress editor is still the most ridiculous, convoluted piece of crap.)

But, despite my rage, I’m also feeling inspired. I want to make good art. I want to make my own, unique art. And in this new age of publishing, there’s room now for niche indie projects. 

So I’m off to write. 

Season 4 Dancing GIF by Mozart In The Jungle

What Is Going On?

Urgh. WordPress have forced this new, unnecessarily complicated editor on me and I’m all confused. (I’m easily confused. I’m technologically stunted.)

But apart from that, something even stranger has happened. 

stephen colbert omg GIF by The Late Show With Stephen Colbert

On Saturday I was listening to Wolf Totem, by James Horner, and an idea hit me out of the blue: a complete story idea, with characters, world, and a general gist of the character arcs. Like, the kind of vivid idea I had when I cooked up The Night Mage. 

And this new idea…it was for Beauty and the Beast. 

(Cue me gasping in disbelief.)

Beauty and the Beast? Seriously? I thought I’d beaten that thing to a pulp. But no…it seems there’s a determined wee bugger in my brain that wants to write that story after all.

So, I’m not abandoning Midnight Shrine. No way. But I am going to play with this Beauty and the Beast idea on the side, and see what happens.   

Tomorrow is Mine

Okay. Another day, another day of figuring stuff out. Today, I realised that I need to get back to the keyboard. If I rest for much longer, I’ll allow this bloody Block to grow into a monster. I can’t give it that power. I have to pick up my sword and keep hacking. 

Saying that, I needed a break. It was honestly my first one in years (except five days I spent in New York where I’d written 30k the previous week). I mean, I’ve not written every day all this time, but I’ve always been attempting to write a novel. Always. My brain has not once switched to the off position. And for that reason, I believe this break of two-three weeks has been necessary. It’s also something I need to incorporate into my schedule on a regular basis. 

HOWEVER, I think I’ve been guilty of giving up too easily on projects, especially in the last year. In the past, I’ve had ideas that have walked into my head and then onto the page, resulting in completed books (The Night Mage was one of them). I’ve also had many ideas that have stuttered and failed, mostly resulting in half-finished manuscripts. Because of this, I think I’ve come to believe that I can only finish a book if the original idea dances into my brain on top of a glittery unicorn.

If I believe this, I’m not going to have a long-term career writing fiction. That’s the brutal truth. Funny thing is, I know that writing is a grind – and I’ve been capable of great grinding, believe me – but it’s like I’ve forgotten it. Maybe months and months and months of Failure and feeling like UTTER SHIT has slowly morphed my thought process. Well, this break has given me perspective. Just because some books have been glorious, doesn’t mean they all will be. And if I wait around for the glorious ones, I’m not going to produce enough content to earn a living. #hardfacts

So, I’m getting back in the saddle.  Today I’m going to go to a coffee shop with my notepad, and think. No pressure – simply think. Perhaps one of my previous ideas can be resuscitated, or perhaps I’ll find the spark of something new. 

I’m also making some general changes, to stop myself falling so far down the hole again.

  1. I’m adding more activity into my life. Maybe some people can write all day every day, but I’m not one of them. As I said in my previous post, my Muse is a vampire. It needs rest and darkness, and my well of ideas needs refilling. I also need to do something about the horrible loneliness I feel throughout the day, so hopefully a wee volunteering gig will help.
  2. I’ve found a little pocket of the internet where I like to engage with writers. I’ve been searching for a space for so long and think I’ve found it at last. This should make the daily slog a little less gruelling.
  3. I’ve acknowledged that I’m way too hard on myself, and that needs to change. Hopefully, with the help of a counsellor, I can learn to be kind to myself while maintaining my ambition. 
  4. I’ve given up caffeine and refined sugar (for the most part) because they make me ill/mess with my mood. Hopefully this will alleviate the dreaded afternoon slump. 
  5. I’ve accepted that books take a loooooong time. I can’t write a book a month or anything like it. I think my range will be one-three books a year, depending on the project(s). 

Lastly, I’m reminding myself that I’m not a failure. I am a fighter (wooyeah! I’m blasting the Bayonetta soundtrack as I write this) and I AM COMING FOR YOU, BOOK. 

Filling the Void

I woke up this morning and wondered how to keep myself busy today. How can I write when I don’t have a book? How do I force myself to rest, to take a much-needed break from novels? How do I stop working towards the thing that needs to be done?

So I remembered Chuck Wendig has prompts on his site. His latest was ‘strange photos’, which led me to this:

And then, because I needed ideas to ferment in my head, I kept reading more articles and generally mucking around on the internet, and this post struck a chord, and it led to some more interesting facts. And then I had to look up a new word, and I added it to my vocab list and realised I’d forgotten a few other words already (I keep a note in my diary of all the words I have to look up), and then I thought, hey, why don’t I write a couple of sentences using these words to help me remember their meaning? And before I knew it, the day had filled itself.

Right now, I feel like I’m free to follow the rabbit down the hole, to just chill and have some fun with my writing. I pray to the gods this feeling continues.

(I bought the book about glowing elephants.)