At the beginning of every year, we decide on what goals we want to achieve. Sometimes we are successful, sometimes not, but it is the thrill of a new year that engages us in this ritual. I make a goal board to help my focus and motivation. It is not just for my writing goals but other personal ones too. As you can see from the image, I have four sections to my board this year – writing, family & friends, finances and health and relaxation.
Interestingly, this board is the most complex one I have ever made. Maybe because there is a stronger motivation this year due to the restrictions we have all encountered. And that is my word for 2021 as well – MOTIVATION.
Do you have a word for 2021?
I have already submitted to several writing contests and began a six week writing course too, so I am on my way. I am also determined to have the first book of my detective novel trilogy, edited and revised by the end of the year, so it can be published. To this end, members of my writing group will be swapping chapters of our current work in progress for suggestions, editing and review over several months. This is such a useful tool, as each person will ‘read’ the story, allowing me (and them) a preview of our novels.
We are all feeling the repercussions of isolation, social distancing and lack of ‘normal’. It has affected everyone in a multitude of ways. For writers, who are normally ‘isolated’ in their writing life, there has been a change in atmosphere, inspiration, alone time and creativity. (Or lack thereof).
Whatever your normal routine, be it the impact of family at home, remote working arrangements or lack of access to resources, we can adjust.
Here are a few tips to try (or not):
One of the best options I have found is a virtual writing time. A group of us ‘meet’ on Sunday’s for a couple of hours. And although for the most part, it is a silent meeting, knowing we are connected helps with motivation and makes us accountable. We share what we will be writing at the beginning of the meeting and then summarize what we achieved at the end.
Outside time – this is vitally important to refresh the mind and body. It can be a walk, a bicycle ride and a hike. Whatever, works best for you within the confines of the social distancing parameters.
Writing space changes. It sounds odd but even a reorganization, a new arrangement of objects, a vase of flowers – can make all the difference. Maybe write in a different area of the house.
Reserve writing time. Make a commitment to write for a certain amount of time each day. As we all have favourite times of day to be creative – this can be before everyone gets up, when they are all asleep or maybe a time when you can be alone in the house. Don’t add to your stress by putting a word count on this time. It can be to write, of course, but also to plot, edit, note down new story ideas or even read some research.
Enter a contest. This idea will either spur you on or not. To create something new can be a good way to engage your Muse. Even if you decide not to submit your work, it is a great way to spark your creativity.
Writing prompts are also a great way to refresh the writing brain. There are a lot of sites and books available on the internet. Try a few, whether they are images, word collections or story starters. You never know where they might take you. Again my local writing group has prompts every Saturday, if you want to try. Link: https://www.wfscsherwoodpark.com/our-blog
What have you found to help your writing during COVID19?
Without the planned author interview blog post for today, I was curious to look at some of my past posts and came across this one from March 2014. It is quite eerie how relevant it is for today.
We are fortunate to have the ability to connect with people from all over the world with the click of a button. Barring time differences we can speak face to face with them as well as converse via various technologies unimagined in quite recent history. Technology can be a burden but also a gift. Personally, I have met other writers from as far away as America and Warsaw, to name just two. People I would never have met any other way. The American writer posted on a non-writing site and our responses to a topic were so familiar we began emailing each other. After several months, we found out our lives were mirrors of each other’s life experiences. This culminated in us visiting each others ‘homes and becoming firm friends. We call each Soul Sister.
The young woman from Warsaw, blogged how she felt alone in her writing, this was a call I could not ignore, so responded with a paid membership to my writers group as we have virtual as well as local members. www.wfscsherwoodpark.com She has since managed to publish her work and enjoys the connection with other writers. This is the positive side of the internet, as well as research possibilities for anything under the sun we care to find out about. Our curiosity for knowledge can be satisfied with almost no effort at all.
However, not all connections can become physical ones and that is the shame of the internet. We cannot jump on a ‘plane at the drop of a hat in order to travel to far away countries to visit these contacts, for the most part. Our ‘relationships’ are limited to short conversations and ‘funny’ Facebook posts. In short it is not a’ true’ friendship with shared experiences but that being said, still important connections for a host of reasons.
How many of you open a conversation in a coffee shop, on a train or bus, even in the food store? People around us are as interesting as those on the computer screen. Has technology taken this ability away? I remember watching my Mother striking up conversations with complete strangers all the time. As a shy child I found this alarming but as I grew up I realized without human contact, we become isolated in a crowd.
We should not be afraid to connect with people – everyone has an interesting story to share after all. Who knows it might be a story idea.
What has been your experience with internet contacts? Has it changed now?
Today’s writing tip
Set your writing goals for every writing session
Outline your aims for a writing session in order to keep yourself focused. It may help to write down what you want to achieve in the next chapter or scene. However, remember, to give yourself elbow room. It is okay to depart from your scene summary if you feel the story should go (or wants to go) in a new direction. Personally, I let the story flow but some writers find writing a pre-scene enables them to maintain a clear sense of direction for each scene in relation to their story arc.
As writers we are always honing our skill and learning new styles and types of writing aid our creativity. I attended two workshops on 29th February, both gave me the opportunity to improve my writing.
As an author, we welcome constructive critique of our work, it is how we grow. So a group of local authors and I spend the first few months of each new year working on our current work in progress. Some are the result of our NaNoWriMo participation, while others are whatever story/novel/project we are working on currently. The premise of these monthly workshops is to read a certain number of chapters each month of each others work, then using track changes edit, suggest and comment on the plot arc, continuity, premise etc. Having a number of different reader’s feedback allows us to identify any inconsistencies and correct them. Obviously, we do not have to take every suggestion, it is after all our work but if there is a consensus of opinion throughout on a specific part, then we can revise and improve them. This allows us to create the best story possible prior to publication.
My project is my steampunk novel, The Commodore’s Gift. Currently 75,102 words, 201 pages, 39 chapters and epilogue. Publishing date September 2020.
The second workshop, I attended was a poetry workshop held by The Writers Foundation of Strathcona County in anticipation of Poetry Month in April. I have to admit that poetry is not my forte, so it did stretch my creativity a bit! We covered several types of poetry: monorhyme, enclosed rhyme, simple 4-line rhyme, coupled rhyme, chain rhyme and alternative rhyme. After an explanation of each style, we then had five minutes to create a rhyme in that style using randomly selected words. The words chosen for the chain rhyme were: after, banana, crafter, panorama, would, bandanna, could, dessert, should. Yes rather a mixed bag and it had everyone struggling, but that’s the point – we cannot learn without effort. I managed this:
Alice’s happy thought was about the contest after
As she ate her second banana
Her final piece as a genius crafter
Showed a glorious textured panorama
Comments from friends confirmed she would
Win the coveted bandanna
Her gumption knew she could
A promised reward when she won – a dessert
Even though her diet negated she should
I even managed to include the ‘extra’ point words of happy, genius & gumption in that one.
What workshop have you recently attended. What did you learn about your writing?
One of the additional skills, writers need is public speaking. This can be a nerve wracking thought let alone practice for the ‘new’ author. There will be author readings and interviews as you promote your book, so knowing how to read from the narrative and talk about the story is important.
Here are a few tips that can help make reading your novel in public easier, once you have the booking.
Visit the venue (if possible) to become familiar with the layout. Ask staff where the reading will take place and if you will have a podium or a chair and table.
When choosing what to read chose a short section with dialogue and action. The opening line should be a hook that says something about the book and hopefully intrigues the audience. Choose excerpts of varying lengths and with varying appeal.
Practice in front of a mirror, ask a friend to sit and listen or video yourself. Notice where you hesitate and read the passage over and over until you know it well.
Once you are confident in the piece practice looking up to engage with the audience instead of having your head down buried in the pages.
As you practice the segment use inflection to elevate the language and avoid a monotone speech.
Practice your reading aiming to be shorter than the time allowed. Using a timer will help keep you on track.
On the day of the reading, arrive early so you can relax and arrange your books for sale in a display.
Ask someone to tweet and record your reading for later promotions.
Once you have read your piece thank everyone for attending and mention your books are available for sale.
There are several options for interviews, prerecorded, live and via social media. Preparation is important so ask as many questions as possible from the host prior to the interview. If possible have a list of the questions they will ask, this is not always possible but they should be able to furnish you with a framework for the interview.
Make sure you are dressed appropriately, smart but casual.
Have your book(s) with you and memorize the blurb.
Know the back story, the protagonist’s motivations, and the genre of the book. This may sound irrelevant but refreshing your knowledge will make the interview more polished. You don’t want to be stumbling with your answers.
Prior to the interview relax with some deep breathing and curb your nerves.
Keep eye contact with your host but also the camera (if relevant) so you are engaging the audience.
Here are some interviews I have done to give you an idea.
TV Interview on Arts Talk – 7th December 2011 – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xtIz3amV_HI Go to 8.22 on the time bar.
TV Interview n Arts Talk: Talking about Clickety Click and my other books on Arts Talk TV show – go to 11.04 on the timeline. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PNl7Db_jGaQ&feature=youtube