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?
I attended a creative workshop a couple of Saturday’s ago held by my writer’s group, The Writers Foundation of Strathcona County. The topics were POV and plot lines. We had several warm up exercises and an explanation of the various POV types and the variety of plot structure methods. Then with a timed exercise of twenty minutes, we had to write a short story using those techniques but with a title and a genre picked from a bowl. My title was Clue of the Painted Hand in a children’s book style. Although the last couple of paragraphs were added later, I think I did pretty well to have characters, plot, and a beginning, middle and finally an end!
Clue of the Painted Hand
Daisy pulled at her mother’s hand as they entered the library. It was her favorite place. Books let her escape to other worlds and made her feel less lonely. An only child, Daisy looked like a mini replica of her mother – blonde, brown eyes and slim -the only difference was the flower shaped birthmark on her right cheek. The reason she was called Daisy.
As usual there were lots of people in the library browsing book shelves and she saw a small huddle of younger children were listening to story time. Daisy felt too old for the short picture book stories and felt proud her reading age was ten years old, more than her real age of seven. She surpassed most of her school class mates in reading.
She looked over to see her mother talking to a friend so made her way to the book shelves in her favorite section – mystery adventure. Daisy loved jigsaw puzzle when she was younger, solving the patterns to create a whole picture. Now it was the same with stories. She would figure out the answer to the clues in the narrative before the end, most of the time.
Sitting cross-legged on the floor, Daisy ran her fingers across the book spines reading the titles. If one interested her, she took it out and read the explanation on the back. One by one she piled up books beside her. She could take out ten books and always finished them before the next Saturday. One book pulled another off the shelf and Daisy dropped them on the floor. As she lay down to grab one from under the shelf her fingers encountered another book shoved under the wooden base. After several tries she prised a dusty old book from under the shelf. It was an old book, its cover tattered and dusty. Daisy used her sleeve to wipe the dust off the cover. The title was immediately interesting – Clue of the Painted Hand. Oh this looks good, she thought. Turning the book over and opening it, she realized there was no library stamp of barcode. How long has it been there? Looking side to side, Daisy felt a real thrill – a book I can keep! A shiver of excitement and guilt went through her young body. No-one would know, she could put it in her coat pocket without anyone seeing. Her curiosity could wait no longer; opening the first page a map covered the first two pages. As she traced her finger over the markings and named streets, she recognized one – Hampton Avenue, where she lived. How could a book hidden under a shelf have a map of her town?
“Daisy, are you ready to go?”
Her mother’s voice startled Daisy and she quickly put the book in her pocket before picking up her selected library books. With the books scanned, they returned to the car. Daisy kept her excitement to herself but raced upstairs as soon as they arrived home. Now I can read the clues and find whatever treasure there is. It only took an hour to read the book. It told the story of an old Jack in the Box made by a master toymaker, who lived in the town many years before. His shop sign was a painted hand. This particular Jack in the Box had a musical mechanism and a doll instead of a jack, which popped up. Daisy read the clue, traced the map’s tracks and realized the location of the box was in the play ground behind her house.
She walked through the back garden, through the gate and counted steps just like the map said – one, two, three – until she reached twenty-five steps. Standing beside an overgrown old fountain, she pulled ivy and weeds away. The instructions said there was a secret detail to push in sequence. Daisy brushed away dirt and old leaves to find the stone carved like a bunch of daisies. She pressed the first petal it did not move, then another. Gradually, she discovered the petals that did move and marked them with a thumbprint. Now how do I press them in the right order? She sat down cross-legged and looked at the stone decoration. It was a posy of daisies, the stems long and disappearing into the weeds. Maybe I should pull these weeds out as well. Her thought propelled her into action. The flower stems were encased in a stone vase decoration with faint lettering on it. After rubbing the grime off with her sleeve, the words were clearer. A riddle! How exciting.
I’m at the peak
Then to the right
Follow me to the base
And reach to the left
A final center will release
Daisy read the riddle three times then pressed the loose petals, top, right, left, bottom and center. A grating sound alerted her to something moving. The vase shape pushed forward to reveal a void. Sitting in it was a dusty square box. With nervous excitement, Daisy pulled it out of its hiding place and wiped it clean. She knew her mother would be upset with all the dirt on her clothes but the treasure was worth it. Gently, she wound the handle on the side of the box until the lid burst open to reveal a beautiful blonde doll, head to one side holding a book and smiling. Music started to play and the doll’s head moved side to side just like if she was reading. This is so beautiful, she looks a little like me. Blowing gently she rid the doll and its book of a layer of dust. That’s when she saw the title of the book – Daisy the Adventurer. It is me! How can that be? Another mystery for me to solve but maybe I will need mother’s help. With great care, Daisy pushed the stone vase back into place, pulled the ivy and weeds back over the fountain and walked home cradling her treasure.
I hope you liked it.
Which plot method do you think I used? Story map, Story Flow Chart or Story Mountain?
It took some time to decide whether I would participate in NaNoWriMo this year. I have participated ten times in all and each time have created novel or novella length manuscripts. Most have been revised and edited over the following year or so to become published books. Some quicker than others it must be said. My very first NaNo in 2009 resulted in a work not published until last September! Yep 9 years. This was due to it being my first full length manuscript, my novice writing and self doubt that it was worthy of publishing. I revised and edited almost every year until I took the plunge, finally satisfied it was finalized.
However, in regard to this year’s NaNo, my first stumbling block was the two draft novels I have pending, which are previous year’s NaNoWriMo manuscripts. Again I know they need revisions and editing prior to submission to a publisher. My struggle was should I work on these manuscripts rather than create another one?
Secondly, I have several events to attend during November, which will take me away from the vital writing time needed for NaNo. As we all know every minute counts during November. Will I have enough time to succeed?
Thirdly, although I browsed the multitude of saved short stories in my laptop folders, I was not convinced any of them were novel length material. Or maybe it was my Muse not being excited enough about them – who knows? So I pondered what ‘new’ story I could write. Nothing I thought of seemed the elusive ‘it’ until just as I was drifting off to sleep an idea burst into my mind. It gave me a rough timeline, one character and the inkling of a plot. Knowing that relying on memory is a writer’s mistake when ideas pop up, I got up and wrote it all down. Subsequently, I have managed to decide on my two main characters, their location, some backstory and a timeline.
So I am as ready as I can be for 1st November. If you would like to connect on the NaNoWriMo site I’m MandyB.
Many of us experience, from time to time, the dreaded writers block, that awful feeling while staring at a blank page or screen when words do not flow but what happens when there are too many story ideas bombarding our brains? It can be just as debilitating as staring at that blankness. Bizarrely the symptoms are quite similar – crippling indecision, procrastination, and even insomnia and anxiety.
As writers we usually have numerous story ideas bouncing around inside our heads usually gleaned from something we see or hear. This may seem like a good problem to have, however, the dilemma is how do we ensure these golden nuggets are not lost or are even worth investigating? We can make frantic notes, some which, unfortunately make no sense whatsoever later on! That middle of the night scribble is so common. But timing is everything – musing over where a new idea could possibly lead, can lead to a devastating interruption to a current project. So how do we identify if this ‘new’ idea is worth pursuing without jeopardizing our current writing?
There are strategies we can employ to enable us to identify the ideas that are worth keeping – here are a few.
a) Leave the chaos of your writing space with pen and paper or recording device and go for a walk. Once you are in a new environment the most exciting and prominent idea(s) will stay with you. Write or record them and let your imagination flourish with them for a while.
b) Restrict your time on musing about new ideas by setting yourself a time limit. Even a ten minute burst of inspirational writing will ensure you get the idea down but not ‘waste’ too much time on it. Once it is written put it to one side and continue with your current project, safe in the knowledge the idea has been dealt with.
c) Take some time to really dissect the new idea. Can you envisage the plot arc, the ending, the characters? If the majority of the narrative reveals itself to you, then mark it down as your next project. However, if the idea is vague, do not pursue it – just jot down the outline and file it for another time.
d) Utilize your passion when defining whether an idea is worth reflection. If it excites you or is on a subject you feel passionate about then it should be considered in depth.
e) Get yourself an idea board. Organize each idea into genre or categories and when a new plot, character or scene comes to you place it with the other components of that particular story or idea thread.
f) Bounce your ideas off a few trusted friends or members of your writing group.
Not all ideas will make it and that’s okay. Use your internal writer instinct to guide you on which idea excites your specific Muse, the one that takes hold of your imagination and let the words flow. Story is our power and knowing which ones we are best at telling is key.
This week’s question: Do you incorporate politics and/or religion into your stories? What is the reason?
I have used a matriarchal society in my novel, Life in Slake Patch as the background to a young man’s life in that regime. It was interesting to write about the influences and attitudes of a different society. In contrast my novel, The Twesome Loop, which covers two time periods, shows the patriarchal suppression in the 1800’s.
Last week’s question: How did you find your particular writing style? A creative writing class, a teacher, a format or something else? Do you write differently for different genres?
Well, your recent research is certainly more unique and interesting than mine. I think my writing style, whatever that may be,remains the same no matter what I write. However, my “voice” changes with each work, depending on the era, location, and age of my characters. The personality of my twenty-something Italian protagonist in my WW2 novel is a far cry from the thirty-something American artist in my current WIP.
I have researched medieval physician’s healing techniques, the circumstances of how a body can dry out and become a husk, natural substances that prevent pregnancy or induce sterility.