So Close To The Finish Line • Writing Thoughts

NaNoWriMo finished over two months ago and I can see the light at the end of the tunnel (finally!), and in case you were wondering, yes, my novel is filled with cliché, overused phrases just like that one. However, the only reason I’ve even gotten this far is because I’ve put the editor in me firmly on the back burner and allowed myself to just write. 

Many authors agree that the magic of writing is in the re-writing, and I couldn’t agree more. I know there are lots of problems with my draft and there will be plenty of things I’ll have to change, polish or re-write entirely, but for now I’m happy just to finish. That is the goal for this next month, and hard as it is sometimes, I do see myself with a full draft by the end of the month. I’m very excited!

It’s now officially the 5th of February so I have approximately 3 weeks left. In saying this, I’m not going to hold a rope at my own throat. If I don’t finish in the next few weeks I’m not going to make myself feel like a failure. I have a planned deadline that I don’t want to go over (and I don’t think I will unless I come down with dreaded writer’s block), but as long as the draft is mostly done by the end of the month, I’ll be happy enough.

This is just an update as to where I’m at with my NaNo novel (honestly I didn’t think I’d get this far). Once I get the first draft polished, I plan on re-reading it and making more changes, then I’ll approach an agent and publishers. After that, I’m going to go back to my initial story (check out my M.A.D. section to find out more about my first attempt at writing a novel) and create a proper outline for it (I think I’ve finally abandoned the ‘pantser’ life). Then for Camp NaNoWriMo I’m going to try for 50k again!

Phew.

That’s the plan. Fingers crossed for me!

Drawing Maps & Growing As A Writer • Inspiration Wall 02

This was a great week for me in terms of writing. Scenes have been flowing better, I’ve plugged a few plot holes and I’m more confident in the path I’ve put my characters on. It’s a win all round! I don’t like to risk jinxing myself but I think I’ll finish my first draft by the end of next month! I’m definitely feeling very positive.

novel writing

Growing as a writer 

I wrote an article last year on ‘author envy’ – that overwhelming feeling of jealousy when you hear that another writer (especially if they’re the same age or younger than you) has not only finished writing their book, but they’re about to get it published. This exact situation happened in my life in the past year; a girl I know worked hard and finished her book and then she got a publishing deal. I couldn’t bring myself to be happy for her, I just couldn’t. All I felt was my undeniable failure in the face of her success.

novel writing

I think this is just something every writer goes through, and it’s nothing to do with the great achievement of the other writer. It really isn’t. It has everything to do with insecurity and feeling like you’re not good enough, like you’re never going to achieve your dream. It’s odd isn’t it? You’d think seeing someone succeeding – someone who is in the same boat as you – would only serve to motivate you more? For me it didn’t.

I was kind of down for a while afterwards, but I pushed on with my writing anyway. I’m so glad I did as I’m now near the finish line and, as a nice bonus, I can now say that I am truly happy for the girl I know who is soon to be a published author. It really is wonderful because, like me, being an author is her dream. You should keep an eye out for her upcoming book called The Space Between which will be published by Little Island. She’s a fabulous, unique writer so I’m sure it will receive rave reviews!

Map making 

Inkarnate.com is a really fun tool to use if you’re planning out a world and you want to get all your visuals down on paper, so to speak. The software allows you to put a basic map together and you can even add things like castles and different types of trees and land (swampy, desert etc.) to personalise it even more. I had a bit of a tinker with it and came up with a fun visual for me to work off of while I’m writing.

I spent approximately 5 minutes on this so it would be infinitely better if I committed real time to it, but it does what I want it to – it allows me to have a good idea of the sizes of the countries in my book and their proximity to each other.

inkarnate world building

Everything is falling into place 

When I first started writing my novel I was worried about the ending. Mainly because I didn’t have one. This is where the ‘fly by the seat of my pants’ style of writing is inspiring. It can take you to a part of your story that you may never have thought of while carefully planning each scene.

When I was a kid I just wrote any old thing that popped into my head. Planning had absolutely no place in my “process”, so to speak. Now I plan a little and wing it a lot, but one isn’t better than the other. They both have their place, and lots of writers prefer different kind of methods.

I’ve never gotten this far in a story before (65+k), so I’m pretty sure that I’ve found my sweet spot. Here’s to many more thousands of words next week!

novel writing

Using Irish culture 

As I mentioned in my first Inspiration Wall, I’ve been looking into my culture more and taking a few elements that I find really beautiful and fascinating to weave them into my story. Some of these things are really small – just details, really – but it’s not just the big, obvious parts of a tale that make it so memorable to the reader. I want to make my story unique.

One of the things I plan on using are ghillies, which are little black Irish dancing shoes that you lace up under the sole. One of my characters dances in an inn and she’ll mention these in one of the scenes. Another thing I plan on including is a rag tree, which you can find in many areas of Ireland. Rag trees are regular trees (usually near a Holy Well) where people with problems or illnesses tie a piece of their clothing/a rag to the tree. It’s said that the problem or sickness will go as the rag rots.

rag tree novel

I loved that Leigh Bardugo included some elements of Russian culture in her Six of Crows duology, as I looked up a lot of the words she used out of interest. It would be fantastic if someone unfamiliar with Irish culture looked up aspects of it because they read my book!

Also, it’s not surprising but I’ve been listening to a lot of Enya this week (LOVE her, she is a national treasure!) and if you’re writing fantasy scenes featuring elves or witches or magic then this music will inspire you. She’s responsible for helping create the stunning LOTR score so, you know, trust me on this one.

 

What gave you inspiration this week? Let me know in the comments below!

Failure And New Year Goals • #50BOOKSCHALLENGE

I started this year with a promise to myself; that I would read 50 books by the end of 2016 to rekindle my love of reading. I used to read so much as a kid and a teenager but school and college and work got in the way and my books grew dusty on the shelves.

The point of the challenge was to make sure I read regularly. Unfortunately, I didn’t reach my goal of 50 books. Instead, I read 36, with approximately 10 still to be finished. Although I’m usually very hard on myself, and failing a challenge like this could have really held me back and made me feel terrible, I’m actually quite pleased.

Thirty six books is still thirty five books more than I read last year. I read some really fantastic stories and some not so fantastic ones too, but ultimately, I read. Even if I had only read ten books, or twenty books, I still opened books this year and saw them through. That’s what’s important to me.

50bookschallenge

Although sometimes the challenge was stressful (for instance during very busy months), it re-introduced me to the joy of sitting down with a good book and a cup of tea and getting lost in a fantasy world.

I’ve decided that, instead of aiming for 50 books, 30 is a good goal to aim for. The reason I’ve done this is because I’m introducing a new challenge to the mix for 2017 – the #100kWordChallenge. If you’ve been following my writing journey, you’ll know I want to be a novelist. It has always been my dream, and after hitting 50k during 2016’s NaNoWriMo, I’m on my way to finishing my first book.

In 2017, I plan on finishing it with another 40k and to start the second book as well. Overall, I hope to write 100,000 words in 2017. To some, that might seem like a walk in the park, and to others it’s a mountain too steep to climb, but for me, it’s my new personal challenge and I’m determined to do myself proud.

Blessings and Happy New Year to all! Thanks for continuing to read my ramblings on here!

Creating Compelling Characters • Writing A Novel

One of the most important aspects of a good book is properly developed, compelling characters. This is arguably more important than plot when it comes to success (case in point: Twilight) and characters that a reader connects with will stick with them long after the details of a plot has faded. It is integral to create not only likeable characters, but characters with layers.

This is something that I think about a lot. I’m in the middle of writing my first book and, although I still have to map out some plot points, my characters need to be the first priority. You could have the best plot in the
world and the most pleasant writing style, but if the characters are flat and dull and forgettable the book overall won’t be as good. It’s very easy to get caught up in the excitement of writing a crucial plot point and when you’re focused on nailing the story, the characters can fall by the wayside.

I find that the editing phase is when you can fully round out a character. You may come up with some stellar ideas for a character that seems to work while you’re writing, but upon re-reading you may see that it just doesn’t work. By the time you re-write certain aspects of your story, you could end up with a character that is entirely different to the one you initially imagined. And that’s not a bad thing!

why isnt this working

The Trope Trap 

Very often I find myself falling in the ‘trope trap’, where my characters seem to be generic stereotypes that readers have faced a hundred times before. This is a huge fear for me. We read so many books with similar characters, it’s easy to end up forming a similar one in your mind without really noticing that it’s not that original.

When this happens, you don’t have to panic and change the character’s whole makeup; the nature of a character comes in their decision making and their dialogue – it makes them real – so make sure to focus on this if you do fall into the trope trap. After putting effort into making them complex, thinking beings with intelligent dialogue that fits their character, you still might end up with a stereotypical character, but see how they progress over the story. At the end, you may notice some obvious changes you could make to add to their history, or to explain why they think the way they do, or to add small details that totally changes a reader’s perspective of them.

Break out of the box 

Don’t feel the need to make all of your characters beautiful either. I’ve read so many books where the main character is gorgeous and so are the two men pining for her affection. It’s always the same scenario: girl who doesn’t think she’s beautiful but is beautiful meets two equally beautiful guys at different times. Guy #1 is the strong, bad boy type who is kind of mean to the main character at first but then proclaims his undying love for her. Guy #2 is the nicer guy, the clearly better choice for her, maybe the best friend who has loved her since forever who usually doesn’t get the girl in the end. Although this seems to be a tried and tested formula, it gets very tiring after your 20th book with this same thing going on.

Avoid insta-love 

Insta-love is another thing you should try and avoid, in my opinion. Maybe it’s just the type of books I’m reading (which is mainly the YA, fantasy/sci-fi genre) but I constantly see this. A girl has spent less than five minutes with a guy and is willing to throw away everything she knows and loves for him. Now perhaps this is because of the demographic I read, and therefore the teenage puppy-dog, hormonal love is understandable, but I want a compelling, slowly built love story dammit!

Embrace flaws 

Just look at J.K. Rowling’s characters in the Harry Potter series, which are some of the most vivid and compelling I’ve ever read. She didn’t feel the need to make them all beautiful and they didn’t succumb to insta-love either; Hermione and Ron’s relationship started as genuine friendship and it progressed into something much more complicated and intimate. Their character designs, too, were so unique and Rowling wasn’t afraid to make them awkward. Harry wore glasses, had a lightning bolt scar and his black hair was always standing on-end, Ron was a redhead with an even redder face when he was emotional, he was poor and he wore shabby clothing and Hermione was an extremely intelligent, bushy-haired girl with dodgy teeth. With just a few small details, you can paint a very clear picture of these characters in your head.

creating characters
Art by Sukie Blackmore

When all the characters in a book are described as handsome or beautiful, all of their visual details kind of blend into one another. For me, anyway. Don’t be afraid to make your characters physically ugly or fat or disabled. Don’t make them perfect. Very often you can make part of what they look like a factor in the plot. As I’m on the topic, don’t be afraid to have different races in your story either, or create a whole new race of people with their own defining characteristics. This kind of approach also helps in world-building, but it also lets the reader know that you’ve really thought hard about your characters and the world you’ve built.

Background characters 

Background characters, I find, are so much easier to create. Most of the time, they exist to prop up the main characters and to drive plot points. You can really do whatever you want with these characters and you don’t have to explain it in the same way you would with a main character. There’s a lot of freedom here to add small, seemingly insignificant details that just add that little extra. You know the way in TV shows and movies there are ‘easter eggs’? Backgrounds and background characters are a great way to have a bit of fun with this kind of thing.

Overall, spend time with your characters and get to know everything about them. If you’re lucky enough to get a book published, thousands of readers will meet the characters you’ve created, and it would be a pity if something small about your character caused a plot hole or an inconsistency. Write out a list of questions that you’d ask a lover or a friend to get to know them better and fill it out for your character. Know everything about their life, and I mean everything. It could take some time but it is worth it in the long run. Naturally, you don’t take this approach with every character, but try it on the main ones and see what happens.

What are your tips for creating compelling characters? Let me know in the comments below!

BLOG AWARDS IRELAND • I Made The Shortlist

I recently posted about how I’ve been longlisted for the Blog Awards Ireland in the ‘Books & Literature Blog’ category, and I’m happy to announce that I’ve made the shortlist! I’m really delighted that I’ve gotten to the penultimate stage, and even if I don’t win I’m still really proud that there are some people that think my little blog is good.

Blog Awards Ireland shortlist

Thanks so much to everyone who clicks on my links and reads my ramblings, I really appreciate it! It’s been so great finding other fantastic book bloggers and connecting with people in the book community, and ultimately blogging has been so great for me personally as it’s been a creative outlet for me amid daily monotony.

I’d love if you could take some time to vote for me at the final hurdle! You can click here, select ‘VOTE FOR THIS BLOG’ and to confirm, you simply login with your Facebook. The vote closes at midnight on Tuesday August 23rd so fingers crossed for me! 🙂

 

5 Ways To Beat Writer’s Block

Daydream 

If you can’t write, think. I like to get under my duvet in the middle of the day, get comfortable and close my eyes. This kind of dark and comfy environment creates a dreamy, imaginative atmosphere and I for one get my best ideas in that limbo between awake and asleep.

In your mind, absolutely everything is possible, and you can come up with some incredibly cool ideas that you may not have been brave enough to touch upon otherwise. Thinking about something is not as intimidating as facing a blank sheet of paper and having to write, so use day dreaming as a way to get those creative juices flowing.

You may nod off in the process, but that’s just a bonus because you’ll be even more excited to work on your new ideas after a power nap.

Listen to a sound machine 

Listening to different sounds can set a scene that may never have come to mind otherwise. You may have an action scene ready in your book or you want to create something with conflict or tragedy, but it’s not coming together on the page. Listening to different kinds of music can absolutely influence scene creation.

Whether you’re listening to epic drum beats, or wind chimes, or the sound of stampeding hooves, you’re sure to get a visual in your mind that can help a scene come together. Taking a shower is another good way to think through a plot point or scene, as the sound of the heavy water can drown out any distractions.

writers block

Go outside 

This is one I see very frequently, and it is a good thing to do if you’ve been cooped up inside for a long period of time. Staring at the same four walls while writing a book is enough to make any writer feel very small and insignificant, and personally it makes me feel boxed in, which in turn keeps my more drastic and crazy ideas at bay.

Going outside even for a few minutes can really help freshen you up, and it can help you get out of your idea slump. Just spending a bit of time in nature does the body and mind good, and you could get some inspiration from what’s around you, depending on where you live.

Abandon ship 

If a chapter or even a paragraph is just not behaving and reads terribly no matter how you rephrase it, abandon ship. Just close it. Move on. Try writing another scene or take a break. There’s no point trying to force yourself through a piece of writing that’s just not coming together.

Trying to work on another part of your book will press the reset button in your mind. Plus, who knows, when you eventually come back to the stubborn piece of writing, you may have solved the problem of why it doesn’t work. Give the writing and your ideas time to breathe.

Look at art books 

I started doing this when I lived in London after I picked up a gorgeous art book called Threads. It contained stunning drawings/sketches/paintings of people of all different races, sizes, colours and shapes, and it really does stimulate the character creation section of your mind. However, make sure not to just take the character you see and adopt it as your own – see what others have created and take inspiration from their creations. I’ve come up with a few different characters and even plot points from the smallest of details in some art that I’ve seen.

If you’re struggling to create an interesting and visually diverse cast, and if their personalities are incredibly vanilla, take a look at an art book and I guarantee you’ll have more ideas by the final page than when you started.

What do you do to beat writer’s block? Let me know in the comments!

 

The Writing Curse • Perfectionism

I haven’t written in a while. Here on my blog, in my notebook, on Word, on scraps of paper. Nothing. It’s like my motivation and belief in myself has just deserted me entirely. Where has it gone? Why did it go?

Every now and again I come to this dead end and I’ll write about why I’m not writing rather than just pushing through and writing anyway. I know, logically, that that’s how you fix writer’s block. You push through the writing you think is worse than garbage and you keep pushing until it’s good again.

In theory, it works and it allows you to get on with things and get one step closer to achieving your dream of being an author, but in practice it’s hard as shit. Seriously, writing is HARD. Any writer, no matter how famous they are, has gone through this. The difference between me and them isn’t that they’re better than me, it’s that they had the resolve and the courage to push.

The reason why I’m writing about my failure instead of pushing is because I’m scared. I’m scared of failure. Since I was a child I’ve had these lofty ideas about being a full time writer with trilogies under my belt and a legion of readers waiting with baited breath for my next release. I don’t want to disappoint that little girl who thought she could do that.

I’m so scared that what I’m writing isn’t perfect that it totally inhibits my progress. Perfectionism is a curse. It cripples writers all over the world and it’s not even real! How many books can you think of that were 100% perfect? Books that had nothing – not one single thing – wrong with them? Books that every single person in the entire world loved? I can’t think of one.

I can think of books that came close to perfection, but none of them ever were. They all had their tiny niggling faults, but it didn’t matter. They were beloved and universally praised regardless. So why do we as writers put this impossible goal of perfection in front of us and constantly try in vain to reach it? We’re just setting ourselves up for failure. We’re ensuring that we give up.

How do I solve this? When I’m writing a paragraph or finishing a chapter and re-reading it, it doesn’t scream ‘perfection’ and the quality of it dampens in my mind, and that’s damn hard to forget about. It’s hard to shove that negative, self-deprecating bullshit aside so you can just write.

But all you can do is try. All you can do is remind yourself that perfection isn’t real, that flaws add to a story and to a writer’s journey, that everyone’s first draft is far from the finished product, that the second and third draft are often sub-part as well. The real magic of writing comes in the editing. All you have to do is finish. Finish that story and build upon those bones you’ve created, like adding a picture to an empty frame.