Getting My Mojo Back • Writing Thoughts

Any time I see or write the word ‘mojo’ in any context, an image of that crazy monkey Mojo Jojo from the Powerpuff Girls pops into my head. Wouldn’t it be great to take over a word and make it so indistinguishable from your character that anytime someone sees it they think of your creation? That’s the dream, right?

writing mojo

Well, it may be the dream but it’s something that feels very very far away from my abilities at the moment. I’ve been on a downer for the past week and I’m kind of ashamed to say I didn’t write any more of my novel. Not one single word. Nothing. And it’s not like I just forgot about it, it’s been on my mind all day every day.

I don’t have an excuse except that some of my old fear has crept back in. This fear that has masqueraded as writer’s block and crippled my progress for years cannot be allowed back in. If it settles in the most insecure parts of my mind it will rot away at my confidence until my motivation to write is just a distant memory.

writing mojo

I know why this is happening, too; I’m so depressingly consistent in my insecurity that I can pinpoint exactly why this fear has returned, but knowing why I’m scared doesn’t do much to eradicate the fear.

I’m so close to finishing my first draft, something I’ve never even come close to before, and the thought of completing my book only to be rejected is enough to make me want to stop completely so I never have to face it at all. If I can honestly say I never managed to finish my book so it never got a chance to be queried by an agent or publisher, it’s not quite as bad as total failure and rejection, right? The thought of my book going absolutely nowhere except a file on my hard drive and knowing that I’m not good enough to be published is enough for that fear to return.

writing mojo

I know it’s really just a defence mechanism. It’s something to protect me and my dream from being crushed. If I was the same writer that I was a couple of years ago, sure, I’d probably let my fear and insecurity take over and push the pause button on my book for yet another few months or years, but I’m not that writer anymore. I’m so scared of failure, but my dream is to be a writer and I can’t just let myself down because of fear.

J.K. Rowling was rejected many times before she was finally published, and her books are some of the most beloved stories of all time. She and countless other writers faced rejection again and again before seeing their stories on the shelves. I know logically that even if I’m not taken on by an agent or publisher that that doesn’t mean I’m a bad writer or that my story is bad, but I’m very sensitive when it comes to my work and I’m just worried that rejection after rejection is going to crush me. I know, I know, it’s useless to obsess over it before it even happens, but for whatever reason it’s all I’ve been thinking about this week.

writing mojo

I’m going to do myself a favour and kickstart my motivation today. I’m going to put on the kettle, settle down in a comfy chair and bang out at least 1000 words. Hopefully it’ll set me on the right track to get my draft finished or, at the very least, to banish some of that crippling fear.

Wish me luck!

 

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!

The Writing Circle • WRITING PROGRESS

The Writing Circle is very important to me in terms of writing progress, but it’s something of a curse that has followed me around since I first started writing when I was 11.

The Circle is made up of a select group of people in my life – besides the mostly anonymous internet, like you fine readers – who I talk to about my novel-in-progress. This is not a large group of people and there’s a very good reason for that.

In the past, any time that I became super excited about an idea, I told people that I was going to write a book. This is it, I’d said, I’m going to write it! Of course, I didn’t write it. I didn’t write anything for a long time until quite recently, least of all the beginnings of a novel.

It may seem silly or superstitious but I don’t want to jinx it. I don’t want to announce my dream to people and then end up crushing it myself with my lack of self-esteem or because I give up on myself like I always do.

I’m fine with talking about it here because, in a way, people don’t feel truly real when you know they’re reading behind a computer screen. If they hate it, you don’t often know. If they hate it and comment how much they hate it, you can just delete it. You can hide from judgement and other people’s opinions.

For instance, if I do fail in my attempt to write my novel, I could (I won’t, but I could) just delete all posts relating to it or delete this blog or abandon this blog and never have to look at it again. In my head, there’s no harm done. My dignity and dream is intact, right? But if people I know expect me to write a book and then I don’t… what does that say about me? What do they think about that? Those kind of thoughts drive me nuts and make me second-guess myself.

It strikes fear in me and makes me nervous about continuing because if (best case scenario) I do finish the book, what if it’s then bad? There are so many obstacles that I create for myself and I know it all stems from a lack of faith, but it cripples me sometimes. This feeling of self-doubt and fear of humiliation really does affect how often I write, even though I shouldn’t let it.

Ultimately, I find the best way for me to write is to talk about my book as little as possible and to avoid telling new people who I know personally anything about it. Once I finish the book and prove to myself that I can actually do it – that it’s not just a pipe dream – I’m sure this cloud of self-doubt and fear will dissipate. For now, however, I’m going to play it cautious. I don’t want something I’m passionate about to crumble just because of my fears and the opinions of others.

I can’t be the only person who feels this way. Let me know in the comments if you’ve had these thoughts before!

5 Tips For World Building • Writing A Novel

When you first sit down to write a novel, particularly if it’s a large, ambitious epic, you can end up totally stuck when it comes to how the setting looks. I’ve faced this a few times, so I’ve put together a list of 5 tips that really helped me visualise my story and its locations.

Search concept art 

There is some truly stunning concept art online and I’m always blown away by the incredible talent. If only I could draw like some of the amazing artists out there! Spending an hour or two flicking through pictures of unusual locations/buildings can give you some great ideas. Even if you don’t come up with ideas for settings for your book, you may get an idea for a plot point so it’s worth a try.

Be wary of plagiarism, though. You can’t just take something someone has drawn and describe it exactly as you see it – it’s not your creation, but feel free to take inspiration. Generally I’ll look through a lot of different art at once and the combination of the art sparks some great thoughts and visualisations.

Look at high fashion photography 

I used to buy expensive high fashion magazines (back when I had disposable income!) as many of the photoshoots were incredibly unique and would give me some fantastic character design and world building ideas.

Keep an eye out for cool photoshoots online as well as they can be crazy creative.

Take it one location at a time 

Don’t try to tackle all your locations at once. Trust me, you’ll only end up with a jumbled mess and all your locations will seem really similar. You don’t want that, you want to try to make different settings unique and interesting and as detailed as possible, as it all leads to good world building.

If there’s one thing I don’t like as a reader (besides a bad plot), it’s shoddy world building. It’s as important as character development in terms of how much the reader will like the story, so take your time with it.

Travel 

Most of us end up writing our books in our home or in cafés and, let’s face it, it’s quite difficult to get inspiration and visualise in places like that.

Take a trip somewhere new, go hiking, spend the day near the ocean, bring your laptop to the park, trek through a nearby forest, go on holidays to an exotic location – do something to get out there and see actual settings in the world.

Quiz yourself 

Much like character creation, make sure to ask yourself plenty of questions about your world. Make sure you know the history of each location, what races are present, what defines the region, whether it’s near the ocean, what the social classes are like and whether it’s a poor region or not. Even questions like where the food comes from are important. Know about local traditions, whether the region is heavily religious, whether it’s technologically advanced, whether there are migrants, how they’re treated, if there are many languages, how much the past influences the present.

You need to know your world inside out, so Google a series of questions to ask yourself and take the time to answer them. Here is a list of 20 questions for you to start off with. I guarantee you’ll know more about your story at the end of the quiz.

What are your tips for world building? 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.

Author Envy • Dealing With Jealousy

This post needs no explanation, really, as the title speaks for itself. I’m talking about author envy, and every aspiring writer has experienced it at some stage. Everyone who has harboured a secret, burning desire to write a book and publish it to rave reviews has come face to face with the green eyed monster. It creeps up on you by riding on the back of your insecurities and self-doubt and catches you so often at your most vulnerable.

I’ve had this experience plenty of times, and although I know it’s not in any way helpful and stems from my own confidence issues and pessimism, it does get the better of me sometimes, and has done so many times in the past. It generally snags me when I come across an article about someone my age who has just published their debut novel, particularly when it’s the same genre as I generally write. It tugs at me and makes my mind run amok with self-deprecating thoughts. It makes me think ‘This person has already done what I want to do. Why haven’t I done it yet? Am I ever going to do it? Maybe I’m not good enough.’

These kind of thoughts can be kryptonite to any writer, particularly one who has just received a rejection letter or particularly harsh criticism or even just a little bit of criticism. Writers have transparent skin when it comes to our work, but there’s a reason for that. This is something that we’ve so desperately desired to achieve, generally from a young age, something that we’ve worked on for years or thought about working on for years. It’s very personal. An attack on your writing very often feels like an attack on you.

I’ve abandoned countless stories and poems and novel plans because of niggling self-doubt that became all-consuming and it’s lead me to stop writing for a long time. Sometimes author envy can be a good thing and it can stimulate a dormant imagination in a ‘hitch up your pants and get on with it’ kind of way. Though I’ve experienced the negative side to that plenty of times; I’ll be writing away, fairly happy with my progress, when I hear about someone about to publish or, god forbid, they’re even younger than me and they’re on their second book. It just gets me down and makes me feel like, even though I am writing and I’m doing the best I can in the time I have, it’s just never going to happen for me.

I haven’t found any ‘cure’ as such to these kind of feelings. They’re just normal for writers. Honestly, if you claim you haven’t felt this at some point I’d find it incredibly hard to believe you. I think this is just a wave you have to ride until it crashes and you can wipe your mind’s slate clean and start again. And I always start again, eventually, though some waves are rougher than others.

Ultimately, I just bear in mind a quote that has stuck with me throughout the year: Dreams don’t work unless you do. So I put envy back in its box, knowing full well it’ll rear its ugly head at some point in the future, and I write.

Writing and Getting Somewhere • Confidence is Fleeting

As some of you may already know from reading my other posts, I’m an aspiring writer. I know, I know. It’s hardly an original dream, but you can’t just order the desires of your heart and mind to cease, so here I am.

For the past several years, I’ve experienced terrible writer’s block. I lost all confidence in my abilities and was kind of drowning in my pessimism for a long time; it didn’t matter that I wanted to be a writer, I had to actually have ideas that could be translated properly from thoughts to paper in a way that people would actually want to read. That seemed impossible for me for years.

Over the past few months, I’ve gotten my mojo back. I started reading again after a long hiatus and with that came waves of creativity. After years of day dreaming and wishing, I’ve finally started writing my novel, because dreams don’t work unless you do. I’m proud to say that I’ve hit the 6000 word mark, something I never managed to do before, and I’m aiming for at least 50,000 by the end of the year (#50000wordchallenge anyone?)

The problem is that writing isn’t a smooth process – in fact it’s rocky as hell and it takes a lot of dedication and work. However, sometimes that isn’t enough. One day your confidence could be sky high and the next you may think you’re the worst writer in the world and that you were borderline insane to think that you could ever actually get a book published. This is normal in the process, I’ve found.

What I’ve been faced with lately, however, is an aversion to reading books on my TBR list. It feels like I’m scared to read them because, and this is just a theory, I’ll be comparing my unwritten book to a perfectly crafted, thoroughly edited complete novel. And despite the fact I know that it’s silly to compare the two, I don’t think I’d be able to help myself.

The slightest thing makes me lose confidence in my abilities. It’s why I don’t send my writing to any of my friends or family anymore, because even if they offer mostly praise, if there’s a niggling problem somewhere I focus on it until it becomes the sole thing I’m thinking about. Then I blow it up to be this insurmountable monster that I can’t write my way out of and I abandon the whole project. It sounds ridiculous but this kind of thing has happened many times, and I know it’s something I just have to get over, but it’s a challenge.

A first draft is very fragile. I know that many writers say a first draft is always crap, so whatever I come up with will probably read very differently from the finished book, but I’m a notorious editor. I have a major problem of striving for perfection with my writing, and that just isn’t realistic when writing a first draft. There are many drafts to come where I can fix my mistakes, plot holes and dull descriptions.

I can’t help it that I have thin skin; I think I’m so overly sensitive to my writing because it’s a dream I hold so dear to my heart that any critique of what I’m doing makes me think I can’t reach that dream. Which makes me feel like a failure. Nobody likes feeling like a failure, and it makes sense to avoid that.

Despite my shortcomings and my pessimistic writing process, I do think this time is different. I’ve never gotten this far before and I’ve also never felt as strongly about a plot; perhaps the other stories were abandoned for a proper reason, and not just because I gave up on them. Perhaps this one will go the distance and by the end of the year I’ll have a fully fledged draft ready to edit.

Despite myself, I’m optimistic!