14 ways to WRITE THAT BOOK

You have the blockbusting idea.

You know all the novel-writing techniques.

Your favourite cousin works for a publisher.

You have all the gizmos and apps that a writer could ever want.

Your characters zap, your dialogue zings.

But you can’t get down to writing the actual, chapter-by-chapter, 80,000 word manuscript.

You want to, you yearn to, you’re excited about it… but you can’t find the time. You can’t find the motivation. HOW DO AUTHORS DO IT?

Writer stares at computer screen
All you can do is stare at the screen…

All published writers – authors, journalists, scriptwriters, dramatists – will tell you this unhelpful secret:

“Just apply your bottom to the chair and your fingers to the keyboard.”

Gee, thanks. But they’re right. It’s the only thing to do. So here are 14 ways to trick yourself, persuade yourself, bully yourself, cajole yourself into doing it. Try them all. See which works best, and stick to it.

  1. Set the alarm half an hour earlier than usual. Get up, drink some water, have coffee if you want, then shake yourself all over and sit down with your laptop and start writing. Do this for half an hour every morning, and you’ll see the word count rising remarkably quickly.
  2. Go to a book fair and get inspired. All those luscious books! Imagine yours among them. See your name on that book cover, imagine yourself signing books for an endless queue of fans paying good money for your story.
  3. logo_book_awardsEnter a contest with a reasonable deadline. Give yourself three months to get the synopsis and first three chapters written. And a cracking title for the book (or short story). Three months sounds a long time, but believe me – it comes round scarily fast. Make sure you meet that deadline and get your entry IN.
  4. Find an app that helps you stick to a schedule. For instance (NB I have no connection to these examples): Monday calendar or Unstuck.
  5. floss cover cropped
    Commission a book cover

    Commit money to your book: commission a cover illustration or hire an editor.

  6. Hang a treat above your head, like a chocolate bar or a bottle of beer, and allow yourself to grab it when you’ve written 1,000 words.
  7. Meet up with a writing pal every weekend (at least) to compare notes, bitch about the writing life, laugh at yourselves, swap sob stories, and egg each other on.
  8. Apply for a writing bursary or a grant – put a bit of pressure on yourself to meet the standards you’re set.
  9. Imagine a very hungry monster outside your room, trying hard to get in and eat you. Every 100 words you write hurls the monster 100 meters further away.
  10. Set this up with someone reliably fierce: every day that you DON’T write, pay that person some money – £2, €3, $5, 10 lei – to spend on something really annoying, like a cause you don’t believe in, or a film you hate. Or a scrumptious treat that you love, and can’t bear to see someone else eat instead. A bit of money might not seem much for one day, but that bit builds up very fast if you don’t write for a week. Ouch. That starts to hurt.
  11. Agree with a friend (ideally one that suffers from the same problem) to swap chapters every week for constructive criticism, or at least congratulations on another chapter written. Failure can be its own punishment, or you can agree forfeits, like buying the other a drink, or lunch. Or a book.
  12. Join NaNoWriMo. National Novel Writing Month is an American thing that’s spreading all over the world. It’s a plan to get you writing your novel, and challenges you to write 50,000 words or more in the month. Great scheme. November’s coming soon!
  13. Group of people in a room full of books
    Talk writing with other writers

    Go on a weekend writing retreat to get yourself started. After a weekend’s dedicated work in the company of other writers, you’ll be in the flow.

  14. Create a local Meetup group for writers, for mutual encouragement, constructive criticism and reviews, commiseration and motivation. Promise yourselves something fabulous as a joint treat once you reach a certain threshold, like 40,000 words, or ten chapters, or three short stories…
  15. Yes, I said 14, but here’s an extra tip: Start at Chapter 1 and go on to Chapter 2, 3, 4… Don’t jump around writing your favourite scenes – you’ll struggle to fill in the less interesting bits later.
  16. One final tip: Don’t revise till you’ve finished the whole book. Every time you sit down to write (every day, of course – at least) read through yesterday’s work and continue straight away. Don’t rewrite anything – just keep going till you’ve finished. That’s the first draft. Put it away for a week or a month until you’ve forgotten exactly what you wrote. Then have a look and start revising. Rewrite as you go and you’ll never finish.

So, tell  me – how do you motivate yourself? What gets you to the keyboard and the top of Page 1?

Wild horses…

… wouldn’t drag me to… where or what? These wild horses are in the Carpathian Mountains, but they could be almost anywhere.

DSC_1224.JPG

There’s a story here. The horses’ story? Told from their viewpoint, maybe? These horses share their space with bears and wolves, and have to survive winter temperatures that fall to -30C and below, with snow up to their bellies. How do they survive? Are they truly wild, or do they have a human protector?

Which is the stallion that leads the herd, and what threats does he face? Is there a younger colt who promises to snatch the leadership from him? Is there a battle for supremacy ahead?

How will the lives of these horses change in the next few months? How will your story unfold…?

Mr and Mrs Cloudface

Cloud faces; cloud-watching, Magura Transylvania, faces in the sky

Do you like seeing faces in clouds? It’s one of my favourite occupations, cloud-watching. And the other evening, two characters emerged from the blueness of the evening sky over my house in Transylvania.

Do you see them? The white cloud is a fat-faced chap with a bristly moustache, a blobby nose, untidy hair, a double chin and droopy cheeks. His right eye is closed.

Next to him is his blue-faced wife, who’s smiling broadly, her sharp teeth just showing, her sharp nose poking from her chubby cheek, her eyebrows raised and her eyes crinkled up.

Not the most handsome couple, but there they are.

That’s what I see, anyway. I could tell you more about them – where they come from, how old they are, their background, even what they like to have for breakfast. I have an idea what she’s grinning about, and what his expression’s for.

But I’d like you to find out for yourself. Why not write their story? If you feel so inclined, post it here as a comment – I’d love to know what you see…

Imagining good and bad

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It’s St Valentine’s Day tomorrow – 14th February – the day which has been colonised and commercialised by the hazy notion of romance. If you don’t spend, you don’t care, and if you’re not in a couple you’re nowhere and nothing. If you feel alone – even if you’re at the centre of a busy family – then the fuss around this one winter’s day can be overwhelming, making you feel worse than ever.

BUT…. turn it to your advantage! Make imagination your friend instead of your enemy, and write yourself out of those lonely feelings. Leap out of the round-and-round whirlpool of miserable feelings and leap into the limitless worlds of possibility in your imagination. Spend the day (which is, rather conveniently, a Sunday this year) writing furiously, inventing, exploring, what-iffing.

Use Valentine’s Day as a prompt, if you like. Write Mr Right… or Mr Wrong. Write your perfect romance, or the nightmare romance. Not everything that happens on 14th February is lovely – remember the St Valentine’s Day Massacre – Chicago 1929. How could murder happen on this most loving of days?

Use your feelings, feed them into your powerful imagination, and create something great with the force of love behind it. Wherever that takes you.

 

 

Unlocking creativity

Imagination, ideas, creative, creativity, writing, art, stories, excitement, holiday, fireworks, where do you get your ideasIt’s always there. We all have it, in bucketloads. Getting at it is not always easy, as the previous posts showed.

I get too many ideas to handle, but when I try, or think about it, my imagination is shoved aside by the enemy to creativity – the rational left brain. The bit of our brain that thinks and analyses and keeps tight control.

How to free your imagination

Shutting up the left brain isn’t easy. It helps enormously to have someone else lock it out for you. Handing over control to them for a few minutes at a time, the left brain has nothing to do and your right brain can let loose and the damned-up torrent of creative imagination can flow straight from your unconscious mind – a deep ocean of rich inner life inside every human being.

Are you aware of what education is about?

Mind Control
Mind Control (Photo credit: jurvetson)

We are taught from the cradle to control our bodies and our minds, to think and learn, to conform and perform to expectations. School, university and employment reinforces the importance of left-brain control. No wonder most of us end up thinking we have no imagination, or are not the creative type!

You can choose now

You’re grown up and out in the world. You can choose how to use your mind. I want you to realise that you’re not going to run amok and cause chaos if you let your imagination loose… And I’m sure you understand how good it is for your mental and emotional well-being to give your left brain a rest and exercise your right brain now and then.

right brain, left brain, logic, creativity, imagination, free your imagination, where do you get your ideasTake a brain holiday

A change is as good as a rest… so change your mind (at least change sides) and get all you’d have from a holiday – fun, novelty, relaxation, stimulation, new sensual experiences. You come back refreshed and ready for new challenges. Fresh ideas, new directions, new possibilities, new opportunities.

Brain holiday dates

Long for a one-day creative break? Here are dates for February (Romania) and March (UK). Come and have a brain holiday!

Valentine’s Day – half a dozen ideas

How did you do? Did ideas flood into your writer’s mind, or did you get stuck?

Cake on Valentine's Day
Romantic cake – too tempting (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ll time myself and see how I do in 60 seconds – I have no idea…

1. er… blank brain.

1. 20 secs gone…

1. 35 secs…

1. 45 secs…

1. Next door neighbours, boy and girl both called Valentine

2. too late…

It’s not easy. I’m usually full of them, but under pressure, when you’re challenged to think of ideas then and there, the mind goes blank. My mind goes blank.

The only idea I produced was a true fact – a couple who lived in our village were both called Valentine. They were married for ever, so something worked. But as an idea for a novel, it’s weaker than my will in the face of cheesecake.

Ideas don’t usually come to order, at least when the thinking brain is in control. When the left (thinking) brain is distracted or ignored, the right (creative) brain lets loose. I’ll see what pops up as the day goes on, when I’m cooking lunch or booking my flight home.

I need someone to do my thinking for me, so my imagination can run away with itself.

Is this you, too? Or do you create by logic?

 

“I’m not creative…”

A woman I met in Escondido – a smart, clued-in, driven business woman – told me this, with conviction. Made me want to cry, seeing her belief, and the sadness behind it.

She’s not alone – I’ve heard variations on this theme everywhere from Manchester to Malibu – and it’s absolutely not true. And, you’ll understand, a serious loss to individuals, to business, to the economy and the world in general. Creativity is a given – a gift we all have – but often the gift we never unwrap.

Are you aware that creativity is hard-wired into humans? It’s the gift of our evolved brains to compensate for the loss of physical and subtle mental capacities of other mammals. What we call talent, or flair, or special gift is just the blatant, early demonstration of one particular ability. Mozart, Byron, Mendelssohn, Boris Becker, Leonardo (da Vinci, and possibly de Caprio), Shirley Temple, Usain Bolt, Pavarotti, John Lennon…

Do you realize, though, that each of us can find the talent lurking inside us, even if it’s not of world-stunning levels. I’m no Matisse, but I discovered that I had the potential to draw well… when I was almost forty. If I’d studied and practised, maybe I’d have reached some kind of standard: a very long way short of the French master, but competent and pleasing. I had a passable singing voice when I was a child, but became too afraid of singing after a decade of being told to shut up, and that was that. More fool me for listening, of course, but perhaps you recognize the scenario? My sister had great promise as a writer (I discovered school notebooks full of stories), but her dyslexia wasn’t diagnosed till she was nearly 50 and she grew up believing she was thick.

How many people do you know have lost or abandoned an early promise because their teachers or parents or circumstances demanded a focus on “a proper job”?

Do you want to unwrap your gift now? Better late than never – and it’s never too late. Mary Wesley wasn’t published till she was 70, and she had a long string of best-selling novels through her last two decades. I was 40 when I wrote my first bit of fiction (since I was 12, anyway), and I won a best-business-journalist award with it. You will know of other examples, I have no doubt.

Make 2013 the year you discover your talent for creativity. Make 2013 the year you start your novel, your screenplay, your opera, your art. Make the time to unwrap your gift, at long last, and understand how rich a gift you have.

There are workshops coming up in Brasov (Romania) and various venues in the UK in March, too. Details here.

Whre do you get your ideas, Oceanside, fiction writing course, fiction, talent, creative writing course, creativity
Usain Bolt’s talent is undeniable. But do you realise what a gift you may have locked up inside you?
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Think about this… Imagine that!

Are you anxious about not having much imagination?

Niki de Saint Phalle, Where do you get your ideas?
The best ideas can come out of the blue

Do you worry?

Do you daydream?

Do you plan holidays?

Do you plan ahead for the weekend?

If you’ve said yes to any of those questions, you have a perfectly good imagination. In fact, if you’re human and reading this, you have a perfectly good imagination. Without it, you couldn’t worry, think about the future, daydream, write a shopping list, plan a holiday, or decide what to have for supper. Let alone run a household or fall in love or fantasise or buy Christmas presents…

You may not realise it, but you have to imagine everything you want to do before you do it. Think about it. First the idea, then the reality.

Are you aware that you’ve been trained to think? And that thinking is different to imagining?

The education process – a dozen years at school, at least – is all geared to teaching us to think. To analyse, to be logical, to manage, organise, filter, file, memorise… We are not taught to be inventors or innovators; original thinking is discouraged. Art lessons are about technique and art history; English lessons are about structure and syntax and organizing facts and subtext and other writers’ stuff.

School is designed to make us focus on the path to employment, vocation, career. We have to think about getting a proper job as soon as we get to high school. Before we even hit puberty, we have to stop daydreaming and playing, and be serious.

And what happens to our imagination? You tell me.

So… the good news is that your imagination is there, in full working order.

The bad news is that with nothing else to do, it’s bubbling away, concocting nightmares and waking you up at 3am in a muck sweat, keeping you awake, worrying.

The better news is that you can use all that imaginative power to create beauty and delight in whatever way you choose.

The best news is that you can learn how to grab hold of your imagination and go for a wild ride…and you can learn how in one single day. Actually you’ll learn the big secret in less than 10 minutes. The rest of the day will show you just how amazing your imagination is, and reinforcing the good news.

Where? How? At the Where do you get your ideas one-day workshop – see dates and venues here.

No hard work. No experience needed. And here’s the best bit: No thinking...  

I guarantee you will have a great time. I guarantee you will succeed. I guarantee you will go home with new characters and new stories. I guarantee you will have more confidence in your storytelling. I guarantee that you’ll be surprised and delighted with what your imagination produces.

Now… I dare you to have a go. I dare you to make the breakthrough and find the story that needs writing. Email me today and ask any questions you have. Sign up today and commit to becoming a storyteller: on the page, on the stage, on the screen.

Go on… I dare you.

Got all your ideas for NaNoWriMo?

where do you get your ideas? all keyed up for NaNoWriMo
Mists and mellow fruitfulness – it’s the season for NaNoWriMo

It’s on the doorstep, howling to be let in. Forget about Hallowe’en tomorrow – it’s NaNoWriMoe’en…

Are you ready? Got your ideas lined up, got names for your characters and your setting? How about sub-plots and your supporting cast? Are your main characters rounded and complex, or do they feel like rice paper?

If you’re keyed up, your imagination might be locked up…

Some people are admitting to an excitement bordering on panic, which doesn’t help the flow of creativity we will all need in the next four weeks.

Here, on various pages, you’ll find help in conjuring up great names, settings, real life stories to plunder, images to inspire you, character quirks for your key people… All you might need is a tiny nudge to unlock a whole world.

Raid as much as you like, and feel free to share with your writing buddies. Open to all, no catches, no sign-ups – November is mutual help for authors month.

 [That’s not permission to filch, though – if you share it, do please share the credit, too!]

I’m going to be with you through the caffeine-fuelled, RSI-inducing month – my NaNoWriMo name is Abbs Pepper, so if you’d like another writing buddy, say hello.

Good luck! Happy scribbling! All power to your fingers…