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.
I’ve just read another article purporting to solve the procrastinator’s problem. The answer? Get on with it.
If the writer were within throttling distance, she’d have gasped her last by now.
WE KNOW. We know. Yes, thanks. We know.
“Do or do not. There is no ‘try’.” Yeah, cheers, Yoder, we know that too. That, of course, is a different problem to procrastination, but it’s another reason to defer the moment of failure.
Is that what it is? Is that why we do anything – laundry, pruning, defleaing the dog, VAT returns… anything to avoid the moment of truth.
What are we so scared of?
Is failure what terrifies us? That if we write the novel, finish the screenplay, submit it… that we’ll be rejected? I know two people who are so terrified of the rejection slip that they simply will not submit a manuscript to an agent or an editor, happy to write for its own sake. Is that you, too?
I think my personal neurosis is actually fear of success, not failure. What if Spielberg called? What if Harper Collins asked me to lunch? Gawd help me, I’d have to follow through. I’d have to do what I said I could do, and then I might earn pots of money and be a household name and… that would be awful.
Awful! Why? Because nice middle-class English girls aren’t rich and famous, they’re decorative and pleasing and the rock-like support for their cleverer, wiser husbands. And if I succeeded, against the rules, I’d surely be found out as a fraud, a fake, a nice middle-class English girl out of her depth…
*screech of brakes* Hang on, where did that come from? Am I going through blog therapy? That’s all such nonsense. But alarm bells are ringing. Is that stuff what’s holding me back? Am I so firmly chained to my upbringing? Someone – show me to a shrink.
The point is… you need to know why you procrastinate before you can knock it on the head. What are you scared of? Failure? Success? Rejection? Mass approval? I’m not suggesting you sign up for a six-month course of therapy, but it might be worth having a bit of a think. Procrastination usually comes from some long-held, deep-seated and often irrational belief that we can’t overcome. All too commonly it’s about not being good enough, which works whether you’re scared of failure or success – one takes longer than the other, that’s all.
So to hell with the ‘get on with it’ brigade. Delve into your most embarrassing hang-ups and find out what’s scaring you. Hold it up to the light and see if it’s a sensible fear, with any power at all. Almost certainly it won’t be. When you see the big rancid toothy dragon in the bright light of day, you see that it’s more like a three-inch gecko. No teeth, no claws, scared witless of you and longing to scuttle back under a nice dark rock. So let it go scuttling off. Bye, bye, irrational fear.
Thenyou can get on with it, no dragons breathing down your neck.
Are you a procrastinator? Is it fear of failure or fear of success that paralyses you?
People are afraid of the strangest things. Pick a thing, any thing, and someone will be terrified of it.
For fiction writers, this is pure bliss. As a device to make any of your characters behave out of, er, character, a phobia can come in very handy. If you need to stop a character in mid-action, throw in something to scare them witless or give them a shock.
If you need a new idea for a sub-plot, a crisis, an ending or a beginning, pick a phobia. They’re great. Mind you, it’s not something you can use too often, but it doesn’t have to be a major thing. You could, however, build a whole novel around a serious phobia.
Oh, such fun. For the author, anyway. If you suffer from any phobia it’s anything but. If you are phobic, on the other hand, you will know exactly how it feels to be confronted by the thing you fear most. You can write very convincingly about the physical feelings, the mental paralysis, the compulsion to run, or to destroy, or to freeze.
For each of the phobias illustrated, answer these questions without thinking – just write anything down. Let your subconscious do the work, not your conscious mind
Which character is scared of this?
Where and when does the encounter take place?
What does this character do instinctively and immediately?
How long does it take till the terror wears off?
Who else gets hurt in the panic?
What does the character lose, or fail to do as a result?
What is the consequence of this?
I’d love to see some of your responses – do please leave an example (or three) in the comments box.
Whether you’re writing fiction, non-fiction, articles or poetry, you need to know things. Be it the times of the trains on 5th February from Oxford to Montrose, the name of the first dog to go into space, or the statistics of the Headingley Ashes Test in 1981, writers need to do their research and be sure of their facts.
Author Kate Harrison has done her own survey on people’s reading habits – what they love, loathe, buy and borrow, what they recommend and why. Fascinating and informative for writers, publishers and other readers.
Amongst other questions, Kate asked which three words best summed up what you wanted novels to be like. The top 4 words (number 3 and 4 were very close) were:
4: Funny (39%)
=2: Thrilling and moving (both scored 40%)
And number 1, with 55%:Thought-provoking.
She also surveyed publishers and agents. Here are three of the comments made:
Nicki Thornton, of Mostly Books in Abingdon, said: ‘Readers are always on the lookout for something that really speaks to them. It takes a lot of time to read a book and if it feels like time not well spent at the end of it I think people do feel disappointed. People do seem to be looking for something ‘a little more’ out of their reading rather than something very throwaway and lightweight.’
Agent Maddy Milburn said that debut authors are having orders cut, and she’s seen an increase in the demand for accessible literary books – as did Avon editor Sammia Rafique, who called these books ‘smart fiction’. But Maddy also pointed out that how the book is marketed makes a huge difference: ‘ONE DAY is essentially a love story but was given an iconic cover that appealed to both men and women.’ Sammia also called for more imaginative engagement with readers via social networking, to tap into their enthusiasm and interests.
Agent Carole Blake loathes the ‘chick lit’ label and its connotations of air-headedness – for me, she sums up the debate in the following: ‘Books that deliver a satisfying reading experience, but also leave the reader feeling they have learned something (historical facts, emotional intelligence, anything else) will leave the reader with the feeling that they have not only been entertained but also educated – they are validating their own leisure time and carrying away something more than ‘mere entertainment.’