Uncategorized, writing

Writing process? Part three – the actual writing

I’ve written before about a daily writing habit, but I think there’s more to actually writing. And by actually writing I really mean writing enough of a first draft to complete a piece of work. So, here we go…

Part three: the actual writing

Honestly? Finishing a draft is the hard bit because it requires self discipline and saying no, and forcing yourself to be creative. I don’t have a tried and true method for making any of this easy, but here’s the basic tenets I stick to, that I’ve found helpful to remember in terms of writing a first draft.

Don’t edit as you write – it’s really easy to fall into a trap of perfecting things as you go. You can’t do this. Your job when writing a first draft is to get the first draft done.

Don’t judge – following on from point one, it’s really easy to write something and immediately think ‘oh no, that sucks, I’m terrible’. You can’t do that on your first draft, instead you have to stick to your plan and …

Just spew it out – write as much as you can as fast as you can manage. There’s lots of quotes around this ‘you can’t edit a blank page’ and ‘you have to write what you’re going to throw away’, that kind of thing.

Don’t over commit or stress yourself out – signing up to something like NaNoWriMo or giving yourself a really big daily word count to start up with, or even telling yourself you have to write every day is a quick way to burn yourself out. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Maybe you just give yourself five minutes a day, or a half hour, or aim for 500 words, whatever works. Don’t call yourself a failure if you don’t manage to stick to your initial goal. Just look at your goal and see if you need to make a change to it. Then forgive yourself and try again when you can.

If it’s boring, skip to the next bit – this is a hard one to realise when you’re in the woods of writing, but if you’re struggling with a scene, it could be because it’s boring. You can either skip this bit (often when it’s ‘and then character A got to place B’ you can safely skip it). If it’s a scene you need for plot reasons, then my favourite way to fix it is to ask what would make it fun? Don’t let a boring scene slow you down, nothing boring has to be included. Readers will find it boring if you do. Another thing you can ask yourself is…

What’s the worst that could happen? – conflict drives story and reveals character, so look for it in every scene. Then at the end of the story, you can ask ‘what’s the best that could happen?’ and make things brilliant for your babies… well, assuming you’re writing something where everyone survives and your leads get a happy ending. I’m writing romance at the moment and it may be influencing things.

You have permission to write whatever – I know this is kind of obvious, but I have definitely run up against an internal belief that I have to write something worthy or I’m wasting my time. Now, this is a stupid belief and it needs deconstructing.

First: what is worthy? I don’t know, but it sounds stuffy and elitist.

Second: Why the fuck shouldn’t you write just exactly what you want to write?

Third: Forget worthy. Channel your inner child, think about the coolest most fun thing you can imagine and tell a story about that. Worthy is a trap (and an excuse not to write).

So, there you have it. Those are the things I try and remember, and generally this has helped me.

Some other hacks if I’m having trouble getting going:

  • write on paper in a cafe or library
  • voice to text on whatever programme you have, and dictate your story
  • alternate writing on a new draft with another project – have both open in tabs on your laptop and switch between them when you get distracted
  • Pomodoro technique or writing ‘sprints’ of a certain time

Please comment and let me know if you have how to write hacks, everything works differently for different people, so you never know what might hit and what might miss.

Read the Writing process series
Part one – Planning
Part two – Characters

wellness, Writers, writing

Mischief and Mayhem – and editing and deadlines

In all my research about how to make money from writing, I’ve learned the term ‘rapid release‘. This term just means, don’t make readers wait an age for your next book. Put them out regularly so people can get momentum from reading one, then the next, then the next.

I figured I could do that, since I had three manuscripts already drafted* which are all in the same series and are interconnected. I had the start of the fourth book started and ideas percolating for more.

(*Careful readers will notice I said drafted and not ‘ready’)

Here’s where I risked failing: too short a time between books.

Or rather, too short a time to edit. I’m a fast editor when I have the time and the right frame of mind. And giving myself just three and a half weeks would have been fine if that had been the only thing going on in my life. As it was I went to Rarotonga for eleven days in that time, and in Rarotonga wifi is rare and expensive. We had enough to be online maybe five minutes a day, and downloading large files of edits on Google docs wasn’t an option.

Obviously it wasn’t all just on me either, my editor has a life and other demands on her which means she can’t just hand over pages when I want them – and I wouldn’t expect her to! She’s a great communicator, and we managed time frames just fine. It was just tight.

What it meant was, as soon as I got back from Rarotonga (July 17th) I treated editing as my full time job. I’d already done 50ish pages of the manuscript, so it was 130ish pages I had to get through, and my deadline was July 23rd, which was the last possible day I can upload to Amazon and not mess up the pre-order.

A tight time frame to be sure, but doable. Just not without stress. But I love my editor, she makes her corrections and notes clear and easy to understand, she gets what I’m going for, she cares about my characters and she inserts teaching moments in her comments. Seriously, it’s brilliant.

So sitting down and committing myself to editing full time was easy enough for two days until…

I got a cold.

Let me tell you the last time I had a cold… it was probably this time last year. I have largely been outside office spaces, and resting well and avoiding sickness making places, and this means I just haven’t caught colds. When you haven’t had a cold for a while, getting a cold makes you extra pathetic. Well, maybe it just does that to me.

So I was in that weird space where making myself a hot drink seems too hard, and I’m crying so hard over the new Queer Eye episodes that I can’t breathe through my nose, and my eyes hurt from behind and I’m still focusing everything I have on editing.

Oh, also I had to do a full day shift at zinefest… where I needed to be bubbly and interact with people and hold my own head up.

The good news is I got the editing done, and I’m confident that the story of Cody, the sarcastic and mischievious security guard, and Dean, the manic pixie dream boy who runs a roller coaster, is a good one. They’re sweet and funny and there’s some darkness and some triumph, and there’s two recipes in back in case anyone was curious…

and Monday was entirely spent on formatting and checking ISBNs and Anna going through and re-formatting all the text conversations by hand because you have to have those in san serif but Vellum the formatting software doesn’t handle that automatically…

But it’s all done. It’s uploaded, and as soon as I get the paperback cover from my cover artist, the paperback will be available as well and I can’t wait for people to read it!

preorder now

Order now

So my lesson is that rapid release is all well and good, but maybe be further along in the process than I was before you set up your pre-orders. Life gets in the way, and bodies are fragile. But having a good system of people around you is absolutely invaluable.

So, in conclusion, I’ve set the release date for book three to 21st of September, so instead of one month I have two months to edit and update and format and do all the things to get it ready to launch.

Uncategorized

Guest writers series: an interview with Heather MacLee

It’s not Summer any more in my hemisphere, but I understand it is in other one? At any rate, I’ve enjoyed hosting authors here enough that I’m just going to keep doing it. I hope you like being introduced to new writers and their works 🙂 Please welcome Heather…

The name’s Heather MacLee, I was born and raised in Glasgow, and I’ve been living in Cyprus for almost a year now! I write LGTBQIA* sexy romance, and my debut novella Too Good To Be True? just came out.

If you had to describe yourself in terms of a soft drink, which would you be and why?

Soda water and lime, because I’m bubbly with a wee bit of a tang.

Harry Potter world: what house are you? And what animal would be your patronus?

Ravenclaw! And an otter.

Are you a Think Everything Through Before Acting person or a Great Idea Let’s Try It! Person?

The moving to Cyprus was definitely the latter! It very much depends on the situation, but I do tend towards ‘Fuck it, let’s do this!’

What got you into writing?

I must have been about seven or eight years old when my parents were called in by my teacher because I kept interrupting story time by suggesting alternative scenarios. They got me a notebook and made me promise to write down any thoughts that came up instead of suggesting them out loud. I guess the rest is history?

Why do you write now?

It’s a compulsion. I tried to not write for a long time because my ‘wild imagination’ wasn’t appreciated by my secondary school teachers, but it drained me. At university, I finally caved and took a creative writing course. I’ve been writing again ever since. It keeps me sane.

What’s the earliest story you can remember reading and loving?

The Animals of Farthing Wood by Colin Dann

What’s a book you remember reading as a teenager and absolutely loving?

Our local library was in the same street as my parental home, so there have been more books than I can possibly remember. It has to be Harry Potter, though. None of the books grabbed me like that series did.

What are you reading right now?

I’m about to start reading The Sky is Everywhere, by Jandy Nelson. Her I’ll Give You the Sun is one of the best books I’ve ever read.

What’s a book that you have on your shelf that you think might surprise people?

The Glasgow Coma Scale by Neil D. A. Stewart. It’s not a genre I usually read, but I read it just after moving to Cyprus, when I felt homesick.

What book would you like everyone to read?

I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson.

Are you a stop reading at the end of the chapter, mid chapter, or just whenever reader?

If the book is good enough, I’ll stop when I collapse. That could be anywhere in the book.

Can you name some formative books for your own writing?

Books not so much, but the idea for the world I’m building right now comes from The L-Word. In my world, it’s a local bookshop that connects all the characters, whose love lives are central in the different trilogies I’m planning to write, instead of a bar, but that whole ‘everyone is connected’ thing, I definitely got that from the TV series.

How do you organise your personal library?

I gave most of my books away when I moved (I know!) and I’m still organising my living space, so ‘pure chaos’ would be the best description of my current system. I usually go by genre though 😉

Writing: What do you do/where do you go for inspiration?

Anywhere on this island works for me, although I love living close to the beach (I can see the sea from my window). Nature always works for me, and coffee shops, where I can shamelessly people watch.

Is there anything you’ve seen passed around as writing advice that you really disagree with?

Too Good to be True cover

Write what you know. Ha, no, it’s called ‘imagination’ for a reason. Sure, I believe stories do reflect the author at least a little bit, but most authors have too boring a life to just write what they know. We spend vast amounts of our time behind our computers!

Do you believe in a divine muse, and if so, what’s yours like?

Of course, I do! Mine is a playful imp who makes sure I don’t take myself too seriously when writing.

What does your physical writing space look like?

One of the first things I did when I found my current abode was organise a writing space on my balcony. It’s partially covered, so no direct sunlight hits me or my screen when I stay in that corner, and there tends to be a lovely breeze.

Open up your skeleton closet: can you tell me about an abandoned project of yours which seemed awesome when you started but you’ll likely never return to?

When I first visited Cyprus, I started a YA novel that had a complicated triangle relationship in it involving a pair of twins, a boy and a girl. I wanted to write something that wouldn’t condemn the bisexual main character, who falls in love with both siblings, but at one point the characters wanted to head in a different direction and I became afraid to perpetuate harmful clichés. I was on the soapbox Stephen King warns against, and the only way down was to give up on the project.

Any advice for anyone looking to start writing?

Just do it, but don’t tell anyone you don’t fully trust. It’s a vulnerable process, the becoming-writer one.

Favourites: Ideal holiday, price and time no concern, where would you go?

Anywhere that has unapologetic nature.  

If you could plan perfect meals for a day, what would each be, and would you snack?

I would have apple pie porridge in the morning, a lunch with freshly made hummus, grilled veggies, and Greek pitta, and cauliflower sabzi for dinner. I would snack fruit and healthy veggies throughout the day. Needless to say, this isn’t even close to what my daily diet is like…

Imagine you won one of those ‘grab a cart and spend five mins in a store’ competitions. Which store would you want to win it for, and what goods would you be shoving in the cart first?

A stationery shop, obviously, and I’d be stuffing my cart with notebooks, fountain pens, different ink colours. If I have time left, I’d go for the funny bookmarks and whatever pens and pencils I can get my hands on. You can never have enough writing material.

Imagine you’ve had your best ever year, what photos would you have from that year?

While they do registered partnerships here in Cyprus for same-sex couples, getting married is still a no-go, so my best year would include not just pictures of my own beach wedding, but also those of our friends’ weddings.

Favourite song to sing at Karaoke?

What’s Up by 4 Non Blondes.

Favourite song to sing in the shower when no one else is home?

From Eden by Hozier

What’s your favourite quote?

‘For what it’s worth… it’s never too late, or in my case too early, to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit. Start whenever you want. You can change or stay the same. There are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you’ve never felt before. I hope you meet people who have a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of, and if you’re not, I hope you have the courage to start over again.’ F. Scott Fitzgerald
__

Heather MacLee was born and raised in Glasgow, although she has strong ties to the Highlands. After falling in love with the gorgeous island of Cyprus years ago, she finally took the plunge and moved there in the summer of 2018.

Heather writes LGBTQIA* sexy romance and her debut novella, Too Good to Be True?, is out now. Set in Cyprus, it’s the first novella in her Wild Violet series, a world Heather created around the fictional book shop Wild Violet, or Άγρια Βιολέτα in Greek.

Find Heather online:

Website

Facebook

E-mail

Newsletter sign-up

Get a copy of Too Good to Be True? here

Uncategorized

Patreon free sample

I’m currently publishing a gossip and news magazine set in an alternate universe. I don’t currently have a full time, regular job so I’m advertising for new patrons.

If you join up, you can choose how much to pay each month and the different tiers get you different rewards. If you sign up for $5 a month you get two stories or articles a month, background information and photos of my cat.

Before you sign up, here’s my free sample article so you can get an idea of what to expect.

Near Death Experience Thwarted by Family Vampire

A young local woman diced with death recently when a home invader surprised her one night. Alice, 23, was alone in her West Goldmarsh house, enjoying a cosy night of Netflix and bread rolls shaped like hedgehogs when the invasion happened. 

Alice had planned a peaceful night in. The young school teacher, known to her community as a warm, happy woman, is often to be found at home on weeknights. Police speculate this knowledge was useful to the intruder.

“I didn’t know what to do,” Alice said. “One moment I was chilling with my breadhogs and then next there was this woman there with a knife to my throat. I froze up, this was just like the case my true crime podcast covered the other week, but in that one, the invader had killed the victim. I didn’t want to be a victim!” 

For a tense moment it did look like she’d be the victim. “The intruder was behind me, so it was hard to see who or what it was, but I definitely got the feeling it was an older, white woman,” she said. “You know, the kind of person who would ask for the manager over something like a missing packet of free ketchup.” 

It was then that her terrifying ordeal became something out of a movie. “There was a noise upstairs, and I thought that was strange because I typically live alone, but then Count Vanya came down the stairs and I thought, I’ve never been happier to see my uncle, never been happier that he’s staying with me. He swooped right across the room and bit the intruder in the neck. He also took her outside and I don’t know what he did then, but there was no body,” Alice said.

Count Vanya, Alice’s Uncle, lives with the frightening but ultimately misunderstood condition of vampirism. Vampirism affects roughly one in twenty and manifests as a horrifying transfiguration of the body into one of the undead. It’s also accompanied by a curse which makes the diseased individual crave the living blood and flesh of unaffected people. Some say one of the symptoms of the disease is to make the infected stronger and more resilient, but these claims are not proven by scientific research. Vampirism infected individuals tend to avoid densely populated areas, since the “Vampire hunts” of the late sixties and the following “Undead rights movement” failed to gain much traction. 

Alice’s Uncle Vanya, she reports, lives abroad much of the year, and only attends family gatherings such as births, deaths and marriages. “It was just dumb luck he was there,” Alice said. “He must’ve known my sister was about to give birth. After the incident, we had a really nice baby shower and he gave the new baby a teddy bear. It’s a really high quality one as well, not one of those cheap Kmart stuffed toys.” 

Alice’s sister, Annabeth, was quick to shut down any speculation that it was unsafe to have a vampire near her newborn child. “You should have seen him with the baby, it was very sweet. He was so gentle. He was doing this thing where he waved the teddy bear at the baby and made a little growly noise. The baby loved it, just giggled and gurgled the whole time. Couldn’t take their eyes off him.” 

Although little is known about who the intruder was, or the purpose for the invasion, Alice doesn’t feel afraid in her neighbourhood. “Uncle Vanya has agreed to stay with me for a while,” she says. Smiling, she continues. “It was a terrifying ordeal, but ultimately, it brought my family closer together.” 

Alice is bravely returning to watching Netflix tonight, after taking what she calls “a couple of days off”. 

Uncle Vanya was unavailable for comment. 

Check page 43 for Alice’s hedgehog shaped bread roll recipe! You’ll literally die from cuteness. 

  • Peachy Buncheeks reporting 

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fiction, writing

Void breath

Breathing to re-anchor myself. To make myself more human and less void. Breathe in, breathe out.

I need less aether in this skin. My skin.

Some days it takes longer than others. A disruption to my routine will certainly cause the human-ness to disappate, the myriad confusions of the universe rush in instead.

This openness to the void is usually not much of an issue. Not too big, not too bothersome. But if I have to get up at 4am to check into an early flight, or if I get wrapped up in excitement at a party, or playing a video game and stay awake to late then it rears up.

Any day I forget to eat.

If I get sick with a fever.

If I run into an ex unexpectedly.

There are warning signs: a slight nausea where my stomach should be, a prickling in my fingers, or a tingling up the forearms. The feeling that something in my spine is out of place and wants a good crack. My eyes dry out, my throat scratches, the corners of my mouth crack painfully.

When these things happen, even one of them, I get irritable.

It’s best not to speak to me.

This is for your own good, you understand. Anything that sets me off in this state could trigger… well. I don’t exactly know what it triggers. I don’t know what would happen. I’ve always been able to control it.

Breathe in, slow, controlled.

Even the time I woke up halfway through the process. My heart fluttering somewhere around my left ear and my being feeling such affinity to the infinity. The void filling me and threatening to do something worse, something more…

Breathe out, longer than I breathed in for. Control the rate of expulsion.

If I couldn’t breathe my body back into the completeness who knows what might happen. But something in me continues to chase the void away. To return to the anchor of the flesh and breathe. In and out.

Breathe in

Breathe out

____

This is a short piece I found in an old notebook from 2015. I rather liked it, so I updated it and now you get to enjoy the existential horror of anxiety. You’re welcome.