The beginning…

March 17th, 2015

Don’t give your backstory upfront. Begin with an explosion – emotional or physical – Explain it later.

It’s very tempting to start by telling the reader about the protagonist/world/dilemma. But the most enticing way to open a book is to plunge straight into a compelling scene – one that reveals all of the above through action rather than prose.

Many beginner writers tell too much at first, thinking they need to explain everything. You don’t. Begin with an explosion. Explain it later. What you leave out is as important as what you put in.

 

“No need to hurry. No need to sparkle. No need to be anybody but oneself.” ― Virginia Woolf

April 22nd, 2015

Day #22. I am a great believer in action. But sometimes I do too much. Sometimes I push & strive when what’s really needed is a little time to let thoughts percolate, to let the fruit of a story ripen before being picked. And, remember too, that you don’t need to add metaphorical glitter & bows in order to shine because you think what you’re doing isn’t enough. Readers love writing when the heart that created it resonates with their own. You don’t need to dress up your heart. Simply express yourself. This is all you can do. Trust that this is enough.

“The best time for planning a book is while you’re doing the dishes.” ― Agatha Christie

April 21st, 2015

Day #21. This is a funny little piece of advice, but I find it’s true for me. While I’m doing housework, not thinking of anything in particular, I’m very often blessed with sudden answer to a plot problem or a few stupendous sentences. So, if you find yourself staring at the blank page, just stop & do some washing up instead! It probably won’t be long before a spark of inspiration settles on your shoulder…

“Writing is the art of applying the ass to the seat.” ― Dorothy Parker

April 20th, 2015

Day #20. Whatever it is you want to do, whatever dream you want to fulfill, keep taking the steps to achieve it. It’s no use dreaming of being an author if you don’t write at least a few words every day. Don’t be put off by baby steps. Think of this: if you write a page a day for a year then you’ll have a novel by the end of 2015. A page a day for the next 89 days will give you a novella the size of Men, Money & Chocolate. Pretty good, huh? And, if you don’t want to write then you most likely won’t be applying your ass to the seat – probably quite the opposite – but the metaphor remains the same!

“You are your best thing.” ― Toni Morrison

April 19th, 2015

Day #19. Everyone underestimates themselves. And, since we don’t see our own gifts, it helps to employ the eyes of friends or mentors – people you trust to see the truth. But, even then, to be told we’re lovely & amazing can, strangely, be a hard thing to hear. Most of us have a low threshold for compliments. But, once we start believing how brilliant we are, then we’re able to do anything!

“The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.’ ― Sylvia Plath

April 18th, 2015

Day #18. In my early 20s I was so plagued by self doubt I couldn’t write more than a paragraph a year, and that’s only a slight exaggeration. I thought, in light of Shakespeare et al., was the point of my writing at all?

But self doubt is second-guessing the outside world. It’s assuming that you have to be better and/or different in order to succeed. But you don’t have to be Shakespeare or Mozart or Meryl Streep in order to find your niche in the world. And, since you really have no idea if people will respond positively or not to what you have to offer, you may as well assume that they will & get on with it!

“Your will shall decide your destiny.” ― Charlotte Brontë

April 17th, 2015

Day #17 If you want to do anything against the odds you must have great strength of will. You must be stubborn. Dogged. Tenacious. Determined. Resolute. Stalwart. Steadfast. Unfaltering. Committed. So, if you’re setting out to publish a novel, or something similar, then you need to find your inner sense of steel first!

“Whatever you’re meant to do, do it now. The conditions are always impossible.” ― Doris Lessing

April 16th, 2015

Day #16. If you wait for everything in your life to line up before you act, you’ll be waiting forever. Nearly everyone who’s achieved something significant has overcome great odds to do it. So, whatever your circumstances are, don’t let them stop you. & if you ever find yourself bemoaning your state, just think of all those who’ve gone before you who never gave up. Be inspired by their example & take their courage & determination for yourself!

“Self-pity in its early stages is as snug as a feather mattress. Only when it hardens does it become uncomfortable.” ― Maya Angelou

April 15th, 2015

Day #15. Disappointments are a frustratingly common fact of life. My own life often doesn’t meet my desires, but I’m lucky to have people who inspire me away from self-pity. So, when I suffer a disappointment, when I feel the strong pull of self-pity, I reach out for support. Because I can’t fight the doubts & fears of my mind by myself. So, when you’re feeling the pull of the mattress, remember that you don’t have to go it alone!

“Success is like reaching an important birthday – and finding you’re exactly the same.” Audrey Hepburn

April 14th, 2015

Day #14. I used to believe that being published would change my life and me. I believed this all the years I was writing, right up until my first book was published. I had a spectacular launch party. My cheeks hurt from smiling. But, when all the cake had been eaten, I realised I’d been wrong. I felt exactly the same as before, nothing had changed. Success isn’t going to save you. The way you feel now is the way you’ll feel then. When you realise that you can enjoy success for what it is – the icing on the cake.

Success is a journey, not a destination. – Steve Frazier

“Aim at a high mark and you will hit it. Not the first time, not the second and maybe not the third. But keep on aiming and keep on shooting. Finally you’ll hit.” ― Annie Oakley

April 13th, 2015

Day #13. I love Figure Skating; it’s a beautiful metaphor for life. The skaters aim at their mark, overcoming fear of failure or injury. If something goes wrong, they can’t cry or pout. They throw themselves – with perfect precision & absolute focus – into the next spin or twirl. They remind me what’s possible in terms of triumphing over the urge to have a temper tantrum, or wallow in self-pity, and instead keep living your life with brilliance & passion. Personally, pouting when things don’t go according to plan, is my natural inclination, so I need reminding. Because one can either pout or twirl, but one cannot do both!