Writing was always Easy. No more

It’s been a while since I Papermashed as it were. Talked to you, said hello, or just dropped a line or so of poetry even if I were too tired to write anything else. Guess writer’s block does exist, just not in the way you and I expect. I haven’t really had a mental block, more a physical one where time seems to run away from me. Or I come home too tired to write, even though all it requires is that I sit there. Time seems to wind up fast these days, one day turning into two, then three, and so forth, and before I know it, months it seems has passed and it’s as if writing regular is like a foggy memory. Something distant that I once used to do. A little slice of tranquility in the noise. 
I’m aware there are a tonne of emotions running through me on this topic. I’m frustrated that I haven’t written much. I’m sad that I miss those days I could grab my notebook and starting as if I never stopped. The strongest however is the feeling of guilt. Guilt for not writing. Guilt for having no time. Guilt for absolutely vegging out on the couch on the rare days instead of using that time to write. Guilt for taking time for myself. Guilt for letting work take over my life, seep into all my days and hours that I’m awake.
Today I was asked if I’ve had a chance to make progress with my novel. The answer was a simple no. No I haven’t touched pen to paper in months. No that when I try, I sit there staring at the page wondering what now. Never thought I’d be here, wondering. Writing has always come easy. I’m not one to plan, I’m not one to fret and outline. I simply sit there and the words string out, the story spilling out of its own. I’m just a conduit. 
What do you do when writing is no longer easy, no longer pouring out on its own. How do you plan? For someone who has never had to worry about that, now I’m wondering… I’ve got to learn how to write again. Where do I begin? 
For now, this entry will have to do… till the words begin flowing once more. 

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Writer’s Process: How Stories Evolve Over Time

Writer’s Process: How Stories Evolve Over Time

I know what you’re thinking. I haven’t done an anecdote piece in a very long time, perhaps a little more than a year since my last piece on the writer’s process. There are as many writing styles out there as there are writers and narrators. Our job is to bring you a story, the best way that that story can be portrayed, but by no means should you think that the purity of that story has always been the same as the final product. I don’t mean the multitudes of editing we do. I mean the entire story itself, changing, morphing into something far removed from the initial stories that pop into our heads, or even the one that gets written down by first draft. Even at this point, the likelihood that the story has already changed somewhat from the initial story, or even drastically, depends on the story. 
So how do these stories evolve? In many ways, it all depends on the outline process. When writers obsess over a story, we usually think of the big picture, what happens to start the story off, point A, to what moves the story along, point B, to how the story ends, point C. It’s not so simple once the writing process begins. I’m not an outliner technically. I don’t sit there and write out point by point what the story is and how it progresses, there are other writers out there like myself. The others, the organized ones, will often have few pages of the story outlined from point A to Z, because frankly speaking a story isn’t as simple as A, B, C, it’s much more complex than that. Writers like myself, we will rethink and rethink the story several times in detail in our heads before we feel comfortable enough to actually start writing the first draft. As I’ve said before, we are the seat-of-our-pants kind who write instinctually. It’s odd to say this but, that’s exactly what I do. I write instinctually, free form. I write chapter by chapter, a bit like how other writers look at their outline and follow a bullet point, I start off knowing where I want the chapter to go, but I have no idea how I’m going to get there, I just know that once I start writing, the rest will flow. Bit risky but it works, maybe not for all, but it still works. 

In this process of outlining, whether in our heads or on paper, this is the first hurdle the story passes. This is the first checkpoint where the story has the potential to change from the original piece we think about. Why? Well, simply put, our minds are very good at abstract thoughts and making connections, however it’s another matter of putting it down on paper in a legible and easily understood manner. Or even something that makes sense. So the story that looks silver screen ready in our head may show kinks in it that needs modifying at Checkpoint 1. 
After this comes a gigantic Checkpoint 2: the writing of first draft. An entirely long and draining process in itself, not without its own problems and challenges. This checkpoint is constantly working itself through the writing process. Sometimes it’s hard to keep track of how many little minute changes the story goes through because we are so engrossed in writing it, getting that story on paper first. This is the hardest step. This is the step where several chapters in, we may suddenly find huge problems in story, character, relationships, or dynamics, scenes and settings that simply do not gel. The main thing here is to focus on getting that entire story down on paper and not get bogged down by sandpit of problems. As we write this bit, we may discover new directions the characters take, leading the story entirely in a different direction from what you intended. At this point a writer has come to a fork in the road: do you stick to your outline, which by all means is simply a guide, or do you take the lead the character is giving and go into unchartered territory? It’s a matter of choice. In most cases either one of the paths will lead you to finishing the story and not being happy with it, or unable to finish it and give up entirely, or at least put this story on a back burner. If your are wondering what I myself would do at such a junction, then I will let you know I usually follow the character. After all, it’s their story and if they take you down a certain path, it’s most like for a reason that will show up later in the story. After all, you are the boss. Just because you follow a character for a little while doesn’t necessarily mean you have handed over the reins. 
When that first draft is done and you’ve got the bare bones with a little bit of flesh hanging off it, then you can pat yourself on the back and take a break. It’s well deserved. 
Sometime, we are so engrossed in the whole process that our minds stop working properly and we give into character whims that don’t necessarily need to be there nor benefits the whole story. This is Checkpoint 3. Even if we don’t re-write or even go over our first draft, as writers we have the entire story now etched into our minds. After a few days break or weeks, or sometimes months (yes, I’m guilty of this), we usually work out in our head how to iron out some rough edges, where we need to truly focus on working extensively during the editing process. This is where we are making the next lot of changes that gets put into place when we start editing. Sometimes the changes will only be minor, to small sequences, scenes, or chapters, or characters and setting, and other times you will find that a huge chuck of the story needs to be thrown out and written again from another story point. This happened with my first novel, In Strange Company (on Kindle and paperback through myself). After a long hiatus away from the first draft, when I went back to editing it, I realized most devastatingly that I needed to write the entire first quarter of the book from scratch. It didn’t fit in with the style of the rest of the book, the characters had changed and evolved so much in the end that that needed to be addressed in the beginning, and so a long trudge began. For a writer working on her first novel, this was the hardest time. The time when you question the vocation, question if you are right for the calling, etc. This Checkpoint 3 is by far the most challenging to writers and the gentle egos. 
Stories also change during editing. Time and time again, we will go over the book, and minor things are constantly changing and shifting slightly, honing that story. At this point, Checkpoint 4, stages of editing, your story might have drastically changed from where you began. For example, Charming Mr Stewart (also on Kindle) changed drastically from where the story began, about a widow running away from possibility of love, only to have it chase her in turn, to something more evolved, about a widow who gains her power and her right to heal the old hurt. Not exactly the same story is it?
Checkpoint 4 is as far as a writer can go alone on this road. Up until this time, our journey is lonesome, but no more. Checkpoint 5 requires us to push down our fear of criticism and the premature nature of the final product and invite expert opinions and scrutiny. This is where external editors come into play, and if you are extremely lucky to be affiliated with a publisher, then I’m sure they have been involved from an earlier stage. They may ask you to consider changing some plot points in the story, or character personalities, or given you a heads up on all your strengths and weaknesses in the story. Tell you what’s working and what simply will not do. This is a healthy stage for us. It forces us to take a step back from the story and look at it from a reader’s point of view, which after all is why we are writing in the first place, for the readers. This point may again see various changes through various stages of reading and re-reading and proofing. Ironing out those final little kinks in the story. Making the transition from point A to point Z as smooth and as indecipherable as possible, so that readers like yourself and I can not even sense the difficulty the author may have gone through, from initial point of origin to the final product. 
The final checkpoint in a way is you, a selected group of beta-readers, the genuine pigs or test subjects who get to read the final product and give feedback. This point may prove very valuable to how the book is being received, and if there are any problems, a last change to make the change. 
What you read, is not what always was. What you read is a result of an incredible effort and devotion at various stages. What you read, is an accumulation of faith and self-doubt used well. What you read is simply fascinating, because it started life as a single thought in someone’s gray-matter. A simple thought. And thoughts are powerful. They can suspend us into someone else’s imagination and propel us forward, make us lose hours, or regret reality when we re-emerge.

Insomnia for the naive

Insomnia for the naive

It rarely happens that I can’t sleep, but tonight is one of those nights. Sydney has been having really hot weather recently, and after a two day reprieve from the unrelenting heat, we are about to be slammed with 3+ days with above 45 degree heat. The fan is twirling away just at the foot of the bed, the window is cracked wide open and I can even hear the chirps of crickets outside. My feet are boiling and and the air the fan is blowing off me is already bouncing of with radiated heat. Sigh. Summer. I’ve have a love hate relationship with it. I love the long days, and the cool breezes we get some evenings, but that’s about it. 
Tonight it’s not even the heat that’s left me sleepless. It’s an uncomfortable feeling in my stomach. Perhaps a bit to do with late night dinner, but I think it may have something more to do with a anxiety and anticipation. I’ve been operating on all cylinders for the last month or more what with new job, new living space, new commute, while still trying to keep some of my old routine going so I feel some sort of a balance in life. 
I am becoming obsessed with what is going on around me right now. And it doesn’t help that I have the albeit self-imposed deadline to reach for my book, ‘Charming and Stewart’ releasing this Valentine’s Day. I worked on the book, combing through some of the last chapters for about 5hours after I came back from work. I now have heart burn from the stress of it (lol). I still have two chapters to run over once more before I lock it and start formatting prior to release. Yikes. I’m pushing it with only 5 days to go. Not to mention, there are minor alterations to be made on the cover page too. 

I’m not used to dealing with anxiety and insomnia like this. How do you deal with it, those that suffer insomnia? The weird ache in the chest isn’t going away. Perhaps I’ve actually bitten off more than I could chew, what with school work also looming over my head. It won’t do if I go into lessons without planning my material either. On top of it all, I feel guilty that I haven’t been working on new material. 

Here I go, well past midnight, wide awake and listening to the night. 

End is Neigh!

End is Neigh!

To 2016 that is. I’m sure even if the big END was near, there would be hardly anything we can do, so with that, I say enjoy the little things and the big things in life. Hell, enjoy the lows and the blows. They make us who we are and who we are as individuals is very unique.

So, 2016. What a year it’s been. Life has chucked pretty big events at me. Job that sucked my soul, to a job that is ok, but not too ok (cause I still have that film thing to pursue remember). To getting hitched and beyond, it’s been a pretty big year for me (but not my blog I guess). My apologies. I’ll try more religious next year. New year, new beginning… And perhaps a new release.
I have all but one regret this year, and that is that I haven’t been able to write as much as I used to, or want to for that matter. And I hope what I have managed to write has entertained you, and kept you company for a bit. 
The end is neigh! Another year gone. Another resolution (or two) have also gone unfinished. As 2017 approaches, I’m actually hesitant to set any resolutions. That way no disappointment at the end of it. 
I hope many of you managed to cross of a thing or two from your own list. Were they difficult ones or easy? Were you being realistic with yourself? What are your new resolutions? 
I have a few I’d like to achieve:

1) publish my second book

2) finish the pending films

3) work on the feature script

4) save enough money to make more films

5) enjoy life doing things I love doing (writing, writing, and maybe shooting – a film that is).

6) become a fabulous writer/director 

Will I do all these? I doubt it. The tops three are possibly achievable in the new year. The bottom three? Who knows. Let’s aim shall I?!
My immediate resolution as this year winds down and we all wind up to celebrate, I will endeavor to post more, stories and updates on releases (yes, my second novel, Charming Mr Stewart is being touched up and then released into the wild). I wish me luck and I wish you the best end to the season.
Enjoy what’s left of the year. Happy holidays my lovelies 
E

Today’s Motivation: Beauty and the Beast

Today’s Motivation: Beauty and the Beast

The title says it all. As some of you know, I have a Beauty and the Beast inspired piece I’m working on slowly here on my blog. The Keeper, for those who haven’t come across it is a modern day take on the old classic. 

I’ve always loved fairy tales. Who can resist their magic, right? Once upon a time I used to have a Reader’s Digest volumn of fairy tales from around the world. I had discovered it at a garage sale when I was growing up in my early teens in NZ. It had a picture or two accompanying each tale. There were the usually ones we have all heard of, but then there were also many I had never come across. I used to adore that book. I wish I still had it.  When my family moved to Aus, my mum accidentally sold it off in yet another Garage Sale. Circle of life I suppose. I just hope whoever has it now treasures it as much as I did. I have never mourned the loss of a book as much as I still do that work. Alas, back to my point…

The Keeper, as I was saying is my twist on the fairytale. A dark twist I guess. I’ve been enjoying it but I’ve reached a point where I have needed reference to the original material. But with the new live-action film coming out in March, and my own take on the story, I needed to see how close to any of those I was venturing.  I got my hands on the tale a while back but had been meaning to watch Disney’s version. It had been many years since and I don’t recall it very well. So, I borrowed a copy and watched that this evening. 

I was very surprised. Disney’s version is so very different to the original! So so very different. And now at least I know I’m not walking on its shadow with my own writing. Very keen for March. 

It’s a bit too late now, but I think I might get working on the next installment for The Keeper tomorrow. I think my Belle has just started to miss her Beast. I wonder what the charming devil will do next…

G’night for now.

E

Finding inspiration for the Musically inclined 

Finding inspiration for the Musically inclined 

Current Obsession: Music

Instrument skills: none whatsoever! 

What I would love to be able to play: piano, or a violin, can’t decide. 
I don’t normally confess to being an obsessive kind unless you consider slight OCD when it come to my own things. Even in my chaotic room, there is a semblance of order that only I would understand obviously. Nor have I ever been a crazy ‘fan’ of anything. I mean, I understand that people will admire artists and actors, and other figures in the public, but even as a teenager growing up, my obsessive nature only went as far as pretending to be obsessed by talking about a ‘topic’ or cutting out bits and bobs to actually forget about them and years late bin them. No. I have never been the obsessive kind, and nor have I understood the compulsion to be honest. 
What is it that drives people to go crazy after something? 
At the moment, my obsession has been, in a loose sense of the word, listening to Nepali songs of today on YouTube. I just pick a song (obviously the one I can remember a name off), then I select the playlist already compiled or suggested and go with it. Some songs will be great, some not so. But I have to say, they are really coming up with a few that get stuck in my head and keeps looping. 
Most of the time, I wouldn’t say I’m a music person, nor would I know artists and songs. But I have become somewhat of a fan of this new artist (obviously not new to the country), Rohit John Chetri. He has a smooth voice that doesn’t jar, and mostly I love the lyrics. I usually don’t even pay attention to the lyrics but this time, I keep playing a song on repeat. It has melody, harmony, lyrics that have weight, and music that is quite calming. 
If you are Nepali and happen by this post, check out the song ‘Bistarai Bistarai’ (Slowly, slowly) I guess. Even if you are not, I dare say you will still love the music in it. 
Today I found myself humming the song as I painted butterflies and rainbows on few tiny Wonder Women. I didn’t know all the lyrics, I never do. Going by yesterday’s theme of finding motivation, I think I might start collecting some songs that have the right feel for me. They do put me in a mood to create. 
Alas, I’m still singing the song in my head and going to bed bistarai (slowly). Good night all. Talk to you tomorrow. That is if I don’t forget. 
Xo

E

Finding Motivation to write when all you want to do is the ‘P’ word.¬†

Procrastinate, that is. Mind you, we don’t normally wake up in the morning saying ‘Hey, I know what I’m gonna do today. And that is do everything else but the thing I should do.’ No, unfortunately it’s the opposite. With the dawning of our day, be it 5AM in the morning (if you are an early bird), or closer to midday, we all wake up thinking, ‘Today is the day. Today is it. I’m gonna do it!’ And about halfway out of bed, you forget your pledge and slip into slippery slopes of getting distracted by this and that, a stray thought that leads you to do one thing after the other till you realize the whole day has been spent and you have slithered back into bed feeling disappointed. Of course, in that last heroic stance you think maybe you should just start that piece now. Just a matter of stretching over and grabbing your tools. But then again, who is going to sleep for you? Right? 

I have been fighting and failing to write. Procrastination always gets in the bloody way! And that got me thinking, what is it about this year that has proven to be such a challenge? (Of which there have been a few valid distractions.) Most years I pump out at least a book, and a few scripts, not to mention the many odd things I post here. But 2016 has been that whimsical year. September. Well hello there, how do you do? It’s almost gone too. Meaning only a quarter of the year is left and so much more to write. 
Nowadays, I troll social media for inspiration, something to drive me to write. When once I used to be able to write any random thing, this year, despite the many quotes and prompts pinned on Pinterest, my interest in writing as much as I used has dwindled. I’m a sporadic writer. So sporadic indeed that it’s actually started to really bug me. And bug me it does, hence this article. 
Every writer has to get in the right headspace to write. Everyone. I know as writers we evolve over time, develop our styles, our voices, our routine. However, what most people won’t admit to is, we evolve into creatures of habit, we seek out comfort zones that will put us in the mood for writing straight away. And these spaces, these sanctuary hold great power over us. It becomes sacred, and the thought of writing else become less and less welcomed.
My space used to be cafes, but mostly I could write anywhere once a sentence or two were spelt. Nowadays, it feels as if something inside is calling for a dedicated writing space. Too long have I gone without that corner sofa in a humming cafe, that isolated-yet-I’m-still-in-public feeling that allowed me to people watch at a safe distance. Writing space. Think about that. It could be your room. It could be that park across the road from work, or the cafe down a couple go blocks. Or it could just be a piece of music that sets your mood. 
The point is, find motivation. Do whatever it takes to kick start that brain of yours. Once you start it, it will do its thing. Sometimes, I write a simple micro poetry and post it on Twitter to the same satisfaction I get if I had written a whole chapter for my current work-in-progress (which of course I have quite a few).
Procrastination is a habit my dears. A terrible habit. One that should come with a warning label; ‘Beware! Distractions may cause delay in achievement of ones happiness and desires!’ 
Or something to that effect. Today’s motivation has been this effort to psyche myself up. From tomorrow, or there off, here is hoping that I can kick some ‘P’ butt and get on with what I need to do. No buts, no ifs. Think of the future. Think of your goal. And keep that gaol in mind. What’s mine for the rest of the year? Finish the book, and a rewrite a script. 
There. I said it. 3 months, plenty of distractions. Can I do it? I sure hope so. At least, I’d like to think I’ll try. 
Fingers are crossed. So crossed.