Procrastinate, that is. Mind you, we don’t normally wake up in the morning saying ‘Hey, I know what I’m gonna …
Yes, you heard me right! (Or rather, read.)
If you fancy yourself as a writer, then you have to choose a camp (though there may be one or two of you who sit on the fence on this one). You are either a plotter, or, you are either a pantser.
First of all, let me explain the two terms:
Plotter = someone who plots out their entire story before they sit down and write.
Pantser = someone who rights off the seat of their pants, no planning, no plotting, you just sit down and you write, and somehow, the story takes shape.
So which one are you?
Me? I’m a pantser. I don’t plot, and I don’t plan. Not entirely. I will however spend about 5-10 minutes thinking about the core of the story, where I’d like it to go, and then I sit, and I write. That’s how it’s always been for me. I get an idea, and I’ll stew on it, or rather, think about it maybe a couple of days, no details, just the big pictures. Then I start writing if it is something I want to write.
I’ve written two novels thus far, countless poetry, some short stories, few short scripts and a few feature scripts. All of which have been a spontaneous act. Inspiration comes, hits me in the face, and I’m like, ‘Oh, that will make a good story’ and that’s that. I never knew how to explain my writing habits to others, and I’d be feeling so guilty when people ask me how long I spent working the story out. I’d read plenty of articles on other writers and their writing habits and rituals, and most of the time they would advice me to sit down and ‘plot’. Something I’m not very good at. I know this because I sat down one time prior to writing my second novel, and I tried to work out the plot. I have to say, I absolutely hated it. Felt like I had been shackled to the writing table and been threatened. It wasn’t freeing at all, nor spontaneous, so I gave it up and went back to my ‘organic’ writing. It felt natural, it felt comfortable, and most of all, it left me free to write as I felt most effective.
I was a pantser and I hadn’t known it. It was by accident that a colleague informed me about a writer’s tour visiting the local country library and thought I should attend it. I did. And one of the ‘Wordy Women’ writers actually brought up the word ‘pantser’ and explained what she meant by it, and in that moment I had found a word to describe the kind of writer I was, and that it was completely normal. I wasn’t alone!
So I dare to ask you, what kind of a writer are you? But let me tell you one thing, whatever your style, your approach is to writing, don’t ever let anyone tell you that you are doing it wrong. What is right for me may not be right to you, and what is right for you will not promise to work for me with same gusto as it did for you. Find your own individual style, your own ritual, and stick to it.
Here’s one novel I wrote as a pantser: “In Strange Company” and guess what, readers have loved it and wouldn’t be able to tell that I did not plot this one out. Why not check out a sample from kindle and decide for yourself?
And keep writing!
Nowadays, ‘writing’ or the world of a ‘writer’ isn’t exactly spent behind the pages, in the gloom of a dark …
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I was reading an article on the August 2013 publication of the UK Writing magazine, on ‘Persuasive tactics’ writers should learn to utilise …
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At present, after couple of months since the release of my first novel and a total of 3 interviews with radio/newspaper, I feel I can say I am semi-successful. So with that in mind, I think it’s suffice to say I have learned a few things along the way. Thus, this is going to be one of those posts where I reveal to you a secret to success! You ready?! Are you sure you want to do this?! Or do I need to break out the famous Jack Nicholson dialogue about being able to handle the truth?
Here they are! (In no specific order because I am typing on an iPhone and writing whatever comes to mind first.)
1) Write what grabs your interest! – seriously, you don’t know how important this is. I tried writing a book in a genre I wasn’t very savvy with a while back. I got writing because I thought ‘who doesn’t like a murder mystery?’ But what I hadn’t accounted for were these: my age!, my experience in the language, my limited forensic knowledge, the fact that I hadn’t had much practice, and the fact that I myself was going to lose interest in the topic very soon. Why did I mention age? Well, I was 12 at the time, trying to write in English which I was still learning, and all those crime shows hadn’t aired yet for me to collate enough knowledge to make the plot believable, and I wasn’t a big crime reader. Pretty soon, actually 50 pages-in kind of soon, I lost interest in the topic. I literally threw the project in the bin and am to this day slightly embarrassed that I ever thought I could do it. In my later tries I found myself finishing a project, and getting faster and faster with each. That’s because I was writing what I liked, and I had a bit more age and practice under the belt. Don’t give up hope, but it is almost all about the timing.
2) Draft and Edit several times: this one doesn’t really need much explaining. What we write initially is only the blueprint of the story, and drafting is actually building the story into one strong, attractive building one edit/draft at a time. Please do edit as much as you can, but I do recommend you try to hire the services of an actual editor. I know this from experience because we as writers are too close to our own work that we accidentally miss few mistakes; they may not be grave mistakes, but even little ones such as ‘to’ instead of ‘too’ can feel like an eyesore to the alert reader.
3) Send to publishers/agents or self-publish: this is entirely up to you. I know while growing up, all I could ever dream about was to get it published the traditional way through a publishing house. Kind of felt like there was some prestige involved; something that made you feel like you had achieved. I did the publisher/agent circuit, but as a previously unpublished author, both these parties are slightly reluctant to take new clients on. If we can get our foot stuck in their doorway, then great! If not, keep going. With eBook publishing something that is available to you as an author to provide you with a fairly cost-efficient way of self-publishing, why wouldn’t you give it a go? You never know who might find it and the rest is history. HOWEVER, in saying that, do not let yourself slack off and publish sub-par material that could do with few more edits or drafts. It’s all about respecting our readership, I guess.
4) Cover page and blurb are a must: This is a no brainer, right? Yup! These two elements are probably what gets you across the line in terms of whether a reader will buy/read your book or not. Make sure these are the best they can be. I should know. I tend to judge a book on both these aspects! If one or the other doesn’t work, isn’t the best it could be, I will immediately judge the quality of the book inside, as do most of us. BAD! These two are your marketing sentries! Make them as fit for the job as you can. Personally, for In Strange Company, I spent a total of couple of weeks just to hone the blurb that I had taken few months to think about, then I got people’s opinion on a few different drafts. After all this, I took the best elements out of each and formed a new one. As for the cover of the book, I think it took a bit of researching the look I wanted for the art work, then actually painting it, and then taking that art work into a layout that worked for the book. All in all, there was a hell of a lot of time spent on these two elements. Why? Because, they are IMPORTANT. I’ve since had a whole lot of comment on the quality of the cover page. That’s what you want. So spend some time developing the ‘look’ of the story.
5) Get reviewed: I’m slowly working on this. This is a tricky field. You can’t obviously force people to do a review of your work after reading it. Some will be generous and would gladly oblige. But other times, we are literally just holding our breath. The first review I got saw me jumping up and down for a few minutes. It was exciting to know that not only had someone bought a copy of the book but finished it as well, and left me a review to tell me how they found it. I can’t give you much advise on this other than to ask people who have read it to review. Or there are also reviewing sites out there where you can submit your work for them to review. It is almost like sending your book out to publisher/agent and waiting to hear either an acceptance or a rejection. But all we can do is try, right?
6) Get yourself out there anyway you can (Ps: please avoid doing anything dangerous. When I said anyway, I mean within a safe limit.): Radio, newspaper, local notice boards, social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, blogs and whatnot. Nowadays there isn’t a single person who isn’t hooked up to at least one of these ‘worlds’. Use them to your advantage. Keep sending messages out there that you have a wonderful book out there that people should be getting their hands on etc. Contact your local newspapers and radio stations. They are not that scary and usually welcome a chance to talk to a local about such things. They are always looking for a story, so why not give them something new they can write about? That’s how I got myself on two different radio stations, and newspapers. Self-advertising at this stage is your new best friend, especially if you are self-published (but don’t tell you current human best-friend that). Use this friend to get yourself recognised within your local community first. If you can’t market yourself to your locals, you will no doubt find marketing yourself to others a lot more harder. Once you break the local market, then it’s all a little easier to approach the bigger fish.
7) Don’t be shy, and if you are, learn how to act: I’m chucking this one in just for fun. Really, I mean what I say though. I’m a little shy, which is quite odd because within my own circles, I’m a very confident young woman. I don’t know where this shyness comes from – actually I do know. I am always worried how I am perceived etc. So I’ve begun to think ‘confident’ when I’m approaching media for a little help. I mean, why will they want to promote someone who can’t even speak a word without going red, right? So yeah, pretend you are confident. You’ll be surprised how much strength and confidence it really does lend you.
I think that’s all for now. If I think of anything more, I’ll post it. I may have written things you have read many a times, but like my previous post on advice, this is a good one, so take the ones that suit you and discard the rest.
A person is a writer when they have penned an ocean with their words – an ocean that is able to suspend a reader’s reality as salt to the sea. An author however, goes beyond the duty of writing itself, to tell the tale of the seas!
Let’s get right to it, and I’m addressing everyone who has every wanted to be someone, something, anything in life …
You’re probably wondering ‘What? Why?’
I’m a writer (Lol. Yes I found the need to reiterate that fact, again). When I write, this is what’s going on in my head.
‘Must write the story.’
‘Must make it good.’
‘Must make sense. If not…!’ (Shakes fist at self).
‘Must make it so people find it interesting and want to read all the way to the end.’
‘Must also enjoy the process of writing.’
Basically, it’s a long list of ‘must this’ and ‘must that’ and in between all this ‘must’ business, something else lurks, sinister and tapping your shoulder (left or right, you choose) very faintly. You and I know what that is. Yes we do!
It’s bloody ‘Doubt’ is what that is, sitting on my shoulder like a tinny tiny devil that threatens to derail my resolve to complete the list of ‘Musts’.
But I swat the little pest on most days as if it were a pesky fly buzzing around my head while I’m trying to focus, and most days it is just that, a pest. However, other days, it gets to me. That little voice manages to cause me to put down my pen and question what I’m writing, sometimes it’s targeting just the day’s writing, other days it’s firing an avalanche of shrapnel at the entire project in the hope that it (and I) lay on the floor in a useless heap. Don’t let it do that. Whatever you do, don’t let it do that!
It happened to me once. I let the devil in, the doubt in, and found myself incapable if writing anything else or even attempt to write for a very, very long time. It was a long road of inner struggle, long journey in seeing if I could really live without it. Well, I’ve found out I cannot.
So what got me going again? Surprise! I surprised myself. One day, out of nostalgia, I succumbed to reading my old works, something I knew I had written but had never detached myself from its words. Upon reading some of my own works I was simply astounded that they were mine. That I was capable of telling someone’s heartfelt story, or writing candidly of someone’s memory, or how much meaning someone else put into their work and family.
I emerged utterly surprised that those strings of words were mine, ones that inspired me just as mush as they had inspired me to write them in the first place. So why ever did I stop? Because a pesky voice told me too? A voice that was nothing more than my own inner doubts?
And now, after that incident, I’m a firm believer of this one genuinely simple fact that I may be a writer, but I still need to surprise myself as a reader. If my work lacks that inner voice from going ‘Holy moly, did I write that?’ or ‘I didn’t know I could do that’ then that project is definitely not one I should pursue.
However, if it is something that excites and surprises me, then it’s one I should fight for. So if you ever find yourself at a crossroads and feel like you need to choose, I say keep going straight, you’re bound to come up to another crossroad when you are able and ready. And in the mean time, be your own reader. If your can’t sustain your own attention then there is a chance you cannot sustain another’s.
Don’t be afraid. Take a breather when you need it, and let your own work surprise you and show you a way back on the road. It’s a wonderful experience to have gone through nonetheless. Be surprised by your own words. Find your little ray of light and walk through. I dare you!
(Image courtesy of madpoet_one on Flicker: http://www.flickr.com/photos/madpoet_one/7842135738/)