Tell the Truth

Tell The Truth - a blog by Tina Konstant for people working on being a professional writer

There is so much advice telling you to “fake it” till you make it, but what if you just told the truth?

“I’m a one-man band working on a cool idea I’d like to tell you about…”

“I have a passion for making chandeliers out of tin cans and you’re my very first commission…”

“I’m knocking my pan in to get my first novel out which I hope the world will love! While I do that, I’m writing everything from short stories to articles to blogs! Glad to have you along for the ride…”

We get enough nonsense and half-truths from politics and advertising. So why add to it?

There’s a vulnerability that comes with telling people exactly where we’re at. It cracks the illusion that we’ve got it all sorted – that we know what we’re doing. Most of us don’t. We’re all working towards our visions and goals. So what’s wrong with saying so? Why do we have to be professionals from the start? What’s so bad about the learning curve?

So be honest: Where are you on your journey? Take comfort in the fact that there will always be others ahead of you and others behind you.

When people know the truth about where you’re at, they’ll know what help and support you might need.

Above all, have fun.
Tina

Screw Plan B!

If you’re working on your first book/film/creative “thing”, at some point you’ll send it to an expert (or a buyer) who, you hope, will be instrumental in getting you published, on the big screen or otherwise into  the world.

While you wait for their verdict, you might find yourself in a form of limbo because (in your view) their view might be the thing that determines what direction you take next:

Plan A – Living the dream!
Plan B – Self-publish… trash the project… hide out in Bali… qualify as a shrink… start a finger painting club… become a monk…

If your expert declares that your work is “Genius and Ready To Go!” then Plan A it is. But if the verdict is slightly south of average, you might think you have no choice but to move to Plan B.

You’re a realist, right? Especially if you have a family to support. But you’re also a dreamer. So your thinking might go something like this:

“I have a dream to be a best selling writer/director/artist… AND I have a family to support. I don’t have a trust fund, so I have to earn a living while I create my magic. HOWEVER, I need time and mental space to create said magic, BUT I can’t spend an unknown length of time walking the tightrope between a practical job and creating my dream. SO, what to do?”

Do you create a Plan B in case your art is kicked back? Do you go to Plan B even though every minute you spend on Plan B saps the core out your soul?

What if you took the chance and focused completely and unflinchingly on Plan A? What if Plan B never entered your head? Would you write/paint/create in a different way if there was no Plan B? Would Plan A be better, smarter and more determined? If there was no Plan B, would you find a way for Plan A to work no matter what?

I think, when we give ourselves an out, we’ve already decided to quit. So no Plan B.

Be Brave, folks. Stick with it.
Tina

 

You’re your own writer. Do what works for you…

When you’Write your own way - Tina Konstant on Writingre up a ladder, any ladder, it’s natural to look at people who have made it to the top already, see what they did to reach those lofty heights and copy/model/emulate… call it what you like… 

In a writer’s world, that could mean taking advice from one successful writer and getting up and 4 a.m. to write for three hours. That’s “Golden Time”. Or, taking advice from another author and sitting at your desk for eight hours straight regardless of what comes out. Perhaps you’ll follow the time honoured wisdom of writing every day no matter how you feel. Or do a Dame Barbara Cartland and write in bed (I think that’s the myth).

The trouble with doing what other people do, is that that’s what OTHER PEOPLE do.

If we all did what other people did, we’d end up with nothing original. Now, I tried working at 4 a.m. and quite honestly, I was too irritable to write a damn thing. I tried to write in bed, but fell asleep. I sat at my desk for eight hours and got a sore arse.

What other people do doesn’t work for me and most likely won’t work for you, because watching other people up their own ladders and copying what they do only gives us a small piece of their personal puzzle. We only see what stands out.

There’s a successful climber who wears orange. So you wear orange. There’s another one who sings Yankee Doodle. So you sing your heart out. What you miss is the single common factor they all have. They’re all taking one step at a time in an upward direction.

So it doesn’t matter whether you write in bed, an office, on a beach, in a coffee shop, or on the back of your hand. It doesn’t matter whether it’s at dawn, noon or dusk. It doesn’t matter if you drink white tea, black tea, green tea or coffee. The single thing that all successful writers do is WRITE. One word at a time.

It’s that simple.

How you do it is up to you.

So do yourself a favour… Look to yourself. What works for you? What fits in your world?

Instead of trying to mimic your hero’s habits, read their output and produce your own in your own time and in your own way.

Your best writing time might be at 11 p.m. on your neighbours roof. You might like to write by hand and type it in later. You might like to write unplanned. You might like a cappuccino at your elbow. You might like to have three projects on the go. You might like to take days off from writing every now and then to let things soak. You might like post-it notes. Maybe your best work is done in the bath.

It’s about time you perpetuated your own myth, don’t you think?

Be happy, enjoy, hang with the bats.

Can you force story ideas?

Can you force story ideas?Sometimes story ideas seem to blossom out of the ether. One moment your mind is wondering about the to-dos of daily life and the next you have an idea for a story that seems complete from beginning to end. Nice. Sweeeeeeeet! 

But what happens when these ideas just aren’t there and it’s been days and weeks and, like an addict, you feel the need for a bit of flash? What do you do?!! Can you force story ideas? Do you wrestle an idea from your imagination like some premature pimple or do you chill, sit back, relax and wait for it to mature and explode fully formed?

A bit of each, I think.

If your head seems void of story words, you need to feed it, fill it up, then switch on the tap and keep it flowing until all the dregs run out and pure water flows.

From my experience, here are a few things to keep the process flowing and story worlds building.

ONE: READ. Dammit! Just READ! Read fiction. Read flash fiction. Read short stories. Read story magazine. Read novels. Read newspapers (another kind of fiction all together).

TWO: Don’t bother about word count. If you get stuck on a short story that feels like it needs to end but you’re only 500 words in, then end it! The right length for a story is as long as it takes to tell. No more, no less.

THREE: Ask questions about what you see around you. It’ll spark story after story…

Examples:

If you want stories to flow, you need to give them something to feed on, then open the lid, switch on the tap, spill the bucket… whatever metaphor works for you, and write. It doesn’t matter if it’s a 140 character twitter story or a novel. A story is a story, no matter how long it takes to tell.

Be awesome folks.
Tina K.

What does Patience have to do with Procrastination?

What does patience have to do with procrastination?Over the last week we’ve talked about procrastination a whole lot on Facebook. Why? We needed something to do instead of what we should be doing, and talking about procrastination seemed appropriate. Oddly, having thought about the subject considerably, we came to a somewhat unexpected conclusion.

Procrastination is more about a lack of patience than putting off what you should be doing.

Think about it for a moment… Think about what you put off doing (I’m not talking about little admin jobs you let build up until they bite your ass, but the things that really matter). These things typically take up a lot of time, the results aren’t immediate, the outcome might well rely on the approval of others, that approval, if not received, could extend the completion of that project.

So take your novel as an example. Think about the time it takes from idea to draft, then from draft to final edit, then from final edit to submission. Then, once you submit it, you have to wait some more. You might or might not get the deal you want. If you don’t, you have to get back to work and wait some more. It’s a long process. It takes time. So instead of diving in and doing it, you do other things. Things that do have a guaranteed outcome (sorting the shed, doing the laundry, building a website, cutting the grass…).

Because the truth is, we don’t do NOTHING when we procrastinate. We fill our time with things we can finish quickly and easily. We get busy and we stay busy. Finishing things we can control feels good. Finishing them quickly feels even better.

So what does patience have to do with procrastination?

If we had patience, we could wake up in the morning and accept that the thing we want to do will take as long as it will take. When you accept that, starting doesn’t seem so daunting.

Patience is the thing that allows us to slow, think and love the ride. It’s the state of mind that allows us to enjoy the views of the journey we’re on. It’s the feeling of calm in a world full of chaos. It’s the acceptance that we are in charge of our daily actions and that freaking out over how long it takes us to get there will do nothing but delay us and give us an ulcer.

So be calm today folks. Be patient with yourself. Some things aren’t meant to be finished in a day or a week or a year. Some things take time. The more impatient you are, the more you will procrastinate, and the longer it will take. So be patient, accept things as they are, pick up your pen, and get to work.

Kick back and watch the grass grow. It will take as long as it takes.
Tina

Writing Rules!

Writing RulesWhether you’re writing your first novel or your tenth, you still have to deal with writing rules: things the writing world says are so important to the writing process that they have been elevated from “things to be aware of” to “A RULE”.

– Show Don’t Tell
– Avoid Excessive (Or All) Use Of Adverbs
– Don’t Use Passive Voice
– Write What You Know

To mention a few…

These are good and wonderful, and paying attention to them will make you a better writer, but if you tie yourself to rules, you’ll forget the most important and probably the only REAL writing rule there is.

Write What You Love! Write what rocks your socks! Write what wakes you up at night! Write what freaks you out in the dark! Write what makes you want to pee your pants because you’re laughing and crying so hard!!

If you write what thrills you then it goes without saying that you will Show Not Tell, Kill The Adverbs, Annihilate Passive Voice and Write What You Know.

So read advice on rules, regulations and whatever it takes to be a great writer with caution. There are folk out there who will tell you that if you don’t do XYZ you’ll never make it. CRAP, basically. If all we did was follow the rules then we’d all be doing the writing equivalent of paint by numbers and that’s about as interesting as soggy leaves stuck in the sole of a farmer’s wellie boot.

Write with passion and joy and for the hell of it. Get that right and everything else will fall into place.

You need no other reason and no other rule.

Break plates today!
Tina

Keep Calm… It’s just a novel! 12 ways to chill your boots if your novel freaks you out.

Keep Calm! It's just a novel.OMG!!!!! It’s been a month/a year/a decade and I haven’t finished my novel!!!!!!!! Damn, we wind ourselves up about the most remarkable things. 

It’s all a question of perspective. The main problem is that our perspective (the glorious writer) doesn’t match the rest of the world. We have a schedule! Doesn’t the world get that? We have deadlines! The thing is, the more you freak out over your novel (whatever stage you’re at) the slower the process will become.

So here are at least 12 ways to chill your boots if your novel starts to freak you out.

ONE: Do something that’s worth freaking out over. If you’re scared of heights, go skydiving! I guarantee that facing down something worthy of being freaked by will put your novel in perspective.

TWO: Play tiddlywinks. I don’t know what it is… Maybe it’s the comical seriousness required to get the little suckers in the cup. Takes your mind off things.

THREE: Remove all deadline. Obliterate them. Don’t set them!

FOUR: Get some puppy therapy! Even watching this video will make you smile. So go get some!!

FIVE: Go rock-climbing or scuba-diving. There’s something about these two sports that will put you in an almost meditative state. Blissful. I promise. Get to it.

SIX: Get a mix of people you like, love and maybe not like so much and go play paintball! Shoot the folk you don’t like and blame your buddy. Yeah, baby!

SEVEN: Watch a whole day of TV! Sod it!! TWO DAYS! Get a box set of something awesome and watch every episode back-to-back.

EIGHT: Go on a course. Choose something you’re fascinated in, something unrelated to your book, something you’ve always wanted to learn about. Make sure it’s a real class with real people, not online. Climb right into the subject. Boots and all.

NINE: SING! Doesn’t matter if you can’t. Really it doesn’t. Just open your lungs like a parrot at dusk and squawk! If you like, join a choir and make a habit of it. Your noise is too great for the shower! Get it out there!!

TEN: Go to a tap dance class. I bet there is research somewhere that proves that tap dancing is the most liberating of all the dance forms. There is something remarkable about making music with your feet.

ELEVEN: Get a full on, no messing, hot-stone massage.

TWELVE: Pick up a favourite book by your favourite author, find a coffee shop, take your shoes off and enjoy.

Last I looked, writing a novel was supposed to be fun. So snap open the goodie bag and jump in the puddle… doesn’t matter what you do, but whatever it is, keep calm… it’s just a novel.

Add mellow to your writing day today…
Tina

 

Write a story you love. Not one you think people will like you for.

Write a story you love - more than anything elseWe do enough in this world with the single purpose of making other people happy. It’s how many folk are raised: don’t say anything to upset anyone; don’t make people uncomfortable; give people what they ask for; step out of your way to be nice so folk will like you. So when you write a story, you have all of that upbringing to battle against which means you will most likely create characters who are nice, following plots that don’t rock too many ships, boats or other sailing vessels and use language easy on the ear. Why?

Because you want people to like you.

Here’s the odd thing. Most folk are so damn sick of “being nice” in the real world that one of the reasons they pick up a book is to delve into a world where people do what they want and get away with it. They don’t wait for the police to deal with a noisy neighbour, they burn their garage down. They don’t have a quiet chat with the parents of kids terrorising the streets, they terrorise the kids and teach them a lesson they’ll never forget.

In the books we love, our favourite characters have the courage of their convictions. They say what’s on their minds even if it means the wrath of an entire nation of believers. The books we love most allow us to experience (just for a moment and deep in our imaginations) what it would be like to act with absolute abandon, to survive and to fight. Doesn’t matter what it’s for. Whether for love or for life. We know when we crack the first page of a book we love that our character will win. One way or another. They will be victorious. 

So, why then, when we sit down to write a story, our own piece of fiction, do we play it safe?

Take a moment to look at book trends. There is always a “first of it’s kind” that makes it HUGE. Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Hunger Games, Twilight Saga… Then a few months after these book hit the waves, look at what follows. A thousand copycats. A thousand books written by folk who say “ohhhhhh, people like (fill the blank)” and merrily go and write one just like it. Those books, at best, end up average. They might be expertly written – perhaps even better than the author they’re aspiring to. But it’s still an imitation in a shadow.

So instead of writing what you think people will like, write what YOU LOVE. Write a story whose characters make you want to laugh, cry and climb trees. Write plots that tie you in knots, break your heart, sweat, scream and believe.

Because that’s what people really want.

Break the rules today!
Tina