Write your name

Write your name... See what happens!So, if you’ve tried everything and you still can’t find a word to write, start with your name and see what comes out. Remember, you’re writing for the bin so it doesn’t have to be polished genius…

When I first tried this, here’s exactly what came out (unedited, I might add):

“My name is Tina. But it wasn’t always. I used to be Jim Allen Mcguire. I used to be 6’2”, blonde and full of bollocks. Now I’m 6’2”, blonde and buxom. Trouble is. I’m also in Aberdeen’s only female prison and no bugger will believe I didn’t do it. Now you’re going to ask me what I’m supposed to have done to get here, and I’m going to have to tell you because pretty soon I’m going to find myself in a public shower and I’m going to go from Tina Tutu to “Crap, that’s a bloke…”

I didn’t finish the story, but it got me going and made me chuckle. So if you can’t think of even one thing to write, just write your name and let it go. See what happens.

When you write for the bin and start with something as simple as your name, a new crucial element is added to your arsenal… You start to relax and have a bit of fun.

Happy writing today

Write for the bin

Write for the bin!I can’t recall who said this but these words have been on my study wall for a year and their importance only recently sank in. I’m slow… What can l say?

Most of our greatest battles as writers are seeded by our dreams and imaginations. When we sit down to write, part of our mind is filled with character and plot, the rest is filled with our dreams, hopes, and ambitions for the book. So when we write our first draft, it’s like our audience is right there in front of us: watching, waiting, and judging every word. Instead of just writing, we stare at the page, then at an imaginary audience, then back at the page, then give up and go and make a cup of tea.

So don’t write for an audience. Don’t write for your kids or your family, and heavens forbid, don’t write for yourself. You are your worst critic. Write for the bin. Decide up front that anything you write, you will throw away. No one will read it. Ever. Free yourself up and make buddies with the bin.

Here’s what will happen…

You’ll start to write. The words might be rubbish, but so what. That’s the intention. Keep writing. When you’re done, you’ll have something on paper that amounts to a rough lump of clay on a wheel that might or might not have the potential to be a teapot.

Now you open the bin and start to throw it out. That’s what’s editing is for. Ditch it. Delete it. Trash it. By the time you’re done, very little of what you originally wrote will be left unscathed. The bin will be full, your mind will be clear, and you will have a teapot worthy of presenting to any audience you choose.

Start with only one thing in mind. Write for the bin. Get it out. You know you’re going to throw it away, so be repetitive, use as many adverbs and adjectives as you like. The bin will be grateful, your audience will not be subjected to your first draft, and you’ll be writing instead of moaning about not writing.

OK, so the bin it is… But where do you start?

What if you stare at the bin and even then, nothing comes.

I put this question to my husband: “Morris. What is your cure for writer’s block?”

Write your name”, he said.

Happy writing today! Even if it is just your name… Make it a great one!

Seriously? Fear is your excuse?

Fear is a lousy excuse not to write!Fear is all fine and useful if you’re using it to sharpen your senses and hone your survival skills. But the fear we experience as writers has nothing to do with battling the elements or making it through Christmas with the in-laws.

The fear we feel as writers is couched in personal insecurity and illusion.

It’s when our imagination, which should serve us so well, turns into the enemy at the gates. We have absolutely no evidence for what we fear. We just fear it will happen to us.

So let’s take a moment to look at the terrors that keep writers awake on dark and stormy nights:

People might not like our work
No kidding Batman. Give me the title of a single book that someone hasn’t trashed. Everything from the Bible to the Da Vinci Code has had its critics. Criticize is what we do as a species. That’s a fact. Like gravity. You scared of gravity? No? Then don’t be scared of some people not liking your book.

People might not like it because it really is crap
What if I write my novel and find I actually can’t write at all? – Ooh! The horror of admitting a personal limitation. This is actually a really great awareness to have. If you never have any doubts about the quality of your writing, then you will not strive to improve. Here’s the Catch 22 – for as long as you don’t write, you’ll never improve. Writing is one task that you have to do to get better at. Oh heavens above, this sounds so obvious. And when you say it to yourself, you know it’s obvious. But when you’re in the midst of writer’s block the obvious often seems coated in cryptic. So do this…. first, write for the bin, second, for a month or two, or however long you like, do nothing except write a personal journal or emails to friends. Now, when you do this, don’t just bash out words. Think about what you’re writing, edit it, craft it. Tell the story of your day; how you felt, what you did. Aim to transport your reader. Write from your heart as only you can. Instead of creating a basic journal entry, write it in third person and turn it into a bit of a tale. “Julie Pilonski (substitute your name) woke with the alarm clock lying dead on the floor beside her. Silence. Silence was nice. Silence and the sun streaming through her bedroom window? Shit! Late!…” Edit it. Work it until you like it. Once you’re happy with your journal tales, start creating emails to friends and family. Don’t just spit them out. Hone your craft whenever you write. When you’re happy, press send. Oh hell yes! Look at that. You’re published! If you worry about the quality of your writing, do something about it.

Even if it’s good it might never get published. Or if it does, it might not sell, and if it does sell, it might not sell enough for me to make a living out of it. Oh heavens save us. Bring out the prescription pills, razor blades, bulldozer and wooden box
Get a grip. My husband has a story he tells whenever I spout this nonsense. “Paddy and Mick”: Paddy needs a shovel to dig up his garden and he knows Mick has one. So on a fine sunny morning he sets off out his front door and down his garden path to ask Mick for a loan of his shovel. As Paddy reaches the road, however, he remembers the last time he asked Mick for something. Mick bitched and complained and generally made the whole experience a misery. Paddy shrugs the memory off and keeps walking. However, when he gets a mile down the road he remembers another time he asked Mick for the loan of some sugar and did Paddy hear the end of that? Hell no. By now, Paddy is getting a little tense. His fists balled into bundles, his back tightened to a rigid mass and a deep frown digging furrows on his head. He walks that little bit faster as he remembers yet another time he asked Mick for the loan of his tractor and the argument that followed. By now, Paddy has sweat dripping down his face, his gut is a turmoil of acid strong enough to dissolve a badger at fifty feet. He storms up to Mick’s door and bangs loudly. A minute later Mick swings the door open and beams at Paddy: “Well hello, Paddy. How are you doing?” Paddy glowers at Mick. “Shove your shovel up your arse!” he bellows, and stalks off. Point being: It’s easy to talk yourself out of what you want by assuming what might or might not happen.

I could work on something for a year and it might or might not go anywhere
Fine. True. This is a fickle business full of subjective opinions. However, if you start now, you’ll know the outcome in a year. If you hum and ha and mess about, it might be two or five or ten years before you know whether it’ll come to anything. So just get on with it!

Fear is just one of your demons playing silly buggers with your head.

Happy writing today.

It’s write or the demons. You choose.

It's write or the demons. Better to just write!There are a hundred really good reason why you should write every day if you’re going to be the writer you want to be. Breaking a big and complex job down into bits, for instance, is a nice one. 

The REAL reason to write every day though, when you take time to think about it, is to keep the demons out of your head.

I’m not talking Exorcist, Rite or Rosemary’s Baby style demons (although some of those might seem very real at four in the morning); it’s our own devils and demons that sneak in and fill the dark, damp corners of our minds spawning doubt and fear, uncertainty and insecurity.

When you “take a break” from writing, it might feel, for a while, like a relief. Then, almost unnoticed, thoughts and feelings begin to seep into the folds of your mind like vapor. At first, it’s not entirely unpleasant. But after a while, when you try to reach out and touch them, they disappear into the walls of your flesh and leave nothing but an inexplicable lethargy behind that only CSI re-runs seem to cure. So to avoid the feelings gnawing at your gut, you sit down, switch on your TV, and lose yourself in someone else’s fiction. Before you know it, a day or two days or a week has gone by, time has passed, and you’ve not written a word.

Then the demons get adventurous and plant thoughts in your mind about life: where you are, what you’ve done, how old you are, how much time you think you have, others who have published ahead of you who are younger and haven’t written for as long, about your day job and how much more you’d get done if you didn’t have to work.

You do all that mulling, and you still don’t write a word.

Then finally, once you’ve picked a few needless fights with people you love most and have endured a week or two or three of frustration, moodiness, and possibly indigestion, you think “Sod it, I’ll write this unforgiving world into my book.”

And you finally sit down and write.

Suddenly, the light fills the dark corners, the day job becomes the really cool place you go so you can pay your bills and put food on your table and holidays in your calendar and movies in your weekend. Your family become those beautiful people who have supported your dream even when you behaved like an idiot.

It’s like magic! The real deal!

So take some time to watch your writing moods.

Next time you feel like taking a break, don’t stop entirely. Do something every day towards your craft – even if it’s writing short stories, researching a new character, reading up on a new writing technique, studying a new genre. Doesn’t matter. Every day, do something towards your dream. If you feel the darkness descend, pick up your pen. Even if it’s 300 words, it doesn’t matter. Make the commitment and write those 300 words every day. 365 days of the year.

These are the basic writing rules:

ONE: Love the people you love.
TWO: Appreciate who pays your bills.~
THREE: Eat well, be fit.
FOUR: Write every day. Every day. Without fail.

Those doubts and shadows have no space in your mind. It’s all you. You get to choose how you feel and how you spend your writing time. If you really only have 30 minutes, then set a clock for 30 minutes and write. You’ll be surprised how much you get down. You don’t need hours every day. 30 minutes in the morning. 30 minutes at lunchtime. 30 minutes in the evening. 30 minutes before you go to bed. Depending on how often you skip back to edit as you write, you could clock up 2000 words every day.

2000 words a day = 60,000 a month = a young adult novel or a short novel for grown-ups.
If you’re writing a 120,000 word book for adults, 2000 words a day will give you a first draft in two months. That’s got to be worth four 30 minute writing slots every day. Hasn’t it?

You don’t even have to spread your words across your day. Get it all done in the morning and spend the rest of your day living, editing, appreciating and enjoying your job. That’s a full day. No time, space, or energy for deluded demons here.

Just Write!

What’s out your window?

InspirationJust getting into Twitter and I’m following a guy called Jonathan Gunson at BestSellerLabs.com. He’s got some interesting stuff on how to enjoy Twitter without getting tied in ribbons, bows and knots.

Anyway… In the email transactions between saying hello and downloading a course on Twitter for Authors, he added the following message on writing to the bottom of an email – from a writer friend of his:

“Sit quietly by a window and frame an idea… After a brief time, the pen moves, a word is written, and suddenly, you have the beginnings of something grand.”

So it’s 2014. A grand start to a wonderful year. Our ambitions and resolutions, as writers, invariably turn to what we’re going to deliver this year. What we’re going to finally finish. What we’re going to publish. But it’s so easy to get lost in the business of writing (websites, PR, social media…), that we can easily forget about the writing itself. Instead of looking out of a window and framing an idea, we’re busy looking at the repetitive detail that fills out lives.

So make only one resolution this year. WRITE. Just WRITE. It’s OK if the laundry piles up a little. Write this year and make it count.

Have a wonderful 2014.

This from a women – multitasking is a myth!

Multitasking is a myth! Do one thing at a time.Whichever way you slice it, multitasking isn’t really doing a bunch of things simultaneously – it’s doing a lot of things, in bits and pieces, to medium effect, SERIALLY, not in parallel.

If you’re a multitasker, just think about it for a moment… What we define as multitasking is really having a dozen things on the go at various stages of completion. When it comes down to actually DOING something that counts, we can really only do or think about ONE THING. Trying to do more than one thing at a time merely results in jobs taking longer to finish than they should, you being more stressed than you should be and making more mistakes than you’ll admit to.

Here’s a challenge for the New Year. Start one thing (something from your daily to-do list, a project, a book), focus on it entirely, finish it, then start the next thing. Aim to have only ONE action on the go at a time. You’ll find a few things happen: 1) You won’t waste time thinking about all the balls you’re juggling, 2) you won’t waste time trying to remember what stage you’re at with each project and 3) you won’t waste time trying to de-stress between bouts of overload.

As a writer, focusing on one thing at a time is even more important. If, while you’re writing your novel, you’re also writing a non-fiction book, building a website, running a social media campaign, writing short stories, running a family, keeping a job down, living a life… the amount of time you’ll have to really dig deep on your novel will be divided by everything else you have going on. This might work for a while, but if you don’t take the time to think, stew and create, then everything you write will be superficial at best.

Some things need focused attention. If you struggled to get your book finished in 2013, try to drop a few projects off your radar in 2014 and focus more on what you want to complete.

If you’re really addicted to the idea of multitasking, then go put the kettle on while the next chapter is brewing.

Happy writing today!

If you want to meet your characters, you need to BE QUIET

Give your characters space and time to show themselves. Be quiet. Still your crazy mind.
Give your characters space and time to show themselves. Be quiet. Still your crazy mind!

Have you ever tried to build a story line, create a character or run through dialogue in your mind only to be defeated by the cacophony in your head?

Arguments you would have won if you’d just said (fill the gap), things to do, plans to make, reminders to be reminded of, insults aimed at yourself or the person next to you…

The definition of MESS is matter out of place. The same definition can be applied to NOISE  as sounds out of place.

If you want to build a story line or create a character or run through dialogue in your mind, you need to clear out the noise. You need to still your mind. You need to shut up. You need to BE QUIET.

The brightest creations come out of stillness. It’s where What’s Possible lives. Connections are made in its silence. Worlds are created there.

Your characters are shy. Few will stand up to the chaos that usually fills your mind. Give them the time and space they need to come out and be discovered.

Happy writing today.
Tina K

False Starts!

False starts are OK!How many times have you “started” your novel? This drove me nuts until I accepted that false starts are a good way to measure whether you really are ready to write.

Take this as a possible outcome to your writing endevours… You start your novel after months of thinking and research and you decide to subscribe to the school of thought that “Once you start, you just keep going! No matter what! Write you crazy person! Don’t you dare falter! Get that first draft out! Don’t stop until the end… then go back and edit.”

Been there done that, and editing under those conditions is a bitch.

So, how many false starts are OK? In my humble opinion? As many as you like.

There’s an inner editor we, as writers, all have (I’m going to direct you to “Let me Out! 49 Great Escapes from Writer’s Block” for more about it). It’s the voice in the back of our heads or the feeling in our gut that tells us something isn’t right. To ignore it and keep on going when you feel the overall plot is rubbish, just doesn’t make sense. So start over!

If you’re struggling to get past the first, second or third chapter, then stop, bin what you’ve written, review your characters, plot, the whole damn idea, and fix what needs to be fixed. Then start again.

If you have to do this a dozen times, that’s fine. Just don’t waste time finishing something you know isn’t right.

Happy writing, no matter how many times you start.