Home – Haiku, book recommend and Journey Notes for Writers

I’m currently reading Herman Charles Bosman’s short story collection: The Collected Works of Herman Charles Bosman. If you want a peek into a version of early South Africa, then I recommend it. Beautiful stories. Some very funny, some achingly poignant. South Africa has her battles, but she’s come a long, long way since those early colonial days.

Here’s a little Haiku called Home:

 

Leopard in the grass
Dawn to dust, sun on his back
The door is open

 

Journey Notes for Writers: Writing a novel takes as long as it takes. Some people crack their nut in the first year – like they were born with a clear path. Others wander through all sorts of hills and valleys on the road to getting there.

With that in mind, I’ve been thinking about the size of your canvas. Some artists paint intricate scenes on an inch square tile in minute and exquisite detail. Others need the side of a building.

So if you’re a “journey writer” then take a moment to consider the canvas you’re working on. Some writers work well within the rules and confines of a tight genre. Some don’t. So if what you’re doing isn’t working, consider whether your story needs more space. Perhaps you should be writing an epic that stretches over generations and worlds. Just a thought…

Recipe for a Great Stew

In writing, don’t rush into anything. Especially not to trash almost 2 years worth of work. Here’s a little Haiku called “Recipe for a Great Stew”. Below is a note to writers.

Fill your fireside pot
Stand to live then sit to write
Time makes perfect stew

JOURNEY NOTE FOR WRITERS: 
As you may know, I trashed the last version of FF. I’d worked on it for almost 2 years and it came back from my awesome editor with so many holes that I decided it had to go. I really did consign it to the Lessons Learned bin and moved on.

Then this morning I glanced at the editor’s additional notes and realised I’d been a little hasty. Yes, the plot is mostly rubbish, the location isn’t quite right, sequencing is out, and completely illogical and all too convenient things happen all through the story that just don’t tie up. But I like the premise and most of the characters are really great.

Now, here’s the realisation… If you “put your book aside for a while”, it’ll stew. That’s true. And when you come back to it you’ll see holes and inconsistencies and you’ll make some changes. But if you really let it go – if you genuinely trash it – then when you come back to it, nothing will be precious. You’ll see all the gaps and issues and starting over (from the very beginning if necessary) won’t feel so hard. Sometimes we have to really let something go before we see it for what it really is.

That’s it. Happy stewing today, folks.
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.

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

 

 

How to get from the real world to a story idea?

How to go from real world to story ideasfind story ideas in the real worldThe short story is a fiction microcosm. A Petri dish where all the elements of a good read, from story idea to the afterglow you get when it stays with you, are present, but in small pieces.

As part of my own exploration into that Petri dish, I’m reading a lot of short stories by some very good writers, including Joanne Harris’s collection, “A Cat, a Hat and a Piece of String.”

Before the start of each short story she writes a short paragraph introducing the story and sometimes describes what inspired it. In many cases, the leap from the real world to the story idea is a big one.

I looked at my own short stories and realised that similarly, many of them bear little resemblance to what inspired them in the first place.

As I let that idea stroll around my head I began to see the “intangible something” that fills that gap between the real world and the story idea. After all that strolling and thinking, I also finally accepted that any time I tried to force the leap from “real world” to “story idea” the story just didn’t work. 

Hence the question: How to get from real world to story idea? What happens in the gap between real life and fiction? Where does the story evolve from? What is that spark that forms the bridge between fact and fiction? Where does it come from?

In the quest for a great story idea, the most elusive of all writing tools, inspiration, clearly plays a part. 

So I did some web research into inspiration. Here are a few views from other people:

ONE: I like this one most… From a blog by Ariel Constantinof: How to find inspiration for writing? Don’t: Ariel says you don’t find it, you make it. It’s not some magic that floats into your head. You seek it out and if it doesn’t happen, just start writing anyway. I agree. I do this a lot. Start with a few words and sometimes an image, and it goes from there. The ending, you’ll find, is as much a surprise to you as your audience.

TWO: Write to Done gives 31 ways to find inspiration, from blogs to people watching. The common factor with most of these suggestions is that you get into the world! Why? Because more often than not the conversations we have with ourselves are nonsense. If you’re looking for inspiration, you need to get out of your own head!

THREE: Another approach is taken by Henri Junttila in his article Inspire to Write. Meditation, silence, quietude. Getting out of your own head by going deeper into it 🙂 Very cool.

To be inspired, you need raw material.

Stephen King’s famous comment on reading, I think, sums it up: “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”

When all that raw material from a thousand different sources stews and simmers in our minds, the ideas, no matter now disparate merge and a story idea blossoms whether we like it or not.

This blooming happens at the most random of times (in the shower, in a hot tub, walking the dogs, washing dishes…) which is why, perhaps, we think there is some magic behind inspiration. The truth is, if you read and think, explore and converse with the world, then inspiration is inevitable. All those small ideas bind together making it possible to make the leap from carpets to cats.

Make magic today folks.
Tina