It’s All Noodles

OK. The Daily Dose of Fiction crashed and burned for a while. It started because I needed a break between projects but knew I needed to keep writing. Then I started the next novel (attempt number 8 or 9 – lost count) … and things got hard!

So I switched off.

Did it help?

I don’t know. The story I’m working on is still all noddles. You might have experienced this: You know what you want to say, you have the characters lined up, you have the world mostly mapped, you have a good sense of what you’re after… but you can’t find the end of the thread that, when pulled, allows you to turns “a general sense” into something you can write.

It’s like knitting a jumper out of steam.

I think you just have to trust your mind, your heart and your connection to the universe where all noodles comes from. Here’s a little Haiku:

Noodles in a bowl
Untouched they go cold and hard
Dig in and enjoy

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

 

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

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

 

 

You’re writing a novel, so why bother with short stories?

A short story or two could be the solution to all your writing issues!Whether you’re in the thick of writing your novel, working hard at starting it, stuck in writer’s block or dreaming about your career as an author, you might find some answers in the unlikely lap of a short story or two.

But why take the time (that you probably don’t have) and effort (that’s dwindled to a puddle) to write a short story when every moment of your day is absorbed by either working on or freaking out over your novel???

In no particular order… 11 ways a short story can make you a better writer

ONE: Short stories are quick to write. If you’re stuck on your novel and need a distraction, pick a character and genre you’d never normally write in and blast a story out. You’ll be surprised how many rusted bolts that loosens up.

TWO: Short stories are an amazing way to develop a character. If yours are feeling a little two dimensional, pick an era in their lives (outwith the timeline of your novel) and write a short story about that. It will give you incredible insight into their back story and might reveal a few things about them that you didn’t know.

THREE: If getting your stuff out there seems terrifying, write a dozen short stories (at least) then send them ALL out for sale. Not competition. SALE. You’ll soon feel comfortable sending your work out, writing cover letters, finding the right publications and feeling OK if they say no. Why? Because if they do come back unaccepted, you tweak it and send it out again!

FOUR: Short stories are perfect for developing and experimenting with story worlds. Write a short story titled “A day in the life of a lizard in my story world”. You’ll be surprised what you find out. Most of the time you view your world from character head height. What happens on the street? What do things look like from the ground up? What does your world look like from a totally different angle? If your main characters are very rich, write a short story about someone in your world who is very poor.

FIVE: Use short stories to fix your writing challenges. If you have a problem with good dialogue, write short stories packed with it. If narrative is an issue, write one with narrative only. Whatever your writing weakness, use short stories to work it. Once you’re done, send a few into competitions that offer a review. Get feedback from professionals, rewrite based on the feedback, then send it out for SALE!

SIX: If you can’t think of anything to write, then write a short story that starts with your name. Don’t plan. Don’t think. Just free flow. It won’t take much time and it’ll get things going.

SEVEN: Practice your editing skills. A novel is a mammoth thing to edit. More often than not it takes way longer than we expect, and certainly longer than we’d like! Get better at it. Write short stories, edit them well, then send them out into the world.

EIGHT: When you send your novel out, you’re at the mercy of other people’s schedules. If all you’re doing is waiting to hear back about ONE piece of work, you’re likely to crash and burn when/if you get a no. But if you always have multiple bits of work in the market, getting a no won’t have that much impact on your soul. You’ll have a bunch of other pieces of work out there. So rework what came back, and send it out again.

NINE: They’re fun! There isn’t a huge investment of time. You can write flash fiction if you like. A mere 500 words. When things are getting too serious, look around the space you’re in, pick 3 words and write a story that incorporates them. Make is as crazy and ridiculous as you can. Make yourself laugh! Then, if you like it, edit it and send it out to WORK!

TEN: Short stories allow you to build a great portfolio. One day, when you have a bunch of stories you love, you can gather them all together and publish a compilation. Never a word wasted.

ELEVEN: One of a writer’s fears it the notion of spending years on something that doesn’t go anywhere. A short story will give you a reprieve from that. Spend an hour or two writing it (1500-2000 words) then a week or so to edit and stew, then send it out. Use this little tool to beat your writing fears whether they stem from the quality of your work to judgement of it. Sod it. Put it out there anyway. What’s the worst that can happen? Oh… say it ain’t so… you might actually get really good at it and get result. RESULTS!

There are 11 reasons to write short stories. Any more? Let me know…

Happy writing today!
Tina

For character development on steroids, put your character through a personality test!

Dig deep into your character's mindNever entered my mind to do this! I like it! Seriously, try it out… Put your characters through a personality test.

Below is a list of a few of the free personality tests you’ll find online. You can pay for a really thorough test, but for a quick and dirty one, these work fine.

I tried out the MBTI test (MMDI and Jung) because I know a bit about that already. When I read the results I was stunned at how clearly my main character stood out. I was also able to see why some scenes didn’t work. It just gives you a totally different insight into your story world.

Now, you might think that you know your characters really well, and you probably do. But take a moment to think about your best friend or even yourself. If you’ve ever taken one of these test, or read one your friend has taken, you’ll know that there are insights into your inner world that make you go “Oohhhhhh, that’s right… never thought of it that way, but that’s true!”

Character development personality tests…

Here are the tests – there are dozens more if you dig around. The first link (Similar Minds) has a whole list you can explore. Some of them a bit odd, I grant you:

– Similar Minds: This one has a whole bunch of different test on one page. I haven’t explored them all yet.
– MMDI: Very similar to Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). I’ve tried this one. You can pay for the full report.
– Jung test: This is also an MBTI test. It doesn’t give you as much information as MMDI but you can take the test, get the 4 letters you need (you’ll know them when you see them), then pick up a book on MBTI and read up on it.

Happy digging around your head today!
Tina

How to build an IRRESISTIBLE story world

Build an irrisistable story world

Why bother with your story world? What’s the big deal?

I was 13 when I decided to be a storyteller. It happened the day I sat in a hot school hall with 800 other kids and listened to a live story teller tell Herman Charles Bosman stories. One guy dressed in baggy blue dungarees sat on a rocking chair on our school stage and hypnotised 800 kids on a warm, blue-sky South African summer day. I WANT TO BE ABLE TO DO THAT! I said to my 13-year-old self and she agreed.

Now, I didn’t necessarily want to don blue dungarees and travel around the globe telling Bosman stories, but I did want to be able to transport people from where they were into where I wanted them to be. I wanted to learn how to make the story world so sharp and real that people would phone up to book a long weekend in the local hotel or call our best restaurant to book a table for 12.

We’ve all read books that do that. Books that draw us so tightly into the mind of the characters that we could get hit by a bus and not notice. It’s powerful.

Articles from people who’ve thought about this a great deal

ONE: 7 Deadly Sins of World Building by Charlie Jane Anders: In short – DETAIL. This particular article discusses the mistakes writers make when they don’t go into enough detail on everything from the history or the world to daily functions.

TWO: Article by Holly Lisle: How much of the world do I build? Holly starts off saying you should build only what you need and imply the rest, and ends by saying you shouldn’t beat yourself up about the details of your world. She has a point. It’s easy to get caught up in building up every detail and point of history of your world instead of just sitting down and writing and working it out as you go. Despite different approaches, Holly and Charlie Jane Anders have DETAIL in common.

THREE: Creating Story World by Melinda Evaul: In this article Melinda talks about how to gather research and understand the inner workings of your character by putting them through a Myers-Briggs personality tests. Never thought of trying that. Very cool. She also suggests you gather pictures, images, shapes and sounds that make up your world and surround your writing space with it.

Happy Building
Tina