Monday, 29 February 2016

The Three Ds of Writing


Achieving goals in any field takes more than just desire, but if you possess even a small amount of the following three qualities, it will increase your chances of success.

Determination

Yesterday I took a day off, because I needed some social life to balance my writing life, although if your life is like mine (and most people I know), getting that work/leisure balance right is a juggling act, that despite endless practice, is rarely easy. My experience is that determination varies, like waves hitting the shoreline. Sometimes huge crunchers thunder onto the beach, and on other days, tiny wavelets lap gently at the shore. Yet as long as the wind pushes over the surface of the sea, those waves will keep coming. So consider determination in the same way: as long as you keep trying, you'll get closer to realizing your dreams.

Discipline

Developing the habit of writing regularly takes discipline.

     'Exercise the writing muscle every day, even if it is only a letter, notes,
     a title list, a character sketch, a journal entry. Writers are like dancers,
     like athletes. Without that exercise, the muscles seize up.' – Jane Yolen.

Each writer has their own rhythm, their own way of tapping into their creative process. I’m still learning what works for me and change my schedule from time to time. Sometimes I write as soon as I get up, stick at it for as long as I can, then leave my imaginary world and return to this one. I’ve also had periods of working later in the day when I've given myself a word quota and not stopped till I’ve reached my goal. Sometimes words flow, at other times I have to encourage my hesitant, reluctant sentences onto the page. Sometimes when they do come, they’re not what I want, but at least if there are words on the page, I've got something to work with.

Drive

I found the following explanations of the word 'drive' in my dictionary:by compulsion, force along, impel, urge, compel, energy, initiative, go along before an impelling force.
You get the drift.
When you write, determination and discipline combine to keep you going, but it is the act of writing itself, the act of creating something, that is so satisfying, and which generates the momentum that keeps you moving forward. 

Writing Update

I'm forty three thousand words into the first draft of the final book in my urban fantasy trilogy, Samsara. Mapping out the scenes in more detail is helping, but I still find, especially when I've written something like, 'hand to hand fighting', I have to go back to square one and figure out the choreography of the action. On the whole, though, the more detailed the scene, the easier the words flow. 

Even though I've some way to go, I'm already feeling sad that this is the last in the series, and I'll be saying goodbye to these characters before the end of the year. Still, on the upside, I'll have room for some new ones to occupy.

Links:

If you're a Wattpad member, I have several short stories posted on the site: https://www.wattpad.com/teagankearney

https://twitter.com/@teagankearney
https://uk.pinterest.com/teagankearney

I've also (finally) made it onto face book, though I'm still not sure what I'm doing there: https://www.facebook.com/teagankearney

Thanks for visiting my blog, and please do leave a comment. 
To all story lovers out there, good reading, and to those of you who write, good writing. 




Monday, 8 February 2016

Author Spotlight: Carol Hedges

I met Carol on Twitter, and apart from the enjoyment I get from her brilliantly witty blog, I've found her to be one of those people who offer genuine support and friendship to those she meets. As you can imagine, I was really pleased for the chance to learn a bit more about her writing career. 


Could you tell us a little about yourself, where you were born, and grew up.
I was born in 1950 in Welwyn Garden City, which was a lot smaller then than it is now! Apparently I taught myself to read from being left in the local Children's Library from an early age - I went to one of those 'progressive' primary schools that, in those days, didn't believe in formally teaching anything and it wasn't until I was eight that my parents twigged that I could read, but imperfectly. Yes  I know - wouldn't happen with today's helicopter parents, but a lot of unhealthy (or healthy?) neglect happened in them dark days. Given that I can now read AND write, it shows that nobody is irredeemable.

Which book/books do you remember making a strong impression on you when you were young, and what was it about the book/books you liked?
I've written before of my love of the Orlando the Marmalade Cat books (Katherine Hale). They were my first discovery, and I was drawn to the pictures...in fact I can probably date my love of cats to these books. And my creative imagination: at six, I went around telling everybody that we had a cat. We hadn't, and I got thumped for lying (another feature of the bad old days..). I used to read Enid Blyton Famous Five (yes, I wanted to be George, didn't we all?), What Katy Did and a LOT of comics: Beano, Beezer, and later, Girl.



You started off writing YA/teenage fiction and now write Victorian crime dramas—what drew you to write in these genres, and what continues to inspire you?
I actually started writing articles for various journals before I started writing teen/YA. Bringing up my daughter, and then working in a secondary school gave me an insight into the lives of teenagers, which I used copiously in the first three books, now out of print except for a few secondhand ones lurking in the depths of the Amazon basin: (Red Velvet/Jigsaw/Bright Angel). My daughter has pointed out that all my teenage books focus on the mother:daughter relationships and the stresses thereof. Can't think why.

Switching age range and genre at age 63 was a HUGE risk - but the teen pool was full of 'celeb/established' writers (it still is) and there was very little room for mid-listers like myself. I'd always loved the Victorian period: the books, the ingenuity of the people,so it seemed logical to go there. I chose to set my Stride & Cully books in the 1860s: the 1880s is a crowded field thanks to Conan Doyle, Jack the Ripper etc, but few modern' writers write in the mid-Victorian period. I LOVE it! and EXCLUSIVE: I am about to set up a Victorian Facebook page for all those weird and wonderful things that make the Victorian era so so interesting.

Your research must play an important part in creating the setting for your historical novels.
Research is and has to be the backbone of any 'histfic' writer. I am lucky as many of the London locations depicted in the books still exist, so I can go and take pictures. There are loads of useful online sites, such as The Victorian Web, where facts can be checked, and of course, much of the original literary material is easily available in newspaper archives, or sitting on the fiction shelves of any library.

What misconceptions do people have about the genre you write in?
People still tend to mix 'historical' with 'historical fiction'. Yes, we all base our work on what was going on at the time, but the characters and events come from our own minds. I write in the present tense - and have had many comments as my plot takes place in the past - people seem to think that the past should be written about in the past. I'm sure Hilary Mantel, who also uses present tense, gets the same stick as I do! Readers have to detach the history from the fiction and appreciate our books on their own merits as pieces of narrative.

The other side of that coin is that authors need to stick to the contextual mores: there were no 'feisty female teenagers gagging to take on the criminal fraternity or men in general'. It just wasn't like that in Victorian times - and it's no good trying to impose 21st century characters on a very patriarchal 19th century world.

Can you tell us something about your writing process, for example, what habits/practices do you find the most helpful? Which parts of the creative process are the easiest and which the least enjoyable?
I am an appalling writer and I'm always surprised that I finish a book. I rarely plan - other than knowing from the outset the crime and the resolution. I write - every day if I can. I edit as I go and I research as I go. It takes ma about six months to complete a first draft, and then I go through and add or take away as I feel meets the integrity of the book. The fourth book, to be self published in the Autumn, has been edited by Mr Detail (my husband) and it was a shock to see him drawing up charts to check all the plotlines worked through to a satisfactory ending.

Can you share with us the reasons for your recent decision to start your own imprint, Little G Books, and how difficult or easy has the process been?
Little G books, my current imprint (though it is really Amazon Kindle/Createspace and hopefully soon Kobo) arose from a desire to keep more of what I was earning. No publisher is prepared to 'pay' a writer a reasonable percentage of the royalties. In my case, I was working flat out on several social media platforms, blogging, etc but still not getting the lion's share of the sales. Plus, I like being in control; it's fun - for instance, I recently fiddled with my Amazon keywords and managed to get Diamonds & Dust almost to the top of the 'werewolf' chart! Yaay.

The downside is the amount of work involved. To put out a good product, you have to check each book over and over again, line by line. Mistakes happen in the uploading. I was lucky in that a fellow writer's wife kindly did the formatting and sorted out some of the background stuff for me, and my covers are designed by a local graphic artist, so I could keep them, though I changed the colours. Yep, I could have applied to one of the many companies around and farmed the whole thing out to them for the odd £1,000. But what's the point?

Can you tell us something about your current work-in-progress?
Murder & Mayhem, the 4th book in the Victorian Detectives series is almost ready and hopefully will be published in the Autumn. There will be the usual Facebook Victorian party! I'm currently writing the 5th book: Rhyme & Reason, though it is still early stages.

What future projects do you have planned?
Always a tricky one to answer. Staying alive, comes to mind! I'd like to say there will be a Stride & Cully book every year, but who knows? There may be some YA novels that have never seen the light of day .... but I'm not able to say anything more about that at the moment...what I will be doing in the future is writing, that's for sure. As long as people enjoy reading my stuff, I'll continue turning it out.



Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions, Carol. It's been a real pleasure, and I wish you lots of luck with your new venture.

If you want to find out more about Carol, you can find her at the following links:

Twitter:  @carolJhedges
Blog: carolhedges.blogspot.co.uk
Amazon author pages: AMAZON: UK: http://amzn.to/1N1P3DF  US:http://amzn.to/1RCHmun 

Monday, 1 February 2016

Defending the Much-Maligned Adverb


I feel like a wee ant going up against a colossus, but today’s post is about something which bugs me. So, here goes. Fashion goes in cycles – one year something is in, the following year, it’s out. Education also promotes various initiatives which find favor for a while, before being discarded. Literary style is no different. If you take a writing course or read any of the numerous books on writing fiction, one piece of advice you'll come across is remove your adverbs and replace them with stronger verbs.

The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton
(Page 1, paragraph 1, sentence 1.)
The twelve men congregated in the smoking room of the Crown Hotel gave the impression of a party accidentally met.
(Winner of the Man Booker prize 2013. P.S. She also used ‘bodily’ in the second sentence.)

If you challenge this current wisdom, you’ll hear that adverbs tell, and don’t show, that they bog down and over-complicate whatever it is you are trying to say. Adverbs are the tools of the weak and the lazy.

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
(Page 1 paragraph 3)
Mrs. Southcott had recently attained her five-and-twentieth blessed birthday....
 (This book heads Wikipedia’s list of the bestselling books of all time – with over 100 million copies sold. P.S. The same paragraph has another two adverbs – supernaturally and lately.)

When studying English grammar, first nouns and adjectives, then verbs and adverbs are the normal order in which we teach these parts of speech to young children. We wouldn’t dream of saying, adverbs describe verbs, but you must never use them in writing, though you can when you’re talking to each other. So why are writers informed that this particular part of speech is not welcome at the literary dining table?

Harvest by Jim Crace
(Page 1, paragraph 1.)
It rises in a column that hardly bends or thins until it clears the canopies.
(Booker prize short list 2013)

I understand the modern penchant for concise prose ala Hemingway and that long descriptive passages are no longer in vogue, and if the advice given was to use adverbs sparingly, I’d agree without reservation – but to eliminate? Isn’t this a tad drastic?

We are told to make our verbs work harder. An image springs to mind: a brawny overseer, with a flashing 'Word Police' sign emblazoned on his uniform, wielding a razor tipped whip over a group of cowering verbs. These abject sinners, marked with that telltale ‘ly’, are lined up against the wall and, without a second thought, executed.

Will adjectives will be the next in line? Maybe the new wisdom will be don’t use more than one at any given time? For the moment adjectives have a reprieve. Although I do wonder how the sentence snot-nose, tousled-haired, raggedy Ann dressed orphan would be received by the anti-adverb posse?

The Old Man of the Sea by Earnest Hemingway
(Page 1 paragraph 1)
...the old man was now definitely and finally...

In their defense, adverbs are versatile. They modify adjectives and verbs, and function as transitional conjunctive adverbs between two independent clauses in a sentence (however, nonetheless, etc., etc.). I have noticed that most articles deriding their use are sprinkled with them. Henry James loved adverbs, and although Stephen King dislikes them, he still uses them.

Joyland by Stephen King
(Page 1 paragraph 1)
The only thing, actually.
(Joyland was published in 2013.)

You know by now where I’m headed with this post. I’ve done my best to show that past and present writers, whose works literary critics and the public hold up as examples in terms of style, content and popularity made use of the humble, much-maligned adverb. And just to emphasize my point, I’ve added this last example.

Life after Life by Kate Atkinson
(Page 1 Paragraph 2)
Everyone knew that he preferred his women demure and wholesome, Bavarian preferably.
(Booker prize short list 2013. P.S. There are three in paragraph 3 – softly, manly, currently, and two in paragraph 4 – slowly, eventually.)

In conclusion, adverbs are part of our language, therefore how can we write stories which reflect life without using them? Instead of banning, shouldn’t we employ them judiciously? If we treat them like precious gems rather than pariahs, they will serve to enhance our writing.

Writing Update

I'm 10,000 words into the first draft of Book Three of my paranormal urban fantasy, Samsara. I've been following James Paterson's advice about planning, which is, if you put more work put into the outline, the writing becomes easier. So far, I'm happily achieving my daily goal of 1,500 words a day for six days of the week (I occasionally have to stop to clear a path to the door, and the day off is flexible, allowing me a little space if anything untoward crops up.) Getting on with the writing, as opposed to editing and outlining makes me feel as if I'm making some solid progress.


Today’s Haiku
raucous dawn chorus
pine trees stand to attention
pale gold sun rises

Useful Links
An article defending the adverb:
And an article in defense of difficult books:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/04/17/in-defense-of-difficult-b_n_5128657.html



Join me on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/@tegankearney
Or check out my new pinterest boards:https://uk.pinterest.com/teagankearney/
If you're a Wattpad member, I have several short stories posted on the site: https://www.wattpad.com/teagankearney

Thanks for visiting my blog, and please do leave a comment.
To all story lovers out there, good reading, and to those of you who write, good writing. 

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Apart from writing, I'm compiling a bucket list of places I'd like to  visit...from Iceland to Hawaii and onwards....
         

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