Posted in Inspiration

Inspired by…

…Michelangelo.

David: September 1501 – June 15013

If people knew how hard I worked to get my mastery, it wouldn’t seem so wonderful at all.

~ Michelangelo

It can’t be denied that this is one of the most impressive sculptures ever made (that we’re aware of). The size alone – 17ft – is incredible, but add to that the detail and precision with which it was crafted, and it’s no wonder that Michelangelo’s David is still one of the most iconic pieces of the Renaissance era.

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It is said that this rendering of David represents the moment just before his fight with Goliath: the brief period of time between conscious choice and action.

While it would be understandable to say that the beauty and precision of this statue alone, inspires me, that would fall sadly short of the truth. It is, in fact, more to do with the nearly 100 years he had to wait to be made, and the actual 2+ years Michelangelo took to release him from his stoney cocoon.

This is a masterpiece, and a massive labour of love, for a relatively young artist (26), whose attitude to art, and life itself, is something I hope to replicate.

Useful Info…

…about MAGIC!

magic

If your book is going to have magic in it, there needs to be some sort of consistency in order to make it more believable for the reader. It may not be necessary for you to explain every little detail within the actual story itself, but it could be useful to make a note at the start of your project, of a few key points.

Ideas you may want to consider:

  • What – kind of magic is it? (Wand based/Elemental/Other)
  • Who – practices it? (Everyone/a select few)
  • How – is magic used? (defence/survival/how it affects your world)
  • Limitations – that can weaken magic, or are unaffected? (Kryptonite/death/Other)
  • Costs – of using/abusing magic? (extreme fatigue/insanity/death)
  • Technique – used to wield magic? (spells & potions/wands/hand movements/telekinesis)

There are plenty of other factors that you may need to include for your specific project, and the internet is full of useful ideas that can help you with this. However, this short list could be a good starting point for those just beginning their journey into a new, magical world.

Posted in Inspiration

Inspired by…

…Vincent Van Gogh.

Starry Night – June 1889

Looking at the stars always makes me dream,” he said, “Why, I ask myself, shouldn’t the shining dots of the sky be as accessible as the black dots on the map of France? Just as we take the train to get to Tarascon or Rouen, we take death to reach a star.

-Vincent Van Gogh

As beautiful as this picture is, with its bold strokes and rich colours, it’s actually the story behind the painting that inspires me. That’s because this is one of Van Gogh’s pieces that was painted during his time in an asylum.

I find it interesting that Van Gogh didn’t actually like this picture, it’s said that he thought of it as a failure. Yet, all these years later, this painting is one of his most famous pieces recognised world-wide as a shining example of talent.

I am inspired by the fact that this man who is widely thought of as one of the ‘Greats’, experienced self-doubt, but continued practicing his craft anyway.

I am inspired by his ability to see the beauty in the world around him, even in his darkest hour.

I am inspired by a man who was human, and wasn’t afraid to own his flaws and view his work with a critical eye.

I am inspired by Vincent Van Gogh.

Useful Info…

…about WORD COUNT.

When writing a book, it can be useful to know in advance what sort of word count you need to be aiming for.  There are different recommendations for short stories, novellas and a regular novel. Below is a rough guide:

book-word-count

As my WIP is a novel, I’m more interested in the last word count listed. As it turns out, target audience and genre can have an impact on the expected/suggested length of your work. For example:

  • a regular novel for adults = 80,000 – 110,000 words
  • a literary novel for adults = 60,000 – 80,000 words
  • a sci-fi or fantasy novel for adults = 100,000 – 125,000 words
  • shorter stories for ‘tweens’ = 20,000 – 55,000 words
  • YA fiction = 55,000 – 80,000 words

These figures are just guidelines (as found on sites like Writer’s Digest and Writers’ & Artists’). Wiggle room of about 10% is generally accepted, as long as the writing is good, and your word count is justifiable. Obviously, there will always be exceptions to the rule (which may well be you) but it’s good to have an idea of what ball-park you should be aiming for.

Posted in Writing

Staying motivated…

…is probably the one thing that I struggle with the most when it comes to writing.  No…it is definitely the one thing I struggle with the most. Consider it my Achilles’ heel.  I have no problem thinking of ideas, dreaming up worlds and creating new characters, but staying motivated: that’s a different story altogether.

This topic is one I have researched extensively, only to become more confused and disheartened.  The more you look: the more ‘solutions’ you find.  However, as motivation, or the lack thereof, is more of an internal (and therefore: personal) problem, it makes sense that the solutions will be as wide and as varied as the people needing them.

Ideas range from: seeking new inspiration, to creating your own deadlines; from utilizing co-motivation, to making yourself accountable. All of these (and more) are great ideas, and definitely worth looking into if staying motivated is something you’re currently struggling with.

As these suggestions seemed to be never-ending, I was both excited and relieved when I stumbled upon this great post from Now Novel, which lists 3 quick tips on how to stay motivated when writing:

  • Limit your time – use a timer, set it for anywhere between 10 mins and 1 hour, and write. When the timer goes off: stop. Repeat this process as often as you need, but take breaks in between.
  • Plan your time – schedule blocks of time to sit down and just write. Make notes for yourself when you finish if you need to, so you can easily pick up where you left off next time.
  • Reward your time – set yourself little rewards for little writing goals achieved (i.e. watching funny YouTube videos/having a brew) and bigger rewards for bigger goals achieved (i.e. catching up on your favourite box set/enjoying a bubble bath).

These may be things you already do well, in which case other options will need to be looked at. No matter where you are in your process right now though, be that an Inspiration Legend or a Procrastinating Master; do something every day to at least try to get yourself motivated. As the awesomeness that is Zig Ziglar once said:

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Posted in Inspiration

Seeking Inspiration…

…in the world around us is something writers (and artists in general) are supposed to be good at. While it is often argued that hard work and effort are the most important tools in a writer’s arsenal, it can be useful to remember that inspiration is not just a tiny spark of brilliance, preceding an avalanche of awesomeness. It can also be a soothing balm in the face of frustration, or the dynamite needed to blast through that dreaded Writer’s Block.

So whether you’re trying to start something new, are stuck in the middle of your latest WIP (Work In Progress), or are a seasoned veteran trying to get your mojo back; inspiration may be just what you need. There are plenty of ways to get yourself inspired, the key is figuring out which works best for you. A few options include:

  • Reading; anything & everything!
  • Free writing or sprint writing – just get some words on the page.
  • Listening to music
  • Watching a film
  • Catching up on your favourite TV show (we all know I mean binge-watching here…)
  • Do something that makes you laugh
  • Take photos
  • Make/look at art
  • People-watch (a personal favourite of mine)
  • Remind yourself what nature looks like…in real life…
  • Exercise
  • Cook/bake
  • *insert other activity of your choice here*

The possibilities are endless! If you’re not sure what will get your creative juices flowing, try a few different ideas and see which work best. Personally, it depends on my mood, time of day, how well I slept, etc. as to which is going to help me feel the most inspired when I need it.

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Today it just so happens that my inspiration comes from outside my window. While winter is NOT my favourite season, snow IS my favourite weather.  I have always been fascinated with looking up at the sky and watching the millions of snowflakes dance and weave their way down to the earth below. I find the way they move, constantly changing direction and pace, almost hypnotic. I am frequently in awe of how beautifully clean, pure and fairytale-like everything looks when covered in a fresh blanket of snow. I love the crunching sound beneath my boots as I purposely stomp on as much untouched snow as I can.  I think I will be forever entertained by my dog, bouncing through fields of white with a look of such pure and unadulterated joy on his ridiculous, snow-encrusted face.

I love the muted sounds; the bite of an icy wind stinging my cheeks; the thick coats and knitted scarves. I live for the days of warm blankets, hearty soups and hot drinks thawing out my frozen fingers. Snow makes me feel calm. I am able to find an internal sort of peace and serenity from this beautiful weather phenomenon, that very few other things can replicate.

So there is my inspiration for today: the beautiful winter wonderland outside my door. Whatever form your inspiration may take, I hope you make time to enjoy a little bit of it, everyday.  As Vincent van Gogh once said:

It is good to love many things, for therein lies the true strength, and whosoever loves much performs much, and can accomplish much, and what is done in love, is well done.

Posted in Planning, World Building, Writing

World Building…

…is one of my favourite things about writing. It doesn’t matter if your story is set in this world, or one of your own invention, having some sort of idea about things such as the geography, inhabitants, history and technology present, is going to make it easier for the reader to step inside your imagination. Your world needs to be extensive enough to create a believable backdrop for whatever adventures you’re sending your characters on. Having your world ‘set in stone’ will also help you to be consistent throughout your book (and series, if you’re writing one).

World Building is an important part of the planning process for me because it lays the foundation for everything else that I’m going to include in my story.  It’s kind of like creating a solid and structurally sound room, into which the rest of your ideas, characters and plot devices can be stored.  If the world in which your story takes place is clearly defined, then it’s easier to figure out whether or not certain actions, sequences and events can logically happen there.

For example – it would have been difficult for readers to go along with the idea of Frodo and Sam googling how to get to Mordor when that kind of technology is obviously out-of-place in Middle Earth.

When sitting down to start World Building I have a list of areas, or ideas, that are essential (for me) to make notes on:

  • Location
  • Inhabitants
  • Society
  • Geography
  • History

These points are general enough that you can use them to detail a fantasy world of your own creation, or have them as a starting point for describing a location in the real world. Obviously, you can add/use your own versions of these because not all of them may be relevant to what you are working on, but I’ll give a run-down of what I cover in each area, just so you get an idea of what works for me.

  1. Location: Where & When
    •  Where – Identify which world your story is set in.
      • Are you using real-life, recognisable locations.
      • Are you on Earth, but there are hidden sections of society or doorways into other worlds (like Harry Potter, & the Narnia series).
      • Have you created a whole new world of your own (think J. R. R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth).
    • When – What time period are you aiming for.
      • Past – is your story set in historical times (in terms of clothes & technology etc.).
      • Present – are you in the here and now.
      • Future – has society and technology advanced, or are you aiming for a dystopian fiction with a mix of modern and medieval.
  2. Inhabitants: Who and/or What
    • Who – who are the main inhabitants of your world.
      • Identify the protagonist(s) of your story.
      • Who are your antagonists and what is their relationship with the protagonist?
      • Are you going to have a villain? ***NB ~ Remember that villains and antagonists are not necessarily the same: a villain is a bad guy, and generally seen as evil by the heroes; whereas, an antagonist is just someone who is in opposition to the hero (like the Chief Inspector in the Pink Panther: he’s constantly in opposition to Inspector Clouseau, but that doesn’t make him a bad guy).***
    • What – will there be magic and/or other species?
      • Magic – is it present in your world. Who uses it? What kind of magic is it. How is it looked on by the rest of society.
      • Other species – will there be other human-like creatures or talking animals (think Narnia). What about mythical creatures (like dragons and unicorns).
  3. Society: Type, Politics, Religion, Technology, Economy & Education.
    •  Type –  what kind of society are you writing about?
      • Hunter/Gatherer – pretty self-explanatory.
      • Pastoral – a nomadic lifestyle, typically revolves around tending flocks and domesticating animals.
      • Agrarian – or agricultural society, organised around farming.
      • Feudal – A Lord or Master owns the land and provides military protection for those living & working on it in exchange for labour.
      • Industrial – think factories, machinery and mechanisation etc.
      • Post-industrial – based on knowledge, information and selling of services.
    • Politics – what is the political climate of the world your story is set in?
      • National government – democracy; dictatorship; monarchy; or something else.
      • Judiciary – are there police officers, courts and judges etc.; or some other kind of system.
      • Military – is there a nationalised one; a system where towns and cities protect themselves; or something of your own invention.
    • Religion – what are the moral and spiritual values of your society and how are they manifest?
      • Is there a national religion.
      • Are there multiple religions living harmoniously/in conflict.
      • Is there no religion at all (i.e. it’s been banned/become obsolete).
      • If there is some sort of religious observance, what form does this take?
      • Does religion cause any conflict in your world? If so, how and why?
    • Technology – what levels of technological advancements has your world made?
      • More or less advanced than our world.
      • A mix of technologies: modern & medieval combined.
      • Futuristic super advancements where everything is completely automated.
    • Economy – How wealthy is the world you’re writing about and what effect does that have on its citizens?
      • Trade – how does selling and purchasing work.  Are there foreign trade links. Which industry creates most of the wealth.
      • Money – are you going to use an already established system or create your own.
      • Class – is there a class system. How does it work?
      • Standard of Living – think about housing, sanitation, hygiene levels, health care etc.
    • Education – what type of systems are in place, and how well do they work/how far do they reach?
      • What is the general education level of your world.
      • At what age do people leave school and start working.
      • Is education available to all, or only a select few (i.e. the wealthy).
      • Is schooling nationalised and standardised.
  4. Geography: Cities/Towns, Countries and Foreign Powers
    • Cities/Towns – Where specifically is your story set?
      • If set in a real place, use a map to make sure you get street names and directions right.
      • If set in a fantasy world, maybe draw a simple map of your own, to help you visualise the setting, and keep descriptions consistent.
    • Countries – countries can be land-locked; mountainous; desert-filled; or islands etc. Again, if real, look at a map, and if fictional, consider drawing your own.
    • Foreign Powers – If relevant, who are the neighbouring countries? Is your world at war: who are the key players? Maps can be useful here too.
  5. History: Local, National & Global
    • Local – is there any local history that is relevant to your story/characters? e.g.:
      • Old family feuds
      • Long oppression of an evil Land Owner
      • Myths and Legends
    • National – a general history of your world can give context for certain crisis’.
      • Is there a specific government type because of something big that happened in the past.
      • Are certain laws in place for a reason. How do these affect your characters.
    • Global – are there any international histories that may need mentioning?
      • World Wars/conflicts with other nations.
      • Alliances.
      • ‘Anything else’ that has an affect on the present.

At first glance it seems like a lot of information to get down, but as I said at the start, this is just what works for me, and not everything on here may be relevant to your project. At university I figured out that I get much better results when I thoroughly plan and organise, than if I just try writing it straight off the cuff.  I find I can spin out a first draft much quicker when I know what I’m talking about.

I’m sure there are plenty of perfectly good ways to go about World Building for your story, the trick is to find the one that best suits your style. Feel free to borrow all or part of my process if you’d like, or have a look around at what works for others.  Either way, make sure you take the time to build your world, even if it’s just by making a few bullet points…

***HOWEVER***

…don’t forget that this is only meant to inform your writing, not replace it. Prep and planning are merely prerequisites to the main event: actually writing your book.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Organisation, Planning, Writing

Being organised…

…is often half the battle. At least that’s how it always seems to be for me. I finally get to the point where I have decided on an idea or project, and committed to seeing it through, but then I get stuck at where and how to start.

Thankfully in this instance, my trusty Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook 2017 is proving to be invaluable and has countless suggestions for the novice author lacking direction.  The chapter which stood out to me as an obvious starting point was ‘The writer’s ultimate workspace’, by Rib Davis (p. 635 for those of you interested).

As someone who likes things neat and tidy (in theory if not always in practice…) this seemed like an ideal place for me to start.

Davis goes through some key points that are well worth looking in to.  Have a read of the chapter for yourself, but the main things I took away were suggestions such as:

  • Location: ‘finding the ideal workspace’ can make all the difference to a writer’s level of productivity.  Knowing what works for you, or taking the time to figure it out if you’re not sure is definitely worth doing.
    • Think about your ideal temperature
    • How close are the ‘amenities’ (food, water, loo…)
    • Do you prefer a window view or are you too easily distracted by clouds?
    • Isolation vs. a bit of ‘background noise’
    • Are dark/bold/muted/no colours better for your concentration
  • People: are you the kind of person who needs to be in complete isolation to get in the ‘zone’ or do you prefer not to be cut off from the rest of the world?
    • Working from home – how easy is it for your family/roommates/whoever to distract you?
    • A door with a lock can be useful if small children are in the house so they can’t keep interrupting you (*to be clear: lock yourself away, not the child…*)
    • Be selfish – make sure people know not to interrupt you if you’re writing: this is your job (hopefully).
    • Explain that just because you’re taking a break does not necessarily mean you are available either, sometimes you just need a brew/wee/stretch of the legs.
  • Space: making sure you have enough room to do everything associated with writing is also important.  It’s not just about having space for your laptop/pen and paper.
    • Think about research and planning.  Is there space for your notes to be out and available while you’re writing.
    • Admin work – a lot of people forget that things connected with publishing/producing/selling your work take up space too.
    • Files – having a good physical and electronic filing system in place is invaluable, and takes up space! Make sure there is room in your work area for this.

Finally, Davis sprinkles his essay with a few useful suggestions to help make your workspace more writer-friendly and keep distractions to a minimum:

  1. Write offline – obviously research and planning may need some online time but when you actually sit down to write, make sure you’re not going to be distracted by constant alerts and notifications, or even just the lure of checking your Twitter feed or Facebook messages.
  2. Turn off email notifications – You may not want/be able/know how to work offline, in which case you can alter your computer settings to make sure that your emails and social media accounts don’t keep popping up in the middle of author-ing. Have a dedicated time to check all of that, and then log out and leave them alone.
  3. Ignore your phone – just because it’s ringing doesn’t mean you have to answer it.  You can set it to silent/vibrate or even airplane mode if you really don’t want anything coming through. Some phones have settings where you can have it on silent but pre-programmed important numbers will still be able to get through (eg. pregnant wife/elderly mother/kids’ schools) so that emergencies won’t be missed.
  4. Use books – online dictionaries and thesaurus’ can be useful, but inaccessible if working offline. Invest in a good physical copy of each, and any other books that may be relevant to your specific genre/project.
  5. Take breaks – combat exhaustion, writer’s block, cramping fingers or a numb bum by getting up and stepping away for a little bit every so often. Then come back refreshed and ready to resume writing!

Quite a lot of good things to think about, some of which I’d never really given much consideration to before and all of which are probably applicable to other work-from-home professions too.

Personally, I can’t sit by a window because I do get too easily distracted by clouds, so the dining room is a great place for me.  I don’t like being interrupted by people but I do need a bit of background noise, so having the TV on quietly in the other room while my husband is out is the perfect solution.  Our dining table is big enough for all of my files, folders and books for the projects I’m currently working on, and I actually quite enjoyed spending this morning sorting through everything and getting it all organised in a way that works for me.

It doesn’t look like much, but I feel like the day has been productive, and as I’ve sat here researching, writing, planning, and currently blogging, I’ve felt calm and in control because I know that everything I need is in reach, and there’s no clutter, people or clouds to distract me.