Inspiration for writers: Rebecca Miller Part two

Here’s the second installment of last week’s inspiring video.  This time Miller delves a little deeper into her process and refers to her delicious outlining wall.  Heaven.




A month of writing without a plan: update

writing quote

So, yes I have not been blogging, and no, I have not been lolling around eating doorsteps and rovers looking like a dying duck in a thunderstorm.  That was the week before last for your information.  That’s right – the week when I only wrote a pilfering 9400 words for the whole week.  That was The Week of Life, and I am afraid that writing had to take a back burner for the while.

However, this week I determined to get back on course.  I had already conceded that I might not be able to complete the novel in the 28 day time frame (which incidentally ran out… TODAY!).  But still, I make the rules on this one, so I gave myself an extra week which takes the challenge to this Thursday.  By then, I wanted to have finished my first draft OR completed at least 28 sessions of 3000 words per session.

I am happy to report that despite no plan and no postits being harmed in the writing of the novel, I have now reached 68 500 words.  You read that right folks.  That’s more than a NaNoWriMo novel.  In a month, with a week off for bad behaviour, I have managed to write all those words and find myself approaching the final furlong of my story.

I am not there yet but it has been a blast of a writing experience.

Here are 5 things I have learned writing a novel in a month:

1:  It is okay to take a day off:  Yes writing is a habit, but so is smoking.  You can take a day off without having to abandon the dream altogether.  It is possible to get back on the writing wagon.  A day off is not a failure my friend.  It just means that on that particular day, something else was more important than your writing. And THAT IS OKAY.  Promise!

2:  Having a plan is one way but it is not the only way:  I worried about writing myself into dead ends with this novel.  Hell, 28 days ago I did not even know what story I would be telling.  I have learned to trust myself and my story to show me the way.  If I come to a dead end then I will extricate myself from it in the second draft.  It is just a story.  A dead end is an opportunity to create a new opening.  That’s it – not a biggie.

3:  A strict timeframe is a great motivator:  Look, I confess that I like a deadline ina  sadistic kind of way.  Not only do I enjoy a deadline, I take great relish in beating those deadlines.  This would be fabulous in Corporateland but unfortunately it means I do put myself under some pressure, even though I make my own deadlines.  But having a deadline – it helps.  It keeps you on task and gives you just the right frisson of pressure to keep putting words on the page.

4: It won’t be perfect but it will be something:  This is a first draft, a pile of words.  It can be honed and polished and tweaked and pulled later.  You are creating raw material.  Don’t worry that it is not great.  Take heed from the writers who warn us that the first draft will be doo-doo.  This is just for you, nobody else needs to ever read this one.  It is your baby and you can love it even though it is a bit odd-looking, and takes after your great uncle Jimmy who ended up in the nuthouse.

5: Have fun with it:  The worse that can happen is that you lose a month of writing and bit of memory on your laptop.  Big deal.  Think of it as an experiment in writing and nothing else.  If it works then you have anew model for writing your first draft.  If it doesn’t then you just lost a month but you probably would have spent that month procrastinating anyways so you are still way ahead of the game.  Win. Win.

Hope that cheers you on.  I will bring you a report from the finishing line before Easter if it all pans out how I hope.  Fingers crossed loves!

Why writing in cafes is really hard

writing in a cafe

Today, on Day Three of my Month of Pantsting, I decided to write in a cafe.

Because, I am weak, and like many writers, I have fallen in love with the idea of writing in cafes, getting on first name terms with the staff, naming my characters after them.  Blablabla.  I blame J.K. Rowling and her glamorous tales of life as a solo mum, banging out Harry at the local cafe.  I fell for it like the rest of you.

But here I am afraid is the sad truth.  Cafe owners hate writers.

WHY CAFE OWNERS HATE WRITERS – especially aspiring ones!

Cafe owners love people who are nipping in for a quick coffee or a bite to eat.  In out, 30 minutes max and then the table is free for some new punters.  Job done.

But writers?   Oooh, that’s a whole other ball game.  I guarantee that cafe owners see that laptop emerging from the bag and they have already calculated how much that novel has lost them in lost revenue.  They know that we will be there for hours sipping on that one cold coffee and just generally cluttering up the place.  We take up a table for four.  We eat nothing.  We have no friends, and glare if the music is too high or if people dare to laugh too loudly near us!

If we were good writers we would at least order a suitable amount of coffees.  Say two per hour to make up for the fact that we are taking up space that could be inhabited by honest, decent, paying customers.  A word of caution though : if you drink two coffees per hour, you will probably be dead within a week.  And that will definitely put a dent in your monthly word count.

And Planners/ Outliners…. well, it’s never going to work is it?  The cafe owner is not going to let you pin your vision board and plot outline to the wall, let alone tolerate your covering the tabletop with PostIts.

The Solution?

It’s a simple one.  Go in disguise.  You have several options of course:

Disguise options for writers:

  1.  Go as J.K. Rowling.  Blonde wig.  Shy demeanor.  Soft voice.  Throw in a couple of references to Harry et al and you are good to go.
  2. Go as a ‘business person’.  People are generally much more tolerant of all sorts of shenanigans if they are done by people wearing suits.  My evidence for this?  Global Financial Crisis anyone????
  3. Pretend you are a tourist.  Make a point of asking for the WIFI password and then pretend to be having a Skype conversation in a different language before burying yourself into your laptop.  Don’t speak another language?  Call yourself a writer???  Make it up, my friend! NOTE: the downside of this plan is that it is difficult to return to the same cafe for more than three days.  That’s when the special Tourist in Cafe dispensation runs out!
  4. Pretend to be a cop.  You can buy a fake uniform and occasionally talk into a walkie-talkie for effect.  Buy a donut and cwaffey, and you are golden with this disguise for a few hours at least. Top Tip:  Don’t buy one of those sexy cop uniforms – inappropriate!
  5. Write by hand.  This is my disguise of choice of course.  That way I could be confused for a sad woman sitting on her own filling in her ‘dear diary’ for the day.  This approach is also much easier if you are not a plotter because you have all you need – pen, notebook, head full of sparkling and exciting ideas fopr the next big thing on Amazon.

Alternatively, you could just bite the bullet and write at home.  But there’s nothing very glam about that is there???

Latte anyone?

Oh and by the way.  I did write today.  3000 words.  Yayah 🙂

Have you ever written in a cafe?  Any tips for how to make it work?  Any other disguises that could work?  Leave a comment.  This could be a vital writers resource that we are creating here, people!


Five Writing Lessons from Hannibal Lecter

I have recently been ‘consumed’ (notice what I did there!) by Hannibal Lecter.  I confess that over the past two weeks, I have made a veritable glutton of myself and watched the box set of  both Season 1 and 2.  Naughty writer – very bad indeed.  But me oh my,  I have loved it.  Really loved it – in a ridiculous, girly, ‘I heart Hannibal the Cannibal’ kind of way.

But…. I am a grown woman and I am supposed to be ‘playing big’, ‘stepping up’, ‘shining my light’ and all those other things that today’s modern ladies are supposed to do.  So, of course, I must justify my guilty little secret and tell myself that I am indeed ‘learning’ from the experience., not just frittering away hours upon hours when a more virtuous and ‘professional’ writer would be slaving at the keyboard.

So here are five writing lessons courtesy of Hannibal Lecter:


1.  There is nothing that some beautiful Moleskine notebooks and a rather fine fountain pen cannot fix.  When you are grubbing around in the blood and guts of an idea and it is threatening to overwhelm you, make like Hannibal – taking out a lovely notebook and writing something by hand with a rather gorgeous writing implement can often be enough to bring order to the chaos.

Hannibal - Season 1

2.  Sometimes you have to kill the things you love.  Yes the first draft was a passionate and tumultuous affair but in the clear light of day, you may need to cut out those rude similes and metaphors and deal with those cliches with a swift and decisive move.  Keep your editing tools sharp and very much to hand.  Hannibal likes to see his killing as an act of cleansing.  Can I learn to see editing in the same ruthless light?


3.  It’s good to have a variety of interests.  Not only is Hannibal a very good killer, he is also a celebrated psychiatrist, a gifted sketcher, a harpsichord player, and a demon ninja fighter.  Oh and of course he is a whiz in the kitchen.  I remind myself of this when I am a frazzled mess after a day of churning out words.  If Hannibal can create a banquet after a hard day of killing, then surely I can manage to brush my hair and bang out some beans and toast for the family.  I mean, come on, am I not a renaissance woman too?


4. Sometimes cryptic sentences and mystical paragraphs can be delivered in such a way that nonsense takes on the import of an utterance from God.  I have noticed that Hannibal often talks like a character from an Ingmar Bergman film – and it’s not just the accent.  He seems so clever that, like Jack Crawford with his little beard, I just take it as true.  I mean it sounds so good, it must be true.  The writing lesson here is that sometimes cryptic is good – you don’t need to explain everything.  Put it out there and leave the reader to figure out the sense of it all.


5.  Getting a special costume for your art can be a great way of preparing yourself for what you need to do.  I have a complete soft spot for Hannibal’s little plastic zoot suit.  Love it – the contrasting white zip, the little upturned almost clerical collars.  It is quite simply perfect.  So why not apply this reasoning to my writing?  Perhaps I should make myself a writing suit.  Not plastic probably, maybe flannelette.  And not an all in one in case I need to go to the bathroom.  And not see through, in case the meter reader calls.  In fact I am thinking of a pretty floral fabric, or maybe some stripes.   No, no, no – wait…  aren’t I describing my pajamas????

So there you have it.  The hard earned summary of my grueling marathon lessons with the Meister – Hannibal Lecter.  As you can see, no opportunity for learning goes to waste in this house.

Did I miss anything?  Has Hannibal been giving you special, private sessions to help you with your …. writing issues?  Let’s share notes.  Leave a comment below.  I would love to hear your thoughts!

See you soon,

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