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.
I find this video of Rebecca Miller, author of ‘The Secret Lives of Pippa Lee’ completely inspiring. Not just for her eloquence and openness in talking about her creative process but also for the beguiling wall behind her in the video.
I confess to often watching police dramas and being captivated by their ‘crime board’ – you know the big board that onto which they haphazardly pin all sorts of intriguing pictures and clippings and other what-nots. I love the way they stare at it for crime-busting inspiration and occasionally, if we are really lucky, get out bits of string and piece together the crime through the power of the thumb-tack. As a stationery addict, it almost, nearly makes me want to apply to Detective School. But…. Then I remember that the uniform for a bobby on the beat is almost universally unflattering and that the thought of training school and – gulp – obstacle courses and morning runs, has me crawling under the duvet in horror at the sheer physical effort. Inspector Morse I may be, but Cagney or Lacey, I most definitely am not.
Still, I digress. So for writers wanting some inspiration into process, this should be right up your alley.
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.
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!
There’s something rather inspiring about listening to other writers share their process. I am a morning writer so, often of an evening, you will find me curled up with my tablet scouring the internet for writerly inspiration.
Here is one such gem that I stumbled across. It is short but very, very beautiful.
Try using some of these long-neglected gems in your writing to give it a historical flavour. Or just pepper your everyday conversation with them and watch your listener’s eyebrows raise high with amazement at your creative and masterly use of language. Either/or…
1.Ca’ canny: To work rigidly in accordance with the rules with a view to causing maximum of dislocation and inconvenience. What a corker for that period novel you are writing about union activity!
example: The boys agreed to work ca’canny. That would show the boss what it meant to mess with the workers.
2. Cake and ale: Pleasant living. There is something slightly insolent about this interpretation of ‘pleasant’. In this day and age of healthy living and living ‘clean’, I rather enjoy the simplicity that this little phrase summons up.
example: Bob leaned back in his chair and looked at Mabel, ” Isn’t this just cake and ale, love!” Mabel rolled her eyes as she cleared away the plates.
3. Carry three red lights: be intoxicated. How droll. Can’t even make out how this phrase came about though I suspect it may be to do with the law and other whatnots!?!
example. Jimmy could carry three red lights after a night in the pub with the older boys.
4: Catspaw: a light breeze, just ruffling the surface of the sea. This phrase I love. I mean I really love it. My own novel is set near the ocean and I am hankering to include this somewhere in the novel. How beautiful this image is!
example: The shipsmen looked out over the ocean. There was a catspaw rising and the waves flickered in the dawning sun.
5: Cheeseparing: meanly and foolishly economical. I love any slang phrase which includes cheese. It has an inately comical quality don’t you think?
example: After she lost her job, Amy entered into a cheeseparing lifestyle. It lasted a week.
6: Close as a kentish oyster: Taciturn. This slightly Dickensian term puts me rather in mind of a Sarah Walters novel. I love the visual quality of the image.
example: The gentleman in question sat quietly at the table, close as a Kentish oyster.
7: collywobbles: noisy rumblings in the stomach caused by flatulence. Say no more. This is such a delightful word for such an embarrassing condition.
example: All was quiet after dinner apart from a rather elaborate display of the collywobbles from Great Aunt Sarah.
8: Conchie: A conscientious objector the the National War Service in WWI. This is such a priceless piece of history. I feel a novel title right there:
example: Alfred didn’t like to talk about being a conchie. He had found that others were repulsed by his status. He wore the title like a scar.
9: Cop the needle: Become angry, annoyed. Another one of those phrases which defy understanding but nevertheless have a charm and richness that comes from the image itself.
example: There was nothing more likely to make Greg cop a needle than yet another smug status update from his ex-lover. How could she do this to him? It didn’t bear thinking about.
10: Cut the cackle and come to the ‘osses: Leave out the non-essentials of a story and come to the part that matters. wonderful, just great. This is what I need to remind myself when I come to editing my novel. Perhaps I should make a printable!!!
example: Annie launched into her explanation but was quickly cut off by Ernie: ‘Cut the cackle and come to the ‘osses!” he commanded. Annie wished for once that he might enjoy her cackle, it was in the cackle that she found the most enjoyment.
So there you have it – today’s little gems from ‘A Concise Dictionary of English Slang’ byWilliam Freeman, published 1955. I would love to hear whether you can use any of these little beauties in your own writing. I wonder has language become less colourful and interesting? Has the internet made our language corporate and technological and depreived us of these subtle nuances of flavour that used to pepper the way in which we spoke to each other? I fear it may have. Any thoughts?
By the way, my apologies to regular readers who may have noticed my absence this past week. I would love to say that I have been engrossed in my writing but unfortunately not. Instead, life in all its gory glory has rather taken me for a ride and my writing, and blogging, have paid the price.
Fingers crossed that the storm has passed and this week I returned to my novel challenge.
I am pleased to report that my Pantsing experiment is going rather well ( though I may retract that statement when I read through the first draft!). I am officially in Noveldom. Yesterday I reached 51 500 words. Yes indeed! I began writing on the 2nd and we are now into the twenties of March so I still have a week or so up my sleeve. I am pretty sure I won’t be able to make up the days that I missed last week but so far this week, I have had two 4500 word days – hallelujah. Wish me luck for the last week!
Good luck with your own writing this week. May the words flow like a catspaw and may good fortune smile upon you so that you don’t have to resort to cheeseparing.
Any thoughts on the above endangered speechies most welcome in the comments. Would love to hear from you!
There is a lovely moment in the Keira Knightly/ Mark Ruffalo movie “Begin Again” where Keira, heart-broken and terribly drunk is struck by a great lyric for a new song. Her lovelt flatmate hands her pen and paer and tells her to ‘get in the zone’. She says “I am in the zone” in her perfectly clipped English accent and is admonished. “You sound like a posh schoolgirl”. Keira bounces back with a great impression of a Noo Yoike Cabbie. “Arm in tha zowen!”.
So today I am offering five fab ways to get IN THA ZOWEN as a writer:
If you haven’t gone crazy nuts and thrown yourself into a month long pantsting challenge then you are probably using either a detailed plot outline or some story beats to get you through your story from one bank to t’other. If you want t6o get in the Writing Zone, revisiting your plan and getting excited about how far you have come and how close you are to that great, great scene that has been playing out in your head for days is a good way to motivate you to put your bottom in the chair and start writing.
I talked in a former post about how much I am loving Vision Boards for novels. Though I have sworn off planning for this month, I was happy to bend my own rules and create a vision board for the novel on Day two of the month. Having a good visual stimulus can really ignite your creative right brain and nudge the story to present itself.
I am a big 8Tracks.com fan (user julsnolan if you want to see what I am listening to) There are some wonderful playlists over there. Some are designed for study and writing, some are created to correspond to a novel that is already published. Finding some great tunes that really correlate with the mood and feel of your writing is a lovely add-on to your writing experience. Listening to those tracks outside of your writing time can also be a great way to keep in contact with that imaginative thread that you are creating.
I find that starting my writing session with a few minutes journaling can be a great method for clearing the mind and dumping any annoying thoughts and issues that could be hanging around. Get it out. Get it down on paper. Then you are clear to let your story fill the gaps left behind by your emotional residue. It works – believe me!
Yes I mean meditate. Spend just one minute breathing deeply and nothing else. Visualise yourself writing and the words flowing from your fingers. Imagine yourself turning the pages that you and only you have created.
The Zone is simply a mental place from which creativity and devotion can spring. It is only a breath away, my friend. Only a breath away.
How do you get in the writing zone? Leave a comment with your tips and hints below.
Seeing as it is Wednesday, I thought we all deserved a little bit of inspiration to get us through the week. In the name of this blog and in humble service to all my gorgeous readers, I slavishly committed my evening to trawling for some scriberly inspiration on Vimeo.
I found lots, you will be pleased to hear. So I am drip-feeding it to you.
And here is the first gem:
It doesn’t take a genius to work out that having a vision board can really help jump-start your writing when you hit a lull. Something about feasting your eyes on color and image and beauty, rather than words on words on words, is deeply replenishing to your, by now, rather sparse stores of creative energy.
To be honest, making vision boards (along with designing mock-up covers) is one of my favorite forms of Productive Procrastination. It makes me feel all designerish, like I should be working in an open-plan office and wearing designer specs and having salad wraps for lunch whilst listening to some trendy toons with my friends Todd, and Lena, and Sven.
I am not however a trendy designer. I don’t even wear glasses, if you don’t count the very cheap reading glasses that I occasionally wear for reading if I want to look a bit more clever. I do quite like salad wraps though. So maybe I am on my way.
However, what I do like is looking at pretty pictures on Pinterest, creativemarket.com, and Tumblr. I find that having a visual stimulus is a great way to motivate me to write, to try and translate those images into words. That is the art of the writer – painting with words.
Of course when I set out on my Month of Pantsting, I had no vision board available. I started anyway. But here I am on Day three and I am craving some visuals. I pulled out a board I had done for another novel (planned but yet to be written) and decided that hey bajingo, that will do for now.
It is stuck in the notebook and ready to reignite my passion should it wear a little thin.
Which it hasn’t. As yet. Though I am only on Day three of course.
I am loving the spontaneity of it all but glad to have my vision board to fall back on when the words don’t want to be extracted from the fog of my mind.
How do you use visual stimulation to help your writing? Would love to hear some thoughts and see some pictures if you have links?
See you tomorrow for another update
PS: Does anyone know of a widget thingie that I can put in my sidebar to show my project progress? Any thoughts???