How to Start Writing

I’m going to start with what is, in my opinion, one of the most important quotes about writing.

“The worst thing you ever wrote is better than the best thing you never wrote.”

It’s a fact of life that the hardest part of being a writer isn’t planning, it isn’t even writers block or finishing. The hardest part is the starts: you have to start every stage, and gather up that motivation over and over and over.

This makes ‘how to start writing’ one of the questions I get asked pretty often.

Now I’m not talking about how to write words, that’s a matter of sitting down and pumping words out. This is about how to start on a project. That novel you’ve got in you.

So here’s what you need to get started.

Put Judgement Away

This is one of those things that’s both that simple and that hard. Judging yourself is the enemy of every writer, from the first timer to the seasoned professional. Some people can make a career of writing and still never get over it with each and every new story. The problem is that judgement is a vital tool, it’s how we ensure that we do our best work, but the fact is that the start of a story isn’t the time or place for it. This is the time and place where you get things done.

Start your work free of judgement, free of the fear that you aren’t good enough, because even if you aren’t right now you will be by the time the job is done. You can always come back and fix those problems in editing. There are several stages of rewriting and fixing where judgement can enter a little more into your process but in the early days you need to open yourself up to new ideas, not to lock them away.

The Right Amount of Preparation.

The right amount of preparation for a story is a question that’s hard to answer and mostly depends on the kind of person and writer you are. Some of us like to write out our outlines, characters and motivations, where others just throw their characters into the situation and let the story unfold as it may.

Chances are if you’re having trouble getting started and you currently have a document full of ideas and details then you’re the first type. If you’re the second type you’re ready now, I hereby give you permission to stop worrying and just do the thing. It’ll be fine.

For those of us who need to prepare, the trick is having enough preparation to get the work done, but recognise that there’s a limit to how much prep you can do before the work begins and you can always prepare more as you go. Go forth from a position of strength, not paranoia.

The best rule of thumb I can give is that if you can say that you know the plot, characters and setting pretty well that’s well enough for you to begin.

The Perfect First Sentence/Paragraph/Chapter

Does Not Exist.

It’s as simple as that. You cannot write the greatest first part of all time, and agonising over making something perfect before you move on means you’ll never move on. Settle for good, even settle for ok for now. There are several more stages where you can fix what’s wrong.

Get Excited!

You’re doing something awesome and remembering that is vital to the starting process. You’re doing something awesome and so often the start of writing seem like a chore. It’s important to remember that this is something you want to do. This is a good, exciting thing! So talk to your friends about it, think about or even work on the fun parts. Imagine the sense of accomplishment you’re going to get when the job’s done.

Writing is a labour of love, so remember to love it!

Go Back to Step 1

Yep. I’m sorry to say it but once you’ve done this and written the story you have to go all the way back and start a rewrite, then to plot edit, then to detail edit, each time with a little more room to get it right.

Don’t worry, after every start you get to enjoy the fun parts. It’s a good process with a satisfying ending and room to grow your craft and work. Every time you need to start you can come back here. Do your prep, stop judging yourself, get excited and go for it!

 

For those who’ve started all right but are having trouble getting to the end check out ‘The Fine Art of Finishing’ on the Ouroboros blog.

~Robert

Robert is the author of the Laughing Man Chronicles

Visit Robert’s bio here

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Emily David’s Interview Notebook – 3 October 2018

Emily David’s Interview Notebook – 3 October 2018

PRE-INTERVIEW NOTES:

Full name: Zac Hall

Age: 16

Appearance: Black unkempt hair. Light brown eyes. Lightly tanned skin.

Book:  The White Wolf Trilogy – The Stray

 

First impressions: Overall, Zac seems somewhat curious and nervous as to why I have requested to interview him but at the same time, he acts oblivious to the fact that he has a book written about him. Maybe he does not know? Oooh, plot twist!

Things to remember about the book: Woof woof a.k.a man’s best friend.

Note to self: Try not to make many werewolf jokes 😛

 

INTERVIEW TRANSCRIPT:

EMILY: So Zac, how would you describe yourself?

ZAC: I don’t usually get the chance to introduce myself, being from a small town, everybody already knows me. And I’m usually with my father if I meet anyone new so he introduces me.

EMILY: Well, you are doing quite well so far. You seem very polite. Do you have any allergies, diseases, or any other physical weaknesses?

ZAC: I had a peanut allergy when I was little but I grew out of it. I still kind of avoid them though, just in case.

EMILY: *Note to self: check if Zac carries any silver. Are werewolves allergic to silver??*

EMILY: Are you right- or left-handed?

ZAC: Right handed though I sometimes practice with my left hand so that I could use it if needed.

EMILY: *Note to self: hmmm… I wonder if he is a werewolf?*

EMILY: You have a unique voice but for our readers, how would you describe your voice?

ZAC: My voice is deep but sometimes squeaks in response to human puberty.

EMILY: What do you currently have in your pockets?

ZAC: Wallet, keys and phone. Was I supposed to have anything else?

EMILY: *Note to self: Zac’s keys might be silver? Maybe he isn’t a werewolf?*

EMILY: What is your favourite and least favourite climate?

ZAC: I always liked spring best. My town always looks so pretty with the trees and forests so full of life.

EMILY: Do you have any quirks, strange mannerisms, annoying habits, or other defining characteristics?

ZAC: I’m often told that I run my hands through my hair when I’m nervous. I also always arrive late to important things.

EMILY: *Note to self: Zac’s hair currently looks unruly.*

EMILY: Who is your role model? Do you aspire to be like anyone?

ZAC: I don’t really have a role model but I do want to be drafted for a college soccer team when I graduate. Hopefully I can play through college and then be picked up by a team after that.

EMILY: What sound or noise do you love?

ZAC: I always loved the purring of content cats. It’s so soothing, when Dylan’s cat sits next to me and purrs.

EMILY: *Note to self: don’t make howling noises, resist the urge.*

EMILY: What sound or noise do you hate?

ZAC: I absolutely hate the sound of Styrofoam rubbing on something. Like pulling it out of a cardboard box and it makes that squeaking noise.

EMILY: What is your spirit animal? And why this animal?

ZAC: I thought it would be like a border collie, they’re always so happy and ready for anything.

EMILY: What is the most embarrassing thing ever to happen to you?

ZAC: I think it was that one time I slipped over on my way out of the showers in the locker room after gym. My towel fell off and the whole class laughed at me.

Is that all your questions? Because I really need to get back home.

EMILY: Yeah, that’s it, Zac. Thank you for your time.

 

POST INTERVIEW NOTES:

Overall, Zac really has no idea he has a book written about him and I am still not sure if he is a werewolf or not. This remains a mystery.

 

~~~~

 

This has been a fictional interaction between Emily David, a journalist intern who writes for Mystic magazine from the upcoming novella by Antonia Bryan and Zac Hall from The White Wolf Trilogy – The Stray by Amanda Geisler.

To find out more about Zac Hall, get your hands on a copy of The Stray today!

 

~Antonia

 

 

 

 

The Calling

I hate when books annoy me.

I don’t know if it happens to other writers, I’m sure it does, but books have a way of annoying the shit out of me. It’s like a cat meowing at you constantly until you feed it. I got asked recently how I write books. They didn’t understand how it comes out of your brain, through your fingers and into a full book. I didn’t really have an answer. It just does. It might be years of training, looking at the screen, plotting out points and chapters, and now it finally flows, or it might be something else. When I write, it’s like watching a movie that I’m in control of. Each second the character walks through the spooky, abandoned building, I’m right behind them, where the camera would be. I can picture what I’m writing, so I just describe what I see.

Where it gets a little weird is when something surprises even myself. I’ve often said, ‘wow, I didn’t see that coming.’ I don’t start a book unless I have vague idea of the ending. The beginning’s the easy part; the middle is hard, but important, and the end is scary. Scary, because finishing a book means the end of all those characters that you love and hate, the years of turmoil and sludging through the hard wall of writing, and then it finally comes to an end.

I used to plot in my head what the upcoming chapter was going to be about, and when I got time to write, I would think of a good opening line and then write until the chapter was complete. With the novella I’m currently writing, I’m trying to put words down every day. There isn’t really any time to pre-plot a lot of it, so I just wing it. That can be equally enthralling and nerve-wracking. There is a chapter where I wanted my main character to meet another character, who will appear later and be of significant help. I just needed to introduce him first. So, I thought, why not meet at a cemetery? I made her ‘stumble’ upon the graveyard, let her walk around reading some of the tombstones, then they meet, and he scares her, then they get talking and it’s all fine. There was something about this kid that I knew I wanted to keep from the reader until the last chapter or so. All this chapter really was, was getting the two to meet. I could have set it anywhere; the shops, a car yard, at school, at the mall, on the street… you get the picture. A cemetery gives it a good scene. How many conversations have you had with a stranger in a graveyard? Not many (I hope). So, it puts the reader somewhere different, then you can let the reader go on this introduction between the two. What are they gonna say? Are they gonna get along? Are we gonna see him again? These questions make the writing easier, as you have a lot of ground to cover in, hopefully, not many pages. It’s also a set up for later, so you know you’re going into the chapter hiding something up your sleeve that you will reveal, and it will hopefully pay off. Where do you start? Okay, what brings Main Character to the graveyard? She’s exploring the new house. Okay, good. Why is the kid there? He’s bored at home and can see it from his window. Okay, plausible. What’s the point of him coming back later in the book? He wants to see her again… done to death, something else… he wants to save her from something but doesn’t, that’s sorta useless then. Maybe he has some information that she needs to defeat something and comes in at the last minute to supply said information and helps save the ‘moment’. Okay, done. Everything else should flow from there.

Hey, whoa, you scared me half to death.’

‘Sorry, I just saw you walking and thought I’d come over and say hi.’

‘Do you often hang around in graveyards by yourself?’

‘I was gonna ask you the same questions.’

Mix dialogue with scenery description. What I do is add something at the end of each line, for example: ‘Do you know witches used to live in this area?’ he said, picking up a piece of broken tombstone and examining it. You shouldn’t use it every time, just now and again. ‘What time do you want to go?’ she asked, fitting the whole piece of cake in her mouth. Now you should have the plan for the chapter, what you want to accomplish, some tricks to writing and a general aim to your story. Once these things are done solid, you can’t help but want to get back to the keyboard. I often think of chapters while on the train and can’t wait to write them. They will generally remind me throughout the day, or week that they are there waiting. Over time this muscle becomes stronger and writing becomes easier and you become better. When the books call, I hope you answer.

~Mitchell

Mitchell is the author of Skellington Key, Heather Cassidy and the Magnificent Mr Harlow, and the Everdark Realms Trilogy

Visit Mitchell’s bio here

Death of a Scene

When I opened up my laptop, my word document was gone.

‘Okay,’ I thought. ‘Don’t panic.’ I went into Word and could see my novel I’ve been working on for about 4 years. Beside it, it said ‘recovered’. Recovered? Recovered from what? Was there a power surge? I went all the way down to the bottom of the text, where I had been working, and began to read.

There was about 10,000 words missing…

Not one part of me thought, ‘That’s okay, I can write it again and this time I’ll write it better!’ Nope. My only thought was bailing on the whole book. 20,000 words shy of the 80,000 target and I was giving up. I just could not fathom rewriting 10,000 words. What I lay down on the page, normally stays. I’ll fix up grammar and spelling, but I won’t re-write whole chunks. No way. I’ve done that before, when I was learning to write. I’m not doing it now. And not with this book.

I sat blankly looking at it. I was remembering all the great pages I had written. Should I re-write them now? Quickly, to fix this issue? I remember most things that were written, just not detail. I was about to quickly scramble and write the 10,000 words so I wouldn’t give up. Not long ago I had written a great death scene. It was perfect. The mood was just right. I was very proud of it. I cut it from where it was, to move it, and must have got distracted and never pasted it anywhere. The next day, I couldn’t find it. I knew the computer had shut down and said something about ‘large text still on the clipboard’ or something, but I ignored it.

I re-wrote the death scene, and it just wasn’t the same. I knew most of the details, but when I went to write it, it lost some of its initial glory. I was crestfallen. It’s still in my mind, like a tack, waiting for me to re-write it (again) and try to inject some of the mood it had the first time around. It does feel like killing the same person twice though (sorry character you had to go through that again). I’ve often gone back and read chapters that have been published and thought ‘My god, what was I thinking, that’s horrible…’ but it also works the other way around too. I’ve read paragraphs and thought, ‘Okay, that’s pretty good’. I literally impressed myself.

Minutes ago, I resigned to the fact that this weekend writing session will be the full re-write. Just get it down, go over it on second draft and make it work. I sighed so loudly my neighbours heard it. Then I thought… I’ll check to see if I have a saved copy elsewhere. It was a long shot, but worth looking into. I found an older version, saved for backup. If that was the only copy I had, I would definitely have given up. From the bottom of my screen I saw the title of my book. The date last opened was last weekend. I thought I had already opened it. As I double clicked it, I began watching the page counter rise. Expecting it to stop around the 70,000-word count mark, but it didn’t. It kept going.

It stopped at 77,000. I scrolled down and could see the entire story was there. No re-writes required.

Please, back up your work.

~Mitchell

Mitchell is the author of Skellington Key, Heather Cassidy and the Magnificent Mr Harlow, and the Everdark Realms Trilogy

Visit Mitchell’s bio here

What If Your Characters Are Smarter Than You?

To anyone who doesn’t write this is going to sound profoundly strange, but I’ve loved to write my whole life and sometimes I need to write characters who have powerful intellects, master schemers and magnificent bastards. The problem with that is, I am none of those things. I am not a master strategist, I don’t have a history of warfare or science and I have never had the need to plot to destroy someone’s life but I’m pretty sure I couldn’t do it.

Pretty sure. Don’t test me, but still.

Yet somehow, I still have to write all of those things and make them convincing, I have to figure out the plans and plots that are going to unravel. So, here’s my advice on writing brilliant characters despite maybe only being semi brilliant yourself.

Research Research Research

Try not to be wrong. Being wrong will undermine your character’s ability to seem intelligent. I’m not saying you need to be a genius at whatever subject you’re working on but not making obvious mistakes would help. I’ve been dragged out of some of the better stories of my life because a character who’s supposed to be a master got some obvious thing wrong. You don’t need to be an expert, just know your stuff. If you’re writing a master strategist, at least get familiar with some of the classic manoeuvres. If you’re writing a brilliant scientist know something about the field so you don’t end up with a ‘hacking scene’ that involves two people typing on the same keyboard.

Yes, that actually happened.

No, I didn’t ever take those characters seriously again. Shame too, I liked them.

Manage How the World Makes Them Right

This is a bit of a challenge for some writers, including myself. See, you’d think it’d be easy, you can just make their decisions the correct ones, can’t you? Well yes and no. The problem with making your character right, is that you have to make them believably right and to do that you have to determine why they’re right. Is it because they realised something about other characters no one else did? Because they planned for this exact situation? Because they have a secret no one else knows? Have they just read more books or do they have sharper instincts?

The worst thing they can be is right just because they’re a genius. The question is what does that genius mean? What does the fact they’re brilliant mean they can figure out before anyone else? You can make their leaps of logic correct, but there needs to be a clear reason why they made them.

Don’t Make Everything Go Right.

One of the best quotes I heard form a character who I actually believed as a master strategist was ‘being a good strategist doesn’t mean having master plan, it means having a bunch of plans, and fall-back plans, and contingencies. We try things, sometimes they even work.’ One of the most believably intelligent things you can have a character do is respond well when things go wrong. Yes, it’s much easier for your character to have a master plan from the start where everything goes right, but to your smarter readers that’s going to come off as contrived. It can be so much cooler for a reader to watch your character react like a genius than act like one.

Deal With Their Frustrations

This is the part that’s going to seem weird to some people, but characters have a level of autonomy in your head, and yes, sometimes the smarter ones are going to get upset with you. If they planned some master manoeuvre that you just couldn’t figure out they’re going to get annoyed with you, which is going to seem a little strange as the process continues. This might hurt your brain a little in the early stages, but it’s something you’re just going to have to deal with. Like every other annoying little issue remember that this is something you can go back and fix later, so quiet the voices in your head and keep working. Like everything else, you can fix it in editing.

It’s a surreal experience the first time you realise you might not be clever enough to properly write a character that you thought up, but if you know your stuff and are willing to put in the effort, you’ll have them about their dastardly or benevolent brilliance soon enough.

~ Robert

Robert is the author of the Laughing Man Chronicles

Visit Robert’s bio here

Writing Programs: A review of Scrivener

Writers and authors use a variety of ways to plan their projects. As I’ve mentioned in previous blogs I’m not much of a planner, I do however have my research and I have tried a few different programs to help me sort through all of my notes.

As far as programs go I give Scrivener a solid 9/10.

This program has a lot of uses in it that makes it worth the $45AUD one off cost. It updates your program and as far as I’m aware it is a lifetime subscription. Once such thing I came across while playing with the program was the name generator. You can put in a variety of different settings and it will provide you with names that fit your description, you can even look up name meanings.

The basic layout for a fiction novel set up is relatively easy to follow. It has a manuscript section where you can make a tab for each of your chapters then you are able to export the file and it will hopefully come out as a fully formatted novel. I haven’t tried this part of the program yet as I prefer to complete my manuscripts in Microsoft Word for easier reading and editing.

You can also create character profiles within the program which I found extremely useful, especially now that I am gaining more characters and venturing into the second book with them, it is important for me to remember who is who and how they are related to the main plot. Without this section of Scrivener I would be lost, I would be constantly reading through The Stray to make sure everything is correct. Similar to the characters section of the program you can create places. Describing a new place and need to know all the information later on? The best place to store it is in that section. For both the characters and the places Scrivener provides a basic template that you can edit to suit your project needs.

You do also have the option to make extra areas, which is what I do. I make extra folders and corkboards that allow me to put my mythologies and species histories and connections into a database of some kind. You can also create extra template sheets for later use if you require them in other projects.

Scrivener is a very useful program for me and I’m not even using it to its full capacity. I think this program is fantastic for its price and would be useful to almost any writer beginning or published. I’m looking forward to giving Scrivener’s sister program, Scrapple, a try whilst I plan and write the rest of the White Wolf Trilogy. For only $15AUD it’s worth a try.

~Amanda

Amanda is the author of the White Wolf Trilogy

Visit Amanda’s bio here

Convention Preparation as an Author

As convention season commences in Australia, we begin the insanity of convention prep. Most of these tips will be applicable for all those who convention as an artist or any other creator, but this is to all the authors wanting to join the insanity of conventions.

As the co-ordinator of Ouroborus Book Services, I am in charge of stock, packing and running our stall so here are my Top 10 Prep Tips.

1 Lists

Lists are your best friend. Whether you have one book or 13, as we will have this year for April Gold Coast Supanova, this is the most important thing. You need a stock list (especially with multiple titles/items), a stall list (banners, tablecloths, etc) and a survival list (food, water, things to do). Use these to order stock, and while packing so nothing gets forgotten, especially if you are travelling for a convention.

2 Stock Counts

Even though you won’t need 100 of each title (seriously don’t bring 100 of each title or you will be wasting time and space, not to mention lugging them all there), you need to know how much stock you have. I like to make sure we have 20 of each title available before the show. The last thing you want to do is run out. Make sure you do a stock count in plenty of time to order more if you are low.

3 Promo Items

People like free stuff. You need to find the most cost-effective way to do this while making it a useful object. Business cards are great but most folk will put them in the bottom of their bags and never look at them again. Same with flyers. We personally love bookmarks. We hand out free bookmarks at our stall because it’s something people can use. And if they use it, it means you might get a sale later on down the track because they’ve been looking at a pic of your book for the last few months and decide to give it a go. Printing smart is your way to save cash. I know with the place we use, it’s only a small amount of difference in price to go from 100 bookmarks to 1000, so we buy them in bulk. (shout out to www.cmykonline.com.au)

4 Buy a Trolley

Best purchase we ever made was a luggage trolley. It was cheap (under $100) off eBay and holds about 300kg so perfect for us and folds flat enough to fit in the car on top of our stock. It has made life so much easier and we can transport most our gear in one or two tips. If you can’t afford to do this but have an old wheeled suitcase, they can do in a pinch but are a pain to get into a car when full of books.

5 Fridge Bags

If your novel is a standard 5x8in, then supermarket padded fridge bags are perfect to transport books. You can fit two stacks perfectly in each bag and they’re strong enough to deal with the weight. When full they also stack nicely on the above-mentioned trolley and are super easy to Tetris into a car. Plus picking up a bag of books is less stress on your body if you are weak like me. They’re also good for food and drink, and you can pack them inside each other for easy under-table storage during the convention.

6 Self Care

Conventions are hotbeds of germs and injuries. I’ll be honest. The tales of con-flu are real, so you need to look after yourself before and during the convention. Take your vitamins and be kind to yourself and try to get some sleep. During a convention weekend, you will eat horrible food, not drink enough water and most likely fall into an exhausted heap each night. Try to eat some veggies and things not deep fried for at least one meal. And for the love of all that is holy, make sure to get the next day after off work. You will need the recovery time. Also, be careful lifting things as the last thing you need is to do your back in after sitting on hard plastic chairs all weekend.

7 Essentials

Apart from your stock, there are some essentials you will need for the convention. These include

  • a tablecloth (a flat sheet is good because you want it to cover the table and hit the floor at the front) and a spare cloth to cover your stuff at night.
  • Signage (some conventions provide this, but extra visual aids always help)
  • Money tin (you will need somewhere to store your money) and a float (change should be a mix of notes and coins depending on your price point. If your books are $20, you should get $20s and $10s, to make change for $50 notes. If you have $15 books, add $5 notes.
  • Pens (for signing)
  • Emergency box (band aids, Panadol, blutac, cloth tape, tissues, scissors etc)
  • I buy a slab of bottles for our team and freeze them. As it gets crazy hot in conventions you will need water so you don’t pass out, and I know I don’t want to pay $4 a bottle there. You can get slabs of 24 bottle for $15 at supermarkets and office supply stores.
  • Convention food is expensive and usually gross. I recommend bringing something to nibble on. Sugar is also helpful to keep the energy up so lollies and fruit can be good. Be mindful of bringing peanuts as you don’t want to kill a customer who might be allergic.

8 Team Prep

Always bring a friend. Obviously, we are a big team, so we can take breaks and still have several folk behind our stall. But if it’s just you, make sure you bring people with you. Most cons will include a few passes with your table booking so use these to your advantage. Eight hours without food or toilet breaks is not gonna be fun. Make sure your team know prices, basic info on the products and how to handle money. Bribe them with candy, lightsabers or daleks (thanks Mum) if needs be.

9 Give Yourself Enough Time

Prep is a heap of work. I start at least two months before the convention, writing lists and doing stock counts. This gives you time to order stuff you need, amass fridge bags, and to space out your costs. I pack at least a week before the convention just in case I forget something.

10 Breathe.

I used to end up in a ball of panic packing for conventions, which in the lovely humidity of Queensland, was never a pretty sight. I’ve now learned that by prepping ahead of time, keeping to my lists, and stopping if I feel overwhelmed for a break, I can now get things done with little panic and stress.

So, in conclusion, plan, have fun and look after yourself!

~Sabrina

Sabrina is the author of Blank and the Everdark Realms Trilogy and is the director, editor and designer for Ouroborus Book Services

Visit Sabrina’s bio here

For more info on convention planning check out How to Sell at a Convention by fellow convention goer Megs Drinkwater available on Kindle.