Category Archives: Self-Motivation

Finding Courage in a Harsh World

Many stories, from mystery to science fiction and fantasy have inspired and awed me. But my road to writing has been a tough and painful one. It wasn’t so much inspiration I needed as the courage to overcome an environment that discouraged reading, let alone writing for a living. One author gave me that courage.

Imagine growing up in a family where reading was never encouraged and was viewed as being lazy. Where farm chores and homework were the priorities. My father occasionally read westerns and Archie comics and then only after we were in bed. My mother just read recipes. Now, imagine the frustrations of a child whose imagination is so taken by the Dick_and_Janerich worlds in books that she wants to write but must suppress that desire and limit it only to school assignments.

What did I love to read? I still remember Dick and Jane’s antics in the grade one picture books – “See Dick run. Run Dick run!’ – those first words excited my tiny heart and showed me the power of words on paper. Then came rhyming and Dr. Seuss filled my world – “One fish two fish, red fish blue fish’. nancy drewBy grades five and six, I was sneak reading the mysteries of Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys on the bus ride home – a book a day. Somewhere in junior high school, I discovered science fiction, fell in love with it and then got into trouble with teachers because my imagination and verbosity were greater than assignments demanded. When I took a degree in English and drama, I had relatives who shunned me for years.

Perhaps I should have quit then and for a few years life took over and I almost did. But I always dabbled and always loved reading. So, what changed? What gave me the courage to write and to overcome all the discouraging influences? Where did I find the confidence to achieve my goal of mastering and communicating in my second language? Oh yes, English isn’t my first language and throughout my life, I’ve had a desire to master it and rarely feel I have. Yet, one book, one writer gave me the courage to pursue my dream wholly – to throw myself into it with a modicum of hope to succeed. I owe my courage to J.K. Rowling.

Harry_Potter_and_the_Philosopher's_StoneWhen I read Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, I thought that if she could do it, so could I!”. Her life story, her courage to write and her perseverance to find a publisher were the inspiration I needed. Since then, I’ve written many wild tales. I can write! My childhood desire to engage in worlds so far removed from reality, to master their voices and breathe life into them in words not my own has blossomed!

Which authors inspire me today? They all do as do the readers who buy their books. Everyone who has the courage to pen their imaginations, to give life to new worlds and voices, and to all our readers who encourage us, I give you my heartfelt thanks.

Cheers and happy writing (and reading too)!

Are You Bored or Burned Out by Your Story?

You’re tired of writing the short story before you’ve even finished it. You’re 40,000 words into the novel and are falling asleep at the keyboard. You’ve worked hard on your world building, done the research done your character profiles and have the main elements of your plot chart, the writing should come easily but it doesn’t.

Don’t panic! The inability to write because your work doesn’t feel interesting at this moment doesn’t mean that you’re a bad writer. It means that you’re stuck and that you need to answer one simple question to get through this:

Are you bored or are you burned out?

Burn out happens when we’ve been at it too long – our brains need a rest from processing information and creating a work of art. Writing takes lots of energy – physical, creative and emotional. That’s when you need to give yourself a break But sometimes when you’re feeling bored it’s your brain’s way of telling you that information is missing. I had that experience when I was doing the world building and background work for my new series. I had had so much fun world building and I wanted to write the novel so I could share it. No matter how hard I tried, it wouldn’t happen. Three times I started the beginning and each time I set it aside. It wasn’t fun anymore. I grew bored. So, I let it rest and when I reviewed my research, I realized that I hadn’t thought through a critical element. My brain, in the form of boredom and frustration, was telling me that I was missing something.

Sometimes I write three to ten pages of background material (important but boring stuff) because I need to get grounded in the setting and characters. Once I’ve done that, then the story begins. So, write, write and write some more. It’s not boredom per se that you’re experiencing, it’s simply that you’re going through the first step of needing to become part of that world, to unclutter your brain by getting information and relationships out of your head.

What happens when you’re genuinely bored with what you’re writing? When you’re sick of the plot and the characters? When it’s not exciting anymore and it feels like work and not fun?

Sometimes, it’s not fun and when that’s the case we need to simply write our way through it until it becomes fun. There may be technical reasons why this is so but many times those aren’t apparent until we’ve finished the novel and are revising it. So don’t stop writing. Write through the scene or section and get to the fun part!

Feeling bored may be the result of not getting to the interesting parts of the story. You’re missing mood, emotion, action and reaction because there’s too much inconsequential description, the reader isn’t an idiot and doesn’t need that level of detail, it reads like a technical manual, and yes, it’s simply boring writing! So in this case, the problem may not be with you but with what you’re writing. Again, get it out of your system, then write the real story.

But what if you’re bored because you’re derailed and don’t even know it? Check your plot chart. Write out chapter summaries or summarize your scenes in point form. Ask yourself: where does the story begin and what is the disaster in the opening quarter that compels my charter to act? What is the story goal? What is the climax? What is happening to the protagonist between the middle and the end which makes it challenging for him to achieve his goals? It may be that somewhere in the swampy middle that you need to increase action and tension, up the stakes in order to make things dicier for your character and more exciting for yourself. This solution also works if you’re bored because your characters and plot feel boring.

Boredom may mean that you need a break. We get tired – it happens. Do something different for a bit: write a short story or a poem; paint the fence; go to a movie; bake something – give your brain a break and do something fun! Beware though that you aren’t using boredom as an excuse to procrastinate – that it’s an excuse to do the fun things and not write! If that’s the case, the surest way to quell boredom is by applying the BICFOK cure – Butt in Chair, Fingers on Keyboard.

Yawn! I’m not bored – I simply need a nap!

8 Things to Keep You Writing

You are a writer – whether you write something every day or not doesn’t change what’s in your soul. Deny it all you want. Procrastinate, make excuses, let life control your agenda, but deep down inside you know you’re driven to write because for you every written word is oxygen. Denying yourself oxygen is silly, even stupid, because to do so kills you. So here are eight things to do to keep you writing:

1) expect to rewrite

Perfect prose isn’t achieved with the first tapping of the keys. Good writing is complicated and may take a few tries to get all the aspects right and that includes things like grammar, the plot, character motivation, character interaction, voice, point of view and the hook. Writing is a creative process and creativity evolves and grows. Nothing is ever perfect the first time so get over it and write!

2) don’t get frustrated by your responsibilities

Family and work are responsibilities we all must honour. On that ride to work dictate your thoughts to a recorder. Go to work a half hour earlier and spend that extra time writing – every word counts! Don’t watch TV to relax after the kids have gone to bed – read a book (that’s research), work on your story or write a blog. And when the kids are doing their homework, do yours! There are days and months when demands are high and you can’t write but that’s not a reason to totally abandon your passion!

3) set goals and celebrate

Set realistic goals. 50 words a day, a week? Research and brainstorming for a month? Meet the deadline for a workshop or submission. Goals can be a moving target and that can be frustrating. But no goal means nothing to strive for and nothing will be achieved. Always celebrate when you reach a goal be it small or large. You’ve done something no one else has and that’s worth celebrating!

4) write what moves you

Don’t put off writing the novel because you’ve heard there are more markets for short stories. Don’t limit yourself to a novel when it’s a trilogy you want to write. And, write what moves you. If it’s the current popular fiction which sparks you, write that. If it’s something way out there, write it. If you’re not passionate about your story, the reader won’t be either.

5) don’t worry about the publishing industry

If you have a finished product, research the options for selling your work. BUT, if you’re still working on the first draft, don’t worry about it. The industry is changing and what you figure out today may not apply tomorrow. So write now. Worry later.

6) conquer your fears

Fear of failure, fear of sounding stupid, fear of being criticized because you’ve put your heart and soul into your creation and someone may not like it. Everyone has an opinion (including you) and it’s valid. For whatever reason, a publisher may not want your first book but that doesn’t mean it’s not publishable. Sometimes it’s the second or third book which gets published first and then the rest follow.

7) keep learning your craft

Expressing our creativity is a lifelong learning skill – that’s what makes it so exciting! Every time we learn another trick to hook and keep the reader, we’re closer to achieving our goal. Every new piece of information on craft, background research, on the publishing industry keeps our grey cells spinning and the oxygen flowing.

 8) love the kid in yourself

Sounds corny, I know. But remember, we’re just grown up kids with responsibilities. Using our magnified lenses called imagination and twisting our heads this way and that, we writers explore our world with wonder and excitement – just like kids do. And we have a fantastic tool, the written word, to relay that wonder to the rest of the world. So cherish that kid inside and let your imagination build those new and wonderful worlds.

And most importantly, have fun! Creating new worlds and sharing them with readers is the greatest fun any of us can ever have!

Keep writing!