Friday, 29 April 2011

Quoteth me not?

Whilst idly leafing through a book of writerly quotes (actually, I was procrastinating again!) I came across a couple of old ones that made me sit up and wonder...

1. "We must beat the iron whilst it is hot but we may polish it at leisure," John Dryden (1631-1700). This is so true - even today. The white heat of composition must be kept at full flame, don't you think?

2. "The last thing one knows in constructing a work is what to put first," Blaise Pascal (1623-1662). I know I always need to go back and change my beginnings as I get towards the end of my story. Sometimes I even ditch the original opening and start in a different place. Because until I get to the end of a story I'm never quite sure what must go in the beginning anyway.

3."A man may write at any time, if he will set himself to it doggedly," Samuel Johnson (1709-1804). Of course this is a writers oath. We swear we will stick to the task and complete our novels and stories, don't we? And procrastination is not said to be the thief of time for nothing...

So what do you think? Do these quotes still fit in with modern day writing, despite them having been written centuries ago?

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

3500 books on a plane!

I am now the proud owner of a brand new kindle.
What a profound change to the reading experience. I don't think the world of story telling has undergone such a change since Gutenberg invented the printing press! I must say that having heard about the e-readers for some years I have decried it in all quarters as the nemesis of the printed book. I extolled the virtue of paper and ink saying it was irreplaceable and bemoaned that anyone could think an electronic reader could compete with a few hundred years of  beautiful tactile books. However, I now think (along with many others) that there is room for both hard copy books and electronic books.
Just as the music industry had to cope with the onslaught of itunes (and similar  formats) and the film idustry to cope with dvd releases and the like, so the publishing industry is finally coming to terms with the modern electronic way of getting reading material to the public. In this day and age of instant communication it was inevitable, I suppose...
I really like the travelability of the kindle - you can take 3500 books with you on a plane! - and the ease of buying the books is superb ( although that is perhaps partly the point).  And as a writer, electronic publishing  is yet another market in a world of ever decreasing opportunities to get traditionally published.
I've got to admit, I don't know anyone who has purchased an electronic reader who regrets it.
In my humble opinion it simply adds to my reading experience as I still read old fashioned books too.
What do you think of the explosion of e-format books and e-readers?

Monday, 25 April 2011

Slightly tardy Easter Greetings!

I've been away from my pc for a few days - had family visiting over Easter. We all had a great time here in Lanza but the weather hasn't been as good as it usually is. People have been telling me it has been warmer in UK! Can't believe that...
Writing and catching up with social networking has taken a bit of a back seat but eh, thats life! Normal service will soon be resumed...
Belated Easter greetings!

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Zen and the Art of Writing.

I've been re-reading an old book by Ray Bradbury recently - 'Zen and the Art of Writing'. Although it's quite old fashioned in lots of ways, it seems to me that good writing advice never goes out of fashion. Mr Bradbury talks avidly about feeding your muse by lots of reading and writing ( any kind of writing) and I guess that would include - in this day and age - writing on blogs and webs! I often wonder what writers of the forties and fifties would make of the publishing/writing world of today...
In this book Mr Bradbury also talks about the childhood fears that gave rise to his blockbuster novels and short stories, including his fear of circuses and his interest in sci fi which gave rise to 'Something Wicked This Way Comes' and 'The Martian Chronicles'. I think we could all take another look at what makes us the people we are so we can utilise our fears and inspirations to give our stories the ultimate ring of truth.
What a wonderful writer and what an insightful book - well worth a re-read...

Monday, 18 April 2011

Tap versus scratch

The click is mightier than the pen
I once put pen to paper (literally) and wrote.
Now I click, tap and navigate. What a huge change to the way we all communicate. I can’t even remember when I last received a hand written letter.   I am not a bright, young thing (although I’d like to think I’m still reasonably bright!) but I know many others of a similar age group who are also very au fait with computers and indeed to some degree, social networking.
For me the keypad is quicker than the pen when it comes to getting tumbling thoughts and ideas down on paper. Free writing engages the creative right side of the brain and not the analytical, logical left brain. I believe getting something, anything, down on a blank sheet is the best way to avoid writers block and so I often use free writing to help me think and get going on a project.
Using the keypad rather than the pen gives me a quicker easier way to re-write this stream of consciousness writing and make some sense of it. Whereas editing with pen and paper just leaves me with a confused mess of crossings out and no sense of what I am really trying to say.  Having said that, I have many friends who continue to write in longhand – at least initially. They still cherish the feel of pen on paper and love to fill the blank white pages of a notebook. Long live writers of all kinds!
So how do you do it?

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Help - my novel needs me!

What a disappointment! After ordering my kindle and, in excited anticipation, looking forward to it's delivery, I waited two weeks and was then told it was undeliverable here in the Canary Islands and had been sent back to the States!! Boohoo....
Oh well, I'm due back in UK soon so will have to wait til then to get the darn thing.

On another note, my novel writing is getting shoved back in the daily list of 'to do's'. And it seems to be in favour of networking but it just won't do!! I know in this day and age networking is a must but time is something most of us don't have in abundance. I think I must re-assess and sort things better than this... Oh well, at least I am writing in a fashion - on blogs etc... But my novel needs me - help!

Do other writers struggle with this networking stuff? I mean, what with reading blogs, twitter posts, facebook and writing comments and feedback myself, the hours have just slid by.

How do you organise your time? Or am I simply procrastinating too much?

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Thursday, 14 April 2011


It's great to be back! In case anyone missed me I've been offline for a week now... My internet was down and I had to wait for a new router. It just shows how dependent one can get on technology. I was at a loss for a few days - felt quite bereft without my networking stuff... I could, of course, still get on with my latest book but somehow it didn't seem the same without the web lurking in the background.
Having to use webmail for email was pretty time consuming too- especially as I had to go elsewhere to stay in touch!! Oh well, these things are sent to try us and in the scheme of things, a mere mild annoyance??
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Saturday, 2 April 2011

Contacting the Alter Ego?

There is lots of advice available about developing plot and themes for stories but one of the best tips I have come across was to write down thoughts as they occur, in the form of a kind of conversation. 
At the very beginning of my novel “The Afterlife of Darkmares” I had a string of rather vague concepts but no coherent plan. So, after germinal ideas about the plague, mother love and sudden death in childhood, I decided to try out the technique that I first learnt about in David Morrell’s Lessons from a Lifetime of Writing. He recommends writing as you think through plot ideas, rather than thinking first then writing an outline. He maintains this allows a writer to have a conversation about the story without the risk of the best notions ending in the air because the ideas materialise as the writer writes and thoughts occur. The person the writer talks to is, of course, the alter ego. David Morrell says this technique, “encourages you (the writer) to delve below the surfaces of a conventional outline so that a richer book has the potential to be written.”
The question ‘why?’ seems to be the most helpful (although all the ‘W’ questions are used e.g. where, who, what, when) as it makes you think about why you want to write this particular story and why you think the plot/theme is important.  It also clearly helps with making the characters fully rounded and properly motivated.
This kind of writing is also a form of psychoanalysis and helps when the ideas just won’t move forward. I tried it and found it to be a wonderfully liberating exercise and make no apologies for the introspective nature of the discourse. My ‘Conversations’  document shows my thought processes developing the story ideas, and together with a premise, helps keep me on course when moving towards some kind of outline.   It is also extremely useful if, like me, you sometimes go off course and need to get your thoughts back into the main thrust of the story. It provides a sort of road map. Subplots can be woven in and kept in check a bit easier too.

For more information or to read an excerpt of the book visit 

Friday, 1 April 2011

Thrills and bills

I spent most of yesterday evening researching the new Amazon Kindle and have finally decided to splash the cash, hang the expense and order one! I sincerely hope it lives up to all the hype. I'm so looking forward to getting it and I've even lined up a list of books that I'm going to download as soon as it arrives. Has anyone got anything bad to say about it? I've not really heard any negative comments but then perhaps I've only paid attention to the reviews that are positive.
BUT, I'm not sure that my mature brain ( or 'mad cow brain' as my friend calls it) is up to it... 'Of course, it is,' the sensible and 'in denial' part of my head says...
Anyway, I've totally moved into the 21st century now!!! Even my kids and grandkids don't have this bit of kit... I'll let you know how I get on with it.
Now, about that writing... Oh, yeh...(Looks at watch) but it's a bit late in the day now, isn't it? Maybe tomorrow... There you go, you see - procrastinating again.
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