The MRWG wishes all our readership a very Happy Mother's Day. Perhaps you're in the mood to read something writerly during "The Voice' ad breaks or having got the little ones into bed are ready to fire up the lap top and have some me time in cyber space. Here's a lovely post from Ebony McKenna on enjoying a hobby, something all mothers need, an activity that is purely for their enjoyment. It's Fine To Have A Hobby
Hobbies are what give our lives simple joys and pleasure. Seeing the result of a finished project and admiring the work and love that went into it.
I love bonsai, I've been creating them and tending them for twenty years. Yet I've never exhibited. I do it because I enjoy it and it brings me pleasure. I also love model railway sets and adore building the model houses that go with them, but I hardly attend train fairs and I've never joined a club. Because it's a hobby, so I do it for me. Just because I can cook doesn't mean I will appear on Masterchef any time soon.
And yet, writing seems to be the one hobby where if you take it up, you're suddenly under pressure to do everything. Have a blog, be on twitter, write 10,000 words a day, send things to agents and editors, get those 90k novels done, have them reach the dizzying heights of the bestseller lists.
All because you had a little story noodling in your brain and you liked writing.
So perhaps it's time to step back for a moment and have a think. Do you write for fun? Excellent. Keep doing it. Does the thought of sending your story out into the world, to be ripped apart by critics kill you inside? Good then, don't do that. Do the bit you love, without the other stuff. The pressure stuff, that will suck all the joy from your hobby.
Of course, if you're rampantly ambitious, like me, and you want the pressure and in fact thrive on it, then by all means, turn your writing hobby into a full time pursuit and give it everything you've got. Write, write, and write some more. Then rewrite. Then put it in a drawer for a few months. Then rewrite it again. Then write something new (because that other thing will be so derivative you won't believe it) and keep on going.
But in the mean time, those who write as a hobby - ignore the pressure. Don't get drawn into the competitive nature of writing as a full time job. Write for the pure, simple joy it brings you. Write for yourself. Write to feed your heart.
Ebony McKenna, is published in Young Adult, Her first two Ondine novels, The Summer of Shambles and The Autumn Palace, are available in paperback from http://www.bookdepository.co.uk/search/advanced?searchAuthor=Ebony+McKenna
with free worldwide postage.
They are also available as ebooks in the UK and Australia from http://www.amazon.co.uk/Ebony-McKenna/e/B0057PRSL2/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1366672783&sr=8-1
and then the trequel and the conclusion release dates are:
Ondine: The Winter of Magic - worldwide ebook release December 6, 2013
Ondine: The Spring Revolution - worldwide ebook release March 6, 2014
Have you read the weekend papers and now sit, with third latte in hand, looking for something writerly to read? I have it for you. Here at the MRWG we are blessed with talented writers.
As it’s the first Sunday of the month, I thought I’d round up some of February’s blogs, just in case you missed a gem.
In alphabetical order, here’s a brief outline of what’s been posted.
Anna Cowen has been blogging about the art and essence of storytelling on her blog, Diary of an Accidental Housewife. (http://annacowan.com/
),yes this is the right link. During February, Anna visits the movie Dirty Dancing and also recounts an enchanting fairy tale with a strong heroine as opposed to the kind that waits around to be saved.
Emmie Dark (http://emmiedark.blogspot.com.au/
) has been posting an informal diary of her sojourn in the USA. Her photos and experiences take us off the usual tourist path and show us some of the quirky side of Texas and California. Even though we’re quite Americanized in many ways, here in Australia, Emmie shows us some fun differences.
Louise Reynolds at Lou Writes ( http://louwrites.wordpress.com/
) has been entertaining subscribers with a series called Cooking The Books. In my life as a bookkeeper it mean’s telling a few porkies, however Louise’s guests have been talking honestly about writing and cooking. A reoccurring theme is the emotional link food creates with our past and how that can evolve into inspiration for stories.
Serena Tatti of Story Editor (http://serenatattistoryeditor.blogspot.com/
) has been interviewing writers during Feb. Her guests have been sharing accounts of their writing experience. Juanita Kee’s explores loving your character and Suzanna Ross shares her experience regarding the magic of writing friends.
Well that’s a taste of what some of the MRWG members have been offering through their blog’s. If you've read them, I hope my post helped you to remember how great they were. If you haven’t seen them yet, you have a treat in store.
After reading a great little book ‘How to write a book in 48 hours’ by Jack Morrow, I realised 1) there is money in self-help books and 2) you must be prepared before you sit down to write.
For me the ideas don’t spring forward the moment I sit at my blank computer screen, with fresh coffee, loads of chocolate and raring to go. For me it’s like extracting a tooth and I agonise over every word, paragraph and page, which can choke any spark I have.
But what if I’ve spent time thinking about my characters as I go through the day. I can plan what I’ll do to them, and see how they react. I can think about the places I can put them, where they will be out of their comfort zone. Depending on your memory jot down brief notes, or keep it tucked up in your head until it’s writing time.
And as Jack mentions, if you have a plan already in your head or jotted down, bare bones only, it must speed up your word count.
We don’t have to sit around wool gathering to do it either; we can do it while driving, in the shower, cooking the dinner, waiting in a line at the supermarket.
A few years back I did a workshop at an RWA conference and we practised meditation and the exercise of trying to picture your book, a scene, a point of change, and then sleep on it. We make this our final focus before sleep. Forget the cat, the kids’ lunches, the wet washing in the machine and just zone into your fictional world and see where it leads.
Another good tip to increase word count is to cut the internal editor out of the equation.
Assure your internal editor, and we all have one, you are getting words down. Thank him for his advice that your writing is crap and assure him you will edit it tomorrow – but not today.
Give it a go and maybe get Morrow’s book to see if you can increase your word counts.
Go with the flow and may the words and inspiration be with you.
The Ugly Hero by Anna Cowan
I’m not sure when exactly the trend tipped, but at some point in the past couple of decades, romance heroines started to become more…normal looking. More like the kinds of ugly ducklings most of us are: we’re not gonna turn into a swan or anything (that would just be weird), but we will become more interesting, more self-possessed, more sexy and intelligent.
The traditional “ugly” heroine in Romancelandia has – gasp! – red hair and freckles, or a too wide, too generous mouth, or luscious, sexy lips that she hates because she doesn’t have the fragile beauty that’s so in right now. You know, beautiful ugly.
But now there’s room for heroines female readers could recognise themselves in. Not ugly, but not front-page material. Plump heroines, short heroines, big noses, flat chests. I’ve yet to see anyone attempt the monobrow, which Georgette Heyer pulled off so flawlessly in The Convenient Marriage.
One thing, however, remains constant. The heroes are, to a man, gorgeous. They may be nondescript at first sight – but trust me, there are a nice set of muscles lurking beneath that shirt!
It makes sense, of course. Romance novels are a variety of female fantasy, and a fantasy doesn’t get much more basic than this: I would never make the cover of a magazine, but a hot, wonderful man will see that I am more than my looks and love me. And did I mention how hot he is?
As Loretta Chase put it: If you have the power to make all your heroes tall and gorgeous, why on earth wouldn’t you?
Being the perverse creature that I am, once I realised this, my first thought was writing an “ugly” hero. Someone with a bit of flab around the middle, or less height than is to be desired, or no bum to speak of. But every time I pick the idea up, I discard it again. I can’t think how to make the reader fall in love with that kind of hero.
It’s shallow – so shallow, now that I’m typing it out – but that’s my reaction.
And then, ladies and gentlemen, I watched this movie trailer and thought – Oh the French are so cool:
Not only is it just stupendously brave to pair Audrey Tatou with a bald, weird-looking, pudgy hero, it works
. The first love interest is young, gorgeous, cheeky. They obviously have something great. So when she looks up, and the cheesy voiceover has made it clear she’s about to meet her second chance at love, I was thinking, “Okay, so this guy’s going to have to be even more gorgeous and charming,” and I already had charm fatigue. I didn’t care. I felt the kind of despair that comes from consuming Hollywood fairytales (and I love me a Hollywood fairytale).
So when the man stepped into frame I was first surprised – and then delighted, and shocked, and intrigued. I sat up and paid attention. I could see, just from the preview, what this man might have to offer her that other men wouldn’t, and I wanted to see more.
So if the hero is a product of female fantasy, here are some things to consider: In this one life, as me, I’d rather be surprised and challenged and admired than have something pretty to look at. If I truly believe that, then it’s worth writing. It certainly wouldn’t be easy, but I think it would make a stupendous love story.***You can find more of Anna's writing at http://annacowan.com/
By JJ Somerville
At the start of a writing day many writers find themselves staring at a blank white page. It can offer a whole universe of possibilities or it can be a form of torture to the blocked writer.
As we sit down to that blank page sometimes we only start with an opening sentence, or we know something has to happen, and our fingers hover above the keyboard waiting for the words flow and the scene takes shape.
Other times we stare off blankly into space.
This is when our inner critic pipes up (or even sometimes our partners!) and says “I thought you were supposed to be writing.”
Now unless you are thinking about how badly your team went in the football or what you are going to cook for dinner that night, you are writing.
You’re part of a creative process called daydreaming. It’s something we often do as writers whether we are aware of it or not.
Daydreaming is an important part of the writer’s arsenal. It’s as important as any of the other tools but we often ridicule ourselves for taking the time to imagine our scenes before we write them.
Don’t succumb to this. The time you spend thinking about your story is just as valuable as the time you spend writing it.
The single best thing about daydreaming is; we can do it anywhere. If you’re waiting in a queue, stuck in traffic (or even in a boring meeting!) You can open that mental notebook and walk your characters though their upcoming scenes. You can daydream back-story that might never make it into the story just to see how your character reacts to life changing events. Or you can work through the climax of the book for a glimpse of how your character needs to grow and what they have to learn before they can play their role in the story.
I often find myself daydreaming scenes near the climax of the book when I’m still writing the first act. I do this because it informs me where the story is heading and how my characters are going to develop. I probably won’t write those scenes yet; I’ll make some notes of any clever dialogue or important points, but just because I’ve thought about them doesn’t mean I need to write them yet. It also doesn’t mean I won’t change them later.
You may even find that the scene drags, that your daydream is boring you, you’ve learnt something valuable before you sat down and stared at that blank page. If it’s boring move on to the next scene and see if you can work the information you thought that scene was supposed to convey into the next scene in your sequence. Let’s face it, it’s often said; “If it’s boring to write, then it’s going to be boring to read”. The same applies to daydreaming.
So now we’ve talked about why we might daydream a scene Let’s try it.
The first time you try daydreaming you may want to find yourself a quiet spot. Grab a notepad and pen and make yourself comfortable.
You’ll probably want to close your eyes
Immerse yourself in the world of your story. Let the setting come to life around you. Use all your senses to see, hear, smell, taste & touch the world of your story.
Then bring in your characters. Are they waiting for the catalyst of your scene to arrive? Or are all the players in the room, each with their own agendas and foibles. Watch how your characters react to the challenges you throw at them and those they throw at each other. Listen to what they say to each other and how they say it.
Open your eyes and jot down some notes.
Now find your keyboard and start typing.
You’ll be surprised how quickly your characters fill that white page. If you feel like the scene is missing something, close your eyes again. What do your senses tell you? Can you weave those delicious details into your scene? Watch your characters interact with the space they are in, is the setting intrinsic to the scene? Bring all that back to the page.
You may need to take a few dips into your daydream to flesh things out.
Look down at your writing and realise that what once seemed like a roaring expanse of white space is now filled with the complex and beautiful world of your story.
You’ve done it! Now do it again.
By Anna Cowan
I’ve come to this conclusion: sex scenes are so difficult to write because sex is the opposite of words. It is visceral and complex and a form of vulnerability that goes beyond what we can speak, even to ourselves.
There’s a lot of fantastic advice about how to write a sex scene – how to use it to forward character and the dramatic arc of your story. But what interests me is the language we can use to come close – and somehow never close enough – to a human experience of the act.
If words can never accurately pin down what sex is, then I’m interested in what can happen between words. If you bring two contrary words together, the reading mind will try to find meaning in their pairing – and will create something wholly new in the process. In A Lady’s Lessons in Scandal, Meredith Duran strings together words to describe her hero, when he begins kissing his heroine: Hot and desperate and gluttonous and hesitant and uncertain and tentative as a boy with his first woman: this moment, this simple bedding, was turning into something strange. For me, it’s the word “gluttonous”, seemingly out of place, that evokes a real human feeling. The same feeling couldn’t be described head-on, because it isn’t concrete.
Language can also be used as touch. The sounds words make – even the shapes letters make on a page – can be used to reach out to a reader and seduce them into a certain frame of mind. Fragments of one word attached, bright and surprising, to another.
I want to be clear that I’m not talking about euphemism. I’m a big believer in calling a body part by its name.
The best example I can give of the kind of language I’m trying to describe is the poem Epithalamion by Gerard Manley Hopkins.
I'm not a huge reader of poems, but this one grabbed me. It goes beyond an overabundance of words – pours words out until they sit in dense clusters of meaning and images that create something altogether new. A sensory world arrived at by the mind.
I encourage you to read the poem – out loud if you dare – and let yourself feel how, beyond language, there is a free, fierce, movement-filled world. If you take the words at face-value many of them are nonsense. Taken together they come close to something that is entirely beyond words.
Hark, hearer, hear what I do; lend a thought now, make believe
We are leafwhelmed somewhere with the hood
Of some branchy bunchy bushybowered wood,
Southern dene or Lancashire clough or Devon cleave,
That leans along the loins of hills, where a candycoloured,
where a gluegold-brown
Marbled river, boisterously beautiful, between
Roots and rocks is danced and dandled, all in froth and
We are there, when we hear a shout
That the hanging honeysuck, the dogeared hazels in the cover
Makes dither, makes hover
And the riot of a rout
Of, it must be, boys from the town
Bathing: it is summer's sovereign good.
By there comes a listless stranger: beckoned by the noise
He drops towards the river: unseen
Sees the bevy of them, how the boys
With dare and with downdolphinry and bellbright bodies
Are earthworld, airworld, waterworld thorough hurled, all by
turn and turn about.
This garland of their gambols flashes in his breast
Into such a sudden zest
Of summertime joys
That he hies to a pool neighbouring; sees it is the best
There; sweetest, freshest, shadowiest;
Fairyland; silk-beech, scrolled ash, packed sycamore, wild
wychelm, hornbeam fretty overstood
By. Rafts and rafts of flake-leaves light, dealt so, painted on
Hang as still as hawk or hawkmoth, as the stars or as the angels
Like the thing that never knew the earth, never off roots
Rose. Here he feasts: lovely all is! No more: offwith - down he
His bleached both and woolwoven wear:
Careless these in coloured wisp
All lie tumbled-to; then with loop-locks
Forward falling, forehead frowning, lips crisp
Over finger-teasing task, his twiny boots
Fast he opens, last he offwrings
Till walk the world he can with bare his feet
And come where lies a coffer, burly of all blocks
Build of chancequarried, selfquained rocks
And the water warbles over into, filleted with glassy grassy
quicksilvery shives and shoots
And with heavenfallen freshness down from moorland still
Dark or daylight on and on. Here he will then, here he will the
Flinty kindcold element let break across his limbs
Long. Where we leave him, froliclavish, while he looks about him, laughs,
Enough now; since the sacred matter that I mean
I should be wronging longer leaving it to float
Upon this only gambolling and echoing-of-earth note -
What is...the delightful dene?
Wedlock. What is water? Spousal love...
Father, mother, brothers sisters, friends
Into fairy trees, wild flowers, wood ferns
Ranked around the bower...