writing tips i wish i'd known on day one

We’ve seen them all, haven’t we? I’d need as many hands as a centipede has legs to count how many writing tips I’ve encountered and pondered over. Some were helpful; others weren’t. Most of what I know about writing I learnt from reading obsessively and spending an insane amount of time writing absolute garbage. Practice is vital: nothing makes for a better writer than writing itself—but still, even at the risk of adding to the mighty sea of advice, here are five of my own writing tips that I wish I’d known from day one.

 

Treat it like a real job.

Give your writing the time, effort, and respect as you would any other job. Show up or get fired. Develop a schedule. Stick to a routine. Write on a regular basis. Whether that’s a few hours in the morning before your day has begun or late at night when everyone else has ‘left the building’. Find what works for you. COMMIT. Treating it the way you’d treat a paid 9-5 job will beget dedication. The difference is this is something you’ve chosen because you are presumably passionate about it. Let that motivate you.

 

Use everything as research material.

I mean EVERYTHING. Had your heart broken? Lost a job? Grieving a loss? Been depressed? Harness that raw emotion and make it bow to your will. Draw on those experiences—the good and the bad (especially the bad)—and douse your writing with real and complex situations and reactions. This raw aspect of the human experience will make your story immersive and compelling, resonating with readers.

 

Forget the Muse.

It’s romantic as fuck to imagine ourselves as struggling artists. Like Shakespeare living by his pen, waiting for the beguiling Muse to whisper iambic verse into his ear. But Shakespeare likely knew the score—he was prolific as all hell. And to be a prolific, consistent, full-time writer means giving the Muse the middle finger—she’s tardy and unreliable. YOU’RE the writer. You’re the one that has to put in the hours and get the job done. Don’t wait for inspiration. Go and grab it by the balls.

 

Finish what you start.

We’re writers. We’re idea MACHINES. No sooner have we started one shiny new project do we have another idea beckoning at our writerly door. Ignore it. Tell it you’re not home. Send it to voicemail. Seriously. Ideas are brilliant but they’re a dime a dozen. They’re easy to come by. You know what isn’t easy to come by? A finished novel. So get writing. Create an idea bank and store that shit up. Treat it like a savings account and only dip in when you need to. When you’ve started a shiny new project, commit to it. Hell, marry it! And be faithful. See it through. Otherwise, you’ll end up with fifty-two incomplete files of three-chapter books, all of which have lost their sparkle. Completion is key.

 

Do it your way.

Yes, there are approximately 49 trillion rules out there for writing. By all means, learn some of them. But by no means do you HAVE to adhere to them. Do whatever works for you and for the story you have to tell. Then perfect it. Outside of grammar, punctuation, being well-read, and having a fierce grasp of language, there is no real rule to the art of self-expression.

 

What writing tips have worked for you? Which of them will you never get on board with? Let me know in the comments.

immisceo release and giveaway

Immisceo Release

The first book in the Immisceo series is finally out! I absolutely loved bringing Luciana and Nate to life and I’m so excited to be able to share this story with you. The World of Immisceo has been a joy to create and I hope you’ll enjoy living in it for a while. You can also explore the map of Nosiras or meet the characters before you dive into their story.

 

Since my opinion is understandably biased, here’s what one of my early readers have said about Immisceo: Taken:

 

‘If you like stories that involve a heroine’s quest for a just cause, a heroine with magical powers, and a lot of mild toned suspense, this book is definitely for you. The writing in Immisceo Taken is crisp and lean. It flows from one episode to another like in a good movie.’

 

immisceo taken - immisceo 1 - fantasy romance - fantasy series

In the land of Nosiras, the Duciti’s word is law and their reign is absolute.

Luciana is a powerful witch: independent and wilful as she is strong. But when she is chosen by the Duciti to conceive an Immisceo witch to use as a weapon against Amara and her Outcasts, she has but two choices: obey with her freedom or without. When her Immisceo son is kidnapped, she will stop at nothing to get him back.

Nathaniel was born to the streets, then raised in an environment one rung down from captivity. Guarded by his older brother, he seeks freedom and adventure from his restrained life. Meeting Luciana will grant him one of these and will set him on a path which will test his ties of blood and love.

Caught between two enemies, Luciana and her unwitting companion are against the odds in their quest to save her son from a war that shouldn’t have been his to fight. In the hands of his kidnapper, Eli is as much a weapon as he would be in the Duciti’s—a weapon Luciana created. His life has been predetermined by those who would harm him, and Luciana must now right the wrongs she has dealt her son and save him from his fate—but at what cost?

Get the paperback or ebook on Amazon now or read the first three chapters here before you buy.

BUY  

 

Amazon UK Amazon US

Giveaway

There’s still time to enter to win a free copy of Immisceo: Taken. If you’re on Goodreads, enter the giveaway before it ends on May 30th. Good luck!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Immisceo Taken by Shona Moyce

Immisceo Taken

by Shona Moyce

Giveaway ends May 30, 2017.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

The second book in this fantasy series is underway. Stay tuned for upcoming snippets. 

Happy reading!

tools for writers

Writing a book is a long, hard process often requiring nothing more than imagination and sheer determination to see your story through to completion. If you have this outlook, great. You’re well on your way. Chances are however, you’ll want to make your story the best it can be, and even then, finishing the book isn’t even the hardest part. (I know, I didn’t believe it at first either!) After writing the damn book, there’s editing, proofreading, formatting, cover design, publishing, and marketing. Oh, and more editing. And unfortunately, there are a million ways in which it can go wrong during the process. Happily, we live in the digital age and have access to some amazing resources and tools for writers.

 

From the initial spark of an all-new brilliant idea through to getting your books into the hands of readers, there are millions of websites offering information on how to tackle it all. Sometimes, the range of information is more overwhelming and contradicting than it is helpful. I’ve been there. I’ve spent hours and hours sailing the sea of content. There are a ton of sites and tools for writers out there, claiming to change the way I write or publish or market my work. Here are those I’ve found most helpful. This list is broken into two sections: Tips for Writers and Tools for Writers. It is by no means exhaustive—I’m sure there are many sites I’ve overlooked or am yet to stumble upon—but this is what works for me. I hope some of you will find them useful too.

 

TIPS FOR WRITERS

While I’ve read a lot of available content, nothing has been as helpful as these five listed below. I return to these websites time and time again and find them to be a helping hand on the writer’s rocky path.

 

1. NATHAN BRANSFORD

Nathan Bransford is a writer and former agent. His blog is a one-stop motherlode of writerly advice, from how to outline and plan a novel to the dreaded task of agent-querying and publishing. He tackles both routes: traditional and self-publishing, offering insight into the overwhelming task that is putting your book out into the world. I highly recommend his book How To Write a Novel — read a review here.

 

2. JOANNA PENN FROM THE CREATIVE PENN

The Creative Penn is another treasure trove of resources. If you’re looking to self-publish your books, this is recommended reading, with tips on everything from editing your book to how to market it. Joanna Penn also has several books available (both non-fiction and fiction) and runs a podcast with helpful interviews. I recently read The Successful Author Mindset which is a book on overcoming some of the inevitable obstacles as a writer and found it to be inspiring. She also hosts several live Q and A sessions on Facebook.

 

3. JOEL FRIEDLANDER FROM THE BOOK DESIGNER

This website was my go-to for book formatting tips. Until reading several posts on how to professionally format a book (both paperback and digital), I never knew just how many ways there are to get it wrong. Thankfully, with the plethora of advice from this website and a bit of patience and hard work, you can get your book looking not just ‘nice’ but professionally made.

 

4. DEREK MURPHY AT CREATIVINDIE

Creativindie is a recent find for me and I wish I’d discovered it sooner. Derek Murphy’s advice on book cover design is helpful and insightful, and it drove me to redesign the cover of my first romantic suspense novel. He points out that covers should make an emotional impact, which is not new information, but it IS something I initially overlooked, even as an avid reader. His site is packed with tips and secrets on cover design, publishing, and writing, and a primary feature is the innovative marketing advice. (If you’re an indie author, I would highly recommend reading: Book Cover Design Secrets and Guerrilla Publishing.)

 

5. NICK STEPHENSON AND YOUR FIRST 10K READERS

When Nick Stephenson explained funnel marketing, I felt for the first time that I had hope. Not only that, but implementing this method of marketing frees up time for the other parts of the writer’s job including, of course, writing. His methods will ensure that you aren’t spending wasted hours on social media or signing up for tweet blasts and the like. Not that those methods are inherently wrong or pointless, but put simply, building an email list and gaining a wider readership go hand in hand. Nick explains this in a way that made sense to even a marketing noob like me.

 

TOOLS FOR WRITERS

DISCLAIMER: THE WEBSITES MENTIONED BELOW ARE NOT AFFILIATED, ENDORSED, OR SPONSORED. I SIMPLY LOVE THESE TOOLS, I USE THEM ON A REGULAR BASIS, AND I BELIEVE THEY’LL PROVE USEFUL TO OTHER WRITERS.

When it comes to tools for writers, you may notice that this list is missing the gem of the writer’s arsenal. This is because the tool in question (and one of the best writing tools out there) is downloadable software as opposed to an online site. The brilliant writer’s-dream program I’m talking about is, of course, Scrivener (total god-send). There is a discussion entirely dedicated to this marvellous program here: Is Scrivener Any Good? (Spoiler: Yes.) For a list of other helpful tools for writers, keep reading. 

 

6. 750 WORDS

Need a writing boost? If you’re struggling to meet your daily writing goal or if you want to establish a habit of writing every day, this site is a fun way to do it. Writing might well be a joy for most of us, but it can still be hard to keep the momentum going day after day after day. This site gives you extra incentive. Is it silly? Maybe. Fun? Yes. Helpful? YES. You’ll be surprised just how much weight a stupid badge can carry. You get one badge for a daily streak. You get more if your streak is longer. Add to that, this site offers a distraction-free interface on which to write. No buttons, no links. Just white space for you to fill with unfiltered words. And if you’re a stats nerd, you’re in luck. The site also analyses your daily writing, including how you write, how often you got distracted, words-per-minute, feelings and themes, and a bunch more. I’ve used it for brainstorming and journalling but there are no rules. You can also export everything you write to a text document.

 

7. ONE LOOK REVERSE DICTIONARY

Ever stuck for the perfect word? Of course you are, you’re a writer. But what about those moments where the word is on the tip of your tongue but for the life of you, you can’t think of it. You know EXACTLY what the word means and what you’re trying to sum up, but the word itself is failing you. One option is to stick in an X or an asterisk or question mark and return to it later. OR you could turn to your trusty thesaurus. But this nifty little search tool might be able to take it a step further. You type in a word or a phrase and voila! Words-R-Us. It can be a bit hit and miss, but hey, desperate times…

 

8. GRAMMARLY

Despite becoming infuriated with their incessant advertising on pretty much every YouTube video ever (and then some), I can’t deny how useful this program actually is. More than a basic spell checker, it does live up to the hype. Whilst no replacement for a human proofreader, it does detect most grammar, punctuation, and (of course) spelling issues, whilst doing double-duty as a thesaurus as well. Perfect for cleaning up those drafts at the end of a couple of rounds of edits (if only to avoid having to read your manuscript yet again). There’s also an extension available for Chrome which is great when posting updates or blog posts online or sending emails. You can also add the extension to Microsoft Word.

 

9. PACEMAKER

If you’ve ever participated in Nanowrimo, I don’t need to tell you just how much of an incentive a word count tracker can be. This free online tool allows you to chart your daily progress not just in November, but every month of the year. It has a clever function that allows you to change your pacing—Bite the Bullet mode for those writers who like to get their words down in big chunks before the momentum wears off, or Oscillating mode for alternating heavy and light workloads. Word count goals can be set to automatically alter depending on your progress, keeping you on target and making sure you account for the days when your imaginary friends aren’t talking to you.

 

10. CANVA

Ever wanted to produce perfect images with your own branding and unique flair? Without having to wrangle the beautiful monster that is Photoshop and without producing something that looks like your cat went nuts inside the Paint program? If yes, go sign up with Canva for free. There are templates available for everything from blog post banners to social media images (all in the correct size for each platform) and even basic book covers. Canva’s drag-and-drop user-friendly site will have you churning out graphic after graphic, without giving you a headache.

 

11. Evernote

Remember the days when scattered thoughts on Post-It notes gusted around you like a personal mini cyclone? No? Me neither. It’s been that long. These days, every wish and whim and million-dollar idea can be typed into remarkable programs like Evernote, a program designed for use on the web, or on your computer or mobile devices. It stores every note as a drag-and-drop document which you can store in separate notebooks or even notebook stacks but it does this on a single screen. The organisation level of this app is brilliant—it updates your notes on the fly. I don’t even have to hit save (does loving this make me ridiculous? I mean, it’s one tap!) Seriously though, Evernote’s synchronisation—not just when it comes to saving your work, but syncing between multiple devices—is fast and reliable. There are several apps out there offering similar functions, right down to the standard notes app on your smartphone, but for me, Evernote takes the cake.

 

12. TODOIST

My personal favourite (read: could-never-function-without-it). For me, this tool is my go-to for ideas, reminders, appointments, and (obviously) tasks to do, so for me, Todoist does double duty as a calendar. It’s the first thing I open in the morning (other than my eyes, that is) and yes, even before Facebook! *gasps all round* The app is available online but you can also use it on any device—the synchronisation between devices is seamless. It allows you to create projects, even a hierarchy of projects if your little heart desires, and each task can also contain sub-tasks if needed. I use mine for everything from blog scheduling, marketing, and writing tasks to the more mundane like domestic errands (yawn). My favourite function within the app is the ability to add recurring tasks by simply typing a short command. For example, I can type: schedule book review ev second tue. This simple addition on the end will set my task as recurring for every second Tuesday of every month. If I needed a specific date for every month until the end of time, it’d be as simple as: payment due ev 30. Handy, right? I used to think that keeping a to-do list was redundant—that in the time it takes to list something, I could have finished it. It simply isn’t true. Keeping a task list helps you put everything you need to do out of your head, allowing you to focus on one thing at a time.

 

I hope some of these tools for writers will prove as useful for you as they are for me. Let me know if I’ve missed any important ones and tell me what tools you can’t live without.

 

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The Successful Author Mindset by Joanna Penn

GENRE: Non-Fiction | PAGES: —

My rating: ★★★★★

The Successful Author Mindset is as insightful as it is inspiring. It is so inspiring in fact, that it might actually be a hug disguised as a book. It’s also a treasure trove of quotes from other writers and professionals that’ll make you feel as though you’re doing something right if only because you resonate with the things they say. (There are days when this is all I can hang on to.)

“I’m afraid of failing at whatever story I’m writing—that it won’t come up for me, or that I won’t be able to finish it.” — Stephen King

More than that, though, The Successful Author Mindset is, as the title suggests, a book that maps out and offers guidance on some of the inner pitfalls of writer life—common writer problems such as the need for validation, creative block, and the infamous champion of them all: self-doubt. Along with well-selected quotes from other creatives, each topic is also accompanied by an excerpt from the author’s personal journals, documenting her thoughts, before moving on to an antidote that might help others to move past these problems.

Joanna Penn’s advice has always been my go-to in terms of the helpful writing and marketing tips she freely shares on her website The Creative Penn. But this book is not a book of tips. Instead, this is a (much-needed) look at the journey of a writer—and the inevitable trials along the way.

We have to learn to self-validate, to understand that the writing process is the point, rather than the reception of our work or the rewards that may or may not come. We need to nourish ourselves with the practice of creation. — Joanna Penn

I’d recommend this to any writer feeling the strain of self-doubt or the fear of failure. Some of us are lucky enough to be confident about ourselves and the work we create. For the rest of us, thankfully, there are books like this one.

 

See all reviews

 

 The Successful Author Mindset

 

Being a writer is not just about typing. It’s also about surviving the roller-coaster of the creative journey. Self-doubt, fear of failure, the need for validation, perfectionism, writer’s block, comparisonitis, overwhelm, and much more. When you’re going through these things, it can feel like you’re alone. But actually, they are part of the creative process, and every author goes through them too. This book collects the mindset issues that writers experience, that I have been through myself over the last nine years, and that perhaps you will experience at different times on the creative journey. Each small chapter tackles a possible issue and then offers an antidote, so that you can dip in and out over time. It includes excerpts from my own personal journals as well as quotes from well-known writers. I hope it helps you on the road to becoming a successful author.

is Scrivener any good

Have you heard of Scrivener yet? Or have you heard of it and are wondering, Is Scrivener any good? 

Well, in short: it’s one of the best (read: unrivalled) writing tools there is. And if you haven’t heard about it on the writerly grapevine yet, first: where the hell have you been? And second: calm down—I’m not judging; I only began using it myself about two years ago. 🙂

Now, the sceptics among you are probably thinking:

A writing tool? A new-age techie piece of software that’s supposed to help you WRITE? Pfft. I spit on it. Charles Dickens didn’t use Scrivener and he did alright for himself.

Well… I hear you. In fact, I WAS you. Two years ago I came across an article about it and promptly ignored it. The second time it happened I checked it out… you know, for curiosity’s sake. Nothing else, of course. As far as I was concerned, the only thing I needed to write was my over-active imagination and a pen… I’d have written my entire novel on my arm if I’d had to. Of course, in this day and age when I say pen, I actually mean an over-priced laptop and two ridiculously over-priced Apple devices.

But yes, know that I ‘get you’. I, too, didn’t need fancy software. Microsoft Word was good enough for the last ten years so y’know, if ain’t broke… Then someone shared a price deal: half-priced Scrivener!

I still don’t NEED this, I mumbled to myself as I clicked it. I’m a real writer.

Ha Ha - Nelson, The Simpsons
Source: Simpsons Wiki

What the hell did I know?

Scrivener has changed the way I write. The learning curve is a little steep and it isn’t a magical fix for writer’s block nor is it a fairy who will finish your novel overnight (wouldn’t that be great?), but Scrivener DOES have some brilliant features to make the writer’s job a little easier.

Here are eleven of many:

1. Organisation with the binder

Scrivener’s ability to organise your work will revolutionise the way you write. Gone are the days of highlighting chunks of words and cutting and pasting a scene into what you hope is the right place within your manuscript. Fifth time’s the charm, right? In fact, I remember actual cutting and taping during a hard-copy edit. *shudder* Scrivener allows you to simply craft each scene as a new text document and drag-and-drop at will. Whilst you can recreate a similar setup with separate documents in Word, the difference with Scrivener is that having each scene or chapter as a separate document doesn’t mean having to click away and open each file in a new window. Everything you need is within a single screen; you need only select your scene from the Binder to view it. Another advantage of this is being able to tackle your story in bite-sized chunks instead of being faced with a 50K-word-strong document every time you sit down to write. Every little helps.

is Scrivener any good

 

2. Research Folder

This feature is an absolute gem. All that planning, and brainstorming, and collecting of pictures and random notes—there’s a dedicated place for it within Scrivener. Once again taking organisation to new heights, the Research section means you have all of your random brain sneezes in one handy spot whilst still using a hierarchy of files/folders which are accessible on one main screen. I use mine for character profiles and images, world building and maps, plotting, outlining, actual research notes, website clips and screenshots and videos—there’s no limit to what you can keep in this section and no limit on the type of media either.

is Scrivener any good

 

3. Labels, Status, and Custom Metadata

Here’s where Scrivener shows off, and rightly so. For every scene or chapter you write, you can label it and give it a status. I use my labels for POVs (point of view) and my status refers to the stage in the writing process—to do; in progress; first draft; first revision, etc. If the idea of this bores you to tears, rest assured, it’s entirely optional. If you’re anything like me, rest assured, there’s more… Alongside labels and status, you can also customise metadata. Meta whatnow? Basically, you can create a custom label for anything you wish to track. For instance, within my current manuscript, I track characters and location. This might seem excessive but if I enter this information as I’m writing or editing, I can come back to it later and with only a simple glance in Outliner mode (see below), I know exactly where each scene is taking place and which characters are involved—without having to wrack my brain or read the entire piece. You could also set up something similar for time of day/week to easily track your timeline. The possibilities are endless.

is Scrivener any good

 

is Scrivener any good

 

4. Versatile Modes

Scrivener has a number of tools you’d have to otherwise recreate outside of your manuscript’s file. For instance, I’ve seen other writers create storyboards using post-it notes, corkboards, flashcards—you name it. This is great if the manual act benefits your creative process. On the other hand, if you do it because you believe there’s no other option, I have good news: Scrivener will do it for you. And you need only enter your information once to view it in a number of ways—or even side by side.

 

a) The Corkboard

This is brilliant when you’re beginning a new project. Simply create a new index card on your corkboard for each new event and plot point in your book. As you progress, you can add more, outlining entire scenes and dragging-and-dropping to your heart’s content.

is Scrivener any good

 

b) The Outliner

Everything you’ve written on your index card is viewable as a synopsis of your scene. You can select which additional fields are displayed by selecting from the drop-down arrow for everything from Title and Synopsis to Word Count and Status. This is where all that custom metadata comes in really handy, creating an excellent overview of your entire project.

is Scrivener any good

 

c) Scrivenings

If you really prefer to view your project in one long scary flow of words, there’s an option to do that. You still get the benefits of the Binder but with the familiarity of a Microsoft Word-esque interface.

is Scrivener any good

 

d) Split View

For the writer who wants to have his cake and eat it, there’s split view. Here’s an example of it—with a vertical split screen between Corkboard mode and the Editor.

is Scrivener any good

 

5. Distraction-free Mode

Speaking of work modes, there’s a handy little tool for full-screen mode. You can even modify your background with a picture of your own to keep you inspired. You can access a number of features in this mode, including the Binder for navigating between scenes, but ultimately, this is where you can knuckle down and bang out those words.

is Scrivener any good

 

6. Progress bar

Whilst you’re banging out words, Scrivener has a neat tool to track all that hard work—and provide a little extra motivation. The Project Targets function has two separate trackers. The first is for your overall project target and the second is your session target. For every session, the bar fills as you type, changing from red to green. Same goes for your overall project goal. This is a small feature which might not appeal to everyone but for those of us who love trackers, having one that’s already built into our writing program is cause for celebration. For me, word count trackers are like personal cheerleaders. Writing a book is a long, sometimes gruelling process; during the times it feels like I’m getting nowhere, trackers help to make my progress measurable. (I just recently passed my target for my current WIP: Immisceo, book one in a new fantasy series.)

is Scrivener any good

 

7. Notes and Scratch Pad

Alongside comments and annotations (both of which work in similar ways to MS Word’s comment system), Scrivener also has a Notes feature at the bottom of the Inspector. For any given text document (scene/chapter), you are able to jot notes without affecting the text. You can also toggle between document notes (a single scene) and project notes (viewable from within any scene). Scratch Pad is brilliant in that all notes created here (in a separate smaller window) are stored independently, which means you can access them from within two or more separate projects. Handy for reference notes that pertain to multiple projects.

is Scrivener any good

 

8. Snapshots

This is another feature within the Inspector. If you hit the + button on the Snapshots tab, it’ll save the current version of your scene (like a snapshot) before you whip out your ‘knife’ to begin carving. Does this seem redundant? Perhaps. But it also means that even after you’ve edited and/or deleted several paragraphs, even after you’ve saved and overwritten and backed up your project, you could still come back weeks later, having changed your mind, and be able to view or roll back to the initial version of that scene. Cool, huh?

is Scrivener any good

 

9. Icons

This one might not be groundbreaking but I love it. Scrivener allows you to edit the icons of every document. There are already a lot to choose from (not all shown below) but you can also add your own custom icons. Within my research folder, I tend to choose icons based on the type of document—character, place, world, magic (custom-added). Within my manuscript, I find it handy to use icons alongside the status metadata. I do this with colour-coded flag icons or custom-added status icons.

is Scrivener any good

 

10. Export Capabilities

Scrivener will export your work into multiple formats including MS Word docs, Mobi for Kindle, and ePub files. You can export your entire project, or you can select only certain documents for compilation. You can even compile a (detailed) synopsis based on your outline. When compiling your manuscript for ebook, you will need to tweak the formatting; and for print books, you will (like I did) probably need to do extensive formatting within Word (or InDesign). However, I’ve used Scrivener for KDP Mobi file output and it is absolutely error-free. So far. (Free tip: You might want to ignore that Times 12pt.)

is Scrivener any good

 

11. iOS App syncing

Finally, as a bonus point: mobile functionality. The Scrivener app for iOS is relatively new and it has been a long time (apparently) in the making. It was well worth the wait. The app (I’m using it right now to write this post) is powerful and bug-free (so far). It syncs seamlessly with Dropbox so all your projects can stay up to date across all devices. While there are several features which, understandably, did not make the move to mobile, Scrivener iOS has all the main functionality of the desktop version and happily, it has put my novel at my fingertips whilst on the go (or—let’s be real—in bed). No more excuses!

is Scrivener any good

 

is Scrivener any good

 

So, is Scrivener any good?

Yes. It is a powerhouse of a writing tool. It can be daunting when you first venture in, and unlike most basic word processing programs, the learning curve is quite high. I’ve been using it for two years and there are still things I’m just learning to do or quite possibly, am yet to discover.

If you have it and you’re put off by the sheer number of functions, I’d say: muddle through anyway. The hassle is well worth it. Once you get to grips with it, you’ll wonder how you ever wrote without it.

You can get Scrivener at Literature and Latte.

For tips on using Scrivener, here are some helpful resources:

Learn Scrivener Fast 
Gwen Hernandez 

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immisceo quote - fantasy series

Immerse yourself in magic and adventure… 

in a new fantasy romance series

Power has many forms.

Magic is but one.

In the land of Nosiras, the Duciti’s word is law and their reign is absolute.

Luciana is a powerful witch: independent and wilful as she is strong. But when she is chosen by the Duciti to conceive an Immisceo witch to use as a weapon against Amara and her Outcasts, she has but two choices: obey with her freedom or without. When her Immisceo son is kidnapped, she will stop at nothing to get him back.

Nathaniel was born to the streets, then raised in an environment one rung down from captivity. Guarded by his older brother, he seeks freedom and adventure from his restrained life. Meeting Luciana will grant him one of these and will set him on a path which will test his ties of blood and love.

Caught between two enemies, Luciana and her unwitting companion are against the odds in their quest to save her son from a war that shouldn’t have been his to fight. In the hands of his kidnapper, Eli is as much a weapon as he would be in the Duciti’s—a weapon Luciana created. His life has been predetermined by those who would harm him, and Luciana must now right the wrongs she has dealt her son and save him from his fate—but at what cost?

For a taste of Immisceo: Taken, keep reading…

Fire curled in the old woman’s hand, bright and hungry as though it could already taste its next victim. Amara screamed at the sight of it.

‘Hush, girl,’ said the younger woman next to her. Her grip on Amara’s shoulder tightened like hooks in the girl’s flesh.

‘Please! Please let them go.’

The woman shushed her again and shook her. ‘Enough. Don’t make it worse for yourself,’ she scolded. She wrestled the girl to a standstill and glanced across the circle at the older woman.

‘It’s time,’ Rosamund said, flame held high. ‘You may say your brief goodbyes.’

The girl shoved against her captor, wrenching free. She lunged toward the circle’s centre, toward the waist-high pile of logs and kindling—toward her parents, bound against the pyre’s towering stake. Tumbling onto the wood-pile, the girl stretched out her arms in a futile attempt to embrace her weeping mother. A fist clamped in her hair and jerked her to a halt.

‘Don’t hurt her,’ the girl’s mother cried. ‘Please! She’s innocent.’

‘Innocent?’ Rosamund’s eyes widened in the dusky light and the flame in her hand flickered. ‘Her very existence is a crime onto itself.’

Amara’s mother shook her head. ‘No. Please, no. She’s just a child. It’s not her crime. It’s mine—’

‘And she will pay for it with her life.’

The mother wailed—a sharp, gut-wrenching howl that echoed in the wood-clearing and sent birds flapping skyward.

‘Enough!’ Rosamund barked. ‘If you’ve nothing to say save for your protest, let us be done with it.’

Amara shivered, wrapping her free arm across her chest and biting her lip to keep from crying. She studied the face of her father. His dark eyes bore into hers with intent. They flicked back and forth between hers and the face of the witch with the relentless grip on Amara’s shoulder. Amara frowned at him, wishing she had the power to read his mind.

‘Saba. Hand the girl over to Coen,’ Rosamund instructed.

Saba shuffled Amara along to the other side of the circle where a man stood waiting. The girl caught her father’s eye one last time, and words formed on his lips.

‘Touch her,’ he mouthed.

Amara blinked, comprehension lost on her as her father’s face disappeared from view. She stumbled, and Saba yanked her to her feet.

‘Look where you’re going, girl.’

She ignored the warning, glancing back at her father. His face was no longer visible, but his fists clenched repeatedly at his back. Not to escape his restraints, Amara realised, but as a message.

Almost too late, she laid both hands on her captor, clenching her small fists around the witch’s wrist, imitating her father. She flinched, startled by the new and compelling portal in her mind’s eye. Bright colours of energy swarmed under Saba’s skin. Hairs rose on the girl’s neck even as Saba wrestled against her, beginning to squirm easily out of the child’s grasp. But then Amara found it—the swirls of energy—dancing, translucent—and she clawed at them with her mind. She drew them into her, into her own hands, and Saba was locked in her grip. The girl pulled the swirling energy inside of her until she could feel the heat of it on her skin. Her eyes flew open as she pushed the magic from her tiny outstretched palm, gasping as the flame ripped through the air toward an unsuspecting Rosamund.

The old witch flared orange and fell to her knees, the single flame in her hand engulfed in the raging fire of the rest of her. Her skin and flesh blackened and shrivelled, and as quick as the fire began, it was gone, a spiral of smoke curling from the pile of ash where Rosamund had stood mere seconds before.

Amara looked from the ash to the palm of her hand, her eyes wide. Saba shrieked, and the male witch behind them, Coen, rushed forward. Amara pulled at Saba for more magic, but the swirls were nothing more now than threads. She flung the witch’s wrist from her clutches and ran toward the pyre.

Heat cracked alongside her, missing her by inches, not flames but lightning. She yelped, covering her head on instinct. She scrambled toward the stake, propelling her small body over the wood, ignoring the ache in her knees as she fell against the logs again and again.

‘Go! Amara—RUN!’

She shook her head at her father through tears. ‘I won’t leave you.’ She reached her mother first, flinging herself against her body, whilst fighting the knotted rope at her mother’s back. Beneath her, smoke began to rise, and the union of wood and flame crackled in her ears. ‘No… No!’ She swerved behind her parents, plucking at the knot with shaky too-small fingers.

‘Amara! Run, dammit, run!’

‘I can’t untie them. I can’t do it,’ she cried, throwing her fists against the ropes.

‘Leave us!’

She shook her head again, stepping around her mother. Then she thrust herself between her parents, throwing her skinny arms across their waists. They wept as the smoke rose steadily, the encroaching heat driving Amara closer and closer between them.

A white crack of lightning snapped at her feet, and she screamed again. The spark caught, orange and yellow flames licking their way toward the stake. Amara made to stamp on them, but another whip of lightning struck, this time to her right, missing her elbow a fraction of an inch. She looked down into the stone faces of Coen and Saba: there’d be no point in pleading.

Her father howled beside her as Coen cracked another bolt of lightning, this time at her father’s side. A deep welt appeared on his arm, blooming with blood that dripped at an alarming rate onto the logs. ‘Please, Amara. Leave us. I beg you. Run,’ her father cried. A solitary tear streaked down his cheek, glistening in the light of the fire. ‘Go,’ he pleaded.

She cast long looks at both her parents. A tight ache blossomed in her chest as the fire began to roar in earnest behind her. ‘I’m so sorry,’ she said. Then she slipped around her mother for the last time and ran. She hurtled to the base of the pyre, hidden in the curtain of smoke as she tumbled to the ground. Her breath came quick and heavy as she pelted toward the thicket of trees on the other side of the clearing. She didn’t dare look back.

Night fell swiftly upon her, the smoke disappearing with the light, the glow of the fire dimming. But the final cries of her parents echoed in Amara’s ears as she ran. And they would continue to echo for a long time to come.

Want to read more?

Immisceo: Taken releases May 16th, 2017.

Preorder your copy

 

Or read the first three chapters for FREE 

inner critic - ignore it and stay true to your story's character

It’s something of a mystery how fictional characters are created. Sometimes they appear in fully fleshed-out scenes, doing ridiculous or unspeakable things. Other times, it begins with a stray thought or line of dialogue, revealing both character and story in serialised tidbits. 

Personally, I like to get to know my character before delving into their story. But often, I’ve found that regardless of how I envisioned his path, the character will go his own way, mapping out a story or subplot I never planned on.

When I started out, I was more of a pantser than a plotter anyway (which is writer’s lingo for ‘winging it’ vs. ‘getting your shit together’. No offence to the pantsers of the world.) My first book (a contemporary romantic suspense novel) changed as I wrote it, partly because I took sooooooo long to write it I actually grew up (debatable), and partly because I didn’t have the faintest idea of where I was going with the story.

The upside of this is that the story progressed organically. It became more focused on the underlying issues and emotions of its characters rather than the incredibly (read: embarrassingly) fluffy romance I’d initially started.

Of course, my main character changed too.

As I brought the two sisters of the book alive, the girl with the problems and the attitude (Brooke) became more interesting to me. I wanted to see where she’d take me, how she would deal with her inner turmoil, what made her the way she’d turned out to be when I saw her true colours in my mind’s eye. 

When I first got a glimpse of who she really was, I was intrigued and appalled. In that order. That all too familiar inner critic zeroed in on everything wrong with my creation and began hacking it to pieces. 

On the outside, Brooke is a beautiful young woman. Yet, underneath that, she is everything the human eye turns away from. She is a promiscuous, somewhat depressed, borderline alcoholic. Her introspective tendencies, the built-in need to suppress her emotions and shut out the world, is self-sabotaging, damaging herself and the relationships she has with those closest to her. 

I loved her damaged soul immediately but ultimately, I was worried that the story was too bleak, the topic too sensitive.

Then I wrote it anyway.

And I’m glad I did.

The work of the Inner Critic

Too often, writers censor themselves; paranoid, self-conscious, crippled by self-doubt and the reaction of the reader. If I’d paid too much attention to my inner critic or the presumed criticisms of an easily offended would-be reader, Brooke might never have been brought to life. 

‘… if it were not written rather faster than the fastest typewriting, if I had stopped and took thought, it would never have been written at all.’ — Virginia Woolf, A Writer’s Diary

Imagine a world of literature written by self-censoring writers too afraid to write the stories that matter. There would be no books about illness and death, or crime, or war, or *gasp* all-out taboo. More to the point, the memorable and often treasured characters of these books would cease to exist. Every flawed or troubled character would have been wiped from the page or never written at all. There would be no Esther Greenwood (The Bell Jar), Holden Caulfield (The Catcher in the Rye), Hazel Grace Lancaster (The Fault In Our Stars) or Scarlett O’Hara (Gone with the Wind). OR, there might have been a happier, unburdened, 2D version of them. 

This thought doesn’t warm the cockles of my heart. Far from it. It reeks of false hope and lacks all truth because the real world is not all beauty. Side by side with the wonder that is our existence lies a very real cruelty. A cruelty that breaks our fragile human bodies and spirits, while never quite extinguishing our innate sense of persistence and survival. This journey is a story in the making, and each of us, fictional or otherwise deal with strife in different ways. Not all characters are born to be Pollyanna.

As strange as it might seem to the non-writer folk, characters—on the whole—write themselves. I didn’t exactly plan to write a book with a central focus on the aftermath of abuse—but Brooke became so real to me that, at times, it was like she was whispering her story in my ear. For me, that is the magical part of writing.

So, if your current project demands a character whose story isn’t pretty, or easy to swallow, or whose actions or morals are a little (or a lot) askew—

Roll with it.

Embrace it. Enjoy it. Write the crap out of it. 

Don’t let your inner critic determine what you write. Stay true to your story’s characters.

Immisceo: Taken - book one in the fantasy series, Immisceo

He had just laid the maps out in front of him when a chorus of high-pitched screams erupted outside. He turned toward the window where the velvet blue of dusk had been set alight in flashes of fire. Nate leapt up and peered down into the courtyard.

Five lifeless bodies lay sprawled on the ground, three slashed through with fresh gaping wounds and two of them charred beyond recognition, thick smoke still rising from the corpses. At the head table, Amara gripped Eli’s arm, his tiny hand outstretched and crackling with energy. A white flash of lightning sliced through the air and a sixth body fell; Amara smiled as the last of Eli’s special guests dropped limply to the floor, their gifts—bundles of clothing, caged hens, crates of fruit—scattered among the dead. The rest of the party trampled one another to reach the exit, screaming all the while as Garrett tugged Amara’s waist to draw attention to the boy wizard. Eli was bent forward, his body wracked with tremors.

Amara released her hold on him and the spark left her skin, curling back on itself into Eli’s small hand and devouring him, threading through him piece by piece, until his whole body was lit through with a bright white network of sparks.

Amara and Garrett took a step backward, and all of the witches in the courtyard took a few forward. Nate craned his neck at the window.

Eli curled further forward as the spasms seemed to take hold. His eyes were wide, his face contorted.

Immisceo: Taken is the first book in a new fantasy series. 

Find out more Read the first three chapters

 


shonamoyce

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Shona Moyce is a self-proclaimed weirdo, proud bookworm, and author of Blood’s Veil and the fantasy series, Immisceo. Blogging here about books, writing, and occasionally, real life. Read more…

Get a free book View all books by Shona

Writers are often asked if real life events end up in their fiction writing or rather—if their fiction is actually based on true stories. In many cases, my personal answer to this is ‘I sincerely hope not.’ Can you imagine the horror of Stephen King’s daily life if that were true?

Instead of being based on true stories, fiction, as Mr King puts it, is: “the truth inside the lie.”

In the case of my book (a contemporary romantic suspense novel) and other books like it, the horror is entirely more subtle. The realism of it, the fact that it could happen—that it does happen—makes it terrifying.  

As for whether real life has an actual place in my books, Brooke’s situation in Blood’s Veil (no spoilers) is entirely fictional as far as I’m concerned, but my life experience whether through real events, literature or film, have all aided me in creating her and her story. I’ve lived with the crippling aftermath of sexual abuse and I’m no stranger to depression. Some of this seeps into my fiction writing — but it’s organic. I draw on this inner source of inspiration if the moment requires it rather than setting out to write what would essentially be a memoir.

Writing a character like Brooke allowed me to express a tiny fraction of my experience whilst keeping that much-needed distance, but I did this because it was true to her character. 

My current work in progress, Immisceo, is part of a fantasy series. There’s adventure, there’s magic, all in a fictional setting and bygone time—none of which I experienced (wouldn’t that be cool!?) Yet in every story, no matter how exciting or fast-paced or fantastical the plot is, as readers, we relate to the characters. If a character is a likeable dude on a noble life quest, we automatically begin to root for him. If a character is unspeakably evil, we immediately loath them. If they’re somewhere in between—the anti-hero like Severus Snape from Harry Potter or anti-villain like Rumplestiltskin / Mr Gold from Once Upon a Time—we feel a certain kind of kinship with their struggles; it speaks to something within us all—the complexity of the human psyche.


“Has it ever crossed your brilliant mind that I don’t want to do this anymore?”

fiction writing


fiction writing
ONCE UPON A TIME – ABC’s “Once Upon a Time” stars Robert Carlyle as Rumplestiltskin/Mr. Gold. (ABC/KHAREN HILL)

 

This is where truth comes in. It doesn’t matter if we’re writing or reading about (or watching) a character struggling through the mundane day-to-day routine of a job he hates or battling a terminal illness; or one who is about to take on a fifty-foot dragon… what it all boils down to is real emotion. A human connection with what we see before us.

Fiction Writing vs. Real Life: Blurring the Line

fiction writing
Source: imgkid.com

I’ve never fought a dragon before but I can I recall a time when I felt so scared I could barely breathe or a time when I had to attempt something for the sake of someone else—nothing life-threatening like a living, breathing dragon of course, but the fear and awe are emotions and experiences I’m familiar with.

 

“A little talent is a good thing to have if you want to be a writer. But the only real requirement is the ability to remember every scar.” Stephen King

Writers take those feelings, those memories, and amplify them tenfold, gives the character a whopping great sword and a pair of balls the size of Texas and—boom! And while the action is fun and exciting, when we witness this as readers or viewers, the part we relate to is the fear, the adrenaline, the sheer wonder of the size of that scaly beast.

So, how often is truth found in fiction? My answer is: always—in terms of human emotion and experience, and everything that makes a story relatable. The rest is a wondrous product of the imagination.

how do I become a writer

What’s the best thing about being a writer?

My serious answer to this is that there’s nothing more fulfilling than doing what you love. My REAL answer is that there’s nothing more fulfilling than having a job where ‘pyjamas-all-day’ is practically required.

 

Why a writer?

It was never really about choosing to be a writer. I simply am one. I grew up in love with books and words and began writing my own stories as far back as I can remember. The only part I ever really chose was deciding to follow my passion and then dedicating myself to it.

 

Where do you get your ideas?

Everywhere. I don’t know if it’s a writer thing or a personality thing—maybe a little of both, but I find ideas for stories everywhere. From big life events and drama and dreams to people-watching from my third-floor flat window and eavesdropping during public transport ‘adventures’. Books are an endless source of inspiration. You should never, under any circumstances, copy the work of other writers, but reading books will undoubtedly spark a thought or an idea, and the wonderful notion of ‘what if’ will help that idea grow into something original and unique to you. The ideas are easy. There are perhaps too many ideas flitting around in my head. The more difficult part is knowing which idea is good enough to pursue. Which one is good enough to make a story worthy of the reader. Usually, it’s the idea that never leaves. If you can’t stop thinking about it; if it haunts your days and keeps you awake at night; if you feel yourself bursting with the need to get the story out of you—that’s the idea worth writing about.

 

Why did you self-publish?

In two words: Creative control.

Long answer: There is a plethora of content around, discussing the pros and cons of traditional vs. self-publishing. As far as I can see, there is no right or wrong path. It is as personal as writing is. For me, after months of research, I opted for the path that would allow me to keep my book rights, give my book an unlimited ‘shelf life’, and give me control over content, cover choices, and deadlines. And the biggest bonus of all? Time. The instantaneous wonder of self-publishing is the perk to end all perks, allowing writers to share their work with readers as soon as it is ready, with no gatekeeper deciding where and when or even if.

 

How do I become a writer?

Simple. Just write.

As Neil Gaiman said, it’s one word after another until it’s done. It’s that easy, and that hard.

Reading any and everything you come across is a necessity—how else will you ever know what makes a good story (and a bad one)? Classes and lessons on writing can be helpful but reading is fun, free, easy, and irreplaceable. Books are your most valuable tool and any writer worth his or her salt will tell you this. Reading will help broaden your experience, your vocabulary, and your appreciation for what makes a good book just that. However, the single most important thing I believe you need is: perseverance. It is what I lacked in the early stages. It’s why it took me so long to finish writing a single book. Free tip? Never wait for inspiration to come knocking on your door. Inspiration will not plop you in front of your computer and dictate word after word. More than half the time, inspiration (fickle bastard that it is) doesn’t bother showing up until you do. Relying on a creative muse is a sure-fire way to prolong your work process. It just doesn’t work. What does work is mustering the self-motivation to show up, do the work, and keep going. Keep going until you reach the very end of a single project, even when your muse is missing in action. Even when other ideas are beckoning—jot them down and file them away for later. Even when you’re knee-deep in housework and errands—it will all still be there when you’re done writing. Even when your spouse is wondering why there’s baked beans on toast for dinner, again. He’ll live.

When the idea of writing or editing has become your personal hell—and it will—as you read your manuscript for the twentieth time, remember: let nothing or no one deter you from your goal, especially yourself. Self-doubt is a part of the job description, and whilst often crippling, use it to your advantage instead and strive for improvement. Just keep going.

 

How do I self-publish?

Research, research, research. It’s the only way to truly know if self-publishing is the right path for you. If it is, thecreativepenn.com is a great resource for starting out, with everything from self-publishing tips to establishing your brand and marketing.

I use Scrivener for writing but there’s also a built-in function for exporting your finished manuscript as Mobi, ePub, Docx, and PDF files, which you’ll need to publish your work as an e-book and paperback. There are plenty of options other than Scrivener for this, some of which are free, like Reedsy, but I can’t fault the Scrivener software. 

Whilst publishing my first book, I found thebookdesigner.com to be a handy collection of articles on formatting the Docx file before converting to PDF, with brilliant tips on gutter margins, headers, pagination, and front- and back-matter. Even if you think you already know everything there is about good ol’ Microsoft Word, these articles will still prove useful for learning about the standard and correct layout of a paperback book (there was a hell of a lot more to it than I ever thought possible).

Canva and Gimp are brilliant free tools for DIY cover design. Always check copyright when using images—Creative Commons images are your friend. Pixabay is just one of the many sites with Creative Commons images for cover work, which do not need attribution and/or are free for commercial use. There are several paid sites featuring stock photography too, but this depends on your budget. If you can afford it, hiring a professional cover artist is highly recommended.

Self-publishing is a lot of work (and don’t get me started on marketing!) but it is ultimately rewarding, and since I didn’t have any budget to speak of to hire professional help, my bonus is the sense of achievement for having done it all myself. Eventually.

 

Is it all worth it?

More than I could ever imagine. Doing something you love is always worth it and overcoming the inevitable obstacles on the way makes the reward that much sweeter.

 

Will it make me rich?

You’re in the wrong industry. If you’re looking to get rich, look elsewhere. Writers hardly ever strike it rich, especially in the beginning. The outliers like traditionally published Rowling and King or the self-published authors, like Hugh Howey and Amanda Hocking, took years to build what they have, and even then, there’s no guarantee of becoming like them in terms of monetary gain. That’s not to say it won’t happen. No one can predict the success of a book or its author. Rather than paying attention to market trends, I try to focus instead on crafting the best version of the story I want to tell, staying true to myself and that story, firmly believing (if a little naïvely) that if a book is engaging, and you have discovered some means of promotion, your work will eventually find an audience.

If you’re truly in this for the joy of writing, the riches are in the form of knowing your stories are reaching and resonating with readers. For me, that’s the real success. Everything else is frosting on an already delicious cake.

 

Recommended reading for writers:

On Writing by Stephen King
How to Write a Novel by Nathan Bransford
Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

Recommended websites for writers:

Nathan Bransford
The Creative Penn – Joanna Penn
The Book Designer – Joel Friedlander
Nick Stephenson
Jane Friedman
Anne R Allen
Jenna Moreci

 

“I would advise anyone who aspires to a writing career that before developing his talent he would be wise to develop a thick hide.”

—Harper Lee, author of To Kill a Mockingbird

 

10 Things a Writer Says and What It REALLY Means

1. Writing a book

Having a half-formed idea for a story which you scribble about for several weeks/months/years, with no real clue about what you are doing until you have already done it.

2. Editing a manuscript

Sitting in front of the computer in your pyjamas, pulling your hair out, whilst swearing and deleting stuff, wondering whether you even understand the concept of the written word.

3. Doing research for a book

Alternating between Facebook, Twitter and your project, gathering notes and screenshots, with a Google search history that places you in the same category as a spy/scientist/historian/superhero/sex addict/crazy person/murderer [delete where appropriate].

4. Querying agents (for the traditional authors)

Perfecting a letter that could get you elected as president. Emailing said letter to a literary agent, attaching your ACTUAL soul (the manuscript). Entertaining various mental states as you wait for rejection, then repeating the entire process. Times INFINITY. 

5. Building an author platform

Standing in a small, holey bucket in a sea of internet content, screaming ‘Look at me!’ at passing seagulls.

6. Marketing a book

Running yourself ragged, reading every article known to humanity on marketing techniques, then resuming your (one-sided) conversation with the seagulls.

7. Networking

Connecting with fellow writers, then immediately comparing yourself to them, followed by curling into the foetal position.

8. Analysing book sales reports

Compulsively checking book sales and sales ranking, and returning to the foetal position.

9. Requesting reviews

Sending your book to other bookworms for free, so they can rip your writing to shreds in the public domain. (Or happily, NOT.)

10. Persevering

Trying, failing, writing, rewriting, growing, learning. It sucks and it exhilarates you, in equal measures, but you do it anyway, because you love being a writer, and you cannot imagine NOT being one. JUST. KEEP. GOING.

 

And if you’re looking for something a little less… ridiculous and a little more helpful, check out my FAQ post for writing tips that don’t involve seagulls. Visit that post here: FAQs: Why are you a writer? How do I become a writer? And more…

 

writing. perseverance. 10 Things a Writer Says and What It REALLY Means

messages in books

Why do we read?

Is it knowledge, personal interest, connection? Or maybe entertainment or story? The purpose of a book is neither fixed nor singular since often, a single book can serve multiple purposes, and give as many rewards. Of all the rewards a book can bring, the one which encompasses ALL of the above is enjoyment. Books give us pleasure. Yet lately, I’ve noticed readers who not only search for but expect messages in books; they consistently expect stories to offer up a philosophical theory or a nugget of wisdom.

Now personally, I love books that do this, but it isn’t a requirement–and it certainly has never been the reason I pick up (or put down) a book. Still, from what I gather from many other readers, it seems every book MUST have a message, and the message MUST coincide and adhere to every possible rule and opinion under the sun (preferably all without causing offence).

Why does every book have to carry a hidden message?

And why is there such a prevalent trend to assume that those books with messages are often sending the wrong one? 

Maybe we look for messages in books–more specifically, answers–to help us with certain aspects of our own lives, or maybe we need guidance, inspiration, or reinforcement of our morals. Whatever the reason behind this, I agree that stories can offer incredible insight and positive lessons that we can apply in our daily life.

The downside?

Whittling a book down to its underlying message is not always straightforward, or even necessary. A book might have more than one message, and these messages or themes might be conflicting.

Sometimes, a story is outside of the norms of society, with or without an intended message. For instance, the story might follow a character who plays on the wrong side of the track. Of course, you could argue that the story is a lesson on how NOT to live your life or deal with a certain situation, but maybe… perhaps… it’s just a story. Pure entertainment value.

Some stories are told for the sheer pleasure of it. These are usually the books bearing the brunt. The books that are often labelled as trash, or fluff; accused of offering no significant contribution to the literary world, for lack of message and moral, or for the inclusion of a perceived lopsided one.

It is worth remembering the all-important reason for reading.

Enjoyment.

A novel doesn’t have to be the next War and Peace, or the next 1984, or Great Expectations.

As readers, we each have our own standards, preferences—and most importantly—unique view of the world, and this can influence how we interpret the stories we encounter. What one reader might view as a positive message, might be just the opposite for another.

Even if an author intends to present a specific message, moral, or theme to the reader, there is no guarantee the reader will receive it as intended. This is the beauty and magic of words—they have the power to transform themselves in ways which are personal to everyone who reads them. One might argue that a great writer would carry a message with such strength and clarity there would be no room for mistaking its meaning. Yet—depending on a reader’s point of view, their level of understanding, their life experience—this great writing is still susceptible to a unique interpretation.

“A writer only begins a book. A reader finishes it.”

— Samuel Johnson

This phenomenal versatility of words and the power of storytelling is why the magic of books will never die. We as humans have spent centuries reading and analysing some of the most classic and precious of books, and yet, a new perspective, theme, or indeed, a message still can surface—even now.

On a smaller scale, think of your favourite book—the one you’ve read over, and over again. I’ll bet there are certain aspects which jumped out at you on your second or third reading, which might have been invisible to you the first time you read it. This is true for most readers.

Messages in books are not always concrete.

They aren’t set in stone. They change as we change, they alter as we seek new and different meaning. The only constant is the pleasure reading can bring, and sometimes, in the epic search for epic messages, this point gets lost along the way.

 

Click here to jump to the Q & A

The response to the upcoming release of Blood’s Veil has, so far, been nothing short of overwhelming. You know that dream where you realise you’re stark naked in front of a room full of laughing and pointing strangers? No? Well, work with me here, and imagine it anyway, then multiply that feeling by six gazillion, and that’s about as naked as I feel having my words out there. It’s like I took off my clothes, my skin, and all that other crap, right down to the bare bone, and now my naked-ass skeleton is walking around town, petrified of every reaction. But… as terrifying as it was to put that first chapter out there in the big, bad void that is the Interweb, the near-seizure has been so worth it. You guys have been great. 🙂 Thank you all so much! 

12678451_943084629089922_379004030_n

A huge thank you to Damien O’Bey and all at SAMS for the Q&A article on Blood’s Veil last week. Here it is below. You can also read it online at The Sentinel website

Blood’s Veil

Q & A with Damien O’Bey, The Sentinel, St Helena

Can you give us a brief description of the book, different to the synopsis?

Blood’s Veil is a story about two adoptive sisters, Ella and Brooke. They return home after a tragic death in the family, hoping to find closure. Instead, Ella finds her father in prison, and Brooke finds herself faced with her dark past. Brooke struggles to keep her grip on who she has tried to become, but the secret she keeps is threatening to unravel her identity, and her bond with Ella.

What inspired the novel?

The inspiration for writing comes, ultimately, from a love of books. I’m a book nerd. If I had to narrow it down, I guess the idea for this book comes from my fascination with that grey area between right and wrong, between truth and lies. Blood’s Veil is a story about how easy it can be to see only what we want to see, particularly when it comes to family, and how difficult it is to separate the truth from what we feel or believe.

How long did it take, from start to finish?

It feels like I started it back in the Ice Age! The idea of it first came to me way back in my teens, but life got in the way more times than I can count. In hindsight, this was a good thing, since by the time I sat down and started working in earnest, I realised I had a completely different story to tell. That restructure took me over a year. Here’s hoping the next book won’t take as long.

What challenges did you face along the way, and how did you overcome them?

The biggest challenge has always been myself. Writing the first draft of a book can be easy, but that draft should never see the light of day. Rewriting, editing, and polishing it to within an inch of its life is what makes any book worth reading, and it has been both a joy and a nightmare. Working hard at it every day seems like an obvious thing, but I made the early mistake of ‘waiting for inspiration’, and more often than not inspiration just doesn’t show up. When I allowed myself to take it seriously, to view it not as a hobby, but an actual job, I got more done.

The first chapter is available to read for free online at your website. Have you had any feedback from readers?

The interest in it so far has been overwhelmingly positive. Thank you to everyone for your support.

Does St Helena feature?

St Helena does feature, yes. Ella and Brooke, and all main characters within the book are [fictional] islanders—Saints—and the story is set primarily on the island.

How can people on St Helena purchase the novel?

Blood’s Veil will be available in paperback and e-book from March 15th. I am also hosting a giveaway for a signed copyEntries for the giveaway close at midnight on March 16th.*

*Giveaway now closed.

blood's veil q&a sentinel 03.0316 p2

The countdown to the release of Blood’s Veil on March 15th has truly begun. 

It’s all go here at the Moyce residence, by which I mean, I’m a raving mass of nerves and excitement, alternating between coffee IVs and chain-smoking, and poring over the laptop, muttering curse words. Today, though, I’m mostly excited. I finally get to reveal the cover of Blood’s Veil, my debut romantic suspense novel about Brooke and Ella—two adoptive sisters who return to their home island after the death of their mother. Brooke, the eldest, has a dark past, and it is about to reveal itself, threatening her relationship with Ella, and testing every bond they’ve ever made.

Find out more about Blood’s Veil, or jump right in and read the entire first chapter of this romantic suspense novel right now. For free!

In celebration of my frazzled nerves (it’s been worth it), I am also hosting a giveaway for a signed copy (yay!) of my new book. Keep reading below to find out how to enter.

First things first, though… I’ve got a cover ready and waiting to strip off and show you the goods. So without further rambling, I give you: Blood’s Veil

romantic suspense - blood's veil

 


Giveaway 

So, about that free signed book… there’s a copy up for grabs! One lucky winner will receive a brand new signed copy of Blood’sVeil. The giveaway is live right now, and it is open to any country. Yup, worldwide! Entries close just before midnight on March 16th, so get yours in now!

Here’s how:

A message will appear (like the one below) confirming your entry, along with a series of options. Doing any of these will add bonus entries, increasing your odds of winning! Or you can go ahead and do them all! Woot!

The bonus entries are:

  • Sharing the link with your friends
  • Reading chapter one of Blood’s Veil
  • Tweeting about it on Twitter
  • Pinning it on Pinterest

Simply click each button on the popup message to get your bonus entries in.

The winner will be chosen at random on (or shortly after) the closing date on March 16th, and will be contacted via the email you enter when you sign up for the giveaway.

Good luck, and happy reading!

Enter the giveaway!

 

**Giveaway now closed

Read Chapter One of Blood's Veil

With just under a month to go before the release date of my debut romantic suspense novel, you can now read Chapter One of Blood’s Veil online, for free.  Here’s a preview with the link to the rest below. Hope you enjoy it. *cue sweating, panicking, and chain-smoking*  

Happy reading!

 

Read Chapter One of Blood's Veil

 

 

 

 

 

Prologue

Every night she waited. Silent, still. The limbs of her twelve-year-old body ached with the effort. Her heart hammered in the quiet of the room—drumming, chanting; a cruel, betraying boom that gave her away. Every night she wished for morning, for the light. It always came too late. Sometimes, she wished instead for darkness, wished herself part of it—wisp and smoke and shadow, able to sink into the night and escape. When she held her breath and shut her eyes real tight, she could imagine that escape—imagine she was somewhere else entirely. If she kept still long enough she could pretend this night would be different; that maybe, this night, he wouldn’t come for her—

But he always did.

 

Seventeen years later…

 

One

Ella was rooted to the spot. A scream carved an icy path inside her, from her head through every limb, with no release. Three seconds passed, three minutes—it could have been three hours—an immeasurable streak of sheer panic and hysteria. Then, it was suddenly still, as though a giant hand had reached out and smothered the world in shadow. Her breath caught in her throat, thick and heavy, like smoke. Her hand, foreign and white-knuckled with tension, kept a tight fist on the cordless black phone—the one thing that kept her tied to the centre of it all, to the cataclysmic news from the other side of the equator.

‘Ella?’ It broke Ella’s trance. ‘You still there? Hello?’

Aunt Mandy. Her mama’s sister… her dead mama’s sister.

Ella stared ahead, unseeing. ‘I have to go,’ she said, the words spluttering from her, coarse and splintered. She barely registered her own voice and swallowed repeatedly to soothe the scratchy burn at the back of her throat. ‘I…’

She stopped.

She didn’t know how to end that sentence. It was like everything she was certain of up until this point had disintegrated into dust. She had never felt more unsure or alone than she did right now.

‘That’s okay, my darlin’, I understand. You take care. And let me know about the arrangements… Call me anytime, y’hear?’ Her aunt paused for a long moment, waiting. Eventually, she hung up.

Ella didn’t move. The phone clicked dead then onto dial-tone as she stood there, unwilling, refusing, to process what she’d learnt. Her mind raced. Threads of thought
chased themselves like dead leaves on the wind. Slowly, a single question began to form. It was both simple and complicated at once.

Why?

She slumped against the living room wall. It just couldn’t be true. She couldn’t believe it. She wouldn’t. There had to be some kind of a mistake—someone, somewhere, had gotten things horribly wrong.

The phone started to wail, and she hit the end-call button fiercely, returning to the suffocating silence.

Mama… she’s dead…

The three words jarred her. She seemed to fumble around them for a while, feeling her way, searching for a weakness, a gap, a hole in the truth. But there was none, and when her mind wrapped itself around the finality of fact, something inside her broke. Her head filled with pictures and memories, and the crushing torment of knowing it was all she had left.

She shoved the phone back on its cradle with such force it wobbled and fell off, and she stared at it, not daring to touch it; it was contaminated with truth. It had snatched the world from under her feet, and all that remained was a heavy, sickening ache, and yet she felt that somehow, it was the last tie to everything that came before it. Blinking back tears, she slowly picked it up, clutched it like a small child to her chest, and cried.

*

Lying motionless in the cramped bunk of her cabin, Ella dug deep for the motivation to move. The vessel’s engine grumbled steadily somewhere beneath her, and morning was only just beginning to seep into the room. She eased herself off the top bunk, careful not to step on her sister, Brooke, snoring gently in the bed below.

She parted the heavy curtains. The dawn cast itself over the Atlantic, impossibly beautiful set against the recent tragedy of her mother’s passing; it seemed wrong somehow, that these two extremes could co-exist. She took a deep breath, forcing the raw grief back inside its box, trying not to lose her grip; losing herself instead to the pink-tinted sky tilting and realigning with each dip of the vessel. She’d forgotten how breathtaking it was to watch the day break over the ocean.

There was a lot she’d forgotten, and in just a few hours, stepping back on homeland, she was going to have to face the fact that her voluntary memory lapse was bringing her home just a little too late. She was determined never to forgive herself for that.

Travelling to an island which claimed to be one of the remotest places in the world took time, and there was only one way to reach Saint Helena—by sea, on an old Royal Mail ship. It had cost them two full weeks. Two weeks was a long time to have to sit around and grieve from afar, helpless and isolated. Still, a shorter time would have made no real difference. It was useless to blame an age-old journey plan for her own selfish mistake of not visiting when she’d had the chance. If she’d have kept her word, she would have seen her mama at least one more time. Instead, she’d put it off, time after time, always coming up with a feeble excuse; always accepting her mama’s gentle understanding on the other end of the phone-line, accepting it as approval.

And now… it was too late.

The guilt had always tugged and niggled, although up until now it had been small enough to shrug off; now, it was a life-sized weight around her neck that she couldn’t cast aside even if she’d wanted to.

She’d been on auto-pilot for the last fortnight, busying herself with anything she could, simply to avoid having to think; it was a little less painful to deal with in robot-mode, even if it was a coward’s way forward. Unfortunately, three days on the ocean gave her plenty of time to correct that; boredom was no friend to grief, or guilt.

Brooke seemed to be coping. Then again, Brooke had never been in the habit of adorning anything with her heart, let alone her sleeve, so Ella’s guess was as good as any. You never could be sure what was there under the surface with Brooke. She was more subdued than usual, and seemed to have agreed to the trip only so Ella wouldn’t have to make it alone, but maybe she knew Ella needed this, and needed her, even if neither of them realised how much. This would be the closest thing to closure either of them could manage, if there was any such simple thing.

Ella jumped as Brooke shifted suddenly in her sleep.

Stuffing her head under one of the pillows, Brooke let out an overly loud groan, more agitated than a premenstrual dragon.

‘Why are you up so early?’ she grumbled, her voice muffled by the pillow. ‘Close the curtains, will you?’

Ella smiled in spite of herself. Her sister made it easier to function; easier to fake normality. If there was anyone in the world that could keep her anchored and sane in all of this, it would be Brooke. Whilst everyone else tiptoed around Ella, magnifying what had happened, treating her like a delicate crystal ornament—she could trust Brooke to be herself. And whether or not Brooke knew this, it was exactly what Ella needed.

*

Brooke stood at the stern of the vessel and studied the surf trail as the ship slowly cut its path. The ocean was a piercing mid-day-blue mirror to the cloudless sky above, the heat bouncing off the water in a rippled dance. The wooden rails separating her from the inviting depths below were sun-warm and comforting against her bare arms. If she craned her neck at just the right angle, she was able to catch her first glimpse of ‘home’.

At this distance the island was little more than jagged shadow and rock, jutting up out of the water—misshapen teeth in the mouth of a sleeping dragon. Soon, she’d have no choice but to climb into that mouth. For now, it was still shrouded in haze, shimmering against the horizon like a mirage, and Brooke found herself wishing that were all it was; a mirage would have been easier than reality.

Too soon though, the ship pulled into the harbour, and the horn reverberated with finality. The short boat-ride to shore from the larger vessel was a whole lot more fun than Brooke remembered it to be, perhaps because an actual moment of joy had been so unexpected this close to landing. Sea spray and salty air aside, the uneasiness inside her grew. It had been stirring since leaving the airport in England.

She should have stayed. She should have kept herself away from all of this, not agree to come back; should have made her excuses and left it at that. But how could she have done?

She didn’t see the point herself, in coming home this long after Addie’s funeral, but she knew Ella wanted to, maybe needed to. She knew if there was ever a time she needed to step up and be there for someone else, it was now, for Ella.

Now though, as the boatman steered them all toward the harbour, her selfless act was looking really stupid. She wanted to leap overboard and swim all the way back to safety.

‘This is it,’ Ella said suddenly.

She looked smaller and more vulnerable than Brooke had ever seen her. Brooke aborted her wild ideas of escape, and reached for Ella’s hand, squeezing it.

‘We’ll be alright, El.’

Ella nodded, and smiled a weak but obviously grateful smile, and Brooke hoped the simple lifelong mantra of all families everywhere would be enough to console Ella somehow.

We’ll be alright.

It sure as hell didn’t have Brooke convinced.

One of the boatmen at the pier offered a hand as she stepped out onto the wet landing step. She looked around her, waiting for Ella to follow. The wharf was teeming with men in yellow hard-hats and overalls, not hard at work but just as she’d left them—filling the position of laid-back onlookers. A few of them she recognised. Some of them smiled, some ogled, and some weren’t bothered either way. They merely looked glad for a timeout and a smoke.

Ella reached her side and began unzipping the bulky life jacket, following the first boatload of twenty-odd passengers up the wide harbour steps in the direction of transportation to Customs. Brooke followed suit, her fingers fumbling and catching in the zip. They boarded the bus in silence, spoke only when spoken to during the clearance procedure in Customs, and then ventured towards the exit of the building.

Brooke cast a side glance at Ella; she was pale. Facing the crowd at the seaside during passenger arrivals was never easy on the passengers. The other side of seven years, they had been a part of the waiting crowd. Brooke had been, at least. Ella never had time for ‘that sort of rubbish’—watching people return home just so you could scrutinise them; judging how much they’d changed during their time away, by the clothes they wore, or the way they greeted someone—that was not Ella’s idea of leisure. It was a bit of an island tradition though, and true to form, when they left the cool, safe darkness of the building, and the sunlight hit them once more, so did the gaping assembly of people.

There were so many of them. Some were caught up in their own reunions, oblivious to two more passengers arriving. The rest, they were all eyes.

Brooke’s gaze automatically swooped to the spot where she’d sat as a teenager: a ‘front-row’ spot near a large, out-of-use storage building. She half-expected the same group of people to be perched there, stuck in a time loop of some sort. Instead, there were nameless faces, all along the building front and the half-walls, all the way up toward a flight of stone steps leading to one of the many hillside paths in the valley capital. To the right, yet more bystanders, spanning the width of the street. They had, as had always been the practice, formed a semi-circle around the gate of the Customs building, dotting themselves between parked vehicles, eagerly waiting like paparazzi for celebrities, or wild animals with barely-curbed appetites.

 

Want more?

Click here  Read Chapter One of Blood’s Veil

 

  Where Can I Buy Blood’s Veil?

 

ON WRITING BY STEPHEN KING

GENRE: MEMOIR | PAGES: 367

My rating: ★★★★

Stephen King   has the writer’s toolbox of tips to end all toolboxes, all tips, and then some. He doesn’t offer the vague and generic bullsh*t like most how-to books do. Instead, On Writing is packed with insightful, and more importantly, practical guidelines on how to improve your writing craft. He doesn’t beat around the bush, he doesn’t sugarcoat sh*t; what he does is gives it to you straight, and he insists that as a writer, you should be aiming to do the same for your readers. The theme of faithful storytelling, of truth, runs through this book and all of the advice therein. As far as storytelling is concerned, there is no black and white—only story—and it is the writer’s job to tell it.

This book is one of those books you wish you’d read ten years ago. There are moments in here where you read something and think: ‘Holy crap! I do that!’, and for a second, it occurs to you that you must be doing something right, if only because it’s happened to Stephen bloody King. And if that doesn’t get you going, there’s this:

“Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.”

That’s the kick up the a** we ALL need, right?

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft has become my dog-earred, thumbed-to-death reference/guidebook/bible. I haven’t read this just once—I’ve read multiple passages a thousand times over—and I doubt there will ever be another book on writing worthy enough to replace it. If there’s just ONE book you read on the craft, make it this one.

Needless to say, Stephen King has a new worshipping fan to add to his sky-high haystack. That dude rocks. (Now I just wish I had the balls to read his fiction. One day… *determined head-bob*)

“So okay—there you are in your room with the shade down and the door shut and the plug pulled out of the base of the telephone. You’ve blown up your TV and committed yourself to a thousand words a day, come hell or high water. Now comes the big question: What are you going to write about? And the equally big answer: Anything you damn well want.”
—Stephen King

 

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 On Writing Stephen King book cover

 

On Writing: A Memoir is an autobiography and writing guide by Stephen King, published in 2000. It is a book about the prolific author’s experiences as a writer. Although he discusses several of his books, one doesn’t need to have read them or even be familiar with them to read On Writing.

How to Write a Novel by Nathan Bransford

GENRE: NON FICTION | PAGES: 236

My rating: ★★★★

How to Write a Novel: 47 Rules for Writing a Stupendously Awesome Novel That You Will Love Forever is a no-introductions-necessary guide to (… wait for it…) writing a novel; a frill-less, uncluttered collection of straightforward tips and advice on the entire process of book-writing. From the beginnings of that record-breaking awesome idea that just popped into your writerly brain in the shower—right through to the air-punching end when you’re too glad to rid yourself off the stupid sleep-stealing, sanity-crushing THING posing as a would-be book. (Love. Hate. Thin line.)

‘Writing is not always fun. It shouldn’t always be fun. You’re not doing it because it’s always fun. The only reason to write a novel is because you have some insane fire burning inside that years of therapy have been unable to extinguish, and you fear how disappointed you will be with yourself if you never do it. Or, you know, because you really, really want to do it. You have to want it. You have to work at it.’
Nathan Bransford

Nathan Bransford‘s blog has been a writing bible of sorts to me since first stumbling across it. So the idea of THIS? A whole BOOK that combines his stellar advice and humour in a writerly collection of rules? 

Yes, please!

Whether you’re merely entertaining the idea of starting to write (you fool!), or you’re already off and running (I don’t hate you, I promise), this book is a happy, helpful must-read.

I’m presently coming to the end of the Revision Fatigue zone of my long one-book journey, (otherwise known as Rewriting Chapter One #792), but having read How to Write a Novel, it’s comforting to know that everything up to this point in my journey is, as far being as a writer is concerned, completely normal. Even the ‘borderline psychopathy’. 

Just kidding…

(I’m not kidding.)

‘There will come a time in the course of writing a novel where you would rather rip off your toenails and light them on fire than write one more word. This is normal.’Nathan Bransford

Bottom line:
If you are a writer…
If you want to be a writer…
If you used to be a writer, but your half-formed manuscript tortured you into the pits of despair…
this book is for you.

It offers up a plethora of insightful information, and honest, useful, realistic advice. This is easily one of my favourite books on the craft, and with good reason. 

 

See all reviews

 

How to Write a Novel

 

The most important thing to know about writing a novel is this: You can do it. And if you’ve already written one, you can write an even better one. Author and former literary agent Nathan Bransford shares his secrets for creating killer plots, fleshing out your first ideas, crafting compelling characters, and staying sane in the process. Read the guide that New York Times bestselling author Ransom Riggs called “The best how-to-write-a-novel book I’ve read.

banner img write for yourself

Earlier this month, I came across a post thread in a writing forum commenting on the release of Stephenie Meyer’s new book, the gender-reversed Twilight, Life and Death.

The original poster implied that this was nothing more than ‘a lazy way to make more money of an already successful idea’. Before I say anything further, let’s make one thing clear: I love Twilight, but I have long been an avid reader of all types of literature, and as a reader, and a writer, I am fully aware of the flaws in the Twilight series. I am not, nor have I ever been a ‘Twi-hard’ fan (whatever that means), but I enjoyed the story—also, obsessive perv or not, I had, and still have, an unhealthy crush on the immortal Edward. That said, this post is not a defence of Twilight; it is an observation on the criticisms writers face, and my two cents on the subject.

All jobs are tough in their own way; in the case of those in the creative industry—namely, the writer—the writing itself, as simultaneously joyful and irritating as it often is, is only the tip of the iceberg. The ridiculously frustrating journey from brain to page is nothing compared to acknowledging the personal experience your book might bring a reader. Personally, I love reading or hearing about multiple interpretations of a single story—it’s fascinating how much our values and social differences influence the way we perceive many things. You can read my post on the perception of ‘stupid’ characters here. 

Equally fascinating is the way these individual perceptions are received by others. 

Have you ever truly enjoyed a book, and like the proud nerd you might be, gushed about it to someone else, only to be ripped to shreds because the book, according to them, is just ‘utter crap’?

Or maybe you didn’t gush about it. Maybe you overheard a discussion about a certain book, and recognising the downright vicious criticism of it, decided not to mention your initiation into said book’s fandom…

If none of these apply–great.

It means you haven’t been subjected to someone whose concept of book standards goes something like this: ‘I didn’t like it; therefore it must be crap. Everyone, listen up: this book is crap. If you are seen reading it, I will assume you are an idiot.’ 

THIS ↑↑↑ is idiotic.

 
Case in point: I happen to hate exercise, but we all know that despite my intense hatred, exercise is, and will continue to be, a positive part of a healthy lifestyle (of which I am not at all familiar with, btw). If a percentage of readers hate a book, this does not—and should not—equate to the standard of the book. The remaining percentage who might love the same book will often speak for itself. 
This brings me to that forum post I mentioned. The original poster of the discussion—a writer—implies that Stephenie Meyer was milking the idea—trying to squeeze more money out of fans. Several follow-up comments even wondered how the book made any money in the first place.
 
Here’s the thing, though: 
No one is forced to buy a book—any book. Readers choose books because they happen to love them, or at least, think/hope they will. Assuming they don’t, there will be plenty of writer-bashing from reviewers without fellow writers having to chip in. When one writer calls another writer lazy, it makes me want to crawl under my desk and stay there, binge-eating ice-cream. We, as writers, are all in the same boat—okay, Stephanie Meyer has a much bigger boat, sure—a luxury yacht, probably, whilst we have a raft made by Tom Hanks and Wilson—but dammit, we KNOW the joy of finishing a manuscript… and we ALL dread the awful, inevitable backlash of bad reviews or bone-crushing criticism. We expect it from reviewers, editors, agents… from READERS. So why on earth would we want to add to all this dread, and start doing it to one another?

 

I can’t say whether I will ever read the new Twilight, but I disagree that re-writing it is just a ‘lazy way to cash in’. I don’t believe there IS a way to ‘cash-in’, and if there is, by jeebus—please let me know what it is. Maybe I’m naive, but I feel a story has to actually be good to create a fanbase, whether through luck, marketing, or the actual storytelling. In this case, the interest of the fans speaks for itself. 

The bottom line? 

If an author WANTS to rewrite their OWN STORY from the perspective of a bloody tree, it’s their call. Others may love it, hate it, buy it, or burn it—but more power to the writer for writing what they love regardless. 

Love or hate Stephenie Meyer—on this occasion, I salute her. 

Characters are important, if not the most important aspect of a good story; great characters have to be fully developed with appealing qualities, true to life flaws, and a host of inner desires, conflicts, motivations and goals. Just like all real life folk. Recently though, a statement from another writer brought up the question of judgment of character. Stupid characters in particular.

So. Many. Stupid Characters.

He claims that ‘so many books are filled with stupid characters making stupid choices’, and I can see the point of his statement. On some level, I’m inclined to almost agree—almost. What stops me agreeing is this:

What exactly, in the eyes of the reader, makes for a good character?

Is it strength, and integrity, and intelligence? Quick wit, feistiness, charm? Does physical appearance play a part, if at all? And to what extent? Does the rise-of-the-underdog score more points with you, or do you prefer to witness the shallow-but-popular ass evolving into a relatable 3-D hero? Does a heroine have to be the typical Mary Jane with an unknown destiny awaiting her, and lots of obstacles to rise above?

These are all common themes/tropes within stories (if a little limited).

Whether the book focuses on the main characters themselves, or whether it is driven by plot, every story will have a protagonist with at least one goal, and, as far as the author is concerned, a vast number of motivations and means by which to meet this goal. Authors are human too though, and they write the story they want to write, and read, (which is exactly as it should be.)

In doing this, they can often, unfortunately, piss off the reader. Getting from point A to point B can be done in so many ways that it is impossible to please every single reader; a character choice may seem poor or even dumb to one reader, yet may appear perfectly reasonable to another.

Let me give you a (ridiculously basic) example:

stupid characters snow white
Stupid characters and their stupid fruit.

Snow White in Walt Disney’s animated film
Source

Snow White

The princess has fled for her life knowing someone wants her dead. She then sets up home with seven little men, and when a scary old lady offers her an apple, she accepts it and immediately takes a bite, no questions asked despite the fact that she is on the lam, and the woman is hideous beyond belief.

Some would call her stupid, and naive; a little clueless. On the other hand, Snow is an innocent fourteen-year-old girl, with (apparently) a heart as pure as her namesake, thus she trusts easily, and wants to see the good in everyone. She doesn’t for a second believe that this little old lady would want to harm her.

stupid characters bella swan twilight
Stupid characters and their stupid hiking trips

Kristen Stewart as Bella Swan in
The Twilight Saga: New Moon Source

A more recent example is… (dare I?)

Bella Swan

Bella is an (apparently) average teenager whose love for Edward is all-consuming, and upon his leaving in New Moon, she all but gives up on normal life for several months at a time.

Some would call this stupid, and weak; a little melodramatic. On the other hand, Bella is a teenager, and we all know that fully grown adults are capable of drama, much less a seventeen-year-old. A breakup is tough on any one of us, and Bella is no exception. Her love for Edward was written to be of such an epic scale that losing it would be like losing a part of herself; anything less than that would make the reader doubt the scale of their love in the first place.

If you’re thinking: ‘What a lame bunch of lame examples!’, first: get yourself a thesaurus; and second: let me offer up a third and final example—one who is not a teenage girl, nor a central character of a fairy tale / young adult romance saga: 

Christopher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus

stupid characters doctor faustus
Stupid characters and their stupid inability to read the small-print

Illustration from the 1620 edition of The Tragical History
of the Life and Death of Doctor Faustus Source

Doctor Faustus is smart; he is highly accomplished in the arts and sciences to the point of feeling dissatisfied with the mediocrity of what little there is left to learn. He is a fully-grown man, a well-established social figure in his time—yet what does he do? He makes a deal with the devil! Pretty stupid, yes? Or no? It could easily be assumed that voluntarily signing a blood-contract with a messenger from the depths of hell pretty much ‘puts the stu in stupid’ (technical term). Yet, whilst there is no question that his choices leading up to—and during—his deal did indeed lack judgment, Faustus was, on the whole, not stupid; self-centred, frivolous, arrogant to the point of self-destruction, and clearly prone to ‘silly’ decisions—but not stupid. His discontentment with life, his initial search for greater meaning—even power—are all too common in the real world, in some form or another; it may not justify his decisions but it does shed light on the reasoning behind it.

Snow White, Bella, and Faustus (jeez, weirdest dinner party ever!) demonstrate that regardless of character traits, flaws, and intentions, every reader is likely to interpret a character in a different way. What is dumb and weak to one person is to another, completely understandable, even to an extent, realistic. We all appreciate and admire smart people and smart choices, fictional or otherwise, but how drab would it be to always be faced with these know-it-all smart-asses, with their excellent lives, rubbing our Average-Joe noses in their success?

Certainly, despite good decisions, a smart character can have things in life go wrong for them as a result of an external source, but can you honestly say you’d enjoy reading the riveting account of how easy it was for them to overcome the obstacle thanks to yet another predictably smart choice? Shortest book ever—and not particularly entertaining; entertainment being the whole point of writing and reading in the first place.

My point is this: despite what appeals to us on a personal level when it comes to our preferences in the characters we write or read about, one thing we all are likely to have in common is that we want our characters to be as real and relatable as possible.

AND HERE’S THE THING…

Real people, smart or otherwise, sometimes make stupid choices, and despite judgment, whether from other writers, readers, or haters, books with outwardly stupid characters making stupid choices will continue to sell, because if you dig a little deeper, you’ll find a reason for a character’s moment of idiocy; and more notably, this moment of idiocy amidst the chaos of life is real and relatable.

 

EDIT: This post was written around the time I decided to take writing seriously. Before that, blogging to me was nothing more than journalling. And writing was no more than a hobby and a pipe-dream. I keep this post as a reminder to myself to keep going. I should also clarify that the title ‘don’t dream, just write’ is merely emphasising the need for action.  By no means should you or I ever give up the dream, whatever that may be.

*******

Hello, Internet Diary of sorts… you trusty, patient fool, you! 

I only just went and broke the record for the longest waiting time ever between the first date and the ever elusive callback—and you’re still bloody here! Brownie points for you, my friend. In total, it’s been about seven years now, since I first met you, and told you my name. Hell, I still had the name of my youth then… come to think of it, I still had youth itself back then and all. 2008… *looks wistfully into space* 

So—did you bloody miss me?

No, no you didn’t, did you? 

Ah, well. Let’s not hold grudges. I didn’t exactly keep my end of the deal, did I? See—the thing is: I had really good intentions and a really well-nursed dream, and I thought to myself: all I need to do is set this shit up, whack a few bells on this baby, and just like that, things will fall into place. It’s the perfect plan, I thought to myself like a smug twit. 

So… I sit myself down in front of my lovely white page, on my lovely standard template, and I sit and sit, and think and think, and my head is suddenly filled with sand—and the blank page looks a brighter shade of white the more I stare at it, and slowly, I start to realise:

I have no fucking idea what I’m doing!

Obviously, you can see just how well-adjusted I am, since it took me about six years to recover my writing mojo after that.

“I thought to myself: all I need to do is set this shit up, whack a few bells on this baby, and just like that, things will fall into place. It’s the perfect plan, I thought to myself like a smug twit.”

 

Of course, as you well know, Internet, I came back last October—and did little more than copy and paste pretty much every single book review I’ve ever done on Goodreads in those last six years. If I’m being honest—in the dating world, that would equate to what?—a few late night booty calls maybe… at best… *sigh*

It’s not so much that the idea of an audience scared me, since as an aspiring author I fantasise about this on a regular, if not daily basis—it’s just that everything I’ve written has been gathering virtual dust for years—yes, even MORE years than these last six slash seven—and when that dusty, old crap does see the light of day it’s usually so I can wrangle with it, draft some more—edit and revise until my eyes start to bleed and my sanity is at breaking point. 

THIS jiggery-bloggery on the other hand… this is different. This is odd. For the love of all that is good and chocolatey, I haven’t got a clue what I’m MEANT to be doing, let alone actually getting started on doing it! What do I write about?—do I stick to my ‘field’, or do I be more personal? How should I write it? Should I be myself, and be open and engaging—or should I edit it to death, and try for professionalism? [Pah! Perish the thought!]

I don’t know where to draw the line on the bloodied-eyes scenario, and I struggle with the concept of that fine line between being myself and trying to keep it professional. Obviously, I should probably keep SOME cans of worms firmly shut, because quite frankly, some of that shit is just plain scary; yet, that which scares us is usually the very thing worth writing about. I guess I just need to find some balance, and sheer nerve… and I need to start thinking less about the ‘correct’ way to do this, and just bloody DO IT. 

So here I am. I’m here and I’m staying and I’m writing. 

shonamoyce.com

“that which scares us is usually the very thing worth writing about.”

 

Sometimes I’ll post serious topics because I do actually have a brain, contrary to everything this post suggests; and sometimes I’ll post crap, and if you don’t like it, people of Internet Land, I’ll just have to suck it up, won’t I? Because I’m a writer. And writers edit, and then they edit, and edit, and edit some more, until they suck a bit less, and dammit, if nothing else, this will be good development for that thick writerly skin everyone is always talking about.  

All of this, of course, is really only relevant on the off-chance that this blog ever generates interest in which case, if it doesn’t, the only real concern here is the fact that I’m about to cut a large chunk out of my time each week to ‘talk’ to myself. Ah well, what’s one more step on the path to glorious insanity?

Overall, I would just like to say, Internet: I am sorry to have been a plonker and a chicken-shit of the highest order, but I am back now, and I’m about to be a brilliantly delightful, UNSMUG twit (yep, still a twit), and my dream: now pulled out from under the bed—watered, fed, dusted, given an enema, etc—we are doing this thing! IN REAL LIFE this time, dammit!

Incidentally, prepare yourself—

Cans… opening…

Worms… EVERYWHERE.

image - graffiti excerpt writing prompt - let me out - asylum

‘Imagine the crazies that lived in this place…’ Zach stepped over the debris, and into the abandoned 1920s asylum.

‘That’s fucked up, Zach – even for you,’ Hayley said, following him inside, scrunching her nose at the faint smell of rot.

‘Why? Cos it’s true?’

‘The stuff that went on in places like this was unreal – unjustified.’

‘Yeah, yeah,’ Zach said. ‘Hold this, would you?’ He handed her the backpack, taking a single aerosol can in his hand, and began tracing an elaborate tag in fresh red spray paint on the nearby wall – Z.H. – in a well-practised design of angles and flourishes.

‘Why do you do that?’

Zach shrugged, stepping back and admiring the handiwork in his initials. ‘It’s art.’

Hayley snorted. ‘Let’s look around.’

They made their way into a long corridor of empty doorways, peering in each one as they went, trying not to think too hard about the rooms’ former occupants. Over fifty years of desertion and yet Hayley could swear the smell of chemicals and despair still clung in the air.

‘Christ, look at this one!’ Zach had trudged ahead, and stood marvelling at the room at the far end of the building.

Hayley reached it, and blanched at the sight. Rusty equipment lined the back wall; a large dentist-like chair stood like a proud centrepiece, spewing stuffing from its filthy blue cover; an overturned stretcher, broken trolleys, and even yellowed paperwork littered the floor. Most disturbing of all were the chains – long, solid rusted links hung from wall-fixtures, shackles dangling, open and threatening, like hungry jaws.

‘Fuck…’ Hayley couldn’t move.

The room stank of decay and ruin; the layer of dust and debris on everything was so thick that she could have been looking at a sepia photograph; yet it chilled her. Her skin crawled, and the sudden gush of air that swept through the hall made the papers on the floor flutter and crackle like leaves.

‘It’s like Fifty Shades on crack, huh?’ Zach laughed.

‘Don’t!’ Hayley protested. ‘It’s not funny.’

Zach nudged past her and started shaking his spray can; the rattle and clang of the ball inside of it echoed through the hall.

‘Do you have to? Here?’ Hayley asked him, annoyed. ‘No one cares about your ‘art’.’ She made speech marks in the air with her fingers.

Zach shrugged again, and Hayley sighed, plucking up the courage to step in the room. She tread carefully towards the scattered papers – patient records, she realised – and picked a handful up. At the sound of the spray paint spurt in the hall, she looked up, watching as Zach’s quick hand formed mocking, shaky letters in shiny, wet crimson.

She gasped.

No sooner than the breath had passed her lips, did the rumbling start overhead. Hayley screamed. She threw the papers down, starting towards Zach, but she never reached him. The ceiling thundered down upon the two of them, a dust-cloud of rubble and ruin, the entire end of the building collapsing, folding in on itself and crumbling, like it was made of ash. When the air finally settled, only two walls were left standing; one with the shackles, swaying almost imperceptibly in the breeze; the other, joined only by the half collapsed door frame, bore the words:

LET ME OUT.

 


shonamoyce

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Shona Moyce is a self-proclaimed weirdo, proud bookworm, and author of Blood’s Veil and the fantasy series, Immisceo. Blogging here about books, writing, and occasionally, real life. Read more…

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There was no fall
Only the breaking,
Only the mess;
The shards
Like glass, like ice.
Fractured pieces,
that once was whole.
Not Easter eggs,
or toy balloons,
or spinning globes –

Complete like
ripened oranges,
as round, as bright 
as Sun.

The break was slow –
so quiet,
Like sock-sheathed feet,
Tip-toes on sand.
No invite, no notice;
unannounced entry –
familiar stranger,
an unknown foe
darkening doorways,
slipping in.

He gave no bow,
Offered no name,
Once, I thought I knew it.
He was soundless, intent.
Path well cut,
goal just set:
Seek and destroy,
Seek and destroy.
He left a seed.
I watered; it grew.

In full form it towered
Like Jack’s beanstalk.
Then there were two of us;
that thing and me.
I named it Doubt. Misery.
Two voices, one mind.
My mind – a shell;
That Easter egg,
Or toy balloon, 
or spinning globe.

The voices:
Mine? His?
One thin, and weak;
The other? Like hell,
Like fee-fi-fo.
Clear and sharp,
Slicing the hum.
You can’t, it says.
And I listen.
I stop.

That voice? The power…
It is big as air.
More certain than
The rise-fall 
at my breast;
As constant as
The blood-beat 
at my temple.
Unyielding as night;
Obstinate as death. 

 

July 2011

sunflowers

  

The pain courses through me.
Fresh, intense,
Like the sharp edge of broken glass
taut against soft flesh.

I close my eyes and for a second,
You’re there—we’re there;
Together, happy, unknowing. 
The sunflowers you bought are still upright.

Smiling, like we are,
They sit in their vase.
Among us, a part of us—
a part of what we’ve made home.

Then—
another wave.
Reality, the ache.

And you’re gone.
We’re gone.

Not dead, but wilted;
Like your love for me.
Like those sunflowers.

May 2011