Archive for the ‘art’ Category

In 2020, I released my fantasy trilogy, The Chronicles of Aden Weaver. Burned out, I took a writing hiatus that summer to recover. In January of 2021, I started writing another fantasy adventure series for middle-grade readers. For me, the rough draft has to be pen and paper. I sit and write fresh copy in the morning. And, it is a rule that I must type up each day’s copy in the evening. It was a lesson I learned the hard way. When I wrote the original manuscript for all three books in The Chronicles, I elected to leave the typing until the end and gave myself the job of typing out 300,000 words of my tiny handwriting. It was as bad as it sounds, and I made it a rule from then on to type new notes for my stories the same day I write them.

Since the beginning of last year, I have added to the copy for the stories every day and transcribed the notes each evening, including Christmas Day. It has been soothing to my creative soul to write genesis draft material again. I thought the exhaustive editing of The Chronicles for the last few years might have drained my joy in the process. But it hasn’t, thank goodness. Throughout the rollercoaster of the past year, I have cruised through each day, escaping via my writing portal. I have taken daily flights of the imagination and returned from each trip refreshed. These new stories have given me upliftment, comfort, and joy.
Creative outlets are good for us. My firm belief is that every adult needs one.

My father used to tinker away every afternoon building things in the garage. My mother used to knit or crochet her blankets. Throughout every trial and tribulation of our childhood, Ma’s needles would click and whirr most reassuringly. A sort of soft background track to our lives.
My outlet is my writing and new stories are the best. They are my happy place. Coming up with the material is the easy part, and I have loved every minute, enjoying the wild ride of “inspired thoughts,” as my grandmother used to call them. What could be more fun than writing each day to discover where your story is going next? But I write now, in the same way the dog days of summer turn into fall, with a tinge of sadness, knowing the changes to come. The picnic of penning the rough draft is nearly over. That means the unrelenting focus of the editing is about to kick in. Summer ends. Autumn begins. And so will the editing. Soon.

I can’t think about that yet. Right now, the hard graft of editing does not exist. It is just me, the pen and the empty pad of paper, out gamboling through the rosy fields of imagination, reveling in every moment.
*Good news* Drum roll. I am happy to report that my nephew and I are already conjuring up the cover art for the first book. Si was the artistic genius behind the covers for my trilogy. As a busy young working father of two, he needs a year’s grace to work on his art pieces. I told him, take as long as you need. I believe in his artistic ability and will always champion his work. Cover art from Si Kingi is worth the wait.

As a hobby illustrator myself, I have several pieces of artwork for most of the books. Some of them feature on the side panel of this blog. I have enough to put one original illustration into each book but still need to draw a second illustration for each volume. The one character I have not drawn yet is the young 8-year-old protagonist, Emily. I told Si, I look forward to seeing her!
The wait to see Si’s work is full of anticipation.
Vincent Willem van Gogh once said, “…and then, I have nature and art and poetry, and if that is not enough, what is enough?” Exactly. We must have all these things in times such as these to give us the strength to carry on and get through. Nature, art, and poetry are important because they bring us joy. They uplift our spirits. For me, penning new stories is bliss and to be part of the arts coming out now is exciting!
What about you. What are your creative outlets? Or are you yet to discover the right creative outlet for you?

(A pencil test piece Si created with his four-year-old daughter, my grand-niece)
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Talk to you later.
Keep creating!
Yvette Carol
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Writing is an important avenue for healing because it gives you the opportunity to define your own reality. – Ellen Bass


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I have finished reading my fourth novel for 2022, Piranesi, by Susanna Clarke, and what a doozy. I have been looking forward to reviewing this book. It’s one of those books that gets inside you, haunts your thoughts, and creeps inside your dreams. You become so caught in the spell that you anticipate every opportunity to sit down and read more. When you have finished the novel, as I unfortunately have, you continue to think about it for a long time afterward. I love books like that. It is truly remarkable and potent fiction.

Piranesi was a Christmas present. The enigmatic cover image features a statue of Pan atop a carved pedestal and the author’s name, plus a few embellishments embossed with gold. The medallion on the cover of my copy tells me Piranesi won the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2021. The blue cover displays soundbites from various movers and shakers, like The Sunday Times: ‘Full of wonders’ Erin Morgenstern: “Spellbinding” and The Guardian: “Utterly otherworldly.” All this before we even open the book. When we open the cover, we are treated to seven pages of gushing review snippets from everyone who has a voice in the media, from the New York Times, to Esquire and Observer, from BBC.com to Literary Review. It is almost overkill.
But does the content live up to the hype? In a word, yes.

Okay. At first, I was all at sea. The novel is so divergent from anything I had ever read that I was thoroughly off-put. Instead of chapter numbers and so on, Clarke divides the story into seven parts. Then she heads the chapters with surreal titles. For example, the opening chapter starts with the heading:
When the Moon Rose in the Third Northern Hall, I went to the Ninth Vestibule
ENTRY FOR THE FIRST DAY OF THE FIFTH MONTH IN THE YEAR THE ALBATROSS CAME TO THE SOUTH-WESTERN HALLS

There is no dithering at the door or slow easing into this fantasy. We become transported via the confounding title into another place, another world. We then read the entries and, in that intimate way, dive into the life of a naive, wandering, fascinating man as he recounts his life living in the House. He is alone apart from visits twice a week from an impeccably-dressed man he calls ‘the Other’ – called such because he is the only other person alive in the world.

Piranesi and the Other are scientists. The latter needs help with his research into A Great and Secret Knowledge. Piranesi tells us about the ’15 people who have ever lived.’ The 15 include himself, the Other, and the 13 bodies whose skeletal remains he visits to take gifts. Through these diary entries written in our protagonist’s journals, we discover that our narrator is a man in his thirties. The Other calls him Piranesi, although our protagonist is sure that this is not his real name. But he has no recollection of any other name so he adopts it.
The House is a riveting, unique fantasy landscape I had never encountered before, a world where ocean and architecture mix. There are thousands of classic halls, endless epic architecture, and statues half-filled by the sea and afflicted by king tides and floods.

The sense of being somewhere ‘completely other,’ of being slightly off-kilter persists without let-up from the first chapter, where our protagonist climbs a statue fifteen metres above the pavement to avoid the ‘joining of three Tides’ below. As we read, a few things start to make sense, but Susanna Clarke never lets up presenting more questions as the story goes on, and the mystery of where the House is and what is happening becomes deeper and more complex.
Clarke does not stop with intricate plot lines and compelling character development. She also plays hardball, boldly using the simple visual device of adding capitals liberally everywhere. For example, This Tide thundered up the Westernmost Staircase and hit the Eastern Wall with a great Clap, making all the Statues tremble.
We are not in Kansas anymore, Toto.

Clarke teases and tests us every step of the way. Once I had adjusted to this crazy ride, I couldn’t wait to get back to reading it each time I had to stop. The austere august magnificence of the House entranced me and captured my imagination. It was depicted in marvellous detail until I was walking in that world.
As it went on I knew Susanna Clarke’s talent was next level because of how much I cared for Piranesi. I worried about him as I realized he was in danger. It was affecting. During the climactic scenes, I was stealing minutes to race back and read. I needed to know how it would turn out. It was with regret I finished this book. Since then, I have looked back with nostalgia upon my time moving through the hallowed halls of the House with its beloved child, Piranesi. It was so new and cool. It was everything.

Susanna Clarke was born in Nottingham, England, in 1959. Educated in towns across Northern England and Scotland, she worked in various areas of non-fiction publishing, including Gordon Fraser and Quarto. After a stint teaching English in Bilbao, Clarke returned to England in 1992. Living in County Durham, she began working on her first novel, the bestselling Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell. In 2020, Clarke released Piranesi. She has also published seven short stories and novellas in US anthologies. One story, “Mr. Simonelli or The Fairy Widower,” was shortlisted for a World Fantasy Award in 2001. Clarke lives in Cambridge with her partner, the novelist and reviewer Colin Greenland.
I take my hat off to the author and her stellar work, Piranesi. This fresh story transcends genre, and we must call it what it is – Art.


Susanna Clarke has earned herself a rarely seen top rating from me.
My rating: Five stars and a Huzzah!

Talk to you later.
Keep reading!
Yvette Carol
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“Words can be like X-rays if you use them properly — they’ll go through anything. You read and you’re pierced.” — Aldous Huxley

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It’s time for another group posting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group! Time to release our fears to the world or offer encouragement to those who are feeling neurotic. If you’d like to join us, click on the tab above and sign up. We post on the first Wednesday of every month. Every month, the organizers announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG Day post. Remember, the question is optional!!! Let’s rock the neurotic writing world! Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG, and the hashtag is #IWSG.

January 5 question – What’s the one thing about your writing career you regret the most? Were you able to overcome it?
I guess I regret turning down two offers from publishers. When I was first starting out and was submitting my children’s manuscripts to editors in New Zealand regularly, there were two yes replies. However, I turned them both down. One said they would publish my picture book, Free Wally, but they wanted to change all the characters’ names. What can I say? I was young and green. My creative soul felt they were going to tamper with my “artistic integrity” by changing the details. Therefore, I said no thank you and imagined I would easily find another acceptance for the story. Yet, I never did. It was the one and only offer I received for that book.
In the 90s a different publisher said they would release my middle-grade fantasy, The Scrifs and Stirrits, but they would only pay me a 5% royalty fee. In those days the going rate for royalties was 10%, and I was miffed. Why were they offering me less? I turned down the offer, thinking I wanted to be paid the same as everyone else. But I never found another publisher for that story so never got the chance.

Looking back at those decisions now, it’s easy to laugh at the folly of youth. What did it matter if they changed the names or paid me less royalty rate? I would still have had two books released by traditional publishing houses behind my name to help me stake a claim to this writer’s life. Instead, I hang in the wind of self-publishing and take the financial/emotional/mental hit of being Indie for every book. As a wide-eyed beginner, I did not know that getting any acceptance at all was fantastic. It took many more years of submitting my work to realize that acceptances are few and far between. And these days there are even fewer publishers accepting unsolicited work.
When I released my trilogy in 2020, I did a bit of research to see how many traditional publishers there were left in New Zealand. If I had wanted to submit my stories for consideration, there was only a handful of children’s publishers still accepting unsolicited manuscripts and after reading the t’s and c’s, my stories would only have been suitable for two of them. Two options? Pitiful. The current situation is very different from what it was when I was young and sending my stories to editors all over the country. I had no idea then how good I had it. But hey, hindsight is 20/20.

Therefore, if I could go back and change one thing about the past, maybe it would be rejecting the publishers’ offers. Or maybe it wouldn’t. Because I did overcome that obstacle. Early on, I made that mistake. Yet, I learned a lot through the years of “failing” that followed. They say if you change one thing about the past it alters the course of history. Would I want to mess around with the perfect plan for my life? Probably not. Maybe I was supposed to go it alone. Becoming an Indie is diabolically hard but it does have its rewards. I made all my own choices about covers, style, and everything for The Chronicles of Aden Weaver, which was satisfying. I’m proud of my trilogy. For the cover art, I collaborated with my nephew, Si, who is a consummate artist. We had such fun in the creative process, brainstorming and tooling around with options. I didn’t have to compromise his vision or question my choices. We had no interference which is a blessing only bestowed upon the self-published.

Looking back now, I have the satisfaction of knowing I did it my way, and there’s something pure in that. I cherish the books I’ve put out into the world so far. Would I have been able to say that if I was under the wing of a publisher? Or would the end result be something mutant and divorced from the original vision? With my name on the cover. No. The more I think about it, the more glad I am that I turned down those offers back in the day. I set myself on course for putting out books that authentically belong to me, and my creative intelligence is my service to the world. It will live on long after I’m gone. No, I’m convinced now I did the right thing when I was young.
So in a roundabout way, I have come back to the first question. What’s the one thing about your writing career you regret the most? Nothing. Absolutely nothing.
What about you, what do you regret most about your writing?

Keep Writing!
Yvette Carol
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Every story I create creates me. I write to create myself. ~ Octavia E. Butler


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Every year around this time I have two mammoth jobs that need to be done. My sons and I bake the massive Christmas Cake, which is a rich fruit cake to feed about sixty-four. We also do the photoshoot of my two young victims sons, whom I make dress up in festive gear at the start of December. Then I pick the best photo from the shoot and make our Christmas card for friends and family. We did the photoshoot this weekend. The boys get a bit grumpy about it these days, which I think is quite cute. I had fun making the cards all day. It’s creative, it’s fun and it involves glitter. What more do you need to know?

When I first started this blog, my middle son – who was born with Down Syndrome – featured by himself on the card. Three years later, his little brother came along and the pair got to feature on the next family card and so it has gone on.

Here is how you can make your family greeting card for next-to-nothing.

Once you have your photo, reduce it to a small size. Figure out how many people you are making cards for. Print out the photos on regular A4 paper and cut them out.

Take cheap Christmas cards (I bought ours from the thrift store) and cut them down in size. I use the same “guides” for the layers which I made myself out of cardboard, so they are all the same dimensions. Start with a guide for the size of the card. On Christmas Day each year, I save the interesting pieces of wrapping paper and iron them towards the following year’s cards. Make a guide for the interesting saved paper, or any fun paper you like, as your next layer. It must be smaller than the card and larger than the photo.

Now you have the items you need for your cards: a stack of cut-down cards (preserving the message inside if possible), the rectangles of saved wrapping paper, and a stack of your cut-out photos.

My next step is to cut little flags of “Angelina Hot Fix” which is a synthetic product made by Funky Fibres here in NZ. I’m sure you could find a similar product where you are. The fibres come in different funky colours. You spread a handful between baking paper then iron on a low heat until the fibres fuse, making a thin sheet of sparkly material. I cut out small rectangles of Hot Fix, one for each of my cards.

Begin construction by gluing the saved wrapping paper to the card, at the same time trapping a wedge of Hot Fix in between so that one end extends.

Then glue the photo on the top.

*Tip: dry and flatten the cards after you apply each layer; I put them between chopping boards and pile weights on top.

The best part is adding the embellishments! It is time to decorate the front of each card with glitter and crystals and stickers to your heart’s delight.

Inside each card, I include a surprise, usually gift tags, or I also have a set of miniature antique postcards which I bought in a thrift store once, and I’ll include a couple of those with each one. Match your card as closely as possible to the size of the envelope. It looks better that way. Write a special message inside each card and post it to family and friends.
It’s homemade. It’s personal. It’s crafty fun. What’s not to love?

Talk to you later.
Keep creating!
Yvette Carol
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Some old-fashioned things like fresh air and sunshine are hard to beat. ~ Laura Ingalls Wilder


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It’s time for another group posting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group! Time to release our fears to the world or offer encouragement to those who are feeling neurotic. If you’d like to join us, click on the tab above and sign up. We post on the first Wednesday of every month. Every month, the organizers announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG Day post. Remember, the question is optional!!! Let’s rock the neurotic writing world! Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG, and the hashtag is #IWSG.

October 6 question – In your writing, where do you draw the line, with either topics or language?
LOL! I draw the line in so many places there is hardly anything left on the table! One of the keys to writing for children is figuring out how to look at the world from a child’s point of view. When I started, that was one thing my critique partners would always say. ‘This sounds like an adult thinking/talking.’ ‘Your child protagonist seems to be an adult.’ I have worked on it for years to figure out the child-friendly view. One of the things Beverly Cleary attributed her success to was that she ‘had never grown up.’ Cleary maintained a powerful connection to the child view and what they’re interested in that made her able to connect with a vast audience of appreciative readers.
Along with writing at the this age level for a children’s author comes the responsibility to keep the language clean and the topics suitable.

In the first draft of my debut novel, The Or’in of Tane, I had written a romance between the characters of Henny and Dr. Milo Mahiora. My friend and then editor, Maria Cisneros-Toth, pulled me up on the romance and kissing scene. She said, “No, no, no. Not in middle-grade fiction.” I cut the scene out, removing the whole romance. To my surprise, I discovered the story was the better for it and I understood Maria was right. I have not crossed that line since.

In the last few years, I have read the occasional middle-grade novel that has included romance, and it has struck me afresh why Maria told me no. The effect is a shock. It’s not appropriate for kids whose lives still involve bouncy balls, bikes, and games of Go Fish. Yes, okay, kids are exposed to all kinds of things via social media these days. But that doesn’t give license to authors to introduce elements to 8-12-year-old readers that we would be uncomfortable with our children reading. That gave me a gauge for the level of what should be off-limits. What would I want my children of similar age reading? Age-appropriate fiction.

I draw the line at romance in my genre, either reading it or writing it.

As for topics, there are so many contentious subjects these days. The list is endless. Writers fear they might say one wrong thing and attract a backlash. There is a strong sense of staying within the confines of what is deemed politically correct. I have a friend who writes urban romantic fantasy. She included one of the mythical gods from religion in her book and received death threats. This sort of thing naturally scares authors.

At the same time as wanting to stick within the limits, I also feel strongly that the ultimate choice about topics and language should remain in the hands of the individual. In my opinion, the worst thing that could happen to our society would be for the artists to lose their freedom of expression or creative license. I’m mindful of that sublime quote by Jane Yolen, ‘Good stories are dangerous. Dangerous, anarchic, seductive. They change you, often forever…they challenge our vocabularies and our history. Sometimes they challenge our comfortable morality. And sometimes…they challenge our most basic assumptions.’
What about you. What sort of language or topics are off-limits in fiction?

Keep Writing!
Yvette Carol
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“No one is born a writer. You must become a writer. You never cease becoming, because you never stop learning how to write. Even now, I am becoming a writer. And so are you.” —Joe Bunting


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Recently I went to see the award-winning play Te Po with my friends, and to say I felt blown away would be a giant understatement. I consider myself a total Luddite compared to my friends. Right from the start, when I met my girlfriends in high school, they invited me to do such cultured things as take grapes to the park and read poetry. They fascinated, enlightened, and challenged me in many ways. As adults, they have coerced me into going to art galleries, shows, and performances I would never attend on my own. I have been to one other play in my life, Stop the World, I Want to Get Off. I was twelve. I felt a twinge of resistance when my friends suggested we attend a play together. But that is why these ladies are so good for me because they force me out of my low-brow comfort zone.

We met early in the evening for minestrone and then made our way to our local events center. Te Po, they told me, was part of the centenary celebration of New Zealand playwright Bruce Mason’s birth. The performers would appear in a theatre named after the playwright, and it was only on for two nights. Like a pop-up store, it was a pop-up theatre. Blink, and you would miss it. Luckily, I let my friends twist my arm, and we attended this lightning in a jar. Te Po, written by Carl Bland, is a comedy, as told by a policeman, a blind man, and a priest, about missing playwright Bruce Mason. And it is laugh-out-loud funny. Though sometimes, we wept.
Te Po is Maori for The Great Darkness, a destination for the dead. It is a place where the dead can revisit their potential and attain knowledge. The elderly Maori character anchors the piece, sings the songs, speaking melodic Maori and English, as the wise man who knows all. He bridges the gap between the worlds and brings spiritual depth.

I was surprised by how much I enjoyed Te Po. Live theatre is an enlivening experience. Who knew? The combination of a great story, plus fascinating human beings in 3-D, with lights, music, and special effects, was immersive, transformative, and captivating. I felt drawn further and further into the world they created. The mystery deepened in the first acts, and strange things happened, like, the furniture shifted unaided across the stage, giving us a visceral sense of being unsettled. At times, they closed the curtains, plunging us into darkness and playing the sounds of a wild crashing storm. The stage was incredible, with a writer’s office with windows that opened and bookshelves and chairs that moved across the stage. Towards the story apex, the colors deepened to sepia tones, and the whole set began to slide backwards, making the scene appear to dwindle. The effects were well done. Special mention must go to the puppeteer, who created a believable seagull and a captivating giraffe head that took our breath away.

It was interesting to compare how the script for a play follows similar conventions to writing fiction. The writer asked a question then withheld the answer. There was foreshadowing going on and red herrings that became important later. There were expectations set up then dashed. Though somewhat truncated, the characters each had an arc. And the rules changed most refreshingly as the story went along until we finally caught up to speed with the surreal nature of the piece. By then, we had abandoned ourselves to the ride anyway and didn’t care anymore. In the end, when the priest finally gives his last sermon, as promised, it provoked belly laughter from start to finish. We laughed till we cried. It was glorious.
I walked out energized, excited, and with a slightly altered view of the world (the whole intention of art). Now I understand why people around these parts have raved about this play. I am a convert to the wonders of live theatre. It is like a whole new world. Woohoo!

What about you, have you been to a live show lately?

Talk to you later.
Keep creating!
Yvette Carol
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Be at peace with where you’ve been and where you are. That’s how you win the battlefield of the mind. ~ Andrena Sawyer


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Subscribe to my newsletter by emailing me with “Newsletter Subscription” in the subject line to: yvettecarol@hotmail.com

It’s time for another group posting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group! Time to release our fears to the world or offer encouragement to those who are feeling neurotic. If you’d like to join us, click on the tab above and sign up. We post the first Wednesday of every month. Every month, the organisers announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG Day post. Remember, the question is optional!!! Let’s rock the neurotic writing world! Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG and hashtag is #IWSG.

July 7th optional question – What would make you quit writing?

Whatever it is, I haven’t discovered it. I’ve kept working through sickness, deaths in the family, divorces, the pandemic, the kids’ dramas, you name it. I took a break when I finished my trilogy The Chronicles of Aden Weaver, but that was fine. It didn’t occur to me to be scared I’d never write again. This year, for the first time, I wondered if the writing was going to quit me. I’ve heard many authors say this over the years that after completing each book they feared that it was the last. Well, that had never been a problem for me in the past. I had never experienced “writer’s block,” there had been a constant flow of prose since the day I learned how to hold a pen. Even as preschoolers, my brother and I used to play storytelling games. Stories came easily. And I loved it so much. Growing up powerless – the third child from a big family cramped inside a small house – creating stories was a great escape. The hours would disappear.

Writing was my secret super power! My window to glory.

At fifteen I started keeping a journal, and I still write in one every day. Writing as therapy continued, proving a terrific release valve throughout my life. It is wonderfully cathartic. In fact, I have preached at Toastmasters and elsewhere about the “benefits of having a creative outlet.” Everyone needs a creative way to express themselves, and storytelling has always been mine. It didn’t occur to me to be scared until I walked away from publishing my trilogy and thought, what next?

I released The Chronicles of Aden Weaver in October 2021, collapsing with relief. The exhaustion was so complete that for the first time in my life I took six months off to recover.

When the time came to start the next book, I looked at that empty page and shook like a leaf in the wind. There were no words boldly appearing from nowhere, no inklings for stories. The muse had gone strangely silent.

I was wandering in the wilderness, let me tell you. It was a scary place to be. To not be able to write was hideous. Disenfranchised: a writer not writing, a storyteller not working on a story, like being cast adrift, existing in a weird state of limbo or stasis with no sense of direction. “Writer’s block” is a gnarly ride. An uneasy month went by. My life was still wonderful. I love my kids, friends, my family, and my home. I enjoy looking after this property, but here’s the thing, we all need a creative outlet.

I wasn’t fully enjoying life and without my author’s work I was never fully at ease in my skin. I wasn’t ME.

Each weekend I faced the enormity of the empty page, doing my relaxation techniques, and freewriting. Eventually, this started the cogs turning, and that was the best feeling to break through the blockade. What a relief to write again! I sat down and “blathered away,” as my grandmother would say, no longer floating idle, no longer rudderless.

The rush of joy reassured me. The muse was back, full of ideas. I was still in the author business.

Writing stories, I have realized, is not just about getting the words from head to page, or crafting them until they take on a high sheen. Being an author is a way of life. At this stage I don’t know whether I’ll ever self publish again. What I know is I must write stories to know my purpose. Now, I feel aligned in my skin, that my wheels are back on the tracks and life has meaning. It doesn’t get any better than that.

There’s a Carl Jung quote that goes,what did you do as a child that made the hours pass like minutes. Herein lies the key to your earthly pursuits.’

What did you love to do? I’m interested to know.

Keep Writing!

Yvette Carol

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“Publication of a book is a misery… writing to write and enjoy it, that’s the best—it’s the Eden that we writers lose.” ~ Anon

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Subscribe to my newsletter by emailing me with “Newsletter Subscription” in the subject line to yvettecarol@hotmail.com 

It’s time for another group posting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group! Time to release our fears to the world or offer encouragement to those who are feeling neurotic. If you’d like to join us, click on the tab above and sign up. We post the first Wednesday of every month. Every month, the organisers announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG Day post. Remember, the question is optional!!! Let’s rock the neurotic writing world! Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG and hashtag is #IWSG.

June 2 question – For how long do you shelve your first draft, before reading it and re-drafting? Is this dependent on your writing experience and the number of stories/books under your belt?

You always hear the seasoned authors say, ideally give yourself a break from a story when you’ve finished it, and then again, when you’ve completed editing it. They say you should put the piece away and not look at it for a while; that you get too close to the work and stop seeing what needs to be done. It sounds wise. Taking a breather gives the author fresh eyes and you can access the coveted third-person perspective on your work. You can read it as the reader.

The problem is things get sticky for me somewhere in the middle. As in, I get too attached to my stories. Once I have finished a story, I’m usually compelled to tinker with it, picking the pieces apart, and putting them back together again. It’s the “mad scientist” part of being an author which is so much fun. You have all the parts you need for a wonderful story but they’re in the wrong order, and your job is to put all the words in exactly the right sequence to create the perfect sense of tone and place. It’s like trying to solve a jigsaw of words. Once you’ve got one on the go, it’s hard to stay away. Just one more piece, one more look, one more read, one more tweak, and the picture will form before your eyes.

I loved it when Neil Gaiman said his primary directive with his fiction was, “How do I not make it dull?” This is a pithy sentence and a damn good way of describing writing fiction. It’s what every writer strives to do, but hey, if you don’t get it right in the rough draft, then the edits are where you hammer and bang that sucker into shape. In fact, some people think the editing is the best part.

Although I’d heard the wisdom of shelving work, whenever I finished a story in the past, as I said, I could never let the prose rest. I love editing! The temptation is usually too strong to resist diving in immediately and then editing endlessly until the story feels good enough. Once happy, I’d move onto the next project. At the start of last year, there was an enforced break from the work just by happenstance. When I went back to editing The Chronicles, it was with such new eyes on the material that I realized an enforced break is actually essential, and would probably save time and money in the long run.

With this in mind, I am doing things differently this time. I plan on shelving my work-in-progress for a minimum six months’ rest and putting that lesson learned into practice. I am underway writing a new children’s series of shorter books and recently completed the genesis draft of book one (of seven). Rather than going back to chapter one to edit, I moved straight on to writing the second book. The plan is to write the entire series this way, by which stage it will be more like twelve months from now when I finish the roughs for all seven books, and then I can start the editing from the beginning by reading book one.

Seeing the first story afresh will hopefully make the editing easier and swifter. So far, it feels very freeing, which has got to be a good thing, right? This works really well from the point of view of writing a series. If you write the entire set first, then when you go back to edit book one, you will have a tighter grasp on the story arc and will edit each story keeping that greater story-line and theme in mind.

With writing I think you’re constantly seeking what works best for you and if you’re smart, you’re always looking for ways to improve. I have learned through experience that shelving the story draft for six months before reading and redrafting is ideal. This time round, I don’t want to even look at the first story again until I’m done with the last one. That’s the current goal. Wish me luck!

What about you, what do you do?

Keep Writing!

Yvette Carol

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The more I practice, the less I suck. ~ Joe Walsh

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Eight months ago, I published my debut series, The Chronicles of Aden Weaver. Since then I’ve been lying low, recuperating, resting, relocating my will to live. Once restored to my former glory, I assured myself I would be free to start a new story. Fresh fields, new pastures, unexplored horizons beckoned. So exciting. The possibilities endless. Who knew what I would write next? Let’s go!

Writing Woes (for the “pantser”) #1: The Blank Page.

I recall vividly the first morning I sat at my desk, lifted the pen and stared at the blank page. It wasn’t thrilling; it was mortifying. I sweated bullets for a full ten minutes, staring at the page until the lines blurred. There were no words spilling out, no inspiration flowing forth like a fountain. It was sheer torture squeezing one or two words on the page.

I thought, you’re not a writer, you’re an imposter. Had I lost the ability to write? I have always believed myself a storyteller, a writer, ever since I was a little girl. Without my stories, who am I? Writer’s block sucks.

Writing Woes #2: The Free Fall.

Lucky for me I remembered the writing course I had taken with Tiffany Lawson, in 2012, “Method to Madness.”* Tiffany had taught us the benefit of starting each creative writing session with a deep relaxation technique, designed along similar lines as the ones used by method actors to get into character. From then on, I began every writing session with relaxation exercises. I eked out a few more words. What a relief to be writing again, but even that was scary.

Once I was underway, writing a few pages every day, I reached another treacherous stage of writing new copy—the sickening feeling of free-fall when you are literally writing into the void. Of this nerve-rattling process, the greats have said many astute things, including Ray Bradbury, who advised to writers to ‘jump,’ saying their wings would unfold as they fell. Gulp! Easier said than done.

Writing Woes #3: The Trust Game.

Marilynne Robinson is a pantser like I am (we write “by the seats of our pants”), and she once described her method as ‘sitting down with a blank page and a pen, discovering her way to that page’s end.’ In the same way, I try to figure out the characters as much as possible beforehand, then treat writing as an expedition to parts unknown. But just as with any exploration, the process requires extraordinary faith.

For this sort of writing, trust is paramount and courage required by the bucket load. A pantser can pour months even years into a story on the barest whiff of hope that in the end all the disparate parts of the story will come together and eventually make sense.

Writing Woes #4: The Restraint Game

When any author starts a new book, everyone wants to know more. Friends and family pester for the details. Everyone surrounding the author seeks reassurance the creative madcap in their midst is actually working on a story and not doing what Jack Nicholson’s character did in The Shining. I’m constantly prodded for details by well-meaning loved ones. But what the bystanders don’t realize is that it’s dangerous to talk about a new story in the fledgling stages.

I have learned it is unwise to broadcast material while it is still green. Questions get asked, things get said that can’t be unsaid. Gossip has a scattering effect, like picking apart the very fabric of the imagination. As an author who started out talking too much about her books, only to have the energy for them dissipate, I have learned the hard way that silence is golden. So far I have side-stepped and avoided hard-line questioning from everyone, including my best friends and publicist about the new story. I’ll reveal no details until the rough draft is in the bag.

If in doubt, just remember this one rule, never, never, never talk about your story before you’ve finished writing it. Loose lips sink ships!

Duly refreshed as to the terrors involved in writing fiction, I have had to remind myself again, why do I do this job? There are far easier ways of making a living… easy, cushy, boring ways of making a living.

Nah! Give me the terrifying roller coaster of the creative life any day.

Call me crazy, but I still love writing fiction.

How about you? Do you love what you do?

Keep Creating!

Yvette Carol

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“Nothing in the whole world felt as good as being able to make something from a sudden idea.”―Beverly Cleary.

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*This course is no longer available, but check out the other courses on offer at https://www.margielawson.com/lawson-writers-academy/

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It’s time for another group posting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group! Time to release our fears to the world or offer encouragement to those who are feeling neurotic. If you’d like to join us, click on the tab above and sign up. We post the first Wednesday of every month. Every month, the organisers announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG Day post. Remember, the question is optional!!! Let’s rock the neurotic writing world! Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG and hashtag is #IWSG.

April 7th’s question, if you’d like to answer it, is: Are you a risk-taker when writing? Do you try something radically different in style/POV/etc. or add controversial topics to your work?

No, I’m averse to risk. Although I write middle grade fantasy, which is different and “other,” I still find it hard to stray outside of accepted styles. Maybe it’s because I still feel like a beginner, a novice at all this. Imposter Syndrome, anyone? Someone said once that the truly popular authors are the ones who have the most guts. I believe this to be true.

Take a great like Lemony Snicket, for instance. Snicket writes crazy books no sweaty beginner could ever hope to get away with, but he’s so bold and brassy, he gets away with it. Not only that, he’s a bestselling author getting sales other authors could only dream of. Balls of steel, that’s what an author needs to succeed in this business.

Look at David Walliams. I know, I know; he got a foot in the door of a publishing house because of his fame as a comedian, but his many books have gained him a whole new fan base following with good reason. My son and I just finished reading Walliams’ latest release, Codename Bananas, which my son received for Christmas. This guy’s fiction is so out there, it’s almost verging on mythology, but when the impossible things happen, it’s penned with such panache and aplomb you’re ready to forgive him anything, as long as he keeps telling the story. I’m reading a book by the fabled Carlos Fuentes at the moment (Constancia and other stories for Virgins), and this book is so off the wall, so bizarre, that it turns into art. That’s what these brave writers do by being innovators.

When I read books by authors such as these, I realize that an excellent storyteller will keep the audience coming back for more. The best storytellers don’t care about tradition, or the accepted mores, they kick sand in the face of the rules. They write stories from a more pure place, that of gut instinct. They write whatever they want to write. End of. That’s the sort of writing bravado I long for because I imagine that is the greatest freedom like being a kid again.

In October of last year I released a trilogy, The Chronicles of Aden Weaver, a set of books I’d been working on for fifteen years. Since I finished the series, I’ve struggled to relinquish the world I’d created and the characters I loved. It took a long time to let go. Then I tried to start a new book. I’ve been doing some free writing exercises each weekend, trying to loosen up the writing muscles, but I have felt stymied, stifled, stuck. The needle simply hasn’t moved.

It felt like a turning point when I came across a rather triumphant, sassy little blog post this week called Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney on First Drafts and Battling Writer’s Block. I really needed to hear her sage advice, “write the first draft for yourself.” Because I think that’s where I’ve been going wrong the last few months. When I wrote The Chronicles of Aden Weaver, I was an unpublished writer, I wrote fiction as an escape route for a harassed mother of two boys under the age of five. This time round I’m a published author and I’m thinking of genre, age group, who might read it and what they might be interested in reading–a total buzz killer. When I read “write the first draft for yourself” I thought that’s what I need to do! The goal is to write all the drafts for myself, to have the courage to totally and utterly back myself and my own creative choices, whether they fly in the face of the rules or not, just like the greats do. Yeeha!

Do you try new things?

Keep Creating!

Yvette Carol

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The process of writing—for me and for almost every writer I know—is some combination of fast, slow and excruciating. ~ Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney

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