Archive for the ‘creativity’ Category

I have finished reading my thirteenth novel for 2022, Ronia, The Robber’s Daughter, by Astrid Lindgren. I bought this novel because I had read Pippi Longstocking as a child, and I remember being utterly thrilled by the feisty wild protagonist. I’ll admit I was unaware the author had written other books. Bursting with curiosity, I raced home from the bookstore and started reading it straight away.

My first take on it would be that despite being published in 1985, Ronia, The Robber’s Daughter, has a timeless quality to the writing that makes it seem to come from another age. I guess this reflects the author, Astrid Lindgren, having been born in 1907 and quite literally belonging to another age. The story starts with a flourish and continues the same way. On the night that Ronia was born a thunderstorm was raging over the mountains, such a storm that all the goblinfolk in Matt’s Forest crept back in terror to their holes and hiding places.
The story is set in the past. There is no technology. The robbers milk their goats, churn their butter, and hunt for their meat. Ronia is born the only child of Matt, the robber chieftain who lives in his castle in the mountains with his band of twelve robbers and Lovis, his partner. The thieves rob the forest travellers for their goods and live a life of freedom. Ronia, the black-haired daughter, grows up to know every part of the forest so well she can find her way through it in the dark. Like Pippi, she is a free spirit who learns to dance and yell with the robbers.

Life goes on unchanged until the day Ronia meets Birk, the only son of Borka, the rival robber chieftain who lives in Borka’s Wood. Although the kids are initially wary, they also are immediately drawn to one another as children on their own are likely to do. The pair slowly fall in love, which I found a little odd considering their age. Nevertheless, fall in love they do, in utter secrecy as their fathers are arch-enemies. When Matt and Borka, the two rival chieftains, have a major clash, Ronia and Birk reveal their bond and run away into the forest to live by themselves, causing great distress to both families.
The story follows the harsh realities of life in a cave for the two youngsters, in which they grapple with growing up fast. They manage to survive through spring and summer, and finally, much to the reader’s relief, the pair are finally reunited with their families and allowed to return home before winter.

It’s a highly original tale. I had never read anything like it before and perhaps never will again. Ronia, as our protagonist, is described by her mother, Lovis, as “a storm-night child” and “a witch-night child, too.” The dialogue and the phrasing, everything about this tale is evocative of a bygone age. Ronia gasped with rage. Borka’s Keep! That was enough to choke you! What rogues they were, those Borka robbers! And that rascal grinning over there was one of them!
Perhaps the fact it is so unusual and different is why I found it so fascinating. I couldn’t stop reading because I couldn’t imagine what would happen next. And the funny thing is that nothing much does happen. Even so, the story is well told in a quaint fashion that could turn it into a classic. It was certainly enough to inspire Studio Ghibli’s series, Ronja the Robber’s Daughter!

Astrid Anna Emilia Lindgren, née Ericsson, was born in Sweden. She was a highly successful children’s book author and screenwriter whose novels have been translated into nearly eighty languages, from Arabic to Zulu. Lindgren has sold close to 165 million copies worldwide. She earned the Hans Christian Andersen Award for Writing in 1958. Though she published many titles in her lifetime, it is Pippi Longstocking that is her main legacy as Pippi became an international phenomenon. Lindgren is particularly beloved in her native Sweden, where she appears on the 20-kronor note.
Ronia, The Robber’s Daughter, won the Mildred L. Batchelder Award. While it is not in the same league as Pippi Longstocking in my humble opinion, it was an entertaining read.
My rating: Three stars

Talk to you later.
Keep reading!
Yvette Carol
*


Full of high adventure, hairbreadth escapes, droll earthy humor, and passionate, emotional energy. ~ Horn Book


*

Subscribe to my newsletter by emailing me with “Newsletter Subscription” in the subject line


Lately, I have shared some of the information from the Step by Step writer’s workshop, run by bestselling author Graeme Simsion, at our local writer’s festival. Graeme based his writing advice on his latest book, The Novel Project: A Step-by-Step Guide to Your Novel, Memoir, or Biography.
He said there were two parts to The Novel Project; the preparation and the process.

Under ” preparation” there were four parts:
Overview of the approach – which was a precis of the workshop.
Being a writer – Focus on being the best writer you can be. Don’t waste your time on social media.
Creativity – Figure out what works for you. When do you get your best ideas? Start looking for patterns. No matter how hard you work, most ideas will not come immediately. They need incubation.
Structure – Be knowledgeable about story structure. Learn the language. A three-act structure consists of setup, conflict, and resolution.

Under ” process” there were nine parts:
Concept: “What is your book about? You must be able to define it in a sentence or phrase (an elevator pitch). Keep a list of good ideas. One good idea on its own will have been done before, but two ideas mashed up against one another will be original.”
Synopsis – plot: “Beats are the things that happen in a story. I want to be able to tell the story from beginning to end in a few key beats.”
Synopsis – characters (players and decisions): Graeme gave us the inside scoop, “the Graeme Simsion method,” for getting to know our characters. He focuses on the motivations for their most important decisions. “I ask my characters three questions. What would you tell your best friend if you were asked about this decision? What would you tell your parents? and What would you tell your therapist? and follow this up by asking the therapist, What would you tell us about the character? Then this forms the framework for the entire story.”

Brainstorming the story: “Write every idea down. Write scenes in random order. I want lots of material to play with.” See the ‘bucket of scenes’ method in my first post on this subject, Step by Step.
Organizing the story: “Put the cards (from your bucket of scenes) in order. Usually, the setup is too long, the resolution too short, and there will be a lack of acceleration in the middle. A convention of story is to have acceleration throughout the body of the book.”
Reviewing the outline: “Once you have the cards in order, type them onto your computer. As you work on the scene breakdowns add everything you can think of. Flesh them out.”
First draft (manuscript): Graeme’s target is to write 1000 words a day. “Don’t get it right; get it done. I look at the beats and say to myself to trust the process.”

Rewriting (or editing): How many passes to get a better manuscript? Graeme said when he started writing fiction, it took him at least 70 passes, but these days it’s more like a dozen. His advice was that we wouldn’t improve our stories on the first passes, that it wouldn’t be 100%, but on each pass, we would make them better. And we should expect the process to take time. “At some stage, if you can leave the manuscript a few weeks, leave it then come back to it.”
Working with your editor(s): About this, Graeme said something quite beautiful, that “we need to be reflective practitioners.” We need to be willing to be flexible and change our darlings, but only to a certain extent. He told us to remember something Neil Gaiman had said once, “When the editors say something is wrong, they’re always right. When they say something is definitely wrong, they’re probably wrong. And when they tell you how to fix it, they’re always wrong.” That made us laugh.
Thanks, Graeme! And that wraps up his intensive workshop.

Talk to you later.
Keep creating!
Yvette Carol

*

“A story must have a beginning, middle, and end, but not necessarily in that order.” ~ Graeme Simsion


*

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

Recently, I shared some of the insights gained from the Step by Step writer’s workshop, run by bestselling author Graeme Simsion, at our local writer’s festival. Graeme based his novel writing advice on his latest book, The Novel Project: A Step-by-Step Guide to Your Novel, Memoir, or Biography. He started the workshop by saying, “What I want you to have is what I have. When I get up in the morning, I know what I’m going to do, and I make serious progress on my novel by the end of each day.”
Then he gave us the seven principles from The Novel Project.

0: Be aware of the process: or how you work best: “I always write in the same place at the same time. I start by reading what I wrote the day before.”
1: Writing is a craft that can be learned: “Every trade can be learned. Improvement is a career-long process.”
2: Concentrate on one thing at a time: “To write at a professional level takes work. Don’t try to focus on everything at once. The best way to tackle a difficult task is to break it down into steps.”
3: Make your work explicit (and learn the language of structure): “At every stage, write it down. Whether it’s a line of dialogue or a character trait, keep notes.”
4: Manage your creativity (and give your unconscious a chance): “Set the time aside for creativity for your story. We can do tons of things to enhance our creativity. Your job is to figure out what works best for you. Notice when you get your best ideas and try to reproduce those. Think about improving the quality of your creative time.”

5: The process is mostly top-down, but not rigidly so: “Start with the idea and keep adding to it. Flesh it out. File every brainwave. The process is not a straightjacket; it’s a support. It’s not about rigidity but safety nets.”
6: Decisions are crucial to stories: “What makes a plot sing is plot twists and character development. When these two things come together, things happen. Character decisions are what makes a story interesting. A story outlined and conjure six or more character decisions, and you have gone a long way.”
7: Think in scenes: “It’s all about shape and structure. We are told ‘show don’t tell.’ A lot of writers don’t understand it. Try thinking in scenes. If you can imagine it on a movie screen, you are showing and not telling. You can stitch the reflections and the summaries in later.”

Great stuff, huh? The seven principles laid the groundwork. Then, Graeme shared the preparation and the process of novel writing, which I will detail in the next step-by-step post.
Even for pantsers like me, using a planned approach like this one espoused by Graeme Simsion will pay dividends. Graeme said, “If you write intuitively, you can still use structure. It pays to learn the language. Once I have my structure I have a safety net. Then imagination can take you somewhere stronger. Creativity loves a challenge, and constraints inspire creativity.”
Today, I’ll finish by sharing what Graeme told us about social media for authors. I’ve always struggled to manage all the social media requirements as an author. At one stage, I had seven different social media accounts. When I hired a publicist in 2020 to release The Chronicles of Aden Weaver, she told me to limit my accounts to two and focus on my writing. I quit every site except for this blog, and my Facebook page. It was one of the best decisions I ever made.

I found it fascinating that Graeme concurred with this attitude about social media for authors. He said, “Don’t waste your time.” And he demonstrated with a great example about the time Bill Gates mentioned his book, The Rosie Project, on Twitter. Graeme watched the stats that day, and he received virtually nil extra sales after the top-level shout-out. However, when Bill Gates mentioned his book during a television show, Graeme’s sales spiked through the roof. Likewise, when Graeme himself was interviewed on TV, his book sales rocketed. He said, “It’s a waste of time promoting your books on Twitter and Facebook and so on. Social media doesn’t sell books.” What a revelation, considering it’s currently touted by most folks in marketing as the snake oil you need to use most while promoting your book. It pays to listen to those in the know.

Thanks for the top tips, Graeme!

Talk to you later.
Keep creating!
Yvette Carol

*

“It’s a process of constantly enhancing creativity. You can break the rules and then come back again.” ~ Graeme Simsion


*

Subscribe to my newsletter by emailing me with the words 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 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.

This month’s question:
What genre would be the worst one for you to tackle and why?

There are a few genres I would be too scared to tackle, and some I know I should never attempt. I wanted to write romantic novels at one point when I was a lot younger, and I made it to the halfway point with a contemporary romance set in the South Island of New Zealand when I ran out of steam. It felt like a case of mentally choosing a direction, but my heart wasn’t in it, so I couldn’t sustain the energy levels needed to finish the project. As Gina Cole said at the launch of her book Na Viro last Friday night at the New Zealand Society of Authors meeting, “Writing a book is tough.” Short, sweet, and to the point! All the fates have to be aligned, and your energy has to come from the inexhaustible fuel supplied by conviction. You can’t fake story writing. It needs to come from a deep source within or the well runs dry pretty quick.

I wouldn’t dare write literary fiction because I neither read the genre nor enjoy it. Throughout the recent writers’ festival, I sat in on several live interviews or “conversations,” and two of them were with authors of highly-praised literary novels. Those were the only events where I felt out of place. Truth is, I’m not as intelligent as I look. The thought that went through my head multiple times while watching those interviews was, “I think this conversation is above my pay grade.” A lot of the points they made did not compute.
Likewise, horror and all variations thereof leave me cold. It’s another personal no-go zone. I don’t have the stomach for horror. The only horror story I’ve read – apart from critiquing my friend, Maria Cisneros-Toth’s book, Spooky Tales – was Ghost Story by Stephen King (Peter Straub). The latter’s novel freaked me out big time, and I couldn’t stop thinking about Ghost Story afterward. I didn’t like feeling afraid in my own time because of a book, and it put me off reading horror altogether. The only horror movie I’ve ever seen was Dawn of the Dead when I was a teenager. I lasted five minutes watching that movie, and then I stood up and walked out of the cinema. It’s the only time I’ve ever done so. And I’ve not seen a single horror film since. The genre is not my bag. I don’t want nasty images replaying in my mind long after a movie is finished. And the same goes for the darker sorts of fiction. I don’t want to read threatening material or have it cloud the bright sky of my imagination. It feels like I need to protect my good spirits and keep my environment positive. My friend would call it ‘keeping my armour polished.’

Another genre I avoid is picture books. There was an extended period in my twenties when I wrote picture books for the 0 – 5-year-old range. I spent at least a decade developing the stories and illustrating them. Looking back on this time, I learned a lot about writing through labouring under the constraints of the form. The economy of language and tightness of composition is essential, along with an ear for the rhythm of the spoken word. However, I prefer using lots of words, and I felt confined by the genre and miserable. Eventually, the limits of the form began to feel like a straightjacket, and I felt driven to escape.

Alternatively, my first ever experiment writing middle fiction was like lighting a flame. With more generous word limits, I could have fun with words and spend more time getting to know my characters. I could explore the plot, the story arc, and so on. The natural fit for me was to write fantasy because that is the genre I read as a child and still like to read now. When I think back, it wasn’t a matter of consciously choosing what I would write at that point. I picked up the pen and that’s what came out. Fantasy middle fiction fit like a glove, and I’ve been playing happily in my sandbox ever since.
What about you? What genre do you avoid? Which do you embrace?

Keep Writing!
Yvette Carol
*


Let it be easy. ~ Anon

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

Last weekend, I went to our local annual writer’s festival. It was fantastic. I learned a lot and thought I’d share some of the content over the next few weeks. My first event was the Step by Step writer’s workshop, run by bestselling author, Graeme Simsion. It was an intensive hour and a half of Graeme ‘drilling us’ as he put it with information. I wrote copious notes in my big old notebook. In this ancient tome, I have kept notes I’ve taken during writing workshops, courses, and lectures dating back thirty years. My friend from the Fabulatores (we’ve decided on the name now!) may have been surprised at how much I was writing. But, I have learned from experience you can never keep enough notes. My memory is faulty, and if I don’t record the tips, I’ll have forgotten half of the content by morning.

Graeme based the workshop on his method of working, detailed in his recently published The Novel Project: A Step-by-Step Guide to Your Novel, Memoir, or Biography. Billed as a simple guide to the writing process, he led us from premise to proofreading. A fast speaker, Graeme crammed a lot into an hour and a half. I had to write like the wind trying to keep up with him. He gave us an overview and then detailed his process of how to write a book in a series of concrete steps, as well as giving tips on how to develop character and what drives a good story.

At first, I thought I had made a mistake being there when Graeme made it clear that the class was for planners, whereas I am a pantser. In other words, I don’t plan anything. I set up the right conditions for my writing schedule and then write whatever comes into my little head. Graeme made it clear from the outset of his lecture that this was a formal planning approach. I hadn’t realized that key detail when I decided to take the workshop. Yet, I liked when he said that even if we were pantsers, perhaps one day in the future we might decide our approach wasn’t working anymore, then knowing how to plan a novel would be a great backup. “Think of it as a safety net.” That sounded sensible, so I stayed, and it turned out I took copious notes and learned an astonishing amount.

Graeme said he starts from the top with his stories; he likes to start with the concept at the outset, nailing down his soundbite or elevator pitch. As a teacher, he said he had met countless writers who could not tell him in a statement their story concept, which is a big mistake. Once he sorts out his story concept, Graeme works on a synopsis for the whole story, detailing the plot, the characters, and their decisions. He said a book should have an inciting incident to kick things off, a few key events hopefully linked to the characters’ decisions, a couple of things to twist the plot around then a resolution.

Graeme had other excellent tips too. I could see myself using his idea for a “bucket of scenes.” When brainstorming the content for our stories, Graeme advocated having an actual bucket and using index cards to jot down a couple of ideas each day using the cards. We can then toss the cards into the bucket, aiming for 180 per book, though we might only use 120. Usually, when I’m roughing out a new book, I catch notes on serviettes and the backs of envelopes, grabbing whatever is to hand. I liked the idea of using index cards and getting more organized in my approach. Gee, thanks, Graeme. You see how I’m changing already.

I love Graeme Simsion’s bio. He was born in New Zealand, became an IT consultant and the author of two nonfiction books on database design, and then decided at the age of fifty to turn his hand to fiction and virtually became an overnight success. His first novel, The Rosie Project, published in 2013, has been sold in forty languages and the movie rights have been optioned to Sony Pictures. The two sequels altogether sold more than five million copies.

There was such a wealth of information in this one workshop that I can’t fit it all into one post. I will write follow-up posts, More Step by Step, and Even More Step by Step at later dates.

What a fabulous evening. I might be a pantser writer, however, it never hurts to learn new tricks. There is power in information. What do you think?

Talk to you later.
Keep creating!
Yvette Carol

“If I get writer’s block I lower my standards.” ~ Graeme Simsion


*

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

I have finished the first story in the next children’s series I’m writing and have done some preliminary editing. I’m feeling tentatively happy with the story as it stands, therefore it is time to share my story with other people to get feedback. This is the point I traditionally reach with every book, where I need to field it out to beta readers via a writing group. I want to know if the story is working. Where is it weak? And, the dreaded question, do you want to read more?
It’s easy to rag on yourself when you’re self-employed in a creative industry like writing fiction. I jump to compare myself to other more professional author friends, who pen their masterpieces and then move straight onto professional editing services. These authors are so secure in their prowess, that they go from writing to publication, without any need for a middle man to grease the tracks. I, on the other hand, acknowledge that I need feedback – a focus group! – first. The grumpy voices in my brain say, Why do you need a writing group? Let me pick this apart.

What are critique groups? Critique groups are friends willing to give critique in return for feedback on their work.
Why use a critique group? In 2004 I joined the newly-formed children’s writing collective, KiwiWrite4Kids. I remember asking one of the founders, Maria Gill if she had any tips. She said the best advice she could give me was to join a critique group. It sounded like good advice, although I will admit it took me years to act on it.
Lucky for me, I finally joined a critique circle in the 90s, because looking back, it was a turning point in my writing life. Which is not to say it’s easy. Criticism is hard to take. It was a jolt at first, having several other writers pick my story apart in a face-to-face situation. I didn’t imagine I’d stick around for long. But, the fact is that critique groups are on the fast track to growth. It didn’t take me long to figure out I was learning in leaps and bounds. How could I walk away?

The critique group process pushed me out of my comfort zones and made me aware of the reader. It made me accountable and focus far more on the writing.
The dynamic of critiquing other people’s work and then receiving feedback on mine changed my stories profoundly. I came to value the process highly and could see why Maria Gill had made the recommendation.
After a year of traveling to the city once a month to attend the in-person meetings, I left the in-person group and joined forces with a number of American authors to swap critiques online. And I have been a member of many online groups since then: The Magnificent Five, The Gang of Four, The Two Amigos, and The Inconsolable Pen.
This week I met up with my aspiring writer friend, Jane Doe. Remember her? She had always wanted to write books. Turns out, I have more than one friend who feels that way. When two more of my friends from Toastmasters learned Jane Doe and I were preparing to swap critique, our writing group swiftly gained two new members.

Exactly three days ago, we kicked off the new critique group over tea and coffee at a little old-fashioned cottage cafe. There were three of us present. Our fourth member is currently overseas. The three of us figured out the ground rules and collaborated on how to run our critiques. Every three weeks we will get together – yes, in person, – isn’t it wonderful to be able to do such normal things? We will each print out four copies of our chapters, then read them aloud while everyone else reads the printouts, and receive critique verbal and written. Yay! It is exciting to be at this point with my story. I can’t wait to see it flower into fullness.
The name for our writing group is still on the table. We are considering the merits of Inkplotters, Inky Fingers, or Fabulatores (Latin for storytellers). What do you think? Do you like any of them or have a better suggestion?

Talk to you later.
Keep creating!
Yvette Carol

‘Everyone knows writers are only a limerick away from complete insanity.’ ~ Lisa Scott.

*

Subscribe to my newsletter by emailing me with the words 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 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.

August 3 question – When you set out to write a story, do you try to be more original or do you try to give readers what they want?
Whew! Talk about a challenging issue for authors, especially unpublished writers. When you’re starting out and unsure of yourself, you wonder do I follow my ideas or try to write for the bestselling genres? If an author wants a long career, can they afford to ignore the demands of the market? That is the million-dollar question.
When I started writing picture books in the 80s, agents and publishers said you couldn’t write about cats or dogs because they were overdone. Although that didn’t stop everyone else from writing about them. When I started writing children’s chapter books in the 90s, they warned against writing about witches or wizards for the same reason. Since then the Harry Potter phenomenon happened, so, yeah, thanks, guys. Several years ago, everyone was writing about vampires, then it moved on, and everyone wrote about zombies. I didn’t bother. Suffice to say, I stopped worrying about what the market wanted long ago.

I guess I’m fortunate. Being a hobby writer, sales are not my main focus.
I don’t strive for originality, either. Over the years, I’ve learned that the prose has to come through me in whatever state it arrives. Then I enjoy tinkering with the muse’s gift. After all, isn’t most of an author’s time spent on editing rather than the original free writing? It’s up to us how much we change the form.
At the editing stage, I appreciate the input of critique groups. I feel they give insight into how readers might think or feel. My sister always urges me to leave my stories untouched. Her point is that too many cooks can spoil the broth. I get it. However, I value the opinions of my critique group, feeling that at some stage, an author does need to consider their audience, even if they self-publish and their audience is few.

The danger is when you overdo the critique and meddle to the point that the essence of your creative intelligence gets diluted. Was it Terry Pratchett who said if you question the muse too much, you might stuff the whole thing up? I’m paraphrasing. But it was something like that.
Creativity is a divine splash of energy in our brains. My dear elderly friend, Meg, used to call it ‘the inspired whatevers.’ The writer’s task is to watch for when the muse might strike and endeavour to catch ‘the inspired whatevers’ straight off the ether. I remember one writing teacher telling us that we had to ‘grab the first word given, and from there, the rest would come.’ That has been true for me with my fiction. Sometimes, I have failed to catch the first word, which resulted in floundering, unable to get started. But, if I catch that first word, then we are away. The rest of the story tumbles out of the cosmos, ready and willing. That magical feeling occurs when art can happen, that tingling when you capture the spark. We authors act as the conduit for the sublime. As do all artists.

During the editing stage, we turn into alchemists. We try to bash and hammer the divine spark forcing it into a round hole. We take inspiration from the ether and try to make it fit within the standards of storytelling. I remain uncertain about how to get the balance right. How much do you add, and how much do you lose? It’s a constant balancing act.
How about you? Do you strive for originality with your writing? Or do you try to conform to current literary expectations? What do you think?

Keep Writing!
Yvette Carol
*

I’m never truly happy with everything I ever put out. There’s always something I can improve on. Phrase a sentence better. Make the message pop. Not be such a dullard. But facing that doubt is part and parcel of the writing life. ~ Stuart Danker

*

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

This week I got together with a friend who wanted to discuss the story she’s been working on. Let’s call her Jane Doe. Jane has realized that she primarily wants to write books. As long as I’ve known Jane, she’s always mentioned her stories. She has finished the first draft of her debut novel. The problem she is up against now is she works full-time to pay the bills. Yet writing takes lots of time also. Jane works when she wants to be writing. Then, when she writes, the time disappears in a flash, and she has to go back to her job again.
Every author deals with this. Jane Doe is not the first. Over the years, dozens of people have told me, “I’ve always wanted to write a book.” And, these days, anyone can with easy access to numerous self-publishing avenues these days, from Amazon to Wattpad, to B&N Press, and aggregators, such as Draft2Digital and Smashwords for distribution. In the last five years, more books have been self-published than have been printed since the invention of the printing press by Johannes Gutenberg in 1450. The market is simply glutted with fiction.

Ease of publication aside, writing is a brutal business. The reality (though I did not tell Jane these facts) is that only 5% of authors ever hit the big time and make enough money to retire from their day job. 95% of authors will sell no more than 100 copies of each book. There were a lot of bitter realities I did not tell Jane about. See the bite marks all over my tongue.
The only people who write books are starry-eyed newbies (who will never write more than one or two novels at most) or those poor souls who can’t NOT write and are therefore doomed to continue stabbing away at the keyboards all their live long days, whether they ever sell anything or not. Jane Doe is one of the latter. As am I. For us, “the time goes by in a flash” whenever we are writing. I remember, many years ago, telling my landlord about the time issue, and he said, “Yes, it’s like that when I’m painting. Time disappears into a black hole. You look up and realize hours have gone by.” I have repeated the black hole saying a lot over the years because when things strike you as ultimately true they bear repeating.

My friend Jane Doe and I are the same. We have no choice but to write, no matter what the outcome. We write when we’re happy, we write when we’re sad. We write when we have free time. We write when we’re busy. We write during the week, on the weekends, at night, and on holiday. We’re not chasing the Booker Prize, hoping to gain fans or fame, or to win a publishing deal (although all those things would be nice), we’re writing because it comes as naturally as breathing or thinking or talking.
For me, writing fiction started as a bid to escape from the mundanity of bottles and diapers as a seventeen-year-old stay-at-home-mum. It worked. There was no need for any other therapy. Having that creative outlet and being in the zone gave me positivity in an otherwise tricky situation. When you find the things you can do in this life that makes time disappear into a black hole, all is well with the world. In unstable times we need more sources of positive energy, these resources anchor us. They give us strength.

So I encourage Jane with all my might. I have offered to read her story to give some overall critique, and she will do the same for me. The first volume in my next series, currently written in the rough, needs a ton of work. So we embark on a journey together.
I have always been a writer. It’s a joy, a beloved part of me. Some of us write because we want to author a book one day. Some of us write because we have to. Hopefully, the end result is the same, and there is more beautiful, inspiring, revealing, humanizing prose in the world for people to imbibe. Because in times of stress, we turn to the arts.
What about you? What is the thing you most love to do?

Talk to you later.
Keep creating!
Yvette Carol
*


“For me, euphoria is simply the act of waking up, making my coffee, and sitting down with a book and being able to read.” Elliot Page

*

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

I have finished reading my ninth novel for 2022, A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L’Engle. Winner of the 1963 Newbery Medal, A Wrinkle in Time was the first book in the Time Quintet series, followed by A Wind in the Door, A Swiftly Tilting Planet, and Many Waters.
Any writer who has a few years behind them will know about not starting a story with the worst opening line ever, ‘It was a dark and stormy night.’ I can remember one writing tutor teaching us how to grab the reader’s attention with the first line. The old chestnut, ‘It was a dark and stormy night,’ was trotted out as the perfect example of what NOT to do. In other words, it is so banal as to send a reader running for the next book. No one told Madeleine L’Engle. A Wrinkle in Time starts with that very line. I gasped out loud, I tell you. I was impressed at the same time. So surprised was I by this bold choice of the first line that I read on with avid curiosity to see how this story would play out.

A Wrinkle in Time starts with great promise. The first chapters are thrilling.
We meet the Murry family through the eyes of Meg. I warmed to our protagonist instantly. Who could resist such a deeply flawed, tetchy, troubled character? “I’m full of bad feeling.” Meg is so honest about her resentments, but why is she so angry? She lives in a cozy home amid a rambling garden. Her beautiful scientist mother is understanding and gives “Meglet” space to be herself. Also, sharing the house are her siblings, the twins, Sandy and Dennys, and the youngest member of the family, the enigmatic Charles Wallace. However, there is sadness lurking in the background. We discover their physicist father has been missing for years. It’s the thorn in Meg’s side. In Chapter One, the family meets an odd friend of Charles Wallace who blunders into the house during a fierce storm. The strange little woman Mrs. Whatsit arrives dressed in rubber boots, an overcoat, a pink stole, and scarves of many colours and says unexpected things like “Wild nights are my glory.”

When Meg and Charles Wallace go to look for Mrs. Whatsit and her friends, Mrs. Who and Mrs. Which, they join forces with another boy from their area, Calvin, who insists on going with them. The three old women help the children travel via tesseract or a “wrinkle in time” across the universe. They visit other worlds. Along the way, the women tell them about dark energy which is consuming the universe. The three children are determined to stop the Darkness.
They reach a planet called Camazotz where they find Meg’s father trapped. Camazotz is controlled by an evil brain called “IT” which takes control of Charles Wallace. After a period of being scared of IT and distraught about their inability to free Charles Wallace from his mental enslavement, Calvin and Meg manage to free Mr. Murry. They escape (just) to another planet where Aunt Beast heals Meg. With renewed strength, Meg frees Charles Wallace through the power of her love, and the group makes it back to Earth. However, the children still have not managed to touch the Darkness. They may have made it home, but we know the danger is not over.

My predominant response to this book was one of disappointment. It started with such promise and a banging protagonist in Meg. The three old women were mysterious, while Charles Wallace was some sort of genius and different. But, as soon as they left Earth via the wrinkle, things went downhill. The three old women remained undeveloped. I wanted to know more. The planets visited and subsidiary characters like the Happy Medium were not described enough to satisfy any questions. Meg, who was so feisty at the start, hardly spoke a sensible word throughout their planetary travels. I constantly expected more of her, yet she didn’t step up until the final part. And Charles Wallace, who was so clever, turned into a helpless minion of IT until Meg rescued him. The book won a prestigious award and is the childhood favourite of many. But, upon finishing this book, there is no way this side of a tesseract that I would seek to read any more of the series. My humble apologies to fans and the author. But for me, this book failed to deliver.

Madeleine L’Engle was born in New York City on November 29th, 1918. Her interest from the beginning revolved around writing poems and stories, which reflected in her poor grades. When she was 12, she moved to the French Alps with her parents and went to an English boarding school in Switzerland. Returning to the United States two years later, she graduated from University with honors in English. Before meeting Hugh Franklin, her future husband, Madeleine published her first two books, A Small Rain and Ilsa. Hugh was an actor, and Madeleine became an actress to improve her skills as a playwright. She and Hugh married and had three children together. She died in 2007, aged 88. She had published sixty books in her lifetime and is the most well-known for A Wrinkle in Time.
My rating: Two and a half stars

Talk to you later.
Keep reading!
Yvette Carol
*


From ‘An Interview with Madeleine L’Engle:’ “Which of your characters is most like you?”
“None of them. They’re all wiser than I am.”


*

Subscribe to my newsletter by emailing me with “Newsletter Subscription” in the subject line

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.

June 1 question – When the going gets tough writing the story, how do you keep yourself writing to the end?
The main way I keep myself writing is to turn up and do the writing every day. The daily pages are part of my morning routine when I am working, as non-negotiable as the walk or the yoga. It was the wonderful writer and teacher, Kate de Goldi, who taught us to start the day with ten minutes of non-stop writing. Sit in the same place, at the same time. Write every day. No stopping until the ten minutes are up. That was in 2005, and I have done the same thing every day since. It’s a tried and true method for side-stepping the rational mind and accessing one’s creativity. The routine means that rain or shine, good day or bad, the day always starts with producing fresh copy, which acts as a mental jumpstart. It’s an injection of positivity, a feeling of having started the day right. And just as Jane Yolen said, writers need to exercise the writing muscle daily to stay limber.

Sometimes, however, for whatever reason, at various times in writing a story, things just grind to a halt. It is not necessarily writer’s block, although sometimes it is. Usually, it’s a trough in the rollercoaster of the story development. At those times, I find myself coming up with excuses not to come back to work on the story. And that’s okay. Creative people can run the well dry by thinking they can endlessly pump out copy like workhorses. It’s easy to forget that we need to refill our cups sometimes. We need holidays and retreats and time out and pampering now and again. It’s vital for me to ‘re-wild’ myself and get out of the city to breathe fresh air.

Therefore, one of the ways I keep myself writing is to spend time occasionally not writing and permit myself to take that much-needed rest. It’s vital for the soul and one’s well-being. We need to remember that we are “the talent” and treat ourselves with the appropriate respect.
There have been times with various stories when I felt as if I’d written myself into a corner and couldn’t see the way for the story to move forward. It’s important not to accept this as the last word. It’s never the last word. There is always a way out. The way I move through blockages or obstacles to the story development is to brainstorm. Over the years, I’ve developed my approach to this technique. And I find it works best to walk and talk. I pace the house with a pad and a pen on the counter, ready to catch any ideas that fall out as part of the pacing process.

I start to talk to myself. I tell myself what has happened in the story to the point where we got stuck. Then I talk about what could happen next, discussing every slight notion that comes into my head. The ideas get jotted onto the paper, which helps me keep track of the options. If I keep hashing it out with myself in this way, I have found that I always end up with viable alternatives, and the story will come unstuck.
These are the methods I use to keep the flow going. As with a lot of things, keeping the momentum going is key. The momentum itself can carry you over the hump, ahead to the next part of the story, where you feel stronger.
What methods do you use to keep yourself writing to the end? Anything new to add?

Keep Writing!
Yvette Carol
*

You only fail if you stop writing. ~ Ray Bradbury

*

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