Archive for the ‘Fiction’ Category

I totally missed this month’s group posting with the Insecure Writer’s Support Group! I temporarily was without a phone service for one very frustrating week. No phone, no WordPress password, no blog post. However, I thought the “Question of the Month” for June was particularly interesting so I’m going to post my answer anyway.

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OPTIONAL IWSG Day Question: What’s harder for you to come up with, book titles or character names? 

I find both equally as hard. I would say the only time in the last thirty-five years that a book title came easily was The Sasori Empire. It’s Book Two in The Chronicles of Aden Weaver series I’m currently working on. How did I come up with it? Sasori is Japanese for scorpion. The baddie of the series is a scorpion shapeshifter, and the title for his association needed an epic name. This led me in a very organic way to the Sasori Empire for the bad guys. Straight away, I knew it would make a great book title, too. Still, to this day, it is the favourite of all my story titles.

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The character name which came the most easily was Sun, the child slave who enters the story in Book Two. Her name was just ‘there,’ fully formed straight away. I didn’t have to effort or chase, or change it five times in writing the prose. “Sun” is like a haiku. It’s short and quintessentially her. It’s one of my favourite character names for its simplicity.

To me, naming your pieces is important. It’s part of the ritual, of drawing inspiration out of the ether and giving it form.

And it’s a significant step in writing the true story which wants to be written. If the name of a character or a story does not ring true for me as the reader, I’m turned away. And the same happens for me as the writer. I can’t get to know and understand my characters, and therefore do them justice, without their real names.

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My current series evolved out of picture books I wrote and illustrated twenty years ago. Names which were appropriate for pre-schoolers were not appropriate for upper middle grade readers, so they needed to be changed.

It took me a year to get them right. I changed the side-kick’s name three times and yet, I still wasn’t happy. Then, I heard my sister-in-law say, that she’d always thought if she had a baby girl she’d call her Te Maia. I loved the name immediately. When I paired it with the surname I already had, Te Maia Wilde, a feisty sidekick was born.

I find the protagonist’s name much harder to choose, because there’s so much riding on it. A main character’s name has to hit it out of the ball park. It has to be easy to say and easy to remember. It has to paint a picture in as few words as possible. Can you imagine Star Wars without Luke Skywalker? Or The Hobbit without Bilbo Baggins? Or The Hunger Games without Katniss Everdeen? These are solid names to hang a heart on.

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With my current protagonist, I couldn’t get anything to fit. He needed a strong, stable name with potential hero in it. I tried Franklin, Benjamin, Sage, and many more monikers. Nothing ‘felt’ like the kid I knew so well in my head. He needed depiction through his name, but no matter how I chased, it remained elusive. Like the white stag in the distance, I could glimpse the form but never catch up.

It required patience. Staying the course.

Four years after starting the rewrite, I happened to read a blog about the success of the Harry Potter series. One of the important factors in the success, so the journalist proposed, was the fact that the hero’s name was ‘relatable.’ The name Potter is taken from those who used to make their humble living in days gone by sculpting clay, and people responded to that sense of familiarity, so he surmised.

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I thought about this, and considered the different professions which were common to most societies and times, and the name “Weaver” popped into my head. I had the surname.

The first name came much later, from a project my youngest was involved in at school, and one of the boys listed in his class was called Aden. I paired this with Weaver in my head. And, I finally had my protagonist. We could sail!

These days, I keep notebooks and jot down great words and names so I have plenty on file. It’s still torture though.

How about you?

How do you figure out your names and titles?

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Keep Writing!

Yvette K. Carol

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“If you don’t ask, you don’t get.”~ Stevie Wonder

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

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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. I encourage everyone to visit at least a dozen new blogs and leave a comment. Your words might be the encouragement someone needs.

Every month, the organisers announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG Day post. Remember, the question is optional!!!

InsecureWritersSupportGroup

I’m reminding myself the “IWSG Day Question” is optional. This week I wanted to write about something which has been on my mind lately re my writing. And that is, the transformational power of a good critique group.

It was writer John_Yeoman who said, ‘There are no great writers, only great editors.’ Everyone writes a rough first draft. Our work has to be edited until we’re blind. And then we need a second pair of eyes to look at it, and to look at other people’s stories as well, to refresh the mental palate. I remember when I first joined kiwiwrite4kidz, in 2004. One of the organisers and authors, Maria Gill, said, the best advice she could give me was that I should join a critique group.

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I ran scared from that advice, in truth, for years. I had been tinkering on children’s stories in my spare time. I’d been quietly attending workshops and conferences, stalking the literary scene. I preferred being on the outside looking in. An introvert and a loner, I also didn’t feel ready to share my work. I was scared it wasn’t good enough.

Who was I to say I was a writer, and could bump shoulders with other literati?

It was an intimidating process, at first. It took me a long time to get past the initial stage of paralysis. Years later, I tried an in-person critique group. I was so awkward and self conscious and uncomfortable in those social situations, that I felt it simply wasn’t for me.

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I started the online group ‘Writing for Children’ in 2014, on the awesome Kristen Lamb’s Wanatribe site. I met other writers there, and quite naturally, I began swapping chapters with one of the writers, the wonderful Maria Cisneros-Toth, for critique. It was the first time I had shown the upper middle grade story I’d been working on, The Or’in of Tane Mahuta, to anyone.

It was my first real experience of a ‘critique group’ situation, where you’re submitting your chapters each week and getting feedback to work on, and simultaneously reading another person’s chapters and giving feedback on them. It revolutionised my work.

My book began its transformational journey from seed to plant.

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After that, I joined the group, The Magnificent Five, and The Creative Collective, and last year formed another ‘group of two,’ The Two Amigos.

Through that time, I finished and published the Or’in of Tane Mahuta, and edited and published the second volume, The Sasori Empire.

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This year, I’m working on my third book, The Last Tree, with a group I call ‘The Gang of Four,’ (because I like the band!). Four is an effective working number to my mind, because you get a broad range of feedback and yet, there’s still a manageable work load. With two kids still at home, I have to be careful how I manage my time.

It does take energy and commitment, yet it’s worth every minute because critique stimulates and prospers the work and the authors. You get instant insight as to whether an idea has worked, whether your story is making sense and where more or less is needed.

Critique groups provide a fertile laboratory for testing our creativity.

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Sometimes you’re too close to the story to recognize the issues for yourself. One of the things that never fails to amaze me, is that I can see clearly the things which need changing in someone else’s work far more easily than I can in my own. Why is that?

I don’t know.

This give-and-take process of feedback creates a positive force that generates evolution in the work.

We may not love our stories when we first write them, but it’s how we feel about them at the end that counts. And a good critique circle can facilitate great work.

What about you? Have you found yourself a writing critique group, yet?

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Keep Writing!

Yvette K. Carol

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 “Write with the door closed, rewrite with the door open.” ~ Stephen King

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The All is Lost moment is powerful because it is primal ~ Cory Milles

Loss in the course of life is inevitable, yet we eventually become enriched and deepened by pain. We learn and grow from experiences of difficulty.

As writers, we can employ obstacles, failures and friction in a similar way, to force our characters to evolve.

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In his book, The Prophet, poet, Kahlil Gibran, writes of love, ‘He sifts you to free you from your husks. He grinds you to whiteness. He kneads you until you are pliant.’ This gives an apt metaphor for human life. In our short spans on this planet, we suffer and win and are made anew. ‘That you may know the secrets of your heart, and in that knowledge become a fragment of Life’s heart.’

This is exactly which happens in life and what we seek to get right with writing fiction. It’s why people read, too.

As my teacher Kate de Goldi said, ‘We remember the readings that acted like transformations.’

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Author, PJ Reece wrote, ‘We’re not attracted to stories without conflict simply because we can’t learn anything from them. They are empty of the seeds that might nurture our own growth, in whatever direction that might be. Of course we love to read happy stuff in books too, but only after the hero has travelled his or her difficult path of personal growth and finally reached the reward for their journey.’

This is precisely why we like books with a solid definable problem.

Think Harry Potter vs Lord Voldemort, or Katniss vs the tyranny of the Capitol. We know who we’re cheering for and that there’s the promise of a good fight.

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All stories, since the first tales told around the campfire, capture the same essence, that of our collective struggle through life.

The stories we remember are those about characters who strive and fail. We love those who transcend their lower natures to become something more, because we relate to that battle. The triumph of our tiny hero, Bilbo Baggins, in The Lord of the Rings, when he throws the ring in the fiery pit is universal and the jubilation at the return of the king is the sort of life-affirming, inspiring fodder we will read for generations. They’re the stories about the human condition, our common travail, and they’ll never age.

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In the Warrior Writer’s course I took with tutor, Bob Mayer, he taught us that conflict is the fuel of a story. He also taught that the goals of the protagonist and antagonist must be opposed, although their goals don’t need to be the same thing.

Whether your antagonist is the ocean, a person, or an idea, in order for the core conflict to work, it must bring them against the protagonist in direct dispute. For one to achieve what they want, the other can’t achieve their goal. Therefore they become locked in a dilemma which needs to be resolved.

The questions which this tussle generates keep the readers glued.

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If your story is low key and quiet, then force the protagonist through inner fires. ‘The best stories — and the most lifelike — are ones that follow/force the protagonist through a series of disillusionments.’ Wrote author PJ Reece. ‘I see all protagonists as bumbling their way into the dark, otherwise they never leave their valley, the Valley of the Happy Nice People, and who wants to read about that? No one.’

In other words, if you want your story to be remembered, get the problem nailed down because a sturdy conflict can turn a mediocre story into a bestseller.

With a believable force opposing our hero, the characters are forced to make choices, and we ask which choices they will make and what will be the result. Result: reader engagement.

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Some stories have a background antagonist, who presents no immediate threat, in which case most of the conflict will come from friends, family, team members and “threshold guardians.” Yet, whether there’s a direct or indirect antagonist, each external mini-battle must expose more of the root of the character’s internal conflict.

Each test slowly grinds them to whiteness, teaching them a life lesson or giving them the option to change and grow.

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Within each story there are both internal and external sources of conflict. The internal relates to the character’s inner flaws which need to change. The external refers to the physical forces opposing him creating tension.

In every scene the ideal is to have both an external and internal conflict.

The transformation at the end of the book comes only after the protagonist confronts their limitations and defeats both them and the antagonist. Hopefully, there is a glorious resolution of storyline. There is a positive change in the central character arc, a blooming of the protagonist’s full potential, and a reward, a boon, “the gift of fire” to bring back home for the tribe.

Or as writer, David Farland said, ‘At the end of your novel, there are only three rules: Payoff! Payoff! Payoff!’

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Talk to you later.

Keep Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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‘Life is trouble. When everything goes wrong, what a joy it is to test your soul.’ ~ Nikos Kazantzakis

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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. I encourage everyone to visit at least a dozen new blogs and leave a comment. Your words might be the encouragement someone needs.

Every month, the organisers announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG Day post. Remember, the question is optional!!!

InsecureWritersSupportGroup

OPTIONAL IWSG Day Question: When your writing life is a bit cloudy or filled with rain, what do you do to dig down and keep on writing?

As a matter of fact my life has been cloudy lately and there have been a few deluges as my beloved father died in February, following my mother, who had died two years before. I would say that the process of writing itself really helped me come to terms with things.

I’ve always found it cathartic to write.

I learned to read and write at the age of seven. I enjoyed to write stories. As a teenager, I was still writing stories, and I started to keep a personal journal as a way of releasing my fears and worries and doubts. Writing has been an essential lifeline throughout my life. It helps me make sense of things to see the thoughts take form into words.

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Writing blog posts about the passing of both my parents was therapeutic and helped ease the pain. I was able to share with people through my blog and my newsletter about what had happened.

Going back to my work-in-progress was a bit trickier. At times of great emotion, I tend to put down my book and walk away for a while, sometimes for long periods.

Top Tip: Set a time limit.

I’ve learned that it works when I say to myself, you can grieve, be with family, however you have to be back at work by ‘such-and-such’ date.

Top Tip: Stick to your deadline.

It’s a bit of structure imposed upon the chaos. Once, there’s a set deadline to return to my writing desk, I try to stick to it.

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Top Tip: to get writing again, sit down at my computer, open the document and start.

Every time, before I know it, the magic starts to take over.

Right away, there is engagement with the work.

It’s like feeling you’re exactly where you should be and there’s nothing you’d rather be doing.

Once back in the zone, writing, editing, working on my WIP, I feel my balance return and sense of equilibrium become restored.

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As the poet, Sage Cohen, said so eloquently, ‘for me, writing has always been alchemy: from resistance to acceptance, from pain to beauty.’ Yes.

The world in creation begins to shine. The right words come. But what it takes is showing up.

The really successful authors are those who treat it like a job. They stick their butts in their office chairs and write from nine to five.

In reality, they’ll put in far more hours than a forty hour week. It’s a time intensive profession. The reward always comes in the fiction itself. We do the work. We show up.

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Then, we open ourselves to ‘being alone with the gods’ as Charles Bukowski put it and that’s where the transcendent joy takes over. When we’re lucky, sometimes we catch the lightning and write it down perfectly. Or as Cohen said, ‘transcend the events of our lives, finding a resonance of grace simply by writing something just right.’

Before you know it, skies are blue and the sun is shining again, and you’re scampering around capturing words like butterflies.

For the magic to happen though, the only way is to keep on writing, to put B.I.C butt in chair.

What’s that old saying, the harder I work, the luckier I get? That sure is true for me.

How about you. What keeps you writing?

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Keep Writing!

Yvette K. Carol

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There is no other feeling like that, you will be alone with the gods and the nights will flame with fire. ~ Charles Bukowski

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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. I encourage everyone to visit at least a dozen new blogs and leave a comment. Your words might be the encouragement someone needs.

Every month, the organisers announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG Day post. Remember, the question is optional!!!

InsecureWritersSupportGroup

OPTIONAL IWSG Day Question: How do you celebrate when you achieve a writing goal/ finish a story?

I start by congratulating myself. Towards the end, when you’re in the last home straits before publication, you’re working so hard, you’re burning the candle at both ends and in between. I’ve worked harder publishing my two books than I have done on any other jobs at any other time in my life.

When the editing and the proof reading needs to be done and redone, until you can’t see straight, you begin to wonder in the last weeks, whether publication is possible. Crossing that finish line is a Herculean feat.

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Achieving the miracles of two books in print, I was so proud of myself I treated myself to some well-earned goodies. Chocolate, wine, and cake.

After I’d patted myself on the back heartily a few more times for finishing the book, then I did what all card-carrying introverts must do. I shut down the writing folders, closed the computer and went on hiatus. Left town basically.

After each book I published, I put away my computer for a while and had a complete break from the blue screen and typing and people.

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I’m the sort who needs to retreat, relax and recharge the batteries by being in nature. We have been very fortunate in our family because my parents retired to a beautiful seaside town, where we have been able to escape from city life for a while. I would escape to the coast and my parents and walk barefoot on the beach, go for swims, and hang out with the family or with my kids or on my own.

It’s important to spend time off the grid, I find it grounding to walk on grass barefoot.

I need to do something definitive like that to signal that to myself that I’ve crossed the finish line.

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I’m only realizing how lucky we have been. It’s only now that both my parents are gone; I become keenly aware of our blessings. What is that thing they say? You don’t realize a good thing until it’s gone.

We’ll still go to the old family homestead sometimes, as some members of the family will be running it as an Air b’n’b. My parents’ little log cabin by the sea still has the most breathtaking scenery; however, as my son put it so perfectly, “It just won’t be the same without grandma and grandpa there.”

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So I’m not sure where I shall escape to for my writer’s retreats the rest of the year. I’m sure I’ll figure something out as I go along.

For me, the final stage of celebrating completing a book is to arrange and run a book launch and party and give it the send off it deserves. That’s the icing on the cake. You take a moment to acknowledge formally the effort you’ve put in, to hopefully sell and sign lots of books, and gather email addresses for your mailing list, as the nature of the business for the Indie, is to always be thinking of marketing.

It’s only after I’ve had a decent break, that I finally feel ready to focus on a new project. Then, I can start the next book with a fresh, new energy.

How about you. How do you celebrate?

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Keep Writing!

Yvette K. Carol

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Wealth is the ability to fully experience life. ~ Henry David Thoreau

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Any book that helps a child to form the habit of reading, to make reading one of his deep and continuing needs, is good for him. ~ Maya Angelou

When I was small, our father used to read us a bedtime story every night. My brother and I would lie in our beds after all the bedtime rituals had been done. We’d yell, “Ready!” and dad would come down to sit in our room and read us the next precious pages in whatever book we were reading. He read us the classics, Wind in the Willows, The Water Babies, The Jungle Book, Treasure Island, and Robinson Crusoe. We grew up with a love for stories.

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It is as writer, Sage Cohen said, that we ‘come into this world hard-wired for the repetition of sound, rhythm and pattern in language. Before we can even speak, we delight in recognizing our own experience and learning about those unlike ours through the stories we are told.’ There is a primordial response of satisfaction to hear a good story, and for the writer it is the same joy to write one.

When you start out as a book lover who turns into a children’s writer you are deeply connected to the meaning and purpose of fiction. Michael Morpurgo said, ‘It’s not about testing and reading schemes, but about loving stories and passing on that passion to our children.’ We write because that love still lives and resonates inside us. Writers'_Week_Kate_de_Goldi_Adelaide_Festival_medium

We can still remember the special hushed feeling, like we had entered a cathedral, which we had as a young person every time we opened a book and stepped inside another world. We can still remember some of the tales and how we felt.

As author, Kate de Goldi once said, ‘We still remember readings that acted like transformations’.

I took a couple of writing for children courses with Kate de Goldi. I was struck when she said that she ‘never writes about or for children. I write for the once and always child in myself.’

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I related to that idea and I let rip, writing what the wild little girl inside wanted to say.

The danger for me, as an introvert, is that I can go far into my own world and lose contact with people. It’s easy to become distanced from the reading audience.

Yesterday, I was pried out of my bunker by well-meaning friends and forced to go to a Christmas party. I trooped along with an eye on the clock. Yet, the most extraordinary thing happened. I had the experience of meeting my first “fan.” Blake is the 8-year-old grandson of a friend. He happens to be a voracious reader, bless his soul, who ‘devours books’ as his grandmother put it.

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Blake had read my first book, The Or’in of Tane Mahuta, and had been waiting for the sequel. When I gave him The Sasori Empire, he carried it with both hands, staring all the while at the cover. He walked straight to a chair, sat down and started reading. When I left the party two hours later, Blake was still reading.

I could have wept. This experience was revelatory for me. I saw with my own eyes, a child who loves to read, diving headfirst into my world. A child who was engrossed in my story.

This simple situation took me out of my “shoes” as the author and put me into the shoes of the “reader.” I felt the responsibility to do justice to the world I’ve created, and to honour the needs of the reader, to deliver the best story I can.

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It had the singular effect of realigning me with my writer’s oath. I was reminded that once one has taken the reader on a journey, the responsible author ushers them safely home to a satisfactory conclusion. I recalled the pinkie swear to resolve all the questions and storylines raised.

Seeing that precious beautiful young reader deep into his book, (my book!), reminded me that my pen is a direct conduit to young readers’ hearts and minds. I have a duty to him and to all young readers to do the best I can. These years of reading literature will be some of the best and most exhilarating of their lives. I have to raise my game to be worthy of the challenge.

What a gift. And, just in time for Christmas.

That’s the New Year’s resolution sorted! Have you ever had a situation which made you remember your reader?

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Talk to you later.

Happy Holidays!

Yvette K. Carol

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‘The poet’s, the writer’s, duty is to write about these things. It is his privilege to help man endure by lifting his heart.’ ~ E.B.White

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

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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. I encourage everyone to visit at least a dozen new blogs and leave a comment. Your words might be the encouragement someone needs.

Every month, the organisers announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG Day post. Remember, the question is optional!!!

InsecureWritersSupportGroup.jpg

OPTIONAL IWSG Day Question: As you look back on 2017, with all its successes and failures, if you could backtrack, what would you do differently?

What a great question! This is the perfect time of year for reflection. Yet, I’ve been so busy, I haven’t had time to look back at all or get any perspective. November was a rush from start to finish, and so I’m going to post the December question early  and get a head start. I appreciate the prompt to pause, take a minute and think about it.

Things lately have been great, but the start of the year was rocky and hard going. I went through a self-publisher’s nightmare.

I went Indie in 2015, publishing my first book, ‘The Or’in of Tane Mahuta.’ The first volume in the Chronicles of Aden Weaver series was relatively painless, using the services of a local company, BookPrint. They did all the layout and formatting and cover design for me and being local, it was easy to work together.

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At the beginning of this year, for the second volume in the Chronicles of Aden Weaver series, ‘The Sasori Empire,’ I decided to try a new route and use Createspace services. Everyone had spoken highly of them, and I thought they would be a viable alternative, as well as being more cost effective.

It ended up turning into a six month comedy of errors. It ended up costing me double when I had to withdraw my book from Createspace and get BookPrint to finish the job. It ended up making me ill with stress and worry.

I wrote a blog past during that time, ‘Quit or Stay’ post, and Kristen Lamb responded, ‘Life knocks us down, but that’s just life. The getting up? All on us.’

It encouraged me to hear from my idol. I remember I took great heart from the stirring poem Kristen put me onto in her response, How Did You Die? By Edmund Vance Cooke:

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The harder you’re thrown, why the higher you bounce;

Be proud of your blackened eye!

It isn’t the fact that you’re licked that counts, its how did you fight — and why?

Death comes with a crawl, or comes with a pounce,

And whether he’s slow or spry,

It isn’t the fact that you’re dead that counts,

But only how did you die?

The warrior girl in me cried, HUZZAH!

I knew Kristen was right. You have to have skin in the game. And you have to be cool when you get popped in the nose. Emboldened, I fought on. I finally triumphed, and five months later than scheduled, in collaboration with BookPrint, I produced a truly beautiful tome.

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Looking back, what I would done differently in 2017 is listen to my gut. Early on in the piece, I began to get the feeling that this was hopeless. Early on, I had feelings of dread. I didn’t listen to them.

Looking back, what I would done differently in 2017 is listen to the little inner voice, which was saying, ‘don’t spend anymore.’ I didn’t listen. I told myself I’d already committed to online publishing and there was nothing I could do, which was ridiculous, because in the end it cost me twice as much as book one.

Looking back, I think, If only I had listened to myself and honoured those instincts at the start, I could have saved myself a lot of grief.

Once I took the project to BookPrint, everything began to take off from there. The book launch was a success. We celebrated and toasted ‘The Sasori Empire’ and I really did feel triumphant. I guess there’s always that. A victory hard won is all the sweeter.

Looking forward to 2018, I intend to honour my instincts a lot more. I intend to listen to my little inner voice. I intend to pay heed to my gut. That’s the New Year’s Resolutions sorted!

What would you have done differently looking back on 2017?

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Talk to you later…

Keep Writing!

Yvette K. Carol

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 Oh, a trouble’s a ton, or a trouble’s an ounce, Or a trouble is what you make it, And it isn’t the fact that you’re hurt that counts, But only how did you take it? ~ Edmund Vance Cooke

 

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‘For me and most of the other writers I know, writing is not rapturous. In fact, the only way I can get anything written at all is to write really, really shitty first drafts.’

– Anne Lammott

Once the initial edits of your ‘shitty first drafts’ have been done, you get into a deeper level. For me, this is when hope starts to form that all is not lost, or as author, Tee G. Ayer put it, ‘Me while writing: This is drivel. What am I thinking? It’s worse that horse poo. Me while revising: This is surprisingly good. Better than I thought it would be.’

Once you wade into the revision, you start to see the potential.

At this stage in the editing, it can feel like weaving the words. One goes from the beginning to the end of the story, and then back to the beginning again over and over. The task for the writer is tightening the strands: to link thought processes, plot and sub-plots, deepen the characters, flesh out the scenes. As you go through to the end and then back to page one again, the picture slowly forms. The content draws together and takes shape.

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Last weekend, I finished the fourth pass of my book, ‘The Last Tree,’ which is the final book in the Chronicles of Aden Weaver series, and the analogy of the weaver above came to my mind. It reminded me of one of my early illustrations in which I depicted a character I called ‘The Woman at the End of the World,’ who knits the planet the characters lived on. As a writer, I feel I am doing this same function; I knit the words, one after the other, they take on a newer denser mass and richer substance, they start to form a living, breathing world.

I showed chapter one of my book, ‘The Sasori Empire,’ to good friend, author, James Preller. It’s a chapter in which Aden’s stone is tested and proved fake. In his reply, James gave me some terrific advice which is also helping me with writing the next book. He helped me understand why we elaborate for the reader. It’s something I alluded to in the previous post, Breathing Life into your Story, that thing of teasing out the scenes moment by moment, for the maximum impact. Here is an excerpt:

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You could slow down, spend a little more time. It’s not enough to just name names. So the stone moves. Was that the extent of the test? A little anti-climactic, because I’m not sure what’s at stake? I guess my point is that with all the mythology here, is that if you move too quickly my mind gets muddled. By bringing us closer to Aden, by having his thoughts help us understand what’s happening, we learn.

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My mind is the type of thought processor which likes to know the why of things. Knowing that as I develop the material, I’m seeking to elucidate context and the stakes, and help the reader get inside the characters’ heads serves to guide me.

I work at my loom spending more time, giving more detail, and all these things have the effect of bringing the reader closer to the hero, which is the ultimate goal.

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One has to be prepared to put in the hours. I heard myself telling my nephew this week, “When you sit writing from 6 a.m. till midnight, you need to take breaks.” And I thought, wow, this is really hard work. I do have to take regular breaks for my eyes from the computer as most people recommend, to prevent eye strain.

Yet, when you have a passion for something, you are driven to go far beyond what is normally possible. There is extra energy available. Or as Charles Bukowski put it, there is no other feeling like that. you will be alone with the gods and the nights will flame with fire.

My weekend always starts here, with my blog post first. Then, will come the long hours aforementioned, for two days I’m ‘alone with the gods,’ until my children return home again, when my creative powers become dormant for the week and go into raising my boys instead. My time off, my respite, is spent writing every minute I can squeeze into the days. It is such a joy, writing refills my cup until it runneth over.

How about you, what are you creating? Have you ever felt you were weaving your story?

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies,” said Jojen. “The man who never reads lives only one.” ~ George R. R. Martin. A Dance with Dragons

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A story comes alive in the reader’s mind. You use the sole medium of the word to get the story from your mind to the reader’s. It is the wonder of writing to create something out of nothing. Every story started with just an idea in someone’s head. Isn’t that a fantastic concept? ~ Bob Mayer

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Yes, it’s a great concept. Yet, how do you bring a story to life?

I’d like to share a technique which has helped me.

Whenever I start working on a new story or writing project, I always feel as if the prose is “dead on the ground.” It is cold and lifeless. Nothing about the piece makes me want to pick it up. In fact, I make excuses not to work on it.

But, I don’t take no for an answer. I’m a beast of a taskmaster. I force my butt back in the chair and make myself work whether I like it or not. When you’re an Indie the buck stops here. Even if I’m only sitting at my kitchen table wearing trackies and slippers, I must knuckle down and put in the hours and hours and hours of effort at the computer. Period. Or a book will not result.

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Producing a novel is like giving birth. My friends and I laugh about the analogy at Toastmasters, and I even gave a speech about my fourth baby (being my first book). Yet, the analogy is more than apt. It perfectly illuminates the process of creating art.

I have to put in the grunt work. I spend hours at the computer hacking away paragraphs, shooting lurking “little darlings” (or favourite bits). I endure the Herculean labours of editing and refining words. I start to shape the miasma of words into something resembling a reasonable story. I add and subtract. I constantly have to add fresh words in order to have to have stuff to take away again. It’s a gentle and sometimes not so gentle method of agitation similar to the way an oyster grows a pearl.

Then, comes the magical part, where the action of writing fresh copy slowly brings the prose to life and animates it.

About five years ago, my good friend, writing buddy and editor, Maria Cisneros-Toth, and I started working together on my first book, The Or’in of Tane Mahuta. Maria has taught me a lot about the craft. I remember she would stop me at certain times and ask me to go back and rewrite a scene with a view to slowing the pace. This is one of the best bits of writing advice I’ve ever received.

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Maria’s advice: ‘Take the exciting, pivotal scenes. Slow the pace. Tease out what happens, moment-by-moment, really let us experience everything.’

When I re-read my book now, the slow scenes are the standouts. This has proved a real turning point for me as a writer, because I understand the visceral impact we can achieve, just by altering the tempo of the way the tale is told.

When I started working on the third book in my series, The Chronicles of Aden Weaver a few months ago, I felt as though the rough draft was “dead on the ground.” It was cold and inert. Nothing about the piece made me want to pick it up. I made a couple of obligatory rounds of editing, but, my heart wasn’t in it. I was merely “doing the rounds.”

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Two weeks ago, I began the process of teasing out the key scenes. I once again accepted Maria’s original challenge. I began to take the most dramatic parts of the novel and slowed the pace right down to include the minutiae.

To my delight, before my eyes, the copy began to perk up and come to life. The prose became warm and vibrant. There was energy there. The characters came alive in my imagination. I now find myself in the happy place of being drawn irresistibly back to work on the story. That’s when I know we’re on the right track.

I must continue the good work and edit the copy until the story is fully grown, matured and strong enough to hold its own in the world. What an honour! What a privilege to be a writer parent.

What about you? How do you bring your worlds to life?

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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Storytelling is really one of the most wonderful things about human beings. And some of us get to be lucky enough to also be the storytellers. ~ Bryan Cranston

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Are you a Pantser? An author who writes by the seat of her pants? If you are, then you’ll be familiar with the process I’m currently stuck in as a writer. I am on the third pass of editing the raw material for my third book. I am therefore stuck in a phase of self loathing and hate of the material. It seems nothing works, nothing is making sense. I just have a jumble of words—pretty good words—some of them pertaining to my characters, some of which resolve the storyline, however the plot is a mess.

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I remember with books one and two going through this same stage. It’s an utter headache. You waste a lot of time feeling badly about the story and thinking, I’ll never get the structure sorted out. You know the dynamics of structure in your head as well as the back of your hand and yet, somehow it still remains elusive. It’s like trying to overlay the blueprint after the building is erected: it seems too large, too big of a job; you feel you’ll never be able to do it.

The only cure? I reassure myself as I pace the hall at night, that I went through this nasty valley of shadows before and survived. I’ve weathered this doubting dark night of the soul before and ended up nutting out killer plots. “You can do this,” I tell myself.

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As it was with the last two books, it will be the same with the third. It is the pantser process of editing and the attrition of editing over months of time, which moulds the material into something that works so well it surprises you. You discover little gems of clues of events to come which had been foreshadowed in the genesis draft you didn’t even realize were there, that only make sense once you reach the final stages of development. That’s when the delightful prickle of hairs goes up on your arms and you realize you’re dealing with ordinary magic. It’s part of our job as authors. It’s almost like a trade secret among artists. There is this ephemeral joy of joining forces with the Divine that is like sweetest nectar. Nothing else can touch this secret garden. It is nirvana, the wordless ecstasy of inspired endeavour.

by Gary Cook

I’ve long said, “Everyone needs a creative outlet.”

I truly believe this with every atom of my being. Criminals in prison, sick people in hospitals, people with depression and other anxious disorders, everyone should be given the opportunity at least once to discover the creative outlet which fits with them. Given tools and time to develop their creativity, a lot of people flourish. A friend who works with a tetraplegic said she was a sad case and yet, once the girl in the wheelchair started going to a weekly art class, her life changed for the better.

When you create something from nothing, you feel yourself part of the miracle of life. It gives your life the inner compass of purpose.

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As a writer, the alchemy of the words you choose serves to clothe the divine impulse and give it form. These scratchy black and white marks convey the universe, a word at a time. And then all the perspiration, anguish, questioning, tears and sheer graft that also goes along with the creative process is worthwhile.

Yesterday at Toastmasters, the question asked in Table Topics (speakers are given a topic and asked to speak spontaneously for one minute) was “If you had not been born, what would be missing from the world?”

If I had been chosen to answer that question, I would have answered, ‘my three sons and my books.’ All of these beings are my legacy and will live on long after I’m gone, doing good in the world. What a wonderful, marvellous, blessed thing.

Do you have your creative outlet up and running yet? If not, why not?

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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I believe that people who are attracted to a life of writing have an incredible opportunity to transform and transcend the events of our lives, finding a resonance of grace simply by writing something just right. ~ Sage Cohen

 

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