Archive for the ‘Insecurities’ Category

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. Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG and hashtag is #IWSG. Let’s rock the neurotic writing world!

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!!!

InsecureWritersSupportGroup

OPTIONAL IWSG Day Question: February 5 question – Has a single photo or work of art ever inspired a story? What was it and did you finish it?

In a word, no. However, as luck would have it, my friend, author Donatien Moisdon asked a question the other day in an email which I think would make an excellent question of the month.

Donatien: In your latest newsletter, I was very interested to read about your thoughts and those of your friends regarding the question: What makes a good novel?

For me, a writer of popular fiction, a good book entails the perfect marriage of a riveting story line and great characters. I have to feel a connection with the main character; I want to feel drawn to them and want to know what happens to them next.

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So when I’m writing a new story, I strive to know the characters first. I am a fan of the “story bible” or “book journal” which means I write the details of the characters, and setting, background, longhand in a special notebook. By this method, I develop my characters well before I ever start writing the story. The hope is to convey real characters who have depth.

I prefer a small cast. Donatien’s advice is to deal with only a limited number of characters and make sure that readers will recognize them easily.

I agree. I finished reading The Warlock by Michael Scott a few months ago. It boggled me for half the book, trying to remember the vast catalogue of players. For the second half of the book I had a handle on the enormous cast but I still got confused. Even the professional writers get it wrong.

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Donatien recommends keeping things clear in the reader’s mind especially in dialogue. It is very important for readers to know exactly who is saying what. Thus the importance of perfect punctuation.

So for a good book, you need a manageable number of characters. You need to hone good dialogue and pay attention to punctuation.

You also need a rivetting story line. I prefer adventure stories, and I have done since I first discovered the joy of reading as a young girl. And in writing popular or genre fiction for children, the goal is to take readers on a fabulous ride they won’t want to get off. In a story worth its salt the protagonist/s have to win fire (or the elixir) and bring it back to the tribe, but to get there, keep upping the pace, worsening the conflict for the protagonist and deepening the stakes.

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There is an infectious pace that kicks in on a brilliant story. You can’t stop turning the page. Donatien says, Rhythm is very important. Can each sentence be read in a loud voice for the first time by a newcomer without hesitation? If the reader stumbles, chances are the sentence needs work. To bring your writing alive in the reader’s mind, he suggests remembering to use all the senses. Place the reader at the very center of the action, but also at the center of the environment through the use of the five senses. Add a sixth sense: the sense of a dream.

For me, there’s also an X factor that marks a good book, that singular thing of being able to drift away with the words. It’s the fairy circle where you enter and the more you read the more you lose time. I like stories that take me away somewhere. My goal with every story I write is to return the reader to the shaded places of youth where they remember magic can happen, to inspire a sense of wonder. That is the holy grail.

How do you instill wonder? I’m always trying to figure it out! Do you know?

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Keep Writing!

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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*Please note this special request from Donatien: If you could find the time to read The Immortal Part, available on lirenligne.net, and let me know if I’ve managed to follow my own recipes, I’d be very grateful. On the lirenligne.net website, you have to click on Donatien Moisdon or The immortal Part, then “télécharger” (download) in the brown square. 

*Please remember to write a review. Thank you! 

I think I get addicted to editing on each project. I did a little thing with The Last Tree, that my family would call a “dad thing”–I kept count. I work as a “pantser,” I write a rough draft without a plan and then edit for a lifetime afterwards. I was curious about how many times I go through an entire 360 page manuscript editing this way. With the third book in The Chronicles of Aden Weaver trilogy I kept a notepad by my laptop and noted each time I edited the whole book from page one. The answer? Seventy. Yep. I know, I had the same reaction. I knew it would be a high number but that came as a surprise even to me.

Ever since I sent the manuscript for The Last Tree to a friend who does copy-editing I have had to ‘down tools.’ I didn’t feel it was fair to keep making changes while she was working.

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For a personality like me, it has been hard to let go. It sounds so easy, yet it’s hard to do. It was amazing how many errors I would find every time I looked at the story, so I kept editing and even after seventy edits of the same material, I could easily keep going. But I have to draw a line in the sand sometime. Even a perfectionist has to stop somewhere. Paul Gardner said, a painting is never finished–it simply stops in interesting places.

Giving the story to my friend had forced me to stop editing. It made the cut. I was without the work that had defined me the last two years. In the final stages of editing a book, you’re working on it night and day and the effort consumes everything. Then it’s finished and you’re set adrift.

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I keep looking back over my shoulder thinking there’s something important I should be doing. Then I remember the book is being looked at by a professional and there’s nothing for me to do anymore.

This is the breakup. It’s difficult while it’s wonderful to be free.

It’s a weird limbo. Who am I without my work? My youngest son said a profound thing the other day, something this wise young owl has been wont to do since he was a tot. He excels in science and has been talking about his interest in space for months. Then he said he’d been thinking about it, ‘we shouldn’t be looking at the planets we should study ourselves, we should find out all those answers first.’

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It was Blaise Pascal who said all of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.

I knew it was time to take a deep breath and just stop and do nothing for a while. This helped me get back on track. I let myself enjoy life again. I stopped rushing, slowed my pace, and put the gardening tools away. I took myself out for a bit of retail therapy and started my Christmas shopping. I met with friends and talked. I went walking and got fresh air into my poor oxygen-starved lungs. I ventured outdoors in the sun instead of looking outside longingly from my writing desk. I took up meditating twice a day, the same way Oprah does. I crafted and decorated homemade gifts and made Christmas cards.

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I started reading a new book. I wrote letters and sent cards and gifts to far-flung family and friends who I knew would be lonely at this time of year. I made donations to worthy causes. I planned to get together with people to celebrate the season. I moved on in as positive a fashion as I could muster. I’m endeavouring to balance out the activity and time spent appreciating nature with regular periods of stillness, mindfulness or ‘studying myself first’ as my son would put it. I feel much better. My feet are on the ground again.

It’s also nice after the hours labouring over a computer to spend time with loved ones. I’ve had lots of wonderful conversations with my kids. The old tension around my book has gone from my system. I think it’s important as writers that we take care of ourselves and allow that sometimes finishing a book is a process.

It takes time to decompress to let go to breathe to unwind to reform our sense of ourselves and that’s okay.  

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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“My greatest wealth is the deep stillness in which I strive and grow and win what the world cannot take from me with fire or sword.” ~ Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

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

Ten days ago I delivered the finished manuscript of my book, The Last Tree, to the printers and I told myself I would relax. I would finally take the foot off the pedal. That was the plan. It was Monday. Turns out taking the foot off the pedal isn’t as easy as it sounds. On Tuesday, I organized to meet with an old school friend who is a business whiz. She had suggested she might help get more visibility for my books.

It was the first time I’d ever seen her business side, which was very interesting. After chatting for a minute, we sat down and started to talk about my stories.

I thought her first question was brilliant. She said, “What do you want?”

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I said, “When I started out (at seventeen) it was world domination. But it’s not about that or the money anymore. People say when they read my books they’re inspired. I want to share my stories and inspire as many people as possible.”

She asked me, “Do you have an agent?”

“No.”

“Do you have a marketing plan?”

“No.”

“Do you a way of getting your book into bookstores and libraries?”

“No.”

I was feeling like a right duff by this stage! I think my friend was none too impressed. She said two things after that.

“Your problem is no one knows who the heck you are.”

“That’s true.”

And,

“You will have to up your game.”

“Oh.”

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Both these statements struck terror into my heart. Do I commit to this? I prefer low sales and no one knowing my name. I prefer gliding under the radar. I don’t want to get asked to attend ceremonies and speak at venues. I don’t want a full social agenda. I have more than enough to do every day. There is no downtime as it is and as a card-carrying introvert, spending more time with people scares me terribly.

Yet I get the shake up my friend is giving me. She’s saying ‘look what is it you really want?’ And then, naturally, ‘you will have to do more to make that happen.’ And she’s right. I know she is. But can I do it? Can I commit when I’m raising two boys on my own and have a home and a property to manage single-handed?

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Since then, my friend has introduced me to a successful author she knows. We’re meeting at a cafe up north on Monday morning. I’ll take my first two books, The Or’in of Tane Mahuta and The Sasori Empire. What I hope to find out is how to reach more readers, and whether I should submit my books to a publisher. My friend has also introduced me to an author and agent whom I’m meeting soon. I need to ask if she has access to the lucrative movie and gaming market, especially in the U.S. They should be fascinating meetings. The nerves are fraying already just thinking about them.

I have freely admitted in the past to being utterly slack at book marketing. In fact, the article I had included in the Insecure Writer’s Support Group book, The Insecure Writers Support Group Guide to Publishing and Beyond, The Melee of Modern Marketing, was about accepting our limits as Indies and not beating ourselves up when we do not achieve mega book marketing campaigns.

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Between the many responsibilities in my life, I am tired. I don’t know if I have the time or the drive needed to “up my game” with book marketing. It’s a serious concern. Although I respect my friend’s advice enough to take it, I do so with great trepidation.

All I can do is what my hero, Aden Weaver, did throughout The Chronicles of Aden Weaver series, to get through adventure after adventure. Whenever he felt scared, he would keep putting one foot before the other. This would be an apt time for the adage, ‘don’t think, do.’ Then trust the rest will follow. Whew!

Since sending my manuscript to the printers, I’ve done nothing but work. The overgrown garden needed a machete taken to it. I had a big speaking project at Toastmasters, which required a lot of prep. The meetings with these other authors will probably lead to even more work. Rather than taking the foot off the pedal, I’ve been burning rubber.

Relax? Fail. Please tell me how you relax. I need tips!

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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“We must always change, renew, rejuvenate ourselves; otherwise, we harden,” – Goethe

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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!!!

*I took the option of not answering the ‘optional question of the month’.

InsecureWritersSupportGroup

I exist in that strange, no-man’s-land, the limbo on the other side of having finished a book. I only just surfaced from the gruelling, nitty-gritty hard yards of getting The Last Tree to a publishable standard at the weekend. Any Indie will sympathise. Those few weeks and days were late nights and early starts, and staring at the words on the screen, word by word, until I could barely see anymore. Then, I delivered the novel into professional hands and went into free fall.

Slowly I can feel my extremities again. I am relieved and pleased all at once.

I tried an experiment with this book. The first two books in The Chronicles of Aden Weaver trilogy cost me upwards of $5000 each to produce. To bring the price of publishing my stories down to a reasonable level, I cut out the proofreader and the copy editor, which saved $3200 and instead paid $70 for a year’s subscription to ProWritingAid.

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I worked with the online editing program and my blood, sweat and tears.

Last weekend, after developing this book for two years, the deadline for delivery to the book designer was Monday. It locked me in a deadly embrace with time. I can’t stand deadlines. However, they work to prod you into gargantuan herculean efforts of which not even you thought possible. Sunday night I was still at my computer editing hard at eleven, and on Monday morning, I was up at five to start again.

I cross my fingers and toes that by doing it all myself; I have done enough. I really hope so.

The Monday deadline also meant I needed to get the second pen and ink illustration done, because I had only completed one. The weekend of editing was so intense, I gave myself “art breaks” and during those allotted times I doodled and inked in the second picture. It was so much fun! I think I like the resulting illustration the most out of them all.

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I blogged last week about the cover art arriving. After the long haul of editing, when you reach the finish line, it’s like time speeds up and everything happens at once. These vital pieces fell into place. On Thursday night, the cover art brought the world to life. I finished the second pen and ink illustration. I prepared the accompanying copy for the back cover and the end pages. I liaised with the book designers and set up the printers.

Monday eleven o’clock, I reached the words The End and realized I had finished the editing. It was an emotional moment. At lunchtime, I emailed the whole package to BookPrint. Then I drove over and sat with the designer for an hour and a half. The great thing about going to BookPrint again is they have the files of my last two books so it should be a relatively seamless job to produce the third book in the same style as the others.

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For the actual printing of the books, I compared the costs of printing at local firms and took $400 off the price by giving the job to another local company, 3A Signs. Altogether, I have halved the price of production, bringing it to $2500. But have I done enough as the proofreader and copy editor to make the savings worthwhile? I don’t know.

I have an author friend who recommended the online editing program, and she has successfully used it for her last three books. Will it work as well for me? I don’t know.

I wait to see the cover and the layout. I’m looking forward to getting the proof copy. I want to sit and read The Last Tree as a reader would. I did the very best I could, and now, the test, does it hang together as a great story that was worth telling? I hope so.

I hope this book makes the mark, however; I don’t know, hence my insecurity at present. I linger in book limbo. Help! Thanks IWSG, for the chance to rant!

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Keep Writing!

Yvette K. Carol

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The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.
– Eleanor Roosevelt

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 of every month. 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: Has your writing ever taken you by surprise? For example, a positive and belated response to a submission you’d forgotten about or an ending you never saw coming?

Writing takes me by surprise all the time, and that’s one of its many charms. It’s a great way to live, trying to catch the muse by the tail as she sails by on the breeze. Then if you’re lucky enough to catch a good story and follow it through into form, you have the joy ‘going along for the ride’ to see where the tale goes.

One thing that never fails to surprise me, is the way story elements you wrote in rough draft six months ago, suddenly make sense when you get to write the end scenes. That’s the fun of being a “pantser” (someone who writes without a plan). You get to feel part of creating something ‘other’ outside of yourself. You are just a cog in the wheel, a part of the story writing process, not the only agent of its creation, and that is a marvellous, magnificent feeling.

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Another great surprise along the way has been the relaxation I always feel in being able to wear my pyjamas all day. I’m a full time mum part time writer. The only time I get to myself is at the weekends – while the boys are at their dad’s – and I use all of that time writing. During the weekend, I will not get out of my pyjamas once. I wrap myself up in a dressing gown, grab a hat and a shawl. Bliss.

It used to be, thirty or so years ago, that I would have hankered to get dressed up and go out somewhere. I would’ve looked forward to wearing my latest gear or hair style, to go out doing things with friends, or going to the movies. I’ve found the older I get the more I adore being at home and not going anywhere. It’s liberating not worrying about how I look. To work from home is relaxing, comforting, and it doesn’t cost very much to do.

Reading an excerpt of The Sasori Empire

On the downside, I’ve been surprised to find that being a writer makes for really awkward social conversations. Being a writer is not a conventional job. Whenever I’m at a party and people say, ‘what do you do?’ and they hear my answer, they invariably ask what do you write? Where do you sell your books? Are you in the library? And so on. When you’re a part time writer and self published as I am, and a relatively long way off being on the library book shelf, it can make sometimes for painful party conversation.

I love the way Alice Munro put it when she said, ‘When you’re a writer, you’re never quite like other people — you’re doing a job that other people don’t know you’re doing and you can’t talk about it, really, and you’re just always finding your way in the secret world and then you’re doing something else in the “normal” world.’

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That’s been the best surprise of all about this business. And I guess it’s what drew me into pursuing this as a ‘path’ over thirty-five years ago. As a seventeen-year-old children’s writer, I became hooked on the sheer joy of story writing. It takes you to great heights and lows, and extraordinary lands in between; you get to chase an idea to see where it takes you and experience the journey the characters take with them, it’s exciting.

Hunter S. Thompson said, ‘every man is the sum total of his reactions to experience. As your experiences differ and multiply, you become a different man and hence your perspective changes.’ I think I’ve grown as an author over the years. I’ve changed a lot. My fiction is no longer a hobby, it’s become a lifestyle. I savour every moment. I still revel in the delicious surprises that are part of the job. It’s a wonderful ride.

Does your writing or art every surprise you?

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Keep Writing!

Yvette K. Carol

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If you follow your bliss, you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living. ~ Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth

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

As I enter the final stages of editing my third book, The Last Tree, I find I’m often asked the question, “What are you going to write next?” The answer is, I don’t know. This is the third and last volume in my middle grade trilogy, The Chronicles of Aden Weaver, and it has so engrossed every moment, I haven’t had the chance to look beyond it.

When I do look beyond it, I feel this irrational fear, which I believe is commonly felt among other writers. Will I ever write another story?

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For the last fourteen years, I’ve been fitting in writing the Chronicles around raising my two youngest sons. As a solo mum, with a house and garden to care for, and elderly parents, I enjoyed every chance I had to escape into my imaginary world on the planet of Chiron, whenever I was writing. It’s hard to imagine moving on. The thought of starting a new plot, a new world, a new dilemma, and new characters terrifies me.

It’s not me who writes the genesis draft anyway. Elizabeth Gilbert calls the process of inspiration, the ‘other’ energy that comes from nowhere and brings the stories with it, the muse; some call it a “genius.” The stories arrive from elsewhere as if they come on the wind. You have to be fleet of mind to grab them when they whistle by or you might miss out.

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I guess that’s part of the fun also of being a writer, living on the knife edge while you wait to be the instrument of the creative ferment. Once you start the process of formulating a story, you open your mind to ideas and wait for lightning to strike.

I haven’t had to do that in a long time. I’m nervous. Last night, I had a few nightmares. Thinking about them upon waking up, I could see the common denominator was fear. I decided, as we approach the winter solstice, that I would let go of all fear around writing the next book.

Every writer goes through this same anxiety at some point. Will I ever write again? Every writer has a different way of handling the period of not knowing that follows finishing a project and before starting the next.

My method is to craft notebooks for each potential project.

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This began back in the 1980’s, when I was writing my series, The Great Adventures of Splat the Wonder Dog. I put effort into creating a notebook of every background detail. The act of crafting images, making lists of story details and background and focusing in on the tale seemed to bring it to life in a whole new way.

The notebook also helped corral my thoughts and world-building.

In 2005, when I started writing The Chronicles of Aden Weaver, my notebook was a pad of old paper on the nightstand, on which I jotted down details of background, history, geography, characters, setting, mythology, religion, and plot each time I passed. There were no sketches or pictures pulled from magazines. I had two sons under the age of ten. I didn’t have time to shower or clip my own fingernails, let alone make works of art. Simple or not, the creative process was still seeded and propagated through the power of that notebook.

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This afternoon, I was doing the housework when an idea for a story setting popped into my head. It was a simple notion about an island I had read about years ago, in one of the old hardbacks in my parents’ home library. A few more ideas flashed by. I grabbed for my trusty moleskin and jotted them down. The muse was in flight.

The next logical step for me is to start collating these ideas into one place – a notebook. It’s so exciting! Whether it turns out to be a series or stand alone novel, that humble repository is where it will come together. While I’m still hard at work on publishing my third novel, the fourth will have time to develop.

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New Zealand author, Joy Cowley, said that she ‘baits the hook, drops it in the water and then waits for three to four years for each story idea to gather more ideas.’

I see my notebook method as being very similar to this analogy. Maybe someday soon, I’ll have an answer to the question, “What are you going to write next?” and it all begins right here with a pen and paper.

I’m ready for a new adventure to begin. Bring it on!

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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I have yet to meet a writer who wouldn’t rather peel a banana than apply himself to a pen. – Alice Thomas Ellis

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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 of every month. 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: If you could use a wish to help you write just one scene/chapter of your book, which one would it be?

If I had a wish to help me write just one chapter of my book, it would be the opening chapter. For me, as a reader, everything hinges on that first experience. If I’m not hooked by the time I get to chapter two, there is zero chance I will keep reading.

I remember clearly to this day when I first fell in love with books, and that was when – as a nine-year-old – I opened the first page of Tove Jansson’s classic tale, Finn Family Moomintroll and I read, Dear child!!!! When I first heard that the whole Finn Family Moomintroll was going abroad, I went to Moominpapa and asked if I should pack the usual things we carry with us on our wanderings around.

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I was enchanted! I had to know what happened next. And, my love affair with reading really began.

That’s the sort of reaction I’d like to elicit in the people who read my stories. I remember when J.K. Rowling was really getting big – and there was a huge kafuffle around the release of each new Harry Potter book – the thing I admired the most about her meteoric rise was that she had gotten kids reading again.

J.K. Rowling drew the kids away from their devices, and not only that, she’d reached that Holy Grail of getting the boys reading. 

Wow. I loved that. I don’t dream of the sort of massive success Rowling had – I think it’d be hideous to have the world’s attention on you 24/7 – I dream of turning non-readers into readers. How cool!

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I did a children’s writing workshop with Kiwi author, Joy Cowley, in 2010. Joy said the opening sentence ‘has to have huge energy. It’s the bait on the hook to catch the reader.’

Perhaps I could use my wish to ask for help with the first line? My good friend, author, Cat Clayton, posted on Facebook this week, ‘How many times can you edit the same sentence? Countless.’ And, it’s true. I can’t fathom how many times I edit and rewrite the opening lines of my books. With my work-in-progress, The Last Tree, I may have rewritten upwards of forty times.

The way Larry Brooks puts it, Somewhere in the first 30 to 50 pages your reader needs to realize they are as intrigued by the characters – often both the protagonist and the bad guy, though the latter may not have shown up yet – as they are by the conceptual “what if?’ hook you’ve sunk into their skull.’

So, no pressure.

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I always remember friend and successful Kiwi author, Donna Blaber, telling me to edit the heck out of the first ten to twenty pages of each book. She said she always spent more time on those crucial pages than any other part of her story. I’ve followed Donna’s advice ever since. And, with the first sentence, especially, I can’t rest until I feel I have it right.

I spend agonizingly long periods in front of my computer until I go nearly cross-eyed. I examine each word carefully. Put it this way, if I did get my wish granted, to have help with the first chapter of my book, it would free up a lot more of my time!

Do you over-edit your first page, first chapter? Do you choose your books to read by the back cover blurb or by reading the opening lines?

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Keep Writing!

Yvette K. Carol

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‘Remember, if you sit at your desk for 15 years or 20 years, every day, not counting weekends, it changes you. It just does. It may not improve your temper, but it fixes something else. It makes you more free.’ ~ Anne Enright

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

This week, at Toastmasters, I attempted to pull off my first ever roast. ‘A roast’ is a speech that relies on wit, humour and satire to ‘poke fun at a person in a good natured way.’ Can you imagine? I can’t think of too many speeches that would be harder to pull off. However, in the Toastmasters system, you choose your projects and most come in bundled sets, so when you take on a certain manual or a pathway you take on every challenge in that bundle. I chose Special Occasions Speeches (from the old paper manual system), not realizing that one of the projects therein was “The Roast.”

I have a terrible track record with humorous speeches, having bombed abominably once or twice.

In conversation, I can raise a laugh, but I still don’t know how to use humour in speeches. In my nervousness, I over do it. I’m just not that funny. So, I avoid the humorous speech contests each year like the plague, and I never attempt comedic speeches. I know my strengths and humour is definitely not one of them.

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When I discovered there was a roast among the projects in Special Occasions, I was quaking in my boots. I wanted to put the manual back, but it was too late, I was already three speeches in. So I’m going to tell you a little secret. I repeated project 2, five times over a period of five months. I couldn’t bear to do the roast. So I put it off by repeating the project I preferred, “Speaking in Praise.”  At first, I wondered if I could get away with it, because surely people would notice I was doing the same project.

Strangest thing. No one noticed.

I spoke in praise of Charlotte’s Stitches, I spoke in praise of my father, I spoke in praise of Korucare New Zealand, I spoke in praise of Sam (my son with Downs’ syndrome), and I spoke in praise of my grandmother. No one said a thing!

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I could have gotten away with it longer probably, but I made the mistake of mentioning to one of the other members, last week, that I was scared of doing the roast.

He said, “You can’t not do a project just because it’s hard. You’ve got to do it anyway!”

The gauntlet was down. I was determined I was going to write a funny speech. I would ‘do it anyway!’ I determined that this week, I would roast our most senior member and club treasurer, at our Toastmasters’ meeting.

Did I roast him? Yes. Was I successful? I don’t know. I can’t seem to do funny conversational. I go immediately to clown and cartoon, and it often falls flat. My first two jokes didn’t get much of a response and I already had that sinking feeling. Various audience members told me afterwards they enjoyed my roast. I did raise a few laughs, but not anywhere near what I’d expected. Now, I know for sure that I’m not that funny.

However, what I do know is that I am brave.

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I am so proud of myself for doing that roast.

That’s a good feeling to have about yourself.

I don’t like to stretch my neck out any more than the next person, but I notice that when I do take a risk sometimes it reaps dividends. So, accepting a challenge is worth the effort, once in a while.

I was petrified of trying to roast someone. I did not want to do it. I would have procrastinated forever, if I hadn’t been hustled out of my cave. Roasting someone was something so far out of my comfort zone it was a new frontier. Yet, I accepted the challenge and went and did it anyway. Sure it wasn’t perfect. Sure, I didn’t captivate everyone, one guy looked down the whole time I was speaking and didn’t look up till the end. Sure, I didn’t bring the house down. But I did go out on the “stage,” into the bright lights, and deliver a bloody roast.

I think that’s pretty cool.

What about you? Have you ever thought of joining Toastmasters, or some other club? Have you stepped outside of your comfort zones lately?

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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Failures I consider valuable negative information – Dr. Goddard

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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!!!

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OPTIONAL IWSG Day Question: What are five objects we’d find in your writing space?

Optional IWSG Day Answer: A laptop, a pad of paper and a pen, a Penguin Pocket Thesaurus, and a small lamp.

A laptop

I used to say, back in the day, that I’d never write a story on a keyboard. I was a purist about the old fashioned way of writing on paper, as it had a feeling to it, and there was less interruption between my brain and the page. But, then, I finished writing a 300,000 word story longhand, and there were a heck of a lot of words to be transcribed into digital form.

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In fact, the job exhausted me, my sister, my friend’s daughter and my sister-in-law as well, before we finally got the behemoth manuscript typed out. And, after that experience, I swore I’d never write the old-fashioned way again. Far better, to just get over myself and put thoughts straight into digital form – to get over all the clanking technology between me and the words and simply concentrate on putting them on the page.

A pen and a pad of paper

That doesn’t mean, however, that I’ve given up on my beloved pen  and paper. It’s just they’ve taken second place in the hierarchy of things. I still work out all my plot steps and character niggles on a pad of paper with a pen, as well as my shopping lists and to-do lists. I don’t like gadgets too much. I distrust them somehow. I don’t do apps or smartphones, and I just don’t want to spend my life staring at my phone. I keep things simple as possible. And that’s where I function best.

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When I’m writing, I hop up every now and then to consult my pen and paper, as to what I intend to get done that day. As I go through the edits submitted by my critique buddies, I’ll jot down any comments made about overall story issues on another pad. These sorts of notes I keep close by the computer, and I’ll refer to them as I’m editing.

A Penguin Pocket Thesaurus

Again, I prefer the paper over the digital versions. Over the years, I’ve bought myself many different kinds of Thesaurus, as other writers will attest. These days, you can buy versions for writing every genre and even for all the emotions as well. I’ve bought myself some whopping Thesaurus/Dictionary tomes too, thinking ‘the more words the better.’ Yet, it never seemed to matter how much money I spent or how big and glossy the books were, I’d always end up reaching for the Penguin. I guess it comes down to being creatures of habit, and this works best for me.

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My Penguin Pocket Thesaurus is getting pretty yellowed and we’ll ‘thumbed’ now. And no matter how often I think ‘it’s probably not worth looking for a better verb,’ every time I look it up in the Thesaurus, I’ll always find a better choice. It helps keep my language lively and interesting, less repetitive.

A small lamp

I thought I was smart getting the latest LED lights put in throughout our old ’60’s style house. Very attractive and modern, I thought. Then, a few months ago, I read a scientific article put up on social media, by a very well respected friend of mine, that LED lighting is actually bad for your health in a number of ways.

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It instantly reminded me of my grandmother, who said, ‘they’re always saying something new gives you cancer. I say all things in moderation.’ Well, that’s as maybe, but I still don’t want to sit under an LED light the entire weekend that I’m working on my book. So, I bought a $10 lamp at the local shop which takes an incandescent light bulb, and I use that at the weekends instead.

Those are five things that are in my writing space.

What about you? What are your five objects?

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Keep Writing!

Yvette K. Carol

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We need to embody our inner awareness. To walk them out into the world. Express them through our choices and through our actions. – Terri Morehu

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‘Family is the most important thing in the world.’ ~ Princess Diana

Last weekend, I joined the extended Maori side of our family to celebrate the “unveiling ceremony” for a family matriarch. The unveiling is held a year after a person’s death, when the whanau (family) gather again at the marae – the general area outside their meeting house –  for a service and at the family cemetery to reveal the person’s headstone. It’s a time to bless the stone, to remember the loved one, to talk about them and sing to them, once more.

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I’d been invited to join my niece and nephews, to farewell their grandmother one last time at her “unveiling.” It was to be held at their family’s marae, on the banks of Lake Rotoma, which lies just beyond Rotorua. Lucky for me, I was able to coordinate my arrival with that of my niece, and I simply copied the protocol she displayed, so as not to do the wrong thing by mistake. I accompanied her when we entered the Te Waiiti Marae and followed in her wake, kissing the cheek of all those already there.

I felt out of my comfort zones, out of my element, and yet, it was okay. I was glad to be there.

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Outside the big kitchen where many women were busy preparing the food, there was a plastic bucket of Koura, or fresh water crayfish, which had been found in the nearby Waiiti stream.

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To the rear of the kitchen block, on a flat piece of lawn, the men were laying the hangi. They had dug the pit that morning. A bonfire had been lit much earlier and had burned down to coals. The rocks, which had been within the fire, were tipped into the bottom of the pit. Then the trays of prepared vegetables, pig, lamb and chicken were placed over the rocks.

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These were covered in sacks which had been soaked in water. Then, the men all pitched in to cover it in the soil. The hangi was then left to cook.

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An hour later, the ceremony began with the powhiri (welcome) when friends and family who had arrived were welcomed onto the marae.

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Everyone was seated outside the whare, (the house) where some of the women in the family sat with the photos of the deceased. The eldest male in the family then gave the mihi, or recitation of those family members who have passed, reminding everyone of the names of their ancestors.

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This was followed by waiata (song) and karakia (prayer), and then, the grandmother’s family lined up to greet the new arrivals. From there, everyone drove to the cemetery a mile or so down the road, where the gravesite had been prepared with decorations and the stone was covered by a traditional feathered cloak.

After more prayer, the headstone was unveiled and the inscription read aloud, before being blessed by the priest. There were readings, songs and everyone who wanted to speak was invited to speak, also known as ‘korero.’

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Finally, the whanau processed back to the marae in the afternoon, to dig up the hangi and eat a meal together (kai hakari).

I marvel at how lucky we’ve been in our family, that we have become forever connected – through marriage – to this Maori family. Because of this connection of whanau, we’ve been invited to attend a number of these traditional Maori events over the years, and have been fortunate enough to get a see a little bit of insight into their culture, which has been a real privilege.

At the same time, I still feel like an outsider looking in.

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I was very aware when I walked onto the marae, that morning, of being one of three other Europeans there. “Who’s that?” one of the aunties asked my nephew, indicating me. He said, “She’s my mum’s sister.”

Immediately, there were big smiles from the lady and all the other aunties sitting along the bench outside the dining room, and I went over to kiss her and each of the others on the cheek. I was welcomed with open arms.

The Maori culture is so rich and so steeped in tradition that it’s just a pleasure and an honour to bear witness and be a part of the lives of the indigenous people of this country. I loved every minute. It was a very special day to be part of, and it reminded me of everything that’s great about this country.

Te tangata, te tangata, te tangata! The people, the people, the people!

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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‘Nothing that happens to a writer – however happy, however tragic – is ever wasted.’ ~ PD James

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