Archive for the ‘Story’ Category

I got caught on the hop this week. I discovered on Tuesday that I was due to give a speech at Toastmasters the following day, and I had to come up with something in a hurry. I thought about Sam, my sixteen-year-old with Downs’ syndrome. In the four years I’d been in Toastmasters, I had not tackled the big issues. I’d spoken about all kinds of major things, but, I hadn’t had the courage to talk about Sam, and Downs’ syndrome, or anything about my life as a “special” mum. I still haven’t had the courage to talk about about my youngest son, who has Congenital Heart Defect, and the life and death surgery he went through twice at the tender age age of five. Similarly, I have yet to give a speech about my grandmother’s death, or those of my parents (both deceased within the last four years). I didn’t feel I could do them justice.

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But, when Toastmasters asked me to do my first speech of the year, I decided the time had come to delve a little deeper and share more of my personal stories. In Toastmasters, they say that personal stories are the most powerful, they are the speeches people remember. I decided I would share the story of Sam’s arrival in my life and being a parent of a special needs kid. The speech title, ‘The Road Less Travelled,’ comes from the last verse of one of my favourite poems, The Road Not Taken, by Robert Frost

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

I opened my speech by recounting the story of Sam’s birth, in more or less these words:

When I was pregnant with my second child, I was thirty-six. My doctor recommended I take an amniocentesis test, which tests for any abnormalities in the child. I agreed and booked in for the test.

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But, the night before I was due to go into the hospital, I woke up at exactly 11 o’clock at night, with an epiphany. I sat up in bed and asked myself,

‘What would you do if there was something wrong with the baby?’

I knew I could not go against my moral code and abort it. So, literally at the eleventh hour, I cancelled the test.

Some months later, after a difficult birth, my midwife handed the baby to me with the words, “I’m sorry, but I believe your son has Downs’ syndrome.”

My world, my life as I knew it up to that point, ended, and a whole new life began in a whole new world. It was one I knew nothing about, and I had a lot to learn!

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Downs’ syndrome is a genetic condition which results from a third copy of the 21st chromosome.

One in six hundred babies are born with Downs’ syndrome every year in New Zealand. The condition entails delayed development, low muscle tone, and this combined with a large tongue makes it very difficult for many Downs’ syndrome kids to talk clearly. 70% of girls with the syndrome will be understood by anyone outside their immediate family and that figure drops to 40-50% for the boys.

The things that our normal babies take for granted, like sitting up, standing, walking, none of these things come easy for a special kid. Every step is hard won. Sam was three-years-old before he could crawl, five before he could walk, eleven before he was potty trained during the day and thirteen before he was dry through the night.

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We special parents say, ‘it’s like taking one step forward, two steps back.’

Therefore every milestone achieved, every hurdle crossed, with these kids is such a triumph. You feel so proud of them you could burst. I know how hard Sam has worked to learn how to do every little thing.

Being a special needs parent has enriched my life. Sam has taught me so much; I have gained so much from his example. He’s taught me humility, patience, tolerance, compassion, forgiveness and how to care for the underdog. I would say most of all, he has taught me how to be present. For Sam, there is no future. He doesn’t have the ability to look ahead and imagine outcomes, there is only right now.

Sam is always present. That lesson in itself has been a gift.

The road less travelled by continues to reap dividends, and I am so grateful I accepted the challenge.

Thank goodness. Imagine what I would have missed out on!

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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“There’s not one path. There’s not even the right path. There is only your path.” – Nietzsche

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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. 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: Besides writing, what other creative outlets do you have?

I’ve had many creative outlets over the years: photography, dress design, and dance, however, I would say art has been the most constant. In fact, I started out writing for children as an author/illustrator. In the margins of the first fictional story I wrote, as a seventeen-year-old, I doodled what the characters would look like. That set the stage for illustrating my own picture books, a time when I juggled the jobs of developing the pictures and writing the story.

Then, in 2005, a pivotal moment happened in my life.

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I went to a children’s writing workshop, with the award-winning author, and teacher, Kate de Goldi. After showing her one of my picture book manuscripts, Kate said, it was good, however, she felt I needed to focus on either writing or the illustrating.

I took the advice to heart. About half a year after taking the course, I finished illustrating my story, and I packed the paints and brushes away into the cupboard. Within another year, I was writing up a storm.

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Kate’s sage advice helped me to funnel all my energy into my writing and from there, wonderful things began to happen. Coincidentally, this lesson about focus became one of the story themes in the resulting trilogy, The Chronicles of Aden Weaver. The hero, Aden, is taught by his wise mentor, Geo, to focus in order to prevail. It’s a lovely full circle moment.

By focusing on the writing, I became more productive:

I found my genre, middle grade (or junior fiction).

I wrote a middle grade trilogy, The Chronicles of Aden Weaver. I went “Indie” and self-published my first two books, The Or’in of Tane Mahuta and The Sasori Empire.

I had an essay included in a book for writers. I also self published a short story, along with a group of authors, in a children’s anthology titled Kissed By An Angel.

I built a mailing list and started a monthly newsletter.

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In both The Or’in of Tane Mahuta, and The Sasori Empire, I included two of my own pen and ink illustrations.

Art and writing have gone naturally hand in hand for me, however, I feel like I’ve found a way to make them complement one another.

I still enjoy drawing to bring my own characters to life. I also do illustrations upon request for certain projects. I painted the cover art as well as the colour illustration to go with my story, Grandpa and Loor, for Kissed By An Angel. The difference is, instead of the art absorbing all of my days, now with small art projects, I’m more in control of my time.

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The thing about painting – and probably any kind of art – is that it’s a time suck.

I remember an old landlord, Arthur, when he saw me at work on one of my illustrations, said, ‘Ah, painting, the thing that sucks time into it like a black hole.’ It’s true. It’s the kind of hobby you do, that you look up and realize its dark, and you wonder where the day went. I loved it, but once I was raising my two younger two boys and writing, there wasn’t time left in the day for art.

Being able to surrender my illustrator’s hat has been a significant improvement in my life. These days, I do what I love to do most, which is to write. Then I dabble at my art when I have the time and the inclination. It works.

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(artwork by Si Kingi)

I’m also more productive. This year, I intend to self publish the third book in The Chronicles of Aden Weaver, The Last Tree. I’ll need to figure out which drawings I’m going to do for it within the next few months and get them done before then. But, that’s okay. When art isn’t asking for every spare minute, you feel you can relish getting little jobs done like that.

A life in balance, between my writing, art, and the rest of my life, that’s my ultimate goal for 2019!

What about you? What are your creative outlets?

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Keep Writing!

Yvette K. Carol

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A painting is never finished – it simply stops in interesting places. ~ Paul Gardner

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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. I usually start my posts apologizing for being a day late. This month, I apologize for being a week late. Sorry! I’m putting it down to the holidaze.

InsecureWritersSupportGroup

OPTIONAL IWSG Day Question: What are your favorite and least favorite questions people ask you about your writing?

Oh, this is a good one. Believe it or not, I’m most often asked about my income. I don’t know why, but people seem to think its okay to ask writers about their pay rates when it’s not a question normally asked of other professions. I guess people are fascinated by the idea of writing books. I’ve heard many authors say, that in making school visits, the question they get asked the most often is, ‘How much money do you make?’

I think of Jack Nicholson’s famous movie rant, “You can’t handle the truth!”

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People imagine they will be the next J.K. Rowling or Stephanie Meyers. People see the blinding success stories of people who write a book and sell millions and become famous. Whereas the truth is those elite writers who make the most money are in the top 5%. The rest of us need to keep our day jobs.

Whenever I talk about authors and making money on social media, I drag out a beloved quote by one of my fellow authors on the children’s collaboration, Kissed By An Angel. Ellen Warach Leventhal said her favourite response from a fourth grader was, “You work hard, you don’t know if you’ll ever get paid for it, and you aren’t rich? Man, not sure I want to do that.”

That’s right. The reality is not very romantic.

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In essence, that’s why millions of people try their hand at penning their first novel every year and why only a small percentage of them will ever attempt a second. They quickly realize the truth all long time writers know; there is no money in it. Think of an author as like being a musician or an artist, or an actor. You do the work for the love of it, because you can’t NOT do it, despite the fact the recompense is uncertain. You supplement your income with other things. You find ingenious ways to save your pennies, you grow your own fruit and vegetables, you shop at thrift stores, you recycle things, and you make life work.

You don’t do this job for the money.

When people ask what my yearly income looks like, I go pink. I can’t answer the question in any way that comes off making me look good. I can’t say, ‘I don’t make very much money from my books, and yet, I keep publishing them,’ or I’d look like a prize idiot. It’s hard to reply to this question in social settings. It’s a lose-lose situation, folks, so please don’t ask authors this question.

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My discomfort with this stinker is swiftly followed in second place by those who ask, ‘How many books have you sold?’

Now, come on people, do I ask you how much product you moved today? Do I ask you, how many lives you’ve changed? Or anything remotely in that vicinity. This question always makes me feel like being grilled on a hot plate. Just back away, now.

However, if we’re talking about my favourite questions to be asked, they would definitely be, ‘What inspired you to write your book?’ with ‘What’s your book about?’ Because then I’m being asked about my inner process and the creative life, which is my passion and my bliss. I can soar away into these higher thoughts and let my imaginative life come to the fore.

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Chasing the muse is always exhilarating to think about. I feel this sort of information is far more valuable to share, and is of greater service, because those who are truly called to write will take positive juice from it and use that to fuel their own writing endeavours. Then, one feels one is being of service. I would far rather speak to that than the money, because the only answer I have is, ‘I write for the love of it and make income in other ways.’ Hardly motivating.

What about you? What are your favourite and least favourite questions?

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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. 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: 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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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!!!

InsecureWritersSupportGroup

OPTIONAL IWSG Day Question: How has your creativity in life evolved since you began writing?

I was seventeen when I began writing. Fresh out of school, I was a teenage mum with a newborn baby to care for. My boyfriend and I had moved out of home, away from our families into the city. In the early eighties, the days before personal cell phones and computers, this meant being totally isolated. It’s hard to imagine, now, isn’t it. But, we were on our own in the big, bad world. I studied for my bursary year by correspondence, while washing forty nappies every day by hand in the bathtub. As my boyfriend was in his first year as an apprentice photolithographer, he only made $96 a week and that was all we had. I bought bulk packs of macaroni and different powdered flavouring and made macaroni cheese with a different flavour added each night. We had one car, and we lived in a dingy apartment building. Our flat was infested with cockroaches, and at the front and back of the building it was nothing but tarmac, there was no view, no garden or green area of our own.

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That scenario was the perfect breeding ground for the artist to come forth. I had to escape somehow. The cheapest, simplest way to escape my life circumstances was to pick up a pen and write.

When my son was sleeping, I wrote children’s stories and let my imagination go wild. I didn’t ‘know how to write’ and the stories were pretty bad, looking back. I remember a well-known writer saying once, ‘Every writer has those first manuscripts lying in a bottom drawer that should never see the light of day.’ The writing was crap, and yet, I was trapped in a poor, isolated and uninspiring life, and writing stories gave me the hope I needed. It was like self therapy. Every day, I expressed myself creatively through the written word and by doing so experienced that new, more inspiring reality. This became my outlet, my sunlit garden, and the saving of me.

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Every day, whenever I got the chance, I’d pick up the story and write a little more. I’d climb through the green window into the meadow beyond, and there I’d be free.

As my son grew up, our life circumstances began to improve and have their own flowering.

My writing changed too. With each writing workshop, course, conference and lecture I attended, my understanding of the craft developed. My work gained more structure, more form and substance.

My first born son became an adult, and suddenly, I became more independent, I had more freedom. By the nineties, I had a job. I had money, and I was still writing in my spare time. There was the beautiful fruit of my stories developing into purer forms.

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Every day, whenever I got the chance, I’d pick up the story and write a little more. I was still drawing and painting my characters in tandem with writing the prose.

I remarried and had two more sons. We had a home with a lovely garden. As my life circumstances and finances settled, I didn’t have a desperate desire to escape my world anymore. In order to continue to work at a steady pace on my stories, I had to learn discipline. Just as I had to attend to the grown-up business of marriage, house maintenance and child-rearing, I also had to learn B.I.C. Butt In Chair is hard to do as it takes immense concentration. I accepted the challenge.

Every day, I’d sit and write a little more. I decided to stop drawing my own illustrations, and I focussed on the words.

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I gravitated to writing middle grade fiction twelve years ago, and it felt like I’d found my niche.

Writing has become an integral part of my life. I have come to love every step of the novel writing process. I don’t have an agent or a publisher. I’m my own boss and in the last three years, I’ve self published two books and had two short works included in two others.

My creativity in life has definitely evolved since I started writing? How about you, has yours?

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Keep Writing!

Yvette K. Carol

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“Tell me, what is it you plan to do / with your one wild and precious life?” Mary Oliver

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

Beware the dreaded terror that is the read-aloud edit! Everything they say about it being a back-breaking labour is true. These days, you often hear the advice to read your own work aloud. This is primarily because, no matter how obvious it seems, the fact remains that stories were made to be told, to be heard by the reader’s inner ear, and to be shared with others. If a piece of prose can’t pass the read-aloud test, it’s dead in the water. And yet, reading aloud your own story, especially if it’s a full length novel, will crush your soul beneath its heel.

I’m currently three quarters of the way through a read-aloud edit of my next middle grade novel, and I cannot tell you how many times I’ve wanted to give up. Labours of Hercules, on steroids.

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You see, three weeks ago, after having edited my work-in-progress, The Last Tree, a gazillion times, I decided it was time to do the dreaded read aloud edit. By the end of the first hour of recording myself, I was drained of all energy and, by the end of the first day, the will to live.

Each weekend, that I’ve gotten to work on it again, I’ve been surprised afresh by how it makes me want to claw my own hair out by the roots. It’s tedious, arduous and gruelling. No part of reading aloud 67,634 words comes easy. In fact, I have discovered a whole new appreciation for voice artists and especially those who do the audio novels. It takes power and endurance and patience. You read page after page until you think you’re going to go mad. And, then you find you’ve only read one chapter and there are still fifty more ahead.

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The reason you keep going through this undeniable hard slog, is that there’s such a big payoff. You get this incredible transformation that starts to come over the work that no other editing technique can touch.

The reason you keep going despite the mental and physical anguish is that when you read aloud, you hear your story anew. When you listen to the recording to edit the story, you hear the prose in a new way again. This effectively brings to light every flaw. It is quite special and unique in its singular transparency.

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The reason you keep going is because you discover where the story doesn’t flow as well as it should, and you swiftly knock a lot of the bumps out.

The eleven rewards I’ve identified so far in reading aloud your own work:

  1. You notice extraneous words, when sentences are too long
  2. You hear the repetitions, the favoured ways of saying things, favoured words or ‘tics’
  3. You hear where the dialogue is popping and where it falls flat
  4. You hear where you need to name who is doing what to prevent the reader getting lost37536386_10155480627157212_1260027620918034432_n
  5. It shows up flaws in rhythm, words that when spoken in sequence trip up the tongue
  6. You become aware of leaps in states of consciousness, where you as the writer have made assumptions things are clear, yet you have failed to fill in the gaps. You see the spots where there are not enough words to paint the scene
  7. It brings out patterns in actions (like ‘nodded’ and ‘shook their head’ or ‘rolled their eyes’)
  8. You see where some parts of the story have heft, they’re meatier, while other parts are weaker and the material too thin
  9. You discover where you’ve put the cart before the horse and you have things out of sequence, so you have stated the decision first and the options and problem solving second40661154_1781118765330897_3490029191380860928_n
  10. You’ll hear where too many words have been used in a sentence. You’ll discover sentences so long and convoluted you can’t breathe, and they’ll make you hate your own writing with a passion
  11. You can feel the drag where some parts of the story are boring, or could be worded better, and sometimes, you can even hear where punctuation is missing

As you can see, it is well worth the sweat, blood and toil, as well as the inevitable midnight oil. Despite the fact it has been a painful, torturous process, so far, reading my book aloud has also been the most effective editing I’ve done. I might even be tempted to do it again, even though I quail at the thought!

Am I crazy? Yes, possibly.

What about you, have you ever tried the dreaded read aloud edit? Did you live to tell the tale?

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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“May your dreams be larger than mountains and may you have the courage to scale their summits.” -Harley King

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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: What publishing path are you considering/did you take, and why?

I’m going to answer both parts of that question. When I put out The Last Tree, the third book of the Chronicles of Aden Weaver, in 2019, I aim to self publish. But, that’s not to say going Indie is an easy option. I self published The Or’in of Tane Mahuta in 2015 and The Sasori Empire in 2017, and both journeys were equally back breaking.

Going Indie is a bit like having babies: the agony and hardship and gruelling aspect of self publishing your stories is epic. As you sweat your way through the nightmare of endless editing hell and the 101 jobs that need doing, you swear with a fist raised to the sky that once you’ve got this book out, that’s it, you’re done with going Indie.

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In more sober moments, you tell friends that the next time you publish a book you’ll get someone else to do the donkey work. You’re totally willing to go out on the streets to knock on the doors and basically stalk the gatekeepers again, submitting your manuscripts to editor after editor. You’re convinced you’d rather trudge the rounds of submission forever, than tackle self publishing again.

Then, your beautiful baby is born. You have the party, you hold your novel in your hands, sniff it, and you look at it adoringly. Sometime later, after the glow has worn off and a bit more time has gone past, you realize you want to do it all over again.

You dive back into being an Indie with your next work because:

 

  1. Despite the backbreaking hours of hard work, it’s really rewarding.
  2. Every single decision is in your hands which is overwhelming, yet you have control over the look of the whole package, which is exhilarating (hee hee, ha ha!)
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  4. Every single cent ever made goes to you.
  5. I once turned down a publishing offer because they wanted to change the name of the characters! As an Indie, you get to be the boss, and say how the story goes and no one else.
  6. Because you have to do the book launches and marketing yourself, it drives you to learn new skills and expand your repertoire.
  7. You have more to offer in terms of advice and knowhow when young authors come asking. I’ve been surprised in the last ten years how many up and coming writers have asked me questions. It’s helpful in those situations to have a clue.
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  9. For me, one of the big reasons for self publishing is no one wanted to publish my stories the way I wanted to read them. So, in order for me to put out my anthropomorphic fantasy adventure fiction for the upper middle grade market (9-13-year-olds), I had to do it myself. Sometimes, when the slice of the market you’re aiming at is so small, it just isn’t economically viable for a traditional publishing house to invest in a niche with such low returns. So, in order to stay true to the material, I had to produce it myself.

For me, this is vitally important, because my entire life is a quest for truth, for honesty, the essence of things. I aim to cleave to the material the muse gives me.

For me, the gut feeling is this: that my only job as the author is to produce the copy, buff and polish it with editing, and do my utmost not to wreck the original inspiration.

If the gatekeepers can’t get behind my vision or this particular creation, then so be it. I get to say, no matter, I’m publishing it anyway. And, I love that!

8. Ultimately, it feels good because it feels like investing in myself.

What about you, what publishing path will you take?

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Keep Writing!

Yvette K. Carol

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Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

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I’m not on the bestseller list. Yet, as a friend and I were saying in a podcast the other day, it’s not ultimately about having to “sell” our artworks, it’s about having a form of creative expression and how vital it is to our health and well being to express ourselves in creative ways. The crazier the world gets, the more we need to ground ourselves through creative expression, whether that be through art, writing, dance, drama, cooking, music, gardening, or whatever form it takes. It’s a way to be happy and build happy memories which helps us to be healthy.

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I’ve been lucky enough to pursue art and writing throughout my adult life. These things have given me a release valve for the stress and have given me great joy. At the same time, my creative hobbies have given me a solid base in life and a means of transforming energy into something new. Art keeps me on an even keel, and, telling stories is satisfying on a deep level.

Did you know that storytelling is the second oldest profession in the world? ‘Storytelling has a shape. It dominates the way all stories are told and can be traced back not just to the Renaissance, but to the very beginning of the recorded word,’ wrote John Yorke. And, so it does.

John Yorke

Humankind has always sought to communicate what has yet to be expressed. Since we first developed ways of communicating 150,000 years ago, artistic expression has separated us from the animal kingdom. As author, Terry Pratchett said, ‘Lots of animals are bright, but as far as we can tell they’ve never come up with any ideas about who makes the thunder.’

Our creative pursuits, since earliest times, have defined and refined humanity.

‘Before you can change the world you have to be able to form a picture of the world being other than it appears.’ Humankind’s development comes down to having used our imaginations and creating new things that had never been seen or done before. Our very survival as a species may depend on inventions yet to exist.

Thomas M Madsen, visual artist

Thomas M Madsen, visual artist

I believe for this and many other reasons, it’s necessary to foster the arts. It’s vital we encourage ourselves and one another and our children and grandchildren to express themselves. I say this not only in favour of humankind’s continued evolution, but also, because I came so close to stifling my own child’s creativity.

For about three years, I had resisted the youngest son’s desire to play drums. I made him take piano. At the start of last year, I said to the youngest son, “Shall we sign you up for piano lessons, again?”

He said, “Okay…I will, but only because music lessons make you smarter. What I really want to learn is drums.”

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For the first time, I really heard him, and I realized I have to let him do this. No matter how uncomfortable it may be for us, no matter how big the potential financial input needed, I have to let him have a go at learning drums.

I gave him one term of lessons to see if he liked it. He was a natural and took to it like a duck to water. Within six months of weekly half hour lessons, my son took his first drum exam and passed it ‘with distinction.’ Now, in 2018, he’s just passed second grade, again ‘with distinction.’ He tells me the exhilaration he feels when a piece becomes natural is unlike any other. What a blessing.

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It surprises me, looking back. I saw that even someone like myself, who truly values the arts in every way, had still come close to stifling my son’s artistic outlet, simply because I was on auto-pilot around what I thought he “should” be doing. The only difference – the key that turned it around – was that I listened to him. I think that’s the best thing we can do for our children and young people, is to really listen when they speak.  When I saw what I was doing, I took the youngest out of the piano lessons, started him with drum lessons, invested in a nice drum kit, and he was away.

In the mid-year report, his teacher wrote: ‘His natural talent is showing through, he seems to have an aptitude for picking up drum pieces very quickly, by using his ear, and reading at the same time.’

Of course he does! And last month, he joined the school band for the first time. I’m so glad I opened my ears.

What about you, what is your creative outlet?

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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Our ability to create other worlds made us humans. ~ Terry Pratchett

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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

OPTIONAL IWSG Day Question: What pitfalls would you warn other writers to avoid on their publication journey?

Interesting question. The first thing that comes to mind is not to fall into the trap of spending all your time marketing your first book. Yes, marketing for an Indie is an absolute essential. Yes, there’s a lot that needs to be done, but it also can get mesmerising in itself, becoming about chasing the dollar and readers and the dream of being a household name.

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Writer and blogger, Anne R. Allen said, ‘We writers tend to be a delusional lot. Most of us know the average writer doesn’t make a bunch of money, but we secretly believe our own efforts will bring us fabulous fame and fortune. Or at least pay the rent. When we start out, we’re certain our books will leapfrog over all the usual obstacles, and in record time, we will land on the NYT  bestseller list and the cover of Time. Don’t be embarrassed. The delusions are necessary.’

It’s so easy when we start out to imagine if we just try a bit harder we’ll crack that ceiling. It’s perfectly fine to dream. We just need to know when to put the marketer’s hat aside and go back to the page.

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Jane Yolen once said, “When I finish something, I always promise myself to play for a while–see a movie, go to dinner with friends, go for a walk outside with my field glasses. But since something is always percolating, the only person I’m fooling is myself. My friends and family get it. My mind is often off going walkabout in the next book.”

And so it should be, this is who we are – writers – we should be jumping into the next story, the next book, the next world.

They say that it’s usually by the third or fourth book that an author starts to get into their stride. We need to keep producing new material to hit that mark.

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To me, there is nothing more important than the work itself. It’s the reason for my being here, apart from my children, of course. Writing is what I’ve done since the age of five, and it’s what I love the most. Upon releasing each of my books, I’ve covered every marketing base I needed to as an Indie, I watched all the YouTube videos and read the blog posts and articles and did what I needed to do. Then, I cut it back to the basic ongoing marketing for each book, and returned to my writing desk.

And, take care of your own voice. I’d say that it gets easy for the new writer to feel overwhelmed these days, because there’s simply so much advice. Every blogger’s an expert, and a glaze comes over the eyes as we hit overload trying to take it all in.

When I was starting out with critique groups years ago, I was trying to please everyone. I took on board everyone’s criticism, and I amended my work whether I agreed with the changes or not. I ended up with work that was inauthentic to me. I had butchered my sentences up to such a degree that a later critique partner commented my story sounded like a horse clip clopping over cobblestones. It had lost its mojo.

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I had to learn to only use critique I agree will improve the story and not change what is actually integral to the piece. There is a real discernment required of a new writer. It’s about staying true to your inner core and guidance system because then our prose comes from that which is intrinsically real and ‘us.’

As Cecelia Ahern said, the most important thing for new writers to do is ‘find your voice. Don’t emulate other writers because it’s your own unique and distinctive voice that your reader will like.’ Exactly.

What would you say were the main pitfalls for writers to watch out for? It gets you thinking doesn’t it?

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Keep Writing!

Yvette K. Carol

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Whether the readers remember me is not important, but if they remember the story, I am graven in stone. ~ Jane Yolen

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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.

InsecureWritersSupportGroup

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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