Posts Tagged ‘art’

For the last two years, I’ve been working on my third book, The Last Tree, and I’ve finally gotten it to the point where I would normally go to a professional editor and then a proof-reader. But this time, I thought I would try an online editing service as the price difference was more than three thousand dollars. A friend, who is also an Indie author, recommended a particular service, and I signed up, paying $70 for a year’s worth of “premium service.” After two weeks of fruitless attempts trying to upload my manuscript to their documents file, and many emails back and forth, I am still unable to upload my story and unable to use their editing services.

I think of myself as reasonably intelligent, however I admit to being hopeless with technology. I find dealing with all the in’s and out’s and nooks and crannies of online services mind-boggling. Nothing is ever as straight forward as you’d like it to be. Everything requires a learning manual to figure out how to use the site: ‘Just watch these ten videos to show you how to use all the different aspects of our service.’

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I may have to go back to the original plan of paying a small fortune for professional editors to do the job. I think one of the things about being an Indie writer is that these sorts of delays, the technological misadventures that happen along the way to publishing a book, are things you would normally talk about with other people, but as an Indie, the buck stops with you. The job can feel a little lonely, sometimes, because it doesn’t matter how big the problem is no one else is going to fix it.

When my grandmother was alive, she lived five minutes’ walk up the road from me. I used to visit her every Thursday, and she would have cooked for us the most amazing full three course cooked lunch. We would sit and talk for hours. And she would tell me the family stories. Every time I hugged her and turned to leave, gran would say some special saying to take away, to think about on my walk home. She’d say, “Remember to always look for the silver lining, and you’ll find it” or “Reach for a star and you’ll go far.” So, these days, many years after her death, I hear her wise words and remember them. She would know that any hitch in the proceedings was fine, and all was in order with nothing out of place.

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I emailed the online editing service, and said, if we don’t get the issue sorted out this time I’ll get a refund and move on. In the meantime, I’m very happy to have another go at editing the material. You can never edit enough, that’s for sure. So I’ll happily run through The Last Tree two or three times more while I wait.

As I near these final stages of working on this novel, I have to figure out the cover, the illustrations, and the whole presentation. I have included a couple of my own pen and ink illustrations in each volume, so I knew I wanted to do a couple for The Last Tree as well. I hadn’t had a chance to look at them while I was still deeply immersed in the editing. You get onto a track of momentum when you’re editing and you want to see it to the end. I had to complete the polishing edits before I could contemplate art.

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The last two weekends, I’ve spent hours at a time waiting as I tried to get documents to upload to the online editing service, and I spent that time wisely. I picked up my pencil and dusted off my art pad. It felt so liberating to leave the laptop. I sat down and started to draw the illustrations for the third book of the trilogy, The Chronicles of Aden Weaver.

By the end of the weekend, I had a template for two illustrations: one of the hero making a deal with the bird demons, and the other of two giants fighting. I see my given deadline of spring release for The Last Tree slip, slip sliding away. Yet, now, I have some illustrations I can work on during any further delays in production. I think they call that the silver lining. It helps to stay positive, no matter what.

“Remember to always look for the silver lining, and you’ll find it.”

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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Staying positive doesn’t mean everything will turn out ok. Rather, it is knowing you will be ok no matter how things turn out. – Unknown

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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 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 pick one place in the world to sit and write your next story, where would it be and why?

If I could pick one place in the world to sit and write my next story, it would be the top of the mountain behind my parents’ house, in the Coromandel Peninsula of New Zealand. My connection with the mountain goes way back to my earliest memories. My parents bought the property in 1964, for ‘the equivalent of a whole year’s wages, $900,’ as dad used to say. We went there every school holidays and long weekend from then on. I have fond memories of trekking up the mountain on the old dirt track and racing my brother and sisters down the other side on flattened boxes.

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Every time we arrived at our land for a holiday, our family would play “the 100 stem game” – something mum and dad had concocted – we would start at the bottom of the section and the whole family would work our way up the property in a long line, pulling stems of bracken until we reached a hundred. It was only when we’d pulled out a hundred bracken, we were allowed to run off and explore the forest. We tamed the section of land and the land helped us go a little wild. The countryside was full of wild life, as well as many colourful species of birds: tui, fantail, finches, swifts, wax eyes, kingfishers, pheasants, quail, wood pigeons, hawks, moreporks, kiwi, oyster catchers, sand pipers, herons, and many more. Our holidays there were carefree, swimming, fishing, and exploring the forest and the enigmatic mountain. The 360 degree view of the surrounding area from the top was breathtakingly beautiful.

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Later on, when my parents retired to live on the property permanently, I lived with them on occasion. If I wasn’t living there, I was visiting on a regular basis. Each day, I would walk up the mountain for exercise. I learned to always take a small notebook and a pen in my pocket, because so often, the simple act of walking through the forest, up the sacred way through the trees, would feel like a meditation. This caused lots of ideas to fizz and pop, so I would often have to sit on different boulders here and there along the track, to catch the thoughts in my notebook. Sitting in the shaded stretch of forest, the ideas felt endless.

I’ve told this story many times before, however it’s a precious memory of a really special time in my life. While my parents were still newly retired, they still felt strong and capable and used to do a lot of travelling. I would housesit and pet-sit for them whenever they were away.

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One of the times my parents were away travelling on a five week tour of Australia, I happened to be in the “genesis period” of working on my next book – in other words, I was just starting a new novel. It was astonishing. I found all I needed to do was walk up the mountain each day, then return to my computer and start to write, and the words would flow like a river. I didn’t have to apply any effort to the story at all. It got so that the characters took on a life of their own and for those five weeks, it was as if they hovered somewhere above me, among the exposed wooden beams of the ceiling, as they narrated the story. It was one of the most satisfying creative experiences of my life.

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From that time on, I thought of my parents’ land and their mountain as my ‘creative wellspring.’ That’s the best way I have of describing it. Inspiration fills me every visit, and the mountain gives her blessing. I’m currently nearly finished writing my trilogy, The Chronicles of Aden Weaver. It means it’s nearly time to make the pilgrimage to the family mountain. I need to breathe the fresh air and humbly walk through the forest for another story.

What about you, where would you choose to write your next story, or to create your next work of art?

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Keep Writing!

Yvette K. Carol

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A person is a fool to become a writer. His only compensation is absolute freedom. ~ Roald Dahl

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Subscribe to my Newsletter by visiting my website

 

 

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.

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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

At a get-together with friends recently, I ran into an old buddy from school.

She asked that age old defining question, “What do you do for a living?”

Being a stay-at-home mum and a weekend writer, I feel I do a lot and that my life is interesting, yet, it’s usually not a great conversation starter. I write part time because the kids come first, and raising a child with special needs takes a somewhat longer process than raising my other two boys.

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When you say you write fiction, people often ask awkward questions about marketing, and I have to confess I suck at all that stuff. I do my best. I maintain a social media presence: I have my website, Twitter, Facebook, blog, and newsletter bases covered. However I can’t do that thing artists do now, where they ask for people to like a page, or vote for them at a story competition, or they request for people to review something, or visit a site as often as possible and share it with people to help them tip the numbers in their favour. It makes me uncomfortable to be asked.

You feel as if every person you know has an angle. Everyone is selling you something.

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I do my bit. I have my books on Amazon, do my reviews on Goodreads. I have a digital footprint. But apart from that, I don’t promote my books, (apart from mentioning them in articles). Each publication is put on the figurative and literal shelf, and I work on the next story.

At present, I’m editing ‘The Last Tree,’ number three in the trilogy, The Chronicles of Aden Weaver. I’m mere hours of hard yakka away from seeking the first round of professional help, which will see this manuscript transformed from words on my screen to a living, breathing book.

Being an “Indie,” or Independent Publisher, I get to wear all the hats. It takes a lot of effort to put out a decent novel that you deem worthy of sitting on a library shelf. I find it incredibly rewarding.

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The moment you hold that book in your hands the labour is forgiven, the same way the pain is forgotten the moment you hold your baby in your arms.

Used to be, I thought self publishing was only for those who couldn’t get a traditional publishing contract. I used to look down on it, actually. I was holding out for acceptance by the traditional gatekeepers, the big publishing houses. I waited in vain for thirty-five years. Eventually, I had to admit to myself, that what I was waiting for was not going to happen.

Of course, in thirty-five years, a lot had changed about the world of publishing. What was frowned upon in the 1980’s is accepted as commonplace in 2019. Now self publishing is more or less accepted. There are even lots of success stories about Indies, whose books were picked up by big publishers and turned into global hits. These days, I realize this is a perfectly viable way to put stories out there. Even better, self publishing allows me total control.

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I remember one time, when I did get a book accepted. One of my “early reader” books was accepted by a small Wellington press. They would publish the book they said, but they didn’t like any of the characters’ names and wanted my permission to change them all. I said no and didn’t sign the contract. I realized then and there that I’m the type of person who likes to control the end product, and that I like to produce it my way. Going Indie turned out to be a perfect fit.

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For the Chronicles, I worked with the cover designer at BookPrint for weeks, before I had the book looking the way that felt right for me. I was so pleased with the finished product. I haven’t seen the cover art for ‘The Last Tree,’ yet. My nephew—the artist for the first two volumes—has been charged with the task. I can hardly wait to see what he comes up with. Then I can work with the designer on the third cover. And I can also draw two pen and ink illustrations to go inside. This is the fun part after all the elbow grease and midnight oil.

What do I do for a living? I sometimes produce a precious book.

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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

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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

A good friend said to me a few years ago, that entering one’s “middle years” was like fall, in that ‘things started to drop away from you like leaves from the tree.’ I think that is a handy analogy for this season of life I find myself in. After losing both my parents in the last two years, as well as a good friend, thinking of this time in my life as ‘being like fall’ helps me achieve the right mindset. That way, I accept loss as the natural order of life and the way things go.

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I put this realisation into my work-in-progress, a middle grade fantasy novel called, The Last Tree. Because of the youth of the characters, the realization becomes an initiatory one. I was able to use my recent experience with grief to write more realistically about the grief we feel as kids when we first take those first tentative steps towards adulthood, and we start to leave childhood behind. I can clearly remember being that age of twelve to thirteen and not wanting to grow up.

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Our young hero, Aden Weaver, was eleven in book one of The Chronicles of Aden Weaver series and each book covers the course of a year in his life. The Last Tree, being the third volume in the trilogy, includes the final battles, and the flowering into fullness of the child character/s must transpire.

As Aden Weaver is thirteen in The Last Tree, he is therefore on the cusp of change, walking that fine line of the transition between boyhood and manhood. He would naturally entertain his first thoughts about mortality. I did this through having his beloved mentor start to age rapidly. The thin line I had to walk was to have Aden experience loss while not dwelling on it to the point of being morbid.

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I knew I had to handle everything about the final book with care. In The Last Tree, Aden Weaver says goodbye to people he loves. It is a graduation story after all, and with graduation comes leaving people and places behind, so while there is bliss there is sadness. That’s life. It’s how we handle what happens that defines us.

It’s vital for the reader’s sense of resolution that Aden displays the depth of character at the end of the series absent at the beginning.

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The protagonist must demonstrate a growth arc and become that thing that was promised in book one, the wannabe must become the warrior, the hero, the more evolved, more complete version of themselves.

Aden, must taste the bitter fruit of reality and grow up a little and move on with new maturity. It’s a delicate piece in the mechanism of the coming of age story. However, I don’t prefer writing morbid fiction for children. You can see in the success of series like The Hunger Games that this generation of kids has high tolerance levels for death and violence. I read the Hunger Games trilogy to my boys earlier this year, and I was shocked at the content. It’s that sort of thing I couldn’t do.

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I want to do my story and characters justice in a potent way without the gore.

To me, there should be some reflection of life’s difficulties in our children’s books, and it also needs careful treatment. When you are writing for the 9-13 year-old age group, this acknowledgement of the child grasping the intransience of life needs to be touched on in some way, to be authentic to that stage of life. It’s about our passage over the threshold, from the first phase of life to the next. It can be symbolic, through leaving town, or changing schools. It needs to be present but not at the forefront, and not put in a way that is irresolvable for the immature mind.

Life’s tragedy can be delivered in junior fiction in a way that enriches the story without overwhelming it, if it’s done well. Just think of Charlotte’s Web.

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In writing about loss for young people, you must, also offer hope. Just as we do in real life, seek a counterbalance. The aim is not to leave your young audience devastated. We have a responsibility to reveal the glimmer of light along with the darkness.

At the end of The Last Tree, I sought to redress the balance back into the light. I only wrote the triumphant scenes a couple of months ago, and now they’re among my favourites in the whole book.

Hope is restored, as it should be. Life does go on.

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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‘Good stories are about the getting of wisdom; let your children grow up.’ ~ Jane Yolen

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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

The benefits of reading for the writer are multi-fold. I knew that. Yet, there were a lot of years in the middle of my life where I wasn’t reading modern fiction.

I discovered the joy of reading, as a little kid. A trip to the library each week was a part of our pre-school and early school life. I can remember eagerly choosing books and taking them home to savour. Then somewhere along the way I lost the habit. I felt guilty. I was embarrassed that I wasn’t reading.

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Anyone who follows this blog will have heard me talk about the wonderful writer, Kate de Goldi, our award winning kiwi writer. I admire her work and she is a great teacher, too. When I did Kate’s Writing for Children workshop, in 2005, she was emphatic about how important it was for us to read. In the very first lecture she gave, Kate said, ‘Read the genre constantly, get immersed in the form.’ She finished the lecture with the exhortation to, ‘Read, read, read. Write, write, write. Read, read, read. Write, write, write.’

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At the time, my two youngest boys were one and three, and I was trying to work on my stories, and be a good wife and run the household, and I was busy. I was too busy and exhausted to read. Then, I became complacent.

Last Christmas, however, I decided enough was enough.

At the start of this year, I made a private resolution that I was going to start reading again.

So far, it has been incredible. Every time I find myself at a second hand bookstore, or a book fair, I buy every middle grade book I see that looks interesting. I have built quite a library. And, I’ve started happily working my way through my collection.

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I’ve read all sorts of novels: Margaret Mahy’s Raging Robots & Unruly Uncles, Jane Bloomfield’s excellent Lily Max, Satin, Scissors, Frock, Joy Cowley’s The Wild West Gang, and Emily Rodda’s The City of Rats, averaging one book a week.

It has been more than entertaining; it has more than reminded me why I love to read. It’s been an education.

I understand now why Kate specified reading in one’s genre. You begin to realize what’s out there, and how people are writing to “tweens” these days, you start to see more modern structure to the stories. I’ve been inspired and encouraged to refresh my own approach to fiction. Becoming ‘immersed in the form’ helps me better understand how to emulate it. Reading is teaching me how to write.

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I cannot tell you how greatly I’ve felt revolutionized by reading again. Reading, as a writer, is entertaining and informative. Blogger, Laura Thomas, said, “When you read, you experience the power of writing. You learn what words work together and how they can be used to convey emotions.” You see which techniques and approaches to writing modern fiction are the most effective, what sort of storylines are drawing people back for more. Most of the articles I’ve read on the subject of ‘reading to improve writing skills’ recommend reading traditionally published, successful authors in your genre.

You can study good writing by reading the most popular books.

 

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According to a report on the benefits of reading in the Health Fitness Revolution blog, reading ‘sharpens writing skills.’ They attribute this improvement to the ‘expansion of your vocabulary.’ “Exposure to published, well-written work has a positive effect on one’s own writing. Observing the various styles of other authors, journalists, poets and writers will eventually be reflected in your own writing style.”

I believe that to be true. I see my style changing. I notice that when I’m thinking on my feet as well, for instance in Toastmasters, I have more words available than I used to. It’s wonderful.

I like to hear also, how reading influences other artists, because the impact crosses all forms. I had the great pleasure of hearing artist/author Shaun Tan speak at one of New Zealand’s Storylines Children’s Literature festivals, a few years ago. He’s such a genius.

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Of reading, Shaun said, “As well as visual sources, many ideas for the illustrations emerged from my reading history. I’m often thinking of different things I’ve read, or particular words, while I draw and paint which best express the poetry of colour, line and form I’m after.”

I found that thought uplifting.

Reading a great story is universally beneficial. How cool is that.

I aim to continue to read my way through my library of novels and when the time comes, I shall take great pleasure in starting to frequent my own local library again. I can’t wait.

What about you, do you read books? Have you been to your local library lately?

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Reading!

Yvette K. Carol

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“The greatest part of a writer’s time is spent in reading in order to write.” ~ Samuel Johnson

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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: Whose perspective do you like to write from best, the hero (protagonist) or the villain (antagonist)? And why?

When I started writing my present series, The Chronicles of Aden Weaver, prior to 2008, I had only penned the protagonist’s story. Then, I took a writing course with New Zealand writer, Lindsey Dawson. I stayed behind after class one day. Lindsey drew a diagram of a single vertical line. “This is the main thread of your story, the protagonist’s point of view.” Then, she drew a number of other lines snaking up around the vertical line, spiralling around it and crossing back and forth. “These are your antagonistic forces. Sometimes they cross and create havoc. You need all these elements to write a story.”

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I had never thought about writing the antagonist’s story before then. Lindsey’s words opened my eyes. The more I looked at rogues in fiction and in film, the more I realized how vital it is to portray them convincingly. In fact, you could go so far as to argue, that crafting a credible, powerful enough villain is the most important part of crafting a narrative.

Alfred Hitchcock once said, “The more successful the villain, the more successful the picture.”

The idea of fleshing out the antagonist gave me licence to explore what was going on in the bad guys’ camp. And, when I finally did put out the first book in the chronicles, The Or’in of Tane Mahuta, it was presented from both Aden’s and Chief Wako’s point of view, and sometimes with Wako’s henchmen taking over the bad guys’ point of view.

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Which did I enjoy writing more? Writing Aden’s story was fun, however writing about the bad guys was much more fun. Why? I think it’s because Wako could do and say whatever the hell he liked, pardon my French. Antagonists do not have to tiptoe around the “P.C. brigade,” by definition they don’t care whether they’ve said the wrong thing or offended anyone. Antagonists don’t need to think of the repercussions. They can act first think later because they don’t care about the consequences of their actions. They’re rebels, they don’t need to play by the rules.

It reminds me of actors/actresses saying they like the bad guy roles best because they get to really go wild. Similarly, in writing the antagonistic elements of my story, I could let my imagination run rampant, conjuring Chief Wako and his evil minions, imagining what over-the-top thing he was going to say or do next.

It was a liberating feeling. Whenever I wrote the bad guys parts, I felt so free. So energized. Antagonists are famous for not following the norms of society or adhering to the moral codes that bind the rest of us. It was nice to take a break from the sanctioned code of conduct and ride along with a character who makes up his own rules.

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Bad guys are typically self-serving. We’re taught from a very young age to share, and that being selfish is the worst thing you can do. When I write the baddies, I can be as selfish as the little kid in me always wanted to be! Whoopee. That’s satisfying, let me tell you.

Although my rogue was a nasty guy at times, I grew to love him, because he was bold and brave, and an iconoclast. In fact, it was so much fun writing Chief Wako’s part that I had to tone it down at times for fear he would outshine the hero.

For the subsequent books, I followed the advice of my critique group and changed the books to a single point of view. I stopped writing the bad guys because I was advised that young readers find head hopping very hard to follow.

I missed writing the bad guys so much that I think in the next story I write, I’ll revert to multiple points of view again. I miss the villain too much.

Which do you prefer to write, hero or villain?

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Keep Writing!

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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