Posts Tagged ‘Inspiration’

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

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

I’ve been working on book three, The Last Tree, in my series, The Chronicles of Aden Weaver, for ten months. In the last two weeks, I have made some huge strides forward, which have entailed two joyous editing experiences, one weekend after another. It put me in mind of the fact that a lot of times, we writers hear about mistakes and pitfalls to avoid. I thought I’d like to share two of the delights of editing a novel.

I like to keep record of how many times I’ve done something—it’s the dad in me, what can I say?—so that’s how I know, I was on the twenty-ninth edit of The Last Tree, when I experienced that holy of holies, the ‘change of mind.’

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This mythical creature, the change of mind, or change of heart, is what happens when you disengage from your normal way of looking at your writing, and you get what is akin to a third-person perspective. It’s the moment when, if you’re lucky, as the writer you get to see and experience your work as if you were the reader. I had been editing for ten months and had done twenty-nine rounds of the material before I had my lightning strike and was able to read the copy in a whole new way.

Jimmy Braun, photo

Jimmy Braun, photo

That was two weeks ago. I really did feel lucky. I was changing swathes of the story from the second half to the end. I had been steadily bringing the word count down all year, from the overblown 90,845 I started with, to a neater 67,000 words. But that weekend, I was scything out pages of text, losing two whole chapters between Friday and Sunday. Then, at the same time, I couldn’t help myself adding new words, as I saw gaps that needed closing, so the copy ballooned again to over 68,000. And overarching it all was this brilliant feeling of being able to see clearly to the heart of the story, and really see what needed to be changed. The whole weekend was infused with creative imagination.

Then a week ago, when I went back to editing The Last Tree, the experience was completely different.

Last weekend, I’d hoped to taste that particular joy again, that elusive ethereal moment of magic. Every writer or artist knows this; it’s been called being touched by ‘the muse.’ There is an element to it of ‘otherness,’ when you’re immersed in your craft, of these magic moments, of being suspended from earth, of being delivered the ideas and words, of being able to weave worlds.

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But, last weekend it wasn’t to be. I could feel the difference as soon as I started working. This wasn’t about inspiration it was about the building blocks. The second half of The Last Tree had bothered me all year, yet, I just couldn’t seem to get my head around it. I knew something needed fixing. I had tried a few solutions: chopping the prose up a few times, rearranging the order, I took out scenes and added new ones, however a niggling feeling – “the little writer’s voice” – kept nagging me it still wasn’t right.

Last weekend, it was about getting the structure of these final scenes figured out, nailing down the nuts and bolts of the climactic scenes and the resolution of all the story threads. On the Friday night, I sat with a list of the marks I needed to hit, with regards structure, on one side of my computer, and a list of the general editing changes I needed to make, on the other side of my computer.

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By Sunday night, I had re-engineered the final acts of the story. I had welded and hammered them into a new shape. I had rebuilt it better than before. It was a thing of beauty. And, I knew that it was right this time, because of how I felt in my gut and the fact that the little writer’s voice had been silenced.

Only in the nick of time too, as my critique group, The Gang of Four, were nipping at my heels. The girls and I have been swapping chapters since February. Little did they know, I’d been sweating it all year because I knew the end scenes weren’t finalised. So I’m doubly glad to have had a couple of weekends like these, where the flow picked me up and carried me to the finish.

Yeeha! The old adage of B.I.C (Butt In Chair) really works.

Have you had any joyous writing experiences you want to share?

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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Haruki Murakami says, ‘The good thing about writing books is that you can dream while you are awake.’

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

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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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 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.

Anne R Allen

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

 

 

It’s time for this month’s group posting with 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.

InsecureWritersSupportGroup

OPTIONAL IWSG Day Question: What are your ultimate writing goals, and how have they changed over time (if at all)?

That’s a brilliant question because it really made me sit back and think. My goals have changed a lot. When I started penning kids’ fiction as a seventeen-year-old, I was far removed from the reality of being an author.

Believe it or not, when I started out, personal computers were not yet a thing. Although some people had them, no one I knew owned one. And the internet was just a twinkle in the eye of a brainiac, somewhere. I spent the first decade writing the good old fashioned way, with a pen and paper. I was a teenager, starting out in the 1980’s, just following the thread of what interested me in terms of subject matter and genre.

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I worked a string of other jobs and often second jobs as well. Writing stories was what I did in my spare time, and it still is.

When I started out at seventeen, I wasn’t thinking of publication. I was impelled to share my creativity through children’s stories, so I followed it. It took me another ten years to start submitting to publishers. My ultimate writing goal at the age of twenty-seven was simple, to get published and make money.

I have an old book of ‘Intentions,’ which I write up each year like resolutions. I discovered that by the age of thirty my ultimate writing goal had morphed into: “I want my books to be a huge success like Harry Potter.”

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Wow, I sure didn’t aim low in those days. I was quite surprised by the audacity of my intention.

I admit I’ve reduced my ultimate writing goals as I’ve gone along. Which I think boils down to figuring out what you really want to do with your time. As you grow older, time becomes more precious. The entry for 2017 reads: I raise people’s awareness and bring joy, inspire and make people feel better through the power of story.

And with age, you get more realistic. I might not be the next J. K. Rowling.

These days, I’m a stay-at-home mum and caregiver to my thirteen-year-old and my middle son who has Downs’ syndrome. I write part-time. I have two stories published and two books which I self published. My wish list these days tends to focus on more meaningful things like wanting joy, and a sense of fulfilment.

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These days my ultimate writing goal is to write more of what I love.  However, the series I’m writing is anthropomorphic fantasy fiction about insects. It gets some strange reactions at times.

I’ll never forget the response of one assessor to my book,  The Or’in of Tane Mahuta. She said, “Great story, but lose the insects!” I couldn’t lose the insects, they were an integral part of the machine of the story.

One day, I will move on to new fields in fiction. For now, I want to see this series out and do the best I possibly can.

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One of the authors I like is Lee Child, author of the Jack Reacher novels. He’s a real storyteller. Asked to give a tip recently for writers, he said, “Ignore all the tips. It’s got to be 100% your own product. As soon as you start thinking about what you should do, there’s a compromise and the spark goes. You’ve got to do what you want to do.”

Child really gets it. He’s talking about listening to the gut and the heart of the story. I love it. I’m ignoring all the tips. It’s 100% my anthropomorphic fantasy fiction about insects. If I want little critters creeping and flying and turning into human hybrids, I must write them. You’ve got to do what you want to do, right?

I wonder what my intention for 2019 will be? I think it’s going to be something along the lines of ‘I just want to be myself and enjoy the process!’

What about you? What are your Ultimate Writing Goals for 2018? Have you met them yet?

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Keep Writing!

Yvette K. Carol

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In a totally sane society, madness is the only freedom. ~ J. G. Ballard

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

When did I know I was going to become a grandmother? Nine months ago, my eldest son sent me a simple text. “Guess who’s going to be a grandma?” it was like time stood still. In reality, it was twenty-eight years ago, when my blond haired boy of eight used to draw pictures of his ‘house, wife and three children,’ that he first told me I would one day be a grandmother.

When I was little, I used to draw fairies, animals and so on. I don’t recall ever thinking ahead about my future, or the family I might have one day. When my eldest was little, he drew his own home and family and even his dog, it’s something he’s wanted ever since he was a young boy.

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Maybe it was because I was a teen mom, and his father and I were separated by the time he was one and a half years old? Maybe he wanted to give his kids the family environment he’d wanted for himself?

Maybe it was just his personality.

As a teenager, my first born gained a reputation for being good with kids. At the parties for the youngest in the family, he could always be relied upon to be outside, looking after the gaggle of kids on the trampoline, or wherever they were. He has that open fun sort of personality that little kids adore.

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In my mind, I have always seen him as a father-to-be, no doubt. So, it really surprised me when a few years ago, he said he wasn’t sure if he would ever have kids.

Meeting the right partner changed things, however. He and his girlfriend got engaged last year, and, I was delighted to hear they were expecting a baby.

I wasn’t so sure how I felt about being called “Grandma,” though. Frankly, it made me feel old. Grandmother? Me? I could’ve sworn I was still a young person with places to go and things to do. No, I thought, I don’t like the thought of being called “Grandma,” I’ll have to use Nana, or Nan, or Gan-gan, or Gigi, or Meemaw.

The nine months sped by.

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Then, on the 17th June, my first granddaughter, Sienna Bella, was born  at 2.51 in the afternoon, weighing in at a healthy 3. 30 kg.

We went to meet her the following day. As soon as I laid eyes on her my heart melted. I saw my son holding his daughter in his arms and the happiness was indescribable. You hear people talk about how wonderful it is to become a grandparent, and yet, you never really know what it is until you experience something for yourself.

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I can say all my anxiety about getting old, about time passing quickly, and so on and so forth, just faded away in the face of the magnificence of this new life. This daughter, this granddaughter, who is now the spear of this family. This girl will carry the blood and genes of our family forward into the future. I felt myself and my silly worries about weight and wrinkles fade into insignificance before this newborn, the first born of my first born. It was a moment of sheer bliss, only equalled by the birth of my own children.

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To be clear, I had expected it to be lovely, of course. Babies are powerful. Most people love to be around babies. They remind us of the time before words and thoughts and worries, when we, too, were fresh from the netherworld. To be around a newborn and look at their perfection is like being refreshed.

However, meeting my first grandchild was better than lovely. It was a moment I’ll never forget. I felt instantly connected to her. Instantly moved by a desire to guide and protect.

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It is a pure love I feel as the paternal grandmother and the nectar is extraordinarily sweet. I have this feeling inside like “I can’t wait to see her again!”

I went to Toastmasters a few days after her birth. My friends at the meeting greeted me with, “Congratulations, Grandma!”

I said, “Yes!” and struck a crazy pose!

I tell you, I embrace the word, “Grandma.” In fact, I’m over the moon about it.

Welcome Sienna Bella to the world and to our family. Another phase in life begins.

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are. E.e. Cummings

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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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My book began its transformational journey from seed to plant.

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

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

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

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

Critique groups provide a fertile laboratory for testing our creativity.

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

I don’t know.

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

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

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

The Two Amigos

 

Keep Writing!

Yvette K. Carol

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The questions which this tussle generates keep the readers glued.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Talk to you later.

Keep Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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

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In October of this year, my youngest son will be going on the trip of a lifetime. He and eleven other lucky kids from across New Zealand have been chosen to go to Disneyland.

Two weeks ago, we received an invitation to apply for a place on the coveted annual trip with Koru Care New Zealand, through our association with Heart Kids NZ. Yesterday, we got the happy news he had been accepted, and we’ll happily do our bit to help raise money for the trip, as this is such a great opportunity.

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Koru Care New Zealand is a charitable trust established in 1983. It’s run by volunteers ‘making dreams come true for seriously ill and disabled children.’ Heart Kids NZ is another charitable trust. It’s committed to providing lifelong support to those born with congenital heart defects and heart disease.

The youngest of my three boys was born in 2005, with complex congenital heart disorder (or CHD), although we did not know that at the time.

The first clue came when he started coughing at three weeks old, though he had no other symptoms of ill health.

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The cough would come and go from then on, however when he did contract the flu, then his health would plummet fast and the cough would become life threatening and continuous. It took me five years to get a diagnosis, as we went down the road of misdiagnoses and educated guesses and countless trial treatments.

Finally, after trying everything, I went back to our doctor with the whole story. She listened carefully to his chest. Her discovery of a heart murmur led to the hospital tests, which finally confirmed the problem was a hole in his heart or Atrial Septal Defect.

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In 2010, he underwent double bypass open heart surgery. The operation was later added to the “unusual casebook.” The hole in his heart was ‘more than just a hole, there was only a rim between the upper chambers,’ the surgeon, Dr. Elizabeth Rumball, told us later. ‘And his heart had grown a single vein from the liver to the bottom of the heart,’ something she had never seen before. Dr. Rumball had to figure out how create an autologous pericardial patch to fix both issues.

After six hours of surgery, my five-year-old woke in Pediatric Intensive Care, with a gash down his chest, in a lot of pain. His recovery process began there. Only three days out from the surgery, he moved to the high dependency unit and was already taking his first steps. Three days later we were released to go home.

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We’ve come a long way since those days.

They say it takes paediatric heart patients a year to get their energy back and a decade for the body to recover to the pre-surgery state, however, he is in good health these days. The difference with heart kids is that they are a little “fragile,” they don’t have the same stamina as other kids. They are also susceptible to emotional, developmental and behavioural problems.

My son has thrived since the surgery. Gone are the days and nights of coughing. He has quality of life and the prospect of a healthy future ahead, thanks to the wonderful doctors and staff at Starship Children’s Hospital.

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While we were in hospital, we joined the amazing Heart Kids NZ foundation. We put his name down on the list of kids interested in going to “Heart Camp,” a weeklong retreat each summer. From the age of eight, he has gone to camp every year. He’s learned adventure skills like kayaking, abseiling and rock climbing. He’s sat around campfires, and gone swimming, ridden the flying foxes and water slides. He’s made friends and had important experiences of independence. Because he was well known at heart camp, his name came up when Koru Care said they had places for four Heart kids on the Disneyland adventure.

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My son was the right age and state of health to be eligible, so his name went forward with a lot of others. And we were lucky enough to get picked. He was excited when I told him the good news because he has never travelled anywhere or been to a theme park, and he’s always wanted to go. This sweet boy who has been through so many trials in his life, will get to go on the adventure of a lifetime, to Disneyland!

Thank you to Koru Care New Zealand and to Heart Kids NZ and to the medical staff along the way for making all of this possible and for making a boy’s dream come true.

Blessings come in many ways, even when they’re sometimes dressed as catastrophes.

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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If you can dream it, you can do it. ~ Walt Disney

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