Category Archives: Writing

Be a Writing Warrior

One of the best books to have in your writer’s tool box is Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art. Just like any other profession, we scribblers should have books by those who have so successfully gone before to inspire and teach us. Steven’s original claim to fame was the bestselling novel The Legend of Bagger Vance, but he has quite a few great non-fiction books out there now too.

One of our biggest stumbling blocks in our writing lives is resistance. In fact in all aspects of our lives resistance can cause us to refuse to even take on a hurdle rather than risk falling at it. Resistance is what leads to procrastination. Steven is a religious man and some disagree with him when at one point he likens it to evil. All of us have battled resistance in one form or another, and I for one agree with him. When those little voices in our head get busy trying to stop us from starting anything that will lead to our success and joy, they most certainly are evil little devils.

Steven gives a small list in his book of those activities that most commonly elicit resistance. A couple of those he mentions are:

The pursuit of any calling in writing, painting, music, film, dance, or any creative art, no matter how marginal.

The launching of any entrepreneurial venture or enterprise for profit or otherwise.

Any diet or health regimen.

Any program of spiritual advancement.

There are eleven altogether, but I just want to give an indication of the pursuits rather than swipe swathes of his writing. I suggest rather that you buy his book, and read it, and then read it again every time you feel too intimidated to either start writing or carry on writing.

As he does, I also see resistance as an external force, coming from all sorts of directions. People, situations, and life’s challenges. Resistance is a force, wherever it comes from, that wants to stop us from achieving the best that we can, and being the best that we can, and it must be fought at every turn. Never fear it. Always challenge it. No matter how good it appears to be to give up on your writing and just do something easier, you will always be happier in the end if you fight back and write regardless of the fear or apparent obstacle.

The bigger and more fearsome the fear of writing, or the thing or person that’s trying to stop you from writing, or doing anything really, the more important it is for you to do it anyway. So remember fellow scribblers, when it comes to writing there is nothing to fear but fear itself. Write on through – fight on through, always, no matter how dodgy the sentences look at the time. If resistance is trying to stop you, then know that you’re doing what you’re meant to be doing.

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New Book Fanfare – Repent at Leisure by Stevie Turner

Thanks to Sally Cronin for the promotion today.

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

New book fanfare

Today’s featured book is Repent at Leisure by Stevie Turner.. What happens when you wake up with a strange girl in your bed?

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About the book

Paul McAdam wakes up with a strange girl in his bed, with no idea who she is or where she came from.

Cat Taylor worms her way into Paul’s life, eventually moving into his flat. The arrangement suits Paul quite well until he meets Anita Fairfax, the love of his life and the girl he wishes to marry. Cat has to go, but Paul finds that she is not interested in moving out.

When Cat is found dead in Paul’s flat, he’s the #1 suspect, even though there’s not a shred of evidence. Anita and Paul are happily married, but she soon begins to wonder whether her new husband could have been Cat’s killer all along…

A selection of other books by Stevie Turner

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Writing Who You Know

A popular piece of writing advice is to write about what you know. Taken literally, if we only wrote about exactly what we personally have knowledge of or experience with, we probably wouldn’t be able to write the stories that we do. The same applies to who you know. Most of us aren’t on speaking terms with murderers, ghosts, aliens, mini purple spotted giraffes, or any of the other people and creatures that find their ways into our worlds. This is good really, because if some of them really were in our lives we probably wouldn’t be very comfortable, and could possibly be institutionalized for sharing the fact that certain others of them were.  Hey there purple spotted guy.

We writers have to get to know our characters intimately if we want them to come alive in our stories, because readers can tell when we don’t. Off the top of my head I couldn’t possibly think of why any person would walk down a street hurling loud curses and foul language at innocent passersby, and nor could I imagine how it would feel to be unable to stop doing that. Sounds really farfetched to me to begin with. A little bit of searching would reveal Tourette Syndrome, and with a bit more digging I could get a very fair idea of the reality of it happening every day.  More reading would show me how it must feel.  So then I’d know how my guy would feel as he jerked and twitched down the road, and swore at shocked and laughing strangers on his way to buy his bread and milk. He would feel awful, and helpless, and angry. I couldn’t possibly write him without reading about the lives of the people who actually have to deal with that on a daily basis. Some things you just can’t make up.

Researching our character’s inner selves is just as important as researching our locations and general facts for our fiction, and even though it can sometimes be uncomfortable, it has to be done if you want your people to be relatable to. My research into true good and evil for my science-fiction series often gave me the serious heebie-jeebies, but it was worth it. My forays into the minds of the abused and the dangerously mentally disturbed have been equally uncomfortable, but I’ve had enough readers enquire if I was writing non-fiction as fiction to make me happy that I took the trouble.

With most mainstream fiction we can easily plot out our characters from those in our own lives, or those that we’ve come across at some time or another, but for those shady guys – the villains or the damaged, or those so cold that we couldn’t just imagine their thought processes, for those guys we sometimes have to immerse ourselves in their dark and strange worlds for a while. Good old Google. The mini purple spotted giraffes? Well – I think pretty much anything goes in their case.

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Image Courtesy Pixabay

#Writers, if you dream of your books reaching new markets, now you have a chance. #Translationpromotion English-Spanish. 50% OFF

Hi all. I’m promoting my translating services (English-Spanish) this month through my blog, and I thought I’d share it here too.

Check Unsplash.com for great photos
Check Unsplash.com for great photos

Those of you who have been following my blog for a while will know that apart from writing, reviewing books, and talking about books, I also translate book from English to Spanish and from Spanish to English. I started by translating my own books because I wanted to make sure my parents and my friends back home could read them, (although I’m Spanish, from Barcelona, I’ve lived in the UK since 1992) but in the last couple of years I’ve also been translating books by other writers. You can check some of those here.

Due to family matters I haven’t had much chance to promote my services until now. To get things started I’ve decided to offer a special promotion. 50% discount of all translations. It is a time limited offer.

My usual tariff is $40/1000 words but this will be slashed in half. If you’re thinking about translating your book in the near future, you can take advantage of this offer and reserve a spot at this price for a deposit. If you’d like to discuss your project in more detail, you can e-mail me at mmxrynz@hotmail.com

Great NASA pic from Unsplash again
Great NASA pic from Unsplash again

As an author, I know we live for our readers and want to ensure that our books can reach readers wherever they are and in whatever language they read. I won’t lie to you. There are other options to get your books translated, like Babel Cube where you can offer your books for translation for a split royalties’ deal, but you have to give control over the process to Babel Cube and they control the production of the book and the distribution rights for five years. I know quite a few of us are self-published authors and we are used to being in charge, or at least closely supervising, all aspects of our book production, so this might not be an attractive option for all. There are many places where you can find translators, including Fiverr if you’d prefer to be in charge of the process and you have the funds to invest and the time to check and vet. It’s your decision.

As you know, I blog in Spanish and English and I’m happy to share the books I translate with some of the readers and writers groups I belong to and to write a feature about them in my blog. But I’ll happily do that even if you get the translation done elsewhere. You only need to let me know.

Thanks to all for reading this and I’d be specially grateful if you like it, share, and comment. And send me an e-mail if you want to ask me any questions. (Ah, I’m happy to check translations done by others if you want a second opinion or a second pair of eyes).

Write Like You

I remember writing my first book, how I’d agonise over every sentence, desperately not wanting to commit some awful grammar faux pas.  I’d haul all my books off my bookshelves and examine them minutely for all sorts of perceived faults in my writing – like correct sentence structure and trying to figure out how my writing heroes managed to make me hear and see their characters so intensely, rather than just read words on pages.  This resulted in a horribly over-edited book, with bits constantly being taken out and replaced or moved around.  Hello grammar gremlin hell of the future.  They still pop up today.

Eventually I realised that no matter how famous the writers, none of them followed any particular pattern.  Some of them conveyed conversations using he said or she said.  Some of them used no attributives at all for dialogue, but you still managed to know who was saying what.  Some of the greatest storytellers use grammar that would probably get them D minuses in school, but still manage to suck you blissfully into the worlds that they’ve created.  All it is is their ability to let their own talented souls pour from their fingertips without any concern for anything much other than the story in their heads.  If it flows it flows.  Sometimes it’s perfect to bend the rules a little.

I think it’s important to trust your own writing style to develop.  All the books we’ve read or are reading now will probably have some small influence on how we knit the words together in our stories, but no reading, or learning, or trying to emulate those awesome scribblers gone before us, can change the particular voice of every born storyteller.  All writers are unique, so don’t worry too much if what you write doesn’t conform to what you think others think it should.  Learn correct grammar usage, and how to spell, but once you have fair knowledge of the nuts and bolts of the process, let your own personal talent dictate how the story flows rather than trying to twist it into something that it doesn’t want to be.  Write it out just the way you see it, and maybe that’s just the way it should be, and the expected indignant reader rage could very well turn out to be reader love.

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Deadlines and Goal Setting

The very thought of setting deadlines for your work is anathema to some writers.  They believe that having a fixed time to complete a story will knobble their creativity and result in them churning out awful hogwash.  I don’t agree – personally I think that there’s joy to be found in a little bit of discipline.  Possibly if you set unrealistic deadlines you will indeed find yourself knobbled and not produce your best work, but reasonable time set for a project can inspire you to work at it every day rather than watching soaps because you have all the time in the world after all.  Truthfully, we don’t have all the time in the world, and if we want to leave a legacy of stories, we need to get them written down.  Goal setting helps us do this.

Deadlines can be terrifying things when life gets in the way in the form of illness, or some other kind of stress inducing thing that seems hell-bent on preventing you from accomplishing your goal.  I believe that the universe has been, and continues to be, rather lavish with me personally with the terrifying and stress inducing things by the way, and I’ve missed many of my personally applied deadlines.  That doesn’t mean that I’m going to stop setting them though.  Living life without goals doesn’t seem very exciting, and just like any other worthwhile pursuit, I think that working towards a goal, which is just a personal deadline after all, is great for any writing or other project.  Consider Parkinson’s Law.

Parkinson's Law

When there’s no sense of urgency it’s human nature to let projects take much longer than they should.  Rather set yourself the right amount of time.  Having projects waiting to be finished is generally stressful to some degree to most of us, and the longer any particular project languishes the worse we tend to feel about ourselves for not getting cracking on it.  Fiddling with one particular book for months or years on end might be pleasurable for some, but for many anything that takes so long to do has a very good chance of being abandoned altogether because of our feelings of failure.  Setting deadlines for yourself will help you dive right in and write, rather than angst over single sentences for days and days.  Now is the perfect time to get started on setting real date goals for your writing if you aren’t already doing that.

With 2016 poking its face up on the horizon, why not grab a pen and notepad and list your writing goals for next year?  Be realistic – if you’re sure that you can finish X book by June and Y book by November, set your deadlines for July and December to give yourself a little leeway.  You know the speed of writing that you’re comfortable with, so you can choose whether or not you want to challenge yourself with a little bit of extra zoom required.  You can break those annual goals down into chunks with what you hope to achieve monthly, weekly, or even daily.  The scariest thing about completing any project with a deadline is actually starting it, but once you do start it and accomplish that first day’s goal, the easier it gets.  It’s pretty much guaranteed that you won’t make all of your deadlines, but that’s alright as long as you try to.  Don’t ever be harsh on yourself if you don’t get there, rather relish the fact that you did your best.  Don’t give ever up because of a missed deadline – rather set a new one.  So dust off that book that’s been lurking unfinished for way too long, and write a date on it.  A deadline.  Then don’t worry about failing to complete it, rather have at it joyfully in the knowledge that it’s not the guarantee of literary accolades that means success, but the actual doing – the writing.  Finishing your scribbles is absolutely success.

The Need for Farsightedness

A Diary of Writing Wisdom (and other nonsense)

#FOUR

The Need for Farsightedness

Human beings are naturally shortsighted. The current opinions are the ones we see in front of us, the ones that are discussed in current magazines and on social media. It is natural to concentrate on current trends and hot topics. But there are two disadvantages in doing so. One is that we fail to learn from the past; the other is that we fail to look to the future.

Interestingly, these two forms of shortsightedness are connected, for one of the clearest lessons we learn from the past is that the “normal” of one generation is out-of-date in the next. In theory this is not hard to accept. At one time or another we have all read books/excerpts from articles written many centuries ago and smiled at the quaintness of the ideas and the language contained therein; and we realize that our own generation would be unique were it not for the fact that it will appear equally quaint in years to come.

I wonder, for instance, what our descendants will think of the Zombie Apocalypse theory or of stem-cell research. It is difficult for us to see it as future generations are likely to see it. Robert Burns once prayed for the gift to see ourselves as others see us. It would be an even greater gift to see ourselves as people in the 23rd Century will see us.

When it comes to writing, don’t be too shortsighted. Learn from your past. Don’t just let it lay dormant. Incorporate what you’ve learned from the past into your script of today. Believe it or not, this looking-back approach can help writer’s generate even greater power to look ahead. It can help writer’s ignore the temptation to write only about current trends and hot topics. It can even help writers become less shortsighted and more farsighted—nearby distractions become blurry while the ability to see distant goals and objectives become more and more clear.

OC Maryland-001Ocean City, MD, 2014. 

5 WAYS TO MOVE AHEAD IN YOUR NOVEL.

It’s the end of the ‘work’ week and I thought before we hit the weekend and more easily accessible writing time, I would do a little bit of NaNoWriMo talk.

As of the writing of this post, I am over 25,000 words on my NaNoWriMo book, Honor Bound: Monsters. Crazy, right? The thing is I wrote 13,000 of that on Wednesday. How?

Actually it took me a while to find that groove. I was stuck in research limbo over wanting a fact to bridge one scene of the book to the next scene. Yes, I hear some of you now, “Dude, that is stoopid!”

And yes, it was not quite intelligent. I got caught in a trap. A trap I knew to look out for and to avoid during a first draft of a work of FICTION.

My advice has been “Just write the freaking story.”

And I was “Stalling on a freaking point.”

Now to the how to get in to your groove.

5 Ways To Move Ahead In Your Novel

  1. Don’t get stuck on the finer details at this point. It is just a first draft.
    • How did I move from stuck to the next scene. I just went to the next scene. I knew where I was going, and I knew all I wanted was a simple dialogue scene with a touch of information in it, but I was too brain tired to get that part done, so I went on to where the ground was fertile, while making a HUGE note there was a need for a scene addition. And the great thing is, by the time I get back to that scene, I will know the characters even better and very likely have the information that I need to use in that scene. Or maybe, I will find I don’t need the bridge at all.
  2. Take a break. If you write and push through exhaustion you end up burning out and for some they end up in pain.  I do this too often, pushing. I did it Wednesday and suffered for it most of Thursday. I finally kicked back into the groove late in the day and put in a good number of words. I think begin half way to the NaNo goal isn’t bad. And when you do take a break what should you do?
  3. Leave your writing in the middle of a sentence or scene. This way you know what to pick up with next time. Walking away at the end of a scene or chapter is one of the worst things you can do.
  4. A big thing that helped me get my word count moving was being part of the facebook group for my NaNoWriMo Region. A bunch of strangers, or some are friends of each other, joining in and doing sprints. Sprints are when you write for 15 minutes as focused as you can and then time is called. You share your word count and people encourage and the like. It seriously helped me late last night. It got to the point my hands were so tired my fingers didn’t want to lift off the keys and move.
  5. A challenge buddy is also pushing me. I have one particular friend that is as competitive if not more so than I am about this. I’m not overly competitive but I like to use competition to help encourage others to push onward, and you get caught up in it.

I find it odd that last year only about 17% of those who signed up for NaNoWriMo actually finished it.  I think most of those not finishing never started, at least that’s my opinion. And if you don’t finish, at least get a habit going of writing.

Writing around 2000 words a day, writing a story that isn’t supposed to be read yet, isn’t that difficult. You keep writing and get yourself out of whatever you got yourself into.

Author and LWI Team Member Jo Robinson has a great article about Writer’s Block called Dodge Around the Blocks. Make sure to check it out for some more advice. Also the other helpful tips in the NaNoWriMo Support section might give you an idea to get you to where you want to be.



Ronovan Hester is an author, with his debut historical adventure novel Amber Wake: Gabriel Falling due out in December of 2015. He shares his life as an amnesiac and Chronic Pain sufferer through his blog RonovanWrites.WordPress.com. His love of poetry, authors and community through his online world has lead to a growing Weekly Haiku Challenge and the creation of a site dedicated to book reviews, interviews and author resources known as LitWorldInterviews.com.

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Dodge Around the Blocks

When you absolutely can’t think of another single word, and the very thought of sitting down at your keyboard to carry on, or start, writing your book makes you almost come out in hives, that’s the very time to do just that. Force yourself, no matter how blank your mind seems to be. If you give in to the “I’ll do it later when I’m feeling more inspired” thought, there’s a very distinct probability that you’ll give in to that very same thought again, and then again. Habits form amazingly quickly, and bad habits even quicker than good ones, so it’s best to try not to give them any room for takeover. One unproductive hour becomes two – one day becomes two.

The path of least resistance is generally the wrong path to take in writing – in life too, but most definitely in writing. If writing a single book, let alone multiple books, was easy, then everyone would be doing it. The fact that it’s actually really hard, and that you’re doing it anyway makes you a legend. Not everyone has the ability to translate a story in their head to words on pages that people will enjoy reading. Just like art, you can see amazing things in your mind, but if you don’t have that mystical innate artistic talent that some are born with you’re not likely to transfer it exactly as you see it to canvas.

When the going gets hard, make yourself work harder. When the words on your screen look stupid, and you’re sure that your book is going to be laughed under tables, and physically thrown at walls because of the very rottenness of it, just add more words to those words. They’re very probably the opposite of rotten words. When doubt creeps in to try and steal your words, write those words down anyway. They’re there inside waiting for you to move around the fear.

When you get stuck, and we all get stuck at some point in writing our books, it’s time to firmly employ the dodge and scribble on anyway maneuver. At the end of that sentence that seems to be the last one you’ll ever be able to write, and you’re quivering in terror knowing full well that you’re an absolute fake. You’re not a writer, and never will be. Just hit the page break button and start typing something else. If you’ve hit a wall as far as what must happen next, forget about it and move on to the next chapter. You have a general idea of what will happen later in your story. Move on and write some of that. Never stop and allow the blank page to stay where it is while your doubt induced terror freezes you up even further. Move on. Write something else. Anything else. But write on.

Generally people don’t get impossible to ignore urges to do something unless it’s something that they should be doing. Doing anything worthwhile is seldom a doddle. If you have been called to write, then that’s what you should be doing. It’s not going to be easy, but it won’t always be hard either. So, never give up. Always dodge around the blocks and scribble on anyway.

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Should You Write an Outline?

These next few weeks leading up to November will have lots of newbie scribblers looking for inspiration and writing advice.  Some authors kindly share their secrets to their success, and it’s always a good idea, and fascinating too, to read up on the different paths that led to famous writer’s successes, but not so much a good idea to stubbornly follow anyone else’s rules, without first finding out your own. They know the road to their success, but that won’t necessarily be the road to yours.  We all develop our own patterns and habits over time by writing the way we naturally do.  Certainly, try out various techniques, but at the end of the day, follow your own instinctive processes – write the way that makes you happy.  Find your own comfort zone – you’ll know when you’re there.

Outlines work for some authors, and they might go so far as to say that you can’t write a cohesive tale without one.  I sometimes do outline, but mostly I don’t.  I only have an outline for my science-fiction series, but it changes so constantly and dramatically as the characters show me what’s really going to happen, that I wonder if the time I spent creating it was a waste of time.  Looking at a couple of famous authors – Dean R Koonz never, ever outlines.  He says that he starts with two interesting characters and a brief premise, and that character development is never a separate task.  He says that for him, plotting resolves itself in the process of writing.  Me too.  He doesn’t write the whole book before editing though, and revises it pretty minutely as he goes along, so by the time he’s done, he’s pretty much done.  I don’t revise much as I go along, which works for me.  He’s also known for writing for twelve hours straight through, without eating lunch.  Owie!  Occasionally yes, but no way every day for me.  These things work for him, very well indeed, but they probably won’t work for everyone.

Stephen King also doesn’t outline.  In his book, On Writing, he says, “I often have an idea what the outcome may be, but I have never demanded of a set of characters that they do things my way.  On the contrary.  I want them to do things their way.”  I personally agree with him.  My writing comfort zone is typing the first sentence, and then seeing where my characters go.  I have written a few outlines, but for some reason they always end up being forgotten.  What works for me, or any other writer, doesn’t matter though, if you prefer knowing exactly where you want your story to go.  The best advice here is to outline if you want to, but if you don’t, then enjoy that crazy trip of allowing your story to happen to you.  Another quote from our dear Steve.  “Writing fiction, especially a long work of fiction, can be a difficult, lonely job; it’s like crossing the Atlantic Ocean in a bathtub.”  This is especially true.  Writing your stories comes from you.  It’s not a group activity with absolute written in stone rules.  Follow your own rules.

One final bit of Stephen King writing trivia.  He consistently writes ten pages a day (two thousand words) and will not allow himself to stop for the day until he has those words down unless there is a dire emergency.  This isn’t as hard as it seems once you get into the habit actually, and more is easy too when you find yourself on a fabulous roll.  Dean Wesley Smith suggests that an average word count of five and a half thousand words per day is doable, writing for eight hours a day every day for five days a week, and that he in fact knows writers who do this.  In this case I would imagine that an outline really would be essential.  He’s talking about writers of pulp fiction though, who strove to churn out their stories really quickly to support themselves.  I wouldn’t want to put myself through this sort of thing at all, so I follow my own pace, and my own rules.

I wouldn’t agonise too much about creating an in-depth outline, unless you particularly want to, for this year’s NaNoWriMo if you’re doing the challenge.  Have your general idea, plonk your characters down on the page, and let them show you the way.

To Outline or Not to Outline