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I’m up to my knees in NaNoWriMo and Skyfire, Dragon Wine Part Five, and these wonderful things occur to me. I really need to work smarter. As a mature woman you think I would have had all this worked out by now, but I don’t.

It started at first with labelling my hats. You see I make hats and I put them in hat boxes and every time I wanted to show someone a hat I had to pull them all out and look at each one. Then I bought a labeller. OMG! They all have labels now so I can find them a lot easier.

Now we have started labelling food that goes into the fridge and the freezer. Have you ever come across some frozen mass and thought-What the hell is that? Or mmm should it go or should it stay? Or Oh Joy Steak! and then frowned wondering when was the last time your bought steak and was it left overs from your 50th birthday party seven years ago?

So joy! We are labelling shit. The fridge well that just keeps on giving. I swear when I got back from Europe there was take aways in the fridge that I put there before I left. So to preserve lives and sanity, we are labelling stuff. Matthew I am pleased to say is getting on board. No more chances of inadvertently killing some one with some toxic pasta sauce etc. We just use masking tape and marker. Although looking at the packaging for the tape I see Matthew has bought food labelling tape. Good man!

Now why am I writing this and what does it have to do with NaNoWriMo. Well it would really help if I had a detailed plan of what I was writing. Never mind, I think that shit up just before each session and maybe I can get by with just me, my crazy mind and the seat of my pants. What really, really gets me is that I don’t have character descriptions. If I used my Scrivener I could do that as I went. But being lazy I am using word and do you think I wrote this stuff down? I want to write the colour of Eneit’s eyes. I’m pretty sure they are described somewhere in Deathwings or Bloodstorm, but grrr…If only I was more organised.

There is totally a theme here. I am throwing away old clothes. I’m too fat for some and as I no longer work in an office I don’t need others. But in the past, actually my whole bloody life, I think “Hey I have a pair of pants like that. Or where is that dress?” Only to discover after about a week of intense searching that I probably threw them away in the charity bin six months before. You think I would bloody well learn. Nope! So this time I am making a list so that I can check the list instead of doing a rampage search throughout the house and garage complete with expletives and many beeps.

There you go. I have a list. Silver business suit gone. Blue dress that was too short to be decent and you meant to add lace to the hem to lengthen it but you are too fat and old for it now. Gone. Etc. I have an issue with the shimmery blue and shimmery mauve tights though. Because as soon as I get rid of them, I am going to have some costume or some such that calls just for those tights. So they are going in the dress up tub. I just have to buy a tub and you guessed it-label the god damn thing.

So moral of the story. Be organised. If you aren’t organised. It is not too late to bring order to your chaos. I am on the last two bits of this series. Do I really need to write character descriptions now. Maybe, damn it maybe!

This post is brought to you by an insane, chaotic writer, who is behind on their NaNoWriMo project but is so happy that she is writing the said project that it is hard to stop dancing around the office and write.

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What the hell! the reader exclaims. This writer can’t spell! She’s written travelling instead of traveling and centre instead of center and realisation instead of realization. Colour instead of color.  This book is crap! It’s riddled with spelling errors and grammatical problems. It’s a bloody one star from me.

No. It’s not riddled with spelling errors and grammatical problems. It’s not written in US English. Believe it or not English speakers from different countries have different spelling conventions as well as different idiom. The USA adopted their own spelling conventions, I believe based on some rational thinking, but…the rest of us are pretty much following the queen on this.

Arse instead of ass! And also different terms for things like lift and elevator, pavement and sidewalk, garbage and trash, crockery and flatware, scones and biscuits, have a shower and take a shower, yadda yadda… Also, I’ve noticed things like towards and toward (the latter being the US convention), onwards and onward etc. And even things like practise and practice. In the US there is only practice for both the verb and the noun and the same with defence and defence.

It is a reality for a lot of writers being smacked down for something that’s not quite right, it’s just a tad strange to the reader but is not wrong or bad.

Some traditional publishers put out a US version of a book and ‘other’ English version. Sometimes, in Australia we’ll get a book that is by an Australian author and it’s in US English. It doesn’t matter much to me as a reader. I see it’s the US spelling but I don’t think it’s spelt wrongly. But I’m trying hard to put myself in US readers’ shoes, particularly if they don’t often encounter British or Australian writing in its native English. I try to understand this reaction, this dismissal of work not following US spelling conventions but can’t quite do it.

The Silverlands series and the Love and Space Pirates series are written in Australian English. The Dragon Wine series is in US English because that’s the way the publisher went and I’m sticking with that spelling convention on my re published versions and the next instalments. It’s not too hard to do it that way, but being a non-US person I don’t think everything I write should be written as if a US person wrote it.

Of course, typos exist and mistakes, too, in manuscripts. With the best intentions errors can creep in. Most publishers and authors try very hard to minimise and exclude them if possible. I’ve seen typos in books from traditional publishers as well as Indie published books. Hell I’ve made them! Some come from poor proofreading. I had some recently that a proofreader didn’t pick up and neither did I until now. Not my professional  proofreader. He’s amazing. In fact, a good proofreader is worth their weight in gold and the nit pickier they are the better. They enforce your style guide, pick up weird word usages etc. Things me and my editors don’t particularly notice.

So I had things that a spellchecker wouldn’t pick up-a homophone,  for example, lead instead of led. A name spelt wrong that my dyslexic brain didn’t pick up. But if I get feedback that something is wrong, the book will go back for proofreading by me in the first instance. If it has never been professionally proofread then I’d consider saving up to have it professionally proofread. Other errors can creep in when the proof corrections are taken up. Actually any time you open a manuscript and change something you are introducing the risk of error so it pays to be very careful and not rush. (Listen to your own advice Hanson!). A space that doesn’t register between words, a wrong letter. Sometimes these also get missed in a spellchecker because the wrong word is still a real word. I found one in Oathbound on the weekend. ‘Would’ instead of ‘wound’. That had to be a error made when making a correction to the document. It’s a bloody nightmare I tell you and it occurs in the first bloody chapter!

There can be missing full stops, missing speech marks, missing words (usually small ones like ‘a’ and ‘the’ and ‘to’ and they are hard to spot. I’ve seen all these in traditionally published books some times worse things, like wrong character names but…

Hopefully, the book you are reading doesn’t have seven to eight errors on a page, but seven or eight errors in a whole book, is probably not too bad. A colleague told me that she read a book that had so many errors, about eight to ten per page but the story was so good she still gave it five stars. I think that might be an exception to the rule. When you read a book and find a typo consider writing to the author or the publisher and let them know so it can be fixed. Preferably with a page number or chapter reference. It is so appreciated. Really it is. I’m hoping errors don’t disrupt your enjoyment of a book too much. People try. I try, but sometimes stuff happens.

 

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I’ve been writing creative prose now for over fifteen years.

I realise now that my story and novel writing has mostly been by instinct. Sure I’ve done some workshops along the way. I recall a workshop I took with Cate Kennedy in 2003 and I had an epiphany! Something she said turned my brain, just titled me until I saw it. I was so blown away by her workshop that I wrote poetry about her and my experience. It was bad poetry but still I wrote poetry!

One of the takeaways from that workshop was using the silences. What people don’t say! Who would have thunk it!

I am undertaking a creative writing PhD and this year (year 2) for me is all about improving as a writer. This means reading. It means writing. And on top of that I sought out ways to improve my technique, my skill, my craft…whatever you want to call it.

So I’m taking a Screenwriting course at the University of Canberra. Now as I said I’ve done workshops, read books about writing and even workshops that looked at the film structure and how to analyse your writing. But OH MY GOD! Screenwriting is blowing me away. Truly, I’m sitting there listening to a lecture about premise and the five important things and I jolt in my seat. Issue with latest book that agent rejected. Solved.

As I listened and took notes, I realised where my writing worked well for me was where I had a premise. Dragon wine for instance has a premise: How low can humans go and are they worth saving. That’s not quite worded exactly like a premise but for me it’s a guiding moral for the story. To be a premise it would need to be. No matter how low humankind sinks, it is still worth saving.

The other big takeaway for me is it’s not the risk of failure but the price of success. Oh wow. I am reborn. In Dragon wine I decided when I planned it that I wasn’t going to be nice to my characters. They were going to risk all for what they want. Unwittingly I stumbled across this.

I’m not saying that Screenwriting is the same as prose writing. It’s not. But the story essentials, such as structure etc are universal. And those techniques can help you refine your writing.

So for future works. I’m going to blow you all out of the water.

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Yesterday, just by happenstance, the ability to lose myself in a story and the loss of my university access cards, I finished drafting Book Three of the Silverlands, Ungiven Land. 8,000 words yesterday. I was knackered. I haven’t pulled one of those in ages. (A massage, hot pack,  hot shower, more hot pack was required to recuperate).

It’s not finished per se. I have to tidy the draft up a bit before sending to beta readers. There is probably a few talking heads and some scenes that need to be moved around plus other tweaking. I was fairly pumping out the words and the scenes unraveled in my head. I get all excited near the end and I plough through. I think I read in the same way. Also, I lost track of time. Didn’t eat dinner. Didn’t prepare dinner. Looked up and Matthew was home.

But damn. I got the story out. I did it. I finished my first trilogy. (picture me hands in the air, dancing on the spot) I have written in series format before say for the Love and Space Pirates series (I want to write another one) and under Dani Kristoff I’ve finished the third book in the Spellbound in Sydney series. But a trilogy is a whole new ball game. You start out thinking what’s going into those three books that make up the ONE story and time and lack of note taking can seriously derail that.

As an aspiring writer, I had lots of advice about whether to write the whole series or just the first book. The prevailing advice was don’t invest in a series you haven’t sold. So I devoted myself to a number of first books in series hoping to sell them. Lucky for me I also did writers’ retreats where I could devote myself to writing for two weeks. And in the past I had drafted second books or parts of books. I have 153,000 words of the second book (or second two books) in the Dragon Wine series btw.

That may be good advice, on the other hand, if you haven’t got notes and it’s a big complex story and you do sell the first book, the pressure would be immense. I’m not a fan of working on one book for ten years. I’d rather work on ten books over ten years. It’s all learning and I love ideas and exploring story and genre. If I had my time again, maybe I would have at least drafted the remainder of the trilogies I worked on while it was all fresh in my head and concentrated on selling the first one. It would have made this year easier.

You may recall that The Silverlands Trilogy is my self-publishing/indie publishing investment. Argenterra came out in late April. That book had been revised and edited etc many times over many years. Basically, the crafting of a load of crap into something worth reading over 15 years. I hope so!

Book Two was drafted but probably only ever a tidied draft. It was a much better draft than Argenterra was originally as I had progressed as a writer. No one had read it except me. I’m about to do a final revision, tweak and polish before sending it for an edit. You might ask why I haven’t already done this. Well, I was working on book three. I had thought I had 50,000 words of the third book written. Gah! I did but the words were shit. They had to be rewritten and most of it chucked out. I was in despair. Somewhere around 70,000 words the draft felt like it was coming together. Now at 121,000 words I’m pretty pleased. It’s done. The story works…well for now .Beta readers may bash me in the head.

This probably doesn’t answer the question. Why work on book three when two was waiting for a revision? Because finishing book three allowed me to work out all the kinks and to see if it was going to work before I went back to book two. I could still change things in book two before I set them in concrete by publishing it. Rescue a character who had sunk beyond redemption, for example. Set up things in book two that I had brought to a head in book three. I guess it’s a form of cheating. But hey, it worked. This is probably why I’m advocating writing the whole series in one go. Why I wish I had. But my best advice is just write what you want, how you want. I figure this book three is better than any I envisaged say ten years ago. Totally much better. I’m a better writer than I was. Ideas just smashed together well this time.

This week and maybe part of the next I’ll be tidying it up ready for beta readers. Then I’ll be back on book two, Oathbound.Now I’m ready to push forward. I believe the next two books will come out pretty close together. I have the covers. I just need the edit. I do my own laying out and book packaging. The cover layout I get help with. Technically I could do that I just have to buy Photoshop!

Then I guess I’ll get serious about marketing. My main goal so far has been to get reviews of Argenterra while I’m working on the other books. Reviews will help me if I want to do some paid promotion, such as Book Bub. If you read Argenterra and liked it please leave a review somewhere. It helps!

What have I learnt so far? I already knew writing well is hard work. Self-publishing/indie publishing is hard work if you want to do it well, but it has bells on. I’ve been stressed. I’ve had sleepless nights. I’ve invested my capital in my indie publishing gig. I have not spent time in promoting or whatever magic these successful indie writers do. My hat goes off to them. But I will when I get these books out.

The other thing successful indie writers do is they keep writing and keep producing. It sounds exhausting. I mean I do that too, but it’s driven by what stories interest me and my own creative practice. Maybe I should be more business like in my approach.

three-books

 

Buy link for Argenterra, Book One-Silverlands

Print copy from Book Depository here

Amazon.com Here

Amazon.com.au Here

Kobo Here

ibooks Here

Print (Amazon.com) Here.

Print elsewhere. Available from Createspace and Ingram Sparks.

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I’ve done a series of blog interviews on the topic of beta readers previously. Recently though, I’ve had some thoughts on the timing, or better still at what stage of your drafting/writing/revising process it works best. This was sparked by receiving some excellent feedback on a work in progress.

Not everyone uses a beta reader, but if you look in the author comments or acknowledgements in your favourite books you will see people who  have been thanked, usually as first reader etc. For myself, I need beta readers like I need air. God forbid that a published work of mine was raw and that my first feedback was from a reviewer or a bunch of readers. Thankfully, mostly everything except my blog posts have had a reader, editor etc before being published. Even my Indie published fantasy, Argenterra, had beta readers and an editor before being published. I also beta read for author friends. Not all of them return the favour them being busy with contracted deadlines etc, but I get something out of it. I get to read their books before everyone else and sometimes I get a present of a nice shiny book! I also learn!

I have also used the services of a manuscript appraisal service when I first started out, also I have workshopped a novel with Envision (a fantastic program that no longer exists), that was Argenterra BTW! I also won a Longlines Fellowship to Varuna Writers’ House for Dragon Wine back in 2006 and part of that was feedback and also sharing with other writers there. For Dragon Wine I used the services of a continuity editor which was really useful too.

The ideas and the words are my own but feedback help shape ideas, perspectives etc which are all valuable. Even reading your book aloud to yourself will pick up stuff. Really! Read it to someone else and then heaps of things will jump out at you even when you’ve proofed and polished the text within an inch of its life.

Maybe because I’m an extroverted thinker that beta reader comments work for me. I need a sounding board and I work fairly quickly too, which means I can’t play with one story for ten years with no fertiliser from other people. I usually have several novels or short stories going.

An important consideration in having a beta reader is to have someone who gets what you are doing, who has some interest, sympathy, knowledge, way of thinking etc that gels. Your mum is probably not the best person. Even your kids…although mine usually pick up typos etc after the fact. You need some distance, someone you can trust to be honest and helpful at the same time. More importantly, you need to be ready for feedback. You need to be able to accept criticism because that’s what it is all about. If you want a beta reader to say “OMG! This is the best book on the planet ever!” Give it to your mum. Not that it is not great to get positive feedback, it is…

So it is hard to get good beta readers. If you write a lot it is even harder to share the work around them. Also, you need to return the favour, unless you are paying for a service. If you are paying for a service expect a detailed report and expect to pay upwards of $500 (more these days). Remember you want to be a beta reader that your reader buddies can respect. This means you have to give feedback on things like structure, character, pacing, setting etc too. Your beta reader doesn’t have to be another writer. A reader who likes the genre you write in can be very helpful. I mean they are a sample of your audience right? Your feedback might be a lengthy document, an annotated MS, an email or even just a conversation. It all goes into the mix.

Also different readers have different strengths. You might get a reader who is instinctively good with pacing. Another with character development. So having more than one is helpful. I was going to say essential but we can’t have everything.

I have trusted beta readers for a range of stories. I probably have one who reads anything I write and I read hers. I believe we trust each other, although we have different perspectives.

Timing! Finally I get to the point. This is interesting. The timing varies for me. I might send my MS off just before I send it to submission, when I think it’s fairly polished, but not finally polished just to check that it’s not fatally flawed. Or I might send a tidied up first draft. I never send a story with a gaping hole in it (unless I didn’t see it). I may have a few x in place of names, but usually the story is fully formed. At a minimum a tidied first draft. My older work needs a few drafts before they are ready for beta readers. I’m finding that with The Crystal Gate, the sequel to Argenterra. The third installment is an incomplete rough draft and a nightmare!

You see, Argenterra has been worked on over many years, had many revisions, cut backs etc. The sequel has sat in the hard drive minding its own business and stagnating. Essentially it is a tidied first draft, maybe a tidier second draft. More recent work for me means that the first drafts are much better. I used to be a panster! Now I straddle the fence and plan a bit. Older drafts can be a lot of work, especially if you didn’t make notes!

So the minimum I believe is a tidy, good first draft, where you have  a full story etc and there is something to comment on. I sent The Crystal Gate for a beta read and it’s a tidy second draft. Why?

I have trouble listening to the little voice in my head that says things like “You’ve said that twice now. Maybe cut that.” or “You’ve written the action but what is the character feeling? What is the character’s emotional journey?” Or “That’s all well and good but could there be too much going on in that scene?” But because I’m focussed on my end goal of getting through the revision I don’t stop to deal with those things. I need a second opinion. (Insert LAZY here). I need a kick up the bum. I need to know what’s working and what’s not before I invest too much, before I make a wrong decision. This is where beta reading comments come in. I got some this morning. Some were the kick in the pants stuff-the stuff where I should know better but didn’t. Other comments point out flaws I didn’t notice or thought I could get away with, others highlighted aspects that I hadn’t thought of at all. I know that in addressing these comments I’m going to make the work better. I don’t have to agree with everything that my beta reader says. I’m going to wait for the other beta reader’s comments before working on the MS again.

Essentially the comments have filled me up with enthusiasm, ideas and identified trouble areas where I need to do more thinking. I love this.

I think I would be less likely to be accepting of feedback if I had polished the story to the nth degree and thought it was amazing and gorgeous and nothing could be improved. Nothing could be worse that having someone say-this is fatally flawed, you need to restructure this. You might take that from an editor maybe if you could see their vision. So far I haven’t had to restructure anything majorly at all. For this reason, I think getting feedback on a good draft is better than a polished draft you have no brain power to accept feedback. It can be done. I’ve worked with someone who had been edited and a reader picked up something which meant it had to be edited again and the issue addressed.

Of course, the timing is individual. Some people I know won’t let me read for them until they think their MS is perfect. Naturally enough I don’t get to read for them very often at all.

Now I wrote this post because I’m working on a rough draft of The Ungiven Land, Silverlands book 3. It’s hard work even thinking about this story so procrastination helps. This blog post is brought to you by procrastination!

 

 

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I saw a post from Hodderscape, which recently held a open submission call, providing writing tips from editor, Anne Perry. I thought her approach was very useful and simple. Reading slush opens your eyes to lots of things.

I also saw recently some tips on developing character from the amazing Angela Slatter, which I thought were useful too.

A while ago now I did a series of posts based on my observations on slush pile reading and the things that I saw there. These posts are probably a bit more indepth and perhaps a bit more muddled than the two recent posts I saw on the web.

Below are the links to these.

Anne Perry here.

Angela Slatter’s post here.

And a few posts from reading for Angry Robot and their first open call.

Blog post one here

Blog post two here

Blog post three here  (which is on common issues with manuscripts)  thoughts on blog post three here. Wherein I elaborate on issues with MSs.

Blog post four was on query letters and synopsis here.

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Phew! What an amazing ride! A big thank you to my many hosts. I could not have done it without you. Thank you for the amazing array of questions and article topics. I count 24 separate posts!!!! The blog tour took place from 16 December 2015 to 8 January 2016. The draw for the books will take place on 15 January. You are welcome to leave a comment here to be in the draw. Meanwhile I’ll be trawling through social media shares etc and blog comments to compile the draw list.

Below I list and link blog posts from the blog tour. If you press the link it will open a new page in your browser.  If you are planning one of these blog tours be prepared for a lot of work and a little bit of organisation. I love how this whole process was so collegiate–other writers helping other writers! I don’t think I’ve ever pushed myself so hard and talked about so many things.

  1. Amanda Bridgeman over in Perth. You should check out her SF Aurora series. This post was an excerpt from Shatterwing. A nice way to ease me into the flow. Here.
  2. Alan Baxter in the ‘Gong, who asked me to talk about the inspiration to the world building for Dragon Wine. Here.
  3. With Matthew over on Smash Dragons. I believe Matthew is in Bathurst. I wrote a short article on what makes fantasy dark. Here.
  4. Alis Franklin also from Canberra asked me for five pieces of advice to the younger writer me. Here.
  5. This one was fun! Matthew Farrer my partner and I in conversation where I’m trying to get him to host me on his blog. The Dweeb and the Dweebette. Here.
  6. This in-depth interview is two-pronged. Ian McHugh (Canberra)  interviewed me and it appeared on his blog and the Canberra Speculative Fiction Guild’s (CSFG blog). Ian did an amazing job, a follow up to his in-depth interview last year. Here and Here.
  7. Over in Canada with Liz Munro,  West Coast Book Reviews, who asked me some quick quirky questions and has been a great supporter since she review both Dragon Wine books. Liz is a spec fic author too. Here.
  8. Glenda Larke in Western Australia. If you haven’t read Glenda then you should right now! Glenda interviewed me with some probing questions. Here.
  9.  David McDonald (Melbourne) included me in his Paying for our Passion series. Here
  10. A Christmas post by me. Here.
  11. Keith Stevenson, also from the ‘Gong, asked me a few questions about the inspiration behind the world and story of Dragon Wine. Here.
  12. Fellow Canberran, Chris Andrews asked me to talk about my darkest hour (writing). Here.
  13. Sydneysider, Joanne Anderton, asked me about my work life balance or lack there of. Here.
  14. Patty Jansen, also from Sydney, asked me to talk about romance in speculative fiction. Here.
  15. Leife Shallcross, fellow Canberran, asked me about my research habits or my own personal research rabbit hole. Here.
  16. Dawn Meredith who is a fellow CSFGer, but lives in the Blue Mountains, let me talk about how reading helps my writing. Here.
  17. Me again for my New Year’s Post. Here.
  18. Romance author, Maggie Mundy, had me talking about romance in Dragon Wine. Now I consider Dragon Wine to be unromantic because it’s dark and nasty, but I did find that I had two love triangles. Who knew?  Here.
  19. Allan Walsh from Queensland had me talk about world building. Here.
  20. DL Richardson had me over for a wonderful and fun coffee chat. Such a fab idea. Love it! Here.
  21. Kim Cleary had me on her blog to talk about why sweet little ol’ me wrote such a nasty story. Here.
  22. Nalini from Dark Matter Ezine had me over to talk about Female Heroes. I’d like to extend this blog post at a latter time as I was quite knackered when I wrote it and there’s so much more to say. Here.
  23. Last stop was MJ Oliver, currently resident in Indonesia, where I talk about how writing is not all about the writing. You know that promo stuff. Here.
  24. This probably went out first. It was an article in Scott Robinson’s newsletter- some writing advice . His website is here.  I’ll put the text of the article here. Writing in the zone. One of the best things about writing is finding the zone. I used to call it the zen zone-the frame of mind where I’m into the story, I’m creating stuff and I’m getting a buzz. Often I’d only get into the zone on a writing retreat. The peak time for the zen zone would be Wednesday of week two. These days I can’t rely on retreats to get me into the zen zone. I need the portacot type of zen zone. One I can assemble and set up and use anytime.I think that is doable, but finding out how to do that requires some self reflection and understanding of what inspires one to write.

    I don’t think I have met a writer who hasn’t had a crisis of faith in their writing, or their writing career. This can be brought about from lack of success in getting anything published, or lack of achievement in finishing the novel or even after being published and having that novel they have worked on for ten years not selling. All of these things can be detrimental to the mind set of putting your head down, believing in yourself and writing.

    Now I don’t have a one size fits all solution to this. I have some suggestions for finding out how to tap into your own zen zone, mostly from my experiences.

    1. Don’t buy into the self-doubt talk down.

    This is where you obsess about not being good enough. For example, you’ve just read the best book ever and you feel that it’s all over, you’ll never be that good and why should you even try. Bollocks. There’s always going to be someone, no matter how good you are, that’s done something more interesting, more popular or award winning than you. It’s not about them it’s about you. Writing what you love, what you enjoy and doing it to the best of your ability. Don’t listen to that voice in your head that tells you to give up. Not if you really want to succeed. If you’re not the best you can be yet, then keep at it, keep practicing. You’ll get there if you really want it.

    1. Figure out how you work best.

    I heard an interview with a writer recently who studied when she was the most productive. Although she was a morning person, she found she actually wrote more at certain times in the afternoon. Some people like writing to music. Or they have to be in a certain space in a certain chair. Others like writing in coffee shops. The thing is to actually think about what contributes to writing well for you. If you stop writing and spend all your time on the internet then think about leaving your phone off, and disconnecting from the internet. If you watch tv instead of writing, think about not watching television at all. Whatever distracts you or makes you feel out of frame, you need to identify it and address it. That will help you get into the zone.

    1. Be kind to your body.

    As a person who has developed RSI and spinal issues over time then I am all for looking after yourself. Take breaks. Use a timer. Take a walk or do something physical. We weren’t built to be on the computer all day. Writing requires that. Unless, of course, you try dictation software or standing up or both. Whatever you do balance the physical with the mental. That way you can enjoy your zen zone to the max.

    1. Read widely and often.

    Reading teaches and it also opens your mind up to possibilities whether you are reading fiction or non-fiction you are shoving stuff in your head that’s going to come out in your writing either the next week or the next year or five years from now. You can learn from other fiction writers about techniques, taking risks or just opening up your mind to possibilities. This is like fertiliser for the zen zone. You have built up enough fuel to give your zen zone blast off.

    1. Try to do the best you can do.

    My motto here and it’s only recently adapted into my approach: Enough isn’t good enough. I am trying to put some perfection into my writing. Maybe this is because I’m pretty sorted with story and plot and world building, although I think I can do better with characters all around. But I don’t want to be just competent or good, I want to go for more. For me that might be patience and subtlety in my story telling. It might mean one day aspiring to write the literary genre masterpiece. All I know is that writing is a continuum and I want to climb up that line of achievement and explore what I can be as a writer. Seeing a goal also gives meaning to my zen zone. When I’m there it’s so right and good and sigh…I just want to be there always.

And here is the exhausted me!

Exhausted me on 8 January 2016

Exhausted me on 8 January 2016

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