Category Archives: Inspirational

New Year Goals – don’t say the ‘r’ word!

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New Year’s Day is for nursing hangovers and banishing the regrets of last year, which is why I’m writing this on January 2nd. Yes, it’s that time again. Time to lay out my reso – NO! DON’T SAY IT! Let’s use goals, targets, milestones – anything but the ‘r’ word. Call me superstitious but any time I make a new one of those, it’s nothing more than a distant memory by Valentine’s day.

As this is mainly a blog about Writing, I’ll save all my empty promises of more exercise and less food for my loved ones. Bearing in mind I have to fit my writing around a full time job, here’s a run down of what I want to achieve this year.

THE NOVEL

I will finish a major rewrite (2nd draft) of my WIP by next Christmas. This means having it in good enough shape to either go to a professional editor or be ready for beta readers. This will be no mean feat. I’m currently up to 94k words and I’m pretty sure it will be well above 100k by time I’ve gone back and filled in gaps to complete my first draft. I do this in full knowledge that I will probably lose around 20k after the first major edit. It’s not the most efficient way to write a novel but it seems to be the only way I know how!

SUBMISSIONS

I want to sub AT LEAST one thing every month – to average at least 12 subs over the year. These will include short story submissions for competitions and publications.

NEW WRITING

I want to write 4 brand new short stories by next Christmas. Now, I know that doesn’t sound like much – infact, it sounds pathetic! – but the novel really has to take priority this year. In 2016, focusing on the novel was great, but it was at the cost of my new work and I didn’t write any new short stories.

WRITING PODCAST

With the help of my co-host, Leah Osbourne, I’ll be producing at least one new full-length show of The Joined-Up Writing Podcast. We feature interviews with guest authors, screenwriters, editors and agents. We began the show back in 2014 and it’s going from strength to strength, with 50 full length episodes and more than 30 episodes of our Two Minute Tips (TMT) series. We’re always looking for new guests and ideas for topics to cover so feel free to get in touch. The full archive is available here and you can subscribe on Stitcher and iTunes.

SCREENWRITING WORKSHOP

In addition to all that, I need to write and deliver my first writing workshop to the members of my critique group – a bunch of people I have huge admiration and respect for. No pressure! The working title for the workshop is ‘Screenwriting Tips For Non-Screenwriters’ and I’ll be delivering it in March.

So, I think that’s enough to be going on with – at least a good baseline. Anything else will be a bonus. Who knows what 2017 will have in store for us, but I’m sure with a bit of positive thinking and alot of hard work, we can make it a happy and productive one.

What are your plans for the year? Are you sharing them with the world? Any hints and tips you want to share? Feel free to share links to your own goals and blog posts in the comments below and I wish you all good luck for 2017.

 

 

T is for Thief. There’s no such thing as an original idea.

We're all guilty of being influenced by the ideas of others.
We’re all guilty of being influenced by the ideas of others.

“It’s not where you take things from . . . it’s where you take them to.”

The above is a quote from ground-breaking French  film maker, Jean-Luc Godard.

Godard wasn’t afraid to take influences from his favourite works – be that in film, literature or music – and put them in to his own work. He was supremely confident that his unique creative voice would ensure that what he produced would be just as powerful as the original – sometimes more so – because he had taken it in a new direction or put a different spin on things.

As creatives we can spend too much of our time fretting over whether our work is too derivative of something else. Once you accept that there really are only so many stories you can tell, you can focus all of your creative energies on ensuring you bring your own personality and viewpoint to an idea.

Is it original?

You only have to look at a genre like Horror to see that despite a relatively small number of set situations and creatures (werewolves, zombies, vampires etc, etc) there are millions of different stories out there and new sub-genres are being created all the time.

Often, it’s more about using a genre to tell the story or explore the themes you are interested in – as Sci-Fi was used in 1950’s America to reflect the growing threat of The Cold War.

Get personal

Steven Spielberg famously wanted to tell a story about how the divorce of his parents affected him as a child. This resulted in what he describes as his most personal film – E.T – the Extra Terrestrial! There have been scores of films about aliens visiting from another planet – and yet Spielberg’s film seems fresh and original because he has focused on telling the story from his very personal standpoint.

As writers we should do the same. Go out there, absorb all these fantastic influences of film, music, literature and culture and create something new.

Become a thief and your work will be all the better for it.

Do you worry about being derivative? What influences your work and what stories are you interested in telling?

This was my 20th post for the A-Z Blog Challenge. Follow the blog during April for more writing tips, inspirational life posts, short fiction, film-inspired articles and more songs with audio recordings. Next post – U is for Uncommon Courtesy, a rant.

K is for Keep Moving – Write or Die!

By Hermanus Backpackers (Great White Shark Cage Diving)  via Wikimedia Commons
Image Courtesy of Hermanus Backpackers

Today’s writing metaphor comes courtesy of the shark. In case you’re not entirely au fait with animal biology, many sharks need to swim constantly to stay alive. It’s all to do with passing oxygen-rich water through their gills, but the only reason I mention it, is because as writers we too need to constantly move to ensure our writing survives that elusive first draft.

We have all experienced that familiar lethargy that can creep up on us, half way through a story or novel. You may find you have written yourself in to a corner with a difficult plot twist. Perhaps your main character suddenly appears to have all of the personal charm of Piers Morgan. Maybe you just lost that initial spark of inspiration. It could be that you didn’t allow your idea enough time to cook (see post for the letter ‘C’) Out of nowhere a big pair of wet pants smothers your creative fire and you would sooner do anything but write. It’s just so hard, isn’t it?

So what?! Man up!

These are the times that you really discover whether you have what it takes to call yourself a writer. The first thing to realise is that you are not alone. Anyone who writes regularly will experience this at least a couple of times a week.

It wasn’t until I took on the NaNoWriMo challenge last year (see Nano Post), that I was forced in to finding a strategy to cope with this energy-sapping syndrome. During the challenge I spent a depressing few hours completely stuck on one particular chapter. I knew that I needed to come up with an event to move my character towards the next plot point, but drew a blank when it came to writing the actual scene. It didn’t take me long to realise that if I waited around much longer I was in danger of losing all of the momentum that I had built up in the previous days of the challenge. With this in mind, I typed a one sentence summary and moved on to the next chapter. Simple. Liberating. And it worked.

Momentum – keep the snowball rolling

But what about if you’re writing a short story, or other prose project and you feel that self-doubt is rearing its ugly good-for-nothing head? Maybe you need time away from that project, but that doesn’t mean you need to give up all of that hard-earned writing momentum. Keep writing, but write something else. Sketch out another short story. Write some flash fiction. Use some of the techniques I outlined in my ‘B is for Bananas’ post.

The point is: DON’T. STOP. MOVING.

Because, like the shark, if you stop swimming your writing will be dead in the water.

This was my 11th post for the A-Z Blog Challenge. Follow the blog during April for more writing tips, inspirational life posts, short fiction, film-inspired articles and some songs with audio recordings – like the next post – L is for Lies (Go Home and Tell Some Lies – original song)

A is for Action! Stop waiting for permission to start living your life.

clapper board from MGL Media
Action!

By day I’m an Editor and Producer for a video production company, producing documentary, corporate and promotional films. It was during filming on location a couple of years ago that I had the sudden realisation that changed my entire outlook and attitude to life.

It was in the fleeting few seconds after the cameraman had confirmed he was ‘rolling’ . . . the presenter waited expectantly . . . a silence fell across the set . . . and we waited for the director to utter the word that would begin the scene.

“Action!”

It was in that moment that I realised that up until that time, in some strange way, I had been waiting for an imaginary director to call ‘Action!’ on a production that was unimaginatively titled ‘My Life’. You know – my ‘real’ life. The one where I challenge myself, get fit, try new hobbies, write that novel – all those things that I’d stuffed in to the file marked ‘when I’m older/have more time’. If you haven’t worked it out for yourself, I’ll let you in to a little secret. That file you’ve been saving for the future is labelled incorrectly – it should read ‘REGRETS’. And as someone far more eloquent than I said, ‘I would sooner regret the things I did do, rather than the things I didn’t.’

I see now that I was subconsciously waiting for a different part of my life to start, twiddling my thumbs expecting someone or something to tell me when it was time to begin. I don’t think I’m the only person labouring under this misapprehension. It seems that most people are waiting for that new scene to commence, the one where you are the star and everything comes good in the end.

DON’T WAIT.

You are wasting time.

Here’s another cliche for you – ‘There is no dress rehearsal for life’. You’re living it. Right now. That marathon you always talked about doing? Go run it. You wanted to learn to play the trombone? Go play it. You wanted to cover yourself in feathers and spend a day being a chicken? Well . . . that’s slightly weird, but whatever floats your boat, sailor.

For me, it was losing weight, getting fit, running a half marathon, writing fiction and anything else that I can think of day by day and minute by minute – because that is exactly how you should be approaching life.

Be. In. The. Moment.

Still waiting for someone to call ‘Action!’ on your life? Well, here it comes . . .

ACTION!!

Also to celebrate the first day of the challenge I’d like to send out a special thanks to the founder Arlee Bird, click over to his site to show your support.

Follow the blog during the challenge for more writing tips, inspirational life posts, short fiction, film-inspired articles and even some songs with audio recordings. In the meantime, I would love to hear how you have called ‘Action!’ on your life, your writing and anything else you would like to share, so feel free to comment below.