You know your hooked…

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…when writing becomes a vocation and not just an enjoyable hobby!

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While I admire anyone who loves to express themselves through their writing, there comes a time when we all have to choose between continuing with what to us is an enjoyable hobby, and taking it up as a full time vocation. Please note that I did say vocation and not occupation. There is a marked difference…

It takes an awful amount of guts and determination on your part to take that giant leap into the uncertain world of literature, often for little monetary gain let alone plaudits for your work from the reading public and your peers. Apart from anything else you can expect to endure a lot of heartache, angst and sleepless nights as I can personally vouch for from my own experience gleaned over the past two decades plus as a relatively successful published Indie author.

Now where was I? Oh yes – I was about to say that I rarely if ever get a good night’s sleep when writing a new book, at least until the first draft is finished. Nagging thoughts about something in the story literally wake me every night anywhere from midnight to four or five am. The downside of getting up so early is that I’m lucky if I’m still awake after six-thirty pm. So relaxing in front of the television in the evening (in other words – vegging out) doesn’t happen these days.

While the amateur loves the idea of writing thousands of words while engaging in a completely pointless writing phenomena like Nanowrimo believing it makes them a bonifide writer, it doesn’t! Some hard working writers I know in the traditional publishing world must set themselves a daily word count in the multiples of thousands, due to the demands of their agents and publishers. However as an Indie, meaning I’m responsible for every step in publishing a book myself, I do not follow suit. In my case I don’t see the point in churning out thousands of words each day, which in all probability will end up being edited out as totally nonsensicle by your’s truly, before I hand over my MS over for further scrutiny.

Instead I tend to write between two to five hundred words, (the latter being roughly the length of this blog post) knowing full well that when I do go back over them, that in all likelyhood three quarters will either get deleted or be re-written so many times that in the end they bear little or no resemblance to the first attempt, before I feel I can move on to the next part of the story. Even when writing posts like this one, I spend more time re-writing than anything else.

Writing fulltime requires total dedication and a will of iron on your part. One last thing for you to remember – what works for me won’t necessarily work for you. But at least now you know how this writer works…

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Time to fess up!!!

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Here is a question for all my fellow writers, both published like myself, and those who just love to write for the sheer joy of doing so. How many hours do you spend writing each day and how many words does it involve?

Ever since I changed the way I write from how I used to in decades long since past, when I would spend all day and long into the night to achieve a daily word count in the thousands, I now stick rigidly to a short but extremely intense daily session when I have a new story in mind.

I find this is the method that works best for me. If you are wondering how long; these days I limit myself to adding no more than one to two hundred words per day.

Once I get back into the swing of things, I start writing at five in the morning, finishing promptly at eight am. I find that to continue beyond that three hour working window of 100% concentration, means that silly errors will inevitably begin to creep in due to my state of total mental exhaustion by the end of each session. The rest of the day is taken up with a lot of thought about where the story wants me to go next while I carry on with my normal daily activities.

Years ago when I was still in the workforce I used to spend two to three hours writing each night from Monday until Friday. Then on the weekends I would write for twelve hours on both days. On public holidays the number of hours sometimes stretched from twelve to eighteen. While to the novice, endlessly pouring out words might seem to be the only way to write a story, trust me when I tell you it isn’t!

In fact its often the worst possible way of going about it. If you don’t believe me, just look at the hundreds of thousands of poorly written books out there by writers who convinced themselves that high daily word counts is the only way to go. A daily three hour session is by far the best way from my point of view.

I would love to hear how you go about it, but I know most of you are reluctant to own up. There is absolutely no excuse for you not joining in here. You never know, you might even gain some useful ideas and tips on the subject from one another. So leave your thoughts for others to read as comments below this post.

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Are you writing a book?

Liz-S-Writing-Workshop-101Over the past couple of months on several Internet sites for writers, I’ve read many questions and queries plus suggestions and comments regarding the use of correct grammar and speech.

The academically minded among us, plus the vast majority of editors still cling desperately to the fervent belief that a book sans correct grammar will inevitably never make it. While that may be true for books of a historical, biographical or academic nature i.e text books, when it comes to fiction the real key is whether or not the writer can actually tell a story, not if he or she adheres to the accepted rules of English.

When your characters speak, by insisting that they do it correctly you will do yourself no favours. In fact these days it almost guarantees that your book will be lucky to sell more than a dozen copies. In essence, the story and the way your characters converse in a mix of correct speech and common parlance is the key, not the use of perfect English as rigidly laid down by close-minded professors within the English departments of universities worldwide, or even the majority of editors come to that.

Not surprisingly, a lot of the comments in favour of correct grammar are contributed by people from countries whose native language is not English. It’s not their fault. They are merely echoing what they were taught by their teachers.

Think about today’s best selling writers. Do they stick rigidly to the rules of grammar? Most don’t. Gone are the days when the likes of Emile Bronte, Charles Dickens, Edgar Allan Poe et al wrote to entertain the educated elite minority. And yet they are still held up as the ideal in literature.

Why when today’s writers must write for the majority. In fact you must know your target readers better than they know themselves. I write specifically for the US market for two reasons.

1. The greater majority in the US are brought up on soap operas, reality shows and film, not literature.

2. Because they are more switched on than any other people, I also only publish my books in Kindle form (Ebooks)

They are my readers, not my own countrymen (the English) and certainly not academics. They will be yours as well if you are brave enough to break away from the idea of literary rules. As my good friend and fellow Antipodean Derek Haines has stated on numerous occasions – when it comes to writing there are no rules…

Writing this article is one example of using correct English. But if I had written my books in the same way, I would not now be enjoying my regular monthly royalty income from them.

If you feel strongly one way or another about the subject of correct English and grammar, don’t just read this article and tut-tut under your breath. I don’t bite. Be brave. Write your comments below.

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What does it take to be a writer?

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Having an imagination that far exceeds most people’s comprehension, grasp and expectations, along with the ability to be overly critical of your own work is the answer.

Some, if not all of what I’m about to say, will infuriate many of the egomaniacs in this business. For that I make no apology…

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To call yourself a writer after publishing one story, does not mean that you are one by any stretch of the imagination, no matter what you may have been told, or been lead to believe. Unfortunately since it has become possible for anyone to publish a book, the market has become saturated with one time only efforts, that would not make it past even the laziest literary agent, let alone the various editors in a publishing house.

Please note – regarding the latter I’m not talking about someone who advertises themselves as a professional editor, which by the way is a complete misnomer as there are no official qualifications for the job.

At best, all that is available for anyone wishing to be a full time editor are the various university degrees courses in literature and English which anyone with enough time and money can partake in. As for the so-called professional editors, trust me when I say that anyone who wants you to pay them to edit your work should be viewed with extreme suspicion!

Now then, as for you being a writer there is only one way for you to be taken seriously. Focus all of your time and energy on writing endless numbers of short stories, just like every successful published writer has done down the centuries, and their counterparts continue to do. For purposes of experimentation don’t just write in your favourite genre. Try them all on for size.

Like every other serious writer, over the decades I’ve written thousands of short stories and abandoned even more after four or five hundred words. And yet I have only ever published ten books. Why is that do you think? I’ll tell you – because only that many were worthy of expansion into novella or novel length stories in my opinion, despite what every one of my acid tongued critics have said about them over the years in their blatant attacks in the form of one, two and three star so-called reviews.

Above all, don’t be in a hurry to get published. Learn how to construct a story first. If you wish, you can attend writing workshops, seminars, etc. But there is no substitute for actually doing it yourself. Then work on it until it’s as perfect as you can make it. In other words edit it! Lastly let other people read it.

Know this – there are no easy answers, only years of hopefully enjoyable hard work and experimentation, together with countless sleepless nights ahead of you…

Happy writing.

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Short Story Writing

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On its own is a short story important? Not necessarily. But as a proving ground to try out ideas with the view to expansion into larger works at a later date, short stories are an invaluable tool.

The trick is to always to keep it short – between five to fifteen hundred words. While you’re writing, if it’s any good your mind will automatically want to expand it to novelette, novella or even novel length.

Don’t give in to temptation. You’re writing a short story!

The main thing to remember once you’ve decided on its subject, is that it must always be brief and to the point. I know I’m repeating myself, but its a fact. How many short stories end up as novelettes when the author looses all sense of self-control?

If you believe your short story is truly worthy, hand it over to a few people to read, in other words employ beta-readers. If their verdict is favourable, the next thing to consider is whether or not to leave it as a single short story, or perhaps the first of a series or anthology, just like my Goblin Tales.

To create any story, especially a short one, you must keep you’re writing tight. Don’t get carried away with what I call flowery prose. In other words don’t feel the need to fill it with utterly pointless rambling.

Unfortunately many short stories I see these days were quite clearly not thought through before being published. To that I say be your own worst critic. If it looks and sounds like total rubbish when you read it out loud, chances are that’s exactly what it is. But don’t let that put you off. Learn from it. So get busy and write a short story.

Remember – mighty oaks from little acorns grow.

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