On Writing

i totally didn’t kidnap deborah o’carroll for an interview. pfft.

I HAVE ANOTHER GUEST … I KNOW, I KNOW – am I being slightly over social? I’ve agonised about it, but I think it’s going to be okay.

I have the glorious Deborah O’Carroll with me – of her own free will (!!!!) – so sit yourself down (or don’t), grab a cup of tea (or coffee or NOTHING!) and settle in; we’re in for (another) treat.

***DON’T READ ON … if you don’t want book recommendations, VITAL TIPS on participating in NaNoWriMo, and a banquet of scintillating conversation***

Quick! A confirmed book-hater is heading your way – what’s the book you lob at their head to make them change their mind?

That all depends on if it needs to be a thick book (in order to knock some sense into them) or simply the best book! Or maybe both! In the first case, a dictionary should do the trick. In the second, Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones, because it’s my absolute favorite! Or if both, then a hardcover single-volume edition of The Lord of the Rings because it’s huge AND the best, a.k.a. my other absolute favorite! (Yes, I can have two — shush — because I’m making up the rules here!)

Stories – what draws you to them?

What DOESN’T draw me to them? I love the way stories can draw me into a new world to explore, with characters who feel like friends, and can show me new things about life in an interesting way. But mostly I love the FUN of stories because life is too short to not have fun. 😛

… and what’s the one thing that would make you hurl a book across the room in mild disgust/ferocious loathing? Or maybe you have two things. OR THREE!! DO TELL!

Killing off a favorite character = number one cause of hurling books in loathing. XD UNACCEPTABLE. Ahem. Also having a tragic ending. Worse if it’s both together! (Milder cases also include: being super dark, being super dystopian, or, sometimes, love triangles. XD)

What’s something that you’ve read that’s really, truly impacted your life?

OH BOY. Many things, but one that leaps to mind right now is Stephen R. Lawhead’s Bright Empires series. That impacted me in multiple ways (like pounding into my head that coincidences doesn’t exist), but the biggest was in the character of Mina. She was the first female character I’ve read who I WANT TO BE (other than Eowyn and Princess Eilonwy, but hello, who doesn’t want to be them?), and showed me things about the kind of person I want to be, and that you can survive — nay, thrive — in totally unexpected ways. (For some reason, the usual Accepted List for those entering their twenties seems to be one of three options: have a 9-5 job, get married, or go to college. Leaving out the fourth option, which is doing your own thing!) Mina is whisked out of her humdrum modern London existence and thrust into 1600s Prague in an alternate timeline. Instead of wallowing, she gets out there and DOES SOMETHING, and it’s sort of spoilers to go on too much about it, but she basically becomes an entrepreneur with the bestest kaffeehaus ever. She carves a place for herself in the world while being the nicest and bravest person and CAN I BE HER? She’s a major role-model, and definitely one of the reasons I’m an editor today. Mina’s the actual bomb and I love her! (And she also reminds us that, you know, if you happen to be stuck in 1600s Prague — in case that’s somewhere on your vacation list — even if you love it there, it’s okay to be missing 21st century showers.)

Is there a book that you haven’t yet read but would like to AND ARE YOU GOING TO WRITE IT?

YOU BET. SO MANY. I have a list. XD I want an excellent world-hopping book with all of the whimsy (in the Diana Wynne Jones tradition). I want a Twelve Dancing Princesses retelling. I want a super epic, awesome (but also fun!) urban fantasy heist book that’s not super gritty. I totally have plans to write all of these! Preferably soon! Those are just on the top of my wishlist. 😀

How do you fit writing into your day-to-day life – what’s your routine?

Um. I don’t. *hysterical laughter* I have been far too busy this year to keep up a regular writing schedule, so I don’t even remember what regular writing IS LIKE. I just write if I have time to fit it in. However, I’m going to make room for it during the insanity that’s NaNoWriMo, and I’ll probably fit it in my writing in the mornings (oh, say it’s not so) or late at night. I don’t really have a “routine” but I should probably make one, at least for November. *nervous laughter to join the hysterical laughter so they can be best buddies and my constant companions throughout the coming month*

What keeps you motivated? Not in a ‘ah, look I just might do this’ way but more ‘ARGHHH THERE’S A T-REX AFTER ME LET ME RUN IN HEELS TOWARDS MY GOAL!!!’?

Firstly, I’m not a heels person, so I promise I’d be in much more sensible footwear for running from T-Rexes toward goals or in any other direction. And secondly, deadlines! They are both the bane of my existence and the power to my engine. Sometimes I think they’re the only reason I get anything done. XD There’s nothing like having that review book due tomorrow or that NaNoWriMo clock ticking down toward the Final End of Doom to get you in gear with a healthy (or unhealthy? Who’s counting) dose of panic. And as far as writing goals, I’m kept motivated by having a lovely writer friend who keeps me accountable, and I know I’ll have to admit I didn’t finish the thing if I miss my goal, so that’s a total motivator!

Is there anything you wish you’d have known when you first started out as a freelancer?

Things about time and money and organization. XD It sounds obvious, but one should always know these things. Like that Taxes Are the Bane of Life, and also the golden rule: Things Always Take Longer Than You Think (so you should make more time for them than you thought you needed, and should probably charge more than you do. *nervous laughter*). Oh, and detailed record-keeping. Hugely important. You learn all these things fairly quickly, but it’s nice to know them in advance. 😛

As a copy editor/proofreader – what’s the number one mistake that you see writers make in their manuscripts?

Incorrectly punctuated dialogue and dialogue tags. MY WORD. Everyone has done it at some point, so I understand that it’s hard (I was there once, myself, as a smol writer, before I knew better — or rather as a young writer, since I am and always will be smol. #heightchallenged) but once you learn it, it’s not ALL that difficult to do properly. The easiest way to remember it is to think: “Would this make sense as a sentence if I removed the quotation marks?”

AND LASTLY: You’re doing NaNoWriMo … can you give a hot tip on HOW ON EARTH TO SURVIVE IT – NAY THRIVE?!

Two things! Timers, and STAY AHEAD.

Timers, because wordsprints/wordwars are your best friends — and you can do them with your other best friends (a.k.a. your writing pals) or even just set a timer and sprint/war against yourself (guaranteed to win!). If sprints aren’t your thing, at least set a timer to make yourself write during that set time (whether it’s ten minutes, twenty minutes, or an hour), and no matter how slow you write, you WILL have words to show for it when the timer “goes ding when there’s stuff!” (In this case, the stuff is words. And, if we’re very lucky, also story.) Then take a quick break before starting again. When the timer’s running, you may not do ANYTHING other that write, which includes checking the internet!

My other brief tip is to make sure you stay on par each day as much as possible — or get ahead if you have extra time, so that you can skip a few days later on, which will also happen, because Life is a Thing. But once you dip below that daily goal, it’s going to be mentally harder to catch up, so staying on track is HUGE. 1667 words per day. If you haven’t quite made it, set that timer again and soon you will! You can do the thing! I believe in you and so do all those unwritten words waiting for you! (And also all of our characters, who will quietly judge us if we don’t write them more, so that’s also a great motivator. *cough*)

Thanks for having me, Ness — your questions were highly superior and I had a blast being here! Huzzah! And thanks, blogly readers, for putting up with my rambunctious ramblings and exclamation point addiction!

Thank YOU for popping over!


You can politely stalk Deborah on her website here and read about her recent millionth word mark right here. If you want YOUR dialogue to be perfectly tagged and punctuated, head over right here.

(And if you just want to smile – go right here.)

I think I just rambled, Life, On Writing

I Didn’t Finish NaNoWriMo [A Tale]

In two months I wrote just under 100,000 words. And yet I still didn’t complete NaNaWriMo.

October was a rush of words, words and words. I slew dragons and wrote about freedom when I meant to write about fear, I completed a trilogy and novella and then, with barely a moment to draw a good breath, it was NaNoWriMo.readingaroundtheworld

At first, it trotted along rather nicely and the story rolled out and away before me. Even after two days of no writing and much adventuring in Belgium I caught up soon enough. Until that last week of November I was on track. But then … nothing happened.

No blog posts, no writing, no editing.

I read. A lot. Mostly at irregular hours. But did I write? No, not a word. Inspiration had dried up and not even my own blog post could help me.

sandwichesRight now, I’m – with many a stall and a false start – attempting to butcher and better Sandwiches, and after that I have all winter to complete The Many Trials of a Blacksmith.

I’m not disappointed that I didn’t finish NaNaWriMo, but I’m very glad that I attempted it. It boosted The Many Trials by a great deal and set the story rolling.

And for that, I’m grateful.

But whether you succeeded in NaNoWriMo (accept my congratulations!), or like myself, didn’t make it to the finishing line, I think we all deserve a hearty hurrah, a pat on the back and a nice cup of tea. Because we wrote, and I rather think that is what National Novel Writing Month is all about.

Fancy a cuppa?

I think I just rambled, Life, The Many Trials of a Blacksmith

Commas and Archbishops: a ramble

I caught a bus the other day and was chatting to its driver. In the course of our conversation it was rather disconcerting to be asked ‘if there was anything coming that way’ when he was at a junction.

He was a lovely chap though, even if I did spend the rest of my ride with my metaphorical heart in my metaphorical mouth. Below is a newly discovered truth:

You don’t expect to use public transport and be requested to help drive it.

… it’s not comforting, okay?

I’m away from home at present and have gazed upon a painting of da Vinci’s and a former Archbishop in the flesh! He has ferocious eyebrows, if you’re wondering.

(The former Archbishop. Not the painting.)

(I don’t think it is her eyebrows that the Virgin Mary is famed for.)

NaNoWriMo is trotting along well enough – currently someone is making a dramatic announcement in a rain drenched street. Don’t ask me why. I didn’t plan it. It just happened.

Also: commas. I’m struggling with them. I think I add them where they aren’t wanted, purely because my brain decides that a page needs buckets more of them then it actually does.

Around The World In Thirty-Days is a good book. I should know. I’ve just read it. However, Phileas Fogg needs to stop being so maddeningly impassive. Emote a little more, dear sir!

I suppose I’d better go back to The Many Trials of a Blacksmith and determine how this chapter ends, as always, I’m not quite sure.

I’m sure I’ll get there though. In the end.

Life, On Writing

How To Write When You’d Really Rather Not

howtowritewhenyoudreallyrathernot
once more a wordy post title by one who is clearly an expert on the matter *cough, cough*

When you want to write, but can’t – that’s writer’s block. When you can write, but can’t muster the motivation – that’s … also a bit of writer’s block, but with a pinch of ‘Alas-I-Don’t-Feel-Like-It’.

You can write, but you don’t want to. Motivation has dried up, vanished. You want to read, or get up off your chair and explore the world, and do Life Things. But alas, you cannot – you’ve got a word count to reach, and by golly, you want to reach it.

Have no fear, my friend! I’ve thrown together a few pointers that have helped me, and hopefully will aid you …

Exit Your Web Browser

I’m sorry, but it must be done. Bookmark tabs you want to keep, but by all means, exit. You have to. (And you can always Restore Previous Session should everything be Terribly Important.)

Sit Yourself Down

… if you weren’t already. But by this I mean, sit yourself down mentally. Stare at the screen or paper and be ready to write. Don’t fidget or berate your mind for coming up with a dry-as-bone story. Nope. Don’t do that.

One writer I know tells me that he sits down every morning and says to himself nicely, “It’s not like you don’t have a choice, because you do – you can either type or kill yourself”

-Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird

All right, the above may be a little drastic, but my point in using it is this: don’t give yourself a choice. You are writing. Right. Now.

Remember Why

Put all thoughts of comparisons, word count aims and what you wish to eat for lunch out of your brain. Recall what sparked this story in the first place, remember what got you excited and whip yourself up into a state of perpetual enthusiasm.

Don’t wait for the writing mood to come to you, go and seize the little imp with your own hands.

… and lastly

Before you is the blank screen or the lined paper, both devoid of words. Don’t panic. Set that first word down, follow it by another and another … and trust me, soon enough, you’ll be swept up in a scene. And you’ll be writing.

On Writing

How To Rid Thyself of Writer’s Block

I didn’t want to write. In fact, the mere thought of writing caused my brain to become violent in its objections. An iron wall was slammed across the realm of creativity, and I stared at it, perplexed.

As I clearly am now an expert on the matter *cough* I thought I’d better share my discoveries with you.

notebookinforestPut It Down, Step Away From the Bomb

Sometimes you can push through a block, other times you can’t. DON’T DESPAIR. Leave your desk and writing implements and do something else.

If your pen is plastered to your finger, then write someone a letter. If it isn’t, go for a walk, wash up, put your books in alphabetical order, go for a trip, or save the world from murderous pandas.

Don’t Read Your Genre

Seriously. Don’t. Pick up a completely different genre and read that. Your objective is to distract your brain; to fool it into relaxing. Because then … then we spring, my brothers. Then we fall upon these pitiful blocks with our battle cries and war pens and- ahem. Sorry.

Recall This Truth:readingincar

A first draft is allowed to be messy. A first draft is not a finished novel.

Vanquish Stage Fright

If you’ve built up your story in your mind as the story to end all stories, don’t. Push all pressure, awe and aspirations away. Cast ’em into the sea, chuck ’em in the dust bin or burn ’em with dragon fire.

These things can freeze your pen and hinder your creativity under the crushing weight of certain future greatness.

… and lastly

Don’t panic, for this too shall pass.

I managed to conquer my block the next day, the short story is now complete and is awaiting my butchering pen. Huzzah!

Other How To’s, because I am a Very Helpful Hedgehog: How To Write Five Thousand Words in One Evening // How to Acquire Books Without Becoming Penniless // How to Design a Front Cover For Your Book //