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Category Archives: On Writing

What Does Your Story Say?

When I initially began writing, I was purposed to write stories with meaning. Not just fluffy fun tales of over-powered heroes saving damsels in distress, beating the familiar evil villain, and then riding off into the sunset with said damsel. It was too cliched. Too fake. Too fictional.

Hence that amazing quote by Anais Nin on the title of my blog. “Not what we all can say, but what we are unable to say.” There could be many reasons why we might not be able to say something, but in our writing we can most certainly elaborate on them. Explore and expound for others to read and comprehend.

I’ve thought about changing that quote a number of times in the past, but I can’t get past the truth it speaks. It guided my tentative steps into serious writing. As fun as writing fan-fiction and ghost stories can be, sometimes I needed to write something with substance. Something concrete, addressing a personal issue or belief. I attempted a lot these in the past, ranging from Christianity to relationships to my greatest fears.

Here’s an excerpt from a piece of writing I labelled The Past:

The Past…

…is like a dark cave, contaminated, murky, fearsome place, one that we cordon off and try to forget about, ignoring the signs all around us that point back to it. But we cannot escape it. We sometimes linger at its entrance, gazing within the dark confines to see what can be seen. Safe enough. Safe enough away from what we know is within its depths. We know of the familiar creature within, one that bares an undeniably resemblance to ourselves, except for its blank dead eyes, dead in trespasses and sins, blinded from the truth willingly.

I was in a dark place for a while.

Self vs Other

These days I seem to be driven by concepts that are ‘out there’ rather than close to me. Removing self from the story and characters to create something outside of me. It’s much easier to ignore introspection. To escape to books and movies and music and art.

I could only hope to recreate those sensations in my readers. However, what I failed to notice, was that each creator of those inspirational  works had their own directive to their creation, a source that guided their work. It not only made them unique, but I as the recipient of their creativity, was able to experience what they experienced much deeper and fuller.

Combining self and these external sources, can create something beautiful. For example:

  • Adele’s soulful musical style was inspired by her own heartbreak, relationships, and a desire to making up for all the lost time through nostalgia and melancholy – yet she was inspired by Amy Winehouse and the album Frank.
  • Masamune Shirow (Masanori Ota) is a qualified oil painter, and creator of Ghost in the Shell and Appleseed. He writes thoughtful post apocalyptic cyberpunk futures with female protagonists – inspired by (and creator of) erotic art.
  • Stephen King’s stories involve the “every day man” thrust into a horror-fueled adventure, with running commentary on abusive, religious mothers (or priests) – the king of horror was inspired by other kings of horror H.P. Lovecraft and Richard Matheson.
  • Quentin Tarantino’s non-linear stories driven by gore and satire, are a manifestation of his creative mind – inspired by old music, where he uses the music to create scenes in his head and bring them to life.

Prolific creative figures who have combined their own experiences with their inspiration to produce amazing works.

When I make a film, I am hoping to reinvent the genre a little bit. I just do it my way. I make my own little Quentin versions of them.

~ Quentin Tarantino

Truth in Fiction

Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying every story I write will be an obscured memoir of things I want to say but can’t say. I am saying, however, that there will be elements of ‘my truth’ to each story. Drawing from me and drawing from outside of myself to create. Ultimately sharing my truth in fiction, and still having a great story to tell. Combined with world building and character building, I can fully embrace a character and world without feeling like a stranger in my own story.

Like a ghost in a shell.


What does your writing process entail? How much of yourself do you put into your stories? Is your main character usually you or a version of you, or do you draw other people as your characters? What’s your inspiration?

Focus: The Bane of my Writing

I am working on three novels at once. The other is a prequel to one of the novels, written as a collection of short stories. There’s also the Friday Fiction, a number of side novellas, and Wattpad writing competitions. There are also books to read, games to play, social events to attend, and the elusive activity known as sleep.

There’s also a folder full of ideas and stories that have been bubbling since I was in highschool. I have been craving a good horror story and since I haven’t found one, I’ve resorted to that age old writer’s quote “If the book you want to read doesn’t exist, write it.”

All of these have made me aware of something I struggle with when it comes to my writing… focus.

One Story at a Time

You might think this is easy to do. Take one novel  (or idea), write it, edit it, send it off to the publishers and work on the next one while you wait. In truth, it should be. Fortunately/Unfortunately my mind is a single bee in a gargantuan field of flowers. Buzzing with activity. Jumping from one flower to the next to the next to the next. Never satisfied with just the one. Seeing all the potential. All the benefits to reap.

Hence why I’m writing four novels at once. This is my attempt at appeasing my restless mind while being productive. The novels are all different genres, different worlds, and different characters. Each week I focus on one novel. Of course, I end up getting ideas for “that other” novel, or ideas for a new story and have to battle against writing them.

The Solution

I write everything down. I have a multiple notepad .txt files with ideas. Each in their appropriate folders. I don’t want to lose the idea. I also write what I was feeling and what I was trying to achieve with the story. This means I have a reference point to the me now, with the fresh idea as it is now. The me today, won’t be the me next month (or next year) when I revisit the idea and realise I have no idea where I was trying to go with it.

It doesn’t always work. I spend too much time in my head thinking of what I want to do next instead of just doing it. Sometimes all it needs is discipline. And sitting down to write. I’ll keep working on it, and writing.


Do you struggle with focusing on your current WIP? How do you keep writing one story down without losing interest? What inspires to keep going?

 

Doubt – The Writer’s Killer

I was writing. A lot. Too much perhaps. Drowning in an endless sea of fictional stories and characters all crying to see the light of day. Sometimes I was writing for myself. Other times I wrote for my future fans (I can dream). Occasionally I wrote because that’s what I do. There were days when I wrote only a few words and days when I scribbled notes and days when it was entire sections of story. Yet in each of these instances, there was that little sense of discontent that lingered in the dark recesses of my writing. Stalking every thought process. Every idea. Every word.

It didn’t stop me from writing. No. It merely created a sense of doubt to my writing. As though something was wrong with my strong female protagonist, or not enough depth to my wandering male character. The world I built wasn’t rich enough. The plot – not enough sustenance. How my previous works were written by a distinct version of me, in a different mental and emotional state. A literary genius with a fantastic grasp on what he was creating or a bumbling fool trying to sprint through oceans in baggy clothing.

Dissatisfaction rearing its ugly head, telling me “Your writing will never be good enough.” or “Stop this madness, you’re just another sub par writer.” Quit-since-your’re-behind kind of thought process. It can really be crippling.

It would be easier to lower your standards. To pass it off as a hobby for fun and nothing too serious. To give up.

But that is a mistake.

Writing is my passion above all other things. One thing I can claim as my own. That I embrace. To not write would be to die. Not because I have spent so much time and effort and energy into writing and to give up now is foolish. Rather because if I did not write, where would all these stories in my head go. How would I be able to express the feelings that rattle through my bones? To live vicariously through created characters and have the ability to alter their destiny with a couple of letters put together to make logical sense.

Doubt, like hope, can be fickle but powerful. I once wrote this beautiful, meaningful story that resonated with me on so many levels. Doubt snuck in once and I deleted it. I regret it so much, there’s not a time that doesn’t pass when I don’t think about that story. All that potential. Gone. What a waste.

I also, currently, have a story that is brimming with life and potential. I have random bursts of inspiration that mold this story into a masterpiece. Hope spurring it forward to completion because I think it’s a great piece of writing. If only I could have the time and energy and effort to sit through the whole thing and complete it and raise it above the masses like Moses splitting the red sea. Okay maybe that’s pushing it, but that’s what hope does.

I won’t sit here and tell you it’s easy to push doubt away. Or that you can simply manufacture hope on the spur of the moment. It takes sitting down and putting in the effort. To write. To take a break. To enjoy the process and hate it. To take long walks or lie in bed soaking up music or watching your favourite series. To work through your story and write even when it feels like it’s not doing anything.

I know the doubt will pass. I know hope will not be enough. What will remain, however, is every word I have written. So I will continue to write.


How do you deal with doubt in your writing? What has been the most crippling moment in your writing? Have you ever deleted a story and do you regret it?

May Update

Camp NaNo is done and dusted, and while I did not get to the appended 50K mark, I did get to my original 25K goal. So it is both a win and a non-win.

Sadly, my blog and reading suffered quite a bit during NaNo. And also April is practically a public holiday here in South Africa so I was barely at home or barely writing when I was. It was heavy busy, but I do not regret anything. I experienced a lot of great things I wouldn’t trade for an addition 25K words.

May Goals

I always feel like I have the potential to do so much more than I plan for, but do not have the time to do it all. Nonetheless, goals are great for motivation and when I cross off a goal, I feel fantastic.

Reading: I finished two incredible books. The first was Rules of the Game, the third and final book of the Endgame series. So much action. So much drama. So much almost crying. Click the covers for a review. Rules of the game will have a proper review later on the blog but you can read the initial review on Goodreads.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The second book was Eleanor & Park, a YA romance novel that hit me harder than I expected it to. My heart was in my throat the whole time. Beautiful. Click the cover for my Goodreads review.

Next on the list are:

  1. Blood Moon – John David Bethel
  2. Grey Magic – J.T. Lawrence
  3. Why You Were Taken – J.T. Lawrence
  4. Enden – David Kummer

I still have my Brandon Sanderson Mist Born Trilogy to read as well.

Writing:

Innocence: I will be finishing this horror novella this month. There are 10 chapters in total, each about 1500 words or so. It is available for free on Wattpad and you can read chapter 7 later today. To catch up on what has already happened, (and follow me on Wattpad) follow this link -> Wattpad Story – Innocence.

 

A quick synopsis:

The law exists to protect citizens from injustice, violence, and immorality. However, the law itself is also bound to it’s own statutes, and sometimes, the guilty are set free.
Four officers and a young medical student decide to take the law into their own hands, sentencing the known murderer, Marius de Wet, to an illegal Death Penalty within the unused Melville police precinct basement.
If word got out, the repercussions would be insurmountable for the five overseers of the unauthorized execution, and they vow to keep their silence.
But Marius is calling from the grave, seeking justice.
And he will claim his innocence.

Do be warned, it is rated “Mature” due to violence and language.

Last Robot on Earth: I have written about 16,001 words of this. This first arc will probably run up to 25,000 words. Unfortunately I did not write this main character as I was supposed to. Got too caught up in the story to realize he’s way off personality wise. So I’ll be rounding up the first arc and editing the character before moving on with the story.

While it is a Patreon project, I’ll be sharing some of the processes with you. This is one of the novels I will be completing this year.

Dominae Mortem: This is at 10,713 words. I covered two of the four main protagonists that the story revolves around. While I enjoyed the process, it involved so much world building and research that it took longer to write. I still haven’t planned out the other two characters so writing this will be quite a drawn out process.

From a planning perspective, I have the first arc figured out. Basically it is the “who” arc, where you get to know more about both the characters and the world they live in. Each is supposed to end with a “WHAT?!” cliff hanger that will lead into the second arc, “what now?” This will probably cover the first 50-75K mark. It is a Dark Fantasy novel after all so it could get long.

Junk Yard Angel: Ugh don’t even ask haha. This is novel is like that TV series you want to watch, then watch only one episode before moving on to other series. There’s so much potential but I’m too lazy to dig through it. It also has massive amounts of research and plotting to get through. Nonetheless, the novel itself is 8181 words of the introductory arc.

The JYA Short Stories – a prequel to the events of the main novel, is going pretty well. I’m enjoying that much better, but of course this is because all the characters are so much fun to write. 6452 words so far broken between five short stories that are all related and linked to each other and to the main novel. I will be releasing this once JYA itself is written.

Portals: This is a secret novel from last years NaNoWriMo – the Science Fantasy Horror Thriller of 33,865 words. It is a convoluted mess but a fascinating convoluted mess. Intertwining time-lines, characters and motivations. This little side project is not important but it’s fun.


What are your goals for May? How well did you do during Camp NaNo if you participated?

Dominae Mortem – Tengu Mythology

In one of my Patreon posts I spoke about exploring the origin of folklore and mythology for my Dominae Mortem novel. The idea is to look at existing spiritual creatures and monsters, and create my own version of how they came to be. Today we look at the Tengu from Japanese mythology:

Tengu are legendary creatures found in Japanese folk religion.  They are also considered a type of god (kami) or yōkai (supernatural being). Although they take their name from a dog-like Chinese demon (Tiangou), the tengu were originally thought to take the forms of birds of prey, and they are traditionally depicted with both human and avian characteristics.

Tengu are most frequently depicted in the yamabushi’s (yamahoshi’) distinctive costume, which includes a tokin and yuigesa – a pom-pommed sash.

The arc I am working on for Dominae Mortem this Camp NaNo was not planned. I knew the character but not the setting and not what’s supposed to happen. This rolled into a week long research/writing where Google Maps/Images was my best friend.

Creating a realistic location is so much work. Without a plan, I kept writing myself into a couple of impossible situations. And I did what any normal Dark Fantasy author would do… I hurt the protagonist. No one escapes the wrath of dark fantasy. So nothing at all was working according to plan.

However, one thing I knew for certain was that I had to create a Tengu. I had no idea how or who or when. Thankfully, the setting I spent so much time researching told the story I needed. As I pantsed my way through, I created a character who had a specific role and they in-turn decided to alter their destiny.

Here’s an excerpt of the transformation:

*Touma-san. Takeda-san. Naoharu-san. Do not rejoice. Your sacrifice bears many consequences. Until the Shinigami accepts her fate, the curses will remain.

Naoharu the yamahoshi is suddenly thrown into the air. A large brown bird descends from the heavens. A tobi – the Black Kite. Its claws grip Naoharu’s scalp and the bird thrusts its head into the yamahoshi’s open skull. He screeches in fear and pain. Still he lifts into the air, caught in the birds’ claws. The tobi continues to dig its head into Naoharu, pushing through the rotted brain. We watch aghast as its beak pushes out of Naoharu’s nose, stretching the skin until it seems to break. His face begins to simmer in black tendrils, melting the skin as it takes on the shape of the bird. His features transform until he is an amalgamated bird man. The tobi’s body completely sinks into the screaming yamahoshi. The residing maggots skitter out in droves. They dribble down the yamahoshi’s yuigesa as the man crumples forward in the air. We hear the popping crunch of bone. It is like the crack of thunder. Naoharu’s arches his spine as the back of his robes rip. Large black-brown wings sprout from his back. They continue to grow and grow and grow, until they are as tall as the yamahoshi.

This tori-no-otoko, Tengu as we name him, shall be the guardian and prosecutor of the Ōyashiro. The voice rumbles – As for you, Touma-san, the darkness within shall lead you to the Shinigami. Find her. She must accept her destiny.

A single breeze blows through us and Naoharu drops from the air. His enormous wings beat once with a gale of wind and he remains hovering above us. His beady eyes flit about. A bird-like screech claws from his beak as he beats his wings again. He ascends into the heavens and flutters off towards the grand shrine.

*

And off goes Naoharu to become the great myth known as the Tengu. You probably have a lot of questions about the who, what, where etc that lead to this. All shall be revealed in the final novel. Until then, it’s back to the writing. Thanks for dropping by.

The Other Side of World Building

March was a month dedicated to world building in preparation for Camp NaNo, which is already at the end of its second week. One of the biggest issues with the process of world building is the fact that you are not writing as you build the world. You have concept characters in a concept world pushing conceptual plots.

As a writer, you should know, what you have in your head never works out the same way once the words fill up your blank page. Your characters start misbehaving, adding more to their backstory, referencing characters you haven’t really created because you didn’t think about them. The world, which was rich and expansive, does not incorporate the little spaces your characters decide to visit.

This has been my woe with the first of the novels I’m working on, Last Robot on Earth (name to be revised). Below is the mind map that plots out all the places where the story takes place. This is one of five mind maps that are just as detailed. I figured that all of this would be sufficient… but it’s not.

I had to create a sixth map where I outline what happens in the first arc, and within that arc all the details of what should happen. I say should because when I started writing, I realised that what I had built was still being shifted around by the story itself. On this side of world building, the story is the boss.

Plotting vs Pantsing

I’m not a plotter by default. Perhaps that’s why this isn’t working as well for me as I thought it would. I lack the details. I see the overall picture and think little of the puzzle pieces that work together to build the picture. What has definitely helped with the plotting, is knowing where I am going. Which means I still have the freedom to write the scenes as they happen. Of pantsing my way through the checkpoints I have planned.

This also means writer’s block doesn’t strike so often. I am thankful for all the work I put in to planning and so onward I go. 18,582 words and counting.


Have you experienced this when you are world building?

Camp NaNo 2017 – The Beginning of the End

I have a draft folder full of all these ideas I never pushed far enough to publish. I was content with this. Figuring that eventually I would sit down and turn them into novels worth publishing. This was sometime in the future but if there’s one thing I’ve learned in the years of spawning new drafts on a whim every time is this: if I don’t actually sit down and write, not just have the intention but put in the work, I won’t ever publish. Ever.

So future me will have to thank me for this camp’s ambitious endeavour: writing four novels in four months. Camp is the beginning of it all.

 

Camp NaNo Writing

The four novels (well three and an anthology) are as follows:

Junk Yard Angel – A Steampunk novel

She is a guardian, a saviour… an angel, spending her time in the scrap yards filled with discarded metal parts – fixing the broken with an amazing new technology powered by steam. They call her, the Junk Yard Angel.

However, some know a darker side to her. A murky, questionable past that still haunts her – for demons were once angels too.

Junk Yard Angel Short Stories – A prologue to JYA.

In the growing metropolis of Neandershöhle, a great revolution is on the rise. The Church and the State fight to keep their dogmatic rule and absolute Monarchy over the people, while the people fight for Enlightenment and individual liberty.

A young girl finds purpose in the fragile Age of Enlightenment. She stalks the scrap yards and uses the discarded metal to bring hope to the hopeless.

Yet something within rattles her soul. Whispers dark thoughts, and with the revolution so close at hand, she must choose her destiny wisely or endure the resulting consequences.

Last Robot on Earth – A Dystopian Novel

The world is a ravaged war-torn landscape still carrying the scars of nuclear war. Melted ice-caps have increased water levels, submerging much of the world under water. What little habitable land remains becomes a haven for those who survived the war.

Humans, living under the effect of the radiation, begin to mutate to their environment. Exhibiting bizarre adaptations and abilities.

Roaming uninhibited by the radiation is a single sentient machine. Living among the humans.

Waiting.

Watching.

Preparing.

Dominae Mortem – A Dark Fantasy Novel

Princess Arabella has a secret. Following her mother’s death, she sought the council of the Great Elders on what happens after death. Their answer drives her towards performing one of the Great Sins – suicide. Her premature death sends her to Orcus where she meets Death himself.

Following her defeat of Death, yet unable to reclaim her mother’s lost soul, she returns to the world of the living. The mantle of Death has been passed on to her yet she refuses her responsibilities.

But death is necessary. It calls to her. Summons her to its dark realm… and Fate decides to make a personal call.

The idea here is to write at least 12,500 words per novel between Camp and the next camp in July. That’s about 200,000 words in total (50K per novel although some will probably be much much longer than that eventually).

Thus this camp starts the real journey of becoming a writer. Of not just procrastinating and putting things off. A little ambitious I know, but…

“Ambition… is a great man’s madness.” John Webster, The Duchess of Malfi


Are you participating in Camp Nano? What are writing? If you need a cabin (there’s about 7 spaces left) comment your username and you can join us. Happy writing!

Want to find out more about my writing projects? Sign up to my newsletter:

Marching On: The Muse Lives

It seems that my writing slump has passed, *touch wood*, and a number of ideas and story iterations are coming to the fore. With Camp NaNoWriMo coming up next month, this is a good thing.

Junk Yard Angel

Setting up JYA is quite a mission. There’s a lot of worldbuilding to do, character profiles to outline, and an actual plot to figure out. It’s great to have this amazing budding world at the fore, and a stellar character at the center of it all, but there’s no story to write if there’s no goal to achieve. That’s what I’m working on now through a number of short stories.

The short stories are set before the JYA novel story, which means a richer background to work from. This also allows me to figure out what’s about to happen, why it’s going to happen, and who will be driving it all forward. So far I have written two short stories posted on my Patreon page. If you would like to read (and enjoy) them, please drop by.

Patreon.com/NthatoMorakabi

Here are excerpts from both:

The Botanist

A little after two in the morning, the doorbell chimed.

Klaus raised his head from his work on the counter and glanced at the silhouette at the door. His gas lamp, fixed on the clay pot and scattered paintbrushes among the work tools, created the only light within the room. The person remained in shadow at the doorway. Petite. Slight. A woman perhaps.

“Good morning?” He called to the figure.

“A little early for botany isn’t it, Herr Klaus?” the voice was light. Feathery. A woman indeed.

“A little early for a visit isn’t it. Frau…?”

The woman idly slinked sideways. High shelves lined the walls, more shelves divided the store into flowers, pots and various garden utensils. The air carried lilac, fressia, jasmine, and an underlying waft of fertilizer. Klaus followed her movements behind the silhouetted flora by the sound of rasping cloth across the floor. She was moving towards the furthest edge of the shop. That was where he kept his private collection.

“Prince Clemens speaks highly of you Herr Klaus.” Her voice echoed from the back. Klaus stood quickly from his counter, the stool scraping across the floor with his movements. He swept a hand agitatedly through his thin hair.

“And what does his praise have to do with this visit? Could it not wait ‘til sunrise?”

Der Engel von Garzweiler

As I shuffled out of the church, I could feel the pitying looks of Mother Mary, and the Saints, casting down at me from their perches.  If there was some sort of guardian in Garzweiler, I hoped she would have a less agonizing face – and perhaps, her gaze set on me too.

The air outside the church nipped at my fingers, and cut through the holes of my shoes. Frau Berger from the convent across the road bustled about draping patched coats over some of the street urchins. Their emaciated bodies, enveloped under the woolen layer, would probably not see food for another week. If this Engel showed no benevolence towards the children, then what compassion would she have for me. It was a sobering thought on that long walk down the wide dirt paths towards a safer, warmer, terrain until my duty the following day.  Death awaited the following day with a plate of food and a pocket full of money.

I walked to my grave.

Innocence – a Wattpad novella

I read a “free to use” prompt on Wattpad that inspired this horror novella. The story revolves around four cops and a fledgling doctor giving a known murderer the Death Penalty, but they do it illegally in an unused basement of the police precinct. The murderer swears revenge before he dies and… well you’ll have to read the rest of it to know what happens. I’ll be posting new chapters every Friday as part of my usual Friday Fiction. Chapter 3 goes up tomorrow.

I watched as Marius de Wet was injected with Pentobarbital. He sat calmly through it all, his eyes falling on each of us as though memorizing our faces. There were only four of us within the dim precinct basement when it happened. Five if you count the shaking, greenhorn doctor who administered the lethal injection.

Rudolph, one of the detectives, was on his sixth cigarette by then, filling the room with acrid odor, the same that lined his clothes and drifted from his breath. Without his uniform, you could see how gaunt he was. The black hair looked slick and thin, face long and sallow, all exacerbated by yellowing teeth where one of the front two had a chip. He tapped his sneakered foot incessantly on the grungy cement floor of the basement holding cell, still sticky with Marius’ blood.

Maybe some of ours too.

Read it: wattpad.com/NthatoM

The Last Robot on Earth

Last year July, my close friend Carin Marais, a fellow writer, Patreon, Folklore/Myth virtuoso, and creator of the amazing upcoming novel The Ruon Chronicles, gave me a prompt: the Last Robot on Earth. As her reward I wrote her the story about Tobor, a robot pretending to be human and taking part in a Hunger Games style competition. The idea has evolved quite considerably from that and hatched a completely new series. *Thanks Carin! Swoons.*

Right now I’m in the world building stages of the novel, and it will be slightly different from my usual fantasy/horror but of course with elements of both. Since it was a Patreon inspired prompt, it will be running concurrent with JYA on that end, which means special rewards if you’re a Pledgee.

Not much I can tell you right now except that one of the characters is inspired by John Constantine, the fictional DC comics character, and the story will lean towards a darker, gritty, comic-book style novel. As a comic book fan (and not because of the movies ugh) my idea needs a lot of work so it doesn’t come off as another Marvel’s the X-Men vs Bolivar Trusks’ mutant killing Sentinels (did i just give the plot away? hehe). Nonetheless, I’m loving the world building.

Other Short Stories

There’s so many ideas and stories in the pipelines, and rather than tackle them one at a time (which is the most sane thing to do) I’ll be dabbling around each one as short stories that will eventually culminate into their respective novels/novellas. This means constantly writing and (hopefully) never getting bored. I will obviously keep you updated as things happen.

typing


How’s your writing going? Any exciting projects coming up? Are you taking part in Camp NaNoWriMo next month?

Inspiration – Recreation into Writing

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Recreation is an important part of my life. When you spend 8 hours a day writing as your job, and then get home and plug into your own personal writing (or articles as a freelance writer), the brain can burn out very quickly. So I try to invest some time into other fun activities to clear the mind. This involves reading, watching movies or series, playing on the Xbox or my 3DS, listening to music, making music, playing tennis or socializing with friends. You may have noticed that I never post on weekends, because those are my “tech free” days when I put my laptop away and spend the time doing other things. We all need a break.

Inspiration

I spent the last week reading and watching movies, barely touching any fictional writing. I got to finally watch the Assassins Creed movie (better than I thought!), finally got around to watching the original Ghost in the Shell anime movies (mind blown), and delved into three really grand books. Here’s the fascinating thing that happened while I was engaging my mind in something other than writing; I got inspired.

This wasn’t the “I need to write this amazing idea.” kind of inspiration. It wasn’t a feeling of intense desire to create. It wasn’t incorporating what I’d just seen and read and wanted to translate it into my own novel. No, this was far more profound. I was inspired to be true to myself.

You Are What You Write

Think of the stories you have written. Think of the books you read. There is a part of you that is drawn to those particular genres, a part of you that wants to create stories around that specific topic or train of thought or idea. It’s your idea formulating, brewing, churning and growing in your mind until you put it down in a (somewhat) coherent form.

I realised, in my quest to write mind blowing stories with amazing characters and fantastical worlds, that I was losing what was most important in my writing: me. I was so focused on pleasing everyone else, I forgot about pleasing me. Two weeks ago I wrote the article “Appealing to the Reader“, and I said the following about my need to write:

I want my stories to mean something to everyone.

And I saw the following statement as a negative thing:

I was writing for myself and hoping others would enjoy the story as much as I did.

I forgot that I am part of everyone. If my stories don’t mean anything to me, then how true can I be to them? It would explain why I ended up hating the stories I was writing because at the end of the day I was writing them for everyone else and not for me. I think that’s a major mistake.

Inspiration from Recreation

I remember thinking I was fit, you know, physically, because I played tennis although at that point I hadn’t played in months. A friend suggested I join this training thing at a Nature Reserve close to where I live. So Saturday morning I drove up to the place, kitted out and ready to exercise. I actually did fairly well but I couldn’t move my arms for two weeks afterwards. I’m not exaggerating. Anyway, one of the things we had to do was run I think 5km, and I was so focused on the path in front of me, I forgot to notice the beauty around me. It was only when I intentionally looked around to take in the rising hills, the spreading flora surviving the summer heat, the gnarled trees covered in dried moss, and the varying plants around me that I noticed the surrounding beauty. Then I thought “Now I know how to describe this type of environment in my future writing.” and filed them away in my brain.

Watching Assassin’s Creed and Ghost in the Shell inspired my story telling. Both these movies have fascinating storylines that play on this idea of self. Who we are. How we perceive ourselves and the world around us. Although completely different contexts (historical fiction VS cyberpunk) they both touch on different aspects of this idea.

I read an amazing book this week called Killing Gravity by author Corey J. White. It was fast paced, written well, and carried a particular mood through each setting. I was noticing the writer’s style, how the environment was described, how characters were portrayed, the world building aspects and a number of elements that made the novella work. Not surprising that Corey stated the following for his inspiration:

I can’t remember why I decided the main character would be a psychic space witch, but when it came to thinking about how Mars’ telekinetic abilities worked and the scale of destruction she could cause, I took inspiration from Akira.

More generally, I’ll take inspiration from anything and everything, including song titles, lyrics, books, comics, articles, and graffiti.

 Yesterday I wrote a 1000 word short story while listening to Gothic instrumental music from YouTube. My upcoming novella “Innocence” was inspired by an online prompt and drew elements from a number of horror books I read. Dying multiple times in Dark Souls almost spawned quite a gritty short story. Images on Deviant Art and artists I follow on Instagram inspire some of my stories.

My point is this: don’t take the things you do outside of writing for granted. Everything feeds into everything else. Pay attention to the world around you. More importantly, love what you write!


What inspires you when you’re writing? What has that inspiration led to?

Community Writing: Critique Thy Neighbour

writing-group

I’m part of a writer’s group. Several in fact,  although I’m far more active in the more social group than the others and that’s just because it’s more convenient for me. The great thing about writing groups is being able to share writing and let others give insight as to what you wrote. A lot of times we talk through ideas, explain what an official sending address looks like, what sites are perfect for getting people’s names, and occasional debates about Twilight, Fifty Shades, and other heated topics. *I may have played the devil’s advocate on a number of occasions.

However, most importantly, we encourage each other to write. This include adding short excerpts and asking for feedback, because as a writer, feedback is important. Rachel Poli wrote a blog post some time ago about exchanging stories with her sister Kris, and how they critique each others work. It’s a great idea… unless you’re facing the Critique Monster.

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The Writer who Reads

If you read a lot of books, and you’re a writer, there are a number of things that you pick up immediately when reading someone else’s work. Here are a few:

  • Style: This is the way the person writes. Their word choice. The structure of their sentences. Whether they are descriptive or informative, narrative or argumentative.
    • If I were to read someone else’s horror story, my mind automatically starts comparing it to other horror writers I’ve read or even worse, myself.
  • Tone: The attitude or perspective of the writing. Whether it’s informal, humourous, melancholic, cheerful and so on. It is linked to style, through the choice of words the author uses.
    • Young Adult fantasy novels tend to be more informal and almost light in tone, while adult fantasy novels are mostly dark and morose. Telling the same story with a different tone can change the experience dramatically.
  • Voice: This is how the author tells the story. It includes perspective (1st person etc) and carries a particular point of view by either the charactes or the narrator.
    • The story told from a child’s point of view will be different to a teenager or adult. When reading about a twelve year old yet they sound forty, that’s voice gone wrong.

Critiqued: It’s not your story

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I recently read a friends story. I struggled to read through it the first time. As I was reading I kept thinking, “This isn’t how I would have written it.” and when I was about to give feedback I remembered a very important fact; this wasn’t my story. These were not my character, my world, my voice or tone or style. This was somebody else’s work and I should therefore treat it as such. I read it again and read it for what it was. Then I read it again to pick up any inconsistencies.

This is one of the mistakes of critiquing. We want to conform the story to what we want it to be instead of appreciating it for what it is. Writing book reviews has made me aware of these idiosyncrasies to reading other writer’s, and if the story doesn’t suit my particular writing expectations, I lose perspective and judge it unfairly. It has made me wonder how many others have done the same to me, read my writing and thinking the same things, missing the point of the story to focus on the faults.

It is a difficult process and thankfully Rachel (you’re a star!) wrote great articles for Critiquing a Novel. You should check them out. As for me, it’s a working progress but you gotta love writing communities and I would implore you to join one, even if it’s online. It’s worth it.


Are you part of a writing group?

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