The Art of Waiting

I am currently in the strange position of waiting on all on my projects. A couple of things are waiting on feedback and decisions, and a novel and a screenplay are in the brewing stage, where I've deliberately left them alone to gain some much-needed perspective. So, what is a writer to do? Here are five dos and don'ts of waiting gracefully. DON'T refresh your email all day and night With most of us having our email literally at our fingertips, it's very tempting to stay glued to your inbox. The very instant that success, rejection or those vital notes arrive, you will know it! I have a weird habit of avoiding my most-wanted email - I will check Gmail's Social and Promotions tags and empty Spam before reading The One. It's either avoidance or saving the best 'til last... DO take a break from devices This is an important point at all writing stages, but it's particularly relevant here. Getting out and experiencing life gives...
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Writers’ Tools: Scene-by-Scene

As NaNoWriMo drains words from me like a gigantic novel leech, I have to take that tried-and-tested piece of November advice and silence my inner editor. The emphasis of Nano has always been word count above all else, with the idea that we can fix all in the edit - in a similar way that film-makers "fix it in post". If you're an intricate plotter, you probably start any new project, novel or screenplay or other, with a thick wedge of notes and an exact play-by-play of how your finished project is going to look. If, however, you're like me, you probably start with broad brushstrokes and then fill in the finer details as you go on. You may have a beginning, a middle and an end but how exactly those are going to fit together may be a complete mystery. I hold an interesting position in that I am both a screenwriter and a novelist. Screenwriting tends to be much more heavy-handed...
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Writers’ Tools: Expert Opinions

Expert opinions are the gilding of the lily in writing fiction. They turn a piece of entertainment into an accurate piece of entertainment, less likely to make irate professionals scream at the TV and ruin the emotional death scene for everyone else in the living room. (Yes, I have done this. Many times. We don't watch hospital dramas in my house anymore.) While I hesitate to call experts "tools" - because I want them to still speak to me - they fit into this character because this knowledge is an optional extra that makes a writer's life easier - or turns it into a total bloody nightmare. What is an expert opinion? An expert opinion is research involving a living, breathing person, as opposed to a book, documentary, website, journal article, etc. That person may be a universally-recognised expert (e.g. an academic specialising in forensics) or may have gained knowledge through personal or professional experience (e.g. a police officer working a rural beat). Why use...
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Are My Book Sales Good? Data for Novelists

Every debut novelist asks "what are good sales figures?" and every seasoned novelist/agent/publisher replies with "it depends". While this is undoubtedly true, it's not very useful to the novelist trying to work out where they fit in the world of books. We know who's at the top - bestsellers are determined by The Sunday Times, The New York Times, USA Today and more recently Amazon. These folks are selling 2000+ copies per day, depending on the season. Newsflash: most novelists do not sell thousands of books per day. Reports on author earnings can be useful, but they are difficult to apply on an individual level. Also, earnings =/= sales. Traditional publishers pay in two main ways - advances, where you get money before you sell anything, and royalties. Some publishers, like my publisher Carina Press, don't give advances but give higher royalty rates. However, royalties are only paid once you've "earned out" your advance (i.e. accumulated royalties are more than what was paid...
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Writers’ Tools: Plot Hog

This post was brought to you by April Fools Day 2014 Plot Hog is a unique writers' tool that I am proud to unveil for you today. Unlike previous writing aids discussed on this blog - such as Story Forge and Google Maps - this is a revolutionary technique of my own invention. I can guarantee that incorporating Plot Hog into your work will change your writing forever. You will never look at an index card the same way again. What is Plot Hog? Currently in its fourth month of development, Plot Hog is a relatively simple technique which capitalises on the prior successes of notable individuals like Punxsutawney Phil and Paul the Octopus. It is particularly useful for those times when you haven't a clue who the murderer is but you have a deadline tomorrow. It's also fantastic for choosing which character to kill off in your season finale (If you're feeling particularly Whedonesque, you can use this every couple of episodes or so). All...
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The Writing Blog Tour

Writing is not a mystical process involving tea leaves and libraries of how-to books. At least, not in my (somewhat limited) experience. However, the choices individual writers make about what they write and how they write it can often seem inscrutable. I've always been interested in how other writers go about their business, mostly in the hope that their words of wisdom will somehow improve my own attempts. So, thank you, Mysterious Person Who Began "The Blog Tour". You are the reason why I am writing this post today. Because I am a glutton for punishment, I agreed to be tagged by Phill Barron, screenwriter extraordinary, and become part of The Blog Tour before passing the dubious honour of baring their writing souls to two more unfortunates - I mean highly-privileged writers. But first, let's talk about Phill. Phillip Barron is a UK scriptwriter who's had nine feature films produced. In addition to movies he's written for BBC3's BAFTA and Rose d'Or nominated sketch show,...
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Writers’ Tools: Story Forge

I have been meaning to write this post for a long time, as evidenced by the fact that the first photo I took for it was while I was still planning my wedding and I'm been married almost seventeen months! Back in March 2012, I saw this cool Kickstarter project on my Twitter timeline (back when one's Twitter timeline wasn't chock-full of Kickstarter, Indiegogo and the like). I was immediately intrigued and backed it, making it the best $25 I've ever spent on my writing. What is Story Forge? What may at first look like tarot cards for maximum upheaval in your life are in fact prompts for the fiction writer's imagination. Using the suggested layouts in the accompanying booklet, you can pick a plot, design a dramatic decision or concoct captivating characters. The deck is nominally divided into five suits - Destiny, Wealth, Will, Emotion and Identity - but this has never greatly affected the outcomes for me. You can read more...
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Writers’ Tools: How Google Maps Can Enhance Your Narrative

Now that NaNoWriMo is over, I have a few moments to do something other than pour words into my novel. One of my most invaluable tools this year, and in 2011, was Google Maps. My mystery series is set in Cardiff and spills out into South Wales. While I was resident in Wales for seven years and spent five of those years in Cardiff, I am currently living in London. Therefore, real life research would require hopping on the train and having a limited wander in the time available. Or I could just look up my location in Google Maps, plot out the route and make notes on the twists and turns of the adventure. For example, here is a chase sequence from the first novel - from Cardiff Central station to the River Taff: (To orientate you, the station is at the very top of the image and Cardiff City Centre is north of that. The river runs south towards Cardiff Bay.) This is...
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Freudian Script: 5 Mature Defence Mechanisms of Well-Adjusted Characters

To start my series on psychology for writers, I thought I'd take a meaty topic that will have practical uses for all your characters, irrespective of genre or medium. What are defence mechanisms? You're wandering along in your own little world. Life is good. You're happy, content, satisfied. WHAM! Suddenly, everything gets turned on its head - you have been hit by An Inciting Incident. How do you react? Something has threatened your state of wellbeing, provoking something inside you, and you need to get rid of this ugly feeling. So, our unconscious mind defends you - and not always in healthy ways. Psychoanalysts (the school of psychology founded by Freud) have formed a list of common defence mechanisms and divided them up. The most common divisions are mature, immature, neurotic and pathological. (NOTE: while this topic is based in psychoanalysis and psychodynamic psychological principles, I'm going to skip over the theories behind the development of these reactions and concentrate on their possible manifestations and...
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Writers’ Tools: Wikis

Say you're a writer. And you live in North Wales (not the worst place to be right now). And your favourite production company is based in South Devon. And their producer is based in London. You could meet for the odd script retreat, of course. And there's phones, e-mail, texts, Facebook, Twitter, etc. - but what if you want to work on something together? Simultaneously, recorded, organised and categorised? Enter The Wiki. What's a wiki? The most famous example is, of course, Wikipedia. It's a set of webpages available for editing by anyone with a username and providing an ever-changing information resource. The name comes from the Hawaiian word for quick, and if you've ever witnessed the speed of vandalism following an England football loss, you'll understand why. Wikipedia in itself is an excellent resource for writers. While old media snobs may doubt its reliability because it's "on-line", it's actually fantastically reliable - because it requires notability and is policed by its members. However, this post...
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