Making Memories Work

Hi all! Please welcome Rosalind Adam to the blog for yet another episode of GPF! Ros is an awesome lady and one of my favorite bloggers. (Yes yes. I know I say that all the time.) So please head over to her blog to give her some love.

Making Memories Work

I am always amazed at the memories that lurk in the depths of my brain… or wherever it is memories live. In my blog bio I admit to being a nostalgia obsessive and many of my posts are inspired by memories, but I’ve earned money from memories too.

Using memory as a starting point for writing can produce unexpected outcomes. One of my favourite writing exercises, especially when working with a new group, is to have 5 minutes free flow writing about a room remembered from childhood.  It always produces surprises. People write about things they didn’t remember they remembered and rooms can hold particularly powerful memories.

In 2008 I was the facilitator of a Heritage Lottery funded project collecting memories about Leicester’s Jewish Community in the 1940s and 50s and creating a book, a website and a touring display. The 70 elderly contributors thoroughly enjoyed the writing workshops even though for many it was their first taste of creative writing. I’d known most of them all my life so I enlisted the help of Miriam Halahmy  for the workshop activities. They loved her and her contribution was invaluable.

We worked together for three months collecting memories that tumbled onto notepads in a random, disjointed way. I then had the job of turning the memories into the Jewish Voices book. What an experience that was, slotting the memories together to tell a story that had never before been told, about a tiny, self-contained community that experienced an enormous upheaval in the 1940s as families of Londoners poured into Leicester to escape the bombs. Together with refugees from Europe, they helped to create the large, diverse community that emerged from the war. The project website is Leicester Jewish Voices.

The format of this memory project can be used with all kinds of groups, not only religious communities. There are memories everywhere and if we don’t record them they’ll be lost forever… but if a memory project isn’t for you then at least give the writing exercise a try. You’ll be surprised at what emerges onto the page and, who knows, it could provide the spark for that next best seller.

For more about free flow writing and the memory project visit my website or my blog.

Thanks so much for this lovely story, Ros! I’m dying of curiosity, so I’m going to ask all my readers this: If you could write about any personal memory or moments in history, what would it be?

Then, I just want to remind you all that I only have three GPF slots left for this year, so if you still want to post (about any writing/literary topic) on my blog, please contact me at mishagericke(AT)gmail(DOT)com. Have a great weekend everyone!

Turns out I don’t need to do both.

Well, I’ve found something rather interesting lately. After all my concerns about writing and editing at the same time, something occurred to me this morning as I woke up.

I’m studying. And I’m editing. Both take part in the same half of my brain.

So of course I’ll struggle with switching over to creativity. Because it’s not the way I’m thinking right now. Yes, I could skip back to creativity if I wanted, but do I really have the time to be diverted by my muse? Uhm…

Not while I’m still a week behind due to a webmaster that I will shoot soon.

Instead, my free hours can be spent studying or editing. Who knows? Maybe I’ll even be able to finish my edits before my exams.

In the mean time, I’ll use any free time I have left after the above to read and refill my creative reservoirs so that I can go mad in November.

I mean, it must mean something that my exam is on 31 October.

Because on 1 November I can join NaNo. ^_^ Maybe this year I might even stand a chance of winning…

Oh yes! And then there’s this

Anyone else found their planning thrown by the actions/cock ups of others? Who else will be joining NaNoWriMo?

The Readiness Test

Hi all! Today I welcome Maria Zannini as part of The Indie Roadshow.

The Readiness Test

Writers are the WORST judges for deciding when a manuscript is ready for publication. We wear industrial grade blinders, often missing the obvious faults in a manuscript. Our hearing’s not so good either since we’re likely to dismiss our critique partners when they fail to laud us with rose petals and applause.

It takes time, both to gain experience in craft and to hone the instinct that tells you which way to guide your story.  It also takes a great deal of reading across many genres.

Not to say that writing ever becomes easy, but it does become more intuitive. And part of that instinct is knowing when you’ve gone as far as you could. When it reaches that point, it’s time for the next tier: professional editing.

In traditional and small press, this comes automatically after you’ve signed a contract. You’re given an editor who will address issues you didn’t even know existed. If your work is sub par or for whatever reason doesn’t ring any bells for the submissions editor, then you’re left with either subbing it elsewhere or reworking the story.

But when you’re self-published, the onus of that decision is all yours. You have to decide (shrewdly) if the story is good enough to be published. Only then can you hire an editor and polish the story to its finished state.

I feel this is where many indie authors split ranks. There are books being published that are just plain bad. Many of these have never seen an editor, let alone a critique partner. I know editing is expensive. But it’s a requisite of publishing. No small or large press would ever publish work without editing, why would you do any less for yourself?

How do you know your manuscript is ready for publication?

• The story has a beginning, middle and end with full arcs for each character.

• You’ve proofed it backwards and forwards.

• It’s been in the hands of at least one other qualified reader; someone who is not your mother, your friend, or that eye-candy who wants to get into your pants.

• When you get back your critiques for the story, most of the comments center on tiny grammar nits rather than whopping plot holes.

• You’re certain there is nothing more you can do for the story. It’s as finished as you can make it.

At this point you either submit it to a regular publisher, self-publish, or store it on your hard drive in a folder marked: ‘Chicken!’.

How do you know it’s NOT ready for publication?

• Your critique partners say things like:  I really like the font you used. 

• You tried submitting it to regular publishing channels and your email is blocked as spam.

• You know in your heart it has problems.

Sometimes we love our stories so much we refuse to see them for what they really are. Recognizing mediocrity is part of growing as a writer.

True Believers which received such wide praise and got on two “Best of” lists for 2010 started out as crap. It was self-stroking and naive. I rewrote that story from the ground up—twice, until it became the tale it is today. It also had countless critiques and two editors. Believe me, it shows.

Just because your story isn’t ready today doesn’t it mean it won’t be ready tomorrow. Don’t rush. Write the best story you can. Be open to critiques, and rewrite with an objective.

When you self-publish there is no one you can hide behind. Good or bad, you get what you put out. Publish with that in mind.

I hope you’ll follow along with the rest of the Indie Roadshow as I share the things I learned on my road to self-publishing.

The Devil To Pay is available at Amazon and Smashwords for only $2.99. It is the first book of the series, Second Chances.
Synopsis: The road to Hell is paved with good intentions and bad tequila. Shannon McKee finds herself at the end of her rope, and she bargains her soul in a fit of despair.

Shannon’s plea is answered immediately by two men who couldn’t be more different from one another. Yet they share a bond and an affection for the stubborn Miss McKee that even they don’t understand.

When Heaven and Hell demand their payment, Shannon has no choice but to submit. No matter who gets her soul, she’s not getting out of this alive.

Bio: Maria Zannini used to save the world from bad advertising, but now she spends her time wrangling chickens, and fighting for a piece of the bed against dogs of epic proportions. Occasionally, she writes novels. 
Follow me on Facebook or my blog.

How do you do it?

After I rewrote WiP4 to pen and paper, I decided to spend an unexpected couple of hours writing it. And I wrote… half an A5 page.

At first I thought it was because I didn’t have an Internet connection. That I suffered from withdrawals.

But while I can’t rule out the possibility, I think there’s something else at fault.

When I first decided to start on this story, I’d been revising for about two weeks. Now I’ve been revising for about two months. Almost non-stop.

So it’s a very real possibility that my internal editor is so active (for very good reason) that the creativity of drafting takes a back seat.

And that makes me wonder. I’m surely not the only person trying to write and edit at the same time. But at the same time, I have no idea how I’m supposed to do both.

I mean, I’ve never gotten as far as edits before. But I know that some of my bloggy friends have. So now I ask:

How do you kick-start creativity after spending time on edits?

Going old-school

Unfortunately, today went a little bonkers on me, with my return to university. So now will only be a short post.

Since spending more time on reading, on thinking about writing a bit more, things are looking up. Today I transferred my fourth WiP (Doorways being WiP1) to a notebook so that I can draft by hand. It’s a system that definitely works for me. And Mr. King gave another piece of advice that I think is very valid.

Draft with your door closed.

To me that makes sense even though I don’t have my own writing space (yet). As writers, we have to spend our first days with our ideas alone. Without outside influences affecting what we write. Or… distracting us.

I generally use earphones to drown out the distracting sounds, but I don’t stay off of the Internet. And now that I think about it, that might not be the best thing ever.

So I’m going old tech. No Internet crouching in my note book. Just ink in my pen.

Of course, it also has the additional benefit of giving me a break from my internal editor… 

Any other long-handers out there? Why or why not? What is your favorite drafting medium/program?

Sir Poops-A-Lot and Hair Ball: The Goddess of Inspiration Within

Hi all! Today I have the honor of introducing you all to two very special pets, belonging to Shelly Arkon, a very special writer.

Sir Poops-A-Lot
and Hairball.

They’re a regular feature on Shelly’s blog, so go check them out at home. 😉 OK guys! Take it away…

Sir Poops-A-Lot and Hair Ball: The Goddess of Inspiration Within
SPAL: (Talking to himself) I wanted to thank the nice lady, Misha, for inviting my little brother, Hair Ball and me to guest post on her blog today. Mummsy would’ve of done it but she’s more than knee deep in edits and rewrites.
HB: (Comes running into the kitchen) What? I heard my name.
SPAL: (Looks up from the keyboards) I’m writing our post, stupid.
HB: What about? You being a pansy.
SPAL: No. About mummsy’s muse.
HB: What’s that?
SPAL: Well, in the Webster Dictionary it says (He fingers through the book) One of the nine sister goddesses of the Greeks and Romans presiding over the arts, poetic inspirations, a fit of abstraction.
HB: What’s all those big words suppose to mean?
SPAL: It means, stupid, I’m the ninth sister reincarnated. When mummsy wrote her first chapter I was there. Whenever I’m around she writes.
HB: She writes when I’m around, too. She even play acts her scenes out with me. I don’t see her do that with you.
SPAL: (He raises his nose in the air) Well, mummsy and I share a special bond together like me and the goddess of poetic inspiration. We don’t need to play act anything. All I have to do is be around doing what I do best.
HB: What’s that? Being a pansy?
SPAL: My thoughts are mummsy’s. All I have to do is breathe in her direction and they whisper into her head.
HB: Nah-uh.
SPAL: Uh-huh.
HB: That explains why you’re a pansy then. You’re really a girl covered in all that fur.

OK then, darlings. I’ll take it from here. 😉
I have a grey cat that also stares at me over the computer. Maybe she thinks she’s my muse. Maybe she’s practicing her jedi mind-control. Never can be sure. Anyone have pet writing companions?
Have a great weekend!

Thanks for letting your pets visit, Shelly.

Stephen King Taught Me (Part 2)

So, Tuesday’s Headline lied a little. That wasn’t lesson one. This post was lesson one. I just didn’t want to mix this lesson with the lengthy introduction I felt obliged to add.

So what is this lesson?

“You must not come lightly to the blank page.” (On Writing, P80)

That is the single line that stood out the most in the whole book.

I don’t know about you, but when I get a new idea, I get excited. Really excited. Buzzing. I can’t wait to start writing. And when I write, it rushes through me like the best thrill you can think of.

But then, as insidious as venom, my one big enemy sets in. Addiction. I get addicted to my writing. That’s not a bad thing. It’s good to be passionate about what we write.

But when you’re addicted, there are two problems:

1) I start feeling like I have to write. No longer am I feeling that drive of passion.
2) And because of that, I no longer feel the rush.

I take writing for granted. It becomes something that I do out of routine.

In short, I come to my writing lightly. Very lightly.

No wonder the spark fades out on me every now and then.

And whenever that happens, I stop writing. Go cold turkey on the addiction (usually with the accompanying bad mood).

Once I go back to it, I fall in love with writing again. I feel that all rush.  And…

I go through the cycle again.

Fact is, I don’t really feel like it’s the most productive method for me to finish works in progress. So I decided that from tomorrow, I’m going to try something new. I’m going to start reminding myself why I write. I don’t want to write out of habit.

I want to write because it’s one of my greatest passions.

Do you approach your writing lightly on occasion? If not, how do you get yourself in the right feeling?

Blog Swap: Keeping Track of Plot Twists

Hi all! I’m doing what I call a blog swap today. I’m posting on DUO Says… on the topic of Keeping Track of Plot Twists. DUO is posting on the same topic on my blog. So today you get to read two different perspectives on the same thing. I must say that it was a lot of fun to see how different our posts were, so I definitely would love to do it again. If you’re interested, please let me know. ^_^ Take it away, DUO!

Avoiding Losing Track of Plot Twists

Compelling characters, complex plot twists, unexpected situations. Everyone loves them. So what happens if you’re writing a novel and get so into developing one plot thread that you forget the others? Or worse, neglect to link it back to the message or theme of your main story?

Plot twists can add great new dimensions to a story. Whether they’ve been pre-planned or have sprung up unexpectedly while writing, they add roundness and authenticity to a character or story sequence 

The challenge is for each plot twist to be realistic and move the story forward. If they’re random thoughts which don’t achieve this then they can be detrimental rather than beneficial. 

If done well, plot twists can also give the writer the opportunity to develop another novel altogether with characters that readers have gotten to know. This is what turns one novel into a potential trilogy, quartet, or long-running series. 

So is there a possibility to redeeming a novel if you’ve run off the boil and forgotten an essential twist? You’ve started it but not finished it? Left the character hanging with no satisfactory concluding? Absolutely. Everything can be rectified. As long as the novel hasn’t hit the line for its production run and is still on your laptop there’s no problem. 

However, being a firm believer that prevention is better than a cure, here are some tips that help me navigate the plot twist road before incorporating any into my story.

1. Keep a log of each new plot twist that springs up.

2. Make a note of which characters the plot twist will mostly affect and why.

3. Is the plot twist realistic? Will it add depth to the story? 

4. Make a note if any of the plot twists could develop a whole new story of its own.

5. If yes to number 4, will it be a strong enough premise for a new book.

Thanks so much for swapping blogs with me, DUO! It was fun. If anyone else wants to swap blogs with me for a day, please feel free to contact me at mishagericke(AT)gmail(DOT)com.

How do you keep track of plot changes and twists? Do you keep track of them?



Lesson One from Stephen King

I’ve finally done it. I have managed to get my grubby little paws on On Writing by Stephen King. Been looking for it since forever, but just didn’t seem to find a copy.

But a few weeks ago, I meandered through the library shelves and there it was along with five (I think) other books on writing.

Sadly, revisions (and headaches) being as they were, I didn’t start  reading immediately. But last week my revisions ground to a halt and even though I did revise yesterday, something didn’t feel right. It felt as if for every spot that my internal editor pointed out, my inner critic was listing my writing weaknesses.

And fighting my inner crittic is best done away from my WiP, because the collateral damage can be significant.

So I dug through my bag, thinking that I’ll keep Mr. King for last. But then I thought… what the hell, I only have a little reading time. Might as well start in on the one I’ve been wanting to read.

Man am I glad. It blew me away. I’m not completely done, but I’m planning to finish it by this evening. I’m thinking that I want to spend one or two (or more) posts on sharing what I’ve learned. I hope that’s alright with you all.

The second thing (I’ll deal with the first on Thursday) that stood out above everything else was Mr. King’s emphasis on the need to read.

As I read that, I realized that I’ve actually been neglecting a vital facet to my writing. I have to read. Even if revisions and writing suck me in. Because if I don’t, I’m basically blunting my writing tools.

Bad books teach me the lessons. How NOT to do things. Good books give me something to aspire to. They show me the lengths that writing can go if given the scope to do so. If I don’t read either of the above sorts of books, I’m going to miss out on some vital information.

If I don’t read often, I’m basically making myself write blind. So doing, I’m robbing my muse of oxygen.

All in all, not a smart thing. Because my muse is usually the one that beats up my inner critic.

Lesson learnt, Mr. King.

I won’t be able to do six to eight hours a day, but I’ll be able to manage two to four. Already better than two to four hours a week.

Anyone else who read On Writing? Which lessons stood out to you?

How many hours do you spend reading?

Any topic suggestions?

Hello all! Once again, this post will be one where I ask you for your excellent ideas and suggestions.

In my attempts to reach out for a bit wider audience, I’ve offered to do let other people write posts here.  And while my topic ideas aren’t all that bad, they feel a lot like topics that I’ve covered more than once before.

I was hemming and hawing about this over the weekend when I got a clever idea.

I’ll ask you ladies and gents.

The way I see it, the best way to deliver the goods to my readers would be to ask my readers which goods they’d like to see.

So… now I’d love to hear from you:

What writing/editing/revision/literary world topics would you like for me to cover?

I’d love to hear from you. 🙂