Daily Training

Daily Training

Writing a novel is a marathon, not a sprint. You wouldn’t run a marathon without training, would you? To be honest, this is something I would probably do, but I’d injure myself and collapse at the side of the road and whine about it for weeks afterwards.

When it comes to writing, a daily training session is invaluable. Even if you sit down to write a novel in a month with NANOWRIMO, daily writing throughout the year will help keep your brain limber. You’ll find it becomes easier to recall a wider range of vocabulary, you’ll start to see habits and repetition in your work, and you’ll push yourself to explore new ideas. Your daily writing session doesn’t even have to be long — ten minutes, every day, can help.

Pick up a journal or a notebook, or write on scraps of paper and bundle them together into a shoe box — whatever makes the most sense to you. I’ll talk a little more about journals in the coming weeks, but for now, it’s important to get started and begin building your daily writing as a habit. If you find it hard to write daily, I suggest that you choose a specific time each day to write and, if possible, choose a specific place, too.  It won’t take long for your brain to fall into the habit if you give it the same stimuli.

You don’t have to write anything profound. If you can’t think of anything to write about, you can fill the pages with gibberish. Or, if you need a few prompts, try these:

  • what was your favourite book as a child, and why?
  • who was the most important person to ever live, in your opinion? Why?
  • if you lived in an underwater colony, what would your day look like?
  • if you have a monster living under your bed, what does it look like? Why is it there?

Again, as you’re trying to establish the habit, the act of writing is more important than what you write. For ten minutes, give yourself the freedom to write whatever you want, as badly as you want, and play with language with joyful abandon. Worried that someone might read it? Take comfort in knowing that, when you’re done, you can set your page on fire.

So. Sit down, get comfortable, and just begin. No judgement, no pressure. Be silly and free to play for ten minutes with only you, your thoughts, and the page… First, we write!

 

Working Title

Working Title

How’s writing going for you? Have you had a chance to sit down today and write, even if only for ten minutes? If not, stop reading my blog immediately and go scribble down a few ideas, just to wake up your brain and stretch your imagination — after all, the title of this project is ‘First We Write’. Before we discuss writing, we must go and write, because that comes first!

You’re back? EXCELLENT!

Titles are funny things. When I work on a project, I have absolutely no idea what it’ll be called when it’s finished. For the most part, I pull my book titles from an integral part of the story, but as that story hasn’t yet been written, there’s no material to mine. Until it’s done, I don’t really know what the pivotal image or concept will be, or what symbol will best describe the character’s arc, or what will snag a reader’s attention.

But I still need a title to call the project. I’m often working on a number of items at once — it’s not unusual to have a few short stories, a novel, and couple of video projects on my desk at one time, and it’s necessary to have a method of referencing them. “I’m going to work on No. 5 for an hour, then do a bit of work on No. 7, then meet with clients about No. 82 after lunch”.  Nope. Not going to work.

That’s where working titles come in.

A working title is a fake title, something to hold you over until you’re finished and you can settle on something that best encapsulates your story. On rare occasions, a working title ends up being the finished title, too: Snakes on a Plane is a famous example of this. But normally, a working title is just a place-holder, easy to remember and destined to change.

Plus, a working title is a great way to deflect interest, too. You might not want your friends to know what you’re working on, and you might not want to give away the twist at the ending. You might not want someone else stealing your ideas, either, and if you choose a fake title to avoid a particularly unscrupulous competitor, that’s called a ‘title ruse’.

Either way, a working title gives you the opportunity to choose something fun and diverting. Currently, I’m calling my new project ‘Dread Mountain’. Why? It takes place on a mountain, and I figure my characters will experience some horrible things there. It’s not meant to be clever or engaging, deep or insightful. It’s only a way of keeping myself moving forward, and at this stage of the game, that’s a good enough reason for me.

How to Begin

How to Begin

In the last 20 years, I’ve written many novels, not all of which were suitable for public consumption. In fact, the first three books I wrote were absolutely awful, just pages and pages of histrionic dreck fit only for the lining of bird cages! Thankfully, they’re located on stacks of floppy discs that are inaccessible to modern technology, and have therefore been rendered secret and safe from innocent eyes, never to see the light of day.

But through trial and error, persistence, patience, and downright stubbornness, I’ve learned a lot about how to craft and create stories. I’m now starting work on a new novel, and I thought it might be helpful to talk about the process as I do it, and encourage you to do the same. If you’ve ever wanted to write a book, I hope these posts can help. It’s never easy to start a project and see it through to completion. Plus, writing a novel can be a lonely and isolating experience, especially if you have doubts about your own ability or goals. (For the record, I still have terrible doubts about my ability as a writer, even after a bunch of published stories and articles, a career as a promotional writer, and a stint working as a screenwriter for a large film company. Don’t let your doubts trip you up — and I say that as much to you as I do to myself!)

I hope my process can be useful to you as you start your own journey. Grab a cup of your favourite hot beverage and let’s write our books together!

 

The Beginning

“The beginning is always today.”
Mary Shelley

So, as I said, I’m just starting out with the particular novel, and I have a head full of ideas and concepts that have sparked joy in my heart. At this stage, it doesn’t matter if it’s a scene, a character, a relationship or an emotion that provides inspiration — something has sunk its claws into my heart, and hopefully it’s strong enough to hold on through the process of writing the first draft.

I don’t yet know the world in which the story takes place, and I don’t have a clear idea of the characters. Really, I know nothing at all about my finished book, and so many pieces could change, it would be unrealistic to pin myself to anything concrete. At the beginning, when I start my research, it’s important to be open and receptive to any little tidbit I find. These might drastically alter the form of the book, but if I anticipate that flexibility, I won’t be discouraged by change.

Research takes time and will undoubtably lead me down strange and winding paths into shadowy corners of the internet. Frankly, my browser history is terrifying. However, the knowledge I dredge up is going to provide unique and tantalizing aspects to my murder mysteries, and the more obscure the facts, the better it is for the reader.

So take your time, follow your interests, and read as much as you can about whatever catches your fancy. Let your imagination run wild with all the new information you’re feeding it. Open up a bazillion browser tabs and just cruise through Wikipedia with aimless abandon.

As for me, I’m off to the library to read madly and passionately! Best of luck in your research, too — may you unearth some really weird and wonderful bits of trivia!

 

That Book Project

That Book Project

“If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”
― Toni Morrison

If I’m not writing, I’m probably reading. Only last night, I saw a notice online for a bunch of books that a friend was giving away, and I immediately put down my current novel, hopped in the car, and raced to her house, just to feed my literary hunger.

Books. I love ’em.

So over the next few months, I’ll be exploring the world of books — both reading them, and writing them, as well as hoarding them and sharing them — in a multimedia sort of way. We’re currently filming part of the project, as well as composing a series of essays on book-themed topics, and I’m looking forward to this sharing this book project with you, which (after much thought and reflection), I’ve entitled “First We Write!”.

If you like anything literary, I hope you’ll come back in mid-April to check it out.